Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Steve's E3 Wrapper Upper! 2014

So another E3 barrage of press conferences has come and gone, and what kind of self-respecting Video Game journalist-ish type of person would I be if I didn't chime in? 

The Rundown: 


- Microsoft - 

The Good: Phil Spencer came right out of the gate and showed us that Microsoft is an entirely new beast this year. Humbled, less arrogant, and focused on what made their consoles great once; the hardcore community. While there weren't really any out and out bombshells, there was an emphasis on games, no kinect bullshit anywhere to be seen, and a ton of content. I still can't decide if I love or loathe Sunset Overdrive though... The Master Chief collection was nice, and their renewed focus on Halo kind of pleases me for sure. I wasn't too gone on their exclusive lineup, and even big guns like "Rise of Tomb Raider" kinda fell a little flat for some reason (the trailer certainly had none of the impact that the reboot had a few years ago), still, Microsoft stacked the deck with games, and that is certainly to be applauded! Also; holy crap! The Division, Assassin's Creed: Unity and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt look fantastic! 

The Bad: I've never really been a fan of Crackdown's brand of insanity, and I despise Phantom Dust, so both surprises were kinda lost on me really. From a bombshell perspective, there was really nothing. zip. I'd have preferred a look at Killer Instinct's additional content (maybe show us a few new fighters?) and some more of Fable: Legends rather than this super early CG rendered trailer for Scale-whatever the heck that Platinum Games thing was called... 

The Ugly: Good Lord! Call of Duty is just this lumbering undead monster at this point. Somebody please just sever the head or destroy the brain at this point. PLEASE! That gameplay looked about as blandly designed and soulless as it gets. If someone showed me that stacked next to Call of Duty 2, or the first Modern Warfare and told me it was CoD, I'd call them a pack of liars. 

Takeaway: After a few disasters over the last few years, Microsoft seems to be back on track, and this year's renewed focus on hardcore gaming is certainly a good sign. This year's MS presser was an honest and heartfelt apology to those of us who felt cast off and abandoned during the Mattrick years. That said, Microsoft HAS to do something with their internal studios, the internal lineup is looking more grim than my bank account three days before payday. 

GRADE: B


- EA Games -

The Good: EA is another company that's really struggled in the face of public perception for the last few years, and they've also taken a page from the "2013 Sony book" and dumped bravado in favor of catering to "we the gamer". There weren't a lot of surprises, and the really big one was nuked by internet leaks about two weeks ago (Battlefield: Hardline still looks great tho!). This is definitely more evolution than revolution though. 

The Bad: Not a lot really shown. Remember the last few years, when EA just LOADED their press events with gameplay? Not here, bucko! There were a lot of talking heads and progress reports with very little substance. I think it's great that they showed off Star Wars: Battlefront, but we still know next to nothing about it! Likewise the next Mass Effect, and whatever other IP Bioware Edmonton is working on. Dragon Age: Inquisition is looking pretty stunning though. 

The Ugly: Truthfully, nothing really jumps out at me. Even The Sims 4, in spite of it not appealing to me in the slightest, looks rather novel and pretty clever. If I had to narrow things down, I'd say it was the "work in progress/behind the scenes" videos. If you're gonna show something like a next gen Mass Effect, we would much rather a teaser and a title. Granted it worked well for Star Wars:Battlefront, but that's a unique circumstance.  

Takeaway: EA's overall showing was short on surprise, and rather short on games to be honest, and the studio really doesn't seem to have a clear guidance on what it's trying to accomplish these days. I honestly think that the absence of John Riccotello has hurt the company from a leadership perspective. Still, there's definitely some strong output coming, but there's a lot of vapor here as well. Worth mention: Battlefield: Hardline shows some distinctly clever thinking on how to deal with franchise fatigue, and Activision could learn a thing or two. 

GRADE: B-


- Ubisoft -

The Good: Sweet God, where to begin? Everything coming out of this freaking studio looks like creativity, ingenuity, technical prowess, and concentrated fun all boiled into a stew and served piping hot. Ubisoft also knows how to cut together some fantastic trailers. Hell, even their damn fitness game looks like fun (and typically I avoid those like the bane of human existence that they are!). Aisha Tyler remains a smart, funny host who genuinely seems to be having a hoot and a half at these things, and my God! Those games! Farcry 4! Assassin's Creed: Unity! The Division! The Crew! Valiant Hearts! and of course, the newly announced (and seemingly newly minted) Rainbow Six: Siege all look like total firecrackers! Great show Ubi! 

The Bad: I love that Ubisoft always gives us a total surprise at the end of the show, and while "Rainbow Six: Siege" certainly didn't disappoint, and certainly seems to be embracing Ubi's pencheant for emergent gameplay, it certainly didn't pack the same whollop as Watch_Dogs or The Division. It also looks damn early, and I have to wonder how much of that gameplay is more "proof of concept" than actual execution. 

