March 31, 2009

Double-O Quantum of Action

I've never been a huge fan of the James Bond franchise, but I've felt compelled to see the recent ones due to the overwhelming reception of Daniel Craig. Enter Quantum of Solace.

One great thing about this endeavor is the focus on action and chases in particular. It starts with a car chase, shuffles to a rooftop run, splashes through the harbors of Haiti, and glides through a desert canyon. The gunplay and melee combat was rampant throughout. The film felt reminiscent of the Bourne trilogy, only with a heavier use of classic spy charm.

I was thinking too about Bond's unique source of refreshment or fuel: martinis and sex. He never runs out of energy, needs no sleep, and only looks exhausted if he hasn't partaken in one of the two for awhile. Not a horrible way to break up your day in between the dullness of killing and caring about as few people as possible.

As much as people rave about the Casino Royale remake, I preferred this second double-ought Craig movie instead. The constant action, many locations, and well-paced flow kept me entertained the entire time.

-- "Who took the jam outta your doughnut?"

March 30, 2009

Online Frustration #42

Valve's Steam service can be compared and usually rates better than Xbox Live. In my experiences, Steam is basically the console equivalent for the PC without the constant hatespeech and annoying 12 year-old whiners. Oh, and Steam is free.

But one of the nit-picks I have with Steam is very easy to control on Live. On the Xbox, if you hear someone spouting off anything offensive, you can not only mute them, you can report/flag them to not be paired with them in random games. It also supposedly helps gets those people suspended with enough reports and lowers their reputations. It at least placated my anger while in the lobby of Halo 3.

Steam has no reporting to my knowledge. If they do, it's nowhere near as easy to find. And of course you can mute people's mics, but it has no effect on text. I don't see/hear it as often on the PC, but just two nights ago my eyes were welcomed into a TF2 match with, "f***ing f***** n***** b****". He wasn't kicked from the server and kept repeating himself. I felt impotent.

What bothers me more about seeing it rather than hearing is the feeling of intention. Typing all those hate-filled words seems to carry more emotion. With words it rolls off the tongue with unfortunate ease, but typing really punches it home.

The few times in my life where those words have crossed my lips have been shameful. And though I'm at a different point in my life, I could never imagine writing them down even then.

-- "Stop trying to hit me and hit me."

March 29, 2009

Worthy Illustrations or Lackluster Demonstrations?

Of the recent demos on Xbox Live, they have generally proven what I expected going in. Whether it be a fun game worth renting but not owning or an example of second-rate game design, I've enjoyed some recent trials.

Wanted was a really fun, snarky movie and an equally enjoyable game. Weapons of Fate pulls off a third-person shooter as well as the next with some added bits of delight. Coming from a movie that introduced curving bullets, that's the first notable addition; it's executed with visual style and simple controls. Beyond that, the game evolves the Gears cover mechanic by stepping up the speed between obstacles with deftness and great visual cues. The rest of the game stays faithful to the film's dialogue and story complete with the difficulty setting entitled "Pussy."

The Vin Diesel outings both left with a sense of superhappyfuntime. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is more goodness with better mechanics; just an evolution of what came before. It's what I expected and wanted. Now Wheelman doesn't demand too much attention, but it is good at what it does. Jampacked with racing, car stunts, and shooting, it's a compilation of off-the-wall antics, including Vin Diesel's character flying from one moving vehicle to the next to commandeer it. Seriously. But it doesn't apologize for such laughable features, it welcomes them without shame.

This next demo was supposed to be pure indulgence, but it was the least likable of the four I tried. Guitar Hero: Metallica is exactly like all the other Guitar Hero games before them, only I had never played drums or sang before. First off, the four playable songs in the demo were more than adequate with Seek and Destroy and Sad But True by Metallica, No Excuses by Alice In Chains, and Stone Cold Crazy by Queen (I know, too many italics). And the guitar interface was fine too. The drums seemed a bit clunky with harder to see lights but passable timing and combinations. It was the singing I couldn't stand. Compared to the instantly recognizable Rock Band format, it was a mess. I didn't know how to do well or how well I was even doing.

So much for wanting to try GH:WT now, Harmonix will continue to be my preference for interface design and color choice in rhythm gaming.

