God, The Devil and Sam Fisher

Devil May Cry 3 is a brutal, fun, and hardcore action game for action gamers. Then comes along God of War to rip out DMC3's spine and proceed to beat it and all other pretenders to to the action throne to a bloody and gruesome death with it's visceral and blood-spattering gameplay. But sly old Sam Fisher comes sneaks through the shadows in the new Splinter Cell and quietly takes out all other pretenders before they even know what happened. All three are excellent games int their own right, but what really gives Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory the edge isn't even it's revolutionary online play of mercs vs. spies or co-op missions. It's not it's long overdue quick saves and looser importance on objectives, and it's not it's eye-popping graphics that make you wonder why CT looks so good and smooth and Halo 2 still has frame rate issues looking ancient in comparison in the same platform. It's actually all these encompassing things that make it potentially the ultimate Xbox game (granted, the other games are PS2 titles, but I just really wanted to compare the games so I could use that clever header :), because it does so many things so excellently and gives you more freedom that any previous stealth/action game in how you approach a situation. I was suspicious if Ubisoft could make me feel that it was worth blowing $50 on CT when the previous title was released just about 5 months ago and I could pick it up for siginificantly cheaper, but in a mere day it's easily drawing me away from the heavy hours I was putting into Phantom Dust & Phantasy Star Online lately). It should be noted that my entire next gen library only consists now of my xbox live games, so it has officially eaten my soul for breakfast, but I've come along very willingly (and it doesn't help that Gamecube has had no noteworhthy releases since Resident Evil 4 and God of War, while awesome, can be beaten in a day or two).

So, the PSP lauch isn't going quite as well as Sony would have people think, because it's apparently the most available brand new system in recent history. I'm honestly not that suprised, the mandatory bundle package is ridiculous, I don't think anybody like the idea that if they want to watch a movie, they have to buy it for a new format, and it's a known fact that the battery life sucks complete ass (good luck getting any lengthy online gaming sessions or watching a long movie on battery power alone). And the most important aspect-the launch titles, all seem to be lesser versions of the console counterparts(with the exception of Lumines, that sounds really cool). And bottom line, launching a system before October is a bad idea. I'm sure it will make up some major mileage when the holiday season starts, and it's not like it was nearly as disaterous as the NGAGE launch, but Sony should really know better, especially if the next Xbox console is launching this year as everyone expects it to, I know I'd rather save money towards that).

And FINALLY, a movie I'm really excited to check out is opening this weekend. Sin City with Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba and more stars. There's been a couple I've been interested enough to check out, like Hitch and Be Cool, but this is the first film release of this year that I am geniunely excited about. Now granted, I know jack about Frank Miller and his graphic novels, but this movie just looks too cool for words. The only thing that worries me is that I was completely fooled by Sky Captain's visual hook last year, and this could be the same deal, but luckily so far the reviews seem to be saying otherwise. I hope it's good, becasue the only other movie I'm seriously interested in that's coming out in the next couple of months is Episode III. I'll most likely be back this weekend with my thoughts on that, until then, hope to be snapping your neck online....


The Phantom Menace

Sorry for only one update last week, but my laptop is pretty much out of commision for awhile (and until it is up and running again, I'll probably just keep to one update a week, but hopefully that won't be for too long).

Anyways, This week since there are no noteworthy movies to talk about (I mean really, it's enough of a joke that Miss Congeniality 2 even got released), I'm going to talk about two great little budget titles (because normally budget title=awful game, but there are rare exceptions) you can pick up for your Xbox that break from the huge splurge of Racing/FPS/Sports titles out there. This was always my biggest complaint against Xbox live-Why pay for an online service that offers such a limited variety? And for awhile, it was really true, as the only title to really break from the mold and offer something unique was Crimson Skies. And don't get me wrong, I love nothing more than getting a few hours of Halo 2 on most nights, but I also like something that makes Xbox live a unique experience, and I think I confidently say there are several titles that do that in addition to the two I'm talking about here (namely Phantasy Star Online & Splinter Cell).

