Ave Plague

It’s been some months, hasn’t it?

Last we spoke I was still writing Lord of Poison (published back in June), which also has a Spanish translation, and now I’m 3 chapters into book 3, Ave Plague. It’s a new year, lot’s of craziness going on, and the last year was just so entirely hectic I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a chance to just sit here and write to all of you.

Well, now I am. So, Ave Plague is expected to have a Fall 2022 release and that’ll be the end of the “Of Man & Machine” series! Crazy to think I’d been working on these books since 2019! The entire series has been released in a pandemic, which is crazy to think about!

As far as the future is concerned I think once I get Ave Plague out there I’ll be taking a much-needed break from writing, and I’m not too sure when I’ll get back into it, but I do have other books in mind that are separate from the series. I still have the space pirates idea, and then of course another book I’m thinking I’ve planed a little on – It’s sci-fi for sure, but haven’t worked out all the details.

Anyway, thanks for sticking it out with me thus far, hope you’ve all enjoyed XENOCHRIST and Lord of Poison, and I can’t wait to give you all Ave Plague later this year!

Cheers – NHW

Ave Plague


I know I should be working harder, or more on Lord of Poison but I just had to get this out there because I’m entirely too excited about this!

As you know, XENOCHRIST and Lord of Poison are part of the Of Man & Machine anthology series, and I always knew there would be a book that needed to sort of add some closure to the first book. This won’t use any of the first two books’ main characters or even side characters as the main one, but will heavily feature them because the story will involve them in some way that I’ll reveal once Lord of Poison comes out (eventually, whenever that might be).

For now, however, I will present to you Ave Plague.

Ave Plague will tell the story of a bounty hunter some years after the ending of Lord of Poison and just from the outlines I’ve been drafting I get the feeling this book will be in the 150k words area if not more. There’s just so much I want to do with it, but for now I have main plot points and main character down.

Following the naming convention of the first two I knew I needed to go with a religious theme, but with a sinister twist. I truly feel like this will be a huge payoff for everyone reading XENOCHRIST and eventually Lord of Poison. Where XENOCHRIST pays homage to death metal, and Lord of Poison with famed artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, Ave Plague will have classical-era (think Baroque etc) music and composer homages. The book will also feature very strong themes of faith and religion. Not that it’ll argue that you must believe, but more about a look into what faith is and how the main character explores it albeit in a cyberpunk future.

And as always I have a teaser cover for Ave Plague:

I don’t have an expected release for this outside of anytime around 2022 possibly. I think this’ll be my biggest book yet so it could take longer, but if I can get Lord of Poison finished by spring 2021 I’ll start working on Ave Plague around May/June and hopefully have it finished within a year from start.

Muerte al Invasor


This is the draft version of Lord of Poison‘s first chapter, “Muerte al Invasor”. This might change slightly leading up to publication, so just keep that in mind as you read this. For those eagle-eyed readers who read my first novel, XENOCHRIST, you may notice that the opening line to this chapter is the same as the final line in XENOCHRIST‘s Epilogue. So, enjoy that little tidbit of info, and I hope you enjoy the chapter! Without further ado:

Lord of Poison – Chapter 1 – Muerte al Invasor

“You artisans, you titans of industry, you truth-seekers, be you welcomed home.” the figure said as the newly constructed digital building came into vision. The crowd feverishly applauded and cheered as the marque flashed a bright array of colors; “PIXELLATE” rendered and the chatter grew louder.

“Can ya’ fuckin’ move or somethin’?!” the woman yelled as she tried to push her way through the crowd.

“Dios mio…” she whispered to herself as she pulled a small device from her long coat and threw it to the ground. A loud ringing echoed as bright colors flashed around the crowd immediately around her causing them to disperse allowing the woman to make her way towards the front to see the proprietor.

“Friend Velouria!” the figure called out as they stood in front of the doors. The crowd began to pour into the building; sounds of music and gaming machines rang throughout the inside as more avatars continued to enter.

“I was wondering if you would make it to the unveiling! How incredible is this, friend Velouria?!” they excitedly asked.

“Ay aja…” Belen despondently said. “I hear you need mansajeras, Jander.” she said in annoyance.

Jander placed a hand on Belen’s shoulder and brought her in closer “You heard correctly.” they said between their smiles as they looked on the crowd continuing to enter.

Belen brushed Jander’s hand away and scoffed “Yeah? And it didn’t occur to you to com me or anything?” she accusingly asked.

Jander huffed and tried to interrupt the woman just as Belen got in their face “Save it. I only do this because you’ve been good to me, but there’s only so much I can take, Jander. You forget about me one more time an’ I ain’t making deliveries for you again. I don’t care how much you pay.”