-- "Get out of my way, son. You're using my oxygen."

March 27, 2009

Fallout Finally Finished!

It took me long enough to complete, yet I still hesitate to use that word. Fallout 3 is a huge game with vast stores of nooks & crannies; there's no way I completely discovered everything. But I did discover close to 140 locations and complete every main quest, so it's done for me until a future patch is released.

Why is this game so great? I've been thinking about it ever since the final credits rolled. The animations aren't amazing, the modeling's pretty rough, and the action can be rather slow. I didn't get to see the Enclave enough, killing the same types of enemies got very repetitive, and didn't even discover what "Well Rested" meant until I was already level 20. And the end was rather disappointing, no matter how much I wished it wouldn't be. So why did I and many others love it so much?

Plain and simple it has to be the interactivity with nearly everything and the ability to choose. I could've stayed out of people's locked houses, but I snuck inside anyway. I could've let that rabble-rousing ghoul sleep soundly, but I ended him after he denied doing things my way. Megaton could've remained a peaceful little stronghold with an undetonated nuclear sleeper hit, but there was no way I could refuse the strange man in the sunglasses.

I was always just hoping for a little more cinematic flare or something to surprise me like realtime geometry changing. I was kept waiting for a wall next to me to get blown out and some people to show some movement while speaking with them. If only they could walk around and move appendages more than facial twitches.

But the ending sequence was unbelievably awesome. Ever since I saw the iron giant below the citadel, I was hoping he'd get involved!

-- "Wow, my own giant robot! I am now the luckiest kid in America!"

March 26, 2009

A Mess O' Movies

I'm just gonna get a bunch of recently seen movies out of the way to force myself from too many of these posts. Good or bad, I'm definitely making headway on my queues. Oh, and friend me if you have Netflix.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - A flick that piqued my interest with the always good Brad Pitt. I admit my man-crush; he's a great actor that chooses many different roles and pulls them all off. The film was slow-paced and thoughtful with some great additions in Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell. Definitely worth a rental.

Henry Poole is Here - The preview for this had me expecting a comedy. Thankfully it wasn't too disappointing to find Luke Wilson in a contemplative depression as life presents him with a question of faith. Of course he fights against it, and of course he emerges with a fresh outlook and new found happiness. Check it out if you like films of this type but don't expect to laugh much.

Eagle Eye - It's a Shia LaBeouf movie, but I enjoyed it. I don't mind him really, but I hear about as many bad things for him as Keanu Reeves (I loved Constantine). Anyway, it was a competent thriller with a Fallout 3-esque plot mechanic.

The Golden Compass - It's weird to see some books-turned-movies when the allegory is so heavy. It was different than I expected in a good way, but the rest of the movie was just bad. I could tell they omitted a bunch from the book and rushed everywhere. I really expected to enjoy it, but I'll definitely pass on the sequel.

Grindhouse: Death Proof and Grindhouse: Planet Terror - I really didn't expect much from either of these. And what ties they have as being a double feature are only loosely related in the 70s film grain pervading throughout. I say this because Planet Terror was absolutely fantastic, and Death Proof is and will remain unfinished by mine eyes. The former featured a great zombie flick with ultraviolence, ultragore, and an overall campy atmosphere. I laughed outloud so often, covered the screen with my hand too many times, and still made it through with an overwhelming taste of awesomesauce in my mouth.

The first 20 minutes of the Tarantino half of Grindhouse had me wondering why I hadn't stopped it yet. It was full of neverending, pretentious Tarantino dialogue and a story I could never care about. I tried, but it lacked the Pulp of Quentin's usually deep Reservoir.

-- "Welcome back to the land of the living. Now pick up a shovel and get digging!"

March 25, 2009

Talkin Bout My G-G-Generation

Something just hit me while listening to the latest Platform Biased podcast, Three's Company. One of the hosts was talking about raising his son on a escalated schedule of old-school gaming. First, the NES for 3 months and his 5 favorite games, then the SNES for another 3 months and 5 more games, and so on until he's current.

It got me thinking about what systems I would choose to own if I could only own 1 system from each generation. My apologies if anything turns out factually inaccurate; I don't care.

