Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm back with this ...

Just got my Macbook back from Apple, complete with new hard drive so posting can resume normally...

I spent most of Thanksgiving re-living the glories of Mystery Science Theater's 3000's "Turkey Day" Marathon by watching old Mistie episodes on YouTube (embiggened using my PS3). I came across this. A mash up of one of my favorite MST3K episodes ("Space Mutiny) and "Mass Effect". Enjoy as we put our faith in Blast Hard Cheese.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hard drive Massive Fail

The hard drive on my Macbook has died. So, as Nikki Finke says, light posting until ...

From my iPhone

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thought for the Day: Lara Croft

So I was listening to the latest episode of Retronauts, a retrospective on the Tomb Raider franchise, and, as is the trend whenever Lara Croft and her ample physique comes up, the discussion wended its way around to 'Why oh why can't we have a "realistic" version of Lara Croft'. Realistic meaning a Lara Croft that looks like some version of the collective "Us", instead of a completely unattainable fantasy.

My inner Marcus Fenix bellowed the same response that I have when this topic comes up about characters in movies or T.V. Shows, or about fashion models and magazines ads. Awww, c'mon!

No one really wants to see a realistic, body attainable version of Lara Croft. Sure, everyone says they want to see a realistic Lara Croft to be Politically Correct while giving the appearance of sensitivity, but no one really wants to see a realistic Lara Croft. You know why? Because, taking the average Americans our model , a realistic version of Lara Croft would be 5'2", 200 pounds of flesh poured into a tube top and spandex pants, barely able to wheeze through the first level of a game before dying in the second of an enlarged heart.

Can we just be honest with ourselves. We do not want to see a realistic version of ourselves in movies, T.V., in fashion magazines, or as avatars in our video games. We want to see an idealized depiction of ourselves in movies, T.V., in fashion magazines, and as avatars in our video games.

Entertainment, particularly video games, is escapism from the sad realities of our daily life. We want to escapist to places where Zombies walk the Earth and you are one of four survivors fighting to stay alive, or where two men shaped like tree trunks from a Rob Lefield fever dream fight off hoards of Mole-Men, or where Lara Croft's boobs could conceivably be real. And no one wants their escapism interrupted by a heroine that looks like Cameron Manheim, or a hero that looks like Larry the Cable Guy.

C'mon, it is really okay to admit. Really. It's also OK to admit you really didn't find the chick in Uncharted attractive, and were convinced she was a Post-Op tranny for most of the game.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Twitter

If you really really care I've started up my Twitter. Yeah, I know, one more thing to not update. Personally I blame Jenn Frank and possibly the Spanish Inquisition to a lesser extent.

Why Does "Mirror's Edge" Need Guns?

Violence and a need to express it is hardcoded into our DNA. Put a stick in a boy's hand and it becomes a broadsword. Put an L-shape twig in a boy's hand and first thing he does is shoot the bad guys with it. Ask a boy to design a game from a first person perspective and he will immediately stick a gun in the middle of the screen. Then, if he works for Epic, he will put a chainsaw bayonet on the gun because having a simple firearm isn't enough, and then fill the surrounding environment with objects that look like they were constructed of tinfoil, slathered in vaseline.

Nothing wrong with that; it is catharsis on a massive scale, a generation of you men and women, pent up in plastic and plywood cubicles, getting in touch with their primal need for blood through Team Deathmatch.

However, when a video game developer is bold enough to say, Hey, there is this great thing we could do with a first person camera in a game and it doesn't involve a gun, that feels on first inspection like some form of Gamer Heresy. What you are going to put me in a first person world and then tell me I'm not going to shoot people for 90% of the game? GUARDS! TAKE HIM AWAY!

Unless you're like me and happen to be overly fond of heretics. Then the polar opposite over-reaction kicks in. The one that jumps up and down on your Mom's couch yelling, "OMFG this is the greatest thing, the greatest game ever ever EVER!" Even though you know it isn't and that you are acting like a 13 year old girl at a Insert Popular Boy Band Here concert.

This is how I arrived at "Mirror's Edge". The latest attempt by DICE to do something different with a first person game other than have you run around shooting people. "Mirror's Edge" works most of them time because you don't run around shooting people. "Mirror's Edge" oddly but unsurprisingly doesn't work some times when they make you run around shooting people, or make you run around trying to disarm the people who are shooting at you so you can shoot back at them.