The Ugly: I could pick on Rainbow Six: Siege again by citing the incredibly unpolished animation and effects work, but I won't, because clearly it's mighty early. 

Takeaways: Ubisoft continues to rock it like nobody's business. They are really churning out some of THE finest product for next gen consoles, and this year's E3 was all killer, no filler. 

GRADE: A


- Sony - 

The Good: Lets get this out of the way first, Sony delivered, ok? They really freaking delivered and then some. The first 40 minutes of this press conference was just mic drop after mic drop. From that opening look at Destiny (Open Alpha THIS WEEKEND on PS4!) to Farcry 4 (co-op with anyone on your friend's list, even if they don'y own the game!) through to the indie spotlight (No Man's Sky!!! GASP) and right into the staggering Uncharted 4 teaser... There was just so much to digest here. Sony managed to not only drop a few bombs of their own (Little Big Planet 3 is coming! And it's this year!) but they managed to take ownership of some pretty big multi-platform stuff as well (The GTA V on PS4 announcement comes to mind). It's an amazing time to be a Playstation gamer. Particularly if you like games!

The Bad: The latter half was a slog, with too much "slide show" and not enough action. Why the hell did you waste time with POWERS when you didn't even have a trailer to show us? Too much time spent on Playstation TV when you have Driveclub launching in October! Where were our gameplay demos? While there was a TON of content to sift through, there was also very little info to show for. That's kinda rotten, even if it is a little gratifying. 

The Ugly: Is Sony death-marching Driveclub into retail or something? A nice 2 minute sizzle reel or something of all the third party stuff you've got coming might have been nice as well... 

Takeaway: There's a LOT of product coming to the PS4, a metric ton, and a lot of it is very good news for Sony owners. Aside: Every time you guys at Sony stop talking about games and start talking about "Entertainment", you fall flat on your faces, pleae STOP! I swear I heard a few lines in there that sounded right out of a classic Microsoft presser... not good... 

GRADE: B+


- Nintendo - 

The Good: Nintendo brought their usual zaniness to the party this year, they also just happened to bring games. Quite a few! And good ones too! The new Zelda announcement was something desperately needed, and I'm sure fans are pleased to see some new Starfox coming down the pipe. Yoshi's Wooly World looked cute, and Bayonetta 2 and Devil's Third are huge gets for the Wii-U hardcore. I still can't help but feel that Nintendo is pushing their agenda moreso than paying heed to fan desires, and they're still as xenophobic as it comes to dealing with third parties from outside of Japan. Still, I can't see any Wii-U owner being disappointed by this show.

The Bad: Nintendo has long been about innovation and marching to the beat of their own drum, either that or recycling old ideas. And while there was some cool stuff going on, there was some mighty offbeat marching as well, Amiibo just looks horrid, lacking in imagination really, and I'm so freakin' done with hearing about Smash Bros. Sorry, but I've never been, nor ever will be a fan of that particular brand of cash cow... adding Skylander figs to the mix only furthers my distaste. There's also (again) the total black hole of North American development for the system, it makes the whole affair feel niche, and, dare I say, insignificant. Just once I'd love to see the "medium N" deliver something fresh, new, and exciting for all gamers. Something that wasn't yet another Mario game. Disney had the sense to move on from Mickey, I think Nintendo needs to diversify.

The Ugly: Not a lot of love for the 3DS here... hmmmm...

Takeaways: Nintendo, for better or worse, continues to do things their own way. The Wii-U's future shows promise if Nintendo can deliver on what was shown, but this si really the E3 they should have had last year. I think it's almost too late now. Still, if you're one of those people who took the plunge and snagged a Wii-U, congrats, it looks as though your patience will finally be rewarded in 2015!

GRADE: B-

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Steve's Best Games of 2013!

What needs to be said about 2013? Really? Well, seeing as how I'm a third of a geek-ridden Gaming podcast three-way (that sounds much more subjective than I meant it to, or does it?) I feel it's probably obligatory for me to wallow in pretentiousness as I present you, dear reader, with some manner of "Best of 2013" list.

Truth be told, I'm kinda bored with "Game of the Year" bullshit. I'm fed up with seeing the same five titles pop up ad nauseum while "big gaming" sites stroke their own sense of over-inflated importance while bombarding us with reasons why we should only have played five games (plus four incredibly obscure pretentious indie games) this past year. Nay, I say! Nay!

So here we go then, The "Blowin-Smoke" end of year list... I present:

20 GAMES I PLAYED, AND REALLY DUG IN 2013... 

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER!


