Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: Resistance- The Gathering Storm

Being my first novel based on a universe from a videogame, I wasn’t sure what to expect from "Resistance: The Gathering Storm." For the most part, I was pleased with what I got.

While author William C. Dietz doesn’t seem to have a particularly keen ear for dialogue and tends to reuse adjectives to the point it’s noticeable, the rest of his writing was good enough to keep me entertained.

I was mostly impressed by his knowledge of the Resistance universe. A fan of the games, I was pleased to see accurate descriptions of creatures, guns working the way they are supposed to and a world that felt like it was one and the same with the games. Dietz did his homework and it paid off.
Bridging the story of the first and second game in the series, "The Gathering Storm" tells of a time when the United States, locked in a war with the vicious Chimera, is fighting an equally important political battle in a barely surviving government.

Videogame hero Nathan Hale plays a key role in both struggles, offing aliens and taking a few moral stands along the way.

A secondary story involving a Chimeran concentration camp/conversion center and a former Secretary of War set on revealing government officials as traitors is a nice change of pace to the gunfights and military shenanigans Hale goes through. This can make for a somewhat disjointed story, but both sides are entertaining enough.

Overall, "The Gathering Storm" has enough going on to warrant a read for fans of the series. It fills an important gap and even answers a few questions left by the games. Your run-of-the-mill war novel fan will also likely find plenty to enjoy in this alternate history of World War II. It’s a hard recommend for the uninitiated, though.

Review: Muse- The Resistance

I’ll begin by saying The Resistance is possibly Muse’s weakest offering to date. Fortunately for my ears, Muse’s least impressive album is still mostly a joy to listen to, and that should speak very highly for the band.

Other than track three, Undisclosed Desires, The Resistance is an album I have no trouble putting in the ole CD player, pressing play, and keeping my hand away from the skip button throughout.

The first single, Uprising, packs the most energy and the most punch of the lot. There are a few particularly nice songs, especially the three-part finale, but nothing here will become your “new favorite.”

Ditching a bit of the rock for a backing provided by orchestra, Muse’s sound evolves nicely in The Resistance. The only downside here is that the softer sound results in less “umph” for the album as a whole. Muse does both melody and rock very well, but I would have preferred a couple more tracks driven by bass, drums and their trademark guitar riffs to even out the sweeping, moody tunes that dominate the album.

Lyrically, this is also the weakest offering from Muse but, for the most part, Matthew Bellamy sings the silliness to pitch-perfect effect. And, honestly, who really listens to Muse for the lyrics anyway? You listen for the sound, and the sound is plenty nice this time around.

I think I was hoping for a bit too much from this fifth studio offering but, this far into their career, it’s nice to see the band trying new things when it would be far easier to simply parody what has worked so well in the past.

With The Resistance, it can’t be denied that Muse still knows how to entertain.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday mini-movies: Exploding windmill edition

This is one of those videos I honestly don't know how I came across it. I started out searching youtube for "faceplants" and eventually made my way to the above clip.

You ever wonder what happens when a storm is too out of control even for one of those heavy duty electricity-producing windmills to handle? Click play to find out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: Dissidia- Final Fantasy

Dissidia: Final Fantasy, is one of the few games I’ve ever felt comfortable reviewing before I’ve taken part in everything the game has to offer.

This is not laziness on my part or even suspect journalim. There’s simply too much content to get through on this RPG/fighter mash-up. At more than 30-hours of play time, I have yet to finish the story mode for all of the characters.

I’ve tooled around with quick fights and arcade mode, played online (flawlessly, I might add), shared friend cards, fought ghosts, and done about a zillion other things and still I’m barely scratching the surface of what this title has to offer.

Dissidia’s roster is meaty with twenty main characters and two to be unlocked (each with their own deep ability set to dig into), then there are even more game modes to unlock after you complete the campaign.

Speaking of the campaign, this is one of my only real gripes with the game. I actually quite enjoyed the chess board game map (that takes a bit of strategy to navigate) and leisure cutscenes where little more than talking occurs, but after about your sixth character, it tends to get repetitive.

For the RPG fans out there, there’s a ridiculous amount of customization to be had. It’s almost overwhelming at first when you consider how many items can be made, how much equipment can be discovered and used, what abilities work best for you, and even what days you play on may earn you extra goodies.

The more I write, the more I want to keep ranting about the vast amounts of content, so I’ll just leave it at “there’s a whole lot.”

