Friday, September 29, 2006

Vacation Movie Reviews

It's been a while since I've done one of these. I've had the last two days off work, so I had time to watch some flicks, and will now proceed to tear them apart for your entertainment.

First up:

The Benchwarmers, rated PG-13, starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Heder. Wow. A crappy baseball movie with dick and fart jokes. Good for a chuckle or two, I suppose. There was a time when a movie like this would have gotten a big thumbs up from me, but that was about ten years ago. Now, it's just another piece of shit that I'll have forgotten about in two days.

Ultraviolet, rated PG-13, starring Milla Jovovich. The best part of this movie was about 6 minutes in, where Milla walked down a purple hallway naked. About 6 minutes after that, I turned it off. Let's see, there's bad acting, shitty action, a plot that doesn't make a goddamn bit of sense, stuff happening that doesn't make sense either, and just plain crazy going on. I'm pretty good at suspending my disbelief, but I have to have something to work with. A dark ass-shot of Milla isn't much, and that's all this movie had going for it. I've got two words for Ultraviolet: absolute bullshit. On a side note, it now joins only two other films in existence that I've started watching and haven't finished because they sucked out loud: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Kung Pow Enter the Fist. That's the shit-tastic Top 3 right there.

V for Vendetta, rated R, starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. I read the graphic novel first. I loved it. When I heard the Wachowskis were doing the film, I hated it. I stayed away from it, and then finally decided to give it a shot. And it's not bad. Some things were changed from the book, certainly, but I think they worked for the most part. The book ended on less of an upbeat note than the film did, and I think I liked the book better in that regard. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, and while it hasn't completely restored my faith in the Wachowskis, I don't think I'll avoid their next film like the plague.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Test Drive: Limited

The name of the game is actually Test Drive: Unlimited. While it's pretty good, it's far from being the best racing game out there.

Let's start with the good.

Cars. There's a good mix of makes, models, and time periods represented in the game. There are enough cars to give the game variety, but not so many that you're lost in a sea of a million and one Skylines.

The map. You have the whole island of Oahu to explore, and drive exotic cars around on. For the most part, races are spread out so you won't have to drive down the same stretch of road more than a couple of times. That's brilliant.

Pacing. You start out with the low class of cars and easy races, and as you progress, the races get harder and require you to move up to the higher classes. Just like it should be.

Graphics. Very nice. Draw distance is like a mile, literally. And when you're travelling at 180 miles an hour, that's a very good thing. Plus, the cars look amazing.

Control. Each car handles differently. Some hug the road, some are slippery pieces of shit. Very nicely done.

Online play. Something I still rarely get into on the 360, usually because the matchmaking is so fucking terrible. But it's fantastic in this game. There's no TrueSkill bullshit, there's no searching for games, there's just races on the map that happen to be inhabited by other players. In fact, when you're connected to Live and driving around the island, there are other cars, driven by actual players, doing the exact same thing. Pass one and flash your lights at him, and you've got a one on one drag race. All with no loading and no lag. That blows my mind, and it's absolutely the right way to do a racing game with online multiplayer. Plus, I think you can race for pinks. That's fucking sweet.

Now we get to the bad, which surprisingly, includes the flip side of some of the good points, and includes some utterly horrendous things.

Cars. Just because a car is classic, it's automatically considered "G" class. Sorry, but the Shelby Daytona Coupe is definitely not in the same class as the '68 Camaro Z28. Yes, the Camaro is a nice car, and I'm glad it was included. But it can't hold the Shelby's jock. The Shelby won the FIA World GT Championship, for chrissakes. Do your homework.

The map. I like the immersiveness of it, I do. But don't sacrifice fun for realism. Do not make me drive all over the island just to find a goddamn car dealer. Why are there seperate dealerships, anyway? Or seperate real estate agencies? You want realism? Try using the fucking internet. I'm sure I've purchased a laptop with my millions of dollars in race winnings, let me visit and to buy my shit.

Control. So, is it a sim, or an arcade racer? A melding of the two? No. I don't know what the hell it is, but trying to be a bit of both doesn't work. That just leads to taking a sharp turn and having a 50/50 chance of either powersliding through or spinning out of control.

Damage modeling. Where the hell is it? If I smash into another car head-on doing 200, both drivers would be dead and their cars would disintegrate. But in this game, the only penalty is a flashing badge meaning the cops might be looking for me. Wow. Which brings me to...

