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