This where most of the complaints by reviewers (I can't call them critics with a straight face) derive the complaint that combat in "Mirror's Edge" sucks. Actually, Enthusiast Reviewer, the combat does not "suck". The combat is fine. What "sucks" is you are in a world where you have to use hand to hand combat but everyone else possesses a large firearm.

About halfway through "Mirror's Edge" I began to think new, fresh heretical thoughts (is there ever such a thing as old heretical thoughts?). I said to myself, what if ... What if "Mirror's Edge" didn't have guns at all? What if the Blues -- the cops in Mirror's Edge -- just had tasers, and batons, and that non-lethal foam "stuff"? Well, that would at least even out the combat, wouldn't it. I certainly wouldn't be dying every time I miss time a punch on a SWAT Officer who then shoves me to the ground and pumps me full of lead. What if the Blues tried to arrest me instead of just shoot me, and then the combat mechanic could also double for an escape mechanic... What if ...

I hear the protests already. But how does that work with the story line? Cops that don't shoot? I mean, wtf? You're crazy! I'm going to stop reading this site! Mom! Get me a Hot Pocket and a Mountain Dew! Mom! But think about it.

Most cops nowadays do not shoot on sight. Even SWAT doesn't shoot on sight if they can avoid it. And "Mirror's Edge" is set in a kindly totalitarian city where the control is derived not from guns but from control of communication, control of the media, control of the people. The all prying eye that sees All.

How would an underground group or a resistance get guns into a city where privacy has been completely stamped out? Wouldn't massive, intrusive gun control be the first law you'd pass if you were planning to rule anything as a dictator? And why arm the Blues, the cops, when you already have complete control of the city? Arming the police just makes them a possible contender to your throne, a Praetorian Guard in dress blues, and also increases the likelihood of people doing exactly what I started to do about halfway through the game, disarming the police and turning their guns on them.

This is all a thought exercise, running through my head as I played the game, trying to come up with a coherent, consistent logic for omitting guns in "Mirror's Edge" altogether. Then once I arrived at a sound way to do it my thoughts turned to those nebulous Whys. Why does "Mirror's Edge" need guns at all? I'm not talking from a pure design perspective, but a more philosophical space. Why does "Mirror's Edge" need guns?

And it is one of those questions I do not have a great answer for. You can go for the soft underbelly and blame it on game designers lacking in imagination, or a video game audience that is still stuck firmly in the juvenilia stage that expects every game to have guns and an option to kill in them.

But I think, while maybe true and maybe not true, the answer runs a bit deeper. I think we've grown so accustomed to a violent world dominated by the gun and the sword that we -- We in the Collective sense; the societal We -- cannot fathom a world rid of power through guns. Even if that world is a near-future one of enforced Utopia, controlled by corporations and fascists mayors, we cannot conceive of it existing without guns. Almost instinctively there seems to be a voice in the back of our primal heads that whispers, You'll never be free. Violence, and death, and murder, and the weapons that come with them will always be here. Always. An inescapable fact of life.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Call of Duty: World at War Impressions

Stop Me Before I Consume Again

I bought a copy of Call of Duty: World at War... Oddly enough I bought World at War mostly with change I harvested from my car. Parking meter money and uncollected quarters sitting in a tray underneath my stereo. About $30 worth. I only played about twenty minutes of single player, enough to get past the first to Pacific War Levels and into -- surprise, surprise for a Call of Duty game -- a Stalingrad Sniper Level.

My heart sank. The Pacific War Levels were actually way better than I expected from a TreyArch Call of Duty. Those levels were almost something I hadn't experienced to death in a World War II game before, and right when I was hooked on flamethrowers and Kiefer Sutherland TreyArch bait and switched me back to 1942 Stalingrad, Russia. Really?

The single player right now feels tired and extremely competent. Basically, Call of Duty 3.5 on a better engine and enemy spawn closets that are more effectively hidden. All in all TreyArch appears to have upgraded from being the Retarded half-child of Infinity Ward to the Differently Abled Stepchild of Infinity Ward.