“Friend Velouria you seem to forget your place.” Jander said in a threateningly manner, “You take that tone with me again and I’ll make sure you never work on this server again. Do you understand me?”

Belen flashed a small smirk to Jander and winked before entering PIXELLATE. “So, where’s the office here?” Belen asked. Jander snapped their fingers and the doors shut behind them and the immediate area went dark as the two were transported into a large library. Velouria circled around before locking eyes with Jander “I’d assumed you would have changed up the decor a little bit.” she said in an attempt to fluster Jander who was making their way towards the back desk.

Jander sat down at the desk and summoned a chair behind Belen which forced her to sit and flew her to the front of the desk.

“You still got some tricks, nice!” Belen exclaimed. Jander removed their gloves and placed their hands on the top of the desk; the desk lit up and opened and an AI greeted them. “Master Jander, how may one assist you?” the AI voice asked.

“K 13 8X 19 5Y” Jander commanded. “Tell me, friend Velouria, what do you know about the Avenue of the Dead?”

“In Teotihuacan?” Belen asked in confusion.

“Yes, in Teotihuacan.”

“It’s the avenue that passes right by the Pyramid of the Sun I think?”

“And what else?” Jander pressed the woman.

Belen sat in silence for a moment before Jander interrupted the quiet “The Temple of the Feathered Serpent.”

Belen sat in confusion “Is this ‘bout the job?” she asked the club’s proprietor. A digital packet suddenly appeared from the opened desk and Jander placed their gloves back on before grabbing it.

“In a way, yes, it is. You’re going to take this to a real location in Metropoli de Mexico.”

Belen was nearly shocked Jander would know she was living in the metropolis but quickly remembered Jander is a famed Infotrader, there isn’t anything they can’t find out. Belen held her right arm out which had a 2-step verification device.

Jander placed the digital apparition and typed a unique code into the device and suddenly the visage was sucked into the device “The buyer has the unlock code. You’ll go to Torre Caballita. Your two-step has the needed credentials. Go to the 34th floor and wait near the hydration tank. The buyer will say “Pioneer of aerodynamics”. Hand over the goods, stun them, break into his office on the 35th floor, retrieve the shiny globe situated on his display shelf next to his desk, and get out. You’ll then head to Torre Mayor and wait at the coffee shop to the right on the third floor where you’ll be asked about the chocolate empanadas by someone else. That’s where you’ll drop off the globe.”

“Dios mio what the fuck are you having me do?!” Belen cried out.

“Friend Velouria, stop acting as if you’ve never done anything like this before.” Jander said trying to calm their friend.

“Jander, it’s a fuckin’ government building. It’s a bit different from tagging.” Belen said in protest, “And how th’fuck do I even exit the place holding a goddamn globe, and get it down Reforma?”

Jander shot up from their desk and straightened their clothes when Belen turned around to see what the problem was. Inside the door frame stood a vampire avatar, something basic a first year net user would construct, but Belen knew it seemed out of place meeting Jander in such a basic skin. All the courier could do was glance from around her chair as she looked the two individuals whispered to each other for a moment before Jander shooed the other away and quickly shut the door.

“You just let him enter?!” Jander furiously whispered into their com, “Your shift is over, bring over Rikki or you can find your limbs shipped to every colony. Got it?!” they coldly questioned rhetorically.

The club proprietor motioned for Belen to stand up and they ushered the woman towards the door, “I’ve dealt with enough incompetence this cycle so please do your job. Oh! Don’t forget to grab the synth-skin mask I left for you!”

Belen quickly turned to face Jander with a fire in her eyes “You skipped what the pay would be.”

“Have I, friend Velouria?” Jander said as they handed a piece of paper to the courier before they shoved her out of the room completely. Belen unfolded the paper and her eyes lit up and a large smile crawled across her face.

“I guess it was your lucky day.” a voice stated. Belen quickly snapped back to attention and looked to her left, the vampire avatar from earlier was standing there like a robot not even looking at her.

“You guessed correctly.” Belen snapped before crumpling the paper and erasing the code.

“Ever think about space, Velouria?”

“How the fuck do you know my name?” the courier furiously asked.

“I miss it.” the vampire avatar said skipping over Belen’s question. The avatar lit an e-cig and took a long drag and blew the digital smoke into the woman’s face. Belen took a couple of steps closer to the avatar before stopping in place.

“Space is so goddamn gorgeous. It’s wide and open.” the avatar said between puffs of the fake smoke, “Before this is over you’ll look into it and cry like you’ve never cried before. That’s when you’ll know.”

“Know what? Just who the fuck ‘re you?!” Belen demanded.

