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2010’s Game of the Year is…

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Come on now, what else did you expect? All the other nominees for Game of the Year are very good in their own right and are no less deserving of your attention. However, Mass Effect 2 was chosen Game of the Year for several reasons. Bioware has trimmed the fat off of the  series’ first outing and got back to what made the Mass Effect franchise great. Not simply because it’s a wonderful experience from beginning to end, but because it is quite possibly the most important game of this generation so far.

What makes Mass Effect 2 so special? How can this game be confidently declared Game of the Year? Without spoiling too much, it’s the perfect marriage between RPGs and shooters. It is not an RPG disguised as a shooter. There’s no shoddy dice-roll business happening behind the scenes in the combat. It has a great tactile feel and plays pretty much like most other third-person shooters on the market. Clever button-mapping and hotkeys will allow players to put down baddies and unleash biotics in no time. Squad management is a manner of deciding which teammate uses what power on the highlighted opposition. The menu system slows down the action around you and lets you get in and out without any fuss. This allows for fluid continuous action. Did I mention that this is also an RPG?

It looks and plays like a shooter but it's also a RPG?! Madness.

Mass Effect 2 has ridden itself of the massive inventory that plagued the first title. It vouched for a simple upgrade system that involves recovering the research needed to upgrade your weapons, abilities, armor, and tech. Powering up your character and party is a hallmark of good role-playing design. The customization of the RPG genre is largely intact without the unnecessary congestion. These are merely gameplay aesthetics that pave the way towards the larger experience that is Mass Effect 2.

Want character creation and customization? You got it. You can also carry over your character from Mass Effect 1 if you so desire.

Role-playing games have always maintained strong story elements and characters. Bioware has fused those long-standing traditions of the RPG genre successfully into a shooter. The world, no, the galaxy that the team at Bioware has put together is rich in mythos. Imagine yourself staring at a single planet, pulling the view out to the solar system it’s a part of, pulling back further to reveal the larger nebulae, and then opening up to the view of the entire Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy is for you to explore and the immensity of the characters that populate it are there for you to interact with. The sheer scale of it all is simply mind-blowing. Not only is the universe memorable, but so are the characters.

The characters that you meet along the way are some of the most well-developed. Ironically enough, humanizing at times.

The alien and humanoid melting pot provides excellent social commentary. There’s an underlying intrigue between races that link all of them together in one way or another. They all have deep-rooted history. It provides an interesting contrast to our own world (ya know, the real one?)  Some alien races have prejudices against other species. Your character being human gets the brunt of this and makes for an interesting experience when face to face with other-worldly species that don’t exactly think highly of your standing. But how other races view you is dictated by the player’s choices. Players can choose to be a humble ambassador on behalf of humanity or they can just shove the business end of a gun in everyone’s faces. The narrative is player-driven, so decisions may impact you in a good way or may come back to haunt you later.

Conversations are never boring in Mass Effect 2. Especially with Mordin.

What’s a role-playing game without an excellent cast of characters to occupy your party? Nothing. The personalities you’ll be recruiting to your cause are well-crafted and the drama that surrounds them pulls you in and doesn’t let go. BioWare has pulled out all the stops by creating some of the best characters in the industry. Period. They all have tribulations they’re trying to overcome and you’re in the position to help them in order to earn their loyalty. This is a clever set up that allows the player to further their rapport with their virtual comrade. And they become truly that; a comrade. Nearing Mass Effect 2’s endgame, the very characters you’ve become so acquainted with are ultimately at risk.

Martin Sheen...er the Illusive Man likes to tell you how it is.

Humanity is on the brink of extinction and a race known only as the Reapers is systematically eliminating human colonies around the galaxy. This ancient threat lies beyond the Milky Way and the effort you’ve placed into gathering your team will be put to the test on the enemy’s doorstep. Yes; the team you’ve formulated and bonded with in 25+ hours is now putting their life on the line. Literally. Any of your team members can perish on this epic suicide mission. You will have to play to your squad’s strengths and you’re the one calling the shots.

