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Sunday, July 31, 2011

State of the Union

It's been a while since I've done this.  You might notice that this is not a review of anything, after a streak of over two years worth of Sundays.  The reason for this is simple, I'm going away from the blog like I did.  I can't do this anymore and I would rather focus my energies on That Other Song.  Now, the blog is not going away since That Other Song would still be posted here every other Wednesday.  Also, I still want to review things, just on a more laid-back schedule where I could take my time writing a review that doesn't suck.  Also, if Jeff Zweig wants to post something, he will.  Granted I doubt it since he's busy with his book but the opportunity will always be there.

So until next time, this Wednesday will have a new episode of That Other Song with EMF.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Devil May Cry 4 reviewed

Ah Devil May Cry....will I never cease to play your games even though the first two are utter crap and three not sucking was a mere fluke.  But then again, Devil May Cry 4 may have the momentum of the third to push it over the edge to another good game....or could actually be a legitimately good game on its own.  Besides, I just can't stop playing the franchise when I only have one more game left to far.  So with that said, let's dig into Devil May Cry 4.

You are Nero....who is not Dante or Dante in a disguise.  I think they may be related but I'm not sure how and the game doesn't know how either.  But anyways, Nero is bored out of his mind watching his girlfriend, Kyrie, sing a hymn and the Pope blathering on Sparda and how we need a savior.  Then Dante comes crashing down and shoots the Pope in the face!  Of course that's bad and Nero is tasked with finding and apprehending Dante...then Kyrie gets kidnapped and then you find out that there's a whole bunch of demoning going on along with demonic angels.

And that's my biggest problem with the game, Nero.  No, not the fact that he exists because there is a germ of an interesting idea with Dante being a  bad guy who must be stopped at all costs, of course the game doesn't follow with that plotline.  My problem with Nero is that he's pretty much Dante.  He has Dante's weapons, a sword and a gun.  He looks like Dante, only a bit more of a pretty-boy.  He pretty much plays like Dante and I'm thinking, if this guy looks, fights and plays like Dante...why am I not playing as Dante?  What's the point of a new character if he all is going to do is want me to play the old character.

And then for a few missions, you get to play as Dante and all seems to be well.  Then you realize with a sicking feeling that you're just retracing Nero's steps.  Going into rooms that he was already in, either solving the puzzles Nero solved or just slashing it in bits and re-killing the same bosses.  There's nothing new in the levels except palette-swapped enemies with more HP.  And then he gets all the bad missions, one of them has a spontaneous and gratuitous time limit or a level filled with poisonous gas.  Nero's levels had no time limits and no poison at all!

But, for all the problems playing the game, the cut-scenes are by far the best of the series.  If the third game upped the awesomeness and camp to eleven, then the fourth game upped it to twelve.  The action is great and the "camerawork" if you will is fluid and kinetic.  The voice-acting is extremely entertaining and there leads the charm of a few amazing scenes like a Shakespearean duel of words in an opera house or the battle between Dante and Nero.

For every moment I liked, there was an equal number of moments where I wanted to put my controller through a wall.  It would make for a nice B+-movie but then there's playing the game and it's problems.  Granted, those problems are not as bad as the first two games and the results are at least playable even if the difficulty goes back to being unfair at times and the camera system is, by far, the worst of the series.  It's something to pleases the fans but wont' break through to non-fans like 3 did.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger reviewed

NOTE: This was shown in glorious 2-D

Another piece of the Avengers assembly is finally....err assembled with Captain America: The First Avenger.  Even in this horrible glut of superhero movies this year, it's a fair chance that one may be a bit tired of it all.  I know I was beginning to tire of it but I know I have to see a Marvel movie since it all leads up to the Avengers in 2012.  So I plopped down with low expectations and wanted to see the Avengers trailer at the end.  But I was kinda shocked and surprised that it turned into a grand, entertaining adventure with lots of old-fashioned derring do.

Steve Rogers is a 90 pound weakling that even me and my pathetic muscles can beat up.  He wants to fight for his country during World War II but he, rightfully, keeps being rejected for being small, weak and full of many diseases.  But he keeps trying and some German scientist refugee offers him a chance to be something special, a super soldier.  And before he knows it, he turns into Captain America., a propaganda machine!  And then he actually joins the battle against Hydra, a splinter group from the Nazi's, that's lead by the evil Red Skull, the first person to be given the super serum.  Then a whole bunch of good-old fashioned American ass-kicking follows.

The movie actually takes its time to set up the situations and characters so nothing is forced through at break-neck speed....except the POW's-cum-Commandos but that's fairly understandable.  The movie does go through with some decent pains to develop Steve Rogers into a weak man with a good heart into a superhero....with a good heart.  The action scenes are crisp, clear and a hoot to watch.  The movie truly shows the it's all about having a good time when it comes to the action.

