Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mass Effect 3 part 1! THE REVIEW! (no spoilers)

So after 30 hours of in game play and who knows how many spent in multiplayer I have now come to the end of Mass Effect 3, the end to a series which is consider by some to be one of the most important contributions to Sci-fi in this generation (and I tend to agree with that sentiment). Heres the deal Lazer-readers, I have a lot to say about this game so this entry could get very long. As a result, im breaking this analysis up into three entries. The first one (this one) is the general gloss over review with no spoilers. The second is the what went wrong analysis with TONS of spoilers in it so if you have not played it you probably wouldn't want to read it. The third is me flexing my many brain wrinkles to show how easy it is to fix these problems. So here we go with part 1!

The Review 
Lets get one thing clear out of the gate. I wouldn't have spent 30 hours in this game if it was terrible. There are many good moments within an amazing universe that made it worth while to play. However, there are many internal flaws (and external influences) that keep what should have been a defining moment in rpg gaming from being anything more than an adequate cover based sci-fi shooter. That said, lets get to it. 

Lets get whats good about this game out of the way (which interestingly enough actually lends to the flaws). The universe is deep, the characters interesting and awesome and the gameplay functional. The problem is that all of these factors have always been good within the Mass Effect series so the game cannot simply rely on these factors for success (in the eyes of the customers. Bioware is undoubtably rolling in the many dollars it has gained from this game already). It has to go above and beyond with the writing and story and that is where we hit our first bumps.

The writing in this game, while steller at parts, ultimately lags far behind the first two installments. Its not as though the Bioware team took stupid pills and then decided to go on writing the script, its more of a feeling that this game was rushed. There are glaring continuity errors, strange and obviously problematic decisions about pacing and tone and just an overall increase of "what the fuck?" moments from 0 in the previous two to about 5 in ME3. Heres the thing though; every idea in this game is solid. Its clear what they were going for and all it needed was a good editor, which the lack of one lends to the thought that it was rushed. There are plenty of theories of why this may be the case, the tainted hands of producers concerned about profits, too many resources devoted to the Star Wars MMO etc (more on this in the next section). Regardless, the biggest flaw is the way the story is presented and the writing within it, and as Mass Effect has always been a series defined by its stories and writing this is a big big problem. 

There are more signs of rushed production, more graphics and gameplay glitches, interesting flubs in dialogue pacing and in conversation camera movement (its always great for an intense/stirring moments when the camera cuts away from the person talking to get stuck focusing on a wall for 30 seconds). Finally, because this is the third installment in the series, the production team had two options. 
1) Develop the characters more, requiring a greater amount of time focusing on writing and greater risk
2) Rely on call backs to lines/behaviors from the previous games to cash in on the fan service train
ME3 went with option 2. Bad choice. The way returning characters are presented often has the vibe of a long running sitcom (heeeeeeeeeres Jack! Boy is she a fire cracker!) Its just lazy and a sad departure from the amount of time and effort that Bioware famously devotes to character development.

There are a few obvious missed opportunities to involve the player in gameplay that is more engaging and exciting than mere cover based combat. The only reason why they did not capitalize on a few obvious diversions from the norm could only be time and money on their minds, which of course ultimately hurts the game. Finally, they bring back a lot of things from the first game (characters that we stopped caring about/had closure for already, weapon mods and inventory which the ME2 system handled much better I thought), got rid of things they shouldn't have (no vehicle sections at all, much less focus on moral choice and consequences for your actions) and kept things they should have gotten rid of (the thermal clips! FUCK that shit. The first games ammo system made it feel unique and awesome and nothing breaks immersion like running around in battle looking for glowing ammo)

Oh yeah, and the ending. Big ol' thumbs down.

Ultimately, a game like this must be reviewed on two scales

First, in relation to games in general this game would rate pretty high. Again, a game in the Mass Effect universe cant help but be good because of the universe that it takes place in. As long as they dont fuck that up and make all the characters retarded its going to be a solid game, especially in comparison with a lot of the drivel that gets put out into the market. So, in that regard ME3 would probably rate an 7-8 depending on whether or not the game play/graphics issues I have been having are widespread. 

Second, this game must be rated in comparison with its predecessors. That rating will obviously not be as good. For me, ME1 would rate a 9 and ME2 was a home run at a 10. ME3, for the issues I mentioned and will extol in GREAT detail in the next installment would barely rate a 6, im holding it too that because im curious to see how Bioware fixes the issues with DLC. 

