Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 10 Anticipated Game Releases for 2011

Hey all. With 2011 just starting, everyone is looking to this year's releases. And we at CWTC are no exception. I know this might be a bit late, and I apologize (stupid nasty flu bug). So without further adieu, let's look at my ten most anticipated games expected to hit shelves next year.

10. Max Payne 3

Max Payne is a lot of fun. I loved the first game's dark, comic book feel, the fun levels, the wild V trips, and of course some good ol' Bullet Time. I heard they were planning a third entry ages ago, as it was supposed to ship Q4 of 2009. We're not even sure if it will be out next year at this point, but if it is, I will definitely give it a shot. It's set more than ten years after The Fall of Max Payne and follows a whole new story with an older, more grizzled Max. I'm interested to see what this brings if/when it's released. Also, am I the only one that didn't hate the Max Payne movie? I mean, it obviously could have been better, but I still found it enjoyable and not horribly far from the source material.

9. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

(E3 Trailer)
This is one I have to love from afar, at least until I get my hands on a Wii. I just love how much it reminds me of Ocarina of Time (which it is apparently a prequel to). Hopefully I will be able to give this a try sometime. If not, I will remain dusting off my trusty N64 to get my LoZ fix.

8. Batman: Arkham City

(VGA Trailer)
Sequel to the intense and awesome Batman: Arkham Asylum, this bad boy is scheduled for Q3 of 2011. Batman is once again voiced by Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill returns as the Joker. I think that right there illustrates the awesome, especially those of us who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series. Several new villains are showing up, including Catwoman, Two Face and Mr. Freeze; as well as the return of the Riddler, Harley Quinn, and Victor Zsaz. I don't think more need be said.

7. Marvel vs. Capcom 3

(E3 Trailer)
A third entry in an awesome crossover fighting game? Yes please! This drops in February, and if it's anything like the previous entries, prepare for a good time (you can download MvsC2 for Xbox Live Arcade to brush up). We were sold on the first trailer, Iron Man, Deadpool, Thor, and Chris Redfield are just a few of the characters that you can build your team with. Also look for a more developed single player campaign, and unique endings for each character. It looks to be an ass-kicking good time.

6. Star Wars: The Old Republic

("Hope" Cinematic Trailer)
A Star Wars MMO put out by LucasArts and Bioware? I think that sentence pretty much says all it needs to. Set in the Old Republic (~3,500 years before the original trilogy), you can play as either Republic or Imperial (Sith) faction. Although, in true Bioware fashion, the line between good and evil is not so clear cut, such as the idea of a "gray Jedi". Although it is far removed from the movie universe (if you haven't gotten much into the old republic expanded universe), there are still many familiar places (Hoth, Coruscant, Tatooine, etc.) and the classes won't throw you off either (eg. Jedi Knight, bounty hunter, smuggler, Sith warrior, etc.). Expect this Q2/3 this year.

5. Portal 2

(E3 Trailer)
A sequel to one of the most mindfuckingly fun games ever? Hells yes! Portal was my main reason for buying The Orange Box, and it didn't disappoint. I don't want to get into spoilers, so I won't say much about the story of this one coming up. It does, however, have a multiplayer option the first didn't, which could prove to be very fun. This is one world I am very excited to return to come April. Yay!

4. Mass Effect 3

(VGA Trailer)
This one will be a long wait until Q4 (Holidays) of this year. A very long wait. The third and final installment of the Mass Effect series; this is where the shit hits the fan. Again, I don't want to give spoilers, but this is gonna be a big one and I'm quite anxious to see what/how Bioware does this (I have faith in their ability, it's just a long time to wait and wonder). I also can't wait to see how my Shepard's decisions carry over to this one from the previous two games. It's going to be a hell of a ride.

3. Diablo III

(Teaser Trailer)
Now that we've picked our jaws back up from the floor, let's talk about Diablo III. Oh my goodness, just typing that makes me squee a little. I've been watching this one for a while, and it just keeps looking better and better. I loved the first two (the Battlechest is pretty sweet) and this looks to be even better. And you can pick the gender of your character. How cool is that? Lady Barbarian FT-fuckin'-W! This is apparently another Q4 release, but knowing Blizzard that may change. But that's fine, because you know this is going to kick seven kinds of ass.

2. Mortal Kombat

("Shadows" Trailer, ft. music from Disturbed)
When Midway went under I feared for the fate of my favorite fighting game franchise. But I don't think I need worry. NetherRealm Studios (formerly Midway) are releasing the first game post-buyout by WB, and it looks groin-grabbingly awesome. While I enjoyed MK vs. DC, it didn't have the Mortal Kombat feel (mostly due to the neutering of the violence because of the DC heroes and a T rating). This has the shiny look of MK vs. DC, and all the fun and gore you'd expect from a Mortal Kombat game. Now I'm not a "hur-dur violenz" kind of gamer, but really, this is what MK has built its franchise on. I've seen some videos of some fatalities, and they are wicked. Also returning is visible damage to your character, a neat touch. Expect this bad boy around April.

1. Dragon Age II

("Destiny" Trailer)
You know, I should just start forwarding my paychecks to Bioware lol.
This should surprise exactly no one. At least no one that knows me or reads this blog. In fact, I already have my preorder for the Special Edition (because the Cynic is awesome and got it for me for Christmas). This game ships in March and focuses on one origin/character this time, by the name of Hawke (first name is up to you). It takes place during and after the events of Origins and Awakening and spans an entire decade. Several companion characters have already been announced, including your character's family and the Special Edition/DLC companion (who has a damn sexay voice). I am so excited to see the world of Thedas expanded and explore new areas, to see whatever cameos they throw our way (temporary Nathaniel Howe romance subplot pretty please?) , and how this grand story comes together. Not to mention the revamped art and combat styles.

