Monday, March 29, 2010

Then and Now: Xbox 360 Hardware Review (I laugh at myself)

Let's go through and dissect my 5 year old, amatuerish xbox 360 hardware review, shall we? Keep in mind, i don't mean dissect the review in terms of review quality (which was piss fucking poor......MAN I have improved tremendously in the ensuing years), I simply mean how much of what I said still holds true today, and if I made any predictions, how did they hold up? New comments will be bolded and in red text for easy reading.

"If Only it Could Cook...."

Note: I have a premium xbox 360, which included a 20GB hard drive, microphone, remote control, component inputs and a wireless controller.

And sound the buzzer!! That premium 360 was 4 xbox 360's ago. Fucking piece of shit console......

External Design 10/10

The system looks really nice with a sleek, concaved design, all in white with removable and interchangeable faceplates (Sold seprately). It is made to sit either horizontally or vertically. The drive is a dual layered DVD drive, which some say is limiting. The worst case scenario would be 2 disc games down the road, which should present little to no problem.

And Sound the Buzzer Again!! There are now 3 and 4 disc games. Is this a major roadblock? Not for gamers, no, but it is for the publishers. Would I mind having to swtich discs every 15-20 hours for the odd game? No, of course not.

It's power supply is external, and it is really huge. It looks like the Ghostbusters trap. If there's ever a Ghostbusters game they shouls include a decal for the power bar to make it look like the trap. Anyways........

Wow, original joke is original!!

The Controller: 10//10

Similar to the Controller "S" except the black and white are replaced by two shoulder buttons, and the guide button was added, which gives you access to the dashboard (operating system/desktop type thing) at any time without leaving the game. This lets you access Live or custom sound tracks,a mong other things.

This isn't terribly offensive to the modern gamer. The controller really is excellent, save for the lacking dpad (which of course Mr. Blinded by new console joy failed to mention/notice).

Internal Design: 10/10

The operating system is a modified Windows OS that uses a "blade" system which essentailly is a series of menus that reside side by side on the screen, and can be switched between merely by pressing left or right on the controller or remote. This setup is terrific. It lets you seamlessly and flawlessly switch between menus for both online and offlien content, acessing videos, music, friends list, game demos, the xbox Live service, etc.

The console has a profile system that lets you set settings for all the games you play, for example if you play FPS games they will all now recognize your aim settings (inverted or not). Like racing games? It lets you decide whether the games will use the buttons or triggers for gas/brake. These profiles also tie into your Live account and store game data such as achievements, which are different goals in each game that allow you to score gamerpoints, which are just points used to compare yourself to other gamers.

The dashboard can be accessed at any time by puishing the guide button on the controller, so you can turn on custom soundtracks, check messages, etc.

Speaking of custom soundtracks, now your music can be streamed from your PC or played off the xbox hard drive in ANY GAME. I wirelessly stream music from my PC downstairs during games, it's really a great feature.

The tech specs are well known so I won't go into it but needless to say this harware is an absolute beast. As far as graphics are concerned, it will literally be up to the developers, as this thing is powerful. It shouldn't limit anyone in any way, at least not for a few years.

Well, no one could have forseen the onset of the NXE revolution (my ass) but other than that, this pretty much holds up. YAY magx01!!!

Xbox Live: 10/10

I can now play Smash Tv online. That alone seals the deal for me. But you are not me, so I will expand further.

Games support 32 players onlien now, 50+ in the future.

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Funny, because just the other day, my buddy and I were excited to be able to play with 20 people in a Blur race.


You can play custom music while online. There is a private chat feature, this is really neat because you can chat with someone over the mic while you are both doing different hings like watching a dvd or playing a game.

Poor, naive magx. Didn't realize they were going to KILL your favourite feature to appease Infinity Ward, did you? Actually, buddy, it's okay, it's not dead. It's disabled on a game by game basis, and it's up to the developers whether or not they want a silent community who's cheating with their teams in private chats or.......YES, EXACTLY!! IT'S FUCKING DEAD!!! THANKS YOU STUPID FPS PLAYERS :(


I used to love playing an arcade game and chatting with a friend while he played an FPS. Well, not anymore.

There is now an xbox Live Marketplace which is an area that hosts download content, both free


and not,

Got that part right, bub!!

including the traditional download content like maps, guns, characters, etc, and also now free game demos, trailers, and more.

EW, did I actually say preface the word demo with the word FREE? Man I was either blinded by fanboy newness or I have really changed in the last 5 years. OF COURSE THEY ARE FUCKING FREE!!! THEY ARE ADVERTISEMENTS FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Later on users will be a ble to sell their custom content creted in a game, for example create a map in Halo3 or Timesplitters 4 and sell it for 100 Microsoft points. (explained soon)


Xbox Live Arcade has been very well integrated now, a free game (Hexic HD) is pre-loaded on the hard drive and all games have a free trial to download. If you want to purchase anything, you do so by purchasing the aforementioned Microsoft points which are then redeemable for hatever it is you fany on Live. These points are like online currency, you buy a bunch then spend them on various things, some games like SMASH TV are 400 points while others are 800 or 1200.

Features: 10/10

Already mentioned are the custom soundtracks, provate chat, xbox live, achievemnts, and music streaming.

Also included is:

the ability to act as a DVR if you have a Windows Media Center PC.

UH, CAN IT? I don't think it can, can it?

Wireless gaming and PC connection.

DVD playback with progressive scan

Whoa!!! Welcome to the future!! The Flux Capacitor is the Power!!!

5.1 Dolby Digital Output

HDTV optimization

My personal best moment thus far:

I played SMASH TV online co-op while chatting with a friend of mine in a private chat (he was playing Perfect Dark at the same time) and streaming music wirelssly from my PC. While doing this, no lag or hiccups at all, it's all so seamless and perfect.

True, still true (save for the fact that the cross game chatting it going to go the way of the dodo......

Runner Up: Online Co-op in Perfect Dark Zero tied with sneaking up on the enemy team in COD2 without them seeing me and killing all 4 in roughly 3 seconds.

Wow, online gaming is exclusive the the 360?

Overall this system is truly amazing and is definitely next gen. Teh (who the fuck proofread this review?) graphics, sounds, features, lineup, looks all of it. Almost Perfection. Being able to downlaod game demos is huge, the lIve interface is tremendous, and it will be getting hAlo 3 (disappointment) and Ninja Gaiden 2 (another disappointment). The upcoming games like the Outfit, (ahahahahahaha)  Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (true, amazing fucking game) and especially the aforementioned amazing looking Gears of War look exceptional.

The future looks bright for Microsoft

Reviewer's Score: 9/10, Originally Posted: 12/02/05

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about language lately. Specifically, the application of language as a descriptive entity, and how overdoing it (aka hyperbole) can cause the language to lose its meaning. Language is our primary means of communication. It has served us well over the course of our history, although its (improper or callous) usage can also lead to problems of understanding. It can be problematic when you have a problem of interpretation, either due to a language barrier, or a failure on the speakers' part to speak with clarity or accuracy and consistency.

One such failure on the part of a speaker is the use of hyperbole. Hyperbole is basically exaggeration. Take for example, the word ''starving.'' What does it mean to be ''starving?'' Well, according to Wikipedia, starvation is a severe reduction in vitamin, nutrient and energy intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage[citation needed] and eventually, death.

Here is a picture of a poor little girl suffering the effects of starvation:

Tell me, how many of you look like that?

Nor do I.

Yet, I, and probably most of you, have, at some point or another, said the words ''I'm starving.'' Most of us probably say this at least once during the course of a normal week. I usually phrase it as such: ''Man, I'm fuckin starving!'' Tell me, does being hungry due to a lack of food intake for the last few hours actually qualify as starving?

Tell me, are we actually starving, or just hungry?

