Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It turns out, I really do need my Metal Gear fix

There are three video game franchises that I enjoy above all; Sonic (old school, + Sonic Generations), Uncharted, and the game to measure all others against, Metal Gear. Metal Gear Solid changed the way I viewed games. No longer was it a pastime just for kids, it made me grow up as a gamer. Its story was intricate, at times convoluted, but it was thoroughly interesting. The last new console entry in the series was 2008’s MGS4: Guns of the Patriots (first chance at playing 2010’s Peace Walker wasn’t until it’s HD release). I did not realize how desperate I was for a new game in the franchise until the reveal of Revengeance, and I just can’t wait.

This isn’t a new thing for me; I only got my PS2 to play MGS2: Son’s of Liberty. Okami, God of War, Ratchet and Jak were all bonuses, but MGS2 was the sole reason. I was so excited I didn’t even question the absurdly messy plot and poor villains (Fatman anyone?) that I still forgive to this day. This carried over to my PS3, where I picked up my console in 2006 for the sole purpose of getting MGS4 which was supposed to come out in 2007 (two delays later and it finally hit June 2008). For both games, and 2004’s MGS3, I was so excited I couldn’t help but count the days till I could get my grubby hands on it. But after MGS4, I felt content, the story had come to an end, I was pleased, and I never questioned the need for a new Metal Gear. Now Konami has revealed the existence of not just one new Metal Gear, but possibly three, and it’s lit a fire in me belly.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengance is a departure from the norm. Firstly, it’s an action game made by Platinum Games, starring sword wielding Raiden. There is no other studio I would trust to make an action game like this, after all, the people at Platinum made Okami, Viewtiful Joe, and Vanquish which are all great but sadly niche games (note: I do NOT like Bayonetta). Then there is the more seemingly traditional MGS: Ground Zeroes, which takes the plot back in time with incredibly pretty visuals. Recently, at VGA 10, we glimpsed The Phantom Pain, which looks to be the reveal of MGS5. I’m giddy, and I never expected this reaction. Sure I’ve pre-paid for Revengeance Special Edition, that’s par for the course, but with added Metal Gear waiting in the wings (probably years from now), has just helped to tip me over the edge. I thought those days were over, I guess not.

I haven’t had this feeling of anticipation since, well, 2008’s MGS4. In two months I get to play Revengeance, and hopefully in the same year I will get Ground Zeroes (one can hope right?). Solid Snake’s story may be done, but I feel there is still plenty more to tell from this universe; after all, I’m still waiting for my game where you play as The Boss. There isn’t much that can trump this feeling of material anticipation. Well, there is one thing that currently eclipses my anticipation for the next Metal Gear, and that’s the movie Man of Steel, because 2006’s Superman Returns broke me, and I’ll never forgive Brian Singer for that piece of Kryptonian turd. But before that, Metal Gear returns, and I sure can’t wait. February cannot get here sooner. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Red vs Blue: Genre Jumping

Red vs Blue: Genre Jumping

Recently, I finished entire run of Red vs Blue, from season one all the way to ten. RvB was one of the first great web series that went viral and gave Machinima more of a household name. Well, namely in the geek and Halo fan circles. What made RvB so great, and popular, was it nonsensical comedy with snail-pace advancement of the plot. This lasted until season five with the conclusion of the Blood Gulch Chronicles. When the series restarted in season six, it began the transformation from comedy to sci-fi drama. Something many fans, like Dogfish, were not happy.

And why it was so great.

This genre jump was not exactly jumping the shark. It still kept some of the original comedy that made the series so popular but moved into the more serious themes; effectively becoming a dramady. Although, it tried to recaptured the original comedy in season nine. RvB descend to darker and heavy themes was not bad. Well not as bad as transforming Urkel from a nerd to mad scientist. The latter tried to explore areas never part of the original world in a desperate, yet somewhat successful, attempt to hold on to its audience. The former delved into a wider world, outside that damn box canyon, hinted in the Blood Gulch Chronicles. Although, it was not cheap move to hold on its audience as Family Matters.