Well I hoped you enjoyed my Top 10 Most Anticipated games of 2011. What are you looking forward to? Do you think Duke Nukem Forever is REALLY going to be out this year? I know there's a lot more games out there hitting shelves this year, what's tickling your fancy?
Until next time folks, and we'll try not to take so long.
Picky Mama Scholar

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Scholarly Musings: Sex and Character Preferences in Video Games


Hey everyone, Scholar here to talk about video games again. Big surprise, I know. As you can tell from the title, however, this is something a little different. This isn't even a rant, just an interesting observation and I guess a bit of wondering-out-loud on my part. It has to do with sex and gender in video games, both yours and the characters you play. And how does it affect your game? (Side note: this would be a pretty cool thesis for someone to do. If I was more into socio-cultural anthropology I probably would).

Now let's talk about sex in video games. By this I am referring to male/female designations, the other kind of sex might come up later. For a long time, and even to some extent now, gaming has been seen mainly as a male pursuit. This is changing mind you, but many games still have the sense of being "guy games". But I don't want to detract from the topic at hand too much so that will have to wait for another post.

Anyways, back on topic. What spurred this was an observation I had about myself regarding my player characters and party characters of games. If given the choice, I will always play a female character. Granted there is the odd exception, such as Mortal Kombat where my favorite character Ashrah only appears in Deception and Armageddon, so in other games I tend to play Raiden (Kung Lao in Shaolin Monks). I even played the female characters in Diablo and Diablo II (Rogue and Amazon, respectively) where I was stuck as a ranged attacker rather than my much preferred melee. Why? Because I prefer to play female characters. I also love the game Portal, and that game is really neat for having basically two characters in the game, and both are female. How awesome is that? This is not to say I don't play games where you play as a male. I adore the God of War games, Bioshock was amazing, and I had so much fun with The Force Unleashed. So don't get me wrong, player character sex isn't a deal breaker as long as the game is good, but I will choose a female character if I can. In fact, I've never played a male Warden or a male Shepard, what I know about them comes from when the Cynic plays because he will generally play male characters.

However, things seem to change for me when playing a game in which you have party members. When I choose I party, my character tends to be the only female. For example:
Dragon Age: Origins Typical Party:
Dog or Oghren

But wait you say, you have Wynne, and she's female! That may be so, but she's also the only healer in the game, and thus gets brought along so I don't use all my health pots which I tend to hoard for the Archdemon fight. Okay, how about a couple of better examples?

Dragon Age: Awakening Typical Party:

As you can see, there is a pattern, although this party does work well for me. Me as DPS warrior, Nathaniel as rogue and to lockpick, Anders as DPS mage/healer, and Oghren tanks.

Mass Effect Typical Party:

Again, this fits the pattern and tends to work with my play style. I am usually Soldier class, so Kaidan's biotics complement that. Garrus can be a tad squishy at first, but does well especially with a sniper rifle.

Mass Effect 2 Typical Party:
Mordin/Grunt/Thane (who I wasn't able to recruit when I played but based on videos I have seen, I quite like Thane)

This is just based on how far I got in the game, but again it works for me.

As you can see, there are a few names that repeat themselves, which leads me to my favorite characters of each series:

Favorite Dragon Age: Origins and Awakening Characters (Party and NPC):
Bann Teagan
Wade and Herren

Favorite Mass Effect Series Characters (Party and NPC): (remembering I didn't finish the second game)
Captain/Councilor Anderson

From these lists there are exactly two female characters, Shale and Flemeth. Flemeth is awesome for being mysterious, humorous, possibly a little crazy, and fantastically voiced by Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek: Voyager fame. Shale is a great party addition with unique skill trees, has an overwhelming hatred of birds (with often humorous results), flirts with Sten. And is a golem. But, she was once a dwarf, Shayle of House Cadash, who volunteered to become a golem.

See. Totally Female.

So my question is this: why? Why am I not a fan of the female characters? One could make the argument with some such as Alistair and Kaidan that the only reason they are on the list is because they are romance options. While the romance part is true, and I have romanced both, that isn't the only reason I like the characters. I find their stories interesting. Mordin isn't romance-able, but the conversations with him are awesome, interesting, and hilarious. Garrus is just a badass character, and quite sweet as a romance option. Such as the interaction between Nathaniel Howe and my Cousland (human noble) character in Awakenings, I was greatly interested in the potential friction between the two (I killed his father after said father killed my PC's parents). He turned out to be my favorite party member even after all of that was sorted out. Couldn't say the same about Velanna. She was irritating and a supreme bitch to everyone. While she was an interesting study for being as much the victim of her own prejudices as her people were victims of human racism, the whole "You're all human and bad and I don't like you all because I'm Dalish blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" got kind of old. Switching to Mass Effect, the ladies don't fare much better. Ashley always kind of annoyed me with her xenophobia, although as a love interest she is pretty romantic. And you can't deny the awesomeness of a name like Ashley Williams.

Hail to the King, Baby.

Female NPC's don't fare much better. Lady Isolde has a voice like nails on a chalkboard and about as much intelligence. But, unlike with Mass Effect's Khalisah al-Jilani, there is no option for a rather satisfying punch to the face, which is somehow more awesome as a FemShep. Observe:

Two of my favorite NPCs, however, are the Blacksmith Master Wade and his partner Herren from Dragon Age. Not only does Master Wade make some excellent stuff for you with the right materials (Drake and Dragon scale armor, Golem Shell Armor, Vigilance, etc.), but the banter between the two is absolutely priceless. They are confirmed as a couple, and bicker like only two people who have been together a long time can.

But again, we get to the question. Why? I can continue to give examples until my fingers fall off from typing, but it doesn't answer the question. So I'm asking my reading audience, what do you think? Do your favorite characters and NPCs in a game seem to fall to one sex or another? Do you play your own sex or the opposite when given the choice? Is it a matter of what characters you identify with? And if so, does the sex of the character matter? It seems I identify more with male characters, yet prefer to play as a female. What do you think? Feel free to leave comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quick Blurb Review: My Name Is Bruce

First and foremost, Bruce Campbell is awesome. Why? He's The King Of B-Movies, the owner of quite possibly the Manliest Chin in the history of Manly Chins, and the sole reason why I tried out and stuck with Old Spice products. Most people, myself included, know Mr. Campbell for his role as Ashley J. Williams from the Evil Dead trilogy, a character that he made so badass and likable that fans almost worship him for it 30 years later.

