Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Weekend Predictions

The regular season is over, and the playoff picture is set. Time for my predictions for the first four games next weekend, the Wild Card first round.


6 Washington Redskins at 3 Seattle Seahawks
The Redskins come into Seattle on an emotional high, having won their last four games, and playing for their fallen teammate, Sean Taylor. Seattle dropped two of their last four against a couple of awful teams (Carolina and Atlanta), and has only managed one win all season against a playoff team (Tampa Bay). That is the very definition of an upset waiting to happen.
Redskins win.

5 New York Giants at 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Giants very nearly handed the Patriots their first loss of the season last week in an otherwise meaningless game for the G-Men. Tampa Bay clinched their division early and dropped the last two games of the season. A wise man might think that the Bucs would be rested and the Giants would suffer a let-down, but I think the Bucs will be rusty and Eli Manning will take out his frustrations on the Bucs banged-up D.
Giants win.

Byes: 1 Dallas Cowboys and 2 Green Bay Packers


5 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Jaguars defeated the Steelers just a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers still had their running back, Willie Parker. No Willie Parker plus a very good Jaguars team equals trouble for the Pennsylvania boys.
Jaguars win.

6 Tennessee Titans at 3 San Diego Chargers
The Titans fought their way into the playoffs, clinching the last spot with a win over second and third string Colts. After a rocky start, the Chargers finished strong, going into the playoffs on a 6 game winning streak. San Diego has already beaten Tennessee once this season on the road, the situation won't be any different in sunny southern California.
Chargers win.

Byes: 1 New England Patriots and 2 Indianapolis Colts

Check back next week for results and more predictions.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Haul 2007

How was your Christmas? That's good. Mine was awesome. Got to spend time with the family that matters, and got some cool shit to boot. Let's commence with the rundown, in no particular order, shall we?

Rock Band Stratocaster. To facilitate 4 player rocking, which is better than 90% of activities human beings are capable of engaging in.

Sam and Max: Season 1. This is the way episodic content should be done. Plus, it's all about a 6 foot canine shamus and a hyperkinetic rabitty-thing fighting for justice and causing mayhem. What's not to like?

Superman: Doomsday. Bruce Timm kicks ass. So do Adam Baldwin (Supes), James Marsters (Luthor), and Ray Wise (Perry White). While it's not entirely faithful to the Death/Rebirth of Superman comics, it does a hell of a job in 70 minutes. And it has an absolutely laugh out loud moment (if you get the in-joke): "Yeah, like we really needed him to bust up the mechanical spider, right? Lame!"

Darkwing Duck: Volume 2. I am the terror that flaps in the night, I am the fingernail that scrapes the blackboard of your soul. I am Darkwing Duck!

Oakland Raiders 2008 Desk Blotter/Calendar. Shows my support for the Raiders and is functional, too.

Reese's Peanut Butter Trees. Mmmm, chocolate and peanut butter.

Fraggle Rock: Complete Third Season. I am a child of the 80's. Plus, Jim Henson rocks.

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Zelda + DS = Win.

Motor Trend 2008 American Muscle Wall Calendar. Because sweet cars are (technically) obtainable, and hot naked models are not.

Invader Zim: The Complete Invasion. Not sure how I missed this when it was on television, but it's made of awesome.

The Dark Crystal: 25th Anniversary Edition. I am a child of the 80's. Plus, Jim Henson rocks.

Heroes: Season 1. Best show on television right now. Which reminds me, I need to pick up a copy of Veronica Mars Season 3.

There you have it. Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and the accompanying time off work. Peace, bitches!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Midseason Roundup 2007

It's that time again, halfway through this year's television season when pretty much all of the shows take at least a 2 week break for the holidays and come back in the new year ready to go. Except this year, given the writer's strike, most shows are simply done for the season. Some of them may be back next year for a full season run, and others may just stay gone (there are quite a few that need to, seriously).

