Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Alien vs. Predator" or "Fans vs. Brothers Strause"

Alien vs. Predator has no doubt left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. I applaud (more a golf clap) their attempted continuity between the two (2) franchises, but I thought this was already accomplished in Predator 2 when a shot of the Pred's trophy case included a Xenomorph head. It was nice to see the A's and P's at work again, too bad they didn't do anything entertaining. I still blame this in large part to the PG-13 rating, just to make it appeal to an age group that wasn't alive yet to see any of the prequels, save Resurrection, in theaters. I still hold out hope for another good A or P movie again, so AvP-R looks like my next chance. Since it's rated R that solved one of my issues, and the previews show a number of Predator weapons used to gory effect. I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt for the time being. The above picture comes from IGN's website. Hopeful I will not incur the wrath of the Predalien for borrowing their image.

Speaking of Sci-Fi movies, a surprise entry to theaters November 12. Battlestar Galactica Razor will be seen two (2) weeks before its debut on Sci-Fi channel in select cities FOR FREE, thanks to MicroSoft. I can't remember where I read it, but it's true, if anything is to be believed on the web. And the following day, November 13, is when "The Menagerie" debuts in theaters. And on the Sci-Fi TV front more news of Star Wars On TV. The gist is this: 100 45 minute episodes (about 4 years) with a possible expansion to 400 & Boba Fett will be present. A previous rumor mill produced these gems: The series will happen between Eps III and Star Wars (I refuse to call it Episode IV); Pod Racing is back; Thall Joban (a character from Droids) will be highlighted as a Pod Racer; Rebs & Imps and the war before Luke & Leia get involved; Expanded Universe (EU) tie-ins; Bib Fortuna & Oola; Death Star Plans; the series tone should be like the Holy Trilogy and showing neither good, nor bad guys but people caught up in events. Family Guy's succesful Blue Harvest/Star Wars episode was so popular that a plan is in motion for an Empire Strikes Back episode. For those that missed the FG episode it will be on DVD by December or something. My sources are vague, and I don't really remember.

Remember when a couple Canadian Doctors quit the practice and made a game company, in 1995, that eventually spawned one of the greatest Star Wars RPGs? If you said BioWare, and their wunderkindt Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR), then your geek memory is fully functional. Well, recently MicroSoft (boo) sold BioWare off and they were absorbed by the forces of Sauron known as EA. BioWare (prior to the sale) has joined forces with LucasArts for a new MMO. Who cares, right? We're talking BioWare here, people. I don't think they've made a bad game yet: Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR, Jade Empire. Rumor has it that the new MMORPG will be a KOTOR setting. The original KOTOR was so good it even spawned a comic by Dark Horse.

Tomorrow is supposed to start a writers strike, as if TV can't get bad enough. When things do get bad enough just watch Halo Landfall and imagine what the cancelled movie would look like with Peter Jackson at the helm. Once you stop drooling over the pretty weapons, look at the European Wii crossbow thingy. I want. I don't Even have a Wii and I want it. While watching CSI last night, one of the episodes with the lovely and talented Lady Heather, a reference was made to a fictitious website called ladyheather.com. I, of course, immediately checked it out and it took me straight to the CSI site on CBS. Way to go CBS for finding a way to count all the CSI fans who are perverts. I'm not a pervert, I was just curious, is all, yeah, see, yeah.

Sony keeps trying to come up with new ways to sell PS3s and a new game this month tries a daring experiment. Eye Of Judgment (in conjunction with Hasbro & WOTC) is a CCG and a Video Game, with its own included EyeToy to scan cards you have and play out a game with the 5 or 6 other people in the world who bought it. It sounds interesting in theory and I do like crossover concepts, but this thing sounds complicated. I've read some gameplay reviews and such and there seems to be a decent amount of strategy involved, but there's a lot of prep work to play this game. Booster packs are supposed to be sold separately for the CCG side of Eye Of Judgment and I may collect those as soon as I figure out who sells them. I'm really not knocking this game it just sounds ambitious and crazy. I miss playing CCGs and every once in a while I buy a pack of Magic cards to get that new card smell on me again. For those that still follow the Pokemon CCG a new set is due out soon called "Secret Wonders". I remember playing this when the game first came out and it was a little confusing, but seemed okay, nothing like the rich potential of the Star Wars CCG. A couple years back, I tried Yu-Gi-Oh, but I was not impressed and it just made me flashback to good card games I've played. I have tried Yu-Gi-Oh in several flavors (US TV and manga) and the only version I liked was the manga. It was dark, and Yugi messed with people. He got beat up at school every day and would then play a game with them to enact a sort of revenge. One dude he poured Vodka on and lit him on fire. Great stuff. I want to see that episode.