The door to Jander’s office flew open startling the courier.

“Reventlov?” their voice called out from the back of the room, “Please stop pestering my guests.” Jander commanded the vampire avatar before turning their attention to the woman “Must I order you too, Velouria? You’re on the clock now and I’d hate for you to be late.” they said before the vampire avatar entered the room once more and the doors flung shut behind them.

Belen made her way down the large stairs leading towards the exit. The place was packed with every type as they huddled around virtual screens, casino games, private booths for fucking and the like. The courier was happy to be back to work she thought while making her way out. It had been a year since she had done a job for Jander when their previous establishment, Divinations, was demolished by Svetlo-Zeme’s STGuard. Belen was lucky to have made it out in one piece while they were rounding up anyone inside.

Making her way through the digital streets she could smell the fake scents of the street foods and booze, the chatter was near deafening as she approached the exit portal. The white flash and roaring of the net flew by and Belen jerked slightly as she came to on a couch.

“Belen!” a woman’s voice called out from the kitchen.

“Si, ma?” the courier replied.

“Bring those dishes in for your father to clean!”

“In a moment, ok?” Belen called back.

“Now, please.” her mother commanded.

Belen got up from the couch in a huff as she removed her gear and grabbed the dishes from the coffee table and walked towards the kitchen. The courier could hear her father muttering obscenities at the TV as she opened the door slightly.

“Goddamn liars!” the man yelled at the TV. Belen’s father was watching the news and yelling at the reporters between mouthfuls of molletes and coffee.

“These metiches can’t even get the fuckin’ news right!” he yelled once more before getting slapped on the back of his head by an older woman. “Lo siento!” the man cried out as the older woman continued to lightly pinch him.

Belen placed the dishes on the kitchen island and refilled her coffee before sitting at the table with her mother.

“You’re up late, Belen.” her mother began scolding, “It’s bad enough your brother doesn’t wake up to his alarm, but you sleep so late!” her mother finished.

“Where’s Alexis, mama?” Belen asked.

“He’s already at the office.” Belen’s father answered.

“You mean the place you should be at too?!” her mother scolded.

Belen’s father got up from his chair by the kitchen’s TV and polished off his coffee before slamming the mug down, “Hell, I need to leave if I’m gonna beat this traffic!” he said before rushing off.

“Your brother left a pack for you by his door, Belen.” her mother stated. Belen’s eyes widened as she excitedly shot up from the kitchen table and ran towards Alexis’ room. Sitting on the floor was a neatly packed backpack. Belen quickly opened to top and inspected the contents. Inside she found a modified headset and two new toggle gloves that she quickly equipped.

The HUD on the headset was cleaner and more streamlined this time and the gloves didn’t shift around her hand as she waved them around the room. Belen made a slight motion with her left hand and an AR screen appeared with a list of various saves. The courier filtered through the saves until she came across one titled “ANDRO_KING”. Belen cautiously opened it and a previously unseen piece of art imprinted on the AR space as she looked at her brother’s door. The basic moving image was a chibi version of Alexis as he rode a leopard and wielding a macuahuitl running in place.

Belen gave a soft chuckle as she looked on the image now embedded in the AR space on Alexis’ door before she removed the equipment and placed it back in the pack. As she lowered the headset in she noticed a handwritten note at the bottom.

“Velouria – Hope this helps the next time you go tagging. Love – Andro”

Belen placed the note neatly back in the pack and slung it over her should and headed towards the door.

“Belen?” her mom called out.

Belen huffed at being stopped once more and turned around, “Yes, ma?” she annoyingly replied.

“Please take your brother his lunch. He left it on his way out, and your father is already gone.” she requested.

Belen rolled her eyes at the request but took the packed lunch nonetheless, “Anything else?” she asked her mother.

Belen’s mom gave her a slight up and down before pulling her close, “There’s protesters in the city, please stay safe and let me know when you’ve reached your brother, ok?” she worryingly asked.

Belen gave a small kiss on her mother’s cheek and cracked a smile, “Of course! I’m always safe!” she said cheerfully before leaving the house.

The bustle of Zona Toluca echoed through the housing cube’s corridors, the smells of food from the hover-carts filtered in enticing Belen. The courier headed towards the drive-cycle storage on her domicile level and quickly unlocked her locker. A folded Italika took up the bulk of the locker and her helmet sat directly above on a hook and a small package laid on the ground which she quickly opened; inside laid the new synth-skin Jander had mention from before which she discretely placed over her face.