I'd also like to talk a bit about the midseason replacements that will be picking up some of the strike slack. There are quite a few shows to talk about, so let's get started.

Monday night:

How I Met Your Mother, 7:00 pm, CBS - This show consistently delivers the comedy. Only 11 episodes were completed before the strike, but it should be back next fall.

Prison Break, 8:00 pm, FOX - The convicts took a very early break (only 8 episodes in), but now that the strike has hit, they actually have a decent number of episodes (5) to run through in the new year. Cliffhangers are always painful, and I have the sneaking suspicion that Prison Break is going to end in just that.

Chuck, 8:00 pm, NBC - One of my favorites out of the new crop of shows, Chuck got picked up after the strike began. I can't wait for new episodes.

Heroes, 9:00 pm, NBC - Now that Kristen Bell is a full-fledged cast member, this show has thoroughly cemented its position as the best on television right now (although I still lament the loss of Veronica Mars. Sweet Veronica, we hardly knew ye). Bring on Volume 3!

Journeyman, 10:00 pm, NBC - As much as I tried not to, I have become attached to Journeyman. It's fucking time travel, man, what's not to like? Still no word on if it's been picked up, which doesn't look good. I've got my fingers crossed.

Tuesday night:

Bones, 8:00 pm, FOX - I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't normally go for the police procedural/crime drama/forensics investigation shows, but Bones has something the others don't: Angel, err, David Boreanaz. I love the Whedonverse folks, what can I say?

Reaper, 9:00 pm, CW - Wickedly funny, perfectly cast, and well written. How much do you want to bet it doesn't come back after the strike is over? I wish I could be optimistic, but quality television like this doesn't get rewarded nearly as often as it should.

Wednesday night:

Pushing Daisies, 8:00 pm, ABC - What was that I said about quality television not being rewarded? What the hell do I know, because the tale about a magical life-giving (if only for a minute) pie-maker has been picked up. Woot.

Bionic Woman, 9:00 pm, NBC - Shlock. I stopped watching after four episodes, and I don't regret it. Wait, I take that back. I regret watching those four episodes.

Life, 10:00 pm, NBC - I really like this show. I'm wondering how far they can take the whole "Det. Crews trying to find out who framed him for murder and why" angle, but I'm enjoying it for the time being. Plus, Christina Hendricks has made a couple of cameos. Joss Whedon is indeed my master. Full season pick up for teh win!

Thursday night:

My Name Is Earl, 8:00 pm, NBC - I can't say enough good things about Jason Lee. Why he keeps making crap like Underdog and Alvin and the Chipmunks I'll never know. At least I have Earl.

Smallville, 8:00 pm, CW - I'm a glutton for punishment. That's the only reason I can think of why I continue to watch this show. It's got about as much in common with Superman as my left nut. Lex Luthor owns the Daily Planet and cloned his dead brother who was in a relationship with Lois Lane who has a cousin that also works at the Daily Planet and is an object for Clark Kent's misplaced affections, rather than his true love Lana Lang who was married to Lex Luthor? Are you fucking kidding me? This show has hinted at so many potentially great storylines, like the Justice League, Bizarro, Supergirl, Brainiac, and Doomsday, only to piss them all away with nonsense about faked pregnancies, teenage angst, random amnesia, and deus ex machinas. Either give me Superman or give me nothing.

The Office, 9:00 pm, NBC - Comedy gold. Can't wait for it to come back.

Supernatural, 9:00 pm, CW - This show keeps getting better. There are a lot of loose ends that need tying up, it's just a matter of getting the writers back to work.

Friday night:

Moonlight, 8:00 pm, CBS - It's not Angel, but it's not bad. No word yet on a pickup. Fingers crossed.

Next Great American Band, 9:00 pm, FOX - I know, it's the dreaded reality show. To be fair, though, it's one of the least offensive reality shows. There's very little backstage drama, pandering judges, and overall runtime-padding. While I disagree with the final result (Sixwire is a much better band than The Clark Brothers), it was fun to watch. As with all reality shows, I don't doubt it'll be back bigger (and probably much worse) next year.

