Friday, March 12, 2010

Favorite Things of the Week!

     Since I’ve responded to most of my entertainment in a negative fashion this week, I’ve decided to spend a little time dabbling in the lighter side of affairs. What did I waste my time on this week that made me smile or giggle with glee? Against your will, you’re about to find out.
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Let’s approach this topically, shall we?

1. Music

     You know what I love? The Metal. You know what I love even more? Metal that makes you light-hearted and giddy. Not possible, you say? Never heard of such a thing, you say? Well, that would be because you have never listened to video game metal. That’s right. Here are my picks for this week. should assist you if you desire to listen to these tracks, just enter the name of the track into the playlist search bar, and you can sample the crunchiness.
Mario/Zelda Medley by Super Mario Bros./Legend of Zelda
      Unfortunately, I couldn’t find where this track originated from. Oh well, I’m not worrying about it, so you don’t have to. Just enjoy the thick, heavy guitar with the mario sound effects. If that doesn’t make you chuckle/rock out, then there’s no way we can ever be friends. I wasn’t as impressed with the LoZ guitar melody, but trust me, if you peruse rock renditions online, by comparison this track still has top-tier guitar work.

Storm Eagle X Mix by wiltedroses

     If you haven’t played Megaman X for SNES, shame on you. Assuming you’re not home, go home, repent in sackcloth and ashes, fast for three days and three nights. After that, don’t return to your house until you are clutching a SNES and a copy of Megaman X in your clammy grasp. This is solid platforming action. Megaman has never been better/harder. Likewise, the music is fresh, a thicker, fuller approach to the squealy speed of Rockman’s NES incarnations. Yes, it’s still fast, but now with more soul. Wiltedrose’s mix exemplifies this fact, giving new life to 16-bit sound. I like how wiltedroses sticks to the source material except where it is warranted. A little guitar solo interpretation never hurt anyone. Okay, it hurt a little, but I made sure my face didn’t melt on the carpet.

I Thought the Seventies Were For Spacey Rock?

     The bands Styx and Journey had a child. Once that child hit his angry adolescent years, he listened to Nu-Metal. His name is Fair To Midland. This band steals my heart every time with it’s unique and varied sound. I can’t tell whether I’m listening to Johanne Sebastian Bach, Muse, or Incubus. Seriously. It’s that good. What? You don’t think that sounds good?
Go listen to these three tracks, and see if you can’t appreciate some of their pleasing keyboard lines, riskily high vocals, and full but clean guitar riffs. Also, note the variance in the track intros and track progression.

Kyra Cries Cologne
Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes
Walls of Jericho

    My work is done here.

2. Video Games

     Battlefield: Bad Company 2

     Rewarding unlocks. Sharp graphics. Chaotic but tight gameplay. A destruction system that is both convincing and dangerous, in terms of gameplay. What are these descriptions referring to? No, not Hello Kitty Roller Rescue for Gamecube. I’ll give you a hint: it might be in the paragraph title. BFBC2 is the most fun I’ve had in an online multiplayer FPS since… well, Halo 3, but that’s because I’m a Halo nerd. Best moment of my BFBC2 career: booby-trapping our team’s bomb with C4 and hiding nearby, then detonating it when the enemy team comes rushing into the building. A suicide by building destruction, a double kill and a defensive kill later, I had a smile on my face that could only convey thing: I just killed myself and walked away with several hundred points and an exploded building. I- am a man.
     *sips coffee*

3. Movies

     No movies were my favorite this week. You fail, Hollywood. Iron Man 2 does look promising, though… here’s looking to the future.
   Look! The future! … Always sneaking up on me…

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rock, Hell, and Video Games: Part 3

And you thought this was going to be social ethics.

     I’ve already screwed up the order of these topics, but I thought I’d save the shortest for last.From-Hell-johnny-depp-8653255-380-558
     From Hell was released in 2001, directed and produced by the Hughes Brothers. They had previously directed such films as Dead Presidents, American Pimp, and Menace II Society. The film is a bit uncharacteristic for them, and it comes out in the pacing and coherence of the movie. While it touches on topics related to some of their other films (several of the characters being prostitutes), the fantastic/spiritual aspect of the movie makes it much more than their standard social commentary.

An 122-Minute Non-Sequitur

     From Hell is based off of Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name. I say based off of in the sense that it uses Moore’s book like a trampoline to jump into an abyss of seemingly random scenes. …I retract that, that’s a little extreme. It only feels that way because one of the biggest questions of the narrative remains unanswered in various aspects. That questions is simply “why?”- why does Sir William Gull undergo an apparent demonic possession without an explanation? Why does Frederick Abberline suffer visions of the future with no reason as to why they started in the first place? It seems the common theme of this film is utter confusion. It fancies itself a nightmare, attempting to emulate that feeling you get after a horrifying dream shocks you into a hyperventilating cold sweat, and the only question that comes to mind was “ What was that?” However, as I watched the movie it began to switch from leading towards a thrilling conclusion to a dull ending that was over before I could register if anything that happened was of consequence. An even bigger question to me than “why did this happen?” was “why did I sit through 122 minutes of a movie that was incoherent?”
Go read Alan Moore’s novel if you prefer feeling informed over confused.

