Thursday, September 22, 2011

In a move that is being called a coincidence, but is totally not a coincidence Marvel is rebooting their Ultimate Universe at around the same time DC is rebooting their entire line of comics. Of course there are some changeups in the world, but the most stupid, lazy and just plain moronic change is that there is a new Ultimate Wolverine. It is Wolverine’s son, he has the same powers but he also has organic metal on his claws and skeleton.
 
This is one of the stupidest moves I have ever seen in a comic book. period. But Michael, you ask, what about the new Spider-Man, he is now a half hispanic/half black kid that has nothing to do with Peter Parker? Yes that is stupid, yes that makes no sense canon wise, but at least I understand why they did it. It is a pathetically obvious ploy to garner media attention by doing something so ‘outrageous’ as to have an ethnic Spider-man. But Marvel, if you want to have a strong ethnic character why not actually pay homage to the dozens you already have? Make Luke Cage a game changing character, or Cloak, or Forge, or Deathlok (love Deathlok), or Bishop, or any of the others you could choose from.
No my nerd rage over the new Spider-Man is different, it is a rage against the stupidity of suits in a company who think up stuff like this simply to garner press. My nerd rage over the new Ultimate Wolverine is due to the fact that the move is pointless and simply lazy. There is no need for a new Wolverine, no one would step into that characters shoes, nor does the world need it.

In the case of other fallen heroes there is a need for a replacement. When Superman died four replacements stepped up to fill his red boots. Superman is an icon, a symbol and a beacon of hope for the world. There was a void when he disappeared that had to be filled. Captain America is much the same. When he quit being Captain America due to differences in policy they needed a replacement because he is a symbol to America and one that is needed for the people. When his replacement did not do the uniform justice they made a deal and Steve Rogers came back. When he died much the same happened, Bucky/Winter Soldier had to step in, the world NEEDS Captain America.
In a same but different way when Batman had his back broken (and when he died) a new Batman needed to take his place. First Azrael took his place during Knightfall and then Dick Grayson when he died. He is not as much a symbol of hope, but a symbol of justice in a place that has none. Gotham city needs Batman and the world needs his realistic approach to crimefighting. There is grey in the world and the Batman recognizes that.
In the case of the Ultimate Wolverine, I am sure he will be back as there is still an arm left from him (and he can regenerate every part of himself) when he was vaporized (long story). But in the meantime we have his son Jimmy Hudson who has Wolverine’s powers of regeneration, has claws but also organic metal that coats then and his bones. makes me think that perhaps Colossus joined in and donated his sperm to this weird kid? Frankly this is just plain infuriating. Wolverine is not an icon, he is not a hero, he tried to kill cyclops for a girl, he betrayed his friends numerous times and is a dick. The world does not need a Wolverine like it needs a Captain America or Superman. This new Wolverine serves no purpose and him assuming his fathers mantle is a lazy and amateurish move by Marvel.
This new ‘Wolverine’ dons his father’s identity, but for what reason? There is no unfinished legacy, there is no iconic purpose, in fact it serves to hinder him. Much like the new Batman’s and Captain Americas people will wonder why he is different. But unlike those replacements of fallen icons he has really no reason for doing it. He doesn’t have Wolverine’s history, his anger, his long years of wisdom. He is just a kid with imitation powers and he is there for no reason, plus he looks like a neutered wolverine (see picture at top again). Please Marvel, kill off this kid, have the real Wolverine regenerate and return quickly and never, ever do this again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

So my son is a big fan of Lego and Transformers right now and he astounded me with his latest creation. He loved Laserbeak in the new Transformers movie and decided to look up the original Transformer to see what it was like:

















He was determined to make his own version, and out of Lego at that. I couldn't believe it as it took form, but he made one that transforms between the retro cassette version:
















And a fully articulating Vulture version. The wings rotate, neck moves up and down, even the legs move. If I recall it is probably more movable then the original G1 Transformer!
















He is also making a Soundwave, can't wait to see how that one goes!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mass Effect is one of the best game series out there with Mass Effect 2 being one of the best games I have ever played (3 times). The game boasts stellar visuals, amazing gameplay, engaging characters and a main protagonist that is very nearly perfect. Especially because you can make that character your own by customizing the look with a robust creation editor within the games.

The main character is named Commander Shepard and in all of my playthroughs I create a female Shepard or FemShep as the internet has called it lately. In my mind (as a man who likes looking at attractive women) I wanted to look at a female for my 30-40 hour experiences with the character. She is a phenomenal character because she is battle hardened, reacts in amazing ways to adversity and the voice acting by Jennifer Hale is spot on. My Commander Shepard kept her scars from the rebuild process in Mass Effect 2, had a fairly angular face and shoulder length dark red hair. She also wore understated lipstick and some eye makeup. My thought was that, yes she is a tough as nails commander, fights giant aliens with her bare fists (seriously), but she is also a passionate person. She pursues relationships because she has no fear of death, embraces life and wants to look and feel attractive when she can because she chooses to.

