Other Shows:

Dexter, Showtime - I picked up the first season on DVD, and devoured it. A show where the main character is a serial killer? And we're expected to sympathize with him? I should care about this why? Because it's a incredibly well-crafted show with great acting, terrific writing, and an entirely original premise. Plus, unlike some other shows out there (*cough*The Shield*cough*), it doesn't try and force us to like its monster of a main character. Dexter kills people and is unapologetic, but even he acknowledges that he's a monster. While we do eventually learn more about Dexter's character and why he does what he does, I didn't know any of it going in and that's not why I like the show. It's certainly not for everyone, but if you're not squeamish and enjoy original ideas on television, Dexter is definitely worth your time. Oh yeah, and it's got Julie Benz in it.

Desperate Housewives, ABC - I just can't get into this show. Nathan Fillion is an incredible draw, but even he can't make me like a show about a bunch of whiny, pompous, spoiled bitches in suburbia.

Midseason Replacements:

Lost, ABC - We have to go back. We have to go back to the island. Fuck yeah.

Jericho, CBS - It got canceled, fans said, "Nuts," and now it's back. Woot.

Sarah Connor Chronicles, FOX - Wait, it's Terminator on network television? And it has Summer Glau in it? Sign me up!

New Amsterdam, FOX - New York City homicide detective John Amsterdam was cursed to live forever until he could find his true love. 400 years later and he may have found her.

American Gladiators, NBC - Hulk Hogan, Laila Ali, and a bunch of roided out supermen (and women) laying the smack down on everyday jabronis? Sign me up!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

News and Notes

First up, the required Rock Band discussion. Justin came to town on Sunday, and gave me what is perhaps the best Christmas gift ever: a second Rock Band guitar. It was incredibly timely as well, since the down strum on my existing guitar had started to get spotty. Up strum still worked great, which is just perfect for a bassist. After rocking a bit of two player band world tour mode, we hopped online with me on bass and him on lead guitar. Tons of fun, I must say, since there was some guy (or gal, although the avatar was male) playing expert drums. INSANE.

Given the aforementioned trouble I was having with my initial guitar, I RMA'ed it. I opted for the express delivery, which meant EA shipped out a replacement via two day air, and all I had to do was put the borked guitar in that box and ship it back at no charge to me. The new guitar arrived on Wednesday, which was just in time to get the crew together for some four player action. Holy shit that was awesome. Playing online with other people is great, but when you have four people in the same room rocking the entire house, there's nothing else like it. I can't wait to do it again.

Before we rocked out last night, a bunch of us went to see I Am Legend. I've never read the book of the same name that inspired it and the first two film adaptations, The Last Man On Earth and The Omega Man. I did see The Omega Man, and my primary beef with that film was the savior angle it adopted at the end that seemed completely tacked on and unnecessary. A quick check of Wikipedia reveals that the book pitted Robert Neville, the sole survivor of the apocalypse, against a legion of vampire-like creatures. As Neville hunted the vampires during the day and killed them while they slept, he was unaware that some of them were still human. He eventually learned he was killing still living people along with the undead, and after they attacked and executed him, he became legend as the vampires once were.

I think that's a fantastic premise for a film, but apparently today's movie-going audience is either too stupid or too Jesus happy to accept such a deep and haunting ending like that. Like The Omega Man before it, I Am Legend derails into a sappy, shoe-horned savior ending that had me shaking my head in disgust. Here was a film that had so many elements of the book: viral infection that caused worldwide devastation, vampire-like monsters, feelings of isolation and despair, and a canine companion. It also had Will Smith, who is tremendously entertaining to watch, some great music (Neville has an obsession with Bob Marley), an unexpected twist in the middle followed by an emotional gut-punch (honestly, there might have been tears), and a number of very impressive CG shots of a completely deserted New York City. It had a lot of things going for it, and then tossed it all away to give us hope that if a viral infection ever does wipe out humanity, someone like Robert Neville will be guided by God to find a cure and become the legend who restores civilization. Oi.