Cops and tickets. Cops aren't psychic. They don't know about shit they don't see. And they can't give tickets to a vehicle that isn't stopped. They sure as hell can't do that when it's doing 90, but somehow I managed to get a ticket when I was doing just that. Seriously, this isn't Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit was a good game, and did the whole cops and racers thing very well. Don't remind me of a better game when I'm playing your poor excuse for one.

Online play. For some strange reason, my Xbox can't seem to stay connected to Live when I'm playing this game. It'll connect initially, and stay connected for about 5-10 minutes, and then just drop. I don't get it.

Final verdict: A fun rental, but that's it. Apparently, it can be purchased for 40 bucks. While that's not a bad price, I prefer the $8 dollar rental. You'll have your fun, with none of the regrets. Damn, I can't wait for Forza 2.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Contemplations and Ruminations

I've been so geeked about the prospect of the Tensided Radio Hour lately. I can't wait to sink my teeth into it. Audacity is a great (and free) program, but it doesn't seem like it does everything I'd want it to. Or maybe I don't know all the little tricks to get it to do what I want. Either way, I was looking into other programs that would do more, and be more user-friendly.

Lo and behold, Apple has a program called Garageband. And it sounds freaking awesome. Not only does it do all the podcast stuff, but you can actually create your own music with it. That right there is worth the price of admission. I decided I had to try it. Whaddya know? It's included with the 06 version of iLife for 80 bucks.

As much as I like spending money on new toys, however, I wanted to try it out first. So I got a "trial" version of just Garageband (version 3 is the newest one), and popped the disc into my iBook.

Bad juju immediately. The package file would supposedly launch, but Installer just sat there, staring at me blankly. I let it sit for a while, thinking it would work eventually. After 10 minutes, I gave up and consulted the net. Apparently, a G3 processor can't handle Garageband 3. Hell, I couldn't even get Installer to actually launch the package.

That's fucking great. I looked around for a "trial" of Garageband 2 (which will run on a G3), but found none. eBay has copies of iLife 05 for 10-20 bucks, but I'm never using Paypal again. And internet stores don't sell iLife 05 anymore. Shit.

So I hit up Apple's store today, wondering what I could get a new MacBook for. The low-end (which now come with Intel Core 2 Duo processors, shiny) laptops weigh in at $1100. Kind of steep. But then I noticed the MacMini under the desktop listings. Look at that. Tell me that isn't a sexy piece of hardware. My badass widescreen monitor supports multiple video inputs. I could just use a beater keyboard and mouse with it, and I'd be set. iLife 06 comes in the box, for only 600 bills.

One of my qualms, though, besides the price tag (which isn't bad, but more than I should be spending on a whim, really), is that Leopard comes out next spring. If I do want to get it, I should probably wait. But damn if it isn't tempting.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Too Damn Funny

Saw this over at Bill's blog, and it's just too damn funny, so I have to repost it. He was talking about a glitch in the European version of Madden 07 where the quarterback will wind up and throw the ball backwards. As in, behind him. About 30 yards or so. For those unfamiliar with the rules of football, not only is that not the direction you want to throw the ball, but if no one catches it, it's a fumble, so the other team can pick it up and run the other way with it. Anyway, here's the clip for that.

But what's even funnier is this clip.

That's our quarterback, ladies and gentlemen. But before you weep for the Raiders, please know that Andrew Walter will be starting the next few games, and hopefully, the rest of the season. I strongly believe he's the future of my team, now he just has to prove it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

King Kong

I rented King Kong...wait, sorry, I rented Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie a few days ago, and just completed it. I didn't really need to complete it to give impressions, but it was so damn short I figured I might as well.

First off, that name. What the hell? I've said it before, but how's about you tone down that hubris, Mr. Jackson? So you won an Academy Award for some dumb-ass movies about a ring that no one outside of geekdom gives a flying fuck about. Lahdi-freakin-dah.

Second, the game's called King Kong (sort of), so why are there only like 5 levels (out of 30 something) devoted to Kong? I haven't seen the film, but I'm betting only about 45 minutes to an hour of the whole 3 and a half hour wankfest is devoted to Kong, even though he's the goddamn title of the movie.

