Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Really Digging Deus Ex

In light of the insane number of A-list games coming out this season, I had assumed, well in advance; that I was likely going to forgo purchasing Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the game, it’s just that when you look at the upcoming releases over the next couple of months, well, Deus Ex just doesn’t seem like as big of a deal as it likely should.

That being said, thanks to a very generous (and random) sale on Amazon.com, I found myself saying “Fuck it, it’s too cheap not to buy,” and a few clicks of the mouse later I found myself with a brand new copy of a heavily discounted Deus Ex.

Well, I’ve been playing around with it for awhile now, and I can honestly say, I’m happy I made the investment.

Mind you, it’s not a perfect game by any means, but there’s just so many little things about it that mean a lot to me personally.

I’m not really an avid fan of the Deus Ex series, in fact I only played the original for a few hours before deciding I didn’t need to finish it, but I do have a lot of love and respect for what it represents.

I’ve always been into the whole cyberpunk design aesthetic, and character customization/modification means enough to me that I’ve bought countless wrestling videogames purely for the character creator function, so on paper; the Deus Ex games are very much up my alley.

The new Deus Ex includes both of these aspects of the original, while adding a new layer of polish and presentation that make it far more accessible than it’s predecessors.

For example, the core gameplay; the stealth and shooting, really feel on par with a straight action game.

Action RPGs that feel “floaty” or involve a lot of noticeable number crunching in their combat mechanics are kind of a pet peeve of mine.

I hate shooting at someone in a game, and then “feeling it” as the game computes my character’s attributes, applies them to the statistics of his gun, and then applies said data to the attributes of the enemy I’m shooting to determine the amount of damage I deal.

It’s hard to explain, but you know it when you feel it.

I don’t know about you, but in my world guns do gun-like damage regardless of what “level” my Marksman skill is at, or how hard I pull the trigger.

I don’t get this feeling when I’m playing Deus Ex.

On that note, I feel I should probably point out that, as of writing this, I haven’t killed anyone in Deus Ex!

Early on I found the Metal Gear/Rainbow Six: Vegas-esque stealth mechanics to be robust and rewarding to the point in which I never found a need to kill anyone.

Oddly enough, I’ve found it very rewarding playing through the game relying exclusively on taser-ings and choke holds.

It’s funny though, as good as the stealth mechanics are, in many ways they are somewhat primitive.

Sure, the guards are more responsive to sound than in most games, and their sight distance is atypically high, but at the end of the day; the AI is actually kind of dumb.

For instance, in Metal Gear Solid 2, guards make use of radios, and if they don’t check in frequently enough; reinforcements are deployed to assess the situation.

This always made maneuvering around guards an ideal course of action over fighting/neutralizing them, but it also made the game somewhat frustrating at times.

While the enemy AI and stealth mechanics of Deus Ex are technically less complex than this, I feel it’s a gameplay decision that lends itself well to making the game much more streamlined and fun.

In all, sneaking around in Deus Ex is one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, especially when you’re playing the way I am with a totally non-lethal character.

I’ve heard the AI is less than stellar in direct combat, but that’s something I likely won’t be encountering until I start a new playthrough.

Moving on, another aspect of Deus Ex that surprised me, was the hacking mini-game.

I can’t stand locked doors/sealed off areas in games, so I knew I was going to be doing a lot of hacking in Deus Ex; which had me a bit worried it was going to ruin the experience for me.

To be fair, it took me awhile to warm up to it, but now I think I really like hacking in Deus Ex.

The controls are a bit sloppy on the console, but it’s not overly complicated, and more importantly; it’s quick.

Few things are more annoying in games than mini-games that eat up too much time and take you out of the core experience.

To date, I have yet to encounter a door I couldn’t open with a little finessing, something I can honestly say was not the case in games like Oblivion.

Speaking of Oblivion, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that Deus Ex is a fairly streamlined and distinctly un-sandbox-y experience.

I don’t know about you, but I find sandbox games to be massively intimidating.

I’m very much a completionist when it comes to most things in life, so the idea of being dropped into a massive world with free rein to do whatever the fuck I want, is not exactly ideal.

I need structure in my gaming, a clear purpose or direction to keep me on track.

Without it, I tend to freeze up, get lost, or worse yet, end up spending 40 hours in the first town of the game and never even start the main quest.

In this way, Deus Ex’s small-ish city setting and mission based narrative really “does it” for me.

I’ve never felt lost or daunted, and for once, I actually feel rewarded when I do most of the quests.

That being said, the conversation system of Deus Ex, while simple, is exceptional.

Most of it’s success can be attributed to good writing and line delivery, but I really enjoy conversing with characters and being forced to remain attentive in order to succeed.

On one occasion I found myself having to rely on information imparted to me from optional documents, items I could’ve easily picked up and not read.

You can tell a game’s writing is exceptional when you actually want to read the random notes and e-mails scattered throughout the environment.

The one downside to the dialogue of the game, and this is totally just me being weird, is the very obvious use of a largely Canadian voice cast.

I realize the game was developed by EA Montreal, so Canadian voice actors are to be expected, but I’m one of those jackasses that giggles whenever he hears an “uh-boot” or “bee-n” instead of “about” and “been.”