Some days I'm no good at gaming and tonight was my night. The brilliant puzzle-shooter Portal vexes me with its advanced puzzle mode. After swearing at my lack of brain power I gave up gaming in lieu of a six part Mars program narrated by Captain Kirk. Excellent show. Before I go to bed tonight I'm going to try one mission of Ace Combat 6. This franchise was meant for anyone who watched Top Gun and thought, I could do that. The "Need For Speed" of my generation was not "The Fast And The Furious", it was "Top Gun", and we needed only one, not three movies to drive home the kind of speed I need. Lets see, a Grumman F-14 or a Mitsubushi Eclipse. And don't tell me I also have Stealth 'cause I barely call that a movie. Guitar Hero III just came out and I need to bite the bullet and get it. I have nothing against the series, yet I'm reticent to drop $100 on a game I might not like. Parappa The Rapper, Space Channel 5, and Frequency all used the controller, and I wonder if I have the skill to use a fake guitar to play real music. If I can't face my Guitar Hero fear than I might as well get Naruto, which is actually getting good reviews, a surprise for a Manga-turned-Anime series. Once again, I've seen the show and read the Manga and I prefer the Manga over the watered down American version. And if I had an up-to-date PC tower (I write this on a laptop) I would definately get Crysis. It's one of those games that begs for a top end machine. Nothing like spending $5,000 to play a game. That's dedication. Maybe I'll risk a demo download.

And lastly I came across the most un-useless invention of our modern lives. For all the none of us that have an iPhone (the "i" is pronounced "Jesus") because we are too afraid to scratch, mar, or dirty the hypnotyzing beauty of the screen; that and the $10,000 price tag. Well never fear, some people with too much latex in their possession, have invented iPhone Fingers. I'm sure this is one of the signs of the apocalypse. That's all for now. I'm going to absorb some gaming knowledge from G4. See you next broadcast.

Monday, October 29, 2007

IN "insert place" NO ONE CAN HERE YOU "insert vocal sound"

In the latest issue of Game Informer there is a cover image, and associated article, about Dead Space. This is supposed to be the scariest game EVER made. The developers had to immerse themselves in a pantheon of sci-fi/horror movies that is a perfect list of geek related movies. The list includes Alien, Event Horizon, and The Thing as well as the games Resident Evil and Silent Hill. They have the right source material, and they came up with a Survival/Horror game, played in both First and Third person, that in many ways reminds me of DOOM 3 but less weapons and more creatures. You play an engineer (not a soldier) with a plasma torch and what looks like an armored zero-gee suit. You're trying to fix a ship that's been taken over by, uh... something, and you need to survive. Sounds generic but they're trying to do it right. The first previews of the game were unveiled by EA a couple days ago. Click here to view. Previews like this make me drool for a movie.

This brings up an interesting conundrum that I've been mulling over since the new batch of horror movies hit theaters for halloween. I don't like horror films so I rarely watch them, however I do like sci-fi/horror (like the above mentioned movies) for reasons I can't explain. And I like playing survival/horror games at nite, in the dark, in full surround sound. I believe the reason is due to the fact I get to react how I want. I know I'm in a horror story and react accordingly. From Silent Hill to Condemned I've enjoyed and dreaded every minute. Movies are different due to their passive nature. Maybe puting horror in a sci-fi setting forces a certain amount of plot and character work that elevates the movie above the usual horror plot. My biggest problem with horror is I don't identify with the characters and I'd like to think that in the same situation I'd react differently and survive the encounter (sorry Freddy and Jason). I may not identify with the game characters, but it is still me playing, not him/her. In fact, once you realize you're in a horror story (examine the situation like the movie "Stranger Than Fiction") you should immediatly go into survival mode. In sci-fi/horror I think characters act a bit more realistic, even given the setting. Look at the Colonial Marines from Aliens, they were far more human and realistic than they could have been. One of those things movie geeks ought to know are the names of at least some of the Marines. This made easier by well crafted characters by James Cameron.