Dead Space 3 - The first game oozed fear like no one's business, the second game showed us that there was more to Dead Space than jump scares and atmosphere, and Dead Space 3 took that world and cracked it wide open. Forget the hubub over the in game purchases and add ons, and whole "co-op action" controversy. Sit back, have a ritalin, and take the game for what it is; a stunning, atmospheric mix of suspense, story, and action that feels tighter than either of the games that came before. Much like Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3 took a few strides toward the mainstream, while simultaneously holding onto its unique identity, and that deserves applause! On top of that, it's one hell of a ride! Is it the best of the series? In my own contrarian opinion? Yes!


Tomb Raider - Honestly, If someone had a gun planted squarely against my temple and ordered me to pick a "best game of 2013" (what kind of sicko would honestly do that?), My choice would quite possibly be Crystal Dynamics' daring reboot/reimagining of Tomb Raider. There were more "Holy shit!" moments in this game than just about anything I've played in the last few years. Lara Croft's newly minted character shines through a decidedly awesome narrative, some brilliant level design, and some of the most accomplished visuals of the 6th Console generation. I was truly enamored with this game; there were times my jaw was truely agape. It just never let up from the first time I pressed start until the closing credits. It truthfully out "derring-dos" the Uncharted series, and remains blissfully consistent throughout. I can't wait to do it all again on the PS4.



Grid 2 - I really like sim-racing. More accurately, I really like Sim-racing with a slightly arcade bent. Grid 2 is the full package, a well structred career mode that keeps you propelled forward, some awesome controls that are just ever so slightly tipped to the fantastical side of realistic, a smoking graphics engine, and some insane diffuclty that keeps you on your game without feeling cheated by the competition. The car selection doesn't quite rival Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo... but what's there is pretty cool.



Defiance - If nothing else, Defiance gave me a huge open world to roam around and shoot things in. That, in and of itself is kinda cool. No, it ain't technically beautiful, and no, it doesn't really re-invent the wheel. What it does do, is present a pretty cool narrative in an awesome post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting and let you roam around a huge map with an LMG, weaving in or out of other players games as much as you want or see fit. There are some great ideas here, I love the visual design, and the TV show is a bit of fun as well. I really don't have to justify myself here, I had a ton of fun with this game. So there - the only "top whatever" list on the internet that features Defiance. Mission accomplished!



Remember Me - We here at Blast Processing are HUGE cyberpunk fans, I'm also immensely keen on studios who really attempt to build worlds when they create a game. Remember Me is pure cyberpunk 101, a tale that weaves revolution, utopia, and memory thieves upon the georgeous tapestry of a Utopian 21st century Paris that's been meticulously designed. The "beat-em-up" gameplay starts off a little stale, but once you start unlocking abilities, things get very cool. Sadly it's unlikely that anyone's gonna remember this one next week, let alone next year, and that's kinda sad. This really is quite the gem of a game. Sure, it's flawed, I'd have loved to actually roam around this beautiful world rather than be shoehorned through corridors, and there weren't nearly enough "memory remix" puzzles, but overall, this is one worth playing for anyone looking for something a little off the beaten path. Or indeed any fan of William Gibson, Phillip K. Dick, or their brand of paranoid dystopian sci-fi.



The Last of Us - OK, so everyone and their dog loves this game, and I'm no exception. What Naughty Dog have concocted here is a technical marvel, with some truly wonderful characters playing out their drama on a wonderfully realized stage. Joel and Ellie convey an incredible range of emotion, and the narrative does its best to convey the huma spirit as it simultaneously pummels with utter, total bleakness. Do I feel it goes on maybe just a smidge too long? Yes, I actually do, and by the end I found myself ground down by the constantly overwhelming fultility. There were also a few levels where I felt the gunplay was a little too front and center, and that made things a little boring, but overall, My god! What a great effort!



Shadowrun Returns - Shadowrun creator Jordan Wiseman was quick to dive into the Kickstarter waters immediately after Tim Schaefer made history with Double Fine Adventure, and the end result more than adequately lives up to the hype. Not only is the Blade Runner-meets-Dungeons and Dragons setting a slice of pure awesomecake, Shadowrun Returns is a brilliant little old school RPG that follows in the tradition of classics like Fallout. Beautiful artwork, a great story, and amazingly simple mechanics are bolstered with strategic depth and a metric ton of created content (on the PC version anyway). It plays great on either a PC or a tablet, and there's more incoming.



Tales of Xilia - Solid storytelling, great graphics and music, and some wonderful mechanics makes Tales of Xilia a standout JRPG at a time when standout JRPGs are very few and far between. Is it a classic in the truest sense? I'm inclined to say no, but at the same time, I found it wholly engaging, and it's one of my most played games of the past year... so that's something.










Splinter Cell: Blacklist - Sam Fisher took an extended hiatus until 2013, when Ubisoft brought us Blacklist. Think of Blacklist like James Bond, it reboots the series while simultaneously sticking to what came before, and succeeds brilliantly because of it. Rather than "hardcore" stealth, Blacklist combines elements of Ubi's most recent "Ghost Recon" outing, and a hub/headquarters that feels ripped right out of Mass Effect. Combine the fantastic stealth/action hybrid gameplay with a seamless and brilliantly integrated multiplayer suite, and a pretty fantastic storyline to boot, and you get not only the best damn game in the Splinter Cell series, but one of the very best titles of 2013.




Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Unprecedented is a word I could use to describe Final Fantasy XIV's rebirth, triumphant also suits it well. Square-Enix did the unthinkable here, scrapping their abyssmal first offering in favor of a complete table flip. The end result is not only a game that rebuilds my faith in Square-Enix brick-by-brick, but does a damn fine job of being the best MMORPG to come along in YEARS. The deep systems in play are beautifully presented on both console and PC, and the game's design is a thing of sheer beauty. If you've been looking for an MMO pond to dip your feet into, this is the best one out there right now.



Bioshock Infinite - Oh Bioshock: Infinite... For about the first two thirds of the runtime, I was enamoured with your world. The music, the sights, the mystery slowly unfolding, those annoying Lautece twins. The first time my eyes opened on Columbia, complete with old timey music and early 1900's baptisms, I truly felt that I was witnessing one of the greatest games in history unfolding. Then I hit the final third, and Oh, Bioshock, how I wanted to rip that damn disc out of my drive and take a dump all over the medoicre shooter that you had become. Still, My god! That first two-thirds is unforgettable. Amazing stuff, even if the mere memory of that final third still confusticates and infuriates. I won't talk about the ending, suffice it to say I think it's brilliant, but also infuriating.



Diablo III - Take THAT PC Gamers! Blizzard slaved over a hot stove, attempting to boil the essence of Diablo into something palettable on your standard video game console, and the end result was a compltely new experience that, in truth, didn't really mimic the PC experience (click, click, click, click!) but rather expanded considerably upon it, improved it, perfected it. Diablo III on consoles is one of the most addictive, insanely fun things I have played. With two or three firends in the same room, it becomes such an incredible experience. Co-op gaming has never been better!



Grand Theft Auto V - What more really need be said about GTA V? Undoubtedly a masterpiece, mature storytelling, great characters, beautiful graphics, huge world, tons of side activities, and GTA Online... yes, this is an all encompassing package. It didn't quite have the staying power I was hoping for, personally, as I kind of got bored about halfway through the single player campaign. GTA Online also kinda blows, more because of the players than the concept, but yep, this is still a marvel of a game. Where else can you play a mission that involves Yoga, alien abduction, hallucinatory flights over a digital re-creation of Los Angeles (Los Santos, sorry) and a divorce letter? Nowhere.



Batman: Arkham Origins - There had always been something about the Arkham games that struck me as false. These "ultimate" Batman games never really felt like they were telling a true-to-form Batman tale to me, until Arkham Origins. Roaming around a deserted Gotham City while being hunted by 8 brutal killers is pure Batman, and the way they handle Batman's first outing with his arch nemesis is both fresh and brilliant! On top of that there's one of the greatest, most intense boss battles I've ever played in the battle royale against Deathstroke in the bowels of The Penguin's cargo freighter turned underground boxing den/arms bazaar. The game sometimes struggles to give the player things to do, but when you stick to script, it's overall a pretty rewarding entry in the franchise, even if it doesn't have the "OH CRAP!" ending that Arkham City had.



Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - In many ways, Assassin's Creed IV is rebelling against the tropes of the series up to this point; the "Animus" meta-game is more afterthought than crucial plot point, the main character, technically speaking, isn't even an assassin( spoilers!), but what it does, is take all of the great mechanics of what's probably been the greatest new franchise of the 6th generation, and throw it into a gigantic open world freaking PIRATE simulator! When you step into the ports and cities the gameplay becomes classic Creed, but when you set sail for open seas, Edward Kenway and his crew take on a whole new life. A beautifully realized life that is totally enthralling. It doesn't hurt that the writing is top drawer, and the game is a technical feat unlike anything else in the series. And we're talking a series that really took open world to the next level well before any of the competition. Ok, so maybe this OR Tomb Raider if someone has a gun to my head...



Killzone: Shadow Fall - It'd be easy to take one look at Killzone: Shadow Fall and dismiss it as 1st gen launch eye-candy, and sure enough, it's been heralded as the "must own" PS4 show-er-offer. Beneath all of the (very) pretty shinies however, beats the heart of a matured, assured first person shooter. Guerrila Games broke away from the "space marines" norm with this bad boy, creating a wholly unique feeling sci-fi take on Cold War Europe, and the mission variety isn't just simple bait n switch, but a rather drastic tonal shift from sneaking through forests and popping caps into Helghast shock troops to infiltrating a creepy as hell decrepit space station on a collision course with a nearby sun. DO NOT sell this one short, this is a world class shooter from an accomplished team, and a must play for fans of the last few games in the series.