Take me for example, I am a male who takes care of himself. I try to stay in shape, wear nice clothes have well groomed hair and goatee, that is me. I will take the time to make sure I look OK before I leave for work, who is to say Commander Shepard doesn’t as well? Many people seem to have a different opinion based on the backlash after Bioware decided to have a vote for the ‘official’ look of the female Commander Shepard. See for Mass Effect 3 Bioware has decided that the Female Shepard will finally be officially promoted in commercials and on the collector’s edition box. And like any business minded company they wanted media attention so they had a vote for the look of Female Shepard. Frankly I wasn’t Keen on any of them (because they don’t look like mine!), but if I had to choose it would be these two:

















Instead the unwashed Masses (harhar), chose FemShep 5 who is blonde, pretty and hated by many in the gaming world:

















While I would not have chosen this model as it is not my visual ideal for Commander Shepard (where are her scars dammit!) I certainly don’t despise it for some of the reasons the internet does. ‘She looks more like someone who would do her nails instead of saving the galaxy’ ‘Being blonde there is no way she could command a team’ ‘it looks like a wind can blow her over, she looks stupid’ and many other similar thoughts echo around this decision.

Hey Internet! Just because a woman is blonde doesn’t make her stupid, Just because a woman is attractive do not assume she is not capable, and for God’s sakes assuming a female Shepard is dumb because women couldn’t save the galaxy just makes you a waste of air. The character of Commander Shepard will not change because she is represented by a pretty blonde, her voice and actions will remain the same and she will kick ass just like Ellen Ripley did many times, in fact I would place my Commander Shepard above any female heroine out there any day...case in point see the fist fight at 5:20 and later in this video:



It is pretty fantastic that Bioware is going to feature an official Female Shepard in the media for Mass Effect 3. They tried to do it in a way that the public chooses the face of the FemShep and the Internet chose FemShep 5. Maybe it was non Mass Effect fans, maybe it was and they wanted a blonde, either way I think it is great that there will be a female line of ads. And to all the outraged kids out there who are furious that their beloved franchise will be tainted by this ‘blonde bimbo’ Shepard I have to ask why you are angry? It must be the ingrained superiority complex that the anonymity of the Internet gives to certain people because at the end of the day I am sure you will do one of three things:

1 – Import your Commander Shepard from the past two games (I will)
2 – Create your own Commander Shepard variant
3 – Use the male version of Shepard (as apparently 87% of players did) and it is a moot point cause you like generic looking male soldier characters.

So stop whining, get over it and when the kick ass ads with a possibly blond but still very determined, deadly and dangerous FemShep appear be prepared to eat your complaints.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Watching this made me cry from delight and happiness, I truly love Harrison Ford again. 'Daniel Craig is my Wookie bitch now'

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wow, I haven't posted an update to this blog since May? For shame! Today's long overdue post is about the band Metric, specifically lead singer Emily Haines.

I am a huge fan of Metric and actually found them in a very weird way, through a Crystal Method album. On their last major release, Divided by Night, one of the standout songs was called 'Come Back Clean' the music was by Crystal Method but the haunting vocals were performed by Emily Haines. I was floored by her voice and wanted to find out more about her.



Turns out she was in a band called Metric as well as having released a solo album called Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton. I bought all the Metric albums I could find, watched videos and fell head over heels fanboy infatuated with Emily Haines.





I have seen them live now twice. My first time was last year at Bluesfest, saw them again yesterday and despite it being a short show and off to a rough start it was a great show. By chance the final act of the night (My Morning jacket) were not terribly good so we left early and saw a crowd gathered at the stage where Metric had played. Rushing over we saw Emily and Band were signing autographs. I was able to get my ticket signed, get some nice closeup pictures of my Emily Haines and have a quick conversation with her about her performance and last years better timeslot. I was in fanboy heaven, very nice surprise at Bluesfest this year:




Friday, May 20, 2011

It’s always interesting writing a Kijiji ad for anything. I finally got a new Xbox 360 after my last one RROD 6 or so months ago, the newish 4GB slim was on a 70 dollar off sale and I figured what the hell. The big benefit is that the new model has built in wireless which meant I no longer needed the wireless adaptor I had for my original x360. So off I went and created the ad to sell this still viable piece of hardware:



That is when all the amazing responses start coming in, responses like:

‘can u deliver’
‘i have 35 dollar firm you call negotiate’

Then a decent response that went nowhere:

‘I am interested in buying this from you. Thank you please email me back.’

Then more idiocy:
‘is price firm’ (Jesus fuck, the ad says FIRM moron)
‘interested but need it drooped off’

Normally I ignore the stupid questions, but this last one finally got my goat:

‘do you want trade your adaptor for my ps3 game’

Graaaahhhhhhhhhh! I had no choise I had to reply:

'Hi there, normally I don't reply to silly questions like this, but I just can't help it:

Did no one teach you proper etiquette when communicating with people? Start with "Hi there, I have a question", or "I saw your ad and have a question" You come off as rude and immature in this reply. As far as I know they teach grammar and punctuation in elementary school. Remember, capital letters and periods are your friends. Oh and if you read it the ad is offering an Xbox 360 component for $40 firm and you offer a PS3 game? One that you don't even give me the title of?

The answer is a firm no, and I hope you read this reply and realize that you need to read before answering and answer with at least a little courtesy and knowledge. Being 13 (I am guessing your age based on your e-mail address) is no excuse for asking for something without using proper tone and language.

I am sure this note will make you want to reply in anger, but I hope you don't and think about what it means to properly communicate with people. Look at the ad, it is clear, concise and friendly, your reply is none of these things.'