Seriously, once you're able to transform yourself and a donut-loving cop into Bruce Lee clones, you do not belong in either category

The sci-fi and darker themes in the later seasons were not that developed in it's own right. The themes revolved around A.I.s, dealing with loss, and such. Granted this is not a novel or TV series, but there are webshorts that seized the mood and carried the themes and than later RvB. But why did I still watch and enjoy RvB? Because the comedy established the characters we're familiar with and liked. It was the hook that kept some of the audience interested in RvB. And the writing, voice acting, and to some degree the character development, was still there in the new seasons. Which was what made RvB in the fist place.

My kind of Brony

Another great web series that genre jumped was Ryan Sohmer's Looking forGroup and did it awesomely. Looking for Group started as a parody of D&D and WoW but the writer eventually decided to take to the dramady level. The difference between the two series is how they handled this transition. RvB introduced new characters for the heavier themes while somewhat awkwardly putting in the old cast; most of which really did not belong in this new direction. Granted, this led to great comedic situations and showed that the series was self-aware of this clash. In a sense, RvB was weaving two different stories into one and did it decently. Looking for Group kept its focus on the original cast and just shifted its plot to darker themes. And it was great.

Oh. Hell. Yeah.

Season ten ended with the possibility of a new season or all together new series. To some degree, I would like to see this continue but it would not be the same RvB. If Rooster Teeth do push a new season or series, I wanted a direction that is natural to one or more of the original cast. Perhaps a back story to the ones who did not get one. Rather it is a comedy or dramady, the writing will keep it interesting so long as we have the characters we came to love.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sony, Playstation Store needs to change… again

When hurricane Sandy blew through the Tri-State region, it took away a lot of homes, cars, boats, and in my case, electricity for a week. As a result, during the day, I would go out to get water, food, and hit up a friend for a shower. This lack of power required me to walk 40 blocks to a part of the city that possessed power to charge phones, laptops, and my Vita. After about 2 days without power, I wanted an Assassin’s Creed fix, and as the PS3 was out of the question, my only other option was the AC3 Liberations for Vita. I spent the better part of a Tuesday in a coffee shop, Vita tethered to my phone, waiting for the PSN to update. It was incredibly frustrating.
Sandy Smash!
This is a very fortunate problem to have, especially after a hurricane, but at night, when the natural light has gone, and holding a torch in one hand and a book in the other becomes a delicate balancing issue, it’s time to preoccupy your nights with something else. The only games for Vita I had were Uncharted and Motorstorm, both of which were beat. On Tuesday, I went to the coffee shop to charge a bunch of electronics and expected Liberations to be downloaded by the time all my items were charged. I started the hotspot, hooked my Vita up to it and loaded the Playstation Store. I was expecting to see Liberations under the ‘New Releases’ tab but was sorely disappointed.
I live in a first world country, so yes, first world problem.
Sony had not updated the store, and this caused me to wait the better part of a day, buying items that I usually don’t care for just to have an excuse to stay there. The flip side of this was seeing some of the more interesting characters that came to the store. There was the hipster douche that said, very loudly to the two girls he walked in with, that he doesn’t drink coffee, he likes to detoxify his system (whatever the hell that means). There was some other guy furiously typing his screenplay while he mostly looked around to make sure women were watching him. There was the cute waitress who kept coming up to me every twenty minutes or so to see how I was doing and ask about my storm experience. She was great, and we have hung out after my exiled week at the store, but she insists on wearing glasses that clash with her afro and would only suit Clark Kent. I got writing material that week, so I wouldn’t take it back for anything, but I really wanted to play Liberations.
This place smells weird, but it might be me.
Eventually, at about 3pm, the store finally updated, and the hour long download began. This would not have been as frustrating an experience if the store had updated midnight on the dot so that people can start their downloads as soon as they wake up, or even automatically. I don’t know how things work on X-Box Live or whatever Nintendo has, but I would have thought it common sense to update your store at midnight the day you update. I know there are things that have to be done to make sure the store updates properly and the items available are at the right prices, but surely it can be set up so that all T’s are crossed and I’s dotted before 12:01am Tuesday. If updates are rolled out on a schedule, as opposed to the haphazard release it goes through now, then there would be no need to wait half a day to get a game that I could easily get from a brick and mortar store with ease.
Where have you been? I've been waiting all day.
I like my Vita a lot. Since Liberations, I’ve played All Stars and Gravity Rush, but the Playstation Store is still unpredictable. It should be instant, smooth, and updated with ease. My understanding is that in Australia, and possibly Europe, when you pre-order a game off the store, by the time you wake up on Tuesday, the game is on your system. That’s how it should be in the USA too. I don’t know why this is lagging here as opposed to other regions of the world, but I would assume it is a fairly easy fix. Look, I don’t have knowledge of how this is done, and I’m not offering any fixes, but I can voice my frustration at how the service is currently run. Playstation Store has some great games, and as a PS+ member, I’ve been getting games for free, but it would be nice to wake up in the morning to look at the store and see what’s new, that’s all I’m saying. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

