Somewhere around the time of Resident Evil (1996), video games were taking a turn for the cinematic. People weren't simply looking for exlopding alien brains anymore, they wanted the artistic and narrative aesthetics of RPG's with the kinetic intensity of first-person shooters.
The unfolding era of cinematic video games was a natural result of technological advances and a steady gaming market. Eventually, advertising these blockbusters started taking on Hollywood feel as well. Trailers began to emerge which mimicked the flavor of epic the motion picture industry's coming attractions. The first one that I particularly noticed was the relatively recent Gears of War. The contrast between the music (Gary Jules' "Mad World," which you know better from the Donnie Darko soundtrack) and the action (monsters and dystopian bullet-spraying) created a particularly engaging affect for the neurons.
Dead Island (developed by Techland and to be distributed by Deep Silver) has been lagging in a wake of its own hype since the trailer debuted at the E3 expo in 2007 to an almost problematic amount of hysteria 3 million YouTube views, no depiction of game play, no scheduled release date, and mixed critical reactions saying everything from "the trailer is too extreme" to "it's the single greatest trailer ever made."
It's going to be a zombie survival horror, offering both open-world "sandbox" and "on-track" gameplay. First-person melee with RPG elements, Dead Island will offer up to four-player, co-operative play. Set on an island resort in Papua, New Guinea, you will have one of four characters to chose from: Xian Mei (a staff member at the hotel), Logan (a surfer), Sam B (a former rapper) and Purna (?).
Part of the game play buzz which, again, is barely a footnote under the trailer buzz is that you won't have an unrealistically ample cache of heavy weaponry. You will have to customize "homemade" weapons, and these weapons will degrade over time. And you will be kept on your toes, required to make boyscout-esque use of your environment.
Originally slated for 2008 and then delayed (which may have been for the best so Deep Silver didn't deliver the most monumental disappointment in gaming history), Techland has had plenty of time to beef up Dead Island to be the best it could possibly be.
In the meantime, check out the trailer and lemme know what you think. Also, what are your favorite video game trailers thus far? Discuss ...
The cover model Kind of looks like he could live In WilliamsburgI also like this one by "Sam" (even though the syllables were bit off):
I rode in a gang We had guns and horses and $hit but then i got shotBut I gotta give top honors to this gem by "di1":
Bad guys now know fear Harsh Justice comes for them like Young Guns 1 and 2
Congratulations di1! Expect an email from me soon!
It's game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, halfway through the third period. The Flyers and I are down 3-1 to the Red Wings. It's desperation time. We need goals fast or everything we've worked for all season long will have been for nothing.
And then the coach sends in Riley Cote. For a three-minute shift.
Like all of its ancestors, NHL 10 (EA Sports) takes great pains to simulate the swirling chaos of professional hockey in video game form. They recreate the real world arenas, map the players' faces and assign ratings for everybody on just about everything (shot power, aggression, etc.). This year's evolutionary steps includes that thing players do where their arms are tied up so they kick the puck along the boards, and more realistic post-whistle shoving matches.
Things have come a long way since Sega 94, when Jeremy Roenick's shot was unstoppable and Pavel Bure could deke the pants off an entire team. These days the great players are still great, but they're not gods. And, thanks to some kinda A.I.-ish function, opposing teams' defenses can adapt to your playing style. There are some moves that work, but there's no The Move that always equals a goal.
But there are still those dumbass moments that do not resemble real hockey in the slightest. ...
Like Riley Cote taking the ice in any kind of relevant post-season moment. Or a winger dumping a puck into the corner instead of firing it on net during the waning seconds of a third period. Or a center eschewing the opportunity to saucer pass to a charging teammate in favor of rocketing the puck some 200 feet along the boards to his own defensive end.
These things have always happened, counter-instinctual anomalies, stupid idiosyncrasies, bizarre glitches in the matrix that remind you, yeah, this ain't real hockey.
But whatever. If you wanted to play in the NHL, you shoulda been born in Ontario and skated out of the womb. And NHL 10 has enough settings options ' including line changes controls to prevent Riley Cote from popping up where he doesn't belong ' to help smooth out some of the rough spots. And of course it looks amazing, with smooth-ish gameplay simulations. (Still has that bizarre unblinking zombie-pig facial amalgamation when you see a player up close. It's funny.) Unfortunately, like NHL 2K09, this game assumes you've got some kind of monstrous HD plasma death star screen; the clocks, the scoreboards and everything else appear so tiny on my average-sized TV screen as to be utterly unreadable. Seriously. I have to pause it to check the score. Eh, you get used to it.
I ended up losing the Cup, and I blame it entirely on my virtual coaches in whom I entrusted my shift changes. But, to be honest, I really didn't deserve to be a world f. champion yet anyway. Game 1 of the Finals was also game one of my NHL 10 career. There's no sense in being too realistic.