How about when it comes to pain? How often you you say that your such and such is ''killing you?'' ''Oh man, my back is killing me!'' Tell me, does back soreness due to odd sleeping position actually qualify as killing you?

What's my point? Well, if mild-moderate back pain and mild-moderate hunger qualify as ''killing'' you and starvation, respectively, then what the fuck do you call severe pain and type of hunger represented by that above picture? Do we invent new words for those? Are we actually equating these scenarios? Can we stretch the words that thin?

Other examples of this that seem to be happening more and more frequently these days are the words socialism, socialist, communism, communist, fascism, fascist and Nazi being thrown around by both the American media and the American people, almost always being applied to their president, Barack Obama, and his policies. I think these are quite clearly examples of words being tossed around to such a hyperbolas (is that a word? I dunno, if not, it is now!) degree that they are losing their meaning. I mean, really, if Obama is a fascist, then what the fuck do you call Benito Mussolini? I mean really, are you going to equate the two men? Any sane, rational person would hopefully be exorbitantly reluctant to do so. Yet people do.

The previous examples also exemplify how language can be used to elicit emotions in people, and, specifically in those examples, emotions that are misaligned. Obama is a not a fascist, and when you convince someone that he is, you end up causing someone to be afraid of something that warrants or merits no such fear. This is why I believe people need to be a little more careful with their usage of rhetorical devices like hyperbole, and just language in general. So, next time you have a mild headache, say that your head hurts. Not that it's killing you. Otherwise, what will the people dying of brain cancer say? I have a super duper killer headache?

Okay, so that last bit was me being facetious, but I hope you get my drift (so to speak).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Letter to a Christian Nation

Well, more like letter to a religious world, but that's not a particularly catchy title, is it?


So, here is a short and simple, but important message from me to the religious:

If you follow what you believe to be a peaceful, loving religion, live as though that were true. Don't hate on or discriminate against gay people, atheists (or gay atheists....haha), people of a different religion, etc, and don't put up with a priest, preacher, pastor, imam, monk, family member or anyone else pushing those types of ideas. Call them out on it. Challenge them. Don't provide cover for them because you share their religion. Make it difficult and uncomfortable for them to hold (and especially promote) such views. Don't give them a free pass because you're of the same religious belief.

The same way I don't tolerate bigotry from my atheistic brethren, you should do the same. When people like Pat Robertson say the disgusting shit they do, the voices of contention seem to be largely atheistic. Ditto for the sex abuse scandals, and all sorts of other things. Let's change that. Stand up and say NO to these people.

Gay people are people just like you and I. The only difference is whom they are attracted to. That's it. Does that sound like something worthy of hate? No. Wanting to stop them from marrying someone they love is cruel and wrong. Don't be a part of that. Atheists? We're people too. Don't buy into the rhetoric that's out there, and if you're in church or synagogue, mosque or school, and you hear the religious leader talking nonsense about us, say something. Don't let hate filled ignorance exist uncontested.

We're not immoral as a people. We're not ''evil.'' We're just like you. The only difference is belief, and really, you should understand that too. Take your position on the gods you do not believe in, and that how we feel about your particular god(s). Does that sound evil to you? The reason they spread such nonsense about us should be quite obvious: we're seen as a threat. They figure if you guys mingle with atheists, you are at risk of losing your religion, and they can't have members leaving in large numbers. Think about it.

Also, about religion in general....I won't get into a long diatribe here, but allow me to say one thing: religions always get to people when they are very, very young, and they almost always villify/demonize the nonbelievers.......doesn't it seem as though they are working very hard to ensure people buy into the ideas they're espousing? Think about it. If you want people to join your group and share your beliefs, and this belief is generally predicated on something as potentially tenuous as faith, doesn't starting really young and demonizing nonbelievers make sense, in a manipulative sort of way? How many people would be religious if they were
first exposed to the religion at say 20, as opposed to 4? That's all I'll say for on that for now.

Thank you for reading, and science bless ;)

Monday, March 22, 2010

God is a Terrible Parent

I try to demonstrate how silly and disingenuous the free will argument is as applied to the problem of evil by equating it to a ridiculous hypothetical situation. I frame it in terms of a parenting situation.

I believe this to be a valid point, but this is presented in a less serious and highly exaggerated manner.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Perfect Dark XBLA Review

Perfect Dark XBLA Review

Note: a more aesthetically appealing version of this review can be seen at

Development studio 4J Studios has teamed up with Microsoft to give us a touched up port of the classic N64 shooter Perfect Dark. This latest version of the game was released on March 17th, 2010, and is available on the xbox live marketplace for the very reasonable sum of 800 MS Points ($10).

Perfect Dark is set in the year 2023. Upon starting the game, you find yourself embroiled in an interstellar war between two races: the Maians, who look like the typical "greys" you see in science fiction media, and the Skedar, which are a reptile-like race who have the ability to disguise themselves as humans. On Earth, there is an on-going rivalry between two factions. The Carrington Institute, founded by Daniel Carrington, is officially a research and development center that secretly operates an espionage group who is in cahoots with one of the alien races (the Maians).

The second group involved in the earth based conflict is DataDyne, a defense contractor, who, predictably enough, has ties to the Skedar aliens. The player assumes the role of Joanna Dark, a Carrington Institute agent who is codenamed "Perfect Dark" due to her exemplary combat abilities. You are tasked with both investigating the activities of DataDyne and rescuing a Dr. Carroll from DataDyne HQ. The story then takes off from there, and I'll leave the rest for you to discover.

The single player campaign consists of 17 missions (as well as three bonus missions) and three difficulties: Agent, Special Agent, and Perfect Agent. The different difficulty settings not only change the difficulty of the enemy AI, but also the number of objectives that need to be completed during the course of each mission. This leads to a much varied experience as you progress from difficulty to difficulty. These objectives must be completed without the aid of maps, indicators or waypoints, so, true to classic gaming standards, the player must find their own way. This, in addition to the sometimes repetitive corridors and rooms will certainly lead to a new player getting lost from time to time.

Also, the mission objectives tend to be fairly ambiguous at times, and so, if you are not familiar with them, you can expect to find yourself restarting missions due to failed objectives. This trial and error sort of gameplay was quite common when this game was released, and as such, wasn't much of an issue then. It very well may be to newer gamers who aren't quite experienced with this sort of thing, as newer games tend to hand hold the players a bit more (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

The aforementioned navigation issues, in addition to the sometimes ambiguous mission objectives and the obviously dated graphics (even with the texture updates implemented by 4J Studios), present three of four caveats that any potential buyer faces when considering a purchase. Of course, these caveats only apply to newcomers, as gamers familiar with the game will likely know their way around the game and already be familiar with the graphics. Actually, any newcomer who has experience with games a decade old or older can remove the graphics from the complaint list as well. This just leaves the navigation and objectives issues, and of course, this is assuming you're not just purchasing this title for the rather famous multiplayer. If so, then the campaign issues do not apply.

The fourth caveat is the fact that the game utilizes a bounding box style of aiming for the so called manual aim (zoom mode, basically). This means that your reticule can only move within a set space on the screen, which stays stationary (as opposed to the screen moving with your aim), and you must revert back to the non zoomed mode (called free aim in this game) in order to move your aim beyond this specific area of the screen. Basically, if you zoom in to fire on an enemy and miss, and the enemy continues running by, you will have to zoom out to re-track them. Also, the sensitivity adjustment found in the settings menu, while it changes the sensitivity of the free aim (non zoomed), it does not seem to affect the manual aim, and, unfortunately, the manual aim is far too sensitive. Luckily, the manual aim is not really a necessity, and there is a hefty dose of auto aim available to you to make free aim quite sufficient (you can turn it off if you so desire).