The mint green cafe racer unfolded allowing Belen to walk it out of the locker; its lights dimmed and the dash screens fired on as the low hum of the racer purred throughout the storage area. As she mounted the racer Belen began to gear up, putting on her helmet which connected to the racer’s computer, her haptic gloves, and the 2-step verification pad just before the pulsating energy plates slowly lifted the bike up and in a flash Belen had sped out of the exit.

The hover-carts came and went along with their smells as Belen made her way to the main deck pass to join the other vehicles making their way to the metropolis center, to Mexico City. Zona Toluca was 60 kilometers from Reforma so Belen flipped a makeshift toggle on her thrust handle causing the energy plates to overclock allowing her to exceed the cafe racer’s top speed. The zone came and went as she continued to make her way through the traffic leading into the city; her bike was slim enough to allow her to weave between the various vehicles as she pushed onward.

Just as Belen entered Zona Polanco she was able to see what appeared to be the tail end of a group of protesters filtering in and out of the streets. Their colorful signs stood out against the dilapidation of the barrio, their chants melted and blended together as she sped through. The road was starting to narrow and slip between the massive buildings at the edge of Reforma and she knew she needed to get onto the avenue soon to get to Torre Caballita, but the protesters filled the entire stretch as they made their way to the presidential compound.

The speedway curved slightly and Belen could see the top of the tower just below the speedway. In a hurry she took the cafe racer off the track and began to back-burn her energy plates to slow down the bike’s descent towards the street. Landing hard Belen quickly triggered the anti-theft and made her way towards the vestibule.

The tower was inconspicuously conspicuous in that it the government tried so hard to not stick out that they ended up sticking out as the monolith-esque building sat on the avenue. Just inside entrance were massive security desks that doubled as reception on either side, and in the center were the clearance vestibules with full-body scans leading to the lifts. Without skipping a beat Belen walked up to a free terminal and tapped her 2-step against the pad and the light flashed green allowing her to enter.

The inside of the scanner smelled of B.O. and stale smoke, but to Belen’s glee the scan lasted only 5 seconds before the next door quickly shot open allowing her to walk towards the elevators.

“MA’AM!” someone yelled causing Belen to suddenly stop mid-step. The courier turned to face the sound only to be greeted by a small spherical bot floating near her, “Ma’am, you mustn’t leave your vehicle out front without proper validation.” the droid said mono-tonally.

Belen huffed at the delay and tapped the 2-step against the droid’s interface until a basic smiling face appeared with a green light. “Thank you, Catherine. You have one hour of validation before you face vehicular penalties. Have a good day.” the droid said in the same tone before hovering off to some other task.

Belen entered the elevator to her left and quickly punched 34. The lift was older and took a little longer than the standard lifts which allowed Belen to place a small visor across her eyes giving her a HUD and concealing the upper half of her face.

The HUD was able to give her very basic scanning systems, maps, ID checking, and an AI with no name. Belen began to slightly stretch just before the doors opened to the 34th floor. She carefully scanned the corridor before exiting into the hallway and slowly walking to the right.

“Computer, hydration tank?” she asked the device on her face. The HUD suddenly laid out a simple floor plan with a breadcrumb GPS showing her the route. The floor was relatively quiet save for the distant sounds of coms ringing and being answered causing Belen to walk more carefully down the path until she came to the tank.

Belen glanced around the area and scanned the corners to make sure she was alone when she was able to spot the scan of someone walking towards the hydration tank. Belen crouched down and pretended to tie her shoes never taking her eyes off the silhouette approaching.

A middle-aged man in a suit came around the corner and was startled when he saw Belen. The man quickly shook it off and straightened his suit and slicked back his hair as he slowly approached the courier and cleared his throat.

“Pioneer of aerodynamics?” he sheepishly asked.

Belen stopped pretending to tie her shoe, stood up and approached the man, “Two-step.” she demanded of the man.

“Our contact never said they’d send such a treat as yourself.” the man said in a low creepy tone.

“Two-step, now.” Belen pressed the man as she held her device out. The man quickly snatched Belen by the wrist and held it tight as he typed the code into her pad never breaking eye contact with Belen.

The pad began to transfer the data into the man’s portable deck, and he continued to stare at Belen until the transfer was over. Belen tried to move her hand away but the man wouldn’t let go, “Maybe you want to accompany me tonight? I know a good place in Del Valle we could spend time to get to know each other.”

“Do you think I’m a Red Light doll?” Belen angrily asked the man who gave a slight laugh hearing the question.

“You get paid to do what you’re told. I’m telling you what I want, and I have good money. Probably more than you’re seeing this entire year! Don’t be stupid here.” the man coldly stated.

Belen looked down to her hand still being gripped by the middle-aged man and gave a slight laugh, “I was hoping you’d do something fuckin’ stupid.” she said under her breath.

