Thursday, December 31, 2009
Over the last year I’ve become reacquainted with Wil Wheaton, the child star who brought Wesley Crusher to annoying life. First through the Penny Arcade/PvP DnD podcasts, which are as funny as they are geeky. After laughing so much at the amusing way he handled PvP’s Scott Kurtz’s reaction to Wil’s character dying I thought it only right I check out his own stuff. There I found that Mr. Wheaton was doing a podcast series, Memories of the Futurecast, that reflects on his time on TNG. One of the funnier parts of the 'cast was Wheaton coming to realise why the majority of the viewing public had hated his character.
All this listening to recaps of the old series got me in the mood to watch some TNG, something I’d not looked at since it had ended years ago. Especially with the last part being the dreadful Nemesis. So on visiting my parents’ abode for the Holiday Season I managed to dig out a boxset of the Borg episodes from the series and the film Generations. First of all, Generations wasn’t as bad as I remembered, being older allowed me to appreciate the meeting of Picard and Kirk a lot more then I did aged 12. But it was the Borg episodes that really got me. First I was reminded how good TNG could be when it tried as all six episodes are brilliant. In the six, you get the brilliance of John de Lancie’s Q, and also the amazement of how good an actor Brent Spiner is, playing both the non-emotional but kind hearted Data and his emotional and evil brother Lore, and the two appear as totally separate characters.
What really struck me was how much of shame it was that Star Trek at this point was still episodic and didn’t venture into serial territory, something that would only rear its head with Deep Space Nine. Watching Best of Both Worlds I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities that could have been followed after this if the show just carried on story-lines for more than two episodes. As well as being the quintessential Borg story, Best of Both Worlds is also an examination of Commander William Riker. Revealed here to have turned down three separate commissions for his own command and with the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Shelby gunning to be his replacement as Picard’s first officer we get a wonderful introspective of Riker. When Picard gets kidnapped by the Borg and transformed into one of them we get to see Riker as a Captain, and he does a brilliant job. I just thought the possibilities were fantastic. When Picard gets rescued and disconnected from Borg it would have been great to have a few episodes of him rehabilitating back to normal while Riker’s left in command of the Enterprise instead of the reversion to status quo Star Trek is known for.
First thing I’m going to do when I get back home is go out and get First Contact on DVD and finish off the TNG’s Borg Saga. Despite a few friends arguing it, I’m not going as far as watching Voyager though.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
My very first proper American Comic was an issue of Spider-Man. I was on my first holiday to the US with my parents and I managed to badger them into buying me quite a few that trip. But the first was part 1 of ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ - a storyline that featured a certain clone as the main star. Yes, my first proper comic had Scarlet Spider as the main star during what is widely considered one of the worst stories in Marvel's history, the Clone Saga. From that moment on I always liked Ben Reilly. I followed him through most of the saga, his stint as Spidey and his eventual death.
His was one comic death that never seemed like it was ever going to be reversed no matter how much it was wanted. This is comic books though and only Uncle Ben stays dead, so it was only a matter of time before the guy who took his name from him rose from the grave. While we may not have that yet, 15 years is long enough for Marvel to finally start admitting that Peter Parker's test tube brother existed. While a storyline in Amazing addressed the character in-continuity, we were also given an out-of-continuity story covering the Clone Saga that was to cover how it should have been told, instead of the mess it turned out to be.
Well that's what Marvel claimed anyway. The six issue mini series isn't really taking that stance. It's odd what the writers have done. They seem to have taken beats from the whole saga and are half retelling and half re-imagining. For instance, in the original saga Ben had a very 90s mullet and looked a lot scruffier to Parker's usual look. It was only after he took over the real Spider mantel that he decided to dye his hair blonde and tidy it back up. To distance themselves, in this clone saga Ben is blonde and working at the coffee shop while still running around as the Scarlet Spider.
Also Peter is the usual jokey Spider-Man, but part of the reason for the original story was that Parker had gone through so much he'd become dark and brooding. Editorial wanted the single, fun loving Spidey back, a problem they'd pursue another 10 years before getting to grips with, and that's a whole other rant. Having both Ben and Peter working in the same way does spoil some of the magic of the original series. Well, at least before it got out of hand.