Starting from the generation I came in:
What was available -- Atari 2600, Intellivision, too many others
What I had -- Intellivision
What I would choose now -- Atari...I hear too many great stories about people and their Ataris. It feels like I missed out on something huge.

The real first generation by most people's standards started with Nintendo:
What was available -- NES, Sega Master System, something else insignificant
What I had -- NES
What I would choose now -- NES...Of course the NES. It was the pivotal console gaming platform. If only my Mom hadn't sold it with all my games during a garage sale.

The pretender consoles start to die down as Sega and Nintendo reign:
What was available -- SNES, Sega Genesis, Atari holding on by a Lynx...or was it Jaguar?
What I had -- Sega Genesis
What I would choose now -- SNES...Resoundingly, I would choose the SNES. Based on all the games I played and obtained for emulators, I wish I had stayed on the Nintendo train.

Sony enters the fray as Nintendo continues ascension. Sega lapses:
What was available -- Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn
What I had -- Saturn
What I would choose now -- Sony Playstation...It was the only system I owned a game for but never owned the system (Tony Hawk Pro Skater). I found some good games for Saturn, but I was bitten for the last time purchasing a system only because it came with games and the others didn't.

In which Microsoft claims gaming space, Sony gets cocky, and Nintendo turtles:
What was available -- Xbox, Playstation 2, and Gamecube (Dreamcast swansong)
What I had -- Xbox
What I would choose now -- Playstation 2...I loved my Xbox and Halo a bunch. But there are too many games coming from the largest gaming library I still want/need to play.

Duct tape, red rings, and little big things:
What is available -- Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3
What I have (had) -- Xbox 360 (gave away my Wii)

Of course this discounts the plethora of PC experiences over the years, handhelds, and systems only delusions would call big competitors (ahem, 3DO).

-- "Adventure, excitement...a Jedi craves not these things."

March 24, 2009

A Break in the Entertainment

I've had a hard time writing the past few days because I didn't want to just keep updating about movies. And since I've kept myself from finishing Fallout 3 (I'm in Raven Rock), this'll be a non-entertainment related post for once. (P.S. This Ghostbusters scene freaked me out as a kid and kinda still does now.)

Have you ever filed for unemployment? I hope you never have to, because it's too much of a hassle. And I still haven't gotten my first check even. There are a bunch of mandatory workshops and such that may take longer than you need with information you already have. At least that's the way I felt this morning. It was more of an affirmation of the recent direction I've had than an enlightening help session.

That recent direction I'm referring to is getting my IT certifications, including A+, Network+, MCSA, and Security+. I like working with computers and having the ability to relocate anywhere in the country is nice. Not to mention it also feels like a firm foundation will be under my feet for once. Who knew I'd feel better going to a place I'm paying thousands of dollars to attend than in the office who'll give me free money and donuts.

What also helps is the great living arrangement I've been graciously invited into and the wonderful people of the small group of my church. I'm counting my blessings while hoping for the best in other areas that are playing catch-up.

And tomorrow, I'm returning to another movie post because I just watched something on my instant watch Netflix queue I freakin' loved!

-- "I was going to be a stand-up comedian."

March 20, 2009

Disappointing Decepticons and Sobering Saudi Representations

I haven't played many games lately besides a quick visit to the World of Goo, the land of Peggle, and the rollin' landscape of Rock Band. I need to finish Fallout already, don't I?

A couple more movies I wanted to see eventually can now be marked off my list in the meantime. I finally watched Transformers against my better judgment. I had heard it wasn't that good and worth seeing as much as the last Indiana Jones movie, whatever it was called. Maybe it was because I had such low hopes going in, but I thought it was cool. I saw robots turn into vehicles and lots of explosions and general destruction. If anyone was wanting a great Transformers story: really? It's a cartoon turned toys turned animated movie turned worse toys turned movie. I don't expect G.I. Joe to vary from that formula. But where's my live-action Thundercats?

On to an actual great film: The Kingdom. It's another war-torn, Middle East relations film, and I didn't know what to expect. It was a fast ride with little-to-no slow bits. The dialogue was quick but not too confusing, although camera cues and acting generally keep you from guessing if the language was lost. What separates this movie from others is the equal points of view portrayed. There are people angry, grieving, and scared on all sides of the conflict, and it's handled with more tact than most. I liked this and The Rundown, but have yet to see Peter Berg's Hancock. I'm a little more optimistic about that one now.