“What was that?” the man quickly asked.

Belen looked up to the man and clenched her right hand into a fist, “Chinga tu madre.” she said just before slamming her right fist square into the man’s jaw sending him flying against the wall.

To her surprise the man was still conscious and spitting out blood, “YOU FUCKING WHORE!” he yelled as he readjusted his jaw implant. Belen wasted no time in standing over him and continuing her punches until the man laid in a pool of his own blood and urine.

“He’ll live.” came a voice ringing through the HUD forcing Belen to spin around hoping to find the source until she finally saw outside the large window a small drone hovering in place, “I said “stun” them, correct, friend Velouria?” the voice asked.

“You owe me another six-thousand credits for this, Jander.” Belen retorted before cleaning the blood splatter from her arms and heading towards the escos to the 35th level.

“You gonna follow me all the way, huh?” Belen asked Jander through the drone.

“I just want to protect my investments, friend Velouria.” they replied, “Besides, I was able to record that incredible beat-down of the senator. It isn’t every day you get such delicious blackmail.”

“Blackmail?! Did you know he would’a done this?!” Belen asked in shock.

“I thought he would have tried far more, but this was sufficient.” Jander replied.

“You’re a piece of shit, you know that right?” Belen rhetorically asked.

“I do, but let’s not pretend you didn’t enjoy giving him his just desserts.”

The 35th floor was mostly cleared for lunch as Belen quickly walked towards the GPS destination. “The globe should be on the case behind the desk.” Jander’s voice rang.

“I remember. I’m not a total idiot.” Belen said as she forced the door open.

“I never said you were, friend Velouria.”

“Then stop actin’ like I am an’ let me do my fuckin’ job.” she angrily whispered to her contract.

“Very well. You’ll be on your own from here, Velouria. Try not to disappoint.” Jander said just before the drone outside the widow flew off into the city below.

Belen spotted the globe in the case behind the desk just as Jander said and made her way over. The display case was advanced, Belen had never seen anything quite this good. Using the HUD she scanned base hoping to find a weakness only to see the power supply. In a hasty move she instantly cut the power and just as quickly as the power was cut an alarm blared throughout. The door instantly shut and a blast door slammed in front of it preventing escape.

And that’s it! Thank you so much for reading, and if you have any comments or questions feel free to drop them below, or hit me up on on Twitter!

Avengers, uninstall!

UPDATE: This review has been updated to reflect my time playing the post A-Day content and will contradict my initial thoughts on the targeting system along with the other content presented. There are no new screencaps since I didn’t feel like doing more.

* = sections that contradict my later findings

So, let’s talk about the new Avengers demo: Don’t waste your console’s space.

Cap apparently turns red when he throws his shield because…reasons…

Harsh? Probably, but this game is not good even if it’s just a demo.

Let’s just start off with the meat & potatoes, this game is rough to play and I downloaded it on my PS4. The controls feel like you’re fighting to move the sticks through water, like it’s all too flow-y. Nothing snaps into place, not even the *targeting which makes combat feel totally unnatural despite Crystal Dynamics claim that combat was to feel fluid.* While you’re combo-ing one of the generic baddies, who die in 3 hits anyway, you don’t stop the combo once they’re down or just finish the combo on the next enemy; you literally finish out the combo on the ground or air with nothing to be hit. Where’s the promised fluidity? The Arkham series was able to execute this on the last-gen, so it seems a tad absurd that combat works about as good as high-end PS2 games.

*Target locking in this game makes zero sense since it doesn’t snap you on the target, nor do you fire in their direction or melee. You essentially have to be near them for that to happen. The only instances I’d seen of target snapping was during scripted events, like when Hulk throws part of a tank at another tank.*

The Incredible Bulk. Just look at that grimace.

As you enter the mission you take control of Thor (I didn’t realize there was a picture mode until I got to Hulk and thus didn’t take screencaps of his section). His voice acting is top-tier cringe, not gonna lie. His mechanics aren’t too terrible considering the rest of the characters, and his character model isn’t all that bad either. My biggest issue with Thor is his hammer throw mechanic.

Even if you’re locked on You still need to move your stick to aim at the target, and to top it all off you need to press another button to recall Mjolnir, which also makes zero sense because once you start hitting your light or heavy attack buttons it just comes back to you anyway. All-in-all the Thor section wasn’t bad all things considered.

The camera Mode option is a nice touch, but it doesn’t help the graphics are sub-par for a current-gen game.

