Thursday, November 29, 2007

That's gonna leave a mark- A half-schlitzed PAIN review

Whilst in the midst of my usual daily perusal of PS3 Fanboy and the Playstation boards, I was quickly reminded of the fact that today was Thursday. As such, the weekly PSN updates were up and, wouldn't ya know it, Pain made its November launch deadline.

I've been watching this game since I first heard about it through E3 coverage and thought, what the heck, it's ten dollars. I've noticed a lot of folks refuse to buy downloadable games until they get the chance to read some reviews. Given how slowly these types of reviews come out, I thought I'd offer my own opinion and, well, you can take it or leave it. Though I suggest you take it.

First of all, I've gotta say I'm extremely impressed with how much work has gone into Pain. The world is ridiculously detailed and the physics are crazy-good. Also, the humor is a bit sophomoric, but in a game where your objective is to load a dude into a giant slingshot and fire him at inanimate objects in an effort to inflict as much, get this, pain as humanly possible, the cheap laughs are pitch perfect.

The Pain crew could have let things rest at that point and had a decent little title on their hands but, instead, opted to go several steps further. Rather than just shoot the character through the air, there are several pose, grab, and chain options to keep in mind while directing his flight. Also, you can re-watch each launch with a decent array of options allowing pause, slowdown and even a free-roam camera.

On top of this you have several single player modes, multiplayer modes and the clear promise of future content. There are also a bunch of medals and trophies to unlock through creative gameplay so, for those collectors out there, be prepared to spend a decent number of hours on this title.

For ten dollars, you really can't go wrong with Pain if you're looking for a fun diversion or a fantastic party game. It's guaranteed to keep you and your pals busy for quite some time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New organizational paradigm

Like many media junkies, I have quite the collection of videogames, CDs and movies. Every now and then I’ll round up a few titles I no longer want and make a trip to Bookman’s for a little extra cash but, for the most part, I don’t buy anything I don’t expect to enjoy multiple times over the years.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to keep me from buying metric crap-tons of games, movies and music. Spanning hundreds of titles, every bookshelf in my home became over-crammed with cases. I am here today, dear readers, to spread the good word of the new and improved organizational paradigm.

Like many of you, I dreaded the thought of throwing out the cases to my prized collection. I thought to myself, “Captain,” (I call myself Captain in my head) “What if I REALLY want to take a gander at the box art to (insert random name here) sometime?”

Finally, it occurred to me that I’ve NEVER gone back to look at the cases. When I want to play or watch something, I find the case, open it and pop in the disc. End of story. I’m willing to bet you’re the same way.

It took a lot of convincing, but I finally just invested in a few 200 CD holders for my collection. After about two hours of alphabetizing and sliding the discs into place, the paradigm was complete. I hauled a few garbage bags full of cases to the trash shortly after and have not looked back since. There’s room on my bookshelves for actual bound volumes now and my life suddenly feels a thousand times less cluttered. It’s an illusion, of course, since I still have all of those discs, but now they’re in a tidy little package that takes up less than a cubic foot of space.

And, in case you’re wondering, all of the sleeves and booklets are now safely tucked into a single, small cardboard box in the closet, just in case I ever get the crazy desire to ogle the classic still created for Bubba Ho-tep.

Take the plunge, my friends. I know it’s frightening, but you’ll feel better for it. And, just so I don’t get yelled at later, I’ll encourage you to recycle those cases whenever possible. Give a hoot and all that jazz.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Uncharted resistance

This post is a two-for-one deal. Resistance: Fall of Man has been out for the PS3 a full year, so I doubt anything I have to say will do much to sway anyone’s buying decision. The short of it is this; buy it. Also, I’m only a third of the way through Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, but I couldn’t wait until review time to do a post on this (so far) stellar game. So, I’m just going to give you a few thoughts on both titles and call it a day.

I only picked up my PS3 about five months ago and finally got around to playing Resistance recently. As far as first-person shooters go, this one’s fantastic. The maps are decently creative, the graphics are tops and the action is extremely fierce. Unlike many FPS titles, the enemies not only vary in look, but also in the tactics they use, the tactics you should use to beat them, weapon choice, speed, etc. In other words, you don’t spend ten hours killing the same guys over and over.

Also a nice change from the norm was the weapon selection. Along with a few staples like the automatic rifle and rocket launcher, the Chimeran weaponry is very unique. Even weapons that seem like run-of-the-mill fare offer an odd twist. The guns are fun to shoot, plain and simple.

It takes a lot to impress me in an FPS and Resistance: Fall of Man has done just that. It does nothing to reinvent the wheel, but it’s one of the smoothest, most entertaining regular ole’ wheels to date. And that’s not even including the multiplayer.