Bottom line, people are idiots, oh and I know my reply is far from perfect, there are grammatical, tone and placement mistakes, but that is not the point.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An open letter to Sony that I sent to Sony Media, Jack Tretton and Patrick Seybold:

Hello, I hope that you will read my e-mail and comment back or at least forward it to a group that can address my concerns.

First off I do appreciate that Sony is giving something away as an apology for the severe outage sustained last month. What I do not appreciate is that the welcome back program is obviously targeted to casual PlayStation users instead of the loyal or hardcore fans like myself.

People like me who buy all cross Platform games on the PS3 even though I have an Xbox 360
People like me who buy all exclusives day one, games like infamous, LittleBigPlanet, Wipeout, Dead Nation and SuperStardust
People like me who can show you a games list that is over 80 strong
People like me who get absolutely nothing from your Welcome Back package.

I can plainly see that Sony felt it was better to please it’s casual fan base then the diehard Sony fans like myself. Once again I naively felt Sony would look at rewarding it’s most loyal fans. I was naively hoping for an open reward program, not a program that means nothing to people who truly believed in the PlayStation brand and supported it with their hard earned money like I did. I naively hoped that we could choose our own reward, receive PSN credits, choose DLC, anything except a closed list.

I would greatly appreciate hearing back from someone letting me know how the hardcore fans of the PlayStation family are being welcomed back, because this list only gives my own leftovers back to me.

Regards,

Michael Prince

Monday, May 02, 2011

For those with an iPhone (or iPad) Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP is one of the coolest and most visually striking, and sounding, games on the platform. A true arthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifistic genius took the look of the game and applied it to Star Wars and the results are magical:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This blog post is a bit of a rant. I am no angel, I have pirated in the past and I will pirate in the future, but this uproar over Sony's treatment and pursuit of Geohot in the PS3 hacking case is driving me crazy and not for the reasons everyone else has.

Geohot is a douchebag, he is not a douchebag because of his anti-sony rap (though it helped), nor is he a douchebag for trying to hack the PS3 for knowledge's sake. He is a douchebag because he publicly released and bragged about his hack of the PS3, but then said, hey don't use this to pirate the PS3 cause that would be wrong!

Sony realized that this is a huge vulnerability and tried to stop it, but Geohot kept the data up about the hack and how to do it. Sony needs to protect their device so they sued him and issued a cease and desist. Since then a few things have happened:

-Geohot begged for money to fight big bad Sony - he got enough to hire a number of lawyers
-Sony subpoenaed the visitors at Geohots site and his computer contents - everyone shouted that Sony is evil
-Sony is now getting access to Geohots paypal contributions - everyone is shouting that Sony is evil

Ok, everyone needs to actually think about this. The PS3 is now compromised by this hack and people are using it to pirate games and cheat in multiplayer matches. Barely anyone is in fact using it for 'homebrew' and installing the Linux OS because of course millions of users legitimately only want to do that.

As to Sony's looking into Geohots paypal, computer and site visitors? Gee, maybe Sony is actually trying to prove how many of his visitors donated, looked at the hack and then pirated games? Maybe they are actually trying to demonstrate how his public bragging of this hack has actually harmed the multiplayer community? Caused rampant piracy?

Everyone seems to think that Geohot is an innocent in this, in fact he is not. He wanted infamy, he wanted to break the PS3 open and share it for good and ill and he needs to answer for these actions. I don't think he should be put in jail or fined a hojillion dollars, but a lesson should be given to this little puke.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

With PAX East coming up soon I have been in big time hype mode. Reeving media contacts from the show, setting up interviews, and planning the events I am going to visit. It also made me decide to go back and look at last years coverage and in particular my favorite part of the show, my interview with the folks from Naughty Dog.

This was a major highlight for me for a few of reasons. First Naughty Dog is one of the best developers in the business and the Uncharted games are some of my favorite of all time. Second the guys were gracious and a great group of people, giving me the interview chance because I couldn't make it into their filled to capacity panel. Third the interview went amazingly well, it was an organic and fun roundtable discussion on everything from multiplayer, to design secrets and the talent involved in the game.

This is well worth a listen (again) and shows the passion these guys have for the game and the industry.



PAX East 2010: Naughty Dog Interview

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sony NGP is Drool Worthy

OK, I kind of take back what I said about Sony being stupid. I still think they should have teased the PSP2 or Next Generation Portable prior to the press conference but by God is this machine delicious!

Specs first:

  • CPU: ARM® Cortex™-A9 core (4 core)
  • GPU: SGX543MP4+
  • External Dimensions: Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)
  • Rear touch pad: Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
  • Cameras: Front camera, Rear camera
  • Sound: Built-in stereo speakers, Built-in microphone
  • Sensors: Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass
  • Location: Built-in GPS, Wi-Fi location service support
  • Keys / Switches: PS button, Power button, Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left), Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square), Shoulder buttons (Right/Left), Right stick, Left stick, START button, SELECT button, Volume buttons
  • Wireless communications: Mobile network connectivity (3G), IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode), Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)

There is a whole lot of Sexy in that list like the proper Wireless-N, the sixaxis gyroscope and accelerometer and three axis electronic compass, the GPS and rear touch pad. The biggest addition is the two analog sticks (!) this will enable proper full console like games to a handheld for the first time.