1 Sentence Review: Ted

Ted is like a 1 hour 45 minutes episode of Family Guy back when Family Guy was still good, you know, 1999-2002. 
Live Action Family Guy with flashbacks and everything.

Friday, November 9, 2012

1 Sentence Review: Skyfall

Home Alone meets Batman Begins in Bond’s 23rd entertaining, smart, and surprisingly touching outing. 

50 years and still looking good.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

1 Sentence Review: Argo

The engaging and well told tale of how the CIA saved six Americans from Iran holds the viewers attention and is not overshadowed by big names. 
Cranston: “Aren’t you supposed to be Hispanic?”
Asfleck: “Shhh…”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

1 Sentence Review: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter chronicles the fun and rarely boring tale of the 16th President becoming a vampire killing Batman.
Before emancipating the nation of slavery, he freed it of vampires.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Just One More Thing

I recently got a Netflix account and logged into that baby through my PS3. The first thing I did with it, rewatch The Twilight Zone. But then something greater occurred to me; “Why don’t I watch Columbo again?” And seeing no reasonable answer against such a decision, I started watching the good Lieutenant from the very first, to it’s very last. Not all episodes are on Netflix, so I had to acquire those through nefarious means, but man what a joy it was. I forgot just how damn good this show was.

The true genius of the show was letting Peter Falk (Columbo) just do his thing. From his raspy cigar toned voice, the signature wardrobe (with famous rain coat), Columbo distracting himself midsentence to catch the killers off guard, all the while constantly asking others for a pencil were all parts of a character that Falk came up with. Falk created such an unassuming person you can forgive the killers for underestimating him so much. The lieutenant would get under their skin without them realizing it. On the surface Columbo is an annoyingly dumb witted, little, underpaid LA cop. But in reality these small self depraving actions were all a façade to the genius detective that lay within. Columbo was a predator, and the world was his prey. We just lucked out he was only after the bad guys.
Do you have a pencil?
Columbo went on for 69 episodes over 35 years, and we surprisingly learnt very little about his personal life, but the few morsels of information we saw spoke volumes. There was the time the only witness to a murder was a homeless man, and Columbo’s first instinct was to get the man to the station to get him fed, cleaned and have a roof over his head. Sure he had some questions, but he cared about the homeless man’s well being too. Then there was the time he said that he and his wife always wanted children but were unable to have any, instead getting very close to their nieces and nephews. And any time Columbo had access to food, he would share it with his fellow officers. There was a very working class feel to Columbo. You got the feeling that his childhood, though loving, might not have been the easiest while growing up. This all helped to show that he was a deeply caring man who cared for the ones he loved.
Classic Columbo playing along 
On most shows like this, the creators or producers generally try to force a sidekick (usually a hot female) to share the spotlight. And Columbo was no different. There were two reoccurring characters throughout the series. The first and only character to be in every episode along with Columbo was his beat up 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible. This hunk of junk was as run down as Columbo seemed, but it always got the job done. Sure there were times when it couldn’t go uphill forcing the lieutenant to walk, but it got him from point A to B. The second, and less featured co-star was Columbo’s laid back basset hound aptly named Dog. This animal was as opposite a policeman’s dog as you could get, but it did suit Columbo. Slow and rarely walking forcing Columbo to carry it, Dog was the embodiment of Columbo’s façade, and any killer unfortunate enough to see both man and dog together would fall for the act completely.
Stay here, look after the car. I'll be back.
Columbo was a genius; in his universe, a living legend. There no doubt  would have been countless cities vying to get him to police their streets. Hell, he was probably offered the chief of police in LA. But that would have taken him off the beat and behind a desk permanently, and that would have killed him. He’s not one to sit on the sidelines, but he didn’t crave the limelight either. He was a humble man, silent, but constantly observant. It’s what helped make him the greatest fictional detective ever written (yes, including Sherlock Holmes, the Batman, or even their bastard child). Unlike those others with their ludicrous amounts of money, Columbo felt real. You would hope this kind loving man really is walking our streets, looking out for us. Peter Falk may no longer be with us, and hopefully that rain coat of his will stay on the coat hanger forever, not dared to be touched by another, but do yourself a favor, watch an episode or two. Because if you haven’t already, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Ahh sir, just one more thing...