Campbell's career isn't exactly A-list, but it doesn't have to be, because he can make any bad movie watchable, even if it's just a cameo. Some of his work may seem like some as a self-deprecating joke, but Bruce knows it, runs with it and we fans keep eating it up. Example: My Name Is Bruce.

The movie starts with some horny teenagers (surprise) in a graveyard when they accidentally awaken an ancient Chinese God. Only one of them makes it out, and he just so happens to be a massive Bruce Campbell fan. Cut to Bruce, arguing with his agent about the state of his career while his agent promises Bruce the best birthday he's ever had. The kid survivor then approaches Bruce for help but Bruce tells him to fuck off, so the survivor kidnaps him. Thinking that this is all a sham for his birthday, Bruce decides to play hero for the town but when he encounters the Chinese God, he realizes that it isn't a game and he must fight for the town's survival.

I'm really kicking myself for not watching this movie sooner. Produced & directed by Campbell with a wonderful script by Mark Verheiden, this movie was a blast, poking fun at the film industry, Bruce Campbell & his fan base in a non-condescending manner, making it more satirical than flat out offensive. The acting was pretty good with some bad parts mixed in occasionally but I'm pretty sure that's intentional.

As far as creature effects go, I love how there is NO CGI in this film, save for a brief misty effect on some of the shots of Gwan-di (the Chinese God) and one shot of CG blood. I love that because as you already know, CGI is terribly overused and it's nice to see practical effects in the spotlight for the majority of the movie.

This movie is played for laughs, so if you're expecting a jump scare every ten minutes, you're pissing up the wrong rope. This movie is so tongue-in-cheek that it's almost poking through. Even though Ted Raimi has 3 roles in this movie and does feature cameos from the actors who played Jake in Evil Dead 2 and the Blacksmith from Army Of Darkness, it's no surprise Bruce steals the show here, but if the show's already about you, can you truly steal it?

Final sum-up? My Name is Bruce is the movie Zombieland should have been. This movie had a budget of 1.5 mil and is more entertaining than some of the huge blockbusters coming out now. Anyone who hasn't seen this movie really should. It's got Bruce, horror cliches, milfs and plenty of laughs with enough of a horror tone to blend the two genres together. Go check it out.

-The Cynic

Friday, December 3, 2010

Demo Reviews: Vampire Rain

Here I said I was going to do a more recent game, and I'm looking at a game from 2008. I guess it's more recent than 2005, so that must count for something. This game was also released for the PS3 as Vampire Rain: Altered Species. It combines aspects of stealth and sneakiness along with action and survival horror. Sounds pretty sweet right?


This demo SUCKED. There was a choice of three missions. Two involved sneaking around to find things and the third had you sitting in an alley shooting vampires as they ran at you. And they were all awful. There was nothing in the way of tutorial or even a quick bit at the beginning showing you what buttons did what, not a great way to start. I started with the point and shoot in the alley, and wow, what a shitfest. You are armed with a shotgun that is painfully slow (I threw on Mass Effect after and the shotgun was definitely faster than Vampire Rain) and each vampire/zombie creature takes at least two hits to down. Your shotgun has five rounds and a slow reload. You miss a single shot? You're fucked. Why? Because you can take exactly one hit from the vampires (two is rare) before game over. So why the hell does the game bother to give you a health bar when you have about as much lasting power as a level 1 priest in Naxxramas?

Doing the stealth isn't any better. If a vampire sees you, there is no way to hide or otherwise get away. Your weapons apparently don't even work on them for the first third of the game. WTF? I get the whole Metal Gear Solid/Splinter Cell BS that they were trying to go for, but this is ridiculous!

In addition to that, for 2008, the graphics are very underwhelming. Observe:

Vampire Rain (2008)

Mass Effect (2007)

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)

In addition to the lackluster visuals, you also get very sub-par voice acting. I was quite disappointed in both these areas, and it was the icing on the cake for this already craptastic game. I'm not alone in this thought, this game was not well received (although was slightly more so in Japan), and I'd never heard of it before. And for a game about vampires, they looked a lot like more like zombies with a bit of vampire thrown in. Granted, I won't complain about making a vampire scary, but they looked a little too Romero-esque. That said, I will take these things over this douchebag any day.

So in conclusion, this demo sucked, and the rest of the game does too. It's substandard in all aspects and too frustrating to even be mindless fun. It looks bad, the voice acting is bad, the lack of ability to defend yourself or throw the vampires off your trail is bad, the one hit-kills against you by every enemy is frustrating, and the lack of action makes it boring in addition to frustrating and bad. This demo blows. I'd recommend this about as much as I'd recommend syphilis. Skip it.

PS. News from the world of the Cynic and I. Check out the Cynic's newest vid here. But don't worry dear fans, this isn't the end by far, just a bit of a break. I haven't decided on the future of the TTOTM videos during this time yet, but there's at least one that I wouldn't mind doing, but that will depend. However, you'll see a lot more activity on this blog from both of us as a result. So stay tuned right here for more with the Cynic, as well as more Demo Reviews and such with me.

Cheers to all
Picky Mama Scholar

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Demo Reviews: Quake IV

Today we're pulling one out of the vault, as it were. Quake IV was released in 2005 for PC, and was later ported to the 360 and Mac. But, you can still download the demo on X Box Live, so that's why we're here today. I'm a big Quake fan, having played Quake II on PC back when we first got a home computer, and it was in fact the first PC game I ever finished. But enough about that, let's have a bit of background on the games themselves before we start.
Quake IV is a direct sequel to Quake II. Quakes I and III are not part of this story. The first game follows a similar story to fellow FPS (first-person-shooter) Doom, and the third entry is based heavily in multiplayer with little story. In Quake II, you follow a Marine stranded on the alien world of Stroggos. The Stroggs, a cybernetic race that uses prisoners and enemy dead to replenish and fuel it's massive war machine, have invaded Earth and you are sent as part of a counter-attack. Your character is alone throughout the game, and in the end you manage to destroy the Stroggs' security grid as well as the Strogg leader, the Makron.