It’s a minor gripe, but it actually does make the drama a little harder to swallow for me, so I figured I’d mention it.

As of now, I’m currently in the second half of the Hengsha segment of the game, and I’m still enjoying every moment.

I’ve read that a lot of people are extremely disappointed in some of the game’s boss fights, however as of now I have no issue with them.

True, I’ve only fought 1 as of now, but to me, it didn’t seem that bad at all.

Maybe it’s just because I entered into the fight ill-equipped (non-lethal playthrough, remember?) and actually had to scramble for ammo and weapons before I could even begin to fight back, but I honestly had some fun fighting the first boss.

Hell, any occasion in which you have to take on a grenade and mini-gun toting hulk of a boss with nothing but fire extinguishers and a silenced pistol has got to have some redeemable qualities, right?

Anyway, there’s a whole lot more to be said, but for now that’s all I’ve got.

Don’t be afraid to check out Deus Ex, it’s a lot more fun than it lets on.

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I Kind Of Miss Kevin Riepl…

I know what you’re thinking:

“Who’s Kevin Riepl?”

Well, to be perfectly honest; I have absolutely no fucking clue.

That is, outside of knowing him as the man responsible for composing the first Gears of War soundtrack, I’m really not familiar with his body of work.

IMDb-ing him (IMDb track videogames? Since when?) brings to light the fact that he has some strong ties to Epic Games, in the form of contributing soundtracks to several entries in the Unreal Tournament series.

Despite being familiar with most of these games, I can honestly say their music failed to leave an impression on me.

Probably because I ever recall of the Unreal games, at least from an audio standpoint; is this:

That being said, ever since I first played it, the Gears of War soundtrack, more specifically the main theme of the game; has always stood out to me as one of the better and more memorable game soundtracks out there, particularly in the modern era where games tend to favor ambient tunes over more thematic ones.

If you haven’t heard it before, then you’re in for a treat:

Imagine my surprise when I discovered neither Riepl, nor his brilliant theme music would be returning for any of the Gears sequels.

I may be in the minority on this, but I grew up watching James Bond and Godzilla movies by the truckload, movies that have managed to go 50+ without ditching the legendary themes that helped cement them in our minds as the film classics that they are.

Like many people, I grew attached to those themes and have come to associate them as aspects of the characters they were written for.

Sure, there were occasional moments in time when the themes were cast aside for a movie or 2, but at the end of the day they would always come back somewhere down the line.

Gears of War 2 and 3 were both composed by Steve Jablonsky.

While I’m probably wrong, my gut tells me that Epic contracted his services likely due to a combination of their incredible financial success with Gears 1, as well as Jablonsky’s newfound mainstream fame due to his involvement in the live-action Transformers film.

Maybe it’s just me, but in picturing a bunch of newly wealthy videogame nerds getting geared up for their big sequel, I could honestly see them ditching their in-house composer in favor of succumbing to their own dorkiness and hiring “The Transformers Guy” on a whim.

I’m sure that’s not how it actually went down, but I have my suspicions…

Anyway, while Jablonsky did a terrific job with the franchise following Riepl’s departure, in truth I kind of wish he hadn’t ejected the original theme music in favor of his own take on it.

Give it a listen and see what you think:

I would never consider this theme to be anything less than “good,” but there’s just something about it that feels “weaker” and less engaging.

Don’t get me wrong, Jablonsky’s a great composer, but there are just some elements to the style of his militaristic soundtracks that rub me the wrong way.

While it could just be me still being bitter over the complete and utter failure of Transformers 2 and 3 in living up to the even the slightest of expectations, in general I’ve found his work on those movies, as well as the Gears series; to be somewhat pretentious and/or melodramatic.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel both the Gears and Transformers franchises tried way too hard to insert unwarranted emotion and drama into stories that were truly devoid of any.

I prefer my Gears minus the extra helping of “Dom and Maria” thank you very much.

Dom and Maria: A plot device that allows for many instances of Dom related emo-ness masked as "emotional masculinity."

Back to Jablonsky.

He does a wonderful job of creating a mood and a “feel” to the music in such a way that it seems to fit the “texture” of the imagery it is meant to be played over, but his incessant use of choirs and Dark Knight/Inception style droning really feels a bit overbearing to me.

His soundtrack or Gears 2 was solid, especially in terms of the action cues, but far inferior to the original in terms of the overall strength and memorability of it’s themes.

While I haven’t played the game as of yet, in listening to the soundtrack for Gears 3, I can honestly say I like it better than the second.

Check it out:


The choirs are less, uh, “manly,” such that the music is much more graceful/lyrical, and less like a rehash of the droning Decepticons theme from the Transformers films.

Even so, despite vastly improving his theme for the game, I still maintain that the Jablonsky theme of Gears 3 is inferior to Riepl’s original.

I acknowledge that Jablonsky’s compositions are quite good overall, and that I very likely could just be being a sourpuss about all this; but in my opinion they should have never changed composers.

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Went To First Thursday. Got Teleported…

Pictured: Me. Yah' dumbass...

I went to First Thursday with my buddy Mencius this evening.

It was alright.