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Culling of the IQ

Recently, I joined OkCupid much on the insistence of a few friends and, perhaps, a little interest from their blogs (link). Like many other dating sites, you choose and answer series of questions in order to find suitable matches. One particular question caught my attention: Would the world be a better place if people with low IQs were not allowed to reproduce? Eh, so we need to stop Idiocracy from becoming reality? The eye-grabber was the number of women answering yes. Nearly, every single one of them. Granted, I selected from a small pool so it is not statistically significant. Still, that is a little scary. And no, I do not wear a helmet.

Swabbed genders between Gump and Jenny during their love scene. How awkward do you feel?

OkCupid, though not for a while, would mine data from all those question answers and member behavior. The data is compiled into trends and the site founder, Christian Rudde, writes about the findings and provide insights/interpretation. Unfortunately, I've not witness any discussion on the IQ question.

Remember when Johnny Depp was his brother

Why should we care? It is a silly little question with no impact. Not so fast because it is revealing of this perception of intelligence falling and the call for culling the idiots. I will not argue the drop in intelligence but it is not certainly due to IQ. There is a little thing called the Flynn effect: measured IQ over the past century has risen. This led to the led to IQ tests to be redesign several times over the decades in order to set correctly set the default at 100. So if you were take an IQ from the 1950s, you could easily be considered Mensa material.

In older IQ tests would have qualified these two as brilliant as James Woods, Dolph Lundgren, and Asia Carrera

There are many theories that suggest the rise of the IQ. More importantly, this rise does not mean rise in intelligence. There are multiple factors that account for raising IQs, such as improve diets, education at eariler ages and for both genders, increased skills at test-taking and we could ramble onwards. Most of all, IQ is a rough measurement of intelligence and not the gold standard. It is really best estimates.

It is not low IQs but our perception of the evolution of our culture. Who of us has not complained about the stupidity of mainstream culture. Of course, we need find the blame and our scapegoats are the 'dumb' people flooding the gates. We have gems like Idiocracy to give life to this perception. The fear/comedy of the film, no doubt many people feel, is stupidity outbreeds intelligence. To a certain degree, this is true, yet it is the whole story?

Consider this: who, in America, is considered the smartest man by IQ standards? Christoper Langan's IQ is measured between 195 and 210. He has been working on the Unitified Theory of Everything...the very thing that Einstein could not figure before his death. In Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, Langan's background reveals poverty, abuse, rejection, life of manual labor and damn near the bottom of the social ladder. Until the late 90s, the most attention he received was being a bouncer. Admit that when you read that quick description of Langan's life, you're thinking he's one of those damn drunks that somehow passes his genes onwards and bring us closer to Idiocracy.

Langan pondering if he should make galaxies circle around your head

Langan is not the only genius to rise from the rags of the socioeconomic abyss, traditionally thought as the low IQ world. Michael Faraday and Gregor Mendel were both runts of society and only able to become clerks/monks. Benjamin Franklin might be credited with figuring out lightening is electricity but Faraday figured out how to generate and harness it; before the Victorian era. Yes, he was cyberpunk before there was steampunk. And Mendel, the founder of genetics, who reached the magnum opus in his research about 4 years before DNA was actually discovered. Just to note: Watson and Crick did not discover DNA, just its structure and they have wicked PR skills. Guess what? Mendel was a monk from a farming family who funked out of college. No Pissarro family here.

Not the most safest and energy-efficient light-bub. But admit it: you'll pick a Tesla bub over an Edison one.

The problem with IQs and calls for its culling is simple: we really do not have a solid explanation between IQ and inheritance.  There is some suggestion that IQ might be passed down through the mother. And this could explain the Marie Sklodowska-Curie linage of nobel-winning, nuclear scientists, war journalists and biologists.