That its now looking like Norman Osborne's behind it all again just goes to show that this is just them telling certain parts better than how it was originally. Osborne was originally only revealed to be back from the grave and the mastermind behind the saga when editorial sat down and tried to figure how to reverse the 'Ben is the real Parker' problem. The former Green Goblin was not even in the original plans.
The fact issues two and three cover about 4 different story-arcs within the original Saga just proves my point. One of those arcs was one of the Saga's lowest points. The God-awful Maximum Clonage, a SIX issue story, now part and parcel of a two issue story covering far more ground.
However, I'm loving having Ben Reilly back in comics. Especially in the Scarlet Spider costume. One of my all time favourite comics will be the issue where Ben first puts the costume together and fights Venom, all the way through saying he's worthless while proving the very opposite. It was Spider-Man through and through and I hope I don't have to wait another 15 years to see him again.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
However, I ended up getting it as an early present and after some minor surgery left me off my feet for nearly two weeks I thought it would be the perfect time to get started with it. Thank God I did, over a week of playing and I'm not sure I'm even half way through. Got a month or two before Mass Effect 2 so should be plenty of time for me to enjoy the game, although the announcement of even more DLC for Dragon Age doesn't fill me with hope.
I'm playing this on the 360 and I know Bioware said it (every reviewer going has) but Dragon Age really is made for the PC. However, since my PC isn't up to scratch for gaming these days, and I still have an uncompleted Neverwinter Nights 2 on there, as soon as it was announced for 360 I knew that's how I'd be getting it. I told myself it'd be fine as normally Bioware's good at porting They held Mass Effect back at least 6 months to make appropriate changes so it worked better on the PC. It looks like EA doesn't care about this though and sped Bioware up so they could have a multi-platform release. The game is set up for pause-and-plan-style fighting, which is a bit difficult to pull off with a console but thanks to a Mass Effect-style menu on the left trigger it more or less works. What's slightly annoying is you have to change some options to get it working properly.
Also the game needs a quick save key. Maybe I've gotten lazy with all my console playing but I expect autosaves when you switch areas or finish an important battle. Not in Dragon Age. I lost an hour of game play because I died in a fight. I am now used to it, but I'm stopping every 5 minutes just to save so I don't lose any progress, breaking the flow of the game.
This game is extremely addictive though. During my recuperation I'd start playing pretty early on in the morning thinking I'd just do a little bit of a quest but I happened to start a questline that beautifully fed into itself to keep you going and I kept telling myself 'just this next bit' and before I realised, the majority of a day had passed.
What's really worrying me is how likely I am to replay this game. Apart from the numerous different starting adventures you can have, there's also the fact that I'm currently playing as my usual good guy and there's certain side quests I can't touch, especially with the party I've assembled. I want to see this game from a total git's perspective.
The party is one of the best I've seen in a long time and I think Bioware have finally pulled off the like/dislike function they've been trying for since Knights of the Old Republic. It’s another reason I think I'm likely to replay this game as an absolute bastard. I want to do the side quests I've missed out on and experience life with the other party members who are a bit less pious then the group I'm wandering around with now.
The problem remains that this is going to take ages, and with the news that Mass Effect 2 is coming on 2 disks I'm starting to wonder when I'm going to get round to all of this.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This didn't turn out quite the way I thought it would, much to my disappointment as I was really looking forward to walking in somewhere looking more or less normal, ripping a sword from a guard's hand and having at them. However, Ezio walks around tooled up just as much as Altair does. He also can pick up weapons from the enemy, even the ones he can't carry around himself such as spears and double handed axes if he's had the right training but I ended up mostly using the standard stuff.
That's right, training. Unlike Altair who knew everything just wasn't permitted to carry certain items Ezio needs to be trained as this is the story of how Ezio became an Assassin. Obviously the majority of the training is story related, however some of the finer details are optional, and quite hidden. I totally missed the training for spears, double handed and a special ranged move until quite late in the game and I still managed to miss another as the trainer didn't want to charge me for it and I only know about it because my flatmate mentioned it.