At one of the galleries they had a webcam set up that let you take photos of yourself that looked like a cross between an audio level sensor, and a hacked Kinect display.

Anyway, I think the show was called Design Less Better.

It wasn’t great, but oh well, free photos.

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OMFG: Hulk Hogan’s Main Event

I’ve written exactly 1 article detailing my thoughts on the Xbox Kinect.

Said article consisted of an ungodly amount of pissing and moaning regarding my general disinterest in the technical innovations the peripheral offered, as well some whining about how many of them I had to pack while working at the Amazon.com warehouse during it’s launch.

To this day, I have yet to visit a household in possession of a Kinect, nor have I had any desire to make a fool of myself on the demo rig at my local Best Buy.

In short, I have little to no interest in the Kinect as a gaming peripheral/LIFESTYLE CHANGING, LIVING ROOM DOMINATING APPLIANCE, nor have I ever found myself viewing any of the software designed for it as anything less than high-budget niche market tripe.

Well, let me tell yah’ somethin’ brothers, today I heard about a game being developed for the Kinect that, if it should live up to any of it’s potential, I might just might end up eating my words.

Said game is of course the upcoming,¬†Hulk Hogan’s Main Event.

WHATCHA' GONNA' DOOOOOOOO!!!!!??????

From what I can tell, the game utilizes the motion sensor to gauge the players movements as they perform not just wrestling strikes and movements, but crowd pumping gesticulations as well.

It would be really awesome if all this included not just winning wrestling matches, but “selling” them as well.

I ask you, how cool would it be to thrash around your living room pretending to get your ass kicked by an imaginary/digital wrestler opponent?

I think Hulk Hogan is lending his voice and likeness to the game as well, though I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing at this point.

The Hulkster has been kind of hit and miss since his days at the WWF, and given that he’s supposed to be a trainer of some sort in the game, I’m guessing the Hulk we’d be getting would be more in line with American Gladiators Hogan:

… Let’s just forget that all happened, ‘k?
In other words, Hulk’s in it; but I’m only excited if it’s the real HULK HOGAN as opposed to the recently divorced corporate whore we’ve been seeing the past few years.

In my mind, I picture the game as being kind of a like a dance game, but cast in the skin of a wrestling and entrance walk simulator.

I know it sounds dumb, and the chances of it being at all a technically sound production are slim to none, but I ask you this:

What self respecting MAN wouldn’t want to try their hand at strutting down the ramp to the ring at Wrestlemania while aping the hand motions and posture of Hulk Hogan?

Hell, I’ve done played out this scenario both in real life and in my head plenty of times, but the idea of seeing my own wrestling avatar play out these same motions, to music and fireworks etc., just sounds fuckin’ awesome.

Anyway, the game will probably suck some serious balls, but if I ever see a demo of it; rest assured I will man-up and give it a shot.

If said scenario should ever come into play, expect to see some video footage of my performance at some point…

I guess this will have to do for now...

 

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Cowboys & Aliens WILL Kick Ass.

Despite it’s ridiculous title, and dubious connections to the original comic book source material, I’ve got a good feeling about Cowboys and Aliens.

Aside from the inherent possibilities that could emerge from the peanut butter and chocolate combination of cowboys and aliens, I think the biggest thing going for the movie (at least the movie that’s being marketed to us) is it’s serious, but not too serious tone.

Given the goofy title, Cowboys and Aliens could very easily have ended up being a pandering and goofy-as-fuck giggle fest, but based on the visual aesthetic, and “hardened” expressions of most of the cast; it would seem director Jon Favreau has opted to imbue his film with at least some semblance of class and drama.

In addition to this, with a cast consisting of an Onimusha/Devil May Cry 4/Lost Planet/God Hand/EVERY CAPCOM GAME OF THE NEW MILLENIUM gauntlet armed Daniel Craig, the always excellent Sam Rockwell, and an aging and hammy-as-fuck Harrison Ford; the possibility of Cowboys and Aliens being anything less than “fun” are nearly non-existent.

The real reason we're all going to see Cowboys and Aliens: ADAM BEACH.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t always as up on Cowboys and Aliens as I am now.

In fact, when I first heard of the movie, I thought it sounded like a lame joke; another Snakes on a Plane without the loving support of every meme-gobbling fanboy in existence.

Don’t pretend you weren’t one of them.

In other words, I didn’t expect much; and I certainly was planning to see it.

That all changed when I found myself reminiscing about an old Ray Harryhausen movie of my childhood, The Valley of Gwangi:

In case you couldn’t tell from the trailer, The Valley of Gwangi was one of the coolest movies ever, especially to a dinosaur obsessed child like myself.

You could take pretty much any expectations you’d have for a cowboy or dinosaur movie of it’s day and expect to find them met in some way shape or form by Gwangi.

It was an excellent movie that I’ll continue to love for the rest of my days, and will likely see fit to show to my kids whenever I’m fortunate to have them.

That being said, in remembering Gwangi; I realized that, in the case of Cowboys and Aliens, there’s a good chance it could all work.

There’s a good chance Cowboys and Aliens could capture the magic of something like The Valley of Gwangi, and by golly; I’m excited to see if it does.