Beyond: Two Souls - I absolutely adored "Heavy Rain", I'm just going to get that out of the way before I defend David Cage's divisive follow-up. Beyond: Two Souls doesn't have that same instant appeal, but what's here is a more diverse, fantastical narrative that hits the same dramatic highs, and indeed at times ratchets the tension even higher than Heavy Rain did. It's a wonderful experience in "interactive cinema" that's backed up by stellar performances and beautiful visuals. No, it isn't for everybody, but I feel it's a unique experience that deserves to be played.



Gran Turismo 6 - Finally! Something that stands up to the legacy of the series. GT6 is the real deal, and we can all now thankfully forget the half finished, unpolished mess that was GT 5. The series long running fetish for customization, both under the hood of your car and under the controller options menu returns in full force, making for an experience that's both real and fun. There's a ridiculous library of cars, a ton of tracks, and a huge career mode to fly through here, and while driver AI remains as oblivious as always, there've been some tweaks here and there to make things a little more exciting (purists be damned). Does it dethrone Forza Motorsport 4? In my book, No, probably not... but it's as close as anything has come yet, including Forza 5.



Ys: Memories of Celceta - The long running Ys series turned 25 this year, and what's amazing is that mainstream gaming scarcely knows of its existence. Memories of Celceta retells the take of the 4th game in the series, and brings all of the latest advancements made in Ys 6 and 7 to the table to make for the most polished, addictive, and accomplished game in the series. Ys seven on PSP was fantastic, and this sucker, on Sony's PS Vita is even better. If you're looking for some open-world action RPG antics, with a fast combat system, deep customization, and a solid tale to tell, it really doesn't get much better than this. I love that this little series keeps on trucking, and the mythology added in recent years, as well as the stellar localizations by Xseed, keeps it more relevant than ever.



Lost Planet 3 - Lost Planet 3 doesn't really bring much to the table in terms of innovation. It's solid; solid controls, solid graphics, solid mechanics. Where it gets me, however is in the tale that it tells, and the uncompromising fashion in which it tells it. This is a classic sci-fi yarn, with giant mining robots squaring off against giant insects while governments and rebels plot behind the scenes. It's kind of a striking game too, even if it's not the most technically accomplished, the art design is truly great stuff. If this were a movie, it'd be one of those GREAT si-fi flicks from the late '80s or early '90s t5hat followed in the wake of Cameron's Aliens. If that sounds cool to you, then you should play this game!

Friday, January 25, 2008

"This is the end... my only friend the end..."

It's been quite some time since my last update, the longest gap yet. Quite frankly, it's gotten to the point that my spare time has been spent elsehwere, and updates from work have become a total impossibility, which puts the future of Blowin' Smoke into some manner of serious doubt. No, i'm not pulling the plug and abandoning things entirely. Blowin' Smoke will remain where it is for those distinct few who are gracious enough to still care. But updtaes will probably be sporiadic at best until the blogging bug really sinks his teeth in again, which he may yet again sometime in the future.

Some current events: Abby starts Pre-Kindergarten today, and of course we're caught in a goddamn blizzard. It blows my mind that she's crawling towards school already. The last 4 years and change have been a whirlwind, gone in the blink of an eye. She's become a fiercely intelligent, and dare i say independant, little girl, she's not a baby anymore. When i hear her carry on a conversation, or read aloud one of her zillions of books, or have her eloquently tell me about her day, or even pass the buck on something, i can't help but be a proud father. Yep, she's even learned to cover her tracks and shift blame where nessecary - all important life skills right? ;) I look forward to doing it all again with Sammy, she's coming along very well herself - crawling like nobody's business, and calling me "DAD! DAD! DAD!" whenever she gets the chance - not bad for 8 months. Something tells me she's going to develop even faster than Abby did, and we're gonna be in for trouble.

My car is dead. Clutch and Flywheel damaged. Un-freakin-believeable. The car is barely a year old, only 11 thousand Kilometeres (less than 10 thousand miles!). Both myself and Sarah have a decade of experience with a standard transmission - i've never heard of anything like this before. And of course, GM is telling me my 5-year powertrain warranty won't cover it - so i'm looking at about 1500 in repairs. Money i just don't have.

Sarah has a new job with one of the local call-centres. Which is good news, as they pay excellent money. She starts on the 18th of February - which means my already hectic life is about to get that much more hectic. But it's all good.

Top tens for 2007 just didn't happen, for that i apologize, i'm sure 2 or 3 people were looking forward to it. Keep your eyes peeled - something may pop up before the end of February. Maybe not... no gaurantees.

That's it for now. I'll be around - look me up on MSN or drop an e-mail if you feel like getting in touch (stevetp@warp.nfld.net), or you can always find me over at the DVDVerdict forums (Steve T Power). I'm also on Facebook alongside a zillion other Steve Powers.