The other inmortant bits (and boy are they important) should be discussed with glorious pictures:

OK, the first look is at the front and is she ever sexy. Of note as mentioned are the TWO analog sticks, and I say sticks because by all reports they are not the painful nubs we are used to from the PSP but instead slightly smaller DualShock quality sticks. Other cool things are the PS, select and start buttons are on the sides (instead of bottom) and the front camera (!) A facetime style app and plenty of interactive technology becomes possible.

The screen deserves a lot of attention, it is a capacitive (read touchscreen) OLED screen weighing in at 5-inches and a resolution of 960 x 544. OLED is bright, has great viewing angles and uses much less power then a typical LED display. The touchscreen brings the ability not just for innovative NGP specific games but also all the great iPhone/iPad games from the past couple of years.


What can you say about the back of the NGP except WOW and wonder what may be possible. What you see is a multitouch, err, touchpad that from reports is comfortable and easy to interact with. Picture holding the NGP using the analog sticks to navigate, the two (much better) designed shoulder buttons to interact and the touchpad for additional control. The possibilities are amazing and a game already uses them in a neat way. In Little Deviants the environment is manipulated by where you touch on the rear touchpad.. As it is as large as the screen you can control the entire display surface. A rear (presumably higher resolution) camera is in the mix enabling augmented reality options as well as standard picture taking.

The Bottom of the NGP is fairly standard with no surprises at all aside from the fact that I could be wrong but that does not look like a mini USB port as seen on the PSP. Not sure what the little hole next to it and the seemingly removable tab to the right is. I do like the grips they have seemed to build in the bottom of the NGP. Every aspect of the design seems to take comfort and usability into account.



The top is more exciting, we can see the better designed shoulder buttons (with indents behind them) as well as the new buttons. The buttons for Power and volume are just that, buttons. They remind me of cell phone buttons but does raise a question, what about standby/sleep mode? On the PSP you could move the slider to standby or off, here there is just power. Hopefully there is a standby mode accessible via the PS button? Maybe a 3DS style suspend mode?

This view also give a good look at the analog stick profile. Just looking at the image lets you know these are superior to the nub on the PSP.

So there you have it, the NGP is crazy spec and feature wise and has all the capabilities anyone could want. Already games like uncharted, Call of Duty and Killzone are getting the NGP treatment and with the ability to generate so many tactile experiences the games on this device can be outstanding. It is supposed to launch by the end of the year and I cannot wait for more information.

It is also worth noting that Sony will release games both on flash cards (brilliant and something I have been asking for) as well as digitally. If they can swing a proper 'app' store like iTunes this could be huge. The lack of a disk drive will greatly improve load times as well as battery life (which should be equal to the PSP).

Here's hoping they will have some at PAX East to try come march!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I am convinced that Sony is inherently stupid.

The PlayStation brand is an incredibly strong one but they completely mishandled it in the launch of the PlayStation 3 years ago. They entered the current generation market with an arrogance that was built on the market dominance of the PlayStation 2 but mishandled nearly every aspect:

-Horrible development policies and a machine that while powerful was incredibly difficult to develop for
-Senior people saying you are basically stupid if you don't buy it and that it is worth any price (I agree but the message was delivered horribly).
-Fairly weak launch lineup with few games that convinced people to spend 500 dollars for the console.
-A non-existent online strategy with no release games and weak multiplayer potentially as compared to the robust Xbox Live experience.

I could talk about many more aspects that failed (including the recent and mishandled PlayStation Move launch) but instead I want to focus on some unreleased hardware that Sony is missing the boat on.

In the pipe at Sony there is definitely a PlayStation Phone and a PlayStation Portable 2. Despite the fact that developers have said they have PSP2's and dev kits and there ARE VIDEOS OF PEOPLE WITH THE PLAYSTATION PHONE Sony has not said a word to anyone publicly. Even during the recent GDC summit while videos were being released of the PlayStation Phone being played with and torn apart Sony at their Keynote said nothing except that they are leveraging their PlayStation knowledge in all aspects of their business.

Why the hell would Sony not drop hints, or a coming soon or anything? People are so excited to hear about these devices and Sony would be regarded in an amazing light if they came out with any hints. Instead they are going to wait until tomorrow and supposedly reveal the handhelds at a Sony Press conference in Japan. The press conference will probably be glossy, show trends and sales numbers and be very formal.

What would have been cool and pull them away from the arrogant stuffy image they are cultivating despite the awesomeness that is Kevin Butler would be silent reveals. At recent events have Howard Stringer or Kaz Hirai walk out playing with the device and put it down. When asked, hold it up and say 'Oh this little thing? Hmm, we'll talk about that later' Or have prominent players spotted with them. Sony shoudl embrace the fact that the world knows and play tongue and cheek games with the press and the world.

Instead Sony is arrogant and stupid and will wait for glossy over done press conferences to the tell the world what they already know.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I had an EBgames gift card and when I was making a pre-order I saw the recent game Singularity reduced to 10 dollars. I had heard mixed things about the game but for 10 dollars (and just enough left on my card) I figured why the heck not.