Deciding who to bring and who you're willing to risk is only a small part of what makes Mass Effect 2 great.

Tough choices aplenty, the success of missions (and sentient life as we know it) weighs on the shoulders of the player him/herself. It’s quite daring of BioWare to have the players risk the very personalities that makes the game so rich. But it is this very design aesthetic that forces players into realizing what is on the line. It’s genuinely stirring to see a member of your party bite the dust. The ending to Mass Effect 2 is epic as epic can get and is worth the price of admission alone. Plus, the sum of your choices and the actions you’ve taken during the course of Mass Effect 2 will go on to affect the events of the sequel. Awesome. Simply awesome.

Remember that high-level, super-upgraded character you'd totally grab a beer with? Well he or she could die... sorry. Not to mention it would be your fault no less.

Mass Effect 2 cannot be praised enough. It improved upon everything that made the first Mass Effect great. It removed all the unnecessary contrivances that slowed down the first title and made it immensely playable. The explosive and frenetic combat easily compares to other third-person shooters and simultaneously maintains it’s RPG roots. Not only does it run smoothly and looks damn good, but the story and it’s characters are memorable and ranks among the best in 2010. It is a lengthy and deep adventure that will suck you into additional playthroughs. Bioware has created a sweeping sci-fi saga that not only elevates the Mass Effect franchise, but role-playing games in general. The experience is completely fueled by the player’s actions and in-actions. Hands down it is the complete package. Gone are the days of dice-rolls, inventory management, and number crunching. Bioware throws the middle finger at all those dated elements and allowed the experience to take over instead of statistical algorithms.

Mass Effect 2 is the harbinger of great things to come in the role-playing genre. BioWare boldly takes the action-RPG genre to new heights. Undeniably it is a gaming experience that shouldn’t be missed. Without a doubt, Game of the Year. Do yourself a favor and buy this game.

What I’ve Learned From Watching 24/7 Penguins/Capitals

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment


Are you watching HBO’s amazing 24/7 series? If not, shame on you.

HBO’s 24/7 series hyping the upcoming Winter Classic between the Penguins and Capitals is one of the best shows to watch on TV, period. Hockey is an interesting beast. Its violent, yet graceful; its brutal, yet subtle; its a beautiful mix of a chaos and strategy and I find myself falling in love with the sport. I am also a huge fan of HBO’s 24/7 series which originally started to hype boxing matches. Its a really cool concept, follow the team around on and off the ice to see what life is really like for athletes. You see players bonding with their teammates with pranks, soccer and team dinners. You see coaches in their offices religously going over game notes and tape. Its drama at its best.

Here a few things I’ve learn from watching 24/7 Penguins/Capitals

  • Bruce Boudreau says “Fuck” more than any human on the planet. Seriously. He even says in a sentence where it makes no sense. He also says it with a weird emphasis on the U. It comes out like Faw-huck-ing. Its pretty funny to hear.

NSFW unless your boss is Boudreau.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXkGJtY4A4E

  • Pen’s Coach Dan Bylsma, on the hand, is probably the nicest guy in the NHL. He comes off with this “Cool Dad” vibe, maybe its the glasses. He never screams but he uses a Dad voice to make sure his players listen. Adopt me Dan Bylsma, please.
  • Sidney Crosby is a decent human being. This painful to admit as a Flyers fan but this show is actually making Crosby somewhat interesting. His “stache” is awful but good lord is he an amazing hockey players, even a living legend at this point and he’s only what? 23? Insane. His cursing needs work though, maybe Boudreau can help him with that. Also, he has a lucky cup that he’s been wearing since he was 7.
  • NHL referees do not give a shit about people think about them. One of the cooler moments of the show is when they mic the refs and listen to them talk on the ice during scraps. They basically just let them guy nuts on each other until they get bored of the fight and break it up. Also, they like to kick back and drink beer after the games. It turns out, referees are people too.
  • NHL players are the toughest people in the world. Caps’ Mike Knuble’s mouth looks like a scrapyard after he SHATTERED his jaw. He sucked it up (probably through a straw) and only missed 3 games. Pen’s D-man Ben Lovejoy stopped a puck with his face and it swelled up like Elephant Man and he can say is “can you tell I got hit?”
  • Evgeni Malkin’s nickname is Geno and Mike Green drives a Vespa. D-bags.