First up is Worms 3D. Now, the Worms series has been around for probably over a decade now, and it's a very charming and simple idea-you and your team of cute worms blow the crap out of other worms (usually up to 3 other teams of 4) with weapons ranging from bazookas to exploding sheep. Now, anyone who's a math wiz will have a huge advantage since things like distance, angle and wind are serious considerations if you really want to strategize, but it's really just a fun little game you can pretty easily pickup and offers plenty of online & multiplayer bang for your buck. My only complaint is that the camera can be fairly atrocious at times, but I'm willing to be a lot more forgiving of this in a $20 title than in a $50 one. And trust me, there are few better moments of joy than blasting your opponents' last worm into oblivion with something as over the top as a full blown air strike or a Holy Hand Grenade.

Second, and much more unique is Phantom Dust. Now, the reviews so far have said this is a lot like a card game and while that is true in many aspects that isn't really fair to people like me who believe card-based video games are the work of Satan himself (Pokemon's an easy target, but just try playing the card games in any rpg lately, they are becoming a disturbing staple in that genre). I guess saying Phantom Dust is like a card game is just a result of trying to classify it into some genre, because the truth is there's NO game out there quite like this one. It's one of those rare oddities that escaped from overseas for us lucky few who are bold enough to take a risk on such an oddball but unique and entertaining title. You do collect and assemble decks of sorts of powers you collect that all have distinct advantages and disadvantages (and much like a card game, once your deck runs out, you are screwed), but not in the traditional complicated card game way. PD manages to keep it as simple and/or as complicated as you like depending on your choice of arsenal (do you go for the big one time powermoves, the advanced defensive ones, or a mix?). And much like Worms 3D, it does have some camera and balance issues, but it's just an incredibly fun thing to play and well worth your $20.

But the real gem of each of these, like most niche titles, is the smaller community of gamers. I like be able to find a bunch of people to play Halo 2 with online at any time of the day, but in having these games less than a week I've already ran into people I've played before, and that's actually I good thing since I know I won't be dealing with some homphopic racist prepubescent idiot who is also high and or drunk like I do on occasion when playing the more mainstream games.

That's all for now and hope to see you online...



While many characters have revamped their image to try and stay hip, historically the most popular characters have remained timeless and never had to change a thing, they were always entertaining, funny and hip usually because they refused to go with some silly trend. In TV, two major influences on me as a kid were Looney Tunes (mainly Daffy Duck, but I was a big Bugs Bunny fan as well) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (my fav in that foursome easily being Raphael), and like many gamers my age, two major gaming influences were Mario, and more so Sonic the Hedgehog when he came along (made me a diehard Sega fan to this day, in fact). These were timeless characters that have been around for years (in some cases, decades) and never really had to change their shtick to remain popular. But all of a sudden, three out four of the icons I've mentioned have been massively revamped, and it's making me sick.

First off was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now, I'm not ashamed to say that if the show was still on in it's original incarnation, I would still watch it. It was a well-written and funny show with good fight scenes. A few years ago they re-launched the show, with a whole new "extreme" attitude, essentially killing everything that was great about the show (they made the turtles more interchangeable, made April and Casey Jones more "hip", pretty much completely disregarded the fact that the show never took itself that seriously) and turning it into some weird deal where they got into the middle of an interstellar war with a bunch of alien Triceratops. And granted, if they could make four humanoid turtles who know Ninjitsu being taught by a giant rat that take on an alien talking brain from another dimension with a ninja master as his evil partner work, the whole Triceratops thing isn't such a stretch. But whatever the reason (most likely hack writers that take no pride in the fact that they have a chance to write a good animated show that can be enjoyed by more than just kids and maybe even get kids off to a good start in knowing quality TV), it doesn't.

But the Turtles have been like that for a few years now and I've more or less learned to live with it. The latest attacks on my cherished icons of childhood are more recent and much more blasphemous. The geniuses over at WB decided that Bugs & pals needed a makeover after over 50 successful years of staying true to their hilarious shtick. Mel Blanc is rolling over in his grave at the mere thought of his beloved characters being creatively raped of their souls like this. But all that matters is that the action figures tested well with kids, as one of the many TV execs with his head up his own ass is quoted as saying in the article. Rather than come up with my own clever retort, I'll just direct you to a genius far funnier than me with his own take on this "extreme" makeover here (advisory, strong language, but damn funny).