I've also been watching a lot of TV, and it's just about time for my mid-season rundown. I'll make a new post about that in the next few days.

Finally, this is hilarious. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quick Hit: Manhunt 2 (Wii)

This actually got an AO rating?

Seriously, this game that uses the engine from the PS2 GTA games got the equivalent of an NC-17?

I'm really at a loss as to why. See, I'm one of those (seemingly few) people who bought and played the original Manhunt. Now that was a violent, disturbing fucking game. Voyeuristic, sadistic, twisted, sick, and depraved. It was also fun as hell (until you got to the shooter levels, but I like to pretend those don't exist). But Manhunt 2? Not so good.

I like the Wiimote and nunchuk controls, I really do. They work well, and they represent what's happening on screen. Or at least, I think they do. I can't really tell since I forgot my fucking 3D glasses or whatever the hell this is supposed to be.

You see, that's the "cleaned up" M-rated version of Manhunt 2. Apparently the uncensored version was so graphic, the ESRB had to slap the AO rating on it, effectively banning it from ever being released. Until Rockstar made some edits and the ESRB re-rated it M, of course.

Here's what I don't understand. If something like this got an M rating four years ago, what's the problem now? Is one somehow better (or in this case, worse) than the other? Where is the line drawn? If AO games simply don't get released on consoles, why even bother having the rating? Don't tell me it's for porn or the occasional non-sexual PC game. Movies get released on DVD unrated all the time, couldn't games do the same?

But I'm getting off track. The point is that Manhunt 2 is a pathetic shell of what it could have been. Now, if you'll excuse me, James Earl Cash needs to go crack some skulls.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Anyone Wanna Buy a Copy of GH3 for PS3?

Harmonix made a post today on the official Rock Band forums.

Two weeks ago, Harmonix created a software patch for the Sony PLAYSTATION 3 version of Rock Band that allowed for guitar compatibility and support for third party peripherals, including enabling use of Activision's Guitar Hero III controller with Rock Band. The compatibility patch was submitted, approved and had been scheduled for release by Sony on Tuesday, December 4. Unfortunately, Activision objected to the compatibility patch's release. The patch remains with Sony, but we have been told that it will unfortunately not be released due to Activision's continued objection.

That's awesome, I tell ya. Harmonix did the right thing, and Activision is being a bunch of bitches. So you know what? I'm done with Activision and Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero is dead to me. Long live Rock Band.

Monday, December 10, 2007

That One Game That I Talk About All The Time

I finished up the Medium Drum solo career last week. Extremely fun stuff. For some inexplicable reason, Green Grass and High Tides is stuck at the end of the sixth (I think, could be seventh) set (there are nine sets in total) for the Drum career. So damn hard. Not to mention that it's fucking 10 minutes long, and the last 4 minutes are an extremely fast beat including the kick pedal. That's fucking work, right there. Buy Rock Band, play the drums, get in shape.

Once I got past GGaHT, the rest of Medium was a piece of cake. Enamored with my success, I got the crew together over the weekend to play some 3 player. The Me Too's (a name which they dislike, I'm not sure why, because I love it) rocked the house so hard that I decided to step it up to Hard on the drums. "How hard can it be?" I asked myself. I even picked a not all that difficult song for my first foray (Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden). Holy shit, I got booed off the stage in about 30 seconds. I'll have to give Hard another shot when there aren't two other people depending on me for a solid rhythm.