I am rather excited for the Winter Classic even though the forecast says its going to be 50 degrees and rainy. More like Smarch weather if you ask me but who da thunk that Pittsburgh wouldn’t be freezing in the middle of winter. Damn Global Warming.

A Detailing of Hollywood’s Infatuation with Comic Books

December 20, 2010 1 comment

Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. X-Men. Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Captain America. Green Lantern. Thor. Fantastic Four…I could go on for ages. But do you know of Runaways? Iron Fist? Deadman? Fire? I pretty sure only the hardcore comic book enthusiast will have even heard of these books. Why bring this up? Because Hollywood has decided that comic book movie adaptations are the greatest things since sliced bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good superhero movie/movie based off of a comic book, but when does it become too much?

Superhero movies have been around for ages, but only recently has it become a major portion of all the movies being produced. It seems like now that movies are either comic book movies, remakes of old movies, normal book movies, or real life stories. Nothing original. But that’s besides the point. Comic book movies are huge, and I love some of them. The Dark Knight is my second favorite movie ever (mainly because of Heath Ledgers performance) and The Watchmen is pretty high up there for me too. I loved that book and I like Zack Snyder and felt he did a great job with it.

I’m getting off track. I really don’t have a problem with comic book movies in general, it’s just the multitude of them coming out. Now I didn’t expect Hollywood to stick with the mainstays like Batman and Superman; they’re old hat. I just want them to calm down on the number of movies coming out. Is it really necessary to have three Iron Man movies, three Captain America movies, at least one Thor movie, another possible Hulk movie, and three Avenger movies (which all four are a part of)? Do we really need the three X-Men movies plus the movies that are being developed for individual X-Men? Plus we have Dark Knight Rising, Green Lantern, Green Hornet, Cowboys and Aliens, Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass, et cetera.

Am I the only one who thinks this movie looks f***ing retarded?

This brings me to the biggest bone I have to pick: remaking superhero movies when they were just released not too long ago and constantly changing actors. I really started to get mad about this when I heard that they were rebooting the Spider-Man series. Really? Raimi and Maguire left the series after the third one so they couldn’t continue on, so maybe it was time to give the spider a rest for awhile instead of instantly rebooting the series. It’s too freaking soon! The reboot is planned to be released on July 3, 2012, a mere 5 years after Spider-Man 3. People are still going to remember him as the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man by that time. And then there is Superman. We all know that Superman Returns was sort of a flop, but to already get another reboot? That guys had more movies than any other Superhero ever, except maybe Batman. I’m not nearly as mad about this one though because Zack Snyder’s directing it, so this time around it’ll actually be good.

Another series is the Incredible Hulk. Can you guys just not get a good actor for that guy? They had Eric Bana in 2003, then REBOOTED the series with Edward Norton and changed the story. And now Norton’s been replaced with Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers movie and any possible sequels. That’s just terrible planning there boys. Same sort of deal happened with the Punisher. The Punisher with Thomas Jane came out in 2004 and then they rebooted the series in 2008 with The Punisher: War Zone with Ray Stevenson. I don’t know about you, but I really liked the first one and would have loved to have seen a sequel to that, but they just can’t seem to keep continuity in Hollywood. Another up for the reboot treatment is The Fantastic Four, and well…I can’t really argue with that one; those movies just plain sucked.

All I’m trying to say here is that Hollywood just needs to calm down a bit here. I love me some good-vs-evil comic book greatness, but too much is too much. Just take a step back Hollywood. Oh yeah, and if you want to see a list of just about every whisper of a rumor of a comic book movie ever, go to IGN’s Ultimate Comics-to-Film Guide. It’s full of everything nerdy.

…And for the record, I’m more of a DC fan. Marvel is good, I just like DC more.