Come this July, I’ll be heading to the theater for Cowboys and Aliens, not as some internet retard looking for a cheap laugh; but as a wide-eyed man child looking to be blown away by a movie that’s title advertises exactly what I think we’re all hoping for:

FUCKIN’ COWBOYS, fighting FUCKIN’ ALIENS.

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Top 5 Games That Should Be Movies

THE game that needs to be a movie...

Today I read an article on IGN titled “Videogames That Should Be Movies.”

In this article, the author discussed a number of game franchises that they personally would like to see adapted to film.

While many of the games cited seemed to be of the jokey variety, namely their concepts of what an Excitebike and Star Fox would be like; most seemed to be largely genuine.

While the article was kind of a fun read, I found myself disagreeing with some of the selections listed.

Metal Gear and Halo felt like poor (but inevitable…) choices for films, given that both have sprawling canon that is far too dense for feature film; and both have a feel and presentation style that is already film-like in the first place.

If Avatar: The Last Airbender is an indication of the shit storm that can crop up when one tries to cram too much into 2 hours, I don’t wanna’ know what would happen if someone tried to do the same with a Metal Gear game…

At the same time, Portal struck me as a weird; somewhat fanboy-ish choice, given that the game has no real narrative; not to mention the gameplay mechanics are very much a novelty that is more fun to experience rather than watch.

Then again, I’m among the minority of people that didn’t really get much out of Portal, so I might be biased on that one…

Nitpicking aside, as I pondered on this topic; I found myself coming up with my own ideas of game series that I think could be fun in movie form.

That being said, while I can’t call them my “top” 5, being as they’re really the only ones I came up with; here are 5 choices/concepts for games that I felt should be movies:

#5. Saturday Night Slam Masters

Saturday Night Slam Masters may not have been the best of games, however it’s core concept and brilliant character designs (courtesy of Tetsuo Hara of Hokuto No Ken fame) made it a favorite of mine in my youth.

I loved how Slam Masters took the colorful pageantry of wrestling, exaggerated it in a borderline realistic manner; and then mixed it together with the 2D fighting gameplay of Final Fight and Street Fighter 2.

While the game really had no story to speak of, I think a Slam Masters movie could be a lot of fun if the wrestling universe was treated as reality ala Kinnikuman.

Basically, you take a fairly basic storyline; like Mike Haggar vowing to win the Slam Masters championship for his daughter/the glory of Metro city/an injured Guy or Cody, and then combine it with the tournament structure of Bloodsport or Enter the Dragon.

Make Scorp/The Astro out to be a Chong Li-esque uber-bastard, and boom; you’ve got a movie.

While the story or writing wouldn’t win any awards, in all honesty; I would happily pay money to see a pro-wrestling version of Bloodsport, provided the characters and costumes remained intact, and the fight choreography was up to standard.

I know this one is definitely not for everyone, but in my eyes; it could be a lot of fun.

#4. Final Fight

Despite it’s status as a beat ’em up, Final Fight actually has a fairly decent story to it.

For those that are unaware, the basic plot of Final Fight, is that the Mad Gear gang of Metro City kidnap the mayor Mike Haggar’s daughter in order to force his cooperation in their unlawful wrongdoings.

Being as he’s a beastly former pro-wrestler, and THE MAYOR to boot; Haggar instead decides to dish out some street justice on the Mad Gears via his fists, but not without first recruiting the aid of his daughter’s boyfriend/fiance Cody, and his random ninja buddy Guy.

While it isn’t much, I really think Final Fight could be a lot of a fun as a vigilante justice movie with a high quotient of hand-to-hand fight sequences.

Think The Warriors meets Taken/Edge of Darkness/The Man from Nowhere.

Besides, who the fuck wouldn’t want to see a Mike Haggar go toe-to-toe with Hugo Andore in live-action.

That alone would be worth the price of admission if it was staged with any sort of professionalism.

Shit, now all we need is a Marvel vs. Capcom 3 movie and we’ll have a cross-franchise trilogy of Mike Haggar movies…

#3. Front Mission

The Front Mission series plays host to some of the grandest and most believable storylines I’ve encountered in all of gaming.

While I honestly haven’t played all that much of the series, (half of #1, and half of #3) what I experienced was incredibly detailed, and more importanly; polished.

Reminiscent of the politically charged story Gundam, only far more accessible due to it’s story roots being set in existing continents and nations; Front Mission is a superior war drama that benefits from likeable characters and a largely believable art style.

While many have cried out for a live-action Gundam movie, personally; I feel the money would better spent bringing the far less gaudy Front Mission to the screen instead.

Truth be told, I think Front Mission would work best in long form, as a TV series or anime; but even so, there’s many elements of the timeline that I feel would be worth telling in standalone films, particularly the Huffman Conflicts that served to shape the Front Mission universe as a whole.

#2. Sunset Riders

 

Weird, somebody shopped the guns out of their hands. Damn censors...

I’ve actually wanted to see a Sunset Riders movie since I was a little kid.

Just like in the case of Saturday Night Slam Masters, I’m pretty sure it’s the colorful cast of characters in Sunset Riders that have always been the selling point for me.

