Monday, September 12, 2011

Dead Island - First Impressions

Hey, everyone!

                I know it's been a while since I've made a post, and I'm sorry. I spent a while getting ready to move to Cleveland for my new career, and I've finally settled in enough to pick up a new game and give it a first impressions review. So, without further preamble, I give you Dead Island.

                Ah, the island of Banoi, a fictional paradise off the coast of New Guinea, and a beautiful setting for the surreal horror of Dead Island. After the fantastically put together opening cinematic, featuring the talents of Josef Lord performing the Dead Island theme “Who Do You Voodoo (Bitch)”, a catchy tune, and a fitting performance for the party that Logan (the drunkard you’re viewing the party through) stumbles through.

                After the breathtaking cinematic, you’re able to choose your character. I went with Logan since I particularly liked his brash attitude in the voice over that was provided for his personal history. After your character choice, you’re treated to your character awakening in his (or her) hotel room in the Royal Palms.

                Quickly, you’re thrust into the world of Banoi and the horror that lies therein. As you search through the darkened hotel for any sort of useful objects (money, items to upgrade your weapons or trade for more money, bandages) or any survivors. Eventually you’re greeted by a soothing, disembodied voice inviting you to get the hell out of the hotel. You’re ushered into the elevator shaft, where you pry open the top of an elevator and leap in, plummeting six floors, before you’re able to get out of the cab (at the behest of the same voice).

                After you have an exciting chase with the undead (these are the running zombies, similar to Zack Snyder’s 2004 revival of Dawn of the Dead) you’re knocked cold by a zombie and awaken in the “care” of the Royal Palms’ doctor. I’ll leave that scene spoiler free. Once you’re up and about, however, you’re free to pick up a weapon and head out of the hut you’ve found yourself (and a myriad of other survivors) in.

                All in all, I think Dead Island is an extremely solid game. The drop-in/drop-out system for multiplayer seems quite intuitive (though I haven’t played with anyone yet, enjoying the game in single player too much) as I’ve encountered several people who are ‘nearby’ that I could ‘join’. The customization of weapons is hilariously fun. I’ve already made a baseball bat studded with nails just begging to be embedded in a wayward zombie’s head.

                Play the game. Play it a lot. Play it until your fingers bleed and your eyes have long since gone useless.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The "Straight Male Demographic"?

Recently it came to my attention that a fan of BioWare was disgruntled about the fact that Dragon Age 2 had male characters hitting on the main character (in this case a male). 

The Escapist led me to the BioWare forums where David Gaider tore the gamer a new one for his homophobia, and I honestly cannot be prouder of Gaider. I just wanted to applaud the man publicly for his stance on the reality that (I know this may be a shocker for some) not all gamers are male, and, if they are, not all of them are straight.

We're not all straight males in the gaming community. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? The fact that BioWare has made a game that actually has wide appeal (and it isn't the first time that this has happened, Dragon Age: Origins had bisexual characters) is, I think, a step in the right direction. 

The person that originally posted the topic "Bioware Neglected Their Main Demographic: The Straight Male Gamer" put his thoughts in an eloquent, if misinformed manner, and was thoroughly chewed up and spit out by David Gaider in probably one of the most amusing ways I could possibly think of.

Kudos to you, Mr. Gaider, this just reaffirms my life's goal of one day working for BioWare.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stop With The Shaky Camera Already!

I know I'm not the only one who's annoyed with this.

I can't be.

I can't imagine a time or place where shoddy camera work or really crappy stability of a camera could be misconstrued as a "gritty action sequence." If I can't see anything happening in a shot, I personally grow angry. If I wanted horrid camera work, I'd watch a wedding home video.

I started this post because I wanted to watch the Bourne trilogy, a very solid series of films that should stand as in the top ten of all trilogies ever made...and I just can't watch Supremacy or Ultimatum

Why? Because of the shaky damn camera work in every single fight scene of the Supremacy and Ultimatum. The reason for this shaky camera work is the changing of directors from Doug Liman in Identity, to Paul Greengrass for Supremacy and Ultimatum.

I respect Greengrass as a director, the rest of Supremacy and Ultimatum? Fantastic. Just top notch filmmaking, with a great director at the helm.

The man just cannot do action scenes properly.

Doug Liman did an excellent job with Identity, allowing for the fight choreographer's work to stand for itself, and the actors and stunt men to do their jobs. The scene where Jason Bourne stabs a man with a simple Bic ballpoint pen? I couldn't stop laughing. I had to go back at least four times the first time I watched that scene just to see Bourne stab the living hell out of another man with a Bic pen.

But with Greengrass' directing in Supremacy and Ultimatum, it just made every fight scene (one of the main draws of these films, let's face it) unwatchable. 

This vexes me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dragon Age 2: First Impressions

I came home this evening to a beautiful sight: an unopened manilla, padded envelope with a shrink-wrapped copy of Dragon Age 2 nestled inside sitting on my front porch. I picked up the envelope and hurried inside, tearing that envelope open with a speed only matched by the desire to play the game.

I slapped that disc into my XBox and sat down to play a very promising game. Dragon Age 2 opens with one of several cut scenes involving a clean-shaven dwarf and a Seeker of the Chantry. What follows is an engrossing story and a brief interlude of your new character, Hawke, being thrown into the fray following the tale the dwarf is weaving to the Seeker.