Oh, one other thing. There's this guy that tried out the drums the first time we got the band together and scoffed at it. You know the type: "Shit, why not just play the real thing? I could hella tear this song up on an actual kit. Look at this piece of shit, it's so gay." He played a couple of songs, did a respectable job, and then left us "kids" to play our "game." Despite completely missing the point of playing a game, he decided to give the drums another shot yesterday. He stepped up the difficulty level, and rocked out. He commented after a particular song, "That was hella fun to play!" and even rejoiced over hitting 98% of the notes on Medium Drums compared to my 96% of the notes on Hard Guitar on another song. That's right, I lead the Church of Rock Band, and there is no choice but to convert.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rock Band Post #37

From the Rock Band Official Forums:

Available today is a routine update for the PLAYSTATION 3 version of Rock Band that addresses a number of items related to guitar controller compatibility. Should Rock Band owners choose to obtain the update, they will need broadband internet access connected to their PLAYSTATION 3. The update will be downloaded once the game is started.

This posted sometime yesterday (not sure what time, because the timestamping on the forums is completely wrong). There are a number of interesting things about this post, the first of which being the corporate-speak language. So let's address what it actually says.

First, it refers to the patch as a "routine update." Does that mean they plan to regularly update the game? Did they plan to add additional controller functionality all along? Or are they using the word routine in the sense of a code routine? Who knows?

The patch "addresses a number of items related to guitar compatibility." Number of items? Related to guitar compatibility? There's one item "related" to guitar compatibility as far as myself and others are concerned: we want the GH3 Les Paul to work with Rock Band. That's it. If the patch doesn't allow the GH3 Les Paul to work with Rock Band, then it's fucking useless. Period.

You need a broadband internet connection for the PS3 in order to get the patch. I.E. you can't download it on your computer and transfer it on a flash drive. Ok, makes sense. If you have a PS3 and don't have broadband, you need to get your priorities straight.

When the game boots up, you get the patch. There was a day 1 patch, and it worked the same way, so that's fine.

This post went up later that day:

I was told it would go live today. If it doesn't go live today I imagine it will go live soon as there is a patch and it has passed all sorts of certification. It exists, is what I am trying to say.

So, there's a patch, but we don't know when it will be released? Maybe today, maybe Thursday, maybe next week? It's passed all sorts of certification, so that's good. I assume the sorts of certification it passed allows it to be released to all PS3 users, and not just specially selected beta testers or some shit.

Wait, sorry, I'm reading into the post. He says it's passed certification and should go live soon. Ok, perhaps it will be Thursday, since that's when new content hits the Playstation store. Get your patch and downloadable content all at the same time!

One last post made late last night/early this morning:

So as you may have noticed the patch still isn't up and I apologize. We're trying to find out what the holdup is and I'll get back to you when I know. Or better yet the patch will just go up and everyone will be stoked. Sorry about the delay.

Now we have no idea when the patch will go up, or why it's delayed. Why do I get the feeling that either this patch isn't what we've been waiting for, or that it's just a ploy to keep us waiting until they can release standalone guitars so we forget all about it and shell out another 70 bucks?

I honestly don't see what the problem is here. Are we really expected to believe that no one involved with the game, at any level, ever said, "Hey, maybe folks out there are thinking they can use their GH3 Les Paul's on the PS3 with Rock Band, so we should look into that. If we can't make it work, we should let them know. If we can make it work, we might want to wait to release until it's ready." Maybe someone did say that, and it fell on deaf ears, although I can't imagine why, since that's the only way to have a full band on PS3 at this time. It's not like PS3 users haven't had to wait for other titles before.

Rock Band + GH3 Les Paul. Let's get it done.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Battalion Wars 2 (Wii) Impressions and Yet Another RB Note

I've played Battalion Wars 2 for about an hour, and gone through five missions. It's basically a real-time shooter version or the Advance Wars games on GBA and DS. After a quick check of GameFAQs, I discovered that the game only spans 19 missions, which puts the entire game at about 4 hours. That's just a bit shorter than my dick, if you measured my dick in hours.

There's multiplayer that would theoretically pad that runtime, but it's only online, no local multiplayer option. Since I don't know anyone with the game, that's useless. Still, it's been fun for an hour, so we'll see how the other 3 go.