Got it? Good. On to Uncharted. According to the game clock I’m about 33 percent through this title and, man, has it been a fun 3.5 hours. I’m a completion whore, so I’m going to guess this one at a little over ten hours total to seek out all the little extras and screw around with a few of the puzzles. As such, as good as this game is, I can’t necessarily recommend you run out and buy it just yet. Sure, there are 60 additional treasures to find and 1000 points worth of random “badges” to acquire, not to mention four difficulty levels, but at 60 bucks a pop, I have a hard time telling anyone to buy just about anything these days when a double rental for ten dolla could give you the full experience.

With stunning visuals, exciting firefights and vertigo inducing platforming filling every second of those ten or so hours, its easily some of the most fun I’ve had in a video game all year. If you can spare the money to pick up a game right now, I say go for this one. If you’re pinching your pennies on the fence, be sure to try it before you buy it. The mix of genres might not be everyone’s cup-o-tea. As for me, it’s been money well spent.

Monday, November 26, 2007

GSP gunning for the good ole' boy

Hold the phone, folks. It looks like Winter Road Trip 2007 just got a hell of a lot better. Recently, as in one post ago, I reported the UFC's announcement that Matt Serra, scheduled to battle Matt Hughes at UFC 79, had sustained an injury during practice rendering him incapable of competing on Dec. 29.

Well, Nosfarlovski will not be stepping into the octagon, as I had hoped, but I can't really complain about this latest turn of events. Far from it, in fact. Though the battle of the Matts won't be happening, I'm ecstatic to inform you Rush himself, Mr. Georges St. Pierre, contacted Dana White over the weekend to throw his hat in the ring to take on Hughes in Serra's stead.

That's right, boys and girls. The French Canadian will be getting a third crack at the hillbilly and The Jeff and I will be right there to catch all the action. I don't think The Jeff could have asked for a better birthday present. What's that?...The match will be for the interim welterweight championship? I guess it CAN get better.

Granted, GSP will be fighting at a disadvantage given the fact he'll only have four weeks to prepare for the bout, but my money is still riding on Rush to take the win. Hughes has been training to fight, and now has four weeks to gear his methods towards GSP, but heart has to count for something. If St. Pierre was hungry enough to call in the request himself, I'm willing to bet that appetite will have only grown come time for the match. Also, Hughes has been on his way out the door for a while now while the Franadian is in the midst of his prime. It's time for the dude to dominate. I think I'm more excited about UFC 79 now than I was originally.

I don't know how hard GSP can kick, but I'll be bringing my ball glove just in case Hughe's head clears the fence. Aye-oh!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Serra vs Hughes postponed

In an unfortunate turn of events, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White recently announced current welterweight champion Matt Serra will no longer be defending his title against Matt Hughes at UFC 79 next month.

Serra apparently suffered a herniated disc in his lower back during a standard training exercise earlier this week. Set to fight in just a few weeks, it's looking like Serra will now be out of the mix for quite a few months. This in unfortunate for fans of the sport, especially The Jeff and I. We’re heading to Vegas for Winter Road Trip 2007 to watch our first live UFC event and, wouldn’t you know it, the biggest fight of the evening has been nixed. To make matters a little worse, it’s looking like they’ll be adding another under card to the evening’s event and bumping one of the previous “not-so-must-see” fights onto the list of main bouts.

I think I’m going to begin a petition to get Arlovski on the card instead. The man can be ready at the drop of a hat to fight anyone White sees fit to throw his way. He’s way past due for a fight and, damnitalltohell, he deserves to be back in the octagon makin’ dat cheddah. Plus, it’s a well known fact The Pitbull is sustained through the blood of his fallen enemies. For health reasons alone, the man needs to see a fight. For further rantings, my “Arlovski is amazing, White is a douche” post will be coming your way some time in the future. Until then, happy holidays and I’ll catch you back here on Monday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Game called on account of poultry

Here's a heads-up that the blog will go un-updated for a day or so. I hope to have some fresh content on Friday and be back in the full swing of things come Monday.

Like most Americans, I'm all about the mass genocide of feathered creatures and eating copious quantities of their baked flesh until I slip into a tryptophanian coma on Thanksgiving. For those vegetarians out there, I'm sorry you had to hear that. The truth hurts. Keep up the good fight and all that jazz.

Maybe even cut loose this holiday season. You know, slice off a couple extra slabs of Tofurkey and slather on a nice helping of Togravy.
Mmmmmmm-hmmmmmmm. Them's some good eatins.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It slices. It dices.