Next up you seamlessly take control of Iron Man coming from a minor cutscene introduction. You’re instantly thrown into a flight combat scenario which plays a lot like Superman 64 but on rails. You just weave around the scene that doesn’t really interact with you as you try to use your hand blaster to take down jetpack enemies who really pose no significant threat, and their elimination awards nothing. Just you swatting flies basically.

Just like with Thor the targeting does absolutely zero here which feels like a big missed opportunity since moving your reticle over each enemy to hit them just feels like a chore despite having sensitivity set to high. Much like with Thor, Tony’s voice acting is just not good, but at least his suit looks nice?

I really wanted to like his section more, but even after the rail shooter section and you finally can take control of him it’s a bit wonky. His melee combat isn’t good, and the only energy blast you can use is the hand blaster which, just like with Thor and Black Widow, require you to hold L2 and fire with R2.

With Iron Man, they should have made his quick blasts just instant with R2 rather than forcing you to use L2. His charging blast isn’t bad, and I can justify the L2 mechanic for that. His chest beam ability is cool but sadly only lasts just around 3 seconds and aiming is slower. I think if they’d nerfed it’s damage output and increased its time and aim speed it’d be a better ability. Notable Mention: Why are his wrist rockets and shoulder mounts missing? Maybe they come later on, but in the demo all we had was hand blasts, chest beam, and melee. A bit underwhelming, honestly.

Look at these PS3 graphics…

Now we’re at one of the hyped moments: The Hulk.

The Hulk is probably the worst offender when it comes to gameplay, character model, and voice acting. Not that he’s the worst in all of those categories, but he has no redeeming qualities. When he’s Bruce the model and acting are the best, but somehow it’s all thrown out the window when he turns. The first thing you’re taught as him is his grab mechanic. Close to a foot-soldier? Hold Square (PS4) and he’ll snatch up a little army man and you can start flinging them around because Crystal Dynamics knew MCU fans would collectively cum their pants seeing this.

Sadly when Hulk snatches up one of these baddies the collision detection is nearly non-existent, so if you’re looking to score a screencap of the green guy about to smash some dude into the ground you’ll be disappointed to see that Hulk’s hand isn’t even actually wrapped around the enemy’s leg and is instead just sort of hovering around or near it.

Hulk’s section, much like with Iron Man’s opening section, felt like you were on rails. You only get to sprint forward and occasionally slam your fists into the ground around enemies. The few cool moments were 100% scripted completely taking me out of the immersion (well, what little immersion there was).

The action would suddenly stop and a prompt appeared telling me I needed to perform Hulk’s “Thunderclap” ability, which looked…alright? The most glaring flaws of his character model popped up during his abilities, which you’d think that’s when you’d want everything to look clean. I think why the Hulk is so disappointing to play as is because it’s not hard to get the Hulk right yet Crystal Dynamics just dropped the ball here entirely.

Captain Disappointment

I know this entire post is just me shitting on Avengers, but I mean…look at what they did to Cap.

Cap’s gameplay is probably the best in this demo.

How do you go from watching Chris Evans essentially fuck your eyes with a perfect portrayal of the All-American Avenger to seeing this monstrosity in a flak jacket and motorcycle helmet? Gameplay-wise he’s actually pretty decent, especially that shield throw special and even his ultimate move I felt were really great. Then you’re reminded of just how little effort the developers made when making his model, and you can hear the voice actor’s disdain for even having to follow up Evans’ role.

Taking over as Cap felt like the first time I got to switch to Tifa in Final Fantasy VII: Remake, it was fast-paced and exciting, but unfortunately the opening section with him was all too short on top of having to cringe at the acting and model. Outside of the acting and model I will say the flipping-over-enemy-backs mechanic isn’t well done.

This is our cinematic introduction to Black Widow and her fight against Taskmaster

Black Widow: They did her dirty.

The model is the worst looking one in the entire game. It’s almost as if the developers had never seen a woman before. Gameplay for her should have been better than this, honestly. She’s got tons of gadgets at her disposal…allegedly, but we’re mealpieced what she can and can’t do depending on the phase of the fight. Her dual-wielding pistols were probably the worst aspect of her gameplay, and honestly, just long-range fighting overall in this game is just fucking awful. Her shooting works just like the original Tomb Raider’s on PS1, it’s clunky and deals little to no damage but leaves you wide open to attacks.

This game comes out next month, by the way.

The overall fight against Taskmaster comes out of nowhere and is totally forced from a narrative perspective. He has simple and predictable moves making his fight easy until you’re forced into using a grappling hook mechanic you’ve just seen a prompt for. It’s at this point the fight just turns annoying since the mechanic isn’t well done. You have to wait for a blue icon to appear to pull it off successfully, but even then you’re supposed to fling him into some proximity mines he’s dropped to deal damage since he just now automatically dodges all of your attacks, and if you go to shoot he just instantly shield rushes you. So it’s an easy fight that just turns annoying at the drop of a dime and tries to shoehorn a new mechanic in order to actually fight him.