Combat is VERY changed from Dragon Age: Origins. Gone is turn-based combat. This game is fast-paced, with your attack button (in this case A on the XBox 360) judging your swing speed, and however fast you can tap your thumb. It is by no means a button-masher, however. You have your switchable list of abilities (your original three set to the X, Y and B on your 360, and an alternate three abilities that can be activated with these buttons and holding the right trigger.) that can be used any time they're not on cooldown. 

The music, as with any BioWare game is top notch, with an engaging, enriching score that will keep your blood pumping and your thumb not far from the attack button. 

Dialogue trees are unchanged from the original and the Mass Effect games. Why fix something that isn't broken? 

The sound effects and visual effects are brutal. Playing as a rogue, I was just flailing away with a pair of daggers, hacking down Darkspawn as if Hawke had a pair of chopsaws for hands. Blood, gore and chunks of Darkspawn littered the landscape (and my character's face). 

Blood, as with the original Dragon Age flies everywhere. Your character, dog, sister, brother and mother are almost always covered in it, and the Darkspawn appear to have fire hoses in place of veins. While this may not be entirely unrealistic, it certainly is over the top, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The voice acting is top-notch, and your character finally has a voice! No longer do we have the silent, dummy expressions for our characters, and we can watch them fully realized on the screen. While it may not be what we personally would say in such situations, the folks over at BioWare have given us a decent interpretation of what could be said in such circumstances.

All in all, I'm really very happy with the way Dragon Age 2 turned out (so far, I've only played for a half hour, and I have a much longer review planned later) and I can't wait to see how the story goes. 

If you haven't gotten your hands on it yet, hop to!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Gem of an RPG

This is kind of a dark time for gaming. Early in the year, no real games coming out since Christmas, the companies want to give the folks a little time to replenish their monetary supply for the upcoming spring and summer titles. 

This means I really don't have much to do in the way of gaming until that time. So I look to the XBox Marketplace and the Wii Marketplace for some sort of relief from the monotony. And that's when I found Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.

At first I was curious when I saw it on the Nintendo Wii's marketplace. "Final Fantasy IV was a hell of a game... the After Years?" I read the description, and it turns out it was a direct sequel to FFIV!

Hell yeah, I downloaded it as fast as I could. It was only 800 points, which is about $8 when thinking in terms of real monetary value. How could I possibly go wrong with a Final Fantasy that only costs eight bucks?

I was more right than I could've imagined. Set 17 years after Final Fantasy for, you play as Cecil and Rosa's son, Ceodore, a young candidate for the Red Wings whom Cecil so famously began his career with. Constantly reminded of his lineage, Ceodore is tired of hearing of Cecil the Paladin and Rosa the White Mage. He wants to be his own man, and sets out to do so.

Just as he's beginning his quest, however, Ceodore and company realize that the moon, which was made whole by the actions of Cecil, Rosa and company, has split, revealing itself to be two moons, and the tower of Babil has grown from deep beneath the surface of the planet once again.

What follows is an engrossing, engaging storyline that is a worth successor to the Final Fantasy IV legacy, full of magic, intrigue and the charming presentation of a Super Nintendo title complete with the fun midi music and character sprites that filled me with a nostalgia that didn't break its hold for a second.

If you've got the time, and an extra eight bucks lying around, I highly recommend picking up Final Fantasy IV: The After Years on the Nintendo Wii. And if you don't have a Wii, I'm just awfully surprised.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Career-Oriented Gripe

I know this topic has probably been done to death considering the recent economic woes that most have been experiencing, but I really do have a legitimate gripe. It's more of a Catch-22 in this case with regards to the complete and total inability to find a job as a recent college graduate.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude from DeVry University in October of last year with a Bachelor's degree in Game and Simulation Programming with a 3.7 GPA. I'm not at all trying to brag about my accomplishment, I'm just stating a fact here.

I've been working at Office Depot for a year and four months now, and while I do enjoy the job, the people and the work. I cannot stand the fact that I have a degree that is essentially going to waste. I've been searching for work for five months, and still haven't found anything. 

I know this is the current state of this country and of most of the world, the economy is in the toilet and we're all feeling the pinch.

The problem isn't the economy, I don't think that's slowly, ever so slowly turning around. The problem is the fact that no one's really willing to take a chance. They're looking for experience, three years or more. 

My question is this: How can I ever pick up experience if I'm not able to land a job in the first place?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Holy Lord Do I Have A Gripe

And this personal gripe is with the sheer amount of ads that have been cropping up lately using Adobe's Flash Player 10. It isn't really the ads themselves that I have issue with, I can accept the fact that they're there, and that I can just as easily ignore them as I can click on them (which, let's face it, who's going to do that?)

No, the problem here, is the fact that they eat system resources as if they were candy coated candy dipped in even more candy, topped with powdered sugar. 

I watched a few videos over at (James Rolfe is a genius) and when certain ads popped up on the screen (the specific set of circumstances being that two Sprint ads popped up at the exact same time) my system resources when watching the video went from somewhere around 4%, which is the norm when I just have Chrome open, to somewhere between 75 and 80%. 

This is outrageous.

I cannot believe that Adobe's programming (or perhaps it's Sprint's) would be so atrocious that it would absolutely suck up my system's resources so horribly that it would go from nearly unused, to nearly full in the span of a mouse-click.

Is anyone else having this issue at all with any sort of Adobe product? I've seen a bug report regarding such (specifically this one: if you're a part of the Adobe forums, please vote for this bug to be fixed. 

I know I can't be the only one who's really pissed about this.