-- "Does he know where Bin Laden is? That would be a huge promotion for me."

March 18, 2009

Mr. Fillion's a Great Foundation for Castle

So I, like many people, started watching Dollhouse in hopes Joss Whedon's magic might extend into a new show. For the record, I haven't watched since the second episode. Well now I've started watching Castle thinking Nathan Fillion can keep that show from belly-flopping into a drained pool; it's more like a cannonball in the deep end.

Bad analogies aside, the show is awesome. I've watched the first two episodes so far and laughed at Nathan's ineffable charm and wit. The dialogue feels effortless, the cast fits well (no distracting, overcasted crutches), and the stories are interesting enough. Being another "cops with murder mystery" show, it relies more on the main characters' backgrounds and interactions between each other. And it feels like it should be doing just that.

Stana Katic, who apparently has been in quite a bit of TV before, is breaking out in this main role. She feels like Yvonne Strahovski from Chuck: a relative unknown fit really well into her respective character. Though Stana isn't reduced to a sex kitten prancing around in her underwear for practically no reason other than titillation, and Castle's better for it.

-- "You're the poster boy for friendly fire."

March 16, 2009

A Link to the Past

I was looking through how many posts I had done (really not too many compared to the more consistent rate I've experienced lately) and thinking about how some of them have panned out. So this is an update.

I don't play Warhammer Online anymore. It faded away even before I started up WoW again. And even that's faded away now too. No inclinations to play any current MMOs right now.

Diablo III has no release date as of yet, I have yet to play Web of Shadows or Mirror's Edge, and I haven't even beaten Fallout 3. I've gotten closer as of the past month, but there's too much for me to explore. And Left 4 Dead is still freakin' amazing, but I haven't played much lately and won't consistently til the patch comes out soon. Prototype will come out this summer, and I still can't wait.

And the recently released scout update to TF2 definitely makes me feel more proud about my Halloween costume choice. I finally enjoy playing the class!

-- "I don't know about you guys, but we are the weirdest herd I've ever seen."

March 14, 2009

Tokin a Ride on the Pineapple Express

This could easily become a blog just about the movies I watch; I'll try to limit myself. But I need to Pineapple Express myself (lame, I know).

First off, I've never smoked weed but have been around others who have occasionally or often. It's weird then that stoner comedies are so funny (Ali G Indahouse, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny are all in my collection among others). I used to watch Half-Baked almost every day for one whole summer. It must be something about stupid humor striking a chord so deep with me; I dunno.

So Pineapple Express finally emerged from my Netflix queue, and I enjoyed it as thoroughly as some seen above. James Franco was the surprising standout, pot dealer with great dialogue I can only assume was mostly improvisation. The same goes for Seth Rogen, but it wasn't a surprise. There were a lot of other characters and scenes over-dramatized, but again I refer you to which genre I'm talking about.

If you've enjoyed such films in the past or other Judd Apatow, "frat pack" movies, this one should be added to the long list. It really is a weird realization seeing how many of these movies I really liked and knowing it's a genre I prefer. I must be high.

-- "Well be careful, man. Be careful. Wear shoes in the house. Safety. Safety first, then teamwork."

March 12, 2009

The Punisher of Hellboy II

So along with Watchmen this last Friday, I got around to watching two other comic hero movies in The Punisher and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. It was a themed weekend, but at least it wasn't Ghost Rider, right?

The Punisher was a lackluster affair with an okay idea, everything I had heard it to be. I didn't like the casting choice for Mr. Castle, the apartment friends were too ridiculous, and the tale didn't seem epic enough for a super hero movie. Why not someone with a more fantastic tale or nemeses? That said, John Travolta wasn't half-bad.

And Hellboy II, another comic film set aside as not so good and passable. I've never read any of these comics or watched the first flick a bunch, but I like the character of Hellboy a lot. Maybe it's Ron Perlman or maybe it's Guillermo's vision, but I like these stories of Hellboy. The second one was surprisingly good. It felt like a good sequel film nearly done with the origin story and fraught with an even bigger fight than before. The visuals were reflected in that too, though Selma Blair still seemed awkward (I'm afraid she will in every role).