Third, while I can see what they were going for, the whole cinematic experience doesn't really work in a game when you forget the gameplay. Here's the way the Jack levels go: walk through some tunnels, find a spear, light it on fire, burn down some bushes, find a stick thing in order to put it in a post so you can open a door, shoot some enemies, wash, rinse, repeat. All the while some guy, a chick, some punk ass kid, and Jack Black are yelling at you to save them while a giant insect/flying thing/dinosaur tries to eat them. Color me unimpressed.

Let me break it down.

Things that are good:
Jack Black. You really can't dislike Jack Black. Unless he's yelling at you to save him because his leg is being gnawed on by a dinosaur.

Kong. Kong rocks, and I really wish the whole game were about him. Who doesn't like swinging through the forest, running on walls, swatting villagers aside, and snapping dinosaur's necks?

Level design/graphics. This game looks really good, and certain levels look amazing.

A game that feels kinda like a movie. This is good, but not when they forget the gameplay that keeps you interested. Which brings me to...

Things that are bad:
The Jack levels. What a fucking grind. Lighting shit on fire, finding sticks to put in posts that open doors and shit is not inspired gameplay. Hell, it's hardly even gameplay, it's just busy work. I don't like my games to be busy work.

Level design/graphics. I know, I listed this under the good stuff, but it's also bad. For being on the 360, certain things don't look all that great. Some of the textures are bland and overused, the first person weapons look like ass, and some of the levels are boring and cookie cutter. I don't ever want to see tunnels in any first person game ever again. Let me explore the world, assholes, don't confine me to your shitty tunnels.

Length. I'm torn on the length. While I don't think I could sit through more Jack levels, it was also over way too quickly. I'm real glad I didn't drop 60 bucks on this game, since there's absolutely no replay value, either. Any "extras" that might tempt you to replay the game just to see them can be unlocked with a simple code.

A game that doesn't feel like a game. By going the cinematic route, the devs had something that could have been great, but when they forgot they were working on a game, they ended up with a surefire rental (and not even that if the prospect of being Kong doesn't interest you).

Final verdict: Rent it if you have about 6-8 hours to kill and don't mind the skull-crushing agony of suffering through the Jack levels to get to that sweet, giant monkey action. Otherwise, stay away. Run the opposite direction, even.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We Remember

We remember.

Of course we remember, how can we not? You assholes sure as hell won't let us forget.

Seriously, is this really an anniversary we want to commemorate? I mean, I'm not really comfortable with the anniversary of D-Day. Why this one? People don't make a big deal of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Don't even think I'm being insensitive to those who were lost. What I'm saying is if we're going to remember someone, we don't celebrate the day they died.

What about other anniversaries? Why don't we commemorate when we landed a craft on Mars, or when we walked on the moon, or when the Civil Rights act was passed, or when schools were desegregated, or when the Social Security Act was passed, or when the 19th Amendment was ratified? What about all that shit, huh? Isn't that some shit we should be reminded of on a yearly basis, instead of a fucking tragedy? What the fuck?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

360 Update

This weekend I finished the main storylines of both Saint's Row and Dead Rising. I say "main" storylines, because there are still a few missions and a handful of sidequests to do before I've truly done everything there is to do in Saint's Row (I'll get around to them eventually), and I survived 72 hours in Dead Rising. There's still overtime mode which is an additional 24 hours, and finally, infinity mode, the goal of which is to survive for 7 full days. I don't know that I'll get around to that, since you can't save at any point during the whole 7 days. Sure, game time is sped up, but that still means about 15 hours of consecutive play. Not sure I want to do that just so I can get the gamer points.

So now that I've seen (almost) everything there is to see about both games, has my opinion of them changed? Not really. Although the early game in Dead Rising is a pain in the ass. They really just should have started you at level 10. Anything less and you're just going to have to start over anyway.

I think both games will go down as a couple of the best for the 360. While you could probably get your fun out of them with just a rental, I feel like my money was well spent. Plus, most people aren't as hardcore as I am, and I'm not even hardcore.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saint's Rising, or...Dead Row

At the request of Nikoda, I come back to my blog to discuss Dead Rising and Saint's Row.

