Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
You know what I love? I love stupid; I love those trial brands of stupid which somehow make their way out of R&D into circulation prior to being market tested and approved by the FDA. The "Crystal Clear Pepsi" kinds of stupid, if you will.
So, Malik Nadal Hassan, an army mental heath professional, decided to shoot up Fort Hood. Which, if you are keeping score at home, has all of the ingredients required to qualify this as a "Crystal Clear Pepsi" bit of stupid.
- Zomg Islamo-Fascists have invaded teh military!
- Zomg mental health professionals going crazies!
- Zomg we are teh under attack from teh inside!
The fantastic part of this story is that it allows conservative pundits to verbally attack the army. But, not the army qua army, but the tainted Obama-controlled army which allows islamofascists into our religiously pure armed forces. Remember that time when an islamofascist shot up a military base while George W. Bush was in office? That's right you don't. George W. Bush kept our army bases safe and now that Obama is president not even our military bases are protected.
See, that's what we have to look forward to. It will be spectacular.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
So I saw Surrogates at the Ohio tonight. The ticket cost $2. (I think that is the price for 12 and under, which I don't understand because it is PG-13.) Nevertheless, the ticket cost me $2, and I'd say that that was a fair price.
Anybody ever read Snow Crash?
Well, the real world is the Metaverse, Avatars are robots which people control with EEG versions of the Matrix chairs, Rife's Raft is a group of dispersed compounds which rejects the surrogate-ed lifestyle, wherein people do organic gardening, macramé, and follow the Prophet, who might as well be an evil George Clinton, and also, Snow Crash is a brain-melting wave-gun.
There is a kind of interesting/disorienting clip montage at the beginning that is supposed to news-reel one to the current situation. Then, somebody uses the wave-gun to kill someone, and so begins the mystery-conspiracy-steeplechase/letdown which is the rest of the movie. Bruce Willis is the same Bruce Willis from that Christmas movie that we all loved, although, it seems no one bothered to tell the writers that one-line jokes might be a good idea.
In the end, one wishes that beginning with such a premise would have brought this science fiction us elsewhere than (or, at least, by means of some sentiment other than that which might be found in WALL•E) a simple, Luddite fantasy world, but alas.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Since MA17 showed me up and put up two reviews since I said I would put one up for this game, I'll relent and throw another half assed review out here. Demon's Souls is a PS3 exclusive that doesn't disappoint.
Demon's Souls is hands down the best game that has been released this year. No other game I have played before has been as capable of getting my heart racing and adrenaline pumping with consistency. Demon's Souls is difficult but fair. It gives you your chance, but if you make a mistake, the game will punish you for it.
The environment is dark and lonely. There are a minimal number of NPCs in the town/hub known as the Nexus, where you can buy gear, interact with your bank, earn levels, and venture out into the world. As soon as you venture out into the world, you are alone and fighting for your life. The levels tend to be cramped quarters with little room to dodge around or perilous rises with dangerous footing, and the enemies tend to be simple but effective.
The combat is actually quite simple, mostly based around ranged sniping, blocking, dodging, and attacking. It forces you to be patient and wait for an opportunity to attack, or else it will punish you, unapologetically so.
The currency of the game is souls. You earn them for killing enemies. This currency is used for everything. You buy gear and consumables with souls, you repair and upgrade equipment with souls, and you pay souls to gain levels at a polynomial growth rate. The difficulty in the game is that if you ever die you lose all souls on you, and can only get them back by returning to your body after the level has reset. Those souls then vanish upon a subsequent death.
The beauty of the game, however, is the multiplayer functionality. You exist in 2 states: alive and spirit. Both states allow you to progress through your game, but the each state gives you a different interaction with other players. When you are dead, you can drop a signal that will persist in every other person's game on the given location. Other players may summon you to their game to aid them in defeating the level you have made yourself available for. As soon as the level is completed you must venture back to your own world. The twist being that you can only summon other players to your game when you are alive. Becoming a spirit is as simple as dying, but returning to life is a whole other task. There are a few ways to do it, the most common is to defeat a major demon, a boss of a given level. Alternatively, you can use a certain item to do so or more interestingly, you can use an item that will transport you to a random living person's game and assault them. If you defeat them, you return to life. Those moments can be the most stressful, when you are trying to continue your game and are assaulted by a Black Phantom, and by stressful, I mean awesome.