Rock, Hell, and Video Games: Part 2

And you thought this was going to be social ethics.

Aliens_vs_Predator_-_E3-Xbox_360Screenshots16868AVP_E3_Online_1     Oh well, talking about a game featuring iconic sci-fi characters is more fun, anyway. I gotta say, the concept of this game is an exciting one. Who could pass up the chance to play as an alien or a predator? Apparently, not as many people as reviewers would’ve liked. While big name video game sites like Gamespot or 1up gave AvP fair to middlin’ scores or worse, VGChartz shows that Rebellion’s Alien Vs. Predator for Xbox 360 is #5 in the Worldwide Top 10, while the PS3 version clocked in at #8. Not too shabby for an average game. While I haven’t had the luck to play the full version of the game, I did spend some quality time with the multiplayer demo, which I will be reviewing.

It’s All a Matter Of Patience.

     It’s funny, if I would’ve played the multiplayer demo for five minutes, I probably would’ve agreed with the majority of professional reviewers. The game seemed unbalanced. While I dominated playing as an Alien, playing as the Marine was an exercise in self-control. I died so often and such a lack of warning that I couldn’t decide between uncontrollably sobbing (see below image)
or banging my head against a nearby keyboard until I expired (see below image)
Ooh, that was violent. *giggles*
The Predator reduced me to cheap tactics, since all I had available to me at spawn was his melee blades. I’m not pleased to admit that I camped with the cloak in order to secure kills the first few rounds. Oh, the shame…

The Good

     However, after a couple awkward matches of learning control basics, I observed a few details that made me feel less concerned about the balancing of the classes. The Marine, which many would refer to as the fodder of the game, is actually a great class. I won two rounds after mastering how to shoot, since the default assault rifle and the shotgun are both absurdly powerful. While starting with melee only as the Predator, I soon discovered that the reason for this was that his powerups were killtacular. Helmet mounted tri-laser is the best thing since the spartan laser. Yeah, I’m into lasers. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t encounter any issues with the wall-climbing for the Alien. It was smooth and fluid- but then, I didn’t go searching out odd angles that looked like they would confuse the game’s mechanics. Perhaps I should be more thorough.

The Bad

Remember when I talked about my concerns about Halo Reach’s Assassinations? A prime example of why those aren’t going to work well is AvP’s multiplayer. The Predator and the Alien both have instant kill buttons that initiate an automated sequence where you gut your enemy in a variety of delightful ways. As fun as it is to watch, it’s deadly for you if an enemy is nearby. “ What’s that, Mr. Predator? Oh, you want me to shoot you with 4 shotgun shells in the back while you decapitate some other Marine? Why thank you, I do believe I shall take you up on your offer.” There is no crouch option for any of the classes in the demo. Hiding behind cover is now nearly impossible. Many thanks for all the wasted respawns, Rebellion.

To Conclude

Multiplayer is pretty good fun. There’s more balance to the game than you think. There are certainly design flaws for every class, and many of the mechanics are experimental. Give Halo a break, and try a few rounds of AvP to break the monotony. With a little patience, it’s a rewarding alternative. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll watch yourself be impaled by a Xenomorph repeatedly, and, let’s face it, that’s what made watching the movies fun.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rock, Hell, and Video Games: Part 1

And you thought this was going to be social ethics.

     However, instead of covering why popular entertainment is sending people to the bad place (sarcasm), I’m going to review three pieces of popular entertainment- Weezer’s latest album, a mystery thriller from days long past, and the latest video game incarnation of Aliens Vs. Predator. Let’s start with Weezer’s new album, Raditude.

I Thought You Didn’t Give a Hoot About What They Thought?     
While I wasn’t looking, Weezer managed to slip amorphously from the already shaky ground of pop-rock-folk to just… pop. Ew. Okay, so it’s not exactly Rihanna (thankfully), but Weezer has taken one step closer to being the brand of music that 12-year-old girls will cluster together in large numbers over. If you’re having trouble understanding what I mean, listen to their older stuff like “Say It Ain’t So” or “Christmas Song”, and follow that up with “I Don’t Want To Let You Go” or “ The Girl Got Hot”. I used to not be able to tell whether I was listening to folk music, a slow dance, or grunge rock. That was the kind of confusion that made me want to delve deeper into their music. Now I can’t tell whether I’m listening to music co-written by Miley Cyrus with lyrics by(insert generic emo band name here). That’s the kind of confusion that makes me want to give up on music today. Where’s the originality? “ The Girl Got Hot” might as well be Hip Hop in terms of the lyrics, minus the incessant, pointless swearing. “Can’t Stop Partying” Sounds like Weezer sent a covert op to go steal a couple of Lady Gaga’s unused audio samples, and replaced the vocal track with Rivers Cuomo. It’s not a pretty combo. Excuse while I clean the puke off my keyboard.

And Now, On to the Real Weezer. Sort Of.