I found myself with a few hours free and dug into the game. The premise of Singularity centers around a new material called E-99 that was found in the 50’s era USSR area and experimented upon. The material was found on an island and a research base was founded there and shuttered after a huge E-99 related explosion killed everyone. You are an American soldier on a black op to investigate weird satellite interference centered on the island.

Once you land you discover that the island is devastated but still carries some secrets. E-99 has practical temporal related applications and an aftereffect of the explosion rips you through time to the 1950’s where you stumble upon and save a military scientist named Demichev on the island. This scientist was an amoral and ambitious co-lead on the E-99 research and by saving him from his fate you change history. When you return to the present the world has changed and Russia, using E-99 tech, has become the ruler of the world’s government under the rule of Demichev.

The game proper has you trying to restore the balance with the help of the main E-99 scientist and a device called the Time Manipulation Device (TMD) that straps to your wrist. The TMD allows you to age and renew objects that are imbued with E-99 as well as age organics as well. Over the course of the game you can get upgrades that add other abilities like a zero gravity, time bubble and other feats. The game is quite good across the board.

Story

This is a time related game and obviously can get very convoluted especially as there are a few points that you go back to 1955 and perform some objectives. Thankfully the story is very linerally given to you as you frantically move from area to area. The story itself is solid though, you are faced with a world ruled by a sadistic Russian dictator who instead of promoting a unified peace continues to pursue unlimited power. Meeting up with the other scientist (Borislov) you are tasked with destroying the facility before the technology is used for war and restoring the timeline. On the way you meet a freedom fighter named Kathryn who works with a group called Mir-13 and she assists you on your way. Kathryn is killed during a mission and you and Barislov continue your plan alone.

The game gives you one choice late in the game but aside from that your hand is held through the whole game which is a bit of a shame. A bit more options or the ability to impact or alternate the story slightly earlier in the game would have been nice. But that being said the story was engaging and I quite liked the ending I received which throws you on your heels a bit and has some neat tweaks over a scene from earlier in the game.

Graphics

This is an Unreal powered game and while it is not Uncharted 2 or Mass Effect level of beautiful it is a pretty great looking game. The real shocker is how stable the game is. I played it on the PS3, which usually suffers when the Unreal engine is used, and it was rock solid with none of the tearing and draw-in problems I have seen in other games.

The look of the game is not terribly original with military installations, forest areas and villages being the norm in this game. But the look of the enemies and environments are quite well done and actually has a neat look many of the times. The temporal effects of aging and renewing objects is very cool and well done as is all of the weapon effects. It is very cool to see a damaged bridge or decayed box and rebuild it (basically you are rolling back the clock on the object) so you can cross or open the box. There are a lot of little touches like faded blackboards you can renew or odd light filters when time is distorting. The game was a pleasant surprise graphically and the Russian themed look was quite well done.

Gameplay

The temporal related disaster created mutated creatures that phase in and out of time and Demichev has sent soldiers to harass and stop you. These forces battle each other and are well represented and very aggressive in attacking you. The game frequently closes the door behind you when you enter an area which forces you to keep battling head on instead of retreating and taking your time. You are given a series of weapons and the TMD’s various functions and you are off to the races.

The gameplay is run and gun refined with a twist. The weapons are pretty generic but capable, you can equip 2 at a time which does limit your choices. Thankfully the developer (Raven) stole some components from Dead Space, namely the weapon customization and TMD customization. In fact it looks like they lifted it wholesale from Dead Space right down to the expanding machine as you activate it and the holographic display. These weapon lockers let you equip any of the weapons anytime you interact with the locker. You can also upgrade the weapons but that needs weapon tech which is hard to come by (like nodes in Dead Space).

The TMD can also be upgraded and you can buy a number of perks from your TMD or skillset as you progress as well. This adds a nice mix to the fairly generic weapon loadout and something to encourage you to find all scattered E-99 tech. The TMD is neat to use if somewhat hamstrung; imagine if you had the command of time itself? Well the game does and limits when and how you can use it. You can age any enemies as well as mess up the temporal creatures but this drains energy from the device so it is not unlimited. Scattered objects can be renewed or aged but not the entire game world. It adds an artificial limit to the freedom the device should have, but on the flipside the game needs to be challenging and directed, limiting the abilities is a way for that to happen.

The game starts challenging, but as you progress and especially at the end when the TMD does not consume energy anymore (unlimited aging and renews) the game becomes VERY easy. I breezed through many areas and died very few times as I played through. This does make Singularity move at a brisk pace, but a harder challenge would have been appreciated. I am restarting in the now unlocked harder difficulties and it makes a true difference.

Despite being a fun, well written and good looking game Singularity failed miserably, hence the price cut to 10 dollars after only 6 months on the market. It failed not because of the game itself but mainly because of the publisher Activision doing nothing to market the game. They knew this would not be a Call of Duty as it did not have the mainstream appeal or brand they seemingly left it to die.

Aside from a few magazine ads the game was nowhere to be seen when it was released and it is a shame because Raven is a talented developer and the game clearly had care and attention poured into it. I am not saying it is an instant classic or game of the year contender, but it is a solid and enjoyable shooter with a twist that deserved a chance that Activision never gave it. At 10 bucks it was a great 7 or so hours and I recommend people grab it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


What you see above this text is the first 'official' picture of the X-Men: First Class cast in costume. Left to right, we see: Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, January Jones as Emma Frost, Jason Flemyng as Azazel, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Lucas Till as Havoc, Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier.