Yeah, this guy.

The demo for Quake IV picks up with a human armada coming out of (warp speed/hyperspace/mass relay/etc.) at the planet Stroggos. There's a nice bit of exposition as your squad leader briefs you and outlines what happened in Quake II. Your landing ship is shot down and you spend the rest of the demo reuniting with your squad and heading out on what I assume is the first mission.
I had a lot of fun with this demo, not just because of the nostalgia factor (although familiarity with the story, enemies, etc. didn't hurt I'm sure). The graphics were very nice (for being five years old), while still having that "Quake" feel to them. As such, the enemies also got an update, while still recognizable to someone familiar with the game. Take for example the Strogg Beserker from Quake II (left) and Quake IV (right).

I also really liked how the opening cinematic for the game really sets the tone for what's to come (see it here ). It pulls no punches, and let's you know right away this is an M-rated game and it's going to hold to that rating. It's not going to shy away from all the brutal and gory bits as you wage war on the Strogg. In investigating this game I found another cinematic that shows you in unabashed and graphic detail what happens when someone gets captured by the Strogg. It may not be pretty, but it shows you what your up against and the price that all humans will pay if you fail. That is intense stuff and that's what I like to see. This game is already for adults and I like that it doesn't gloss things over, it shows you what the stakes really are. And keeping it in the first-person-perspective is a nice touch.
A difference, and I don't think it's a bad one, is having other humans in the game (at least for the duration of the demo). In Quake II you are alone, from the time you land till the end of the game. Here there are other soldiers, and medics who can heal you. This is a very interesting difference, and makes for a slightly different gameplay mindset than being a one-man army. I don't know if this persists throughout the game, but having some human interaction for at least part of it is a change I don't mind. The voice acting for the characters seems to be pretty good, especially since it seems a lot of first-person shooters have average-to-bad voice acting* (except you, Bioshock, we love you <3), and I would say Quake IV rates better than something like Turok, which was pretty good but often hit-or-miss.
But what about the weapons, you say? Well, I can only tell you about what was available in the demo, which was the blaster, the machine gun, and the shotgun. The blaster is your usual starting gun, limitless ammo, not terribly powerful, but gets the job done when you need it to. Next you have the shotgun. It fires eight rounds before reload, and is great for close targets (although a bit slow to fire and reload) but sucks at range. Finally, the trusty machine gun. This one has a forty round clip, a flashlight, and ability to use the scope to snipe. It's a jack-of-all-trades weapon that is very effective and my personal choice for early levels. Sadly, I didn't get to try out fun superguns like the hyperblaster, the railgun, or the nailgun, but I remember the hyperblaster and railgun from Quake II and I'm sure they are just as much fun this time around.

So, would I recommend this game, based on the demo? Hells yes! It's nice to have played Quake II first, so you have a better idea of what's going on, but I'm sure you can more or less put it together as you play if you haven't. In fact, there is a Collector's Edition of the game (for PC and 360) that comes with Quake II if you need it. I've read that Quake IV runs badly on the 360, with framrate issues and long load times, but none of that was present in the demo, so I don't know if that was patched or was just because it was the demo. I would still recommend this game on whatever your preferred platform. It's a fun, gory, Strogg-blasting good time, and there's nothing wrong with that. For anything familiar with the story from Quake II, this will give you a nice bit of nostalgia, especially during the opening briefing when you realize "hey, that was ME that did all those things in the last game!". So I say, go give it a try, it's lots of fun. And join me next time on Demo Reviews where I will do a more recent game, I promise. :D

The P.M.S

*I could be wrong about this of course. I don't play the war FPSs like Call of Duty so they might be great for all I know.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Demo Reviews: Gothic 4: Arcania

Hey there all, Picky Mama Scholar here with a new blog segment: Demo Reviews. In this segment, I will play demos I download from X Box Live and share my experiences for your reading pleasure. So let's dig in.

Our first game is Gothic 4: Arcania. Now I haven't played Gothics 1-3, but I do love me a good RPG so I figured I would give this one a try. This game was actually just released on Oct 12th (unless you play PS3, in which case, you will have to wait till the new year). Now then, this review is somewhat comparative between this game and Dragon Age: Origins, since the latter is kind of my "gold standard" and due to similar styles between the two. It will all make sense as we go, I promise.

Now the first thing I noticed is that my character, the hero, doesn't have a name. Or perhaps the full version gives the option to change the name, I don't know. So during my time wandering the village and talking to people, a good chunk of the people called me Shepherd. Now I get this, seeing as how that is apparently the characters job, but it's kind of weird for me to hear this as an avid Mass Effect player. So whenever someone referred to my character that way, this* is what came to mind, and that didn't help this game any. That wasn't the only reminder of another franchise in this game. At one point, I met with a man named Diego, who had apparently been teaching my character fighting and swordsmanship. Now maybe it's just me, but upon seeing this character, I immediately said aloud "is that you, Ramirez?"He doesn't have the Scottish accent, but it's still kind of weird.

The dialogue in this game left me with something to be desired. From what I have read online of reviews, playing the full game doesn't change that. In my case, what the characters were saying and what the subtitles said sometimes didn't match (hours became days at one point). As for the dialogue itself, it's seriously lacking. There are almost no dialogue options. Only twice did I find myself with two options for what to say, and I ended up saying both options in the course of the conversation. This is a major departure from RPG's like Dragon Age, Mass Effect (which I know is action/RPG) and Fallout, where many options are present.