In every story I’ve ever written, or dreamed up, or wanted to write; the characters are always the one element that I put most of my efforts into.

In my eyes, if you take a fairly pedestrian storyline and stuff it with quality action sequences and cool characters; chances are you’re going to end up with a really awesome movie.

It’s a simple formula, and I think it’d work just fine for Sunset Riders.

Think about it:

4 trigger happy, bounty hunter cowboys embark on a suicide mission to free the West from the evil of a gang of ruthless killers.

Sure, it sounds like every Western ever told; but with the awesome boss designs of the game, as well as the lack of assurance that everyone was going to make it to the end to ride into the sunset; and you have a classic Western with the added bonus of an action quotient like no other.

I’d picture it being kind of like a combination of the more colorful elements Tombstone, and the fatalistic “men on a mission” feel of The Wild Bunch.

Anything that can be compared to Tombstone or The Wild Bunch, let alone both; is guaran-damn-teed to kick-fuckin’-ass.

If ever I become a Hollywood film director, I will fight tooth and nail to get the licensing from Konami to make this movie.

#1. River City Ransom

You know how I said I wanted a Sunset Riders movie since I was a kid?

Well, even though I honesty didn’t start working on it until about 5 years ago; River City Ransom was a game that I actually tried to write up a plot outline for.

Technically, I used the original Japanese version of the game, Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari; as my jumping off point, but the only real difference between the 2 is the fact that one takes place in America, and the other takes place in a Japanese high school setting.

Anyway, the basic plot of River City was that a simple kidnapping of Ryan/Riki’s girlfriend, resulting in him and his rival; Alex/Kunio reluctantly joining forces to save her from a mutual enemy.

To me, the shaky alliance between the 2 is the real reason it would work.

I think if you were to establish them as hot-blooded rivals early on, a lot of drama would naturally spring up as a result of them working together as the story progressed.

I even remember putting a note in my plot outline explaining the bandages on Riki’s torso, and the band-aid on Kunio’s brow as actual bandages (as opposed to character decorations) for wounds they inflicted on one another near the beginning of the movie.

Combine the strained relationship between the 2 protagonists, with the awesome characters of the Kunio-kun series of games, including the Double Dragons; and I think you’d have a really fun high school gangster story with, of course; awesome fight scenes.

I put a lot of time into my idea for a River City Ransom movie, and I’d like very much to post it here someday; but for now, I’ll just say this:

River City Ransom needs to be a movie someday.

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Heavy Rain Doesn’t Like Me…

After months of indecision, I finally took the plunge and decided to pick myself up a copy of Heavy Rain.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the game thus far, so much so that I’ve been playing the game in long stretches; something that is atypical of my gaming habits these days.

Unfortunately, yesterday one of said protracted play sessions came to a grinding halt in the form of the game freezing on me.

In response, I waited a minute or 2 to see if things would pick up again; only to find that the game had indeed locked-up so severely that I was forced to turn off my PS3 via it’s embedded power button instead of the wireless button on the controller.

Following this, I ejected the disc, gave it a once over with some cleaning materials; and then popped it right back into the console.

As I did this, I found myself thinking of my days blowing on NES cartridges for minutes at a time to get them to work, or even worse; tilting my Playstation 1 at a perfect 45 degree angle to get it to read discs properly.

Aw... Now that's just cute.

While those were happy memories, having Heavy Rain lock up was an experience utterly devoid of joy.

Upon reinserting the game, things would run smoothly for a time, only to crap out an lock up a few hours down the road; usually during the beginning of a new chapter.

Despite this minor annoyance, I had buckets of fun with Heavy Rain yesterday; making it unfortunate that it would refuse to allow me to play it today.

That’s right, after randomly locking up a handful of times yesterday; today I encountered a sequence that is seemingly unplayable.

I tried restarting the console numerous times, and after reading through a number of reports regarding a similar phenomenon; even took the time to reinstall the game and it’s obscenely massive patch, resulting in virtually zero forward progression.

I don’t know if it’s my disc, my console, or just the game itself; but for now, in the house of the Azn Badger; Heavy Rain has taken it’s ball and gone home.

To date, I believe this is the first time a current gen game has ever frozen on me.

As mentioned earlier, freezing or otherwise misbehaving games and consoles are nothing new to me; but for whatever reason, I find this instance to be particularly vexing.

We’ve come a long way since the days of blowing on carts, and in all honesty; I feel like shit like this just shouldn’t happen anymore, not with the amount of time and money invested in products of the gaming industry these days.

I know it sounds like I’m whining, but bear in mind; I’ve never been red-ringed before, so my experience with the current crop of consoles is both limited and mostly fortunate.

BWAHAHA! That's what you get for buying a FPS/Halo Box!

Anyway, I’ll likely be exchanging my copy of Heavy Rain for a different disc, though based on the fact that my current disc seems perfectly clean, and loads quickly to boot; I’m not so sure it’s going to help anything.

For what it’s worth, I do like the game; and sincerely hope I can get a chance to finish it, especially considering there have been a handful of decisions I’ve made during the course of the game that I’d really like a chance to approach from a different angle.

See yah’ tomorrow.