Which leads us back to the original question. The quick dumb answer: do not impregnate dumb women. The actual answer: it is time to seriously look at our culture and not blame its 'dumbing down' on things we cannot change, such as genetics (for the time being). No, if we wanna avoid this 'dumbing down,' we have start supporting more stimulating interests and hobbies.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Need for a New Lead – Part 2

Last month I wrote an article about the need for more female leads represented in video games. This medium is dominated by the generic male lead, and unlike TV shows and movies, I believed the risk to take a chance is significantly less in the video game industry. I believe this reduced risk stems from the fact that the gamer is more receptive to change; how else are you going to advance in a game if the main character doesn’t go through a changing journey. So with this in mind, I’m going to focus on the minority main leads, and what we can learn from what’s already come.
Chell, the lead from the excellent Portal series is not only a strong female lead, but a minority too. Not much is known about her ethnicity, but the actress, Alesia Toyoko Glidewell, who served as her face/body is of Brazilian and Japanese decent, still I wouldn’t want to make any assumptions. Chell is cut from the same cloth as Gordon Freeman; silent yet bold, smart and brave (thanks to the gamer), and up against insurmountable odds. In the grander schemes of things her plight is small (she is fighting for her freedom and not to save the planet), but her journey is remarkably fun and unique. It is from this smaller sense of scale that we get to see her tenacity and partake in her ingenuity. 
Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, from the Assassin’s Creed series, originates from Syria. It is in the assassin’s order that Altair learnt his core values. He is honest (constantly trying to do right by his comrades), brave (going up against the Templars to save those he loves), smart (deciphering ancient artifacts), and strong. He didn’t have an easy life (he’s an assassin), but he was willing to look at his mistakes, and learn from them, as well as learning from the mistakes of others. It was because of this self reflection that he was able to become a strong and wise leader. When the assassin’s order had lost its way through betrayal, he returned to take it back and restore the integrity that was lost. He might not have been as fun as Ezio, but he was a corner stone, not just in his time, but for those to come. 
Carl Johnson (CJ) from Grand Theft Auto is an African American. Like all other GTA games, you don’t play as a nice guy. You’re not the squeaky clean guy trying to clean up the streets, but unlike other GTA leads, CJ was not a heartless bastard. He was loyal to his family, friends and his gang, and genuinely showed remorse when he has to kill members of his gang. Further, he showed remorse when killing others, even going as far as to try to give some second chances. Sure he killed opposing gang members, and those that tried to kill him, but he is remarkably resourceful, as seen when taking back his turf. He was young and naive (some mistakenly believed him to be unintelligent), but he took people on at face value. He was an interesting, multidimensional lead.
Then we have James Heller, another African American, from the Prototype series (the poor man’s Infamous). He was about as interesting as Alex Mercer, which is to say he wasn’t. He was bland, and failed to captivate. His story was unoriginal, his motivation generic, and his world was uninteresting. He, like everything else in the game, was just there. With this line of thought, Garcia Hotspur from Shadows of the Damned, of Mexican descent, jumps to mind. The way Garcia was portrayed put a spotlight on how Japanese developers seem to deal with race (remember the RE5 controversy). Sure Garcia loved his girlfriend, but he is overly violent (bordering on psychopathic), and has difficulty reading English and… that’s all I seem to remember about him. Why would he have to read English novels in the City of the Damned is beyond me; couldn’t they be in Spanish? It didn’t add to the story, and only hurt Garcia’s image.
These are a few of the minority leads in a field that is already limited. Some of these characters are genuinely interesting, adding motivation to play the game in addition to the game play. Others fall flat. When a character is done well, you begin to care for them, and want to see their trials and tribulations. When a character is poor, they get in the way, constantly hindering every experience the gamer has. This is true for any medium, regardless of race or sex. Thankfully, there is still more to come. Wei Shen from Sleeping Dogs and Ratonhnhake:ton (Connor) from Assassin’s Creed III are both upcoming minority leads. I have no doubt that Ubisoft will be able to weave a fun story with an engaging lead for ACIII, and I look forward to what Square Enix does with Sleeping Dogs. But this industry needs more variety. Who knows, if video games lead the way, maybe other industries will follow suit. Until that day, all I say is more characters like Chell and CJ, and a lot less of the James Heller and Garcia Hotspur will help this industry move forward.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Need for a New Lead – Part 1