Arcania Convseration: PC and Ivy (Sit-And-Watch)
Arcania Conversation

Dragon Age: Origins-Awakening Conversation: PC and Nathaniel (Dialogue Options)
DA:A conversation with Nathaniel/Merrah

this brings me to my next point regarding Gothic 4: the voice acting. With the exception of The PC and Diego, it pretty much sucks, the witch Lyrca being the most outstanding example (as well as example of subtitles not matching spoken dialogue). Her voice acting was atrociously the most stereotypical, pointy hat, wart on nose, broom-riding, black cat owning witch voice EVAR. And it grated on the ears to listen to. Ugh. Her voice in the German version, where this game is from, is much, much better. The PC voice I actually liked a lot, it was probably the best one. Diego's voice was pretty good too, although I still think it would have been more awesome for him to talk like Sean Connery. It's not the worst I've ever heard out of my 360 (Bullet Witch and Jurassic: The Hunted take that title) but it's no where near the best (in the regions of Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Brutal Legend and Ghostbusters). Mediocre at best, we'll say.

The next thing I looked at was the graphics of this game. The landscapes are rendered gorgeously. They look awesome. The people, not so much. From what I have seen from the full game, there is improvement with the people, but they are still not nearly as nice looking as the world they inhabit. Quite frankly, I like the landscapes, but Dragon Age has the better character renders.

Arcania Landscape (Pic doesn't really do it justice)
Arcania UI

Dragon Age Landscape
DA:A group shot/UI Ura

Arcania Character Render: Ivy (your girlfriend)**
Arcania Ivy Conversation

Dragon Age Character Render: PC (right) and Sigrun (left)
DA:A Conversation with Sigrun/Melmo

I noticed as I played this demo that the character movements seemed clunky and slow, as were the controls. I did not find a button for running, so I was stuck with this wading-through-molasses pace for the whole thing. Combat wasn't any better. It was slow and repetitive button mashing, as I also found there to be no auto-attack. You basically hit x to attack with your weapon, and it reacts sluggishly. And you have to hit the button for every weapon swing. I could see combat in a dungeon with lots of enemies turning into marathon grind-fests of endless button mashing. Perhaps had there been better reaction time (even dinky one-handers seem quite slow in speed) it would have been better.

Finally, my biggest problem with this game: I couldn't any of the friggin' text. From the quest logs to the looting screens to even the radial menus, the text was so damn small I couldn't read a word of it. And I'm not that far away from my TV when I play. I measured. Six feet. That's how far I am when I play. I suppose this game was made with PCs or high def TVs in mind. It must be, because otherwise this game would be unplayable. It really kills the game experience when you can't see what you're suppose to do, what you're picking up, or the stats on your equipment or yourself. It was ridiculous. I noticed the text in the codexes of Mass Effect 2 were quite small, but I could still read them from where I usually sit to game without too much difficulty. In Gothic 4, it was impossible, even when very close to the TV. Even if the rest of the game had been completely phenomenal, this would still have been a huge problem.

Arcania Loot Screen***
Arcania Looting Indoors

Dragon Age Loot Screen
DA:A Looting Scren

Arcania Quest Log
Arcania Quest Log

Dragon Age Quest Log/Codex
DA:A Quest Log

Mass Effect 2 Codex
Mass Effect 2 Codex Screen

So my final verdict? This game is meh. Granted, the full game may blow my socks off compared to the demo, but everything I have read indicates that this isn't the case. The character movement looks better and smoother and less sluggish, but the voice acting will still mostly suck and the character renders are still ugly. The demo tells you very little of the story, and in fact most blurbs on the plot are vague and hint at it being not terribly original. Now the story in Dragon Age isn't exactly the epitome of originality, but the characters and stories woven into the plot make it well worth it. As for Gothic 4, I would say a rental at best. As for me, renting it is unlikely, as I don't feel like going through a whole game (which takes 10-25 hours, depending on who you ask) unable to read anything, especially not an RPG. I'm not recommending this, unless you've played the other Gothic games, but then you would not likely need me to tell you one way or the other. It's mediocre, a rental, but not a buy. There are much better RPGs out there waiting.

Well folks, thanks for reading, and hope you join me for another Demo Review very soon.
Remember to check out our YouTube Channel, Facebook, and Flikr page (NEW! and with more pics from this review!)


PS: If anyone can tell me who voices the PC in Arcania, that would be awesome. He sounds familiar and I can't find an English cast list anywhere.

*I'm an exclusive FemShep player. The Cynic has played MaleShep, as I discussed in my video review of the game.
**I had to grab this pic from Google. It appears to be from the finished game.
***I sat in the same place to take all of these pictures, for consistency.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top 7 Songs That Should Be In Guitar Hero

Seeing as how I uploaded my review for the latest entry in the series, Guitar Hero: Warriors Of Rock, last week, I began thinking of songs that I would love to see as DLC in the future. This list was really hard to narrow down and even as I type this, other songs that aren't included here are popping into my head and much like my Top 15 Simpsons Episodes, I could make many a list with honorable mentions, so here are my Top 7 Songs That Should Be In Guitar Hero. Why Top 7? Why not? Why Guitar Hero? Because GH is my personal preference when it comes to the rhythm games. Rock Band has great DLC, but after playing it again the other day, I found it to be far too picky with its scoring system. 4.5 stars on Painkiller expert bass even though I can 5 star the chart in GH: Van Halen without a problem even though they are the same fucking thing? Up yours, Rock Band.

#7: Big & Rich - Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy

Apparently Warner Music Group really likes this song and has disabled embedding for this video, so clicky if you haven't heard it already. This song is another reason why this list is specific to Guitar Hero as opposed to Rock Band because Rock Band should have ROCK music and therefore I don't think that rap, bubblegum pop & country music should be in that particular series. Guitar Hero, however, is far more lenient with that kind of thing because as long as you actually play instruments (namely the guitar), you can be in the GH series. I include this song because as far as newer country goes, this is probably one of the best I've heard in years, and the guitar solo has a very rock feel to it. The bass line would be fun to play as well.

#6: Tragically Hip - Grace Too

A great nostalgic song from a great Canadian rock band. Some of The Hip's stuff might seem mellow or downright weird, but Grace Too is just badass and I don't care what anyone else thinks. The song might be sound simple as far as guitar, drums and bass goes, but it wouldn't surprise me if much like On The Road Again, this song is more challenging than it lets on. The vocals would be one helluva challenge, though.