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Thoughts On Marvel Vs. Capcom 3

It’s been 10 long years, but it’s finally happened:

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 has finally become a reality.

While the overly dramatic statement above may speak to the contrary, let it be known; the Azn Badger has never felt any sort of excitement regarding the release of MVC3.

You see, I used to be a hardcore fighting game fan.

While I still bear a great deal of love for the characters of fighting games past, as I find them to be some of the most versatile and long-lived icons in all of gaming; when it comes to my actual skills as a player of fighting games, I’ve never been anything more than average.

That didn’t stop me from playing fighting games like a mad man… Up until the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

You see, I have this friend; a Korean from Up The Street, (henceforth referred to as KUTS) who sort of ruined fighting games for me.

Like many Koreans tend to do, he became enamored with the mechanics of the game, to the point in which dedicated himself to becoming an utter beast at the game.

Seriously, the guy’s been competitive with Top 10 Evo players.

Fielding his Storm-Magneto-Sentinel team, KUTS would go on to repeatedly thrash me in MVC2, and virtually any other fighting game; in such emphatic fashion, as to utterly crush my desire to play fighting games with any degree of seriousness from that point forward.

That being said, KUTS has been consistently playing MVC2 for the past decade.

Or at least until today, when it’s long awaited (or in KUTS’ case, dreaded) sequel was finally released.

Friend that he is, KUTS was kind enough to invite me over to play a few rounds of MVC3 with him.

Introductory reminiscences aside, here are my thoughts, as well as some thoughts from my buddy KUTS, regarding our impression of MVC3 thus far:

Gameplay

MVC2 is regarded as one of the most hardcore of fighting games.

It’s gameplay is some of the fastest around, and the precision required in it’s button inputs are tuned to near perfection in the eyes of many gamers.

It’s this frenetic, yet exacting gameplay that makes MVC2 one of the least accessible, but most rewarding fighting games to date.

That being said, when you take the pinnacle of fighting game precision, and “dumb” it’s mechanics down in favor of creating a simpler, and more accessible game; the end result is a game that will appeal to fighting game novices, and likely infuriate experienced players weened on more nuanced games.

Needless to say, both KUTS and I were largely unhappy with the mechanics of MVC3.

While I’m certainly no expert player at any fighting game, I noted a great deal of frustration coming off of my buddy KUTS as we played; largely due to the slower gameplay and questionable control accuracy.

If I were to compare the experience of playing MVC3 to any other fighting game, it’d have to be the crap-fest known as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, and the bore-fest that is Street Fighter IV.

Like both of the aforementioned games, MVC3’s control feel as if they “help” you a little too much.

What I mean to say is, in all 3 of these games; it often feels like the system gives you the benefit of the doubt for technically flawed or incomplete button inputs.

While Street Fighter IV requires a very precise sense of timing to execute effective combos, I can’t tell you how many times I found mysel pulling off special attacks, or complex chains in these games; seemingly by accident.

Make no mistake, even if I’m not an expert, I know how to play most fighting games; and few things frustrate me more than playing a fighting game seems to want to play itself.

Seriously, KUTS and I were joking that you could probably pull off a hadoken in these games simply by holding forward and mashing the punch button.

In addition to the stupid-ification of the gameplay mechanics, MVC3 also takes things a step farther by changing up the control scheme a little bit.

Assists are now assigned their own buttons, with the depressing of either of which for a second or so resulting in the tag command.

To my knowledge, there is only 1 kick button now, a button which I found myself rarely using for whatever reason.

Finally, launch attacks, formerly a command executed by pressing down-forward and fierce punch; have been given they’re own button as well.

While I found the launch and kick button situation to be odd, and difficult to wrap my head around, I’m guessing the changes were made to appeal to fighting game novices.

Of these changes, the one that I found to be somewhat intuitive was the merging of the tag and assist buttons.

Maybe it’s my tiny Japanese hands, but the simultaneous button presses required for the tag function in previous Vs. games was always something I had trouble with; making this simplification a welcome one in my opinion.

One last note:

The game seems slower, and super jumps are harder to direct in a Castlevania, momentum-based sort of way…

Roster

The roster of MVC3 is a decent mix of the classic and the eclectic.

Seriously, count me in as one of the people that thought we’d never see the likes of Dormannu in a videogame.

Oh yeah, and SUPER MAD PROPS to whoever got Capcom to put Taskmaster in the game.

There are around 20 fewer combatants this time around, with more variation between each entrants play styles serving to balance things out in some capacity.

While I can’t speak to the effectiveness of any of the characters as of yet, it’s worth noting that many of the character’s attributes seem a little unbalanced.

For instance, Phoenix is easily one of, if not the fastest character in the game; however she also happens to be fragile as tissue paper.

Seriously, one time I managed to take her down to half health with only 6 weak punches, using Viewtiful Joe no less.

Not only that, Magneto has been nerfed in every way imaginable, and Thor seems overpowered, despite his godly-status.

All that aside, I’m decently satisfied with the roster at this point.

Capcom did a good job of varying the play styles of the characters, and many are represented well via their movesets and animations.

I will say this though, Chris Redfield’s voice clips are hysterical.