Let me stress again, this is my vote for game of the year, and if you have a PS3 get it and play it now. If you don't have a PS3 ponder getting one for this game.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I dumped a few hours into Borderlands and ran through the first ten or so character levels on the day it came out. The next day, I sat down and filled a notebook page with all the stupid shit I hated about Borderlands.
No idea what I did with that notebook. I remember that I was mad about how the comedy is a heinously awful mix of references and recycled jokes. NPCs are just quest dispensers, which seems unnecessary since there is a message board where people post quests. The world doesn't make much sense and the developers don't seem to care if you even know what you're doing. Early on, I repelled a bandit raid on a town and then later found out that the people I was killing were bandit raiders, and the junk heap I was running around in was a town. Population: 1. One quest dispensing NPC.
After I made it through a few quests, I received a notice that the weapons store was re-opening back in town. I ran back to greet the new shopkeeper and found an empty building with two vending machines that sold guns and ammo. Apparently when the population of Junk Heap City doubles overnight, Mad Karloff's Fucking Gun Emporium can afford to plug the machines back in. What is this place?!
I let a day or two go by before I played a few more hours. That was when it finally (finally) dawned on me that everything I had hated and put on that piece of paper was meaningless because this is a multiplayer game. All the game needs to do is give you things to kill, levels to gain, items to gather, and a way to do that with other people. The fact that I was playing it single-player made me expect the kinds of things you find in single-player games, and that was stupid of me.
You get quests to shoot monsters or shoot people or, you know, turn on windmills and shit. After you shoot those things, they drop money or ammunition or new weapons. Weapons belong to a few levels of rarity and random modifiers of varying quality. There are a few different classes of weapons and proficiency in each increases with use (I actually really really like that part). Then you turn in the quest and get some more money and maybe another weapon.
This is followed by a new quest.
Do enough quests and you'll level up and get better at finishing quests.
It's better if you do this with other people. Single-player will just piss you off and make you sound sarcastic about everything.
The best parts of Tim Schafer games rarely have anything to do with the gameplay. If you approach Brütal Legend thinking "boy, I bet this open world action game with RTS set pieces is going to be a blast of fun!", then you're probably going to be disappointed. That's not to say that Legend is boring, but the action game parts are average, the RTS set pieces are simply functional, and the driving and open world aspects are merely present.
The great part of Legend is in the funny writing and badass situations and designs. Main character Eddie Riggs (Jack Black) can do some pretty awesome things, like shoot lightning out of his guitar and literally melt faces with a wykkyd guitar solo. He also has clever one-liners and is surrounded by people who do as well. Not every gag is a winner, but I didn't think they fell flat very often except through repetition.
The images in the world vary from good to great, not just through rendering power, but in design as well. Most of it is lifted wholly from metal imagery, so they can't really take credit for all of it, but the original work is strong.
Of course, if the game shines in the writing, scenarios, and design, then why put it into a medium that needs more than just those three things? A pretty good movie or TV series could fall out of a well-done trio of these elements, but they don't need the element that Legend is lacking: a compelling reason to interact.
There are plenty of WAYS to interact, whether they be the aforementioned action sequences (beating guys with your axe (weapon) and blowing them away with your axe (guitar)), driving sequences, RTS sections, and a scattering of other things. However, I can't imagine doing any of those things more than once if there weren't the promise of more of the good parts to follow.
I think Schafer games have always been this way, but it was a bit more difficult to notice when he was doing graphical adventures. Those games are almost entirely interchangeable except for the writing, design, and scenarios, so even though that's all he ever did right, that's all ANYONE ever did right in that genre.
I don't blame him for leaving adventure games after they died, but I suspect that his decade since then could have been better spent working in a different medium. Make Brütal Legend non-interactive and it would be somewhere between Metalocalypse and Tenacious D, but probably better than both. Leave it as a game, and it's pretty ok, but absolutely worth playing if it's the only way you can see the non-interactive parts.
Given the existence of the internet, I doubt that it is.