Still the development team have improved upon the original in every way. Loads of new additions to the series have been introduced such as what there is to do at the villa in Monteriggioni and upgradeable armour and weaponry. The repetition has totally gone and everything towards an assassination is done as part of the story and are all very different. You no longer have to travel at 2mph outside of cities on your horse. Instead of guards being a bit jumpy as they were in the first game they now react to your notoriety which you can control at your own leisure.
Not that it's all sugar and spice, the side missions take the form of some of the better assignments from the first game. However, by taking them away from the story I couldn't help but think that they seemed a little pointless for a man on a mission of vengeance for the death of his family. This revenge fueled assassin takes time out to beat up cheating husbands and delivering letters. It just seems beneath what Ezio has become, at least for Altair it was all part of setting up the assassination.
They also seem quite tacked on, the models for the characters you're working for can be very random. The first time I had to deliver letters it was to a man's two mistresses, the second of which was a very old woman. Then later an old woman in another city asked me to go beat up her cheating husband, so off I free-run and find the dirty cheat, only for it to be a city guard, whose first reaction to Ezio was the fact he was a wanted man. Luckily once I cracked him in the chops he reverted to cheating husband mode and after a few more licks he went running on his way.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and the ending totally took me by surprise and I had as just as much of a “What the Fuck” moment as the main characters. I can't wait for Assassin's Creed 3. I wonder when we're going this time.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Half way through the first season they seem to realise their mistake and start correcting it, within 3 episodes they kill off and maim half the cast, leaving a core group of 4, 5 if you include the car, which you really should. It does seem as if Kitt is getting a better deal with more cool sequences involving him. But then they introduce an evil robot, which has the voice of Optimus Prime. Way to sell that one, an evil robot with the voice of one of the most well known heroic robots of the last 20 years. This show really is quite bad, but I can't help see the potential
Thursday, October 29, 2009
However, this year I'm more hyped about it then usual. To fit with the event I've even taken to playing through a few of my horror games. It started last Sunday morning with Smith and myself giving Resi 5 another quick session getting a little further on our second play through, this time on Veteran difficulty. I quite like Resi 5, wasn't as special as 4 but the progression of the over arcing story was great, as was the co-op. The inventory system took a turn for the worst. I understand why Capcom did this to facilitate co-op, but God-damn its worse then the original Resident Evil's
Sunday evening saw a return to Left 4 Dead, and I gave Crash Course DLC a bash. Left 4 Dead was a game we played far too little. We all loved it but due to its co-operative nature we either had too few people or too many and people moved onto other games pretty quickly. The release of Survival Mode didn't even help matters. Crash Course finally got us to play it again. While it was great to go back to the game I did feel that Crash Course paled in comparison to the original four campaigns.
Monday brought Dead Space. I treated Dead Space woefully on my first play. I'd been told to only play the game at night but this was leaving me with barely any time to play and ended up playing most of it during the day, in extremely sporadic sessions. It took me nearly two months to complete and I'm usually done in a week or two with most games. That said Dead Space did managed to freak me out at points. Still does, despite the fact I know when most of the scares are coming. I really want to keep playing this once my little Halloween fun is over, so I can experience the game a bit better this time through.
Tuesday, as always, is old school RPG night, and this week was a special Vampire the Requiem which the GM had some really horrible stuff for us to work through. So congrats to him.
Duncan came round on Wednesday and I thought it'd be the night I'd miss out. However, we ended up playing House of the Dead: Overkill. Funny on-rails shooter. Good for a laugh with a mate and its always fun to shoot zombies in the face.
Tonight is movie night and my choice, so appropriately I've picked horror films. I might play some Dead Space later on as well. Have a good Halloween!
Friday, October 23, 2009
First of all a warning as this is a bit spoilery.
After the first extended episode (or two episodes, however you want to class it) I wasn't so sure. It struck me as just trying to tap into the Battlestar vibe and channel Star Trek: Voyager at the same time. Personally I felt that Voyager never lived up to its original premise of a crew being stuck in the middle of nowhere as much as it could have done, and was worried Stargate is a franchise that would probably end up doing the same.