These issues aside, everything in this game is as great as you may (or may not) recall. The notoriously bad framerate found in the Nintendo 64 version is now silky smooth. The amount of weapons available for use is staggering, and each has a secondary fire mode in addition to the standard mode. The weapons range from the usual pistols and assault rifles to rocket launchers and snipers, as well as some real oddities like a rail gun that allows you to see, and shoot through, walls, and a so called laptop gun whose secondary fire feature consists of it attaching to surfaces like walls and floors once thrown and acting like an automated turret. Another gun turns into a proximity mine. And so on and so forth. The guns are truly a spectacle, and a huge part of what makes this game so special. These guns are all available for use during both single player, co-operative, and multiplayer modes.

In addition to playing the campaign solo, there is a co-operative mode, which allows two players to play through it together. The second player assumes to role of Joanna's sister, and the two of them work together to uncover the conspiracy unfolding over at DataDyne. In what is a recurring theme with this incredibly innovative game, there is an original mode called counteroperative, which is the antithesis of the cooperative campaign. Rather than work together, one player assumes the role of Joanna, while the other takes on a role as an enemy. If Joanna kills the second player, that person respawns in control of another enemy AI. This patter continues until either Joanna or all of the player controlled enemies are killed (or the objectives are completed). This mode can be played both locally via splitscreen and online, as can the co-operative mode.

Rounding out the non versus multiplayer modes are the challenges and the weapons training events. The challenges are essentially multiplayer scenarios that find the player against bots with specific requirements to be met in order to achieve completion status. This mode, in addition to providing practice, is also the method through which additional weapons are unlocked for use in the multiplayer. The weapons training mode is self explanatory. It's a shooting range with goals to meet for each weapon.

Before moving on to the multiplayer, it should be mentioned that there are a substantial number of cheats that can be unlocked. The method of achieving this is to complete certain campaign levels within specific time limits. These range from quite doable to seemingly impossible, and will provide the non seasoned player with much extra challenge, if they so seek it.

And now, the aspect of the game that many of you are likely most interested in, the multiplayer. The multiplayer is fully intact in this version of the game. A multitude of maps, including the remakes of 3 maps originally found in Goldeneye are present and accounted for. The multiplayer is fast, fun, and furious, as well as varied. Bots can be added into games to fill out the roster of the amount of human players is lacking. All of the modes, including classics like King of the Hill, Capture the Base, solo and team combat (deathmatch) and Hold the Briefcase, are here, as well as two modes the were much more original at the time of release: Pop a Cap, and Hacker Central.

In Pop a Cap, one player is the target, and the other players are tasked with taking them out. If the target kills the pursuing players, he receives a point bonus. If the players kill the target, they receive a point, and the person who killed the target then becomes the new targeted player. Hacker Central tasks players with locating a data uplink, which they must then use to hack a computer system. Both of these items are randomly placed in the map at the start of the game. If the player carrying the data uplink is killed, it is moved to a new location. Once a player carrying the uplink reaches a terminal, they must initiate the hack and remain stationary while it progresses. It is always a wise idea to have other players providing cover during this time.

Multiplayer can be played both locally via splitscreen, which accommodates up to 4 players (who can also play with bots). As for the online, up to 8 human players and 4 bots can be present in a match at once, resulting in 12 total bodies available for you to dump bullets into. The only real issue with the multiplayer is the fact that, at least at present, there seems to be some lag present. This has been reported by many players, and while it is certainly not game breaking, it is worth mentioning. Whether or not this clears up (or is addressed via a patch) remains to be seen. As it stands, the lag is not in any way a serious hindrance. It seems to crop up in spurts, and then it dissipates, only to return minutes later, but it is only ever present for a few seconds.

Perfect Dark was an excellent FPS in 2000, and it remains so today. The gun selection is staggering, the modes available numerous and innovative, the options endless, the replay value unquantifiable. The framerate is now perfect, and perhaps best of all, it's ten dollars. Aside from the dated bounding box style of manual aim (and the far too high and unchangeable sensitivity) and the spots of lag that people, including myself, seem to be encountering, this game is nearly perfect, and frankly, upstages most modern FPS games. Perhaps not in terms of mechanics, and certainly not visually, but the options, customization, replay value, and the odd mix of simplicity and complexity make this one hell of a fun, old school game.
Oh, and no expansion pack required (N64 PD fans will know what this means).

Overall Score: 9.5/10

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2012 is BULLSHIT

2012 Is NOT Going to Be The End of the World. That's Bullshit.

2012 is Bullshit.

''Hey, magx,'' cries internet conspiracy buff #232313, ''did you know the world is going to end in 2012?''

''It is?'' I ask, a knowing smile already forming, ''would you kindly tell me how?''

The conspiracy buff, not able to detect even the most thinly veiled sarcasm, takes the bait. Here's the gist of the ensuing conversation.

Claim 1: The Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21St, 2012. This marks the end of the world, man!

Response: Before I actually get to how you're wrong about the calendar ending, let me ask you, what possible justification do you have for equating the end of an ancient calendar with the end of the world? And why, if the Mayans were somehow able to predict the end of the world, would they not have, you know........WRITTEN IT DOWN RATHER THAN BE SO FUCKING AMBIGUOUS?

Conspiracy buff: ............

Response: Exactly. Beyond that, the calendar doesn't even end. Dec. 21st marks the end of the Mayan long count period. Guess what happens next? Ya, the beginning of the next long count period.

Claim 2: Ya, but!!! But!!! Did you know a huge meteor is going to hit and wipe us all out?

Response: Astronomers watch for this very thing, and there are no meteors on course to hit the Earth in 2012.

Claim 3: Oh...well, did you know that the sun is going to like go crazy or something? There's going to be these huge solar flares, and shit's going to get fucked up!

Response: Solar flares are a normal occurrence. We see peak flare activity about every decade. And you're actually right, there might be increased solar flare activity in 2012. It's on track for a 2012-2014 peak period. But I'm telling you, the worst that happens is an interruption in some satellite communications. Which actually does suck to some degree. And is an actual problem, but engineers are at work on this very issue, and the issue is of minor concern at best, not climactic concern.

Claim 4: There's this planet called Planet X, or Nibiru, that is set to collide with the Earth in 2012.

Response: No, there's not.

......Okay, okay, I'll expand on that, but, at the risk of sounding condescending, I really shouldn't have to. Why don't you people stop listening to random internet websites and radio crackpots, and start, I don't know......going to the actual science?. Just like with anthropogenic global warming, evolution, 9/11 controlled demolition theory....all of this stuff is appropriately dealt with if you actually take the time to research the actual science, and not get sucked into accepting the shit floating around out there, just because it's easy, prepackaged microwave friendly information with some convincing sounding information and scary music.

Ugh....anyways, there's no such planet. Astronomers would have seen it decades ago, and if it existed, and was on course to hit us in 2 years, we would actually be able to see it with the naked eye. And yes, I have heard some nutcases trying to say that the astronomers are incorrect, and that it's not able to be seen, which they ''support'' with some fancy sounding pseudoscientific nonsense, but again, simple logic people:

If it can't be seen, HOW THE FUCK DO THEY KNOW ABOUT IT? Also, let's say that there's a way, such as anomalies in the solar system that could only be accounted for by the existence of some dwarf planet in the inner solar system, and not outer (like Eris, which is real), HOW WOULD THESE PEOPLE KNOW THIS AND NOT THE ACTUAL EXPERTS?

Claim 5: Well.....the astronomers don't want to tell you man, it's a conspiracy!

Response: If it were that fucking easy to discover, they would be stupid to keep it secret, since they would know that any armchair astronomer could discover it, and the jig would be up. Now, to be fair, I know the response is that if they don't admit it, they can deny deny deny, and the reason they don't admit it is to stave off the ensuing panic. I get that, and grant you that it actually makes sense.