Video games have come a long way since its humble origin; graphics have improved, game design has become more intricate, and consoles/pc has become vastly more complicated to develop for. However, in all this time, the protagonists of the games we play have stayed mostly the same. Not that there is anything wrong with the generic male lead, but I believe it’s time for more diversity. It’s time to bolster up the female leads, but not at the expense of personality, and there are examples within the industry already to learn from.
Samus, at the very end of Metroid
Makoto Kano probably didn’t realize what a big deal he was going to make in 1986 when writing Metroid. He just helped to create a game with a strong lead going up against insurmountable odds. The player was taken on a journey with Samus, and when you finally got to the end of the game it no longer mattered that she turned out to be a woman. She was strong, bold, fearless, and thanks to the trials during the adventure, the gamer had an affinity with her. She has attained lasting fame, not only by being the first, but also by having a mostly great series of games (We'll ignore Metroid Other M). Nintendo has treated her, and the Metroid series, with tremendous respect, and this helps to explain why after 26 years she has remained relevant.
This is how a badass dual wields
Nariko from HeavenlySword (voiced and modeled after the wonderful Anna Torv), was another female character cut from the same cloth as Samus. She was strong, brave, and driven to protect her people. With her fiery red hair, she cut through the enemy, despite the physical toll it took on her. It was because of this sense of tragedy that the player got to care for her; she was trying to save her people at the cost of her life, and everything the player did hastened her death. She knew what she was getting into, but she showed such strength of character doing all she could to protect those she loved. These simple acts speak volumes, far more than Marcus Fenix’s four letter words and bulging muscles. I one day hope for her return, outside of an assumed All Star’s appearance.
There can only be one
But not all characters are created equal; Tomb Raider’s Lara was… different. She had big boobs and short shorts, and, that was kinda it. She was sold on sex appeal, and whatever personality she may have had was forgettable, but the game play was good for the time, and her world was intriguing. This may change in 2013’s reboot, but only time will tell. The Boss (we need a solo game with her), Alyx Vance, and Zelda are all great characters, but they are not leads. So those were some of the strong female leads that have graced video games, but the industry needs not only look within; film and TV is a great place to get inspiration from too.
Out in the wilds of fan fiction, these two must be kicking ass together
Ripley (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver) from the Aliens universe and Olivia (not surprisingly performed by Anna Torv) from Fringe are great female leads. Like some of the others mentioned above, they’re bold, strong, brave, and extraordinarily protective of those around them. When put into tough situations, they have the fortitude and patience to think things through, and act with deliberation, most time outsmarting their advisories. They’re honest and hardworking, almost to a fault, and they don’t compromise their core beliefs on a whim or fancy. They have constantly been the best part of their respective universes, and please note, carrying big guns or having superpowers are not a defining trait, just incredibly cool.
Korra, just doing her Avatar thing
Recently the show The Legend of Korra not only had a female lead character, but one that was a minority too. And unlike Japanese anime, Korra was not a caricature of a strong female lead. She didn’t need over sized boobs, tight barely visible clothing, and big luscious lips to be strong. She was independent, trying to discover who she is and where she fit in into her world. It was a fascinating and honest journey (who hasn’t struggled with their identity while growing up), and handled with integrity. And she isn’t the only strong female lead this show has offered. LinBeifong, and her mother Toph were just as well rounded as the young Avatar.  
Hey, what about us?
There are plenty of female characters I didn’t mention (Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, Chell from Portal and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but there is plenty of room for more games with strong engaging female leads. Most of these women are strong, brave, smart, and willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. You could write nonsense about it only being maternal instinct, but it’s deeper than that. These leads are good people who have been thrust into difficult circumstances, but managed to rise to the occasion. It just so happens they are women. This industry needs more diversity, something the movie industry and the TV world has, by and large, failed at; for every Ripley, Korra and Olivia, you get hundreds of male leads. It’s time for the video game industry to move beyond the limitations that have defined other forms of entertainment, and take bold steps. Gamers are intelligent (you need to be for games like Portal), and I have no doubt that we can handle a shift to more diversity, so bring it on, I would welcome this opportunity. Next month I’ll write about the need for stronger, better fleshed out and engaging minority leads.