Replace Taskmaster with a velociraptor and you’ve got Tomb Raider on PS1

Overall my time with Avengers was met with confusion, disappointment, irritation, and just an overall sense that Crystal Dynamics and Marvel were really just wanting to cash in with the Avengers MCU lineup before their film franchise changes forever. The announcement of PS4’s Spider-Man as a console exclusive won’t save this from players hating the game. The fact that Square-Enix is publishing such a trash title would be surprising if they weren’t already a hit-or-miss studio. Final Fantasy VII: Remake saved them, and the future of the studio will be secured if they avoid making more games like Avengers.

Me too, Black Widow. Me too…

Post A-Day

After having written my initial review, the rest of the content had finally finished installing. So the review above is just my opinion on the A-Day mission (first mission) and the rest of this will be about everything after, or at least what I played.

First off when I saw I’d get to play as Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) I was a little excited since the other characters had really put me off the entire game. The mission that introduces Kamala involves her and the Hulk walking through a forest and we take control of the Hulk as we fight some generic bots and get introduced to Hulk’s throwing large chunks of earth mechanic because we now have to fight a thing that can teleport. Once we get to a certain point and find an old Avengers compound and go inside we take control of Kamala.

Trying to move her around is entirely too awkward, it’s like when you turn a direction she swings her whole body that way. Any sort of precision movement was disregarded because any movement takes up too much time. Just like with any other character with hair or things flowing off them it just looks awful with her too. When you motion her to face one way her hair and sash violently fling the opposite way and then harshly snap back into place as she awkwardly stops.

This issue is accentuated due to the fact that you’re constantly fighting against the camera when you’re inside buildings. Which leads into my next point: The camera inside buildings, even if it’s a bigger room, is atrocious. You’re constantly fighting it to see what’s around you to explore, and it’s even worse when there’s combat or action happening. When you’re in the field it isn’t bad, the camera naturally goes into a higher position and gives you a better look of the area, but heaven forbid you go anywhere near a building.

During her section deep inside the compound you’re tasked with platforming around a small area to flip switches and fight a wave or two of enemies. Entirely too predictable. Top this off with learning a mechanic of hers that I know was shoehorned in because they wanted Spider-Man, and the whole thing just becomes a little boring. You get a prompt letting you know Ms. Marvel needs to use her arms to stretch out and swing from hanging lights, which you know is what they’ll have for Spider-Man leading me to believe he’ll just be using the same mechanics as her, but instead of stretching arms to hit or swing he’ll be using webs.

After a very brief section where you sort of get to know her mechanics and fighting style Abomination suddenly appears from literally nowhere and demands Jarvis’ drive when out of also nowhere the Hulk tackles him and a fight ensues. The fight has you in an arena with electric stacks that you can use to stun Abomination, so nothing new here. The fight is brief and easy, as predicted. To be honest all of the times I’ve “died” has just been from falling off the map, which seems like a thing they’d not do.

The combat with Ms. Marvel isn’t terrible, she has close range and long range combos, and you know you’ll play as her for the bulk of the early sections of the game just because the game basically gifts you tons of gear for her each one better than the last. The voice acting for Kamala is by far the best, you can hear all the emotion and her lines come out clear, and thankfully they aren’t nearly as cringe-y as everyone else with stupid one-liners or just awkward dialogue. There was a particular scene where Bruce shows Kamala her new room aboard a decommissioned S.H.I.E.L.D. carrier and she’s clearly distraught, but for some reason Bruce is just super awkward and the entire convo is just one gigantic cringe.

I will correct myself regarding one of my issues from A-Day: Targeting.

*In my initial playthrough I couldn’t get the camera to snap to targeted enemies which made combat just feel like a chore, well, playing as Kamala I finally got to experience it. Targeting does snap to the enemy which was a pleasant surprise since I’d had such a hard time with it during the A-Day mission. But just to confirm my original review I’d asked a friend if they could get it to snap during the A-Day mission, and he too had a terrible time with it. Thankfully during these Kamala missions I could snap to the enemy and even cycle through them, aiming at them as Kamala wasn’t an issue either. But for some reason when targeting as Hulk and using his rock-throw ability still requires you actually take aim since the reticle changes to look like the type for a grenade launcher on Call of Duty or other FPS’.*

Matchmaking: A total nightmare.