I have a hard time believing I'm the only person excited to see Sweeney Todd, the new musical by Tim Burton based on the dark and disturbingly awesome Broadway play. By "the only person," I of course mean "the only person who doesn't shop at Hot Topic like it's a religion"...Which it's not. Religion is bad. That Totally unique goth-gal working the counter at Hot Topic told me so.

Just in case my above assumption is inaccurate, I better say something to convince some of you fine folks to hit the theaters this holiday season and give this movie a go. Otherwise, I'll be lost in a sea of chainy pants, hairstyles that completely obliterate depth perception and tears. Lots and lots of sad emo-boy tears.

First, as I mentioned, the film is directed by Tim Burton, probably the single best person for the job. I expect his vision of Fleet Street to be just as twisted and shrouded in shadow as ever. Add to that a little Burton flare when it comes to direction, and the story should just sing off the screen. (Sing...Musical...Get it!)

What's even better than the chosen director? The cast. You've got Johnny Depp singing his heart out on-screen for the first time ever and, really, the dude's been batting 1000 for quite some time. I have a hard time believing he would join this somewhat risky project if he did not have complete faith in it.

At his side will be the somewhat predictable Helena Boham Carter, though this is not a bad thing. She's great as the static haired, heavy-eyed, crazy woman, so I can't really think of anyone better for the role. She too has been doing fantastic over the past few years.

Add to these two a supporting cast including Alan Rickman, one of my personal favorites, and a flamboyant Sacha Baron Cohen and you have the makings of what could be a uniquely fantastic film. By unique, I mean unique to films in general. As Burton films go, this looks to be more or less exactly what you'd expect out of the guy. Being a fan of his projects, this does not upset me one bit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A guaranteed epic in the palm of your hands

I actually meant to write this a little while back. A few weeks ago I got my God of War: Chains of Olympus demo in the mail for the PSP. I had almost forgotten about the thing thanks to...well, I'm not actually sure why it took so long. I will say this, though; the wait was worth it.

For those unfamiliar with the GoW series, for shame. If you have a PS2 or PS3, you have no excuse not to play the first two installments of this (so far) phenomenal series. I guess if you have an aversion to relentless bloodletting and the occasional boobie, then yeah, you have an excuse. The rest of you, get at them boobies.

Seriously though, aside from being one of the most visceral action games on the market, the platforming and puzzle elements are phenomenal. Throw in some top-notch controls and a truly engaging storyline and you have the makings of one of the best series ever created for any there.

Anyway, for those living under a rock, the bald and beautifully violent Kratos will be experiencing his next romp on the small screen and I'm here to herald its awesomeness. I've played through the demo about a dozen times now and, even though it only lasts about fifteen minutes, I can't get enough. Mainly, I'm blown away by how every single aspect that made the original games fantastic has been carefully (and I'm sure painstakingly) brought over to the PS3's little brother.

For those unlucky enough not to get their hands on the demo, I hate to inform you that you're really missing out. Actually, no I don't. Neener-neener-neener. At least you'll find some solace in knowing
the full game hits shelves early next year, just in time to serve as the Bloody Mary cure for your November gaming binge hangover.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Polar bears attack God

I received an e-mail a while back leading me to this post about a movie called The Golden Compass. Warning: there's quite a spoiler included within the linked post. By "quite a spoiler," I mean they give away the ending. Fun!

For those of you who don't like links or, like me, don't want the movie ruined, the article basically says The Golden Compass features strong atheistic views and all God-fearing adults should keep their kids from watching it. This is VERY reminiscent of when The Chronicles of Narnia came out a couple years ago and all those atheist groups were protesting its religious undertones. (ends sarcasm)

Okay, so I can't argue with the statement religious parents should at least know about the fact this movie, though less so than the books, throws mud in the face of organized religion, God and polar bear rights activists everywhere. I don't, however, feel shielding their eyes from the religion-death-rays the film is sure to project is all that necessary. Millions of youths the world over have read the books and, it's my understanding, not one of them has yet tried to put a hit out on God. I'm willing to put money on the film's messages being so low-key they fly far over the heads of any impressionable youth. Kids will see a movie full of magic and poorly treated arctic quadrupeds while those adults able to decipher the hidden messages with their trusty decoder rings might leave with a little something to think about.

Also, isn't it kind of important to know both sides of any argument? I'd encourage any parent to maybe try talking to their children about their beliefs rather than force anything on them. Give them a little more credit and, for the love of Pete, don't deny them a film that is sure to be even better than the greatest movie about religion ever made based on blind fear alone. Maybe even go see it yourself first, then decide.

I'd love to hear your guys' thoughts on this. Feel free to leave a comment and I'd be more than happy to reply.