That's it, grab yer coats. I'm shutting the doors for now, one last rundown for the road:

The rundown:
Watching: Eastern Promises / Sunshine / The Mummy (1999) / Beowulf
Listening to: Magnus Rising - Counting the Numbers / Sheavy - The Machine that won the War / The Fountain OST / Seven Samurai OST
Reading: No Man's Land by Kevin Major / The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E Howard
Playing: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3) / Eye of Judgement (PS3) / Mass Effect (xbox360) / Heavenly Sword (PS3)
Eating: Bacon N Eggs
Wishing: My car wasn't gonna cost me 1500 bucks!

"How was i to know she was from Snake Mountain!!?? She was beautiful!!"

Cheers,
Steve

For old times sake:
Where there's smoke... There's a funeral pyre, sending the spirit of Blowin' Smoke to valhalla.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."

Just thought i'd share a few pics of the new store with anyone who's lookin'








Cheers,
Steve
"Give them nothing... Take from them Everything!"



Monday, October 08, 2007

"This is Radio Nowhere, is There Anybody Alive Out There?"

It's been one heck of a month and a bit. On the work side of things, we packed all our shit and moved down the road to our new digs. It was nowhere near as painful as our last move a year or so ago. One 14 hour day (capped off with the midnight launch of Halo 3) and we were pretty much back to normal. The new place looks incredible compared to the old, i'm biased and all, but i think it's probably the most presentable looking place in the area. We're right accross the street from a Blockbuster Video, and things have picked up a tad. I'll try and snap a few shots to give you fine folks who don't live 'round here some idea of where I spend the lion's share of my time.

In Game news, I've finally laid mitts on a Playstation 3, and i have to give it to Sony, in spite of all the shit that's been circulating about them, and the PS3 in particular, they've put together one hell of a beautiful machine. Next to the PS3, the 360 feels cheap, and hapahazardly slapped together. Game wise, the 360 still owns the competition, but Sony's machine itself is a beauty. It only cost me a little over 100 games from "the collection", and 1.45, but thus far, it was worth it.

The first playthrough on the new hardware was Heavenly Sword, which had been ranking up scores that land in the higher part of average. I just don't understand it. The game is a phenomenal piece of work. The execution is flawless - from start to finish the game is what i could only call a tour de force! The ending was also a thing of beauty, and while some might call 7-8 hours of game time short, there wasn't a single moment where i grew frustrated, bored, or felt was less than flawlessly presented. How many much longer games can you think of where you have maybe 7-10 hours of sheer bliss alongside a few hours of slogging and grinding (if i ever meet David Jaffe i'm going to kick him in the nuts for the Hades level in God of War). Heavenly Sword remains riveting and rewarding throughout, and that is to be commended. The nature of the game would have made a 15-20 hour game seem drawn out and dull. Worth noting as well that the graphics and sound were phenomenal, some of the best i've seen.

Lair was also a hell of a lot of fun, and while it wasn't the solid 9 game that Heavenly Sword was, it's still a good deal better than the reviews have been painting it out to be. I'd give it a 7 in my book.

Conan and Assassin's Creed have also been pre-ordered, and i anxiously await them.

Also got my copy of Two Worlds for the xbox360, and promptly lost over 10 hours to it.

With the purchase of the PS3 also comes Steve's decent into High Definition DVD madness. After experiencing the joy of Blu-Ray , ipromptly grabbed a HD-DVD drive for the 360, and have begun in earnest to sell off select DVD's from the collection in order to facilitate the purcase of same movies in some shiny new HD format. I'm up to 10 titles as of now, split 50/50 between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, and while some of them blew my mind (Blood Diamond), others were signifigantly less impressive (Sleepy hollow). Can't wait for next week (Transformers in HD!!) and December can't come soon enough (BLADE RUNNER). The toughest decision now is which formats to buy on. I tend to enjoy the look of Blu-Ray's packaging a little more (the shiny blue plastic looks less "bargain bin" than HD-DVD's Maroon). I'd also much rather play the stuff on the PS3 with my shiny Blu-Ray remote and whisper quiet operation, even using the HD-DVD add-on, the 360 still sounds like a washing machine.

Music wise, the new Bruce Springsteen is pretty kick ass, and the new Cult CD did not dissapoint. Neither really struck me like a bolt from the blue or anything, but they're both damn tight releases from their respective artists. If Bruce had maintained the awesomeness of "Radio Nowhere" throughout the runtime of "Magic", we'd be looking at definite contender for album of the year. it really is an amazing tune, but the rest of the album falls back into traditional "E-Street Band" territory with lots of wailing saxaphone and loose grooves. I was a little let down to be honest after the awesome rock vibe of Radio Nowhere. It's all solid material though. The Cult meanwhile, hearken back to their Electric/Sonic Temple/Ceremony years on their latest, which is to say, they've dumped the heavy metal vibe of "Beyond Good and Evil". It's not an exceptional piece of work or anything, i doubt it's going to bring about any rise in Cult Awareness or any kind of "She Sells/Firewoman" level of popularity, but it should please fans, and God knows i had my doubts we'd ever see another cult album after BG&E. It's just great to see Astbury and Duffy together again.