I have major fucking issues with what I see in this image. I understand that making a comic book movie property involves many groups who know nothing about comics but this is fucking ridiculous. Not everything is wrong, but what is spits in the face of the parts they did get right:

From Left to Right -
-Alright, this is set in the 60's which would place Magneto in his young 30's, Fassbender fits this bill and I like his look.
-Moira is an old love interest of Charles Xavier, so she looks just fine as well. She is appropriate to the stryline as well because she has always worked towards mutant rights.
-God help me I love January Jones (super sexy) but the Hellfire club is not appropriate to the timeline and she is not right for the cold as ice Emma Frost. Plus she would be a toddler at the time Xavier and Magneto were starting out.
-Azazel? Azazel? What was he in, like one X-men comic? Who the hell picked this guy as a viable mutant in this movie and era? So many better choices.
-Beast and Havoc, dear God why? Havoc is Cyclops brother and WAS NEVER PART OF THE ORIGINAL X-Men. He came about years later as a hero. Beast at least was part of the original X-men BUT this story is based in the 60's when Xavier and Magneto were young, Beast would not have been here.
-Angel Salvadore??? I had to look her up because she is more of a nobody then Azazel is. There are perhaps 30 active, viable and recognizable X-men over the years and they choose her? Why not Jubilee if they are this stupid?
-Sigh Mystique? Really? At least she could be older then she appears and this could work. But the real Mystique was always a later generation character introduced as Rogue adoptive mother (really). She could fit but is suspect.
-I like James McAvoy, as long as he can hide his accent I think he could make a great Xavier, plus Xavier is younger then Magneto so his age works.

This simple poster shows exactly what is wrong with the handling of the X-men franchise. The issues started in X-men 2 with Legion being Strykers son and got worse and worse till the disaster that was X-men Origins: Wolverine. The studio needs to step out and people who know the X-men as they are and have been need to guide the ship or at least have a director that will not bow or doesn't need to bow to studio pressure.

Blech....

In other news this woman is playing Catwoman in the Dark Knight Rises, what a disaster...

Friday, January 14, 2011

So there is a new Spider-Man movie coming out and it is a reboot of the franchise. I don't even want to talk about that. I understand the need to start fresh with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire out of the picture, but I have to discuss the sheer awfulness that is this reveal of the new costume:


Let's dissect shall we?

-First what is with the look of the actor? Did we not learn that an Emo Spider-man/Peter Parker is bad? The kid (and no offense to him) looks like he stepped out of Team Jacob's camp after Twilight stopped filming
-The suit is all wrong starting with the logo, what is that squiggle on his chest?
-Without a belt it looks just wrong, there is no flow from the top of th suit to the bottom.
-The material makes it look like those Fantastic Four outfits, it is all wrong and looks cheap and not what you would expect from Spider-Man
-No webbing design on the suit at all? Even the top portion looks wrong.

I can't state enough how much I hate the design. Look through every iteration of Spider-Man and this costume just doesn't jive. The original movies were a little different simply because the skintight cloth idea would not work, but it always LOOKED like Spider-Man, this looks like a knock off, a B-movie alternative and gives me little hope.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Well it is a new year and there are a ton of new games on the horizon. I am playing a weird montage of games right now as I await some new releases.

Batman – Arkham Asylum – I played this and finished it in 2009 and had an urge to replay. This is an amazing game and playing it in hard takes a deliberate skill that is surprising me. Great stealth play, amazing gadgets, and collectibles I love to search for and combat that is fun and challenging (and still the only game that does group combat well).


Final Fantasy XII – Right at the end, about to fight Behemoth but want to finish a number of hunts for swag and some sheer grinding. I may be able to beat Behemoth now but want to enjoy the world for a bit longer.

Final Fantasy XIII – Still digging into this but having an issue putting serious time into it, I am probably about 80% done, so will work through it. The game is ‘open’ now and I can engage in hunts/missions as I explore but playing it in line with Final Fantasy XII makes me realize how much they gimped the series.

Resident Evil 4 – Never finished this but I am near the end and enjoying jumping back into the game. After Resident Evil 2 this is the best in the series in my humble opinion. Graphics look amazing upscaled with PS3 and gameplay is solid and really enjoyable.


Champions of Norrath – The pinnacle of the action dungeon crawls in my opinion. The gameplay, story, characters and world are top notch and the action is hella fun. Wish I was playing with a friend (I ran through Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance three times with a buddy).

As I dig into these classics I await some new games that will (hopefully) grab me and not let go till I finish them.

Dead Space 2 – I absolutely loved the original. The visual style, gameplay, story and especially the audio were amazing and a breath of fresh air from EA. The sequel is bigger in scope and if the demo is any indication just as creepy and immersive. This comes out late January.


Bulletstorm – This Epic directed/People can Fly developed crazy as hell shooter has had me excited for a while. Skillshots are the name of the game with kills executed in zany ways awarding points and prestige. It looks batshit crazy and I can’t wait. Bulletstorm hits late February.

