Saturday, May 28, 2011

I use TV shows to discover new music.

I'm not afraid to admit it. Throughout the years, a lot of shows have been trending to more obscure and hip music and i generally dig what they play. So after the episode ends, or even during, i'll pause, google the audible lyrics and find out who it is, then youtube/wiki them, to find out if i enjoy their stuff. I'm perfectly fine with that too, there's way too many bands, genres, albums, songs out there to just pilfer through to find out who's good and bad. As it is right now, Music is easily at a 1:100 good/crap ratio, if Fox, NBC, or FX wants to tell me what's good or hip and i enjoy it, i'm damn well giving it a try. Thus far i have Chuck to thank for Bon Iver, Bones to thank for both The Bird and The Bee and Minuit. I'm sure there's at least a half dozen to dozen other bands i listen to regularly that i got into solely because they were featured on some TV show. I know that How I Met Your Mother does an excellent job not just providing current music, but even older songs like Mother of Pearl. Songs that just instantly tell you that you've missed out on something.

Just figured i'd share. Most of my current music is borrowed from something, whether it's friends, family, movies, tv, or even amazons old "bands similar to.." feature. I've used everything. Hell, i once stayed up all night using Wiki to search every bands name and genre that have played at Coachella the last few years. Found a few solid bands that way too. Also felt cool knowing who some of the random obscure bands were too.

No real subject to this blog other than that i guess music can be found anywhere and everywhere. That's what makes music so great i guess.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gears of War series is pretty quality.

Let me start with Gears of War. The game is just gorgeous. People wondered years before what the graphical capabilities would be for the 360 and this game displayed that. Even today, the game is simply breathtaking. Hell, i'd be willing to say that it looks just as good if not better than every other title this console generation, even better than its sequel. Just the enormous detail on every character, every crack on the ground or wall, every scale on the locust, everything looks marvelous. Someone once told me they'd be upset if Gears was about as good as graphics got this generation, but i disagree, the jump from PS2/Xbox graphics to Gears is an insane jump and i accept that. Whether or not it came out in 2006 is irrelevant to me, maybe they were just so far ahead of the curve that they set the standard that wont be passed until maybe Gears 3 comes out September.

Now that i'm done slurping the Graphics, let me move onto the engine itself. The mechanics were great. There's maybe 2-3 minor to moderate sized gripes you can have, first you're always shooting right handed, that's a bit annoying if someone is coming up on your left which can make it tough now and then but otherwise, some people might not even notice it. Then there's the fact that one button to do several different things. In multiplayer this is extremely annoying, your teammate goes down, you rush over to pick them up, what do you do however, you grab the shotgun ammo from the enemy your squad mate killed, resulting in your buddy dying, them raging at you over the mic and you possibly losing the round. That one is simply infuriating, but you can adjust so it doesn't happen, but its still a gripe. Then finally there's the cover system, in theory it's damn near perfect, however you get stuck to walls so often that it becomes a huge pain in the ass just to move down the map towards your enemies. You'll be slamming on and off random walls, humping along certain walls that you for some reason just cant roll off of, or just stand up while in cover with no chance to move. As i've said for the previous problems, these dont arise all that often and are somewhat avoidable, but when it causes you to die and or your team to lose the match, it can make you want to rage pretty hard.

Now that i'm done with the few problems i've encountered with the engine, let me move on to the parts that i love. The cover system when working is damn near perfect. Most games, their cover system feels tacked on, games like GTA, Uncharted and so forth, just feel like a mediocre cover system. You never feel like you're protected nor that you can do any damage while in cover. Gears however, when you slam against the wall, barrier, or car, you feel attached to it. You feel that it's a part of your defense. The game gives you that feeling of safety as well as offense. Aside from a few wacky angles, you should always be fine under cover. That to me is why this cover system is the best in gaming right now. But that's not all they added with this engine, they introduced the roadie run which feels like you're actually there. The speed, the the pounding as you run, it feels like you're there. Gives you the feeling that a FPS can sometimes give but in a 3rd person view. That feeling is actually something that was lost in the second Gears game, but again i'll hit that up in the Gears of War 2 review i'm planning on doing. There's a lot more to this engine, but the feeling of immersion and cover is what i liked best about this game. Also, the fact that there's not a jump button helps the game as it keeps it grounded and less jump firing that ruins games like Halo and Quake at times. This game seems a bit slower than those, relying more on skill than twitch play, though there's times where someone will trying to basically bounce off walls repeatedly to score a gnasher kill, but that doesnt work as often as you'd think since it's not an efficient way of getting kills.

The campaign, which contains a very vague story, is actually quite entertaining. It should only take about 5-8 hours to burn through it on the hardest difficulty, so it's short, but it is satisfying. Now before i go into detail on the story, let me begin by giving you a quick run down of the main characters you'll see and hear for most of the campaign.

