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[intro-text size=”25px”]It started as a simple, vicarious recreational experiment but soon became an obsession they were happy to cultivate. Monitored by the Director and crew, I am severed from reality, strapped into a lab theater, and injected into countless cinematic simulations. Fully absorbed for the duration of each run time, the sole mission is to report my findings from within the scenes. These reports are known as Total Review.[/intro-text]

– SIM #1001 – “HARDCORE HENRY” – 96 mins. – release: Apr. 8th, 2016 –

I arrive at the lab, my blood already pumping. The new cinemulation, or “cim” as we call them, is rumored to be such an intense, non-stop roller coaster that some unlucky test subjects were afflicted with motion sickness and hurled in the first act. The reason? Hardcore Henry is an entirely first-person action experience- not the typical format for cims, which usually entail fly on the wall observation. But as a video game freak, I was stoked to become the cim’s protagonist for a change. YOLO.

The lights dim and the room is black, and then suddenly- I am Henry. After a fleeting memory of my father flashes before my eyes, I wake up in a tank of pink fluid. Or perhaps reborn? Besides that one memory, the past is as blank as the future. Maybe the beautiful young doctor before me, Estelle, can help clear things up. Estelle starts by reminding me that we are married. Oh… She assures me that everything is going to be okay, but first- Estelle has to put Henry back together again. A bionic arm. A screw-on leg. I realize now that I’m part-man, bigger part-machine. And that will have some perks.

Before long, shit hits the fan, and I’m introduced to this simulation’s villain- Akan, equipped with a brilliantly batshit world domination scheme. I love a good bad-guy, and Akan comes out swinging. His first order of business is to lay waste to a couple bystanders in an impressive display of his powers, evidently greater than those of a mere man. I am not a mere man, but after such a rude awakening I get the juice kicked out of me, and Akan and his army of henchmen take Estelle- then come hunting for yours truly. That’s when I met Jimmy, my only ally, who knows that I’ll stop at nothing to save my wife.

Jimmy is the best friend I could have made in this simulation. Not only does he save my ass on multiple occasions, but he seems to know more about my own past than I do, which intrigues me. His guidance often comes in the familiar form of video game tutorial, setting my waypoint, teaching me about my health meter or exactly when to toss a ‘nade. If not for Jimmy’s help, I’m positive I wouldn’t get very far. Now- he does have his quirks. Jimmy seems invincible, ubiquitous, and has a constantly shifting personality. When I finally got to know him better, I was blown away in more ways than one.

As Jimmy, guns out, so eloquently puts it, “This is war, baby!” And boy do the bodies stack. I’ve never felt so violent in my entire life. It’s a cathartic feeling, slaying hordes of mindless foot soldiers that want nothing more than to end me, but hey- they started it, and my enhanced cyborg body can take some serious hits. As the bullets fly, we never hold back, never stop moving, and never ease up on the mayhem. Unlimited guns. Epic shoot-outs. Mind-blowing parkour action. Hand to hand combat. Hand to sword combat. I am testing Henry’s limits and so far I haven’t found any. I’m coming for you, Akan.

When the simulation was over, I walked out of the theater chamber exhilarated. Being Henry was fun. Going into Hardcore Henry, I was unfamiliar with the mission director, Illya Naishuller, but he crafted such a perfectly executed adventure full of thrills, humor, and jaw-dropping moments that I’m already looking forward to his next program. It’s true that Hardcore Henry is so frantic that it’s understandably not for the easily queased, but for action fans, this is a rare exhibition of raw cinematic badassery that is not to be missed, and it’s out now. I definitely recommend strapping yourself in tight. It’s a wild ride.

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