However, SGU - as it’s apparently being called - seems to be going the same route Battlestar went in its first series rather than the usual Stargate way of a big bad alien race looking to enslave them. With the first story concentrating on the lack of air on the Ancient ship, then the second about them losing power it looks like this is very much going to be about them struggling to survive rather than usual Stargate fare. The closest we've come to aliens so far is the strange dust clouds that may have guided the Lieutenant to the lime so they could repair the air filters and the mysterious shuttle seen leaving the ship at the end of the Air story.
One touch I really liked was a lot of the staff have been cranky. Dr Rush, Robert Carlisle, was even suffering from headaches. Why was this? Alien signals messing with their brains? Something wrong with the ship making them ill? No, they were suffering from caffeine and nicotine withdrawal. It was totally unneeded yet really grounds the fact that they've jumped onto a ship and lost access to everyday amenities.
Despite being stranded in a galaxy far far away, the makeshift crew of the Destiny do have a way to communicate with Earth thanks to the Ancient communication devices first seen in the Ori storyline of SG-1. This works by swapping the minds of people at either end and allows the other person to walk around on Earth, just in someone else's body. This has given the show some great scenes of characters delivering the news that they are trapped in another galaxy to their family members, who are in great discomfort as the person speaking looks and sounds nothing like their loved one.
This is a fantastic addition to the Stargate franchise. I'm still annoyed Atlantis was cut down in its prime so this could reach our screens earlier but Universe has certainly found its feet a lot faster than Atlantis did during its first season. I'm hoping that this high quality is maintained and it doesn't fall into the usual Stargate plots any time soon, as it would be a waste of the concept.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Those needs were indeed fulfilled. Prototype is fantastic. One of the things that popped into my head during the first time I played it was, "finally another good free roaming superhero game, it’s about bloody time". Which isn't that surprising when you think this is the same studio that created the Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game. I couldn’t think of another I’d enjoyed so much since Spider-Man 2, a game that Prototype certainly invokes memories of. I’m not sure why exactly, maybe it’s New York, or the art style but there is certainly something there that makes you think of the Wall Crawler’s last brilliant game.
Its shame we have to refer to Spider-Man 2 as the best, a game that’s 5 years old and had 3 sequels since. But then the license has certainly been totally screwed over by Activision of late. After the fantastic Spider-Man 2 each following game seems to be missing something. I had such high hopes for Web of Shadows but the combat system in the game is reportedly so broken that I never even gave it a proper whirl and Ultimate tried to mess with the swinging method, something that was perfect in 2.
It wasn't until my third session on it that I suddenly realised that Prototype wasn't the first time on the 360 we've had the ability to leap small buildings in a single bound and run around a city with outrageous powers. That would be Crackdown. It says something about Realtime's game that it took me so long to remember it when playing Prototype and that it apparently only just broke even. I enjoyed Crackdown but it wasn't without its faults, the lack of mission variation being on the biggest. The Realtime rebels, Ruffian, certainly have their work cut out if they want Crackdown to regain its crown.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
So the second biggest franchise announcement was the new Metal Gear Solid. Two of 'em in fact. The multi platform Rising, starring Raiden and apparently not directed by Kojima as he's busy with Peace Walker on the PSP. I'm happy we're getting a MGS on the 360 because I missed 4 and I never had a problem with Raiden in MGS2. Loosing Kojima at the moment I'm not sure about yet.
Also on the espionage front is Splinter Cell, now spies have always been one of my geek spots so the first Splinter Cell was a given. It was also the last one I played. I gave Chaos Theory's co-op a quick go and the demo of Double Agent but none of them seemed to fix what I felt was wrong with the franchise. Taking Sam Fisher down the Bourne route may go a long way to fixing it and the gameplay footage did look awesome.
Finishing off the espionage is Alpha Protocol, a game that was pretty well covered before E3 but I've only just started paying attention to it as I'd failed to notice it was Obsidian making it. Because of the subject I can't wait but the combat looks pretty standard fare, I'm waiting to see how they pull off some of the other aspects of the RPG genre. What has been shown is the speech mechanic and Obsidian are taking a leaf out of Bioware's book with the conversation wheel but look to be doing it slightly better.