Look out, folks. More so than bowling, your dad has an even bigger reason to go and buy a Nintendo Wii.
Due out Wednesday, The Beatles: Rock Band places the mop top firmly on your head and the plastic guitar/bass/drum kit in your hand as you wail away on 45 of the Fab Four's songs (finally). For Rock Band and Guitar Hero aficionados, you're not likely to find anything too groundbreaking here, since this game is much more about the Beatles experience than changing the basic blueprint its predecessors laid down. The one innovation is the vocal harmonies, and in this version three people can each grab their own microphone and try and match The Beatles vocal chops.
Keep your eyes peeled for downloadable content Rock Band is famous for. Harmonix has announced that full Beatles albums, beginning with Abbey Road, will be downloadable and playable, with more to follow.
I didn't get a chance to play with one of the more fun options the game offers: new instruments that are replicas of the four's classic instruments. They're offered in a bundled package for about $250. Also, worried that we might crash their servers, Harmonix asked that we not try to access the online play functions, which should be mostly standard fare.
Changes from 2008's successful Rock Band 2 formula are minimal. In fact, the game is even more stripped down. Gone are the custom avatars - you've got no say over what John, Paul, George, and Ringo wear ' and the finger-blistering guitar solos and impossible drum beats are minimal. Developer Harmonix deserves some credit for not forcing anything here just to appease their hard-core, YouTube-bragging main audience. It's the simple fact that you're playing I Am the Walrus while your friend shrieks 'I am the eggman!' or your cartoony avatars send the young ladies of the 1960s into a complete frenzy is what makes the game so much fun to play. The emotional impact matters more than how many buttons you can mash.
Most players will spend the bulk of their time in the game's story mode, which traces The Beatles' history from The Cavern Club to their retreat into Abbey Road Studios. You begin as the lads from Liverpool, churning out classics like I Want to Hold Your Hand, eventually landing an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and concerts at Shea Stadium and Japan's Budokan. Accentuated with archival material ' like Sullivan's famous introduction - the art direction shines, and the set replicas, overworked bobbies, and screaming fan base fit the bill. True to their story, The Beatles retreat to the studio after swearing off touring. Figuring watching the four sit around in chairs in a studio for 20 songs would get a tad boring, Harmonix created some incredible dreamscapes that you don't need to be on acid to appreciate. At points, the game is as much fun to watch as it is play.
The biggest fans of The Beatles: Rock Band, obviously, will be existing Beatles fans. I'm not convinced this iteration of Rock Band will win over those born and bred on System of a Down and Mastodon. But for those who still have their (or their parents) 45s with the green apple on them tucked away in the attic, this game is a lovingly-crafted gift with a big red bow on it. Just don't play it with your parents unless you're willing to deal with their wedding reception-esque rendition of Twist and Shout.
Take a dazed enemy and slam him, butthole first, onto a four-foot spike.
Remember when Manhunt 2 was released for the Wii and everyone lost their shit about how the game made you mimic killing motions with the Wii remote and nunchuck? I guess now that Jack Johnson, the famous video game crusader, has been disbarred there's no one left to pick up the torches and pitchforks against Madworld, because there's been nary a peep and the game does exactly the same thing.
Nintendo's latest attempt to make the Wii attractive to the "hardcore gamer," Madworld drops you into the combat boots of Jack, a cigar-chomping, chopper-riding, badass with a scorching case of roid rage. As Jack, you're dropped into the middle of Varrigan City's televised violence fest, Death Watch. With a chainsaw attached to his arm, Jack moves from level to level, slicing hordes of enemies to bits with great aplomb, tossing them into flaming hobo-fire trash cans, and, ultimately, finding the most horrifying ways to finish them off. I have never seen a game where you could take a dazed enemy and slam him, butthole first, onto a four-foot spike.
If that all sounds really greusome, it is. But bear in mind that Madworld is presented in cel-shaded black and white, giving it an animated Sin City flavor. The only color you'll see is the geyser-like spurts of red blood and yellow onomatopoeia that flash across the screen. The game is beautiful to look at - if you can find beauty in ramming a sign post through someone's head - and that can often make you forget you're playing one of the most violent games out there. The art is accompanied by great voice work. The developer nabbed Greg Proops from Whose Line is it Anyway? and John DiMaggio, who does the voice of Futurama's Bender, to spew profanity-laced commentary to accompany the buckets of gore. Their dialog is often really funny, but the sad thing is that most of it is designed to be played over and over again whenever common events happen (say, you toss a guy in a dumpster). I can't tell you how many times I heard the same joke about the one guy's wife.