Alright, I opened it up. What should geeks get out of Aliens? Why is Aliens a geek movie? The movie is well paced, even the extended directors cut, and it takes place in the future. Everyone wants to know what the future looks like, right? So the movie takes us slowly through Earth's space station Ripley doesn't even recognize, the Colonial Marines personal starship Sulaco and all their awesome gear and weapons, and many, many scenes detailing the "Shake & Bake" colony of LV-426. All this careful prep lets the characters develop enough, and we learn a bit about them. Other than Ripley there is Newt, Burke, Hicks, Hudson, Apone, Drake, Vazquez, Bishop, Frost, Ferro, Wierzbowski, Spunkmeyer, Dietrich, Crowe, and Gorman. Lots and lots of aliens on screen this time with my favorite piece of hardware, the gun camera turrets (which come in handy in Half-Life 2), in one of the most intense scenes of the movie. Aliens provides many great terms and quotes: "Xenomorph"; "Power Loader"; "Game Over, Man"; "What are we supposed to use, harsh language"; "Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure."; "They mostly come out at night, mostly"; "This colony has a substantial dollar value"; "Get away from her, you bitch!"; "Hey, Vazquez, anyone ever mistake you for a man?" These are mostly dredged from my memory so I might have mashed the quote but you get the idea. The end scene with the Queen on the Sulaco is so good Nintendo 64 borrowed the scene for a level in Conker's Bad Fur Day (they also used the Matrix lobby scene too).

Tonight I begin the final leg of Half-Life 2 with Episode 2. This carries on the tradition of excellent gameplay started in HL2, and it still seems fresh. I don't know how Valve does it. One of the most tempting achievements, worth 20 points (a lot on this game of 99 achievements), requires me to kill 333 larvae of an alien insectoid called a Sand Lion. They look like "The Bugs" from Starship Troopers, and die with the same satisfaction. I even ran around in thier hive, which also looks "Bug" inspired, from the Roughnecks TV show. What kind of number is 333. It's not a round number like 300 or 50. How the hell am I supposed to find 333. I can find 50 things in a game, but not even a Final Fantasy game has you looking for 333 anything. Arrrgh. I once had to find 76 pieces of something for a Final Fantasy game on GameBoy, then it turned out that there is one more I didn't know about right after I lost them all. That's when god stepped in and I had to fight him and some angels or something. It was a really wierd FF game. I kicked his ass though, and still 76 is 257 less than 333. There are so many larva in some areas I squished them by accident by stepping on them. When you kill one a little green pellet "poops" out and gives a little health back. I can't wait to see the guide for all 333 larvae. GTA doesn't even have a combined item location game of over 300. Yeesh. I missed my mark by six (6) larvae. You know, that's still nearly geneocide of their species (since I'm shooting and the adults, anyway). Doesn't that count for something?

Tomorrow night begins a new 6-part series on Mars, and I'm looking forward to it. If there is an ounce of an Astronomy geek in you I recommend the show, even if it just a primer on the history of Mars Exploration. It's so close and yet so far away, and everytime one of our Mars Rovers, Spirit or Opportunity, send a new picture home, Mars seems so much closer.

I hope to figure out how to post pictures soon, and then these blogs will come alive. Once I figure it out I'll post a picture of the new Yoda stamps that just came out, which I intend to frame and mount somewhere. I told you I'll buy anything Star Wars. You can click here for a picture, though. That's all I got tonight. EmpTass reminded me of the second Star Wars starship collectible game that you build out of cardboard (like the Pirates game) but I haven't found it yet. When I do I'll try it out. See you next broadcast.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Cake Is A Lie

While playing the world's first FPS (First Person Shooter to you noobs)/Puzzle/Comedy I realized the cake was a lie. Maybe it was the hand writing scribbled on the wall, a secret communication from an unbalanced employee at Aperture Science Institute, or the passive/aggressive kindly, malevolent female voice (think a cross between Cher and Steven Hawking) of the AI directing me through each room. Image Hal 9000 guiding you through Tetris while trying to replace Discovery's not-so broken antennae, acutely aware that Frank Poole is probably dead and he's not getting any cake either.