So, if you have never played a Mass Effect game, play the first two. If you have played them, play this with the knowledge that its worth the effort but it wont be what you want or what it should be and that Bioware will be draining even more money from you with the DLC that actually provides a proper end to the game you already paid for. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Journey 2: The best ipecac Straight from Hollywood

So dear readers, it has been a while since I have delved into the fecal matter that is the bottom of the barrel hollywood ejaculate that comes out at around this time every year. You know, after the big christmas and oscar season movies are gone and before the summer blockbusters hit they use the months in-between to dump cheaply made garbage to make their budgets back on the opening weekend and a bit of profit over seas. As a result we get Journey 2, staring The Rock and Michael Caine, a movie so bad that it is actually below both of them.

The Review: 
This movie is so utterly terrible that I honestly, in retrospect, would have rather watched The Scorpion King again. OR perhaps a peoples elbow to the nuts would have been preferable. This film is a prime example of what has happened to modern movies. Hollywood, like the music industry, has spent the last decade-ish attempting to find exactly how little work they can put in to a project while still making a profit. Their breakthrough is that you dont actually have to make movies in which things like plot, story, characters/character development matter. All you need to do is get the appropriate names as far as actors and brand recognition go and put them into a trailer compelling enough to get people out of their homes for one weekend, thus allowing the studios to make their money back. As a result, and as Journey 2 is the lastest test subject in this horrid experiment, what you get with this movie is a collection of colorful images and action sequences intercut with "hilarious" dialogue that are cobbled together in a way that convinces you that you are watching a movie. Its just a series of things that happen that begins and eventually ends with little that connect the two points together. Heres a couple of images to show exactly what I mean.

This is a bare bones representation of how the plot of a movie is structured. This is basically how most movies are built, exposition leading to an initial point of conflict with rising action building to the climax and then dropping off towards the end. Journey 2 is not quite structured the same way. Heres a diagram of how its plot progresses. 

Yup. Its all over the fucking place. There is no exposition in this movie. Within the first five minutes you have some shit eating kid breaking the law and the Rock being kind of mad but still, wanting to connect with the aforementioned shit eating kid, he helps him crack a secret code and flys him to some island to buy his favor. All of this SHOULD have happened, in a reasonably structured film, in about the first half hour, giving us time to get to know the characters, their motivations, establish some actual mystery behind the mysterious island, you know, compelling movie things. Instead, in minutes they are on the adventure to the island where they meet the required ethnic stereotype and the love interest who take them into a permanent hurricane which of course lands them on the mysterious island in question. What follows is the most illogical string of action scenes with dialogue that just screams punch up writing, IE the question was asked multiple times "ok we are done with the scene with X giant animal, how are we going to make the five minutes of dialogue we have to put in to make it feel like there is some sort of plot funny and interesting?"The answer? The following three things would happen. 
1) The Rock calls Michael Caine a grandma and Michael Caine is snarky and british back at him. 
2) The boy is awkward around his love interest/mad at the Rock for trying to be a good father
3) Our ethnic stereotype says something completely retarded that no grown man would ever say ever

This movie is one of the many tumors that is slowing killing American culture. However, I am going to end on a bit of a bombshell. I had SO much fucking fun watching this movie and laughing at it that its difficult for me to not recommend it. The level of idiocy, while painful to someone who knows what makes a good movie, was so over the top that it made me howl and tear up from laughing so hard. For instance, in the trailer ( at about 2:20) you see the Rock doing a bit of peck dancing and the kid flicking a berry off him. You would think this scene maybe lasts another five seconds, given thats how long the joke actually needs. No. It goes on for something between two and a half to five minutes! Holy FUCK I was dying. Its just so ridiculous. So heres how I will approach this recommendation. First, know that by giving this movie money you are literally killing the culture of the human race. Secondly, you need to see it with at least one of your best buds. And finally, you need to see it in a completely empty theater so that you can get involved in yelling and laughing in disbelief at the train wreck of awful you are witnessing. If you can ensure the latter and live with the former, I cant help but suggest watching this, if for no reason other than coming to comprehend just how far mainstream American cinema has fallen. 

Twisted Metal...6?

So recently, toiling under the oppression of philosophical schooling, I was trudging in a mild stupor of depression and insomnia through some type of retail giant when I stumbled across the new Twisted Metal. Holy. fucking. shit. the 10 year old in me screamed. I dropped the 60 bucks right then and there and in-between bouts of homework and staring into the middle distance out of the window contemplating VERY deep things I have been playing it. I have now played it enough to give it a proper review!

The pros: 
Any review of this game will require a great deal of discussion about its predecessors, specifically Twisted Metal 4 and Black. So what has been changed for the better in this game? Well the big thing is that this game is FUN. The gameplay is straightforward and simple and they have made some key changes for the better. They got rid of the lives system and instead simply made the cars last longer, making the battles feel more fun and engaging. The maps are fun, the cars handle great and the new boss battles are pretty epic. Further more, this game got one big thing right, bringing back the rad soundtrack. In Black the game just didn't feel right without Rob Zombie blaring in the background. 