For the fighting fans, this game delivers in spades. What initially feels like a shallow two button masher with one-hit victories quickly evolves into a truly deep and surprisingly original fighting system.

You can run, jump, fly and grind all over the large maps, dodge, block and more. Summons, which you equip in the order you want to use them, activate automatically and can be a real game changer in sticky situations.

One attack button(up to three different versions on land and three more in the air) attacks a character’s “bravery.” Bravery determines how hard a character hits when they land a successful HP attack.

The second attack is, you guessed it, to HP. Again, you can eventually set up to three different button combinations for this attack on the ground and in the air.

With modifiers like “chase” and “wall rush” thrown in, we are left with what could actually be the most complicated fighter to date. Thankfully, the ease of commands and creative design make it a synch after just a few battles.

With so many options for the type of opponent you can face, the battles have a lot of variety as well.

You may take on a villain that starts with enough brave points to wipe you out with a single blow, but only one HP, thus creating an edgy game of cat and mouse to see who can make contact first.

Conversely, tougher opponents can take upwards of ten minutes to tackle as you learn to use the entire environment to your advantage in an effort to land perfectly timed attacks.

While the music is terrific and the graphics are some of the best the system has seen, a less than engaging story and the occasional terrible camera angle provide a couple speed bumps in this otherwise smooth ride.

SquareEnix has managed to craft a fighting and RPG lovechild that actually works, and for that, they should be applauded.

This is a wonderful love letter to fans of the series and, if you own a PSP, your game collection should not be without this title.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: Inglourious Basterds

Dear Inglourious Basterds,
Spellchecker hates you.
Hugs and kisses,

Inglourious Basterds can be summed up in three simple words: Christoph Freaking Waltz. The dude’s portrayal of the bipolar, slightly crazy, wickedly devious “Jew Hunter” Col. Hans Landa is impeccable. And he can act in three languages! How cool is that?

Including the awesomeness of Mr. Waltz, Basterds has a lot going for it. Both Melanie Laurent and Bradd Pitt are on their A-game and, though he thankfully says little, Eli Roth’s Bear Jew is one of those semi-iconic characters you can see lingering in movie-goers’ minds for quite some time.

Quintin Tarantino’s latest piece, as odd as it feels describing a movie with an extremely graphic scalping scene by this word, is absolutely delightful.

The music is fantastic, as always, and the dialogue moves along at a perfect rat-a-tat pace.
Some scenes drag on a little and I would have liked to see more of the Basterds onscreen, but otherwise, I have few gripes with this over-the-top war epic.

Paying homage to the propaganda films that serve as a key focus of the plot, Tarantino cares little for historical accuracy in Basterds, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment to be had in this complex, multi-layered “wo/men on a mission” tale.

With a couple cameos thrown in for good measure, including the surprisingly appropriate Mike Myers and the voice-over work of Samual L. M-er F-ing Jackson, there’s little not to like about Inglourious Basterds.

You care about the characters, even the bad guys, and that is perhaps one of the best compliments I can give.

Review: Patient Zero, by Jonathan Maberry

Much like with videogames, I buy books at a faster rate than I can actually get around to reading them, despite the fact that I’m constantly reading. Why not wait to buy a new book until I’ve finished the one I’m on, you might ask? The answer is simple- I’m stupid.

That being said, there has never been a book review on The newer books go on the bottom of the “to read” pile, so I’m usually about a year or two behind everyone else when it comes to current literature.

That changed recently. I got two books shortly after they came out and cruised through them rather quickly. Of course, I meant to review them over a month ago, so I’m still way off on the whole “current” thing.

Still, at least they came out this year!

The first title is Patient Zero, by Jonathan Maberry. The concept (what if terrorists created a virus that, for all intents and purposes, turns its victims into zombies) sounds like something you’d expect to see on late night Syfy. The execution, though, is anything but.

Following the exploits of uuber-detective Joe Ledger, Patient Zero tells a tale of horror, action, betrayal and love at a lightning fast pace. What seems like a cheesy concept is presented straight as an arrow with disturbingly real-world science to back it up. The book’s killer virus is, of course, fiction, but according to Maberry, the science he uses to explain its existence is entirely legitimate.

Part Tom Clancy, part George A. Romero, Patient Zero is full of colorful, flawed characters put into larger than life situations who, mostly, respond how you would expect a flesh and blood human to respond. This is one of the book’s biggest draws. Everything (save a few convenient coincidences and super soldier moments) feels legitimate and, therefore, the unbelievable becomes instantly possible. It’s this legitimacy that also makes the terror aspects of Patient Zero so potent.