Marcus Fenix - The face of the entire franchise and really i'm assuming the driving force of the entire series. He seems to play a huge part in the war even before the first game. He is the main character in the story mode and you'll be playing him unless you play through on coop. The campaign starts out with Dom breaking Marcus out of jail where he had been for four years due to leaving a battle to aid his father. Many soldiers look down on Marcus for abandoning their comrades so throughout the campaign you hear people talking about him being a traitor or his acts of treason. By the end of the game however, all seems to be forgiven and he's regarded as one of the wars greatest heroes.

Dominic Santiago - The other main character of campaign, you only play as him in coop, but he helps drive the story forward with Marcus. It was his idea to free Marcus, a former squad mate, after the war was taking its toll on the Cogs. Most disagreed at the time but it helped change the balance of war. Dom is driven by his desire to avenge his children's lives and find his kidnapped his wife. He plays a bigger part in Gears 2 as a majority of the story is about Dom.

While Dom and Marcus are the only characters you play in the campaign, they're aided by two of the best NPC's in games. What Cole and Baird have in personality more than makes up for what Dom and Marcus may lack.

Augustus "Cole-Train" Cole - Former Thrashball star turned COG soldier. He's brash, he's egotistical, and most of all, he's a pure badass. When you first encounter Cole, it's after most of his entire squad have been killed. While he's cornered in a courtyard, but not in any trouble, you can hear him yelling, taunting, and killing dozens of Locust. Even when you come down to talk to him, he's still berating the dead grubs. Cole rises to any occasion and is never afraid to speak his mind. He really lights up the screen when he's on it as well as softens the mood a bit. So it's not just a hard nosed war game.

Damon Baird - Baird along with Cole joined the resistance on Emergence Day, the day the Locust first attacked. Baird despite his blonde hair and good looks is actually quite smart, he's able to repair and drive any vehicle, he's also adept at formulating plans and is a driving force behind designing and detonating the light mass bomb, which the COG hope destroy the locust and their tunnels. Baird also brings levity to the story too, he like Cole is responsible for finding humor in an otherwise sad and dark war. Even when you dont actually play as Baird, he's still a big part of the experience.

Together these four characters give you a campaign full of hilarious one liners and macho badassness that's missing in most games today. Really the only thing that could make these four better is if you could play as them.

The story starts with the Locust trying to take over the surface and essentially sinking cities as they climb to the surface and take out man, woman, and child on the surface. This becomes known as Emergence Day and the start of a war that the humans never expected. With surprise on their side, the locust are successful in destroying most of the planet and puts momentum in their favor. With the citizens of Sera on their heels, they only have one option, to ally the forces and create what's know as the COG (Coalition of Ordered Government) Army. The humans are able to hold off the Locust push for 14 years, but due to their strength in numbers, the COG have one last plan before everything has been lost. That's where the campaign starts.

The campaign doesnt really give you in depth access to the story. You have to really pay attention to understand what's really going on. Yes that's a huge knock, but it all comes down to the story vs gameplay argument. If the gameplay is good enough, sometimes story doesnt matter. The campaign is able to change things up quite often. You fight a variety of different enemies, each with their own weaknesses. The game also splits you from your comrades quite often making the game a bit tough since you dont have a teammate to revive you if you die. This helps increase the difficulty but also helps your sense of accomplishment. There are many changes in gameplay too. You may be riding around in mine carts, assaulting a mansion, or overtaking a train. Nothing feels as though you've already been there and done that, which makes everything seem fresh.

Overall it's a great experience. I was skeptical when the game was first released and refused to buy it immediately, but when i did purchase it, it was easily my most played game. I've played the campaign countless times as well as invested into the multiplayer heavily. In fact, even to this day, i still play the game quite often. It's a shame that due to its age and sequel, the community has died out. Though you can still find games, they're either really really good or really really bad, making new players quit before they can fully experience the multiplayer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Age of Booty was pretty quality.

XBL had a sale last week on Booty for 200 points ($2.50). For that price the game couldn't really disappoint and it didn't. It's basically a multiplayer RTS on a much smaller scale. The point of the game is to capture a certain number of towns before another team does. Sounds easy, but with every other team with the same task, it becomes  a bit daunting trying to balance between trying to capture new towns while defending your old ones. There are though upgrades you can make to your boat and towns. Each town produces a certain item that's needed to upgrade your town and boat. There's Rum, Wood, and Money. Upgrading your town defense which requires Trees and Money basically just gives you added health and more cannon power while your boat, using Trees and Rum, can be upgraded up to nine total times in three different categories, speed, cannons, and defense. Each has their own strength and weakness meaning a good balance is what you should go for.

There's also other other random stuff going on, you can attack little tiki huts that have little health but contain one of the three resources. There's also merchant ships that sail around that give you special items, one is a card that allows you to steal up to two specific resources from, another is a whirlpool where you select a tile and it transports the ship on it to another area of the map. A ghostship that turns you invisible and allows you to travel at max speed allowing you to bypass pesky defenders on your way to your destination. Then there's the best one, the bomb which you play on any open tile and it explodes heavily damaging any ship or town with a one tile radius around it. This is best to take out multiple ships or damage a  full upgraded town. It's not recommended using the bomb near your own base though as it does friendly damage too.