Killzone 3 – I loved the look and methodical pace of Killzone 2. I really felt like I was in a huge war and the game was a pinnacle in shooters on the PS3. Killzone 3 looks even better and could be the thing that inspires me to get a Move controller. This more serious shooter arrives late February as well

Dragon Age 2 – I loved Dragon Age: Origins at first. Then Mass Effect 2 was released and I saw what Bioware could REALLY do graphically and gameplay wise. Dragon Age 2 is a tighter narrative, has overhauled graphics and employs a Mass Effect style dialogue scheme. Sounds like a winner and it is the only new game coming out I have pre-ordered.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Microsoft proudly announced at CES that they sold 8 million Kinects, Sony will soon lie about selling (shipping) a bunch more Move units, I just can’t care about either product. Both technologies are great in their own ways but as a launch and a new innovation it is a completely wasted effort.

The big issue with each technology is the installed user base of the consoles themselves. There are 51.2 million Xbox 360’s and 42.6 million PS3’s in homes around the world. This means that if you are developing a big AAA game for either platform you will automatically choose to make it console native (instead of Move or Kinect native). Why would you spend 20, 30 or even 40 million dollars developing a game that only a 6th or less of your installed base can play? The logistics don’t work and it means we will never see a triple A Kinect game, but we might see a Move one.


Why the Move? Well Kinect is a unique beast, you generally need to stand, there is no controller and it is pretty hard to transition from a controller based segment to a Kinect based segment in a game without awkwardness and destroying the pace/fun. Move on the other hand has a physical controller, you could easily, as demonstrated by Killzone 3, have a great triple A experience using Move. The development costs to add Move support are minimal as well which makes adding Move functionality quite simple and if it is not used, well it does not harm the game. Kinect games will generally need to be Kinect games only and that will scare some developers away.


The other issue is the install base. These are the people who bought Wii Fit and put it under their bed to collect dust. The Ellen and Oprah segments on the Kinect were great advertising but this is not the Xbox 360’s demographic, these are middle aged women who do not play video games. They will buy it because Oprah said it is the second coming of Christ but then they will never use it. Their kids will want to play Gears of War or Black Ops on the console instead and will never use the Kinect functionality.


The Move on the other hand was miserably promoted and packaged. There was basically no advertising aside from traditional web commercials and sporadic billboards/paper ads. No mass market attention was devoted to this product. Geek culture knew about it, but the ‘Wii Generation’ did not. There is no bundle for someone who already has the camera and if you want to use it with 2-3 players it becomes very expensive very quickly. Without a great brand awareness campaign only the hardcore are buying and that is OK, but not a way to get mass market attention to a product that could integrate with the core console experience a lot better than the Kinect can.


Move and Kinect implementation in the UI of the systems is also suspect. It is cool but more effort to use motion to control your console. The voice aspects are interesting but the UI was modified to use it and not built to which causes some issues with missing commands or a clunky design. I have spoken to people who used the Kinect motion and voice controls to navigate the dashboard and movies and after a few times they stopped. Why would you hold your hand up for a few seconds when you can click a button instead? The PS move is very precise but clunky as a UI tool on the PlayStations XMB dashboard. You need to hold a button and move around with a pointer essentially. Not terribly enjoyable way to browse the XMB when a controller is handy.


Bottom line there will be no Triple A gotta have it games on these platforms exclusively. The Move will have functionality in a lot of large titles, but ground up Kinect and Move games will generally be casual and smaller experience type games which is a shame because both techs have some great features. The better move would have been to wait and integrate these into the PS4 and X720 (or whatever they call it). I understand that the brand awareness now will help this integration a few years when it happens, but the revolution may well stall and die before it’s time. Plus everyone looks like a knob playing them and the Kinect marketing pics are some of the fakest family featured ones I have ever seen.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

If you want definitive proof on how badly Square Enix screwed up Final Fantasy XIII look no further then Final Fantasy XII for the answer. Final Fantasy XII was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it is far, far superior to FF XIII in nearly many ways and demonstrates the huge step backwards Square Enix made in the series. Let’s break it down shall we?

Character design - FF XII– While Vaan isn’t the most appealing character he has a boyish charm that comes through. He wants to be a sky pirate and once he sees the life and the horrors of the world he realizes it isn’t glamour and thrills only. Vaan works in this game because he suits the world and the mythos. But in Final Fantasy many times the best characters are the other party members in this case it is especially true. Balthier, Fran and Basch are some of the best games in the Final Fantasy series, especially Balthier. This is Errol Flynn in digital form, he is arrogant, capable, charismatic and 100% rogue with a heart of gold…maybe. All the characters have well defined motivations, exceptional looks/designs and voice acting that is a treat to hear.


Character design - FF XIII – Well Lightning certainly looks amazing and I really do like her design but aside from Fang she is the only design I truly liked. Vanille is horrible and Sazh/Snow/Hope all vie for the next worst character designs. The voice acting is very much hit and miss, Lightning and Fang again are great, Vanille is horrendous and warrants a mute button. None of the characters are likeable; none of them have goals I really cared about. I disliked so many things about their backstory, especially the annoying Sarah whom both Snow and Lightning are fighting for. The graphics are detailed and pretty but if only 20% of the designs are great what is the point?


Mechanics – FF XII – The License and Gambit system took heat when the game launched, people asked why they would want a game playing itself. But once you dug in you realize that the gambits are a tool to supplement your gameplay. At any time you could choose what the character did (and you could issue commands to any character, anytime) plus you get set a list of definable parameters for the characters do in various situations. Things like curing when people are below a threshold, curing blindness when necessary, automatically setting regen on each character or casting magic on flying creatures. This Gambits were versatile, useful and best of all made combat fast and fun without the need to micromanage each character.