Seriously, with phrases like “Eat it!”, “Taste it!”, and “Suck it!”; the man is a poster boy for the UFC generation.

Move over Brock, there’s a new meathead in town…

KUTS’ Team Thus Far:

Storm, Sentinel, and MODOK or Storm, Sentinel and She-Hulk.

Closing Thoughts

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a game for fighting game/Marvel fans, not the hardcore.

While it has yet to be seen what strategies or nuances can be uncovered in the gameplay for MVC3, if you ask me; or my buddy KUTS, whatever’s there isn’t going to measure up to MVC2.

That’s not to say MVC3 isn’t a worthy effort, as it is; it’s just not the same Marvel.

I will give it this though, MVC3 does have it’s predecessor beat in the presentation department.

10 years makes a world of difference in the world of videogames, and while I was fully prepared to hate the aesthetic of MVC3 based on it’s preview footage, I found I warmed up to it after awhile.

The character models aren’t as detailed as most contemporary fighting games, but the menus are designed well, the voicework is largely acceptable, and the damage effects and splashiness of the special attacks are actually quite stunning at times.

Consider that the one compliment I pay to MVC3.

Anyway, these were just my thoughts, feel free to disagree, ’cause they’re my thoughts and frankly I don’t give a shit what you think.

Thanks for reading!

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Thoughts On Call Of Duty: Black Ops

Since it’s release, I’ve had no less than 5 people tell me to by Call of Duty: Black Ops, usually because quote:

“Trust me, you’ll like it.”

That’s 5 different people inside of what, a week?

Now it should be noted that most of these people are not exactly close friends of mine, and are thusly unaware of how cheap/Azn/stingy I am when it comes to purchasing games, particularly at full retail price.

I suppose it also helps that I have a distinct phobia of register clerks, which makes the purchasing process all the more difficult.

We’ll get into that some other time…

Anyway, while I have yet to buy into the hype and pick myself up a copy of Black Ops, today I was fortunate to have the game quite literally brought to my door by my Krn buddy from up the street.

While both of us are veterans of the Call of Duty series, spanning all the way to the original title; my friend has been playing them online on his PS3 quite consistently in the past few years, making him a far more experienced player than myself.

I sort of dropped out of the series after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

I had it for the PC, and really enjoyed it for the most part, however I never played it online; and rarely caught myself missing it when I had to format my PC.

That being said, I would never consider any game in the Call of Duty series to be anything less than excellent.

Well, except maybe Call of Duty 3… And maybe Big Red One.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here, is that I’ve played COD, and I like COD, so don’t get butt hurt if it sounds like I’m being mean to your precious COD.

That being said, here’s my first impression of Black Ops after about 2-3 hours of online split screen play with my friend:

Black Ops makes me feel like an old man.

An old man with poor eyesight and shitty reflexes.

In short, like any online COD experience, the game is an insanely fast-paced rollercoaster ride of half second moments of awesome, followed by equally miniscule (yet all too frequent) moments of fail and butt hurt.

You run around, you shoot at things that move/have evil red words hanging over their head, and you die.

A LOT.

And yet, this unbelievably troglodytic cycle of mayhem and Red Bull fueled chaos somehow equates to something fun.

This is coming from somehow who’s probably played 10 hours of COD over the past 5 years, and just played Black Ops for the first time today.

What I mean to say is:

From what I can tell, I sucked pretty epicly at Black Ops my first time out.

My kill-death ratio was in the neighborhood of .70-.80, while my buddy’s was 2.0 even.

As mentioned above, the online component of Black Ops has an interesting (well, at least to me it’s interesting…) flow to it.

For a FPS newb such as myself, the game felt alarmingly fast, as if everything in the game world, my character included, was moving just a half beat quicker than I was ready for.

Then again, I’ve been playing Demon’s Souls and Metal Gear Solid 4 for the past several weeks, so by comparison; just about anything would seem fast…

Being a newb really hurt me in Black Ops.

At times, I found myself getting killed quite rapidly, to the point where it felt downright embarrassing.

Despite this, to it’s credit, Black Ops, like any COD game I’d imagine, manages to counter this quite well with it’s quick pacing.

In short, you simply aren’t given enough time to feel shitty about anything in the game, ’cause in most cases you’ll be back in the fight in no time anyway.

That being said, it should be noted that I felt myself “going numb” at times.

That is to say, I would kill and die, (mostly die) and do something cool every now and again, but everything came so clustered together, that I would just stop caring after awhile.

When you don’t care whether you live or die in a game, that either means that the stakes of the game aren’t all that important, the actual gameplay experience isn’t as meaningful as one would hope, or the player is someone that truly doesn’t give a fuck.

I was somewhere between the first and the last portions of the above statement, however I’d imagine it would really ruin someone’s day to find that their feelings coincide with the second.

Make no mistake, playing COD online is a very different beast from playing something like Demon’s Souls that severely punishes failure.

It’s an instant gratification game that punishes and rewards by inches, with all the worthwhile rewards only coming as a result of logging a great deal of playtime hours.

Personally, I prefer my games to have tangible stakes tied to my performance, however this is simply a case of personal preference.