Layin' the smack down

This weekend a buddy and I attended a Rage in the Cage event outside of Phoenix, Arizona. For those who don't know, RITC is like an amateur league for mixed martial artists working their way up in the ranks. This is where the youngsters are given the chance to pit their skills against other fighters hungry for some recognition.

It was a decent event featuring 12 bouts (maybe two or three of them solid fights). I write this, not so much to wax intellectual about one of my favorite sports, but to pass the mike on to someone much more informed about the sport than myself. I love watching MMA and, more specifically, many of the fighters under contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I will not, however, bore you with my lackluster attempt at commentary.

One of the athletes we watched, Eli Harris, is featured in an article my buddy wrote just days before the event. Harris fell victim to three, count-em, three cheap shots in a single match that ultimately ended in the evening's only draw. Bummer.

Anyway, for those unfamiliar with the sport or curious to hear a story about some small-town grapplers striving to balance their sport of choice with the "real world," I recommend you check out the story. It's guaranteed winter fun for the whole family.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rockin' solo; Serj Tankian "Elect the Dead" review

What do you get when you take a frontman like System of a Down's Serj Tankian and, rather than slap him on some side project, set him free to create whatever music he damn-well feels like on his own? Surprisingly, you get something that sounds a hell of a lot like System of a Down, only with six times the piano and about three-quarters the rock.

I'm not saying Tankian's first solo album "Elect the Dead" doesn't "rock," because it does. At times, very hard. However, while still being as politically charged and over the top as ever, the man with the psychoperatic voice is surprisingly subdued from time to time. I will say this, I absolutely loved the heavy focus on piano. It works very well with his voice.

What we have here are 12 songs (with an additional four unused or acoustic tracks if you pick up the special edition) that range from thoughtful and melodic serenades to all out, head banging mosh stompers. I was worried about Tankian going out on his own, but "Elect the Dead" quickly put those fears to rest. With the exception of "Saving Us," not a single song has gotten old on the album yet. There's nothing better than popping in a CD knowing you'll never have to reach down and push the skip forward button.

While each track bears a bit of repetition, they are all unique enough to be easily recognizable for their individual moods, sounds and messages. Unlike most music these days, Elect the Dead's lyrics are genuinely worth listening to and require a bit of thought to decipher. The man has a lot to say and, quite often, the meaning is left for the listener to figure out on their own.

If you're a downloader, I recommend Empty Walls, The Unthinking Majority, Sky is Over and Lie, Lie, Lie. If you like those, go get the full album. System fans who don't consider the occasional softer ditty "selling out" will definitely want to pick this one up. It's a wonderful first effort.
image courtesy of Warner Bros.

MAKE Blu-ray necessary

I'm getting a little frustrated with this whole next-gen format war. It used to be I only had to worry about missing games on systems I didn't own. Now I get to tack on missing the high-def experience of movies coming from companies that have signed exclusive deals with either Blu-ray or HD-DVD. I call shenanigans.

My real gripe is this: If a single game is going to cost me sixty bucks from the get-go and most likely fill only eight to ten hours of my life, why not include some extra content to make that half a C-note feel less like a kick to the gut? If Blu-ray truly is necessary for the future, you have to MAKE it necessary. I refuse to believe it would cost any developer much more money or man hours to include some behind-the-scenes videos and what have you on all those gigs of space.

And while you're at it, why not make use of the full PS3 experience with exclusive wallpapers, songs from the soundtrack or themes downloadable straight from the disc? Rather than jack in and out of my current games mindset when I boot up the disc, I'm now making that title a part of my entire gaming life. When I turn on my PS3, I'm constantly reminded of how awesome that game is and how much I want to jump back in and play it thanks to the additional visual and auditory goodies thrown in. When you provide a little extra content outside of the game itself, you're no longer asking gamers to play your game, you're asking them to experience it.

As an added bonus, all that disc space starts looking like a really, really good idea when you're able to cram so much content into a single package. As an added tip to developers out there, enough with these special editions. Include it all for a fair price and gamers will feel less like they're being scammed when they slapped down an additional 20 bucks for a couple added videos and a keychain. If you want to add the content, add it and, if you really think $60 is not enough, adjust the price accordingly. There's no need to have three versions of any one game.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The rising cost of gaming makes me a sad panda

Remember when you were a kid and you had to rely on your birthday/Christmas to get a game for your shiny new system? I do. I played through Metal Gear Solid fifteen times before I finally turned the old PSX off on that title; not just because it was a great game, but because that's how long it took me to finally save up enough allowance to get Legend of Dragoon.