2010 Game of the Year Nominees

December 15, 2010 3 comments

2010 was another great year for gaming. It was abundant in fresh and rich gaming experiences. Above all else; fun. Lets face it, gamers are a very difficult group to entertain. They can smell bullshit from a mile away and they’re not afraid of being vocal about how much a game sucks. If a gaming experience can’t hold our attention, then it has no place in our consoles/PCs, let alone our library. It will be ejected so it can be returned, sold, traded, trashed, or broken. However, the year is winding down and it’s time to look back at the games that ARE worthy of our attention and hard-earned cash. These are the quality games that have made me lose track of time and forced me into work the day after with bags under my eyes. In no particular order, I present to you my five nominees for Game of the Year.


Bayonetta – Yes, this game came out at the dawn of 2010 (January 5th) and is largely overlooked by the gaming community. Bayonetta is bursting from the seams with it’s Japanese sensibilities and it doesn’t let up. Over-the-top and unforgettable moments populate the disc. The makers of Viewtiful Joe crafted a satisfying and kinetic action game that is lengthy and a complete pleasure to play throughout. It’s elegant chaining system will have you racking up stylish combos and unloading lead with the utmost ease. The accessibility can please newbies and veterans of the action genre alike, ANYBODY can play this game. Sexy femme fatale? Check. Guns? Check. Sword? Check. Giant bosses? Giant check. Sexually ambiguous finishing moves? Uh…. check. Bayonetta is the natural evolution of the beat-em up genre that dominated 90’s gaming. Dante who?


Heavy Rain – David Cage is a man that can tell great stories. Quantic Dreams’ Heavy Rain is an excursion into the surreal. The characters are life-like and the tragedies that befall them are genuinely heart-breaking. It is the nuances of the human expression that are very seldom in gaming, but the digital actors convey subtleties that are often off target in other games. Heavy Rain’s cast isn’t filled with space marines or super heroes, but regular humans. The well-developed characters are so human that they can actually die. Not die as in, “Oh I’ll just start the level all over.” No. If any of them perish during the course of the game, they STAY dead. This makes their presence in the story all the more valuable and engrossing. They’re not demi-gods with regenerating health. They’re as mortal and fragile as you and I. You become attached to the characters as they come to grips with lost and redemption. However, the difficulty isn’t crippling. Non-gamers can even have their hand in enjoying everything Heavy Rain has to offer. The adventure genre is relatively dormant, but David Cage and his team at Quantic Dreams gave it a tear-jerking shot in the arm.


God of War 3 – Kratos is quite possibly the MOST pissed of character in the world of gaming. His fury and thirst for vengeance could not be contained in one or two installments. The third game debuted on the PS3, forcing bloodthirsty fans to wait an entire console generation to complete his story. Undeniably, it was worth the wait. This is one of those games that NEED to be played on an HD display. Blood has never been so beautiful, it is a drop-dead gorgeous piece of work from Sony Santa Monica. The staple God of War combat is still intact complete with the iconic mini-game finishers that started it all. Flawless pacing, CGI-quality visuals, and relentlessly climactic moments make this God of War entry unforgettable. Want blood and gore? Look no further. The epic ending serves as one of the most satisfying cherries on top. That’s all I’ll say.


Mass Effect 2 – You’ve got your RPG in with my shooter! What a wonderful union it is. Mass Effect 2’s intergalactic romp blurs the line between the shooting genre and role-playing games. No “dice-roll” shooting mechanic or long-winded dialogue trees *ahem* Fallout *ahem*. Bioware put out a very polished package. Bioware trimmed the fat off of the first Mass Effect title. The combat, the dialogue system, the variety in it’s gameplay are all tied into a cohesive experience. The galaxy couldn’t be any bigger. Each character you run into and interact with are all affected by your decisions and moral standing. Want to play Mr. Nice Guy and befriend everybody? Go for it. Want to be a douchebag and shove a gun in everyone’s faces before they can even talk? You got it. You call the shots, you make the decisions, you live with the consequences. And consequences there are…