Regardless, I died all the time when I was playing Black Ops, and while that pissed me off from time to time, particularly when I was getting my ass handed to me mere seconds after respawning, I’d usually forget about it once I got my legs back under me and scored a kill or 2.

In a sense, playing COD online is a strangely bipolar experience, with pleasurable and frustrated emotions coming and going as rapidly as they can manifest.

And they say A.D.D. isn’t a problem among the current generation…

From a features standpoint, while I can’t really compare it to the previous COD games all that much, I have to say, it seems like Black Ops has a lot going for it.

The equipment and perk customization is back, largely unchanged from it’s previous iterations.

The map selection is well varied, and seems adequate in quantity, with a number of the maps being tailor made for the Ground War mode in the sense that close-quarters engagements are almost a guarantee.

The Nazi Zombie mode from World At War is back, and seems to be a little more forgiving than it’s previous iteration.

That is to say, the weapons are more effective for the most part, and the initial map is far more spacious, lending the player a great deal more survivability due to their ability to turn tail and run if need be.

Outside of that though, Nazi Zombies feels largely the same, albeit with a lighter tone, a few campy power ups, and a more frantic pace.

Anyway, I only played Black Ops for a few hours, but those are my thoughts.

It seems like a pretty good game, though my lack of skill, combined with my recently adopted positive stance towards “deeper” gameplay experiences, leads me to believe that I probably won’t be buying another COD game anytime soon.

Sorry peoples that told me to by Black Ops, while I did indeed “like it,” I think I’m gonna’ hang onto my $60 for now.

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The Kinect Better Be Freakin’ Brilliant…

Today at the Amazon.com warehouse, we started shipping the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360.

By that I mean, the entire warehouse was thrown into chaos trying to handle the massive number of orders for the Kinect while simultaneously dealing with the daily volume of shit to ship out.

About 90% of the packages I handled today were Kinects, slim Xbox 360s, or Kinects packaged with slim Xbox 360s.

It was a fuckin’ circus if I ever saw one.

Apparently, I haven't seen one.

Things got so crazy in the morning that I was demoted from the cherished and admired position of “shipper” to that of the lowly (and mostly made up) job of “Xbox Thrower.”

While I may have made up the name myself; I assure you, it’s very much self-explanatory.

That being said, if you ordered an Xbox, Kinect, or Xbox with a Kinect; there’s a good chance it may arrive on your doorstep smashed, pissed on, or set on fire; ’cause I tell yah’, I was in one helluva’ hurry, and no force on Earth, managerial or otherwise was gonna’ stop me.

Whoops! Sorry about that!

Anyway, sometime during the “festivities” of “Kinect Day” at Amazon; it occurred to me that despite the hoopla and hype; I personally didn’t feel much excitement about the Kinect.

Sure, I’m a casual gamer at best; and I did just jump ship to the Playstation 3, but as someone fairly in-touch with the gaming world, I felt like I should be feeling at least something about the Kinect.

Truth be told, I really don’t know much about the Kinect.

I know it’s a hands-free motion-control device that can’t track motion from people wearing skirts.

I approve.

 

That’s about it though.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have exactly 1 friend that owns a Playstation Move.

Pictured: Said Korean. He made this, not me.

Before the release of the Move, I took the time to read an article or 2 here and there, and from what I read, it seemed like a decent idea.

“Decent,” but not great.

Having handled the Move awhile back, I can honestly say that the motion tracking is quite accurate, and left me feeling that the peripheral could indeed be used for some interesting gameplay mechanics.

That still doesn’t make it any more than a “decent” idea for the time being.

Though I really don’t know much about the Kinect, it sounds like more of a lifestyle accessory as opposed to a gaming peripheral.

What I mean to say is, based on the rebranding that Microsoft that been slapping on all of their products in anticipation of Kinect’s release, (18-24 year olds, and green and purple “swooshes,” anyone?) it genuinely seems that their aim is to get people goofing off in front of their TV as part of their daily life, as opposed to getting people to goof around in front of their TV for the purposes of playing videogames.

Now, you too can stand alone in your living room and wave at your TV to update your Facebook! Microsoft, bringing you only most crucial of lifestyle innovations!

It’s a sound idea, and indeed one that appeals to the same broad audience entranced by the mystifyingly simplistic motion-control scheme of the Wii; but personally I just don’t see it working.

Yet…

I can’t speak to the quality of the Kinect’s motion-controls, as my only exposure to it came in the form of watching a bunch of kids in a mall test it out; (the rafting game didn’t work so hot…) but the general feeling I get, is that the technology needs a little more time to grow.

Maybe I’m just being curmudgeony and cynical, but lifestyle altering, gesture-activated living room technology just doesn’t seem to me like something that Microsoft could get “right” on their first swing.

Hell, now that you mention it, this doesn’t sound like the kind of product Microsoft could manufacture without it having a failure rate of, oh; 99%.

Anyway, after chucking around the Kinect all day, I figured I’d post my thoughts, well; actually lack of thoughts, on the Kinect.

Seriously, this thing was so off my radar until today, you don’t even know…

For the record, while I have exactly 1 friend with a Move, I know exactly none that have shown interest in the Kinect.

Must be all the “swooshes”…

SWOOSHES!!!!!!!!

 

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