The acting all-around is almost as good as the first Iron Man movie.  Chris Evans really sells his transformation and Steve Rogers as a good man.  But then again, I always thought that Evans was underrated and he could always be counted on for his charisma and charm at least.  Tommy Lee Jones as the gruff military officer is pretty much Tommy Lee Jones and that's always fine by me.  Hugo Weaving is deliciously entertaining as the Red Skull who knows how to play the evil up.  Everyone else is fine.

While both Iron Man movies had Robert Downey Jr's. remarkable performance, Thor had amazing Shakespearean overtones and The Incredible Hulk had smashing, Captain America also has something special.  This is really good entertainment.  It does everything it's supposed to do, it sets up The Avengers, it's action-packed, it sets up Captain America and it's just plain entertaining.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Top 50 Games #35: God of War II

Kratos is the new God of War after killing Ares but him being all jerkassey has made the rest of the Gods jealous.  So Zeus decides to betray and take away Kratos's God powers and rights.  He also decides to send him to Hades but all does this is piss Kratos off.  So he fights his way back and makes an alliance with the Titans to destroy Mount Olympus but first, Kratos needs to change his destiny and make his way to The Temple of the Fates to do so.

But I know that this means nothing in the main draw of this, good old violence that's up to 11 here. You basically obliterate a good amount of Greek mythology single-handed. I mean the first game only had you killing The Hydra, Medusa, The Minotaur and Ares. This one has you killing: The Colossus of Rhodes, The Sisters of Fate, The Kraken, Persius, Theseus, Icarus(one of the best boss fights in the game) and whoever else I'm forgetting. And what would a review of a God of War game be without me mentioning the violence. All the times you break necks, rip off arms that have blades in them and then put the bladed arm into an enemy's face, kick dogs and break their necks, rip off heads, cut off wings, rip out eyes, rip out wings, tear things in half, run an enemy's own sword through him and slitting throats brings out the MAAAANNN in me....not really, but it's awesome. And Pegasus is in the game as a mode of transportation for Kratos...but wait, isn't Pegasus that unmanly flying horse that Hercules rode. You would be right...if Pegasus wings weren't ON FIRE! And his fur was BLACK, instead of white! Cause Kratos only rides things that are as black and manly as his dark, manly SOUL!

The Colossus of Rhodes

Read my review here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Witch and Wizards: Operation Zero reviewed

You gotta love my mom, she bought a James Patterson book because she looks reading James Patterson books.  Little did she knew that bought a graphic novel.  She doesn't read them and has no interest in reading them, even for her beloved James Patterson.  But she knew that I read them, even if it's like one every five years, but I did read them and she gave it to me.  I figured I might as well give it a chance and see what my mom sees...well, my mom watches those crappy movies on SyFy so I should have known better.  Anyways on to Witch and Wizard: Operation Zero.

It's the future and the world has fallen over a New World Order.  No, not the one lead by Hulk Hogan...or Jeff Jarrett....or Bret Hart but by The One Who is the One!  Creativity is banned, books are burned and magic apparently exists so it can be banned.  There's a resistance led by the Allgood siblings, Whit and Wisty, to take back what's theirs.  In this story, The One who Bans Books has turned against the New World Order and has knowledge of a book that takes away somebody's magic The One Who is the One has!

First off, it's a sequel to something since there's a 2 on the spine.  I figured that since Patterson seems to crap out books every minute of every hour of every day.  However, while prior knowledge would have been nice, it's not actually required to understand what's going on in Operation Zero so that's got that going for it....which is nice.  The story itself...isn't all that good.  It's thin, it's moronic and at times ridiculous but not in the good, fun way.  Of course most of my other complaints is in regards to the lack of world-building or good backstory but this is a sequel so that can be forgiven.

There is one thing that this book did right and that it's paced extremely well.  I finished it in less than an hour....on the toilet!  While the story may be thin, as in little development or backstory, it also doesn't have much time for fluff either.  It's very economical with its story and every page either attempts to pack a punch or advance the story, it doesn't always succeed but it does try.

The artwork here is decent.  The art is bright and colorful.  The people actually look like people without doing any impossible Rob Liefeld-ian poses, even though the woman are scantily clad for some reason.  The backgrounds are a little sparse and there are a couple times where the comic is laid out in a manner where trying to figure out what panel to read next is next-to-impossible.  One page had it where it was to be read top-to-bottom, left-to-right....comics should rarely work that way and only then if there's a reason and it's clear which way to read.

It's more of summer blockbuster movie.  It's there, it's somewhat entertaining and I think there were some explosions.  It's a quick read and while it doesn't do much with what it has, it does do it in a fairly competent manner.  You won't suffer that much with this.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction reviewed

It's Ratchet and Clank game time once again boys and girls.  And after exhausting all the PS2 and PS2 ports of the PSP games, I've moved on to the PS3.  And this time, the series is going to the FUTURE for some reason.  So what's the future like?  What new changes come with the upgrade to the PS3?  How mighty is Captain Qwark's pecs?  Well...not mighty enough sad to say.  It's just more of the same as I'll explain.