Click here for articles on Dishonored, Metal Gear, and E3 2012.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

1 Sentence Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan gives us a real world Batman's inevitable fate with style, emotion, and class while giving us hope for a better tomorrow (plus SUPERMAN trailer).

Bane - Did you see the Superman trailer?
Batman - Yes. Looks like Cla... Superman is tackling the fishing industry.
Bane - Indeed!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dishonored Arcanum

Dishonored is next anticipated game from Bethesda Softworks of Fallout 3 and Skyrim fame. From the trailer, the game atmosphere takes on the combination of the Fallout and Elder scrolls series that meet a dystopian middle ground. I am both excited and disappointed by this Victorian supernatural assassin game; am I missing any other adjectives? Excited, because it is Bethesda's next big game and, generally, they do good jobs with their games. Well, if you choose to ignore all the glitch issues. Disappointed, here was a chance to revisit one of my favorite game worlds of all times: Arcanum:Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura.

Which means more fun, obviously

Come again, Arcanum? First off, as everyone may not be familiar: the team behind Arcanum is the same team. behind the original Fallout series. With this team, the game kept that rather dark yet humorous approach to semi-open world isometric RPGs but with steampunk and magic. Judging from the trailers and interviews, Dishonored seems to be just dark and linear missions, which is seems a bit out of place for Bethesda.

Arcanum was game where its gameplay and plot were not the greatest but this is where the world just dominates. I would argue that this is what made BioShock, and Bethesda's main games. Let think about BioShock: the gameplay was bland and the plot was good but made only greater thanks to the world. The world, basically a watery retort to Atlas Shrugged, and its exploration was the waves (sorry could not resist pun) crashing back in 2008. The personal joy was exploring Rapture and piecing together the various individual stories that make up the fall of the city. Kinda like WorldWar Z but replace zombies with libertarianism.

And why Ron Paul never gets that nomination...

The worlds of Arcanum and Dishonored can be easily confused. After all, they involve magic, steampunk, monocles and Victorian darkness. Since we've seen only glimpses of the Dishonored world, let's just focus on Arcanum. The Arcanum world most visibly seen as magic vs steampunk science. Simply put, neither can exist next to each other as the mere present of one disrupts the function of the other. Magic and science come to symbolize old world mysticism and new world progression, respectively. While the magic part carries itself in the Tolkien tradition, the steampunk science does give a nod to Tolkien also.

So yes, you can visit Middle-Earth

Lord of the Rings was not heavily influenced by World War II as one would expect someone living through that time and penning an epic of defeating a great evil. If anything, Tolkien reflected on the destructiveness of industrialism towards the environment. A prime example is Saruman chopping the forest near his tower-fortress to manufacture the supplies for Sauron's armies. Arcanum reflected upon this by giving a side mission to side with or against an orcish labor union strikers. While not dealing with union politics, you can the slums of the biggest industrial city in the game or explore the vast plains that once was forest but was cut down for industrial progress. Then again, what RPG is complete without the slum dive? Oh, there is a bit more but you might as well as play the game to get the full pleasure.

What makes this world great is the exploration of all sides of magic, science, politics, fantasy racism and such. While you do have your obvious evil and good, there is mostly an explanation instead of 'that's just how it is.' A sequel to Arcanum could have sent time exploring these topics a bit more and give a more personal yet open-world. With Arcanum, you've got a origin story established and now your sequel(s) can focus on a more personalize story as BioWare had done with Baldur's Gate and Mass Effect series. Let's explore the old mysticism and politics of magic and compare the pros and cons against the progression of steampunk science. Let's dive into the rise of capitalism against feudalism, with wizards and gunslingers thrown in for the mix. Sure it sounds like that horrifying history class with an overenthusiastic teacher you always dreaded; but look at BioShock.

Not sure if we should be scared or admiring that one student in the bottom right corner...

Bethesda seems like it is weaving something of a personal tale with Dishonored, which is a stark contrast with its two biggest titles. Sure, it could be just the game that breaks from its typecasting. Perhaps it will deliver on the new spin on stealth games. But still, a missed oportunity.