Also, after being stuck at 56 of 58 songs on the Hard guitar career, I finished that off last night. Green Grass and High Tides, the final song on the list, isn't terribly difficult so much as an endurance test (it's about 10 minutes long). The real bitch (for me, anyway) is Flirtin' With Disaster. A good third of the song is a devastating solo. I eventually got it, but I was flirtin' with getting booed off the stage for the last half of the tune.

Now it's time to go back to the drums (on Medium) for another 25 songs or so. Let's hope those rumors of standalone axes being available on 12/18 are true so I can rock the full band sooner rather than later.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Oh, I Almost Forgot To Mention

I made a credit card payment today. My last major one, in fact. You know what that means?

That means no more debt, baby! As of right now, I am completely free and clear of debt. The only use my credit card has now is for monthly recurring charges like my cell phone, Netflix subscription, and the like. Any purchases I make from now on will be made either with cash or my check card.

I thought I might feel different now that I'm out of debt, but I don't. Maybe it just hasn't hit me yet. Maybe looking at my checking account balance at the end of the month and instead of seeing "$42.73," staring at a number like "$1,856.97" will drive the point home.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3) Review

Uncharted is so short, I didn't even get a chance to toss up some impressions before I finished it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, considered how well put together it is, how amazing it looks, and how much fun it is to blow people away around corners without even looking. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Uncharted is one of those games that I started looking forward to way back at some E3 when I first saw a video demo. It looked like the evolution of Tomb Raider: running and gunning, platforming, and puzzle solving in some ancient temple/tomb/lost city in glorious 1080p at 60 fps. And that's exactly what it is. Our hero, Nathan Drake, is a bad-ass with his 9mm pistol and shotgun strapped to his back, while leaping around jungle locales like a monkey and finding lost treasure. He's joined by Elena Fisher, a smart and cocky reporter who can hold her own with a gun, and Victor "Sully" Sullivan, a shady treasure hunter out for one last big score. They're all looking for the treasure of El Dorado, aided by the diary of Nate's ancestor, Sir Francis Drake.

The game plays like most other third person shooters/platformers. Drake can run and jump, climb, deal out savage beatings, fire from the hip, or take aim for more accurate shooting. He can also take cover, and pop out to fire or just fire blindly from safety. At certain points, there are context sensitive button presses, such as turning a crank to open a gate or diving away from falling debris.

Sound, music, and voice acting are all excellent. Firing an AK sounds like it should, the score hits all the right points, and the actors really do a wonderful job. It helps that the cutscenes (which are in-engine) are fantastic, and the facial expressions convey the right emotions.

Which brings me to the way the game looks. I could use a number of different adjectives here, but I think amazing pretty well sums it up. After Assassin's Creed, I didn't think a first-gen PS3 game could look any better, but Uncharted does. There are some minor issues with texture-pop, but nothing major.

Besides the occasional replacement textures, there are a few other issues. The difficulty can be uneven, and there are certain spots of trial and error. If you get stuck, the game will often provide a hint on where or what you're supposed to go or do next, but they come only after wandering around lost for five minutes. Even when you know what you're supposed to do, sometimes it feels like the game is mocking you as you try to do it and fail repeatedly (the endgame is a perfect example of that). When you do fail, you usually don't get set back too far, but it's still an annoyance.

Even with the try, try again sections, the game is almost criminally short. At most, the first run-through takes 8 hours. There are 60 treasures to collect, and a new game mode that's unlocked after beating the initial campaign ("Crushing" difficulty. I did Normal, not Hard, and Crushing sounds downright painful), but I don't really go for that. If you do, I imagine finding all the treasures and doing everything there is to do adds another 8-10 hours.

While I'm glad I rented and didn't buy (if only because it took me 3 days of play to finish the campaign), Uncharted is a very good game. Definitely a solid rental, and maybe a purchase once the price comes down, if you're a completist. There's a lot of polish here, and an entertaining story. It might not be Game of the Year, but Uncharted is worth your time.