Not too much else to report, on the family front, both gals are doing excellent, Samantha loves her Daddy, which is great, and Abby has started on some kind of pre-Kindergarden thing, so we send our kids to school before we send em to school now? Man they do grow up fast.

Congratulations are also in order for some of the guys, Congrats to Jon and Kate, and congrats to Andy and Tracy, all of whom have done the insane and gotten engaged. Why should you guys be happy all your life? And mucho congrats to Russ and Lisa for buying their first home, which is a beaultiful place. If you could combine my home theatre room with the rest of their place, man you would have the ultimate diggs!

The rundown:

Watching: Shooter/Blood Diamond/Heroes: season 1/Deadwood: Season 3/Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Playing: Genji(PS3)/Halo 3(Xbox360)/Heavenly Sword(PS3)/Medal of Honor: Airborne (xbox360)/Forza Motorsport 2(xbox360)/Lair(PS3)/Project Gotham Racing 4(xbox360)/Two Worlds(xbox360)/Resistance: Fall of Man(PS3)

Reading: Conan: The Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories (Marvel Comics reprints)

Listening to: Matt Mays - When The Angels Make contact/Bruce Springsteen - Magic/The Cult - Born Into This/Pearl Jam - Riot Act/Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand

That's it,

Cheers,
Steve

"You lost today kid, doesn't mean you have to like it."

Monday, August 27, 2007



"Up so early feel so bright! Didn't get much sleep last night!"

Once more into the breech. Been ages, sick of apologizing to you guys - you understand i'm sure. Life's been hectic, baby, work, blah blah blah...

On August 23rd i turned 30, which was fine, and Saturday past (the 25th) Sarah threw me a little suprise shindig, which was amazing! I've got a nice Kent gift card to work with - the DVD Shelves will be done ASA-friggin-P!

Huge shout outs to everybody, Sarah N Nicole (my ladies!), Russ n Lisa, Chuck n Nicole, Andy n Tracy(Gun show!), Jon n Beth (Love the book - you spoil me dammit!), Jon n Kate, Chris, Brian n Sandra, and of course, my folks and the in-laws for just being awesome.
Huge props also to the guys who couldn't make it: Dana, Jeff (Great to hang out n play games again man... ) Kev (miss ya bro, can't wait till yer back in town), Mark n Daisy (who made up for it with Montanas! Hope you guys had a GREAT first anniversary!) Mark n Mike (two great guys to work with), and Ken (compadre, and senior Microplay guy). And anyone else i may have missed.

Maybe it's the age and what not - but being all introspective and sappy - a guy couldn't ask for a better circle of friends, you guys all kick ass.

So yeah, A message to Southpeak interactive: Where the fuck is my copy of Two Worlds you sons of bitches! People in America have been playing this damn game since last week - and after having it's ship date shuffled oh, somewhere between 10 and 200 times, I STILL don't have a copy of the damn game (which i pre-paid, i might add.) in my hands! If i didn't love the PC version so much when i tried it a few months back - i'd say screw your damn title and move on . I haven't seen this degree of unprofessional bullshit from a software publisher since the NES days.

In other game news, Bioshock is as good as you've heard. It's downright amazing on a game design level. Not quite the counter-argument to Ebert's "Games are not art." comment, but still amazing stuff. Oddly enough, from a storytelling point of view- i still prefer The Darkness - but that's just me. Also been playing a lot of Guitar Hero II on the 360, and Sheavy axe-slinger Dan Moore has seen fit to give the vanilla-white blandness of the 360's X-plorer guitar a fresh lick of paint for me - the results were downright amazing.


In other news - I have become a total Conan freak! My love of Robert E. Howard's sullen-eyed Cimmerian has become something boardering on obsession. I've picked up some amazing books, including "Conan: The Ultimate Guide To The World's Most Savage Barbarian", which was a fascinating read, and the latest collected TPB of Dark Horse Comic's amazing Conan run. Doubly exciting is our return to pen and paper RPG-ing. Mark's been running a damn fun Eberron campaign, and in September i'll be starting up a campaign set in Conan's own Hyborian Age! I can't freaking wait.

Musically - the new Sheavy CD - The Machine That Won The War - has finally made it into my posession - and i must say, it is one hell of a package. Beautifully done 2-disc set. If you can track down a copy, i highly recommend it.

Haven't seen too much in movies lately - Wild Hogs sucked bad, The Simpsons movie was damned awesome, and i'm on a bit of a Robocop kick.

Samantha is doing awesome - she's got a grin that would light up a room, Abby is doing well, Sarah is good, and Work is the same as always (we're moving shop in September, which is going to be busy as hell, and also suck very much).