Posted by Richabob         

Monday, July 2, 2012

Draft Time – Metal Gear Edition

If you’re a fan of the English Premier League like me (Arsenal FC FTW), this time of the year can be tough. Football is over, summer signing rumors persist, and nothing is certain until the first two weeks of the next season. It was at this point I was thinking that if I were to draft an ultimate unit from the Metal Gear universe to take over the world, who would I put in my starting 11 (a football term for you yanks). Here are the people who would make the first team.
Manager: - The Boss, aka The Joy

The Boss is the single greatest warrior from the Metal Gear universe. She beat down Big Boss (twice), put fear into Colonel Volgin, commanded The Cobra Unit (greatest MGS unit in the series), sniffed out Eva for whom she really was, and is the catalyst for the entire series. The Boss was smart, calm, steadfast and strong, a vastly skilled fighter, and unwaveringly brave (she did willingly go to her death for her country). She brings the leadership to the team, and if anyone can control the following egos with ease, it’s The Joy.

Captain: - Liquid Snake aka The Brother of Dark

Liquid is quite the badass. In his one adventure he puts Snake through hell. Because of Liquid, Snake gets tortured by an Ocelot, attacked by a mad Raven, looses Meryl to a Wolf, and plays mind games with a Mantis (more on him later). Not to mention, in the final fist fight, Liquid’s punches carry more weight than Snake’s. Further, despite being blown up in then thrown off the top of Rex, and getting shot up in a jeep, Liquid only looses because of a military engineered virus. Liquid Snake was the Liquid Metal Terminator of the series, and any man who can kill Ninja Grey Fox should be feared. He brings the brawn, spite, and tenacity to the team.
Goalkeeper: - The End, aka The Father of Sniping

The End is the premier sniper of the series. He has achieved a synergy with nature to the point where it helps to camouflage him from his prey. He was part of the legendary Cobra Unit who helped bring an end to World War II, and by the time he faces Big Boss, he is well into his hundreds and still more than a match for the man. The epic fight with The End can last upwards of half an hour, forcing the player to look at every nook and cranny. He hid well, and most of the time he had you in his sights before you even knew what was happening. He brings the endurance to the team.
Fullback: - Laughing Octopus, aka The Devil’s Child

The Beauty and the Beast Corps played homage to Fox Hound from MGS, and they were a lot of fun. But out of the four girls you go up against, Laughing Octopus was undoubtedly the best. Her camo suit with mask allowed her to blend into her environment with ease, and she was able to mimic others very well, even down to their voices. Her only downside was her madness (but in Metal Gear that’s par for the course), but more than makes up for that with her tentacle arms and flying bombs. Octopus brings stealth and f**king flying bombs to the team.
Midfielder: - Vamp, aka The creepy guy with a hard-on for Raiden

Dead cell was not the best unit the series had to offer, but there was one star from their lineup; Vamp. To put it lightly, Vamp is a weird guy. It seems he had a sexual relationship with Commandant Dolph, Dolph’s daughter Fortune, Naomi, and was really into Raiden whenever they fought. Nonetheless, Vamp was an extremely skilled fighter. He could not be bested by assault rifles, rockets, and sniper rifles. He piloted a harrier jet, ran on water, made mincemeat of a SWAT unit and almost Snake, and was immortal (providing he still has the nano-bots in him). He was skilled in many types of warfare (hand to hand, vehicle, stealth), and would bring variety to the team (plus he would have such a boner for The Boss).

Forward: - Psycho Mantis, aka The guy who blew my freaking MIND!!!        
Psycho Mantis is still the single greatest boss battle in the history of videogames. He read your mind, could predict you moves, turn you screen off, hurl objects at you while being invisible, and mentally control others. He was just about the best, and that’s exactly who you want up front; a man with extreme confidence in his abilities which will guarantee victory. Psycho Mantis was the original Mindfreak (go to hell Criss Angle), and would bring the supernatural element to the team. 

Substitute: - Revolver/Liquid Ocelot, aka Shalashaska, aka ADAM     
Ocelot would have made it to the starting lineup if I was sure he was loyal to the team. However, he’s double crossed so many people you can never be too sure. Regardless, he is a master manipulator, loves to torture, is incredibly strong (asks Snake’s face), and is the only person not named Snake to ever go up against the legendary Big Boss and survive (sure Big Boss let him live, but that still speaks volumes). With Ocelot on the team, he could trick all opponents to take themselves out before a match would have even begun. He could be the greatest asset to the team, providing he’s playing for it.