The violence is probably going to be what attracts most people to the game, and though there's plenty to go around, it gets old fast. One of Madworld's few weak points are in the lack of variety in its death dealing and level design. The first time I picked up a enemy and slammed him, ad nauseam, onto a bed of spikes was an eye opener. I'll even admit that it elicited a chuckle. But after about the 50th time, it became a chore. The levels are designed as such: enter new area; kill a crap ton of mindless, leather-clad punks; score enough points to to unlock the Bloodbath Challenge (more on those in a second); score even more points to unlock the boss. Rinse, lather, repeat. The minigame Bloodbath Challenges do provide a bit of relief, though, and will be familiar to any Wii owner. Basically, you're given a brief amount of time and a task (like seeing how many guys you can swat into an oncoming train, or how many throw into a massive meat grinder). The more havoc you wreak, the more points you'll pick up, and the faster you'll get to the boss. The boss battles are where it's at. They're themed well and the bosses themselves are all way larger than you, making it much more fun when you take them down.
While, overall, Madworld is a lot of fun in small doses, it's not likely to win over the hardcore set and send them scrambling to own a Wii. The controls aren't perfect, the game's targeting system is pretty much worthless, and it's really short. You'd be lucky to get more than five hours out of it, and there isn't much there to make you want to go back and play it again. But you'll love it if you own a Wii and enjoy a steady diet of death and mayhem.
Disclaimer: This review is biased. I love the Boss, I think less of people who don't love the Boss, I wrote my college thesis on the Boss (" 'The Screen Door Slams'': Bruce Springsteen as Celebrity", I got an A-), I have a Boss-related tattoo and once my best friend (who attended with me and shares the previously mentioned tat) and I came up with our dream Boss setlist that included things like "All of Born to Run, expect for 'Meeting Across the River.'" And while I've shared my Springsteen-related opinions on these web pages before, nothing compares to seeing the heart stopping, pants droppin', house rockin', Viagra takin' E Street Band.
Welcome to the Church of Springsteen. Testify!
My knees hurt, my abs are killing me and my voice is strained. But it's just the side effects of seeing Bruce Springsteen live. If you don't feel like this after the non-stop, three-hour long set, you're not doing it right. And as worn out as I feel right now, Bruce and the boys were working 10 times harder. Bruce got a little sentimental about the impending demolition of the Spectrum ' saying old arenas that don't waste space on luxury boxes are the great equalizers for music fans. Everyone can hear and see. That is, if you and everyone around you isn't screaming out the lyrics at the same time. It was the first arena the E Street Band sold out and last night's show marked their 31st Spectrum sell out (47 in total for Philadelphia) so give the guy a break.
The setlist (see full list below) drew most from Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River and, of course, the recently released Workin' on a Dream (a word the uninitiated: The best way to fall in love with a new Springsteen album is to hear the songs smattered amongst the classics. It's how I warmed up to Magic and Dream, which I was lukewarm about, sounded different today during my morning commute). For the most part, he avoided Born to Run (until the encore at least) and took nothing from Born in the U.S.A. A bold move because of their inherent popularity, but considering how the band tailors their set list to the current national tone and the themes and song structures of those albums (the desire to become a man and detached narratives, respectively) it made sense in the long run.
So, highlights? The onslaught of the first four songs ' especially opening with the always crowd-pleasing "Badlands" ("It ain't no sin to be glad your alive") straight through to "Spirit in the Night" hurt it was so good. "Johnny 99" was transformed from a Suicide-ish, menacing four-tracker from the flawless Nebraska to a country barn burner, with the help of Soozie Tyrell's fiddlin' and Nils Lofgren's slide, which he produced by taking by jutting out his pelvis and resting his ax on it. Because Bruce and baseball have been linked in my mind recently, I'll call Nils the Shane Victorino of the E Street Band. He's a goofy, not a superstar but, man, he should be. If you are a Springsteen diehard and haven't checked out any of Nils' solo stuff, get thee to a record store. It's way better than Van Zant alone, trust me. Speaking of Lil' Stevie, he lived up to my expectations of looking like a retired pirate. And that's all a girl can hope for.
And that's when shit went crazy. Bruce collected fan signs from the crowd, which is the only way to get a song request in (yelling out your favorite tune over the roar? Sweetheart, not gonna happen). The first sign he placed in front of the camera? "London Calling: Did it stump E Street?" Bruce was pissed and threw the crumpled sign into the crowd. And that's when rock 'n' roll's future colluded with the only band that matters. And it was glorious.
Every Springsteen show has a Patti moment. They're in love and all so she generally gets a solo jaunt. It's also when most people take their beer/bathroom break because she's not a stellar singer and her song is usually boring. But, this was Patti's triumphant return to the stage after "falling off a horse" (hmmm ' hard to believe?). But instead of turning the mic over to Patti, Bruce sang "Red Headed Woman," possibly the romantic song about going down on a woman ("Your life's been wasted / 'til you've got' down on your knees and tasted / A red-headed woman, a red-headed woman.").