I'm not sure which past, 2nd-rate comics movie will be next on the list, but these films definitely have me excited.

-- "We figure abortion clinics are a good place to meet loose women."

March 11, 2009

Goo-balls! It's Fun to Say, and They're Fun to Play With!

World of Goo was only $5 this past weekend on Steam, and I couldn't resist. Reviews have all been rather positive, and it's even received awards (see Outstanding Achievement in Game Design). A big discount on a critically acclaimed game? I was already salivating.

The World of Goo is a place full of fun levels and melodic music matched wonderfully with a distinct visual style; it's like a moving action comic from the mind of Tim Burton. And pair that with the sound effects from Worms: an aural delight.

The basic mechanics involve hooking together or tethering little balls of goo to each other to form towers, pyramids, or bridges and the like to transport said goo to a massive corporation. So really it's a physics-based builder with a heaping load of humor packed into a small package. But it can also be frustrating like any puzzle with simple mechanics and complex solutions; fast-stacking is not my favorite.

I can see why scores tend to be high for it. It's an above average game people of all types can grab hold of very quickly. I'd be interested to see a haptic version if it could ever happen and hope my fingers wouldn't get sticky.

-- "Self realization. I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said, 'I drank what?'"

March 10, 2009

Do You Really Know Your Online "Friends"?

If you haven't already seen The Guild, you are a geek of some sort, or believe Felicia Day (a geek in her own right) is cute as a button, please go watch it all right now. They've had two internet TV seasons so far filled with funny writing, snappy editing/camerawork, and a cast perfect for each of their respective roles.

It is about Codex, the guild's healer, and the drama surrounding her online life as it sneaks its way into her real life. The interactions all revolve the guild, a task made easier due to the episode time being so succinct. It abounds with parody as each of the characters' lives reflect an exaggerated portion of not only the players in those types of games but by its nature the audience watching the show. But they're probably just distracted by the thought of pretty women understanding their world.

And once you're done with The Guild, continue to do yourself a favor and watch Felicia's other work in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, and NPH. It'll blow you away.

-- "I'm Moist. At my most badass, I make people want to take a shower."

March 08, 2009

Take Me Down to Paradise City

Burnout: Paradise is a fabulous game. I'm a little late to the reintroduction and without Live Gold for the moment, but returning to it feels wonderful. And now with motorcycles!

I used to drive around Paradise City on a nightly basis about a year ago. I'm not usually into racing games, but this one is set apart from the rest. Not only is it known for crashing and destroying opponents, but this one added a new twist with the open-world aspect. You can explore the city on your own time outside of events. Then just pull up to any intersection for one of a number of event types including a regular Race, Marked Man (where you race to a location before being destroyed by some hit man cars), Burning Route (timed solo race to unlock an extra vehicle), Stunt Run (increasingly dangerous driving for record-breaking point totals of which I'm not too good), and the infuriatingly awesome Road Rage (destroy a multitude of opponents!).

Oh, and the online is indeed masterfully created. The drop-in/drop-out nature is great for quick challenges/races and easy group creation. I put more online hours into this game in the past than any other games I had. Yet I still have yet to try the online Road Rage or Marked Man late additions.

The motorcycles feel really good, but nothing too special from what I've seen offline. This resurgence into the Burnout world is definitely a hot addiction to my gameplay behaviors at the cost of my post-apocalyptic travels through the wastes of D.C.

-- "So when you say psychosomatic, you mean like he could start a fire with his thoughts?"

March 06, 2009

Rorshach, What Do You See?

Have you seen Watchmen yet? I'm sure you must have what with the massive advertising campaign launched on every medium. I bet there's even some blood-stained, smiley-faced buttons waiting at the grocery store counter at this point.

The film was fantastic, for readers of the graphic novel and those with fresh eyes too from what I hear. The casting for each of the parts was particularly well done, with my personal favorites going to Rorshach and The Comedian (though this may be more for the hardass characters they played than just the acting since everyone was well played in their respective roles). The soundtrack was worked in rather well with the world and featured some choice songs (including Sound of Silence and All Along the Watchtower). The new ending wasn't too distracting since it reaches the same general outcome, although it was kind of disjunctive compared to the rest of the film. Can't quite place my finger on it right now, but my friend who hasn't finished the novel even felt it.