Aforementioned Boss Battle of Epicness 

The cons: 
A few big ones sadly. The voice/character acting? Terrible. The writing? WAY worse. The dialog sounds like it came from a 13 year old juggalos diary. 
And now heres the big one: They fucked up pretty much the whole point of the game.
Heres the thing. The lay out of the previous twisted metal games was simple; bunch of crazy characters that you took through their individual bare bone story in this competition. One character with one car that was unique to them with a fair amount to choose from. Now you get three characters, Sweet Tooth,   Mr. Grim and Dollface, who can choose whatever the fuck car they want. What this leaves you with is three character specific vehicles that can be used by anyone and a handful of cars with nothing interesting about them. This messes up the whole game! The basic logic of the universe (not like it needs much logic at all but for fuck sakes BASIC logic is required for any story) is messed up and with no unique characters or stories to fill the other vehicles they are just boring old cars with guns, just tools which you cant get invested in. 

The Final Verdict:
Meh. This game rates a big old Meh on the ambivalence scale. Because of the problems I mentioned with the story, which is hardly worth playing through because of the terrible writing, its not worth buying for its single player content. So in my book its really not worth buying. The functionality of the game does lead to very fun multiplayer content but thats not enough to revive this series. The people who made this really dropped the ball. Final word: Dont buy this game for full price unless you only care about multiplayer or you really want to play twisted metal black which comes with the game. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

To the good ol' boy that drives a BIG OL' PICK-UP with HID headlights

Great. I'm glad you can see where you're going...EXCEPT NOW NO ONE ELSE CAN, YOU WHISKEY SWILLIN', BRAD PAISLEY LOVIN', REDNECK WANNA BE PIECE OF SHIT. Do us all a favor, go down to the saloon, have your usual few too many, then wrap that offensive hick mobile around a telephone pole.

"Hell yeah, bra! I fuckin wrecked that shit!"

Friday, March 2, 2012

People who use rolling bags should get slapped in the mouth

Mother fucker. So I wake up this morning, get on the facebooks and apparently someone Dilly knows wanted to hear my opinion on the issue of people who use rolling backpacks/bags who are not at or heading to an airport. Well at the mere mention of such scum sucking mutants I immediately flew into a rage, spewing liquid loathing from every orifice of my body.

Just look at that shit! Useless, lazy, self-important wastes of life who are just too precious to join the rest of us in the oh so arduous task of carrying our fucking bags. Lets go over some reasons why this shit is unacceptable.

1) Invasion of space.

Just look at this gentleman. He is conquering nature itself, all the while only adding a mere foot or so  to the space he occupies because he has sacked up and put the shit he needs in a backpack he actually wears on his back. Now look at this. 

I couldn't find a real person doing this, presumably because they lack souls and as such dont appear in pictures.
Look how much space you now occupy! Oh you're on campus? It won't matter, it's not like there are hundreds of people going to and from class at all times during the day, you deserve to have an extra five feet behind you. Oh you're in a hurry? Well let that weak, limp noodle you call an arm stretch out behind you as far as possible to reach maximum velocity! Now it's like theres another you being dragged behind you! JOY! This brings me to my next point

So I mentioned these pricks occupying even more space as they attempt to reach maximum travel velocity with their precious rolling tumors stretched behind them. Funny thing about that, the maximum velocity with these things is about as quick and spritely as old people fucking. The only time you can be quick with these things is if you are on a perfectly flat surface and its smooth. And by perfectly flat and smooth I mean that it needs to be as such on a micro level. You know why? Because your tiny little wheels cant handle any kind of bumps or terrain variation that can be seen by the naked eye. Oh your taking it on a sidewalk or a college campus or anywhere that isn't a gymnasium floor? I'm sure the people behind you won't mind stopping every five fucking seconds so you can readjust your bag after it topples over. Or even better! You try to prevent the toppling by twisting your hand around while still in motion, making the bag sway to and fro like a vomit inducing ballet of failure. This always works...for about another five feet until the bag THEN toppels over. Good. Now you've held everyone up and make a complete ass of yourself. 

3) The only people who use these bags are morbidly obese women wearing shawls, shit-eating pukes of children with god awful parents, and rail thin, precious, indie-hipsters who struggle enough to lift their ray-bans to their eyes, much less lift their bag filled with their hand made parchment and calligraphy pens. 
None of these people are a good example of what you should aspire to be. Especially if you aspire to be a child, in which case go ahead and commune with Michael Jacksons ghost and ask him how it went. 

4) GOD DAMNIT I WANT TO BITE THESE PEOPLE ON THE FACE! The following is a representation of what goes on in my head when im stuck behind these people.

There it is folks. Join the good fight and warn your friends and family against rolling bags used outside of an airport.  Be hero. Im going to go into the forest  and punch trees in half to help take the edge off of the the rage that has developed writing this entry.