Legendary Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was once quoted as saying that you will never see Mario shooting hookers and while Mario hasn't gone over the edge, Sega has pretty much gone and done something that can only been seen as something almost as bad. Just go over to gametrailers.com and check out the trailer for "Shadow the Hedgehog". So, essentially what Sega has done is can their beloved mascot in favor of a more "extreme"character. Shadow the Hedgehog. And the one thing you can clearly see is that Shadow uses guns to deal with his enemies (and not fake guns, he is clearly using a machine gun in one scene). Not only does this seem extremely wrong for this franchise in general, it also seems like a desperate attempt to cash in on the fact that the highly successful Jak & Daxter & Ratchet & Clank series both used guns (and heck it might even be racist!). Granted, after the last couple of horrid games, the series needed a change, but I think everyone was hoping Sega would take it back to its roots rather than this horrid idea.

In all of these cases, it's a bunch of idiotic marketing execs revamping things that didn't need to be fixed to begin with, and I want end this with one really simple question: Would you rather your kid learn from Bugs Bunny, who was able to talk his way out of situations and use his brain? Or "Buzz Bunny" who is extreme and shoots lasers from his eyes to solve all of his problems?


And the dead shall rise...

Marlon Brando is supposedly going to be in the upcoming Superman film. No, he didn't film any scenes before his passing, but apparently Bryan Singer just wants to essentially use old footage of Brando and use some clever editing tricks. Now I sort of get the nostalgia aspect, after all, he was Superman's father in the Chris Reeve flicks, but this just strikes me as incredibly ghoulish. I felt the same way when they used Fred Astaire to sell a vacuum cleaner. Not only does this seem to be openly mocking the dead, it's bottom line cutting out a paying job for some other deserving actor. I honestly fear we're not too far off from making films starring long dead screen icons, which will probably save studios a bundle, but will go one step further in making hollywood bereft of edge or creativity, which they are lacking as is.

I did get to play Devil May Cry 3 this week, and most actions fans will be very pleased with the game. But for me personally, one extremely annoying flaw kept me from actually making the purchase-The dodge roll and jump are assigned to the same button. Now, in many games, this wouldn't be a huge difference, but DMC3 is an intense game that demands near perfection from players in order to progress, and often this button would continually screw me over in key instances, and it seems like such a simple problem to fix.

As for movies this weekend, first up is Bruce Willis' long overdue return to hardcore action in Hostage. The critical acclaim hasn't been there so far and personally I feel it's adding a whole subplot that isn't really needed (so he's handling a hostage negotiation, but his family is also being held hostage by the mob, because apparently one wasn't enough).
But, it seems like a better alternative then Robots, the newest cg kids movie. Sure, it's got a ridiculously star-studded cast (Ewan Mcgregor, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, etc.) and looks pretty, but it looks like another fairly bland family film that may be singlehandedly saved by Robin Williams improvisation (after all, that's pretty much what Ice Age was, a pretty but bland family film). That's pretty much all for today, I'm suprised I was able to pull myself away from Xbox live long enough to post anything :)


The ultimate hypocracies

So, tonight 60 minutes did yet another bs piece (they've done a few over the years) essentially blaming videogames for some disturbed kids' whacked out behavior. Of course, the reactionaries answer is to make it illegal to sell these games to minors (although you can tell they want this stuff banned completely). Now, I don't necessarily disagree with some kind of system to not let these games clearly meant for adults into young kids' hands, but quite frankly, the government has better things to do with our tax dollars and there's a couple of hugely inherent problems with this. First off, despite all the outrage over other mature content in other forms of entertainment, there are rarely ever any penalties if it regularly winds up in the hands of minors. Reports & investigations and commitees are made, but very little ever actually comes from them except for a promise to massively reform (thus resulting in massive wastes of time & our money).
The second and highly more important one is, where would they draw the line? Sure, at first it's just clearly M-rated games, but many violent games are rated T for teen, they just lack blood or excessive swearing. And they are basing it on how it influences minors. So if a kid tries to do some insane stunts in a car he saw in a driving game (which are generally rated E or T) or something else they saw in a game that wasn't rated M, do we make it much stricter? And again, this is all neglecting parental and personal responsibility. There are literally millions of gamers who play & buy violent games, and yet 99.9% aren't prone to violent criminal behavior, at least not directly resulting from a video game or any other form of entertainment. And how about just being sick and tired of these complete jackasses who obviously have no life telling others what is acceptable and what is not? And finally, the main reason I play video games (especially violent ones) is because I need some sort of stress relief after long days at work. Quite frankly it's pretty good therapy. If games are heavily censored and regulated, certain people may lose their source of stress relief, which could lead to a whole lot of other problems.