Problem is, you guys think it's so easy for huge groups of people in all sorts of countries and organizations, including governments, are so adept at keeping secrets, but it's not true. There's no way it wouldn't slip. They couldn't keep the teapot dome scandal quiet, Watergate, the Illinois senator trying to sell a senate seat, etc etc etc. All involving small groups of people, and all known. People can't keep secrets, and on such a large scale, it's impossible.

Another thing is, if they somehow were able to keep a major secret of this nature, you're still not thinking this through. Think about it, what makes more sense:

1) Keeping the planet secret, knowing that the armchair astronomers will discover it, and leak the information anyways?


2) Telling people, but telling them we know how to deal with it and avoid disaster? If you think they can keep secrets so well, then they could make up a plausible sounding solution, and there you go, no panic.

All of this also applies to other conspiracies, not just Nibiru/Planet X

Claim 6: Okay, but did you know that the Earth's polarity is going to shift? The Earth's Crust is going to do a 180 degree rotation, brosauce. Also, there's going to be a reversal in the Earth's magnetic polarity.

Response: It's impossible for the Earth's rotation to reverse. It does wobble in its axis in a 25, 800 year long cycle. This phenomena is called precession. As for the change in magnetic polarity, this actually does happen. Magnetic reversals occur every 400,000 years or so. This is not due to happen for thousands more years. And we don't have ANY evidence that this even impacts life on Earth.

You could say that we don't know for sure, and I could say....we don't know that it DOES, so making a positive claimlike you guys do is baseless. As for the fact that we don't know that it doesn't, look it up (not on conspiracy site) and see. I'm not well versed on the process beyond what I have already said, so I can't comment further.

Claim 7: Okay, that stuff might have been wrong.....maaaaaaaaaaybe......but this one is true. Planetary alignment baby. The planets are all going to align, and that will screw up the Earth's gravity....or something.

Respone: There are no planetary alignments due to occur for decades, let alone in 2012, and even if all of them aligned, the effects on the Earth would be of little concern.

Claim 8: Fine, whatever. How come Earthquakes have been on the rise?

Response: No, they have not. The frequency of earthquakes has remained stable since 1900. I can provide you geological data to back this up, although, frankly, you should be doing this yourself if you are going to make such baseless, erroneous claims.

Now let me ask you something: Did you know there have been thousands of dates heralded as the end of the world? And did you know 100% of them have been wrong? The world WILL end, at some point, but not in 2012. When it does end, there are several ways it could go down.

My money is on a gamma ray burst, which are flashes of gamma rays (aka super intense radiation) that occur when stars go supernova. These fuckers are so incredibly intense that, and I want to listen to this very closely, because it's just do incredibly mind blowing, a typical gamma ray burst releases as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will in its entire lifetime. Ya, seriously.

The End

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gears of War Campaign Review

Gears of War is a third person shooter, developed by Epic Games, of Unreal fame, and published by Microsoft Game Studios. The game was released in November of 2006 for the Xbox 360, and was later ported to the PC (November of 2007). The game is renowned for its high fidelity visuals, powered by the third iteration of the Unreal Engine.

Gears of War details the activities of a band of soldiers known as Delta Squad on the fictional planet Sera. The game follows Delta Squad as they fight to save the human inhabitants of the planet Sera from the Locust Horde, a subterranean, alien enemy. The player assumes the role of Marcus Fenix, a former prisoner and Delta Squad soldier. Gears of War, as mentioned, is a third person shooter, or TPS. The game is commonly referred to as an "over-the-shoulder" third-person shooter, as the camera is positioned in such a way that when firing, the perspective is literally over the shoulder, as opposed to the myriad of alternatives, which all share in common a more panned out camera view. This view is used to enhance the visceral and immersive nature of the combat.

The combat in Gears of War places a heavy emphasis on the the use of cover, which the enemy and friendly AI make liberal use of; the player is expected to follow suit, and in fact, must do so if they desire to survive the onslaught of he relentless Locust Horde.

The game features a number of weapon types, including standard weapons such as shotguns, pistols and grenades. One interesting weapon is the Hammer of Dawn, which is a COG Imulsion-energized satellite weapon. Essentially, it's a laser weapon that uses satellite tracking to locate, and target enemies. Use of the Hammer requires that an orbital satellite first be aligned with the general area of operation, and that it have a line of sight to the targeting unit (thus limiting most uses of the Hammer to the outdoors). Once a visual link between the targeting unit and satellite has been achieved, the user must point the hand-held unit's laser at the intended target, at which point the orbital satellite will lock onto the laser's point of termination and begin a sustained particle energy blast on the site. The Hammer is a very powerful weapon, but limited, by its satellite tracking, to specific environments.

Perhaps the most used, and unique weapon in the game is the Lancer. The Lancer is an otherwise standard assault rifle with a twist: it has on it a mounted chainsaw bayonet that can be used to inflict a gruesome and gory death on the enemy once they are within melee range of the player. This use of this weapon in close range leads to some particularly visceral and exciting kills. Another particularly noteworthy weapon is the Torque Bow, which is a Locust weapon, which the player is eventually able to wield, to great effect, as the Torque Bow is a bow that fires deadly explosive arrows.

The game features an innovative twist on the old reload forumla. The so called ''Active Reload'' is a technique that, when used successfully , allows one to reload faster and also achieve a temporary damage boost. The ''active reload'' is performed by initiating a reload, and then, in the middle of the reload animation, hitting the button a second time at the correct time, indicated by an onscreen marker. If the player fails to execute the technique properly, by mistiming the second button press, the gun will jam, extending the original reload time. This feature is more useful in the single player portion of the game than it is in the multiplayer portion, as it is rather easy to execute, which means virtually anyone can do it, basically negating the intended advantage.

Health in Gears of War is regenerative. When the player takes damage, a red mark in the shape of a cog, referred to as the ''Crimson Omen,'' appears, starting out faint but filling in darker and darker with increasing amounts of damage taken. Once the player is hurt, they must seek cover to recover their health. If too much damage is taken before the player can find cover and initiate the regeneration process, the player is killed. If, however, you are playing the campaign with a co-op partner, and they are in the vicinity, they can actually revive you. Rather than immediately dying, in the co-op mode, the downed player enters a bleed out stage. If their partner can get to them in time, they can revive them and they'll be back to full health and ready to fight. Of course, if the partner cannot get to the player, or both are downed, the team must restart from the last checkpoint, as the death of one of the teammates results in punishment for both. This serves to increase the focus on teamwork, which is vital to a successful an fun co-op experience.

The campaign in Gears of War stretches out over five acts, each themselves broken up into various chapters, totalling 36 Chapters in all, which can be beaten in about 10-12 hours or so, depending upon difficulty and familiarity, of course. All in all, it's a decent length, and it can be played both as a solo effort, and in co-operative mode with one other player. The basic template for the game is fairly simple. You engage in one firefight after another, many of which are part of a larger and usually fairly impressive set piece battle. There are some moments that take a sort of survival horror light approach to things, but generally, it's all about the action.

The actual firefights are based around the idea of taking cover, as previously stated. This mechanic works fairly well, but can also start to feel a bit stale by the end of the game, and it also leads to predictable fights both in the sense that you know how they will play out, but also, when, as you'll be walking, and suddenly you'll see a clearing punctuated with, most frequently, slabs of chest high concrete, but also burned-out cars, piles of scrap metal, huge stone columns, fountains, and, stairways, among other things.

Certain sections of the campaign features divergent paths that attempt to add a bit of non linearity to what is a strictly linear game. In the single player campaign, these sections offer little in the way of any real impact. These moments are more interesting in co-op play, however, as you and your partner are separated, and can no longer rely on eachother, save for a few of these moments where the game will have one player covering another from a specific vantage point. One of these moments in particular has one player using the Hammer of Dawn to cover their partners' back, and this moment, along with a couple of others, serve to offer a fresh change of pace in an otherwise great but stagnant co-operative experience.