Though I'm older and make my own money now, my gaming experience is still being limited by the cost of admission. At $250, the Wii could be considered an impulse buy in the current generation. As for the other two gaming giants, spending at least $300-$400 on a core system, adding in the cost of an extra controller, cables and a couple games, and you're dancing merrily near the fine line of spending a grand in a single shopping day. Not to mention the ginormous TV and sound system necessary to fully enjoy these systems; but that's a topic for another day.

Why do I write this post? Mainly to complain about how awesome November is. Yes, you heard me, I'm complaining about the number of quality titles hitting our shores this holiday season. We've got Mario Galaxy, Orange Box, Halo 3, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, Call of Duty 4 and more on the console front with titles like Phantom Hourglass, Silent Hill and Castlevania drawing our hard-earned cash on the portable side of the spectrum.
There is, quite simply, far too many quality titles coming out during the holiday window when funds are already drawn tight due to Thanksgiving trips and Christmas shopping. I'm allowing myself one console title this November; Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. The demo was a blast and pretty unique, so it gets my 60 bucks this month. Not that I don't want all those other titles, just that I can't afford them.

My point is this: why do developers gun so heavily for the holiday window? Their reasoning is that this is the time when most people do their shopping for Christmas. But that logic is flawed. With so many great titles coming out, nobody who earns their own honest living is going to be able to afford more than a few titles over the next couple months. With so much competition piled on, there's nothing to guarantee YOUR title will be the one finding its way into little Jimmy's stocking.

With the infamous summer drought coming up, why not release then? By May, gamers will be starving for something to keep their consoles busy and, with less AAA titles to duke it out with, even a remotely entertaining game stands to rake in the profits.
In short, I think I know what will fill the vast majority of my Christmas list this year. If nothing else, maybe I can buy this November's games next June, July and August to help pass the time until the next holiday cram-fest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Eyegasm, or, why I can't wait to play Valkyrie of the Battlefield

Have you guys seen this game yet? Good lord my eyes are dancing with happiness. If you've got a PS3 with a Japanese account, you can download this sexy trailer straight from there in glorious high definition. (I highly recommend that option.) Otherwise, clap your peepers on the trailer linked above. From what I gather, Valkyrie of the Battlefield features a story set during World War II where, apparently, epic battles were ridiculously gorgeous and rendered as moving canvas paintings. According to PS3fanboy, it's a tactical RPG with, get this, active attacks. Rather than just point, click and watch an enemy drop, you actually have to aim your weapon and fire. Finally, a TRPG that might manage to hook first-person-shooter fans as well as your run of the mill Final Fanboys. Woohoo! This game can't get to the U.S. soon enough.
image courtesy of

No Country for Old Men- Review

How often do you see a movie that makes you sit in your seat while the credits roll, not in hopes of catching a hidden clip at the very end, but rather to digest in sheer awe what you just watched?

When it comes to No Country for Old Men, the Coen brother's have done exactly that. I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine (we'll call him "The Jeff" from here on out) wherein The Jeff inquired as to what grade I would be giving this movie. He hung the further existence of our friendship on my going with an A+ and, after further consideration and physical threats, I decided to cave.

My definition of A+ is usually synonymous with "perfection." As The Jeff pointed out, that's a rather unfair bar to set for anything. Bioshock, for instance, can be defined as a perfect game without genuinely being a "perfect" game. I couldn't really argue with that. After careful consideration, I could not come up with a single thing to fault No Country for. The acting (Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin) is superb, the dialogue is honed to a razor's edge and the direction is damn-near flawless. With dark humor and gut-wrenching tension spread throughout this tight and lovingly crafted thriller of a film, I can't help but declare its perfection.
I give it an A+
image courtesy of Paramount Vantage

Curtains up...

Well, here we go. I won't speak about my personal life too often, so enjoy this while it lasts. At the moment I'm a sports and schools reporter for a weekly newspaper. I also have a gig creating a movie section for a monthly tabloid. I do photos for both publications as well as webcasts. Good times are being had.

staticEchoes spawned from a desire to expand my horizons. My interests are quite varied and, as such, I have more I'd like to voice concerning issues that don't necessarily fall into the categories listed above. In my spare time I'm consumed by movies, music, videogames, comics, literature and more. I'm something of a pop culture fiend. I'm talking about experiencing that culture while not giving two craps about the personal lives of the people creating it. By that I mean you'll find reviews, previews, rants and ravings, but nothing about who's dating whom or what new substance is going up the flavor of the week's nose. Again, I could care less. It's the product these folks create that interests me.

I like to read other people's thoughts, so consider this my chance to return the favor. I hope you will enjoy...