Some things of note besides those is the absence of smoking from Laurie. Smoking is used as a drama tool so often, it was an interesting choice to remove it when her character vows to quit often in the original. Also, kudos to Snyder for his sexual act and beauty portrayals again. The art during some of the love scenes conveys the emotions extremely well (whether it be during The Comedians attempted rape or within Archie in the night sky).

Overall, a grandeur IMAX experience save the stereotypical Comic Book Guy nearby snickering at weird times.

-- "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with ME!"

March 04, 2009

Analog Games for Analectuals: Puerto Rico

I love board games. Mainly of Euro-design, but I've been known to sit down with the war games every now and then. The first game up for what I hope is a recurring segment is my favourite game ever: Puerto Rico. Oh, and feel free to use "analectuals;" just remember to cite me as the source with a link.

Puerto Rico is a strategic game for three to five players sans battle situations. At first, it looks like way too much to keep track of and organize, but it seems a lot simpler after a couple of rounds are simulated. And the strategies for winning, though sometimes complex, start to develop in your head after a couple games of playing. The goal may be to get the most points, but with three different outcomes to end the game, the opportunities can be overwhelming.

What I like is the switching of roles each player takes on every turn. The special abilities are granted to only the player who chooses it, but each person gets a chance to utilize that role's representative action (such as selling goods to the trading house). And because there are so many opportunities to advance your part of the island's economy, even those who aren't effectively winning feel a sense of accomplishment in raising a thriving society.

Ask me to play sometime, please. Because every time I get a chance to play, I want to play it even more!

-- "Oh good! My dog found the chainsaw!"

March 03, 2009

It's New to Me

So on the behest of some friends, I have just started watching a now-defunct TV show, Jericho, and reading from George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. I want to chronicle my first thoughts and final thoughts as I journey into each varied setting.

First: Jericho. I resisted as best I could, but the promise of nuclear fallout in mid-America sounds fun, right? Plus, you and Katie were very persuasive. Though I'm not sure what it is about him, Skeet Ulrich irritates me. He's not up to Nicholas Cage levels, but his face & name are a deterrent before things even get started. Thankfully the story is intriguing enough, and the characters seem engaging and real. No one could truly predict what might happen in such a situation, but so far it all seems plausible.

A Game of Thrones is the first in a fantasy series world-renowned for its excellency. I've known about for years, but had yet to take the plunge into its storied depths. With the push of yet another friend, I decided it's high-time to start the epic saga of A Song of Ice and Fire. While the multiple perspectives/protagonists set me off at first, the style of writing hooked me, especially with the dialogue. "Come back to me after you've fathered a few bastards of your own," had me laugh out loud. I do have to set aside of lot of the information and names just to keep reading though. I fear if I initially try to sort out all the family namesakes and titles, I'd set it down indefinitely.

It feels good to have some new finite tales on my plate again, and it appears to be some good suggestions. So far.

-- "Lollipops. What we call cavities on a stick!"

March 02, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I'm not sure if you're familiar with Airborne, but it's something I've used for awhile now. I used to use the water-soluble tablets, and they work fine enough. But some time after, I was clued into on-the-go with lemon-lime flavor. It tastes great and much more of it naturally dissolves more in water. Who knows if it's great for me or if it works like a sugar pill? If it's a sugar pill, it's working well enough then.

So I was just at my local supermarket planning to get some more. They had the tablets but none of the on-the-go I prefer. I'd just go without for awhile longer than get the tablets, so I'm about to leave the section and checkout. However, I see a new Airborne product: Soft Chews (Caramel Apple flavored). Why not?

Well I have an answer now, and it's because they're disgusting. I was chewing one down thinking, "It's not the greatest, but it's good enough," trying to convince myself of their worth. When I couldn't choke them down quick enough or get rid of the acrid taste with water, I resolved to split it up a little bit to just swallow them outright. Why not stick with a tried & true flavor from before?

::le sigh::

-- "Mongo only pawn in game of life."