Also adding to the change of pace offered by these moments is the fact that, as a consequence of being separated, there is no chance to revive your partner. This results in both players needing to play more cautiously, more strategically, and more intelligently to get through a few tough spots present in the game. If they do not, they will be stuck having to repeat the section over and over until they formulate a workable strategy.

The routine combat sections are also broken up by a few boss fights, as well as an interesting vehicle section, which, rather than have you drive a vehicle or shoot a mounted turret, has you using a mounted......something.......which will not be spoiled here, but suffice it to say it's fairly original, and this idea is actually expanded into a bit of a gameplay mechanic as it appears in another particularly memorable sequence. These moments are framed around the appearance of and subsequent battles with a particularly memorable enemy, whom nothing more will be said about to preserve the surprise new players will encounter. It's not a mechanic that is utilized through the whole game, but when it does appear, it changes the tone of the game somewhat, as actually hinted at earlier in this review.

Speaking of enemies, the enemies in Gears of War are not terribly varied, as the majority are humanoid with slight visual differences, but the weapons they utilize and, consequently, the tactics they employ, actually do serve to make them feel somewhat distinct from one another. However, despite the use of varied tactics, the method of dispatching them is almost always always the same: wait behind cover, while they crouch behind theirs, waiting specifically for them to pop their heads out and then engage. As the game progresses, enemies other than the humanoid type prevalent through much of the game do make appearances, including those alluded to, but not detailed, above.

There are a few issues dealing with the cover system that warrant mention, especially given the fact that the cover mechanic is so integral to the Gears experience. If you shoot a part of an exposed enemies body while they are still crouched behind cover, you won't get a reaction. For example, sometimes an enemies' back is just ever so slightly exposed over the lip of the cover he is hiding behind. You can sit there and shoot their exposed backside, clearly making contact, and have it be to no avail, as you get no reaction. This is a rather jarring thing to encounter, and while some may downplay this as not of any particular importance, it seems to be a pretty fundamental problem to have in a game based around hiding behind cover.

A second issue present is related to the controls. The A button has too many features mapped to it, and this cannot be changed. The A button is used for clinging to cover, as you do not automatically take cover by just walking, running, or crouch walking into a piece of cover. You actually have to press the A button to take cover, which results in what is often referred to as a ''sticky'' cover system, and may be an apt description. In addition to the cling function, however, the A button is also used for the so called ''Roadie Run'' which is Epic Games version of an in game sprint. The roadie run differs from a regular sprint in that it's a quick sprint where the camera takes an embedded-journalist perspective, narrowing and focusing the field of view (but taking the camera control away from the player), with the aim of increasing the tension as you try to escape from danger. The problem lies in the fact that you'll often be sprinting, done by holding down the A button, and inadvertently take cover against some piece of the landscape you just brushed as you were running.

One last issue that bears mention is the fact that the story, while derivative, could still have used some fleshing out. As it stands, it does little more than to serve as fodder for driving the action along. There's no real depth, no emotion, and the characters are all flat, one note brutish thugs. Macho bravado is the order of the day. It's like an 80's action movie on steroids with the one liners cranked to the max. This won't be an issue to many gamers, who are only concerned with the action, and in fact, the genre isn't particularly known for engaging narratives, but it bears mention, at least, as there will be a certain subset of the target audience who will be miffed by this.

In terms of extras, there are present throughout the campaign, the cog tags (which are Gears of War's version of dog tags) of fallen comrades, which the player is tasked with collecting, which they can opt to do or not. It's at the player's discretion whether or not they do so. The ones who take this small but not insignificant extra challenge will find themselves rewarded with the pleasure of the hunt, for those to whom collecting items is attractive, and also a set of achievements, which ups the ante in terms of motivation to partake in the search. Unfortunately, there is a missed opportunity here, as Epic games could have used the cog tags as a lunching pad to extra character development. It would have been neat had they given the player a small flashback cutscene, or some text, to provide some information on the specific soldier who's tag was being recovered.

The campaign can be played at three difficulty settings. From easiest to hardest, these are "Casual", "Hardcore" and "Insane". The "Insane" difficulty is unlocked only when the game is beaten on one of the other two difficulties. The difficulties are aptly named, and Insane, while doable alone, is much better suite for co-op play, and it's quite difficult, and exposing oneself for more than a few seconds at a time puts one in grave mortal danger. This really leads to heavy use of the cover mechanic and the amplification of the repetition experienced on the lower difficulties. Co-op offsets some of this, as, and pardon the cliche, two heads (or two guns might be more apt) are better than one.

Graphically, this game is simply astounding, at least on a technical level. There may be contention based upon the art style, which can best be described and drab and gritty (seriously, the colour palette seems to include brown, black and grey, and nothing else) but on a technical level, this game is easily one of the best looking on the console. If the graphics, on a technical level, had to be summed up in one word, that word would be detail. The character models are big, thick, fully detailed, and larger than life. The polygon count looks to be though the roof. Ditto for the environments, which, along with everything else, also feature high resolution textures and no visible jaggies or other flaws.

The art style, as drab as some people may accuse it of being, serves to lend the game a really gritty, realistic look, which, when this game was released, was an absolute benchmark setter for consoles, and even now impresses. One negative aspect of the graphics, other than the distaste some have for the art style, is the fact that they impressed so greatly both before and after the game's release, that some would argue that the issues with the game, such as the control problems and repetitive nature of the combat, were glossed over by people in awe of the visuals.

Also rounding out the impressive presentation is the excellent sound design and musical score. The score changes, depending on the action taking lace onscreen, punctuating the action with punchy, military themed music, and guiding along the slower, more tense moments with sounds that propel you forward, drawing you in deeper, but carrying with it a sense that anything could be lurking around the next corner. The Locusts' voices are sufficiently menacing and alien, really adding to the atmosphere and the feeling that you truly are fighting an alien force. The weapons sound great, and have a decent amount of kick to them. The sounds of heads exploding and chainsaws revving are very intense. All in all, from a presentation perspective, the game is spot on in terms of visuals and sound, but lacking when it comes to story.

So, Gears of War provides a well paced, great looking and sounding, fun, brutal, and visceral campaign experience which can be enjoyed either alone or with a friend. The game has challenge for those who seek it, and apart from the small control related issues, and the strange phenomenon of enemies not responding to being shot when they are crouched behind cover, everything works beautifully on a technical level. The game is pretty well polished. There are some very cool set piece moments present in the campaign, the enemy design is quite cool and sufficiently menacing, and the weapons available for use are well rounded and diverse.

That all being said, the core gameplay mechanic, namely, the cover system, can become tedious and repetitive after a time, and as mentioned earlier, the battles get predictable both in terms of when they happen and how they play out. The combat never ceases to be fun, mind you, and the vehicle section, few boss fights, and few really excellent moments relating to the unnamed enemy type do help to alleviate some of the tedium, but it's still undeniably there. Sure to be experienced differently by different gamers, there does exist some element of repetition and predictability in Gears of War.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Monday, March 8, 2010

Aegis Wing Review

Aegis Wing is a free (no, really, it's free!) horizontal scrolling shoot em up (shmup) available to North American xbox Live members on the xbox Live Arcade. The game was released in 2007, and developed by three interns at Microsoft, who spent three months building the game. They then handed it over to Carbonated Games to add some finishing touches.

Your ship is only equipped with one gun, and, unfortunately, it cannot be upgraded. However, by grabbing powerups that enemies drop upon death, you can pick up secondary weaponry to utilize in your quest to rid the galaxy of the galactic scum who re trying to take you out. Among the available secondary weapons you will find a beam which shoots straight and in a fixed path, but destroys enemies and enemy fire on contact, an EMP pulse which disables enemies, a shield which deflects enemy fire back at them, and heat seeking missiles.