Speaking of Bioware, they've been showing off Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins. Mass Effect 2's trailer was suitably dark, which suits a game Bioware are saying is their Empire Strikes Back and there's some very cool new looking weaponary. I'm also please that they're still bigging up the continued save function as I was worried that little ability was going to disappear as we got closer. Really reminds me to finish Mass Effect again as an arsehole so I've got two versions of 2 to play. Dragon Age just gets a new trailer and more Marilyn Manson music.
Assassin's Creed 2 was one of my most looked forward to games of the year, and still is its just got a lot more company now. What has been shown looks great the fact Ezio doesn't carry round an armoury with him like Altair I love because I always found it slightly comical that the guards never clicked that Altair was up to no good with swords and throwing knives strapped to him. Other than that the game looks like more of the same with some really good improvements to the formula.
Left 4 Dead 2 came as a surprise. Not that I'm really complaining, I was hoping for more campaigns for the first game but five new ones plus new variations of super and normal zombies as well melee weapons has made me happy this is the right decision. What I really love about this announcement is that the new zombies and level features are all designed to mess with tactics that everyone's using in the first game. Well done Valve.
Raven's Singularity looks pretty cool, jumping on the band wagon of first person shooters taking Half Life's 2 gravity gun to new heights. Lets hope it manages it and doesn't go the way of Fracture.
Darksiders by Joe Madureira's Vigil looks fantastic but you'd expect nothing less from MAD and joining in on the ranks of games jumping aboard the God of War train.
Overall, I've been quite excited about the news that's come out of this year's E3. I'm slightly surprised that most of the news seemed to come out on the same day and things have been pretty quiet since then, more clarifying details then anything.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
For starters Raven have got the healing factor right. In the past games have tried to shy away from this and come up with excuses why it doesn't work or underplay it. Not so with Origins, this embraces it. Wolverine will be taking on 10 guys all stabbing and shooting the crap out of him and Logan soldiers on knowing that once dealt with he'll heal up. From a geek perspective I think they may have gone too far. In the comics when Wolverine takes one hell of a kicking he's incapacitated, has to lie there until his body nits itself back together till a point when it functions again. Not so here, Logan can be missing all his skin, layers of muscle with skeleton exposed and he's still going. He's not so much Wolverine but the God damn Terminator. Still, the look of it all healing up in real time is awesome.
Also Wolverine's shirt seems to have some sort of weird healing factor as well. While his body slowly nits itself back together his shirt keeps any damage it has sustained. That is until there's a cutscene and the vest reappears in its undamaged glory, leaving you the task of destroying it once again by throwing Wolverine into the nearest barrage of bullets.
Once you've played the first two levels you've practically played the whole game as the few extra unit types that get introduced after that are few and far between, or if they do they still act exactly the same as what you've already sliced and diced. The bizarre part of it is the lack of boss fights, or even major bad guys, and I think it might just be laziness on the developers part. After the first level you fight Victor which is great, but his move set is very similar to Logan's. The next boss fight four levels later against Agent Zero starts brilliantly but comes down to stuff you've already done before.
Also the level design is strikes of laziness. The first six levels all take place in the same two locations, then the second of those is swapped out for another but we keep the first. The story works to that advantage and makes it work. Although taking its name from the film the story only takes a few beats from it, and tells its own version of Logan falling out with Stryker and getting his adamantium skeleton. This makes more of an issue of the mission to Africa that takes about 10 minutes in the film and flashes back through out the game.
I realise that this review seems quite bad but that's because it's far easier to write the negative than the positive. This game is like a good action movie, shit blows up and the bad guys get their asses kicked, it may not be the pinnacle of cinema but it is bloody enjoyable.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
So the latest in the reboots has now landed in the shape of Star Trek, and once again its a successful one. I'm tempted to say on of the most successful I've seen to date. What's really interesting is that Abrams has taken the usual course of just ignoring everything that has gone before and instead did it in universe, which admittedly Star Trek is one of the few franchises that's actually possible with. Still its a reboot that manages to leave everything before it intact, makes sure you know that and sets course for a whole new heading.