I also hopped into multiplayer. Sorry, TreyArcn this is what will make you a forever stepchild to Infinity Ward. The Maps are way, way, way too big for a 12 player game. Every map I've played so far feels like "The Creek" from CoD4. Too massive and sprawled out. You can literally spend two minutes of Team Deathmatch wandering around, looking for someone to kill before finding the opposing team, and quite often you'll just find an opposing team member wandering around behind your lines. The voice acting tidbits are laughably bad with Kiefer Sutherland bellowing at you constantly and other voice actors putting on the worst German, Russian and Japanese accents you'll hear this side of a free acting class. Call in one wave of "dog attacks" and you'll wonder why they didn't go all the way, have Mister Burns yelling, "UNLEASH THE HOUNDS!" The weapon selection is beyond pedestrian -- you can't fault TreyArch for that though; well, I guess you can, there are no rules with multiplayer games so why not toss in M16s and G36Cs and those Nazi Zombies too; screw historical accuracy as long as its fun.

All in All Call of Duty: WaW feels like an overpriced World War II mod for Call of Duty 4. And the more I play it, the more I want to go back to Call of Duty 4.

Saturday Update:

I've been playing more of the multiplayer and everything I said still holds true. All in all it feels badly, badly broken and poorly laid out. But I am still playing it. I came to the realization that I am just so sick of COD4's maps even a broken change of pace is still better than none. The single player campaign however is still completely disposable.

In an ideal world, a world where Activision isn't trying to "monetize" every franchise in their library, the multiplayer parts of World at War should've been released as a $30 Expansion while the single player campaign should've been wrapped in a filthy blanket and shoved in a dumpster.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Currently Playing...

Wow, I glanced underneath my A/V Console at this pile of sheer Consumer Spending that has accumulated like driftwood from the Fall Game Flood and thought to myself, you know, that's somewhat disgusting. Some dude working the line at GM just lost his job and his family is probably going to dwell in the depths of poverty for years to come, but here I sit, fat and happy, buying my little plastic $60 discs. But then I remember, wait, that is the reason I buy $60 plastic discs is so I can forget about the world outside, the dude at GM who just lost his job, and live in my ever increasing plastic Happy Bubble.

I picked up Mirror's Edge this Wednesday from a nearly vacant Best Buy. It's good -- Mirror's Edge, I mean; the Best Buy, not so much -- and I'll have some longer thoughts on Mirror's Edge by the weekend. Short-hand: DICE did good and the Enthusiast Critics (outside of 1Up's Nick Sutner) are moaning a bit too loudly over the flaws.

Last weekend I plowed through the Homoerotic Adventures of Marcus and Dom in "Gears of War 2", and now that the matchmaking is sort of working now the multiplayer is going into my weekly rotation of online entertainment. Soon to be followed by "Left 4 Dead". I played the demo a bit, and, yes, this is exactly how I envisioned my own Zombie Apocalypse fantasy playing out... Over and Over and Over again. I fear for the Xbox 360 version of this game. Too many people in the demo ... just don't seem to "Get It". I have this theory (which I will be expounding upon later) that with Halo Bungie and Microsoft have effectively retarded a generation of console gamers to the greater possibilities of online play.

And then there is "Little Big Planet" ... Sitting there, mocking me. "Little Big Planet" feels like the out of place Educational Toy a distant relative in a obscure section of the Northwest U.S. of A sent you for Christmas. I'm not entirely sure what I am supposed to do with it. No matter what I do do with it I'm not all that amused or entertained, but I know it's a game, so therefore there must be fun in there somewhere. Right?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gears of War 2 Multiplayer: Screwed or Extra Screwed?

So far I haven't seen much made of this on other gaming sites or blogs, but the multiplayer in Gears of War 2 seems ... well, screwed up, and screwed up bad enough to not even be playable.

Epic's Official Gears of War 2 forum is flooded with complaints about Gears of War 2's matchmaking system. The big one being that its slow verging on unusable -- with people waiting in the in-game lobby for up to an hour searching for players. Personally speaking I've waited as long as thirty minutes for a multiplayer game since launch on Friday. The shortest wait I've experienced is 5 minutes between games.

Along with bigger and more bad-ass, Cliffy B. can now add "broken" to the list of things Gears of War 2 is going to be. Hopefully Epic will sort out the problem soon, or at least patch in some snappy hold music.

UPDATE: Yes, Virginia, Epic admits Houston has a problem.

Hello and Welcome

I started this blog so I could have a specific space to prattle on about video games. I'll be doing ... whatever I feel like frankly. I'll also be porting over some of my older video game blog entries from my private blog.

P.S. Right now the Blogger Hosting is just temporary until I get something better set up