In a bit of a twist for the genre, one hit does not result in automatic death; rather, you have a health bar, and can take a few hits before you meet your demise. This does serve to diminish the challenge somewhat, although it remains far from easy. This was likely a concession on the part of the developers for the behalf of players new to the genre. Once you do die, you lose a life, and respawn right where you were at the time of death. However, lose all of your lives, your score resets to zero, and it's back to the start of the level with you. On Normal mode. On Insane mode, you have no lives.

Another, much more interesting (and significant) twist is that, during multiplayer (more on that later) you and the other players can link your ships together at the press of a button. In linked mode, one player controls movement, and the rest of the players control the shooting. This is advantageous in that the combined fire is stronger than one ships single firepower; however, this comes at the price of reduced navigational speed.

In typical old school shmup fashion, the game presents you with a high level of challenge and pattern based AI. The enemies fill the screen, shooting at you in tandem. The game also uses the environment to add to the challenge. In addition to the enemies, you must also look out for the mines that are placed throughout the levels. These detonate on contact, and serve to further keep you on your toes. This may not be the hardest shmup ever conceived, due in part to the aforementioned health system, and also the fact that the enemies don't fill the screen with fire as they do in many other games of this type, but it will definitely present a tough challenge to anyone who plays it. The hardest difficulty should suffice to present even those hardest of the hardened genre vets with some difficulty.

Graphically, this is a simple looking game. While there are some neat background effects present, everything looks fairly simplistic and somewhat bland. The poly count for ship models seems a bit low, and they aren't terribly detailed. This doesn't detract from the gameplay of course, but things don't exactly pop, either. Sound design is fine. The music serves to punctuate the action, but nothing is terribly memorable.

As I alluded to earlier, Aegis Wing features multiplayer. Both local and online co-op modes are available for up to four players. The way lives are handled is as follows: if a player loses all of their lives, they can re-enter the game upon another player picking up a powerup (which is then discarded). If all of the players die at the same time, or the last remaining player dies before reaching a powerup, the players are returned to the start of the level, and their combined score is reset to zero (as it is in the single player mode). Online runs well enough, no major issues are present, although there have been a few instances where it seemed as though a player was killed by something that seemed to miss them. This is likely due to lag, but fortunately, it doesn't seem to be a very common occurrence.

All in all, this is a fairly entertaining game. The boss and enemy designs suffice, but don't wow, the main gun cannot be upgraded, and the graphics aren't anything to write home about. However, the linking mechanic is a nice feature, there is a fully functional multiplayer mode which allows for up to 4 people to play in tandem, the game presents a good level of challenge, the controls work flawlessly, and, it's free. You can't really go wrong with free.

Overall Score: 8/10

Friday, March 5, 2010

Regarding Game Reviews: Theory, Details, Numerical Scales: Analysis and a Proposition

In this blog, I am going to discuss what I think a general guideline for reviews should look like. I will then discuss reviews in general, followed by attempt at qualifying a top ten scale. 

So first, the review guideline.

Points of Interest: This should be fairly obvious. Story, Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, Overall/Summation. Should they be done in explicit categories, or just worked into the text in an implicit but clear manner? On this point, I have mixed feelings. It looks more professional and cohesive without categories, but categories really aid with navigation, and they also tend to make the reviews look really structured. I could go either way on this one, although since most professional reviews tend to take the uncategorized approach, it must be more desirable.

Length: Certain games merit a certain amount of effort, and while you could get away with a 500 word review for something like Tetris, something like Mass Effect 2 requires much more detail.

My idea of a rough outline for review lengths:

Indy game/DLC/Arcade game: At least 500 words.

Full retail or full downloadable game: At least 1500 words.

I like to write lengthy reviews, because I am all about detail, but I recognize not everyone wants to read (or write) 3000 word reviews. This, however, brings me to my final point:

Detail: Detail is very important. Certain games warrant more detail than others, as do certain genres, and where that detail lies is also genre specific. If you're reviewing a hack n slash game with a heavy focus on action, don't glaze over the combat system. Describe it in detail. Explain the mechanics of it.

If you're reviewing an RPG, don't just hastily mention that there's a skill tree. Describe it in detail. Explain how points are assigned, whether or not you can respec it once you're in game, etc. If the game is a combat heavy RPG, explain the combat system. If you're reviewing a survival horror game with a focus on puzzles, don't just mention that it's puzzle heavy. Describe them in detail. How numerous are they? Are they challenging? Do they make sense in the context of the game, or are they completely nonsensical? What types of puzzles do you encounter, and are they repetitive? etc.

There's nothing I hate more than a review that skimps on detail. Not to brag or anything, but compare my Tokyo Beat Down review, which I just submitted to this site on Friday, to gamespot’s review for said game, and tell me my review isn’t far superior. The author skimped on the details and obviously rushed the review. That’s bullshit, especially for a supposed professional. You can still write a detailed review without going overboard on the word count. The reader should be left with as few questions as possible after a review. That’s how I see it at least.

Now, I would like to briefly discuss reviews in general.

Game reviews are a tricky thing. Reviews in general are a tricky thing. You want to be as objective as possible, but, while there certainly are objective elements within a game, the overall nature of gaming preferences and enjoyment is absolutely subjective. I can play a game like Modern Warfare 2, be completely underwhelmed, and more inclined to notice the faults of the game, while a fan would likely glaze over them. I might say ascribe a 7 or an 8 to the game, which is still a great score, but where I see redundancy and lack of innovation (not to mention technical flaws and broken promises), others will see FPS greatness, and disparage my ‘’low’’ score. I could then face being ostracized by the gaming community at large, for what is effectively my opinion.

This is why I hesitate to fully trust professional reviews for big name, hyped games. Are you telling me that not one of the dozens of reviewers was underwhelmed by MW2, and saw fit to score it much lower than the high 9’s it was pulling everywhere? I suppose it’s possible, but I have my doubts. And when you throw in the conflict of interest that is advertising (and freebies/goodies/trips/dinners/parties, etc) one has to wonder how truthful they really are when it comes to some games.

As for review scores themselves, they are arbitrary, and this is more evident the more specific you get. I mean, clearly there’s some objectivity inherent within the scoring system. A 2 is a far cry from a 9. But what’s the difference between an 8.5 and an 8.8?

Go ahead, try and qualify that for me.

I’ll wait here.


Thought so.

That being said, most of us like scores (although I hope you all focus more on the content of the review than you do the numerical score) and I use them myself in my reviews.

So what’s my scoring system like?

Note: Keep in mind that this isn't terribly serious, it will differ from person to person, and I didn't put exceptional amounts of thought into it. It's an on the spot, rough outline of how I see it.

1-Broken.The worst a game could ever be. Avoid, even if paid to play it. In fact, burn on sight.

2-Dreadful. Not worth it, even for free. Punch the person in the face for even offering it to you.

3-Very bad. Maybe play for the lulz, if you can get it free. Maybe. On a dreadfully boring rainy day.

4-Pretty bad, but some redeeming qualities. Sort of. Rent if you have no other options.

5-Mediocre. Few things done right, but buried amongst much bad. Decent rental, nothing more.

6-Decent. The bones of a good game here, but many flaws. A rental or bargain bin purchase.

7-Good. A good game that doesn't particularly stand out, and has some flaws, but is worth your time.

8-Great. Few flaws, mostly positives. Doesn't quite stand out, perhaps held back by a few little issues.

9-Excellent. A game that must be played. Very few discernable flaws. Nothing seriously wrong with it.