That's all for now,

The Rundown:

Watching: Pathfinder/Robocop/Rome Seasons 1 & 2/Deadwood Season 3/Basilisk
Playing: TMNT (xbox360)/Persona 3 (ps2)/Conan(xbox)
Listening To: Powderfinger - Dream Days at the Hotel Existence/Jet - Shine On/The Travelling Wilburys vols 1 n 3
Reading: Conan (D20)/Conan - The Hall of the Dead and Other Stories / Dragonlance: The Elven Nations Trilogy
Working On (tm & (c) KJCW): Nothing at the moment.

Cheers,
Steve

"This is Tom Hanks saying if you see me in person, then please, leave me be."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"There's something happening here... what it is ain't exactly clear..."

It's been ages, I know. I'm at that point in my life where i'm kept so goddamn busy that what little free time i do get is wasted on some unwinding with a game or a movie. To say i just haven't had the mental fortitude to write anything witty or worthwhile would be the understatement of the year. And rather than look at this whole bloggity thing as a chore - and waste my time with half assed attempts and polls and such, I figure i'd just wait until my head was in the right place and go from there - so here I am.


First things first - The Busted controller as many may remember it no longer exists. I just haven't had the time or energy to focus on reviews like i once did. the move from Microplay to Microplay-Jumbo Video combo store has drained any possibility of creativity whilst working from me, and reviews in the past were always something i could put together in the slow time and polish at home. So it's looking like the Dead rising review (published over there in October of 2006) was my last for the time being. Don't get me wrong - there are a ton of games out there that i would love to share my opinion on in a more professionally written manner - the big guns of last year, some of the amazing stuff we've seen so far this year, and some of the stuff to come. I may get back into the swing of things down the road - and i hope i do, but for now i've converted the BC into a collection list. so yeah, head on over there if you want to check out my Game collection in all of it's glory. I've been doing a solid job of keeping my excel spreadsheet updated, and it's relatively easy to port that stuff over to the site - so expect to see it maintained regularly. I'll also be spicing up the look a little in the days or weeks to come.


Transformers
was freaking excellent - go see it if you haven't, and if you have, go see it again! Live Free or Die Hard was a colossal letdown - don't waste your time on castrated action fare. Am I the only person alive looking forward to The Simpsons Movie?

Family update - Samantha is doing very well. Alert, aware, laughing and cooing, all that fun stuff. Abby has been giving us a bit of grief around bedtime - just being an almost 4 year old i guess. Hard to believe it's been that long. But everyone is good, and that's all that matters.


Game wise - Snagged Guitar Hero II for the Xbox360, and find it improved on the PS2 one in a big way, most notably in the Iron Maiden department - The Trooper kicks ass! Also getting back into Oblivion again. I'd lost all my save games in a memory card related mishap, so i've started over - and the game still blows my mind with how damn good it is. I've just hit the Shivering Isles expansion, and it's excellent so far.

Best of '07 so far!

Ran through The Darkness - a first person shooter based on a shitty comic book from the mid-90's. The game was freakin excellent all around. One of the best new titles i've played so far this year. Solid 9 game!
Overlord
kicks ass as well. If the idea of playing as a Sauron looking mother fucker with a hoard of gremlins following you around eating sheep and burning hobbits (sorry, Harflin's), all infused with that trademark British wit by way of Pratchett/Python sounds like a good time to you, well - find this game. It's an 8 for sure.

Tracked down a copy of the new
Smashing Pumpkins CD, called Zeitgeist, over the last week or two, and i must say it is goddamn awesome (thanks Mark!). It'd been ages since i've listened to the band - i did own Mellen Collie and Siamese Dream back in the day, but sold them off shortly after Adore killed my interest. I've since gone back and re-listed to a bunch of the old stuff - man these guys were amazing in the day. I'd put Siamese Dream right up there with Ten, Nevermind, and Badmotorfinger as classic representations of the best the 90's had to offer musically. Need to re-buy all their discs now... damn.

Dang fine little Reunion album ya got there!


See Renaissance yet? No? Dammit people what's with you? It'll be available on R1 DVD from July 24th, after that you have no excuse!

Buy it! Watch it! Love it!

Ta for now,


The rundown:

Watching:
Renaissance / The Relic / The Thing / Platoon / Falling Down / Transformers

Playing:
Oblivion (xbox360) / Guitar Hero II (xbox360) / The Darkness (xbox360) / Overlord (xbox360) / Motorstorm (PS3) / Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3)

Reading:
Zip!

Listening to:
Sheavy - The Machine That Won The War / Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist / Smashing Pumpkins - Mellen Collie and the Infinite Sadness / Chris Kirby - on Rum and Religion / The Music - Welcome to the North

Looking Forward to:
Pathfinder: Unrated (DVD) / 300 (DVD) / Two Worlds (xbox360)


Cheers,

Steve

"First we find her, then we sleep."