Then you have a song like "Thundercrack," which before the Magic tour, was non-album (it's on Tracks) song that they hadn't played since the '70s. How many bands do you know that have a non-album track that every single goddamned fan knows the words to? That's why going to see Bruce Springsteen isn't like going to see normal bands. "Thundercrack" went into "Hungry Heart," where Bruce hopped into the crowd and grabbed an old lady (not like middle-aged old, like super old) from the crowd so she could sing along. "Aw, someone brought their mom!" I thought. That is until Bruce said, "Sing it, Ma!" that I figured out it was Bruce who brought his mom. All together now: Awwwww!
Jay Weinberg took over for dad Max on drums, who will have to bow out of the tour early to take his place as the head of the Tonight Show band. This kid's got power and if he's not neck deep in cougar pussy by the end of the tour, there's frankly something wrong with him. On the other side of the spectrum (ha!), you have Clarence Clemons ' the one, the only Big Man. He could hardly walk, sitting for most of the show and having roadies fix his hair mid-song when it got too unwieldy. But he's still the last one introduced at the end, and he's still the only band member who can elicit Bruce-level cheers. He was wearing long black robes, a fedora and a gold-sequined sparkly scarf. He looked like a cosmic space pimp (you read that right). It was the most appropriate outfit I've ever seen.
Bruce ended the show with "Kitty's Back," from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (The biggest mistake amateurs make is thinking they're Bruce fans and not owning this album. Paired with Welcome to Asbury Park, N.J., I could talk for at least an hour and 15 minutes about how these albums accurately chart the rest of the band's career. But I won't. Just go listen). I used to hate this song. It's a little too long and the keys solo in the middle takes it down a notch. But those handclaps! They just got to me after awhile and I became a convert. There's a reason this song took it all home:
The best song for me? "Thunder Road." Bruce dedicated it to Harry Kalas, playing a clip of HK announcing Bruce coming up to the plate and hitting a grand slam. I live for this song. I think its the most perfectly written rock song of all time. I think its opening line says more than most other bands can accomplish in their entire careers. I think its lyrics capture a time and a feeling better than any other song in the pop canon. I had never heard the full band play "Thunder Road." I cried. Just a little, though.
Setlist (via Backstreets.com):
The Ties That Bind
Spirit in the Night
Working on a Dream
Raise Your Hand
Red Headed Woman
The Promised Land
Streets of Philadelphia
Kingdom of Days (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Radio Nowhere (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Lonesome Day (w/ Jay Weinberg)
The Rising (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Born to Run (w/ Jay Weinberg)
* * *
Hard Times (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Thunder Road (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Land of Hope and Dreams (w/ Jay Weinberg)
American Land (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Kitty's Back (w/ Jay Weinberg)
So, yesterday, the WHO - those of the infectious diseases, not the Magic Bus - raised the pandemic level of swine flu to 5. In order to celebrate, I bring you Pandemic 2, which lets you create a disease (viral, bacterial, or parasite) to wipe out the entire world.
Once you name your little microbe, you'll start with one infected person in one of the world's regions. As your disease evolves, you'll get points to spend on modes of transmission and symptoms that make it spread faster (coughing, vomiting) and more deadly (liver failure, hemorrhaging), with the tradeoff being it becomes more noticeable. If your super bug is killing off loads of people, expect other countries to shut down their borders, airports, and shipyards. The trick is to find the right balance of invisibility and contagiousness, and then, once the world is infected, crank up the lethality and unleash your maniacal cackle.
It's all very fun in a mad scientist sort of way. I hope you'll be playing from your secret island fortress.
Go have fun here.
This edition of the 1-Upper really only applies if you're 25 and over and you had a Tandy computer in your basement. Otherwise, you'll probably have no idea what I'm talking about.
Finally, someone made one of my dreams come true and put a bunch of the old Sierra text-based adventure games online to play for free. Sarien.net hosts Flash-based versions of the first Space Quest, Police Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry games, but they've done something a bit strange ... As you play, you'll see what other people - who are playing at the same time - are doing, resulting in a whole bunch of Roger Wilcos and Larry Laffers appearing on screen along with yours. You'll see the weird commands they input ("look around," "talk to bum," "take a crap") and they'll see yours, creating this weird multiplayer hint system.
It's a great bit of nostalgia, and it reminds me of when my dad used to take the Oldsmobile up to Radio Shack to get the newest game. But that daydream was totally shattered when another player kept running around and typing in all caps "OMG IT BURNS!!!! IT BURNS!!!" for no reason.
Go play here.
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