10-As good as you'll ever get. Does everything right. Seemingly flawless; what devs should aspire to.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fuck Acitivision!!

This blog is going to consist of a rant. The cynical side of me will fly, as will the profanity. If you wish to avoid such things, turn back now.

Still here? Alright, let's rock.

So, there is an article on gamespot today, detailing where exactly the evil empire, the leviathan, the bloodsucking entity known disaffectionaltely as, rather, NoArtisticVisio-, um....sorry, no....Activision (that's it!) is on their quest to homogenize and then eventually destroy gaming and make as much money as possible before they do so.

Here's the link:

So what does the article detail, exactly? Well:

MW2 is getting two paid DLC's this year!!!! Yes, exciting, isn't it? Maybe they'll include some dedicated server support and upgrades to their innovative text chat system in the PC version of the DLC's.

*rolls eyes*

Here's an excerpt:

Activision now lists the Encino, California, developer as working only on the two downloadable expansions to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, due out later this year.

But just wait folks, that's not all!

Acitivion confirmed that Treyarch is currently at work on a new COD title to be released this year (as we all already know). They then, however, went on to say the following:

The company is also for the first time announcing that a new game in the Call of Duty series is expected to be released in 2011

Oh BOY!!!!! A second Call of Duty title in the same fucking year? Yaaaay!

But wait!!! There's more!!!!:

Sledgehammer Games, a newly formed, wholly owned studio, is in development on a Call of Duty game that will extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre.

So there are currently 3 Call of Duty titles in development, plus the 2 DLC's for MW2, and of course the as of yet unannounced but inevitable handheld titles, iphone game, facebook app, blah blah blah.
They didn't say in the article, but it's possible that in 2011, we'll see 3 major COD releases.

How many fucking times can Call of Duty be redone? They keep calling, and calling, and calling......



Let's take a look at this, just from an xbox 360 gamer's POV. The xbox 360 was released in November of 2005. Which means that it has been out for 4 years and 3 months. In 4 years and three months, the xbox 360 has been graced with SIX FUCKING COD GAMES!!!!!!

COD1 (xbla)
COD2 (retail)
COD3 (retail)
CODMW (retail)
CODWAW (retail)
CODWM2 (retail)

6 motherfucking titles in one motherfucking first fucking person fucking shooter franchise in 4 motherfucking years on one motherfucking system!!!!!!!!!!!

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, if I were to approach you ten years ago, and tell you that there would be a franchise that would see 6 games released in 4 years on one system, what would you have thought? When did things get to the point where this is deemed okay? People are going to continue eating this shit up, and that does NOT bode well for the industry. We are already starting to see the disease of sequelitis really start to take hold. Same with remakeitis, although, fortunately, it's nowhere near to the point it has reached in Hollywood. Not even close.

Still though, it's bad. We all know that it's hard enough as it is for developers to launch successful new ip's. And when one is a success, they whore the shit out of it. Ubisoft recently announced that they are scaling back on new ip's. I have a link for that, hold on a moment....


Read this quote:

The scaling back on new franchises is one part of a Ubisoft plan to ultimately have its major franchises seeing more frequent and regular releases.

Hmmm......Major releases seeing more frequent and regular releases......who does that sound like?
OH YA!!!!!!! Activision!!! The financial giant, who all other companies, especially the struggling ones (Ubisoft is one of them....somehow.....) are going to emulate in the coming years.


Look, sequels aren't all bad. And I understand the problem these companies face. New IP's are a risk. You could end up pulling an Okami or even worse, a Psychonauts. Two great games that sold like shit. But then again, look at Assassin's Creed. It was new, and sold in the millions. Bayonetta sold well. Borderlands sold well. Dead Space sold well. Hell, Mirror's Edge sold well, despite stupid ass EA being disappointed with it.
New IP's can sell just fine, as long as they are marketed properly, and/or appeal to people/are good games. Every single game franchise started out as a new intellectual property. The developers and publishers seem to forget this fact. The industry can grow if they establish new, exciting brands. We all win that way. But if they do it like's going to stagnate. They're going to eventually hit a wall, it's going to stagnate, and then it's going to fucking crash, like it did one before.

And none of us want that.

But there's more.

*puts on naive idealist hat*

What about the fucking art, man?

*passes joint*

Seriously, I know that they need to make money, but can't they do it in a way that at least maintains some integrity? That shows a little passion for the art? There are many companies out there doing it right, and making money at it. Activision is like the WalMart of gaming. EA is I dunno, the KMART or something. I digress.

The point is, and I say this as an atheist who doesn't believe in souls, they way Activision is doing it is just so damn soulless. They don't give one iota of a shit for the medium. Bobby Kotick doesn't give a FUCK about gaming. Companies like Blizzard. Team ICO. Bungie. PlatinumGames. Speaking of PlatinumGames, did you know they refused to do DLC for Bayonetta? Ya, they said the game ships complete, and that's it. We wait until we have everything we could possibly want to add to it, and we do. Then it ships. We're not holding anything back to sell, and we're not shipping an incomplete game. Of course, PS3 owners could argue against that, and they'd have a point, but at least it's been patched.

Companies like Activision don't give a flying fucking shit about artistic integrity or expanding the medium. The companies I mentioned, and many more, actually do. You can be incredibly successful without whoring, and I think the people that do that should be damn proud of what they have accomplished. They have given us great games, they have created something with merit, something of value, and they have made money doing it. Shit, I'm almost inclined to say god bless.

*wipes tear*

I fucking hated EA for years, and still do (seriously, fuck EA), but man, Activision must have looked to EA and said, ''we can do that, but better (or should I say worse).'' And then they set out to do just that.

1) Establish a new brand, Guitar Hero, whore the fucking ever loving (what the fuck does ever loving mean anyways? someone explain that to me) shit out of it

2) Take their successful COD brand and begin whoring the fucking ever loving shit out of it

3) Throw a piece of shit $4 dollar toy version of night vision goggles into a super duper edition of MW2 and sell it for like $100 extra. Market it as though it comes with real night vision goggles so your COD playing basement dwellers can feel like they are soldiers as they lol at their friends cat in the dark....or what they can make of it with their $4 toy they paid $100 for.

4) Whore the fuck out of Tony Hawk, and then when people finally get bored of it....add a board ( bored? here's a board!!) and sell a shitty, unfinished product for like $130

5) Realize you can save an extra buck or two and cut back on instruction manuals, because every penny

6) Have your shitty, asshole piece of shit president go on record saying shit like developing games shouldn't be fun, and we want to charge $90 per game

7) Remove mods from the PC version of MW2, then sell them DLC. Oh, and remove dedicated server support.

and on, and on, and on, and on and on and on and on and on......

Fuck Them.

Seriously, fuck Activision. And you.....stop buying Activision products. No, shut up, I don't want to hear it.

Just stop.

Fuck Activision.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Copyright Free Music for Videos (including mp3's for youtube!!!)

Want to attain copyright and roaylty free songs for use in videos, free of charge?

Visit to find songs that are available under the creative commons license which means you can use them for free, for any period of time. Perfect for that cool youtube video. The only requirement on your end is to place a link back to the site in your video description. Of course, if you just want to download them to listen to, then no linking or anything is required.

Here's a message from the owner of the site:

Hi, I'm Dan-O and these are my original pop, rock, acoustic and techno songs. I put my own music up as free MP3 music downloads that are legal, safe and virus-free to listen, burn, stream, podcast or use in your personal or commercial multimedia projects. You are allowed to use the music for your business. You have my permission to use these tracks as music for YouTube or other video sites, in photo galleries, as background music on Websites, in student film projects, or whatever else you can think of.

You can use the MP3s as a game soundtrack, to record vocals over as a song or to play them on your podcast as complete finished tracks. It's up to you - have fun! The songs are available under the creative commons license which means you can use them for free if you link back to my site. If you just want to download and listen, that's great and you don't need to link back.