     Here are the tracks that kept me from committing Hara Kiri: Let it All Hang out. Best sounding track of the CD. The squealy guitar riff gives off a high-octane 80’s rock feel, while the melody feels more pop-punk (although that definition itself makes me want to stab my eyes with a fork, I couldn’t think of another way to describe it). However, as much as I don’t hate it, “Buddy Holly” did everything that this song does, only better. “In the Mall” wins the award for Best Jaded Christmas song of all time. “I Don’t Want To Let You Go”- wins award for the most almost tearjerker (again, shut up grammar police). It’s thoughtful and sincere, but it’s been done more thoughtfully, and with more sincerity. Almost award= fail.

    Obviously, “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)” is the most original song in format, and it’s creative in it’s construction. That’s all I have to say. Do you expect me to say more? It’s hard to sympathize with such a specific description of his relationship. One reason poets and musicians use metaphor and similes is because they broaden a specific situation, enabling a wide audience to feel the writer’s emotions. I listen to music so I won’t have to hear about specific details of some stranger’s relationships, but what do I get? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Halo Reach Multiplayer: Wow! AwesomeCrap I'm Dead.

So how about that Halo Reach Beta trailer up on Xbox Live? It looks shiny, it looks fast and fluid in terms of animation, and the lighting is more on par with ODST, as one could surmise. But what I took away from the trailer is that Bungie is focusing heavily on making this game cool. There were a lot of wow moments. Not like, "Oh, wow, that was a good sticky onto that guy's bum" kind of good, but more related to some key mechanics.

#1. Assassinations.

At first, I was impressed. I mean, it looks cool, right? punching an opponent in the gut to incapacitate him looks a little more visceral than the standard melee attack which, to be honest, doesn't always even connect. Here's an attack that's a surefire way to PWN your enemy when you've got the drop on him.
Here's the problem (cue Toccata and Fugue in D Minor).
Why the Sangheili would I want to take 5 seconds to dispatch an enemy with an animation that renders me defenseless? Once you put use it in the heat of a frenzied struggle, I doubt it would retain it's wow factor. There might be a "FRGNSNXNFAGN" factor, maybe, as you throw your 45$ limited edition red 360 controller across the room, but not wow. Picture this- You run into a room that's filled with a mass of opposing team (shut up grammar police). They're facing the opposite door. If there's one within reach, you'll want to assassinate his face. So you hit B and proceed to thrash him from behind with a series of punches in his soft, tender, vital parts. This makes you very self-satisfied, until his teammate's team damage indicator goes off like a roman candle. So while you're happily pummeling him into submission, they leisurely stroll over and say "Oy, What's all this then?" To which you reply "FRGNSNXNFAGN" and then you die rather inglouriously and are most likely teabagged or stuck after you have already perished. So, moral of the story is, let's hope and pray that the assassination is optional (which would then make it superfluous and no one would end up using it, because melee assassinations would be faster and more efficient) or, better yet, include SOME sort of mechanic within that attack that allows you to keep your head while performing it. Maybe speed up the animation a bit? I don't know. I don't claim to know, I just know what's crap about the idea.

#2. Rolling

"Liek, ohmahgawd! They should, like, totally have a roll move where you can get of the way of bullets and stuff." Somewhere in Bungie, a developer fell prey to either the drunk chick at the company party or his wife. Why? It's not because the roll isn't an improvement to a lackluster movement set, because it is, and you'll probably see me rolling Link-style though all the maps to save my skin and annoy the crap out of all the other players. No, it's because no one has even included sprint in a Halo title yet. You're stacking your Legos wrong, Bungie. You're baking your biscuits wrong (I've got more metaphors, really, I do). First sprint, then roll. Unless they plan to ignore all physics, a roll will disable your ability to shoot briefly, as well as your equilibrium. Again, it looks cool! I know it does, and you're going to feel satisfied when you dodge a shot and kill your opponent who is flailing madly in front of his LCD trying to waste you. The bad news is, that'll likely happen 1 out of 10 times. The other nine, you'll be punching whoever is nearby and hoping they're Bungie's voodoo doll. If you include a sprint, that would almost eliminate the need for a roll, and it wouldn't be as disorienting.

#3. Jetpacks

I can't think of any reason to gripe about the jetpack idea- maybe I'm just not original enough. Really, that's cool- Adding a vertical aspect your standard running-around-shooting-guys-on-teh-grounds-or-in-teh-vehiculars will be entertaining, to say the least. It'll take some re-learning, but I'm sure I won't find once I'm up on high felling my enemies. I haven't seen a ton of the mechanics, though- hopefully the disadvantage to being in a jetpack is well balanced.


W00t! I gotta say, props to Bungie for making the tank a tad more vulnerable. Now I can actually feel like I'm accomplishing something when I start emptying my BR on the tank because that's all I have. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the vid. The turret machine gun operator is now totally visible. That means you'll at least be able to take out one source of endless irritation for your team without extra trouble. Less invincibilty for the tank=less vehicle whorage. I'm all for that.


Well, that's about it. To be honest, the issues I could spot are easily fixable, and not game killing to begin with. What was good was very, VERY good. Now, I have some Constant Comment Orange Tea to vanquish, and then, after that, I'll proceed to vanquish my paycheck with my out-of-control spending. I love my life.