When I finally got to be paired with another player I noticed that assets loaded much slower than you’d like which leads me to believe that it’s locally hosted instead of through dedicated servers. My compatriot would constantly just blink out of existence as we fought what few enemies were around. No joke. We were playing a wintery tundra mission, and the enemies never appeared until we got pretty far into the level. We’d spent a good 5 or so minutes just running around a massive map collecting resources before I said “fuck it” and just ran towards the goal.

The fight that ensued was just tedious since it required one of us to stick around on a circular plate as Jarvis uploaded something which reminded me of the entirely too many missions in Destiny and Destiny 2 where your Ghost needs to upload or link and you have to protect. Once the link is finished you have to dispose of the remaining bots and make your way through an elevator. During these loading screens, because that’s what they are, there are brief moments of conversation which tries to add depth to the characters, but since its you and Hulk the convo is fairly one-sided.

We made our way to the bottom and as I exited I realized the player Hulk was just standing there doing nothing. I made a lot of noise around them smashing into walls etc hoping to get their attention, but they just stood there doing nothing. Wanting to just get this over with I decided to continue on my own. The first half of this stage is just you running around collecting resources and gear until you reach a stairwell that leads you into what will obviously be a large brawl.

My player Hulk was still MIA in the elevator and I proceeded without him, and I made my way into the a back room where tons of chests with gear and resources just laid around and suddenly the Hulk player appeared and started looting. We then get thrown into a cutscene just before the big fight involving yet another “Jarvis needs to upload so you gotta protect” mission. But this time the player Hulk was present and actually fighting, so I’m not too sure what had happened here.

The fight itself was straightforward, fight the waves as Jarvis does their thing, and when it’s over you get whisked away into a jet where you either leave the party and go back to your own instanced carrier, continue on your own, or stay in the party and continue the mission line. I opted to leave after this and explore a bit of the carrier more when I learned of the HARM room, which is basically the Danger Room from X-Men where you fight holographic enemies in waves.

Overall I’ll say that my initial reaction to Avengers, with some minor changes in opinion based on later levels, is still my current reaction. The game wants to be Ultimate Alliance with a mix of Borderlands. But where these games succeed, especially in the parts that really matter, Avengers bellyflops. Some background assets looked fantastic, especially during the A-Day sequence, and the forest level was a hit-or-miss with this, but the frozen tundra was just a total mess with the assets. I don’t know if it was scaled down due to the co-op, or because it’s just to test the level, or that’s really just what it is.

I really wanted to like my time playing this, but each section in every level just left me confused and irritated. To make this a current-gen, or even the eventual nex-gen, Crystal Dynamics would do well to postpone the release and actually fix these issues. Halo: Infinite got pushed to next year to ensure quality after their demo received many complaints, so it’s crazy to think Square-Enix is so dedicated to releasing such an unfinished mess of a title.

As a community, we gamers need to do better too. We need to stop accepting sub-par games with promises of patches and fixes later on. We’re spending hard-earned money on full releases only to be met with trash. A recent example of this would be my issues with the new PS4 and Steam game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. It’s a fun mini-game based party title, and it’s fun for sure, but it does have some glaring issues. I had recently voiced my opinion regarding those issues and one Twitter user happily reminded me that the game is only a couple of weeks old and thus doesn’t deserve to be complained about.

This is why we keep getting shit-tier games, because these developers and publishers know that we’ll accept it under the promise that it could or might be fixed at a later date. I know that will happen with Avengers, and it’s sad because this really could have been a great Day 1 game.

But just like with the many looter-type games that came before we’ll have to wait upwards of 1 year to see something unbroken (Unless you’re Anthem and just don’t fix your problems).

Avengers, uninstall!

Life in Zenith

Tons of stuff getting posted for XENOCHRIST! Hardcover edition exclusively through Barnes & Noble comes out August 17th and is currently available to pre-order, and a B&N paperback will get released soon!

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. No, today is about how from July 25th through the 29th you’ll be able to download the Kindle ebook edition of XENOCHRIST for FREE only through Amazon.com as my way of celebrating 1 month since it released!


The offer is only for 5 full days, so if you’ve been wondering what it’s all about, or just simply haven’t been able to pick it up well now’s your chance to do it for free! To read it all you need is the Kinde app, you don’t even need an actual Kindle to read it and the app is also free on Android and iOS! I hope you all enjoy reading it as I did writing it (it was pure dread, so I hope you like feeling bad for 104,000 words). Once you’ve finished reading it I would greatly appreciate a review on the Amazon page and/or on my Goodreads page if you have one of those!

As a bonus here’s a cellphone background for XENOCHRIST if you’re looking to slap on that bad larry and show off just how cool you are!

1242 x 2208

Cheers – NHW