Here's a list of songs available to you, right now, free of charge:
Instrumental Music

Pop Rock Band with Guitar, Piano and Organ

The Art of Gardens - Acoustic Rock

The Wire - Modern Rock

Wait for the Dawn - Uplifting, Thoughtful

I'm Gonna Go - Light, Driving

Joker With Honey Lips - Straight, Downtempo

Gem Droids - Electro Beat Power Pop - New

Crazy from the Message - Hard Rock

Sun Spark - Alternative Rock

Flying While Weeping - Upbeat Pop Rock

Today then Tomorrow - Emo Style - New

Acoustic Guitar

Love Letters - Acoustic Pop Chords

Violet Shrine - Classical Guitar w/ Beat

Climb to Elara - Acoustic Modern Rock

Everything Begins - Fingerpicking Guitar

Imagine Magneta - Upbeat Funky Back-beats

Orchestra and Strings

Become the Heavens

Meditation and Relaxation Music

Autumn Boy - Ambient and Calm

Silver Shine - New Age Piano

Riding the Banshee - World Pop

Techno / Electronic

Snapsphere - Upbeat Techno Style

Copper Mountain - Dark Ambient

In the Deal - Acid Jazz Hip Hop

Rapid Arc - Industrial Trip Hop

Dublin Forever - Drum n Bass

Cellular Faith - Hard Rock Techno Funk

World / Ethnic

Book of the Monkey - Reggae

Ambershire - Asian

Dublin Forever - Rasta Vox Samples

Riding the Banshee - Native Chants

Game Music

Ten Ton Matrix

Songs with Vocals

Rock Band with Electric Guitar

The Time Isnt Right

King Or An Alien

Crawled Out of a Grave

Our Song

What You Think

Nuclear MakeUp

I Am You, You Are Me

Rescue Me

Techno / Electronic



Acoustic Guitar Songs with Vocals

Crowd in the Palace

Love Letters

Everything Begins

Bounty Hunter

Its You

The World Will Break

Art of Gardens

Everything Dies

Blues with Band and Acoustic

Antarctic Moon Solo

Antarctic Moon Electric

Here is a video I made, using the song 'Cellular Faith':

So check out the site at and enjoy having access to free music which is free to use under the creative commons license.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Raiden IV Xbox 360 Review

Raiden IV is a top down vertical scrolling shooter, or vertical shmup, as games of this type are affectionately known, developed by Moss, and published by UFO Interactive. The xbox 360 version is an enhanced port of the 2007 arcade version. For those of you who are familiar with the genre, and know exactly what to expect, skip to the seventh paragraph of this review to get to the specific assessment of the merits (and flaw) of this particular game. For the uninitiated, it is prudent that you be appraised of exactly what it is you are going to encounter when you play this game, as these games cater to a very specific audience. If you go in not knowing what to expect, you may be severely disappointed. If you are not particularly familiar with this type of game, read on starting from the next paragraph.

The way these games play out is as follows: you control a ship equipped with various weapons, and you navigate a space filled with enemies who you must shoot, and who fire back at you en masse. The goal is to destroy the other ships while avoiding their fire. Along the way, you pick up various powerups, such as extra lives and bombs, as well as ship upgrades like shields and weapon upgrades. These games are known for having a high level of difficulty, as well as often requiring patterns memorization, due to the fact that enemies spawn and fire in a set pattern. If you can not react quickly enough to this pattern, you will be inundated by enemy fire, trapped in an unfavourable position, and ultimately, find yourself dead.

It's really quite a simple setup, and it has been utilized for decades due to its effectiveness. This type of system encourages multiple playthroughs, and, upon finally attaining a certain level of pattern recognition and memorization, one can do the thing revered by fans of the genre: the one credit playthrough. This seems impossible upon first encountering these games, but with the right level of proficiency and dedication, it's more than doable.

Two unfortunate (depending on who you ask) side effects to such a system do exist, however, and this game is no exception. First, and foremost, is the fact that these games are usually short, both because of their arcade origins (which also explains the difficulty) and because of the required pattern memorization. The second thing is the seemingly unfair difficulty encountered by new or unfamiliar players. These games are often incredibly hard and, upon first exposure, may easily be deemed unfair by new players.

This accusation could certainly be levied against Raiden IV. This is one difficult game, although concessions are made by Moss in the form of several difficulty modes (including a practice mode devoid of enemy fire) and the ability to unlock extra continues and lives, ultimately allowing one to play with a high default number of lives and continues. They have also enabled the ability for the player, upon meeting the game over screen, to restart at the level they last reached, rather than having to restart from the beginning, as so many games in this genre have you do.

The problem with the lowered level of difficulty, however, is that the fun is in the challenge. To play with complacent enemies leaves you with the distinct feeling that the game is holding back, which results in you feeling that you're not getting the full experience. It also fails to prepare you for play at the higher difficulty, so that once you start playing at the default (or higher) difficulty, you're not much better off than you would have been had you not previously played the game. So, your best bet is to just jump right in. If you're willing to do so, read on.

Raiden IV features seven stages in the enhanced xbox 360 mode (the original arcade mode is available as well). These stages must actually be played twice in a sitting to reach the secret eight stage. The stages aren't terribly lengthy, and the whole thing can be played through in about an hour or so (double that if you're going for the secret stage). There is one controllable ship, although you have the option to purchase two more, at 80 Microsoft points each, from the xbox live marketplace, giving you three ships in all. This decision seems unfair to the player, and neither of the two ships seems worth the purchase.

There are three main weapons and several secondary weapons available for use in the game. The three main weapons are a spread machine gun, a focused (but powerful) laser, and the most visually pleasing, and arguably most useful of the three, a purple laser that locks on to multiple enemies, resulting in a cool effect where it basically wraps around the screen. It's not as powerful as the focused laser, however, and it can tend to obstruct your view at times, but both of these issues are mitigated by the supremely useful lock on ability. The secondary weapons include things like missiles and heat seeking bombs.

The enemy variety is standard for the genre. It is replete with various ship types, tanks, arachnoid like robotic enemies, etc. The amount of ammunition thrown your way is quite high, and you will often find the entire screen covered in gunfire, leaving you with very little space to navigate. This is where the pattern memorization and fast reflexes come in handy.

In addition to the two new stages, this version of the game includes local co-op (no online play), online leaderboards, and the ability to save replays and post them to the leaderboard, as well as the ability to download other players replay data. This can be very useful for those trying to learn the best ways to navigate certain sections of the game, and to learn boss strategies employed by the top players. An additional, and rather interesting, new feature is the dual mode, which has you controlling two ships at the same time. This is a difficult task that requires both dexterity and good reflexes. It's a fun addition for skilled and familiar players looking to increase the challenge and try something new.

In terms of presentation, the game leaves much to be desired. While there are completely customizable controls, and a number of extra options, the menu sound effects are irritating, the graphics and sound, while adequate, leave much to be desired, the price is far too high at $40, and the two extra ships need to be purchased, which, in addition the the high price, seems almost criminal. The price is particularly problematic when you consider the fact that in early 2009, the xbox 360 received a Raiden collection, featuring three games, for half the price of this one.

Raiden IV plays well, and while it does nothing terribly innovative, it is both fun and challenging. It also comes with several interesting extras, making this a decent package. Unfortunately, the price of entry is far too high, and the paid DLC just adds to this. Releasing just months after the previous Raiden package on the same system, selling for half the price with triple the content, renders this even more objectionable. The game can be played by anybody, but it definitely caters to fans of the genre, and while they may be more inclined to shell out the money, this game still seems far more suited to a much lower price point. A rental or bargain bin purchase seems to be the best recommendation here.

Overall Score: 7/10