#5: April Wine - I Like To Rock

From one Canadian band to another. Honestly, I find April Wine to be the superior of the two, thus why this song ranks higher than Grace Too. Once the song starts, you'd have to good at strumming up and down to ensure you didn't bomb it right off the hop. I honestly don't care for the Rolling Stone bit at the end, but otherwise, this is still a kick ass song.

#4: Rammstein - Asche Zu Asche (live)

I choose the live version for three reasons:
1) I love the delay at the beginning and before the final verse, thus lengthening this already great song
2) I find it rock and metal songs crunchier in live recordings because the band is feeding off the crowd and the adrenaline rush shows in their music
3) Till Lindemann's vocal harmonization at the end sounds fucking beautiful and would be a blast to perform on vocals

#3: Fleetwood Mac - The Chain

Seriously, do I have to elaborate on this? While Go Your Own Way is a very good song in its own right, The Chain simply outdoes it. The vocals would be very challenging, the drums while not overly active are still great, and the guitar and bass at the end would be an absolute headbanging blast to rock out to. Yes, I just suggested headbanging to Fleetwood Mac and I don't feel ashamed of it at all.

#2: Metallica - Harvester Of Sorrow

Yeah yeah, I know damn well that Metallica has their own Guitar Hero game (I've only been playing the hell out of it for the last year and a half) and many of you will probably think that they have no business being on this list. Well, Harvester Of Sorrow is here to show you that while GH:M may have had some of their best work, it didn't include ALL of their best work. The awesome beginning, James Hetfield's snarling vocals, the somewhat haunting solo, the fact that you just can't help but bang your head along to this song, seriously, why in the hell was this song excluded from GH:M?!

#1: Judas Priest - Demonizer

The most crushing and relentless song from Priest's 2005 album Angel Of Retribution (which is really saying something), Demonizer would easily be the most challenging song on this list and very worthy of the number one spot on this list. The bassist would have to be a very fast strummer to keep up, as would the drummer if playing on the Expert+ difficulty, like playing the chorus to Painkiller for 4:38. The guitars in this song would be equally as challenging because most Judas Priest songs are. The vocals would be a nightmare for this song, again, because it's fucking Judas Priest. You can't deny how awesome this song would be to have in your in game setlist.

-The Cynic

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Top 6 Movie Music Moments

Welcome to a new list! Hurray! Anyways, today we are going to be looking at my top 6 (more like...9) musical moments in movies. Now just to put it out there, I don't watch musicals generally, so you won't see any of the well-known things on here like Mama Mia! or Rent or Hairspray or Cats (was that a movie? I don't think so but I could be wrong) or anything like that. I also attempted not to fill the list with Disney either, as that would be too easy. So sit back and enjoy Top 6 Musical Moments (done the hard way).

Honorable Mention: Sweet Transvestite- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Now this gets an honorable mention because I haven't actually sat down and watched the entire thing. I know, my bad. I will get around to it one of these days. You can't deny that Tim Curry OWNS this. The singing is fabulous, he walks in those heels better than I could, and DAMN he's not some nice legs! That costume takes some balls to wear, but he struts about like it's nothing. Dude, you are awesome.

# 6. Winnie the Pooh Theme Song- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

(skip to 2:00)

Maybe it's because I loved this as a kid, maybe it's because I hear it 5 times a day because MY kid loves it, I don't know. What I do know, is this song just fills me with nostalgia. I love this version of Winnie the Pooh. This was the film I grew up with, and with so many good musical numbers it was hard to pick just one (Tigger Song, anyone?). All of these songs are just happy and whimsical and fun, you can't help but hum along.

5. Robin Hood- Shrek (2001)

Shrek is a movie you can enjoy as both a kid and an adult. In this scene, Robin Hood attempts to rescue Fiona from Shrek, and breaks out in this little ditty to introduce himself. And in this song you can definitely see what I mean by child and adult humor. It's just so ridiculously fun, and adds to a great movie.

4. Opening Scene- xXx (2002)

This is the first three and a half minutes of the film xXx. It's also the best part of the movie. Seriously. The rest is kinda meh. Which sucks considering the damn thing starts at a friggin' Rammstein concert. The scene is actually pretty cool, with Feuer Frei! playing throughout and not a bad set up to the film. Too bad the rest of it sucks. Oh well, at least the opening scene is made of awesome.

3. Rawhide- Blues Brothers (1980)

Blues Brothers is a great musical, arguably one of the best. With the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown in the film, it was very hard to choose a song. This one stands out and amuses me because it's a situation of "oh shit, we need a song to play that these people will like.... ummm... Rawhide! Yeah!". And Jake's posture and attitude through the song is just priceless.

2. Playing With the Big Boys Now & Plagues- The Price of Egypt (1998)

Skip to about 3:45

For those of you who haven't seen this, The Prince of Egypt is a DreamWorks film about the story of Moses, his life in Egypt, the Plagues, and the Exodus. It's also a very good movie, and if you haven't seen it, you should. These two songs from the film are intense, seriously. In Playing with the Big Boys Now, two of Pharaoh's priests are trying to convince Moses of how much more powerful they are than him, because of huge Egyptian pantheon. Plagues is just that, a song sung between Moses and Pharaoh as the plagues ravage Egypt. Definitely memorable.

1. Be Prepared- The Lion King (1994) and Poor Unfortunate Souls- The Little Mermaid ((1989)

Okay, so I tried my hardest NOT to fill this list with Disney stuff. this is as far as I could narrow it down. And I have to ask, why is it the Disney villains always have the coolest songs? The Little Mermaid was not my favorite of the Disney movies, but Poor Unfortunate Souls is one hell of a song. And of course, Be Prepared, from the Lion King. Jeremy Irons/Jim Cummings (can you tell where they switch off? Cause I can't) sing what is probably my most memorable song from one of my favorite Disney movies. As far as villains go, Scar and Ursula are definitely two of the coolest.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed the list. See you folks again soon.
Stay classy
Picky Mama Scholar

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quick Blurb Review: Toy Story 3

It's been 15 years since the first Toy Story film hit theatres and introduced the mainstream audience to Pixar Animation Studios. A very successful sequel, Toy Story 2, hit theatres in 1999 and is actually considered by many to be superior to the first, a true rarity in sequels. Today, we're looking at the latest, and final, addition to the series, Toy Story 3.