Assasin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Ezio Auditore da Ferenze. His name NEEDS to be said in full. The newest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series came as a surprise. Many believed it was simply an expansion pack with a few additional hours of single player and a multiplayer suite. WRONG. It is a fully featured Assassin’s Creed experience that is much more robust than it’s predecessor in every way. Sure it’s the same engine from ACII, but it is vastly optimized and smooth as butter. It’s a damn beautiful rendition of renaissance Italy. The lengthy open-world gameplay is nearly flawless, liberating Rome is as addictive as ever, and shoving a blade (or two) in dude’s faces never EVER gets old. Throw in exceedingly varied missions, an improved combat system, along with the most engrossing story in the series yet and you’ve got a quality gaming experience that is well worth your money. Plus Nolan North voices in it! What else needs to be said? Requiesta de pache.

Come back next week when I reveal my 2010 Game of the Year!

2011 Is Going To be a Very Expensive Year For Me

December 12, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Holy.Crap.

That’s all I can really say about the new Mass Effect 3 trailer. What in the hell is going on? A lone soldier sniping a husk? London being overrun by Reapers? Shepard watching from the sky but then walking away?

 

WHAT THE WHAT?

 

Things I noticed:

The british accent of the soldier, possible new character?

London is burning, major plot point or just a passing mention?

So many reapers….

The Soldier comments on Shepard’s help, is he referring to Cerebus or the Alliance. Maybe Shepard is recruiting all the other races to help out. Krogans, Asari, Hanar, etc?

Shepard is watching from above  (maybe the Normandy?), then he walks away. Is he walking to get ready for combat? Is he walking away because he doesn’t care? Is walking to get it in on with Miranda/ Jack/ Tali’Zorah?

Also, what if your Shepard died in ME2? What Shepard are we looking at?

Gamer Geek Quote of the Week

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

You’re in a constant state of running, leaping across chasms, stomping on turtles and flying fish, beating this mysterious clock in the upper-right hand corner of the screen, swimming through an entire level on one breath, cramming yourself down (up?) claustrophobic pipes, surviving purely on the consumption of mushrooms and flowers, vanquishing fire-breathing reptilians in a seemingly endless castle – ALL WITHOUT BEING TOUCHED ONCE (or twice).

Only to run across the biggest “fuck you” in gaming… and this week’s quote of the week. Damn you Toad… damn you.

Speak With Conviction

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of doing things with gusto.  Maybe sometimes more gusto than is necessary.  But I still love doing things with all of my passion and heart.  Basically leaving it all out on the field, so to speak.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because something as simple as talking seemingly only is given maybe even 50% by some people, and I’ll explain.  I have a knack for picking up on speech tendencies, and one thing I absolutely hate is when people do not speak with conviction.  When people end statements with an upwards inflection as if to insinuate it’s a question is not only annoying, but it’s not credible.  I remember in speech class, my professor would absolutely rag on everyone who threw an upwards inflection at the end of their sentences.  I kept it in the back of my mind…

“Speak with conviction.”

I mean, there’s a reason there are two separate punctuation marks for statements and questions.  If you want to tell me global warming has to deal with a lot of issues that are a part of today’s society, don’t ask me.  TELL me.  Keep it in the back of your mind.  Speak with conviction.  It just seems sad that people don’t care.

Obviously, I’m not expecting everyone to be super public-speaker, but come on.

I think this mostly comes into play when we talk about sports talk radio.  I always tell the sports broadcasting campers that they should always speak in statements.  If callers perceive a weakness in your inflection, you’re done for.  If you notice, the hosts seem to jump on the caller when they aren’t on their game, and they slip up with a half-assed statement.  It’s the same idea.  It’s perceived as a weakness that people can exploit.  I almost feel like, every time it happens, I should ask…”is that right?”

I feel like, not only with prepared speeches, but impromptu speeches, the conviction has to be there.  I just feel kinda angry sometimes when I hear sure-minded people just trip over the fact that they may not be right.  People won’t question a question.  If it sounds convincing, people will buy it.

I’m just sayin’.

Categories: Random Thoughts