The License board was even better. Want to make the fighter a mage? You could by unlocking better spells on their board. The mage wear heavy armor? You could by unlocking that path. The License board gave you the ability to truly customize your characters in a fun meta-game that you wanted to explore. FF XII also features Mists which are special attacks like summons and Mist Charges. The summons are what you expect but the Mist charges are chargeable attacks that you can chain from character to character and are a real game changer. Both of these abilities use yoru magic (which recharges as you move around) so there is a real decision, do you cast spells? Summon a creature or go all out with a level 3 Mist Charge?

Mechanics – FF XIII – What a mess this game is mechanically. In an attempt to simplify the gameplay from the elegant FF XII system FF XIII has the Crystarium. A completely linear progression system built on individual jobs. Each character has a locked Crystarium for half the game restricting them to three jobs that you load up with no option at variance like in FF XII. These jobs are then assigned to your characters in the paradigm system. All you can do is assign the roles of each party member and during combat you only control the leader. The other party members perform actions based on their job and are AI controlled. You cannot set conditions like you could in FF XII so at times you will fail because your party members are not making the right choices. You can switch paradigms on the fly so building a good list is essential so you have healing, attack and magic coverage as necessary.


The system is engaging once the 30 hour tutorial is done (more on that later) but feels woefully static and limited after the very customizable FF XII Gambit/License system. The lack of divergence possible in each role and the late unlocking of all roles for all characters means you will not diversify nearly as much as you did in FF XII. FF XIII has summons which are actually quite well developed. You have control over the summoned entity and can choose the attacks till there AP runs out. At the end you can choose to do a team up attack that deals massive damage. The summons are nice but shallow like the rest of the game. There is no variance or real skill for them and no strategy either, again a step back from the previous game.

Gameplay – FF XII – With the Gambit system setting an AI for your party that you specify and control playing FF XII is fun and battles are dynamic and interesting. At any time gambits can be tweaked and as you level and kill monsters you get more license points to open up the board giving you more diverse actions to use. The ability to control any character any time as well as swap in other party members if you or your party dies makes the game flow incredibly well. Exploration is quick as is air travel thanks to quick travel options like the crystals and airships. The world is fairly open from the start allowing you to explore cities travel overland and explore areas you have been with ease anytime. FF XII is a lesson in gameplay that everyone (especially Square Enix surprisingly) should look at and admire.


Gameplay – FF XIII – The Paradigm system is interesting…after about 20 hours. For the first large part of the game they slowly mete out components like extra jobs, customizing the party, making a paradigm list and so forth. This means you are locked into the original roles with no variance for a great deal of time. Often they force characters on you and with no customization you might as well be playing an action game, with no direct control over your actions. Combat is fast but with the shallower system it feels flat and limiting. The system also only allows you direct control over one character, if that character dies it is game over (RIDICULOUS), thankfully the checkpoint system has you start right before the last battle, but still ridiculous. Exploration is tedious and very limited. There are no cities and most of the game has you going from linear corridor to linear courtyard to linear path to linear cavern. The progression overland is frustrating and tedious and a far cry from the interesting travel mechanics and world dynamics in FF XII.


Progression/Story – FF XII – I have discussed a number the things that make up progression in FF XII but as you play through the game you get to know and love the characters and the story. The overarching plot revolves around kingdoms at war with mysterious and powerful judges controlling everyone against each other. The story isn’t the best in the series but is quite engaging thanks to the cast of characters involved. The world of Ivalice is a huge part of it's charm as well. The towns are teeming with people and by talking to them you get a feel of the world in a way FF XIII did not even bother showing at all. Moving through the game world enhancing your characters, increasing their license list and customizing the gambits is fun and involved.


Progression/Story – FF XIII – The story is about, err, giant god like creatures that, err, control the people and transform them to focus driven superhumans, if they fail the focus they turn to crystal or something. The story is not good; the world is confusing and frustratingly linear. As the Crystarium are so static you do not even get the joy of building your characters into what you want them to be. The game is beautiful and I am curious about the horrible story which is the only reason why I am still playing through it. This is a huge step back from the vibrant and interesting world of Ivalice. Without towns the only dialog is in cutscenes and you have no feel of the culture and life pulse which simply makes you not care.


Graphics/Sound – FF XII & FF XIII – Both games look and sound amazing, this is an area Square Enix has never faltered in. Taking aside some horrible designs and voice actors the environments, characters and summons are breathtaking in both cases. FF XII has aged well in the last 4 years and new generation of hardware, it was a final generation PS2 game so that is to be expected. FF XIII is truly stunning and even naysayers can admire the graphics and sound in this game.


So what does this mean and why do I care? Well point by point we see that Square Enix de-evolved the excellence that was FF XII to the point that it was far from the AAA experience the series deserves. In an attempt to modernize the series they broke it from every angle. The gameplay is too linear, the combat is flat and uninspired, the progression system is boring and limited. They need to look at their past successes and then western RPG’s like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 and learn from them. Take the story, character and design ethos from their past and current competitors games and fix the series before it is too late.