Toy Story 3 follows Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and most of the familiar faces from the first two films as they see that Andy has grown up and is off to college. Andy originally intends for them to go into the attic, but because of a mixup, they end up getting donated to a local daycare centre. The toys there are very welcoming, including Barbie's counterpart Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton) and a stuffed bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty). The rest of the gang thinks that the place is a paradise, but Woody is adamant that they get back to Andy's place. Once the toys see what life at daycare is really like, they begin to wonder just how truly playful their new roommates are.

Let's take a moment to talk about the animation. The animation is insanely detailed and is easily Pixar's best work. There are xBox games with less details to environment than this movie, it's insane! The characters, organic or synthetic, move so fluently and the animation is damn near perfect that I have to take my hat off to Pixar for truly outdoing themselves here.

The casting is wonderful, as per usual with Toy Story. The original gang (what's left of them, anyway) easily fit back into the character shoes they last stepped in 11 years ago and the new characters do not feel like they've been forced in. Much like the animation, the style of how the characters react and play off one another is amazing. The only other thing I have to say about this part here, and I know that this is going to sound really gay, but I wanted to see more Ken. He stole every scene he was in.

Now, with trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible (if you are like me and didn't catch the film in the theatres), let's talk about the story, or more so, the underlying message. The first film was about accepting change while the second was about deciding which was more worthwhile: wealth or family. Toy Story 3 is about saying goodbye, to an extent. The toys are having to accept that Andy doesn't want to play with them anymore, not because he doesn't care, but because he's grown up. This may sound fairly harmless but it takes a darker tone as the film progresses and in its own little way, is telling the audience to say goodbye to this franchise (Pixar has confirmed they are NOT planning a Toy Story 4, but maybe some animation shorts featuring the characters) as most of the fans of the original are adults now. I'm fine with having this film being the last Toy Story, but something about the dark tone didn't sit right with me. Maybe it's because I collect toys (not from this franchise, mind you), but perhaps some of us want to stay a little kid with some aspects of their lives and there's parts of this movie that are basically smacking you on the back of your head and saying, "STOPPIT!"

Is this movie still enjoyable? Absolutely. Does it have laughs? Yes, a lot, and only one of them being a poop joke (and an actually fairly decent one at that). Would I recommend it? Yeah, but I do have a message for those who have been with this series from the beginning: it's very dark and emotional (one scene in the third act will require tissues). Younger fans of the franchise may not be affected as much by the depth of the story, but those who have been attached to these characters for 15 years will be. This whole bit about Toy Story 3 trying to be darker and subliminally telling you to say goodbye to your childhood originally made my nose wrinkle a bit and would've made me think less of this movie, but when I stopped and realized that movie about a cowboy doll and a spaceman action figure elicited that kind of reaction from me, it dawned on me that this was a powerful film and was obviously doing something right.

Is Toy Story 3 the best of the series? Maybe, maybe not. I guess it all depends on what you're looking for. If you want more kid-orientated entertainment, then no. However, if you're wanting something that kids and adults can enjoy on an equal level, this might be the movie for you. If you haven't seen it yet, look into it and see the closing chapter to Toy Story.

-The Cynic

Monday, November 1, 2010

Top 7 Nostalgic Comedies

Well, it's no secret that I fucking love movies. Being a child of pop culture, that comes with the territory, and if there's nothing else we love, it's a movie that can tickle our hearts and make us have a good laugh, taking our minds off of the everyday bullshit that goes on in our lives. Since I'm feeling reflective today, we're gonna look back at The Cynic's Top 7 Nostalgic Comedies. Why Top 7? Why not?

Honorable Mention: Hot Shots
This movie is limited to an honorable mention because while I did love it as a kid, I watched it again a few years back and was heartbroken to see that it wasn't funny anymore but just...stupid. That said, I just can't deny how many laughs it got out of me until I was 20. Perhaps the over-saturation of parody movies over the last decade ruined Hot Shots for me, or maybe it was always this stupid and I didn't realize it.

#7: Men In Black
Oh, the days prior to Men In Black II. The first MIB had great characters, wonderfully humorous jokes and a fairly short runtime so the film didn't overstay its welcome. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith play so well off of each other in this one and Vincent D'Onofrio is such an entertaining villain to watch.

#6: Ernest Goes To Jail
I'm pretty sure my brother still has the VHS of this kicking around. This was easily my favorite of the Ernest films and one of my overall favorites as a kid. It turns out that there's a guy in a local jail who looks exactly like Ernest (Jim Varney). While visiting the jail as part of his jury duty, the lookalike knocks out Ernest and trades their wardrobes so that now Ernest is the one on death row. It's been a while since I've seen this movie, so it'd be interesting to see if it still holds up after all these years.

#5: Ace Ventura - The Series
I couldn't decide which one I like more. This was the movie that introduced me to Jim Carrey and with the hi jinx that the first film had as well as a successful amount of laughs, it was no surprise that a sequel came along that kept the laughs rolling. I think my favorite part is when Ace is inspecting the Miami Dolphins player's rings the most difficult ways imaginable while Aerosmith's "Line Up" plays along. The cartoon series that followed wasn't too bad either.

#4: National Lampoon's Animal House
Any list about best comedies ever made needs to have this film on it. There's so many things that I love about this movie. The hazing rituals, Donald Sutherland getting baked with his students, John Belushi's overall presence, accidentally killing one of the faculty member's horses (no word of a lie, I almost pissed my pants I was laughing so hard), the list goes on. Considered by many to be the greatest education-themed comedy ever made.