The I in Team

Sorry for no post until now, I literally tried to start on over a dozen topics that just seemed to go nowhere, so I just blamed it on writer's block and finally went to bed. But after getting my hands on Star Wars: Republic Commando for Xbox (all I will say about the multi-player is that it was extremely buggy online & I actually fell through a level), I finally have something to discuss-Teamwork in games. In many games, teamwork is an important aspect. You often have at least one partner with you-whether you want them or not. Despite all the advancements videogames have made in a realitvely short amount of time, coming up with teammates who will actually pull their own weight seems to be that impossible brass ring that companies can't quite reach. This is especially true in squad-based shooters. If you're lucky, you get games like Freedom Fighters & Brute Force, where your teammates are at least a good distraction while you do most of the work yourself. But most of the time it's like the Ghost Recon games, where you teammates stupidly walk around in the open just waiting to get shot and don't take direction well.
At first glance, Commando seems to fix most of these problems. Your teammates not only have distinct and engaging personalities, but specialities that really stand out in battle, and they seem to be more than able to handle their own.
Unfortunately, a few levels in cracks start showing as these bipolar miscreants lead you to your doom. They get stuck behind doors, occasionally decide to follow orders, and just seem to lack basic instincts at key moments. On RARE they occasions will do things like take cover and heal on their own, but mostly have to be ordered by you into a specifc place or to do a specific action and half the time they don't even respond, which makes the intense firefights a messy chore. It's pathetic that this many years down the road no game can claim to give you a competent A.I. partner to work with-they are either too helpful (making the game no challenge) or almost totally useless. This really needs to be adressed since teamwork is becoming more and more of a factor in games these days.
That it's for now, but I will definitely do another post tonight or Sunday since I have a specific topic in mind.


Now all I need is a chair that doubles as a toilet....

Ok, this was reported awhile ago, but I'm continually suprised at what lengths us humans will go to make sure we will eventually become nothing more than jello-like blobs because we just don't like anything that requires effort anymore. In case you haven't heard, the latest innovation for all those Evercrack whores out there (and I'm sure other games will follow suit) is that with a few key strokes they can order a pizza without interrupting their precious game. I completely admit to being lazy on a fairly regular basis, but even I would get off my damn ass to pick up a phone and order a pizza, hell I'm such a cheap bastard I'll normally go and walk to the pizza place so I don't get charged for delivery (that's more my ridiculous frugality overcoming my overt laziness, but at least I get some exercise out of it). And being a gamer of over 20 years, I understand the dilemma between food and finishing that last quest or beating that boss (especially if taking a timeout would leave your teammates hanging), but this is ridiculous. Hey, there's few things I love more than devoting an entire day off to nothing but sitting in my bed and gaming all day long (which I totally plan to do for a good portion of tommorow), but I seriously think this is a step that shouldn't be taken. This is the first step towards The Matrix being real, people. Before long all we'll be good for is some kind of energy source.

It's so nice to FINALLY have a movie opening this weekend that I'm looking foward to. And that's Be Cool starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn & The Rock. Granted, Get Shorty was something like a decade ago and Travolta doesn't have the best batting average, but this actually looks smart & funny, which is more than I can say for most high profile sequels/prequels to long dead films (like the new Exorcist movie that's on DVD today, I found even the highly regarded first one laughably bad yet they somehow made four of these). I'm actually hoping it's a breakout role for the Rock, as I've always thought he was capable of a lot more than the big action roles he's been doing.
That's really all I have for today, so I'll probably do a much more focused post tommorow or thursday. Until then...