First up, Dead Rising. A game which I bought, got to play for precisely 2 or 3 hours in one day, and then had to let it sit on my shelf for two and a half weeks while I waited for my Xbox to be repaired. So let me tell you, when I finally did get to play it again, I played it for about 6 hours straight, and then another 6 hours the following day. It's one of the most polished games I've ever played. The controls are nice and tight (although the camera can get a bit wonky in tight areas, a problem which has plagued absolutely every third person game ever), the story is interesting and different (even if you've seen Dawn of the Dead, apparently), the voice acting is damn good, and the graphics are knock your socks off amazing. Especially when there are hundreds of zombies onscreen, all looking different and shuffling differently, with no drop in frame rate.

Let's break it down. Things that are good:

Melee combat. Who hasn't wanted to knock someone's head off with a home run swing? Or crack them in the face with a 2x4? Or chop them in half with a chainsaw? Dead Rising lets you do that to any zombie you meet. Awesome.

Story. When you have a game that almost requires you to play through it more than once, the story better be good. This one is, from what I've seen of it.

Voice acting. No familiar voices here, but they're all really well done. I can't really pick a bad one out of the bunch.

Photography. It's not only a great way to boost your skills in the early game, but it's actually kind of fun blowing a zombie's head off and snapping a pic real quick of the geyser of blood.

Graphics. Easily the best looking game on the 360 so far. Specifically during cutscenes, where the character models and facial expressions can be shown off.

Things that are bad:

Ranged combat. Especially against non-zombies. The gunplay just isn't very well done. I would have preferred an ever present cursor when holding a ranged weapon (or maybe at all times, since you can throw almost every melee weapon in the game, too). Hitting an extra button in order to shoot accurately is a pain in the ass, and makes it so you can't move and shoot at the same time. Bad, bad design, which brings me to the next point.

"Boss" fights. Zombies are human. Or at least, they once were. So I should be able to take their heads off with a sickle, or bisect them with a chainsaw. That makes sense, and I'm glad I can do it. What doesn't make sense is having to fight a supposedly regular human who is nearly immune to every type of attack, whether it be a sledgehammer, lead pipe, pistol, or shotgun. I don't care who you are, if you take a rifle round in the forehead, you're dead. If you take a full load of buckshot in the chest at point blank range, you're dead. If a ten pound sledge slams into the side of your skull, you're dead. Make the "boss" fight challenging in some other way then simply allowing them to cheat, because that's bullshit.

Non-agression in the security room. The security room is your safe haven from the slavering zombies in the mall. It's where you take surviors back to, and it's your base of operations for the entire game. But dammit, if I get frustrated by the zombies or a goddamn "boss" fight, I want to be able to take it out on those bastard survivors! I especially want to kill Otis.

Otis. I hate you, Otis. I hate you with a fucking passion, with every fiber of my being. I don't give a shit what part of the mall I'm in, who's trapped where, what color shoes match my jacket, or what you had for dinner last night. I don't fucking care, Otis, so stop fucking calling me on the goddamn transceiver!

Final verdict: Should be in everyone's collection. Even with the bullshit, it's still a ton of fun to spit in a zombie's face, and then burn it off with a red-hot skillet.

Next we have Saint's Row. Everyone says it's just a copy of GTA: San Andreas, but I don't care. Furthermore, I disagree. Sure, they might have a similar tone and similar elements, but the game itself is quite a bit different. There are a larger variety of missions, much better progression, a better driving model, and a better combat model.

Things that are good:

Free aiming. Finally, a cursor that allows me to aim where I want to shoot, anywhere I want to shoot. No more lock-on, auto-target bullshit that makes me aim at a civilian behind me instead of an enemy in front of me.

Car handling. Cars actually handle differently, instead of just having different speeds, like "slow" or "fast."

Voice acting. Lots of names here, although I had to look at the instruction manual to place a few of them. Very well done.

Story/missions. Varied, fun, and interesting. Lots of different things to see and do.

Graphics. Probably the second best looking game on the 360. Very nice.

Things that are bad:

Auto-fail conditions for missions. So fucking frustrating when the mission tells me I failed, even though I clearly didn't. As an example, if I fail a mission because someone "got away" even though I can still see their car. Bullshit.

No body armor of any kind. At least, none that I've found. Although your health will regenerate eventually, if you're infiltrating an enemy stronghold and they all have sub-machine guns, you can get ganked really quickly. It's also aggravating when some asshole pulls you out of the car and blows you away while you're on the ground, helpless. But I'm nitpicking.

Final verdict: Fucking awesome. Again, as with Dead Rising, even when it's pulling bullshit, there's fun just around the corner.