We find our two heroes fixing a hoverbike and taking it easy...again.  Then it turns out there's an alien invasion going on decimating the city being led by the evil Emperor Tachyon, leader of the extinct race The Cragmites!  Tachyon's goal is simple, he wants to destroy all Lombaxes which Ratchet is obviously is.  Eventually both of them race towards the Lombaxes greatest invention which has the power to open up any dimension which could lead to the return of The Cragmites....which is up.  Meanwhile, Clank has been attracting some weird things like The Zoni who are some mystical robot creatures.  Also, robot pirates are involved.

The game play is very similar to most of the previous Ratchet games.  Ratchet and Clank fly to some world, there's a bunch of things to kill and Ratchet kills them with many types of weapons.  When you kill enough things the weapon levels up to become more powerful.  Yeah, not much has changed has it?  I know some people, probably AC/DC fans, are going to be all like "If it's not broke, don't fix it...maaaannn!".  It's not broke, but it's all stale and complacent.

That's the thing, there's nothing fresh or exciting while I was playing this.  I didn't really have much fun and nothing the game did made me forget that I wasn't actually having fun.  Anything this game did could be done on the Playstation 2 with the exception of some of the character models being a bit smoother than they have been in the past.  There's nothing really epic, no big set pieces and nothing really to push the envelope or expand our minds or something like that.

Oh wait, the this game does try to utilize the PS3's SIXAXIS controller which is something different I guess.  If you don't know or remember the SIXAXIS, it's pretty much that you can actually control the game....THROUGH THE CONTROLLER ITSELF!  Whatever way you tilt the controller, that's where whatever you're controlling(not necessarily Ratchet) tilts!  And it's a utter failure since it's way too sensitive and way too frustrating for it be even remotely effective.  Many times I tilt just a little and the thing I'm controlling just goes flying off every which way.

This is the most disappointing Ratchet and Clank game I've played yet.  Sure the PSP ports were somewhat worse but they were ports, I had very little expectations for them.  The only thing I expected out of them was that they not be blights upon humanity and they weren't.  But this one I did have such expectations that it would be good and be grand and be everything it should be on the PS3 and to see that it wasn't really sucks.  It does what it does well, but you can tell the seasonal rot is setting with the exception of the ending in which it promises a whole new direction and fires up my imagination.  But other than that, it's all very meh.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zombies vs. Nazis: A Lost History of the Walking Undead reviewed

Hey look guys, it's yet another book about zombies being inserted into a crazy time period.  This time it's Nazi Germany.....or actually Haiti during World War II.  I have complained in Zombie History of the US that if zombie history books needed a future, then it has to do more than just to stick zombies into a time period without any context or style.  Then somehow I get this e-mail about getting a review copy of Zombies vs. Nazis so I did and here we are.  Let's see if this zombie book does better.

It's the time of World War II.  It's still in the early stages so Germany is kicking everybody's asses and taking their territory.  But the Germans are not one to be complacent so they send three inspectors into Haiti to learn the way of the zombie.  The thought process is that if the Nazis control zombies then they would have an army that would truly be unstoppable and the Third Reich would truly last a thousand years with all of it's original members. 

The book is all in communiques that the inspectors sent out to their superior officer with the exception with a brief preface from the author explaining what we're about to read(with very unnecessary snarky bits and it's in red so it's color-coded for your convenience!) and two unclassified US documents about uncovering these communique.  And this is, by far, the smartest thing the book did.  It keeps things terse, fast-paced and exciting.  If it was written like a normal fictional narrative, the results would have been disastrous.  It would've been Plague of the Dead all over again.

And then the book does a rather big mistake.  The aforementioned preface is all about "Humans shouldn't meddle in raising the dead unless they want to be eaten" and then betrays that with the standard "Humans are Bastards" theme.  On the surface they may be the same thing but one thing suggests that we're not going to have the old tired zombie cliche that humans are worse that George Romero has beaten to death, resurrected and killed again and the other thing....does.  Guess which path the book goes?

Additionally, there's some illustrations in this book and quite a few of them.  They're all bright, colorful and cartoony...and in the end, not very good.  To me, it just seems half-assed and lazy.  The backgrounds are just splashes of color with little attempt at creating anything there.  The people are really blocky and two of them are rather samey.  And it does the cardinal sin of mis-matching the images with the words since I thought one of the Inspectors was actually one of the Voodoo priests.

In the end, however, I do like this.  It does do something more that just stick zombies in some time period and just let them do wacky hijinks.  It's short, a very fast read and has some decent action.  While it's doesn't really do much with a high-concept title like Zombies vs. Nazis it's still quite entertaining.


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