#3: The Blues Brothers
Hey everyone! A move based on an SNL skit that doesn't suck ass! Quite possibly the greatest musical ever made, this vulgar comedy is a tale of holy redemption as Jake & Elwood Blues (John Belushi & Dan Aykroyd) are on a mission from God to prevent their old orphanage from being closed down. As you watch this movie, I want you to keep in mind that all the carnage shown starts by running a yellow light. Can't help but wonder how many drivers behaved more on the road after seeing this movie.

#2: The Grumpy Old Men Series
This series steals the #2 spot from The Blues Brothers only by having a sequel that holds up to the first one. My parents/grandparents may know the legendary pairing of Jack Lemon & Walter Matthau from The Odd Couple, but I know their chemistry from these films. These two play off each other so well that they were cast in other films as similar characters in Out To Sea and it renewed interest in their past pairing, giving us The Odd Couple II. The inclusion of Burgess Meridith as Jack Lemon's dad just adds comedic gold that is already running rampant in this series.

#1: Ghostbusters
Do I really have to explain this? I've said it time and time again, but Ghostbusters is the perfect comedy. It's played for laughs, but there's still elements of action, romance and horror within. This movie is a mixed bag of genres and Goddamn, do I love this movie. The writing is sharp, the movie is brilliantly casted, the actors play so well off of each other & even though this movie came out 26 years ago, I still laugh my ass off every time I watch this movie. This movie is a must watch on any occasion. Halloween? Christmas? Whacking Day? Watch Ghostbusters.

Friday, October 29, 2010

5 Dream Halloween Costumes and Why I Can't Pull Them Off

There's no two ways about it, I LOVE Halloween. What I love so much about it is the costumes. I can certainly appreciate any excuse at all to go out in costume. So, I try to do something cool every year. Over the last few years I've done several very geeky costumes, including April O'Neill, Chun-Li, Tyrael (from Diablo II), Ashrah from Mortal Kombat, etc. This year will be no exception. However, everyone has costumes that they would love to do, but for whatever reason, just can't do. So here are my top 5 unlikely costumes, and why they just aren't happening anytime soon.

5. Nitara- Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat is my favorite (fighting) game franchise. And they have a lot of cool characters. Nitara is a vampire from a different realm that was introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
Why I Can't Pull It Off: a couple of reasons 1) I couldn't build the wings and 2) it's way to skimpy. Now not only do I NOT look like that, it gets pretty cold around Halloween (we had a spattering of snow last night) and I would rather not freeze.
Likelihood of Doing this in the Future: Not likely

4. Blood Dragon Armor- Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins is a game I rented on a whim because the video store didn't have any copies of the game I went there looking for. And it blew me away. It has easily become one of the best games I have ever played. When I bought the game, I got a code to download this set of armor (and a similar set for Mass Effect 2).
Why I Can't Pull It Off: Armor building. I lack the skill, materials, and a place to build armor like this.
Likelihood of Doing This in the Future: If I could, I definitely would.

3. Big Daddy- Bioshock

Bioshock is another game I picked up somewhat on a whim and is also an amazing time. The game has such an intriguing atmosphere and setting that I can't help but enjoy it. It also has the Big Daddy, a tough character to beat for sure. And I have seen cosplay of this before, and it was amazing with an incredible photo shoot in an aquarium.
Why I Can't Pull It Off: I haven't the skills to build such a thing. That is far beyond me.
Likelihood of Doing it in the Future: Again, if I could, I would. For sure.

2. Red Sonja

What's not to like about Red Sonja? She's a woman that kicks ass, doesn't take shit from anyone, and carries a very large sword. She also dresses in a chainmail bikini.
Why I Can't Pull It Off: Did I not mention the chainmail bikini? Or the fact it's not unusual to have snow on Halloween here?
Likelihood of Doing it in the Future: Very, very unlikely

1. Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker/ Susannah Dean- The Dark Tower Series

Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker are two personalities of the same person who are drawn into Mid-World by the Gunslinger Roland Deschain. The two personalities confront each other and are melded into one: Susannah Dean, who accompanies Roland on his quest for the Dark Tower. And I love these books. So much.
Why I Can't Pull It Off: Susannah is an African-American woman who is missing her legs below the knee due to an accident. I'm, well... not.
Likelihood of Doing this in the Future: If I could get a wheelchair, darken my skin without being offensive, and hide my lower legs, sure.

Happy Halloween Everyone from all of us here at Coffee With the Cynic! And thanks for reading and watching our vids!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quick Blurb Review-Terminator: Salvation

So I finally got around to watching Terminator: Salvation over the Thanksgiving weekend. Hell, I even got to watch it on Blu-Ray...on a tube tv, but it was still Blu-Ray. And what did I think of it? Meh.

Basically, the overall look of this film is Reign Of Fire with Terminators. The world looks like an ashtray with machines stomping around instead of dragons. The story isn't anything too exciting because the biggest twist was revealed in the trailers and that REALLY hurt this movie in the end.

The cast, much like the rest of this movie, is pretty forgettable, with the exception of Sam Worthington. It really says something when a side character is more attatchable than John Connor in a fucking TERMINATOR MOVIE. Christian Bale as Connor didn't win me over any. I honestly thought Nick Stahl did a better job in T3: Rise Of The Machines.

Let's talk about the effects. I think the half-melted faces revealing metallic skeletons look better this time around than they did in T3, but there was too much CGI in this movie. I'm NOT a fan of the full CGI T-800 in this movie and there were a couple of shots that could've easily been done with practical effects. ILM's done better work, but the "Arnold" cameo was a nice fanfare touch.

As for watching it on Blu-Ray? Even seeing Blu-Rays on LCD & Plasma TVs and comparing it to tubes, I still don't see a difference between the three kinds of TVs. Hell, I still don't see a difference between DVD & Blu-Ray. Needless to say, I won't be buying a Blu-Ray player anytime soon when DVDs are still in full swing.

Final thoughts? To put it harshly, Salvation is the most unentertaining of the series and really not worth the 114 minute runtime. It's by no means unwatchable, but it's so damn forgettable.

-The Cynic