The challenge single player mode makes this simple and easy seeming game into a real test of strategy. The game really ups the difficulty later too where you start praying for the time to run out rather than reach the objective. The game is one of those difficult but satisfying games where you feel like you accomplished something after multiple failed attempts.

Overall, the game is best used as a multiplayer game with a bunch of friends. I'd put it up there with Uno and Carcasonne in a rotation.

Fun game that if you catch it for cheap, is 100% worth the price.

Upon further review The Hangover sucked.

I watched the first a few weeks after it came out in theaters, my grandma wanted to go hop in after we saw Star Trek so i figured whatever lets do this. We enjoyed it, she usually hates sex jokes but she found most to be funny. I however sat there with a smile, chucking a few times here and there. Overall though, it was a solid 7/10 movie, not nearly as epic as the trailers or everyone had made it out to be.

My first major gripe was the music. It blasted heavy rap music trying to be hip or cool and just came off as trying way too hard. I mean blaring tracks that go "pop that pussy hot so my load can get this drop" in a film mainly targeted at white males seemed a bit forced. Then they seemed to have a montage towards the end that was blaring metal. So they have literally both sides of the spectrum when it comes to garbage. Glamour rap and metal, great choices.

Then there's the fact that the movie is poorly written. Any movie that can make Brad Lee Cooper boring as sin is a movie i frown upon. Every other movie he's ever been in, he steals every scene. Here he was just a random asshole being well, a random asshole. His lines were unfunny, he came across as very unlikeable, and until the middle of the movie, you get the impression he cheated on his wife. Really, his sole purpose in this movie was to be that guy in the black suit. He really didnt contribute to any of the laughs or the story progressing. Just sat there with that smug look on his face, which is usually more than enough to carry his character, but due to the bad writing you just want to hate him.

Gally was wasted to. It seems the writers needed a dim character and for some reason went to the brilliant Zach Galifianakis when they intended to make him a retarded pedophile. Doesnt make sense to me. Was him being a complete moron really needed? All his stupid antic like cutting his hand to make a blood pact or claiming he hates Godzilla as well to an asian character just came across as outright silly. Was this movie trying to be smart or slapstick silly, cause i came in expecting smart, but forcing Galifanakis to be a complete moron turned what could have been the next great 40 Year Old Virgin type comedy into a Las Vegas version of Meet The Spartans.

Whats worse is that after this i even bought into the directors next project, Due Date, which was absolutely dreadful where it literally cast Zach once again as a complete moron. I had hopes that RDJ could save it, but he like Cooper, came across as a massive dick who you couldnt relate to at all. While the movie had 1-2 laughs, for a two hour movie labeled a comedy, that's not nearly enough. With that said, i have a feeling i wont be paying money to view any more of this directors movies as i've been burned once too many times.

After all this, i opted to try and watch Hangover again earlier today and it failed to do what every good comedy is supposed to do, get funnier on subsequent views. This was just boring. It was similar to watching a mystery you'd already seen. The allure was gone, it was no longer funny at parts you thought were funny at first. The shock value was gone, and i suppose that's all the movies humor was based on, pure shock value. So i sat there for 100 minutes, literally stone faced wondering why i'm wasting my time on a movie that people for some reason have as the best comedy ever. Course those may be the same douchebags that thought Get Him To The Greek was hilarious, but that's another post for another time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Man, Chicago Code being canned is a downer.

Unlike most shows that fail to engage you into caring about a single character (glaring at you The Killing!) Code was able to get you to care about every character, good or bad, you enjoyed watching them. It's hard to have a show fail when that happens. If you look at the various other dramas canceled this year, Code was really the only one with a great group of characters. Event was utter garbage, every character made me want to spit in their face. Law and Order? Yea, another boring show with no real story.

When shows like this get canned it blows since there's plenty of room on TV for them. You telling me The Killing, Talking Dead, Breakout Kings, and a majority of other shows are worth keeping on the air over Code? It's not like FOX outside of AI and Ramsay stuff is lighting up the ratings. Why not keep good shows around? Code was essentially a tame Shield. Jarek was no Mackey, but he was a badass none the less. And a show having a powerful female character that didnt suck was a nice change too. Most women in TV blow since they focus too much on their sex appeal and not their character or acting.

Oh well, gonne end this mini rant before it drags on too long, just upsets me that Networks think they're gonna find better shows by cancelling good ones. By axing Traffic and Code, 2 of maybe 5 shows i watch on FOX, they've lost another viewer for Cable shows where more faith is generally given, unless its FX of course who got rid of the outstanding Lights Out and the overly hilarious Terriers. One of these days they'll learn i suppose.

The Killing sucks ass.

After the slowest start in TV history, it finished with a huge cliffhanger without ever really doing much.

Overall the show was ok i guess, it just wasn't that great. Doubt i'm going to be in it for season 2.