The actors were fantastic as well. Although to start with some of them don't feel quite right, by the time the credits roll they are Kirk and his command crew, the film doing a great job showing how they grow into the roles they are famous for. When Kirk steps onto his bridge at the end of the movie Chris Pine IS Captain Kirk, even the character who plays Kirk's dad does an absolutely fantastic job of giving off that Kirk aura.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Apparently the movie has different Easter Egg endings depending on the cinema, I got one in Japan. Now I'm all for the next Wolverine movie happening in Japan, its a genius idea, but this ending was shit. Apparently the other one is with Deadpool and I feel ripped off.
Speaking of which Ryan Reynolds wasn't in the movie enough. I was loving his Deadpool from his very first scene, if even one thing gets commisioned after this it better be Deadpool.
The random character apperances in this are brilliant, they're very careful to not let Cyclops ever see Wolverine and the little cameo at the end was brilliant and incredibly well kept. Although the CGI for it was rubbish.
Watched X2 straight after it and they did a really good job of making Wolverine a really good prequel to this movie, but then I got annoyed at how how much they fucked up X3 and ruined all the potential that was set up.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Fallout. A franchise that's always intrigued me but I've never really devoted much time to it, mainly because I came to it so late. My first interaction was a demo of Fallout Tactics, which I enjoyed but have since learnt that it doesn't have much in common the rest of the series. Years alter I finally got round to Fallout 1, thoroughly enjoyed it but got to a point where I just couldn't complete it. It was either hit the mutant base and die or try and get into the church, which I managed once and cocked it up and never could do again. Fallout 2 fared even worse, I made my character really badly and wasn't quite charismatic enough to talk his way round things or hard enough to fight through them and haven't found the time to restart it yet.
All that changed with Fallout 3, after loving Oblivion so much I couldn't wait to give Fallout a shot now it was under Bethesda's wings. It was good, very good. Not only did I complete it but afterwards I reloaded my save before the end of the game and kept going until the level cap hit. I've not got round to either of the DLC's out so far due to the huge pile of games I've been working my way through but I can't wait for Broken Steel, especially as it ups the level cap to 30.
Seemed to be missing one or two things that make it properly Fallout but I could put my finger on. Now Bethesda have announced that Obsidian are making a none numbered sequel, Fallout: New Vegas. Fantastic news as Obsidian rose from the ashes of Black Isle, the original makers of the Fallout series. But not only that, it means that the series is back in the hands of Chris Avellone. Not just the Lead of Fallout 2 but also the guy behind Planescape: Torment my favourite RPG of all time and Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2. This is who Bioware goes to for sequels.
What's really interesting is that Bethesda went to Obsidian and asked what they wanted to do and let Obsidian pitch an idea. Personally I can't wait for this to come out next year.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I'm finally resurrecting this place, never actually meant to abandon it in the first place, just got busy and kept saying to myself that I'd do something as soon as something big came out. Then Iron Man and Dark Knight came along and it had been so long since I'd written for the place that I forgot. With Smith and me forcing each other back into writing, and Smith doing a better job I'm ressurrecting this place. So on with a review of David Baldacci's The Whole Truth.
Baldacci goes from playing in Grisham's backyard and steps up to a more Tom Clancy arena. I'm not sure for the better either. Normal Baldacci protagonists are ex-Government agents investigating murders or Washington conspiracies and its all quite low key. Sure near the end there'll be a chase scene with the CIA agents or the President nearly getting assassinated but it was always the slow build.
Here we've got a psychopath that some Shady Organisation has managed to tame by placing a tracking device in his head and threaten to kill if he steps out of line and a alcoholic reporter. The reporter works quite well, but the characterisation of Shaw, the aforementioned psycho, just never seems to quite work. He just comes across as a indestructible thug with a soft spot that's exploited for story purposes.
The plot seems disconnected as well, Shaw and Katie, the reporter, are running around totally ignoring the main plot until Shaw's soft spot is taken advantage of, even then they're on the back foot right until the last minute. The way they finally deal with the guy behind it all is good but it felt like they'd almost fluked the victory more than anything.If you're a fan of Baldacci then its good, but if you're new to him I'd suggest going with Camel Club or Split Second.