Meant to be the beginning of a new series, I eagerly await the next Joe Ledger novel. I had a blast reading Patient Zero.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monday mini-movies: Bicycle beatdown

That. Just. Happened.

Did you see that? Did ya?

I, in no way, support police brutality of any kind. However, I have a hard time feeling much sympathy for anyone taking part in a protest like that.

What better way to protest and claim cyclists have equal rights to the road than to break literally every law "of the road" en masse. For some things, sure, that's the point of "protesting." But nine times out of ten, when I see a cyclist on the road, they're doing anything but following the law. Cutting across traffic, not signaling, ignoring stop signs and the like.

Maybe I'm just being a jerk (likely), or maybe it's just that I hate road cyclists (not so much likely as it is a fact). In all honesty, though, I hope that cop was punished to the utmost. My personal feelings about cyclists aside, there's no excuse for that kind of behavior...Than again, the other guy WAS a cyclist.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Movies to miss in September

This month, movie-goers are being treated to a trifecta of terrible in the form of Sandra Bullock, Tyler Perry and a horrible horror movie remake. Score!

All About Steve- While I’ll agree Sandra Bullock is still a looker, I can’t help but be saddened by all these roles where her character acts like she’s in her mid-20s. The woman is nearly 50 and, I’m sorry, but the oddball cute girl thing just isn’t working out. It’s like having someone’s mom show up to a party dressed in the latest fashion, ready to dance the night away with all the hip youngsters. Sad, scary and anything but entertaining.

Sorority Row- I’ll give you a second to go ahead and soak in that poster. Is it just me, or do those girls look dead already? I’m sure that was the “point,” but even the acting in the damn photo is terrible. This is looking like a cross between Jawbreaker and I Know What You Did Last Summer and, if all other horror movie remakes can serve as s gauge, will likely poop all over the original film it’s based on.

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself- I couldn’t have said it better myself, Tyler. At what point do we as a society have a responsibility to stop this nonsense? We hit my personal Perry threshold a few years ago. Either everyone else has a higher tolerance for suck than I do, or there are actually enough people out there who enjoy this crap to warrant its continued existence. That’s quite enough, Mr. Perry. Quite enough, indeed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Games to get in September

Holy crap! Who opened the flood gates so early!?

*begins hastily stacking games in the "still unplayed" pile* I wasn't ready for this. They told us October at the earliest!

*drowning in sea of new games* They told us Octobeeeeeeeeeer......

1st- Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny (PSP)
8th- Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)
8th- Dirt 2 (Every system)
8th- Mini Ninjas (PS3, 360, Wii)
8th- Disgea 2: Dark Hero Days (PSP)
9th- The Beatles: Rock Band (PS3, 360, Wii)
14th- Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)
15th- Scribblenauts (DS)
15th- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (Every system, ever.)
15th- Wet (360, PS3)
22nd- Africa (PS3)
22nd- Katamari Forever (PS3)
22nd- Halo 3: ODST (360)
22nd- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona (PSP)
29th- MotorStorm: Arctic Edge (PSP)
29th- Undead Knights (PSP)
29th- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (PS3)
29th- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS)
29th- Dead Space: Extraction (Wii)

Wow it's a great month to be a (rich) gamer. I don't have the kind of change to throw around on more than a title or two a month, so many of these titles will be going on my "hope to play this someday" list for future consideration.

The Xbox only has one big exclusive coming out in September, but when that exclusive is as big as a new Halo game, one is all you need.

Wii owners with a brain can rejoice as two of *counting* like three decent titles coming out in the next year are up for grabs this month in the Dead Space rail shooter and the gorgeous Muramasa. One is a mature game and the other looks like a true gem, so expect both to fail horribly for everyone's favorite little white box.

Portable fans have plenty to be excited about as Scribblenauts leads the pack of fantastic games for those on the go. Also big on the DS is the new Kingdom Hearts game and, well, it's a Kingdom Hearts game. You HAVE to love it.

Over on the PSP, new life shines through as Soul Calibur, MotorStorm and freaking Persona all come out in short order. It's been a slow year for Sony's handheld, but this could be the start of another fantastic gaming cycle.

Finally, I feel I should explain Wet's presence on the list. Yes, the demo showed off a few flaws including a wonky camera and controls. But I want so much for this game to succeed. It was fun, stylish and had the courage to try something different. So, at least give it a rent, will ya?