I am of course talking about the game Portal, one of five (5) games included with The Orange Box. A shining star too short to be by itself (between 2 to 3 hours), but fits perfectly next to big brother Half-Life 2 (and it's sequels). I will not spoil anything (except the cake rumor) but the end "boss fight" is actually fun and filled with much malevolent humor. Once done, the end credit theme is the best end theme I can think of, ever, and it is done with ASCII art (circa 1980). I also completed Half-Life 2 and its sequel, "Episode 1." Now on to Episode 2 and more achievements.

MicroSoft has general guidelines about each retail game that comes out for Xbox 360, which goes something like this: (see http://xbox360achievements.org/index.php for more information) there should be no more than fifty (50) achievements per title, and developers must have 1,000 unlockable points for their Gamerscore (GS). If there are less than 1,000 points, said developers must make a download from XBL free making up the difference. Early on in this wasn't the case with release titles, but the rule holds strong now. The exception to the rule is The Orange Box, which is five games in one, so MicroSoft let Valve have 99 Achievements totaling 1,000 points. I've unlocked 47 Achievements and still have less than 400 points. Never have so many achievements been unlocked by so much play for so few points. (sorry Mr. Churchill). I was still able to cross the 12,000 GS threshold this weekend which makes me happy enough for cake.

I just saw a commercial for Guitar Hero III, which still seems like coordinated air-guitar with a prop, where the "air-guitarist" punk teen played so well that Slash (from G&R, duh) unzips the skin of said teen from inside out and keeps playing guitar. It was at once cool that Slash promotes the game (which probably doesn't need him) and sad that he needs the extra money, apparently. I guess he's in the game, but so is Eddie Vedder and he looks like a Super-Deformed Muppet, in previews I've seen, and he ain't doin' commercials. I've probably completely missed the point here so I'll just need to play it, since my buddy EmpTas (you know who you are) loves the second one.

This weekend I added Ace Combat 6 and Lost Planet, an older title, to my collection. It's a good thing I don't officially review games for anyone right now 'cause I'd be so far behind. I always get hung up on a title squeezing all the achievements I can out of it. And I want to play Front Mission for Nintendo DS (which I also bought), a Square Enix (formerly Square Soft, my favorite game developer) to see if it compares to Front Mission 3 for the PSX. Front Mission 3 was the first game in the Front Mission franchise to reach America from Japan. A turn-based giant robot tactical combat game, all battles take place on a grid with different elevations and you move your mecha around trying to out maneuver the "bad guys." A key moment in FM3 decides whose side your on, so you can play through and be either of the two (2) factions available. Very clever (and confusing because the second time through the "enemy" is now on your side) and included a fairly deep Internet simulation. You could go online in the game to an internal Internet Square Soft made and learn background details about the game, flesh out the history of the future, and hack different sites to gain special information and special parts for your mecha. I don't expect the DS version to be all that, but I'm looking forward to a little mech-on-mech action.

One of the science channels was showing a tornado special with "Storm Chasers" (those guys/gals rock), but there really wasn't anything during the show I didn't already learn from the movie Twister. A Michael Crichton (see http://www.crichton-official.com/) written/Spielberg produced action flick about a couple getting a divorce on the worst tornado day in Oklahoma. That's a lie, it's about a group of kick-ass "Storm Chasers" who hunt down every tornado in site and barely manage to survive each encounter. There's this love story thing but it's not important (of course it is, I'm being facetious). The main characters are all meteorology geeks that would do anything for their not so geek appearing leader, Bill "Game Over Man" Paxton. I must have seen this movie 20 or 30 times and this is the first time I noticed Dusty wears a Daredevil baseball cap, well before Ben Affleck tried to ruin the "double D". I probably can't totally blame Affleck, since I watched the director's cut and I liked it. Ben Affleck should just stick with Kevin Smith and leave it at that. This is a great movie showing how functional a gaggle of geeks doing their thing is. Each Storm Chaser is shown his own geeky obsession, including a brief Star Wars reference, but I think Dusty is more an adrenaline junky than anything. Of note is Captain Harriman of Enterprise-B plays Rabbit, the navigational geek, a role I enjoy on vacation.

I've never really been a fan of the collectible figure games like Mage Knight or even D&D, probably only because I don't know anyone who plays (okay, I own some Mage Knight). I did get into the Star Wars Starship game (I love Star Wars and all their little ships) and found the game decent, but figures take up way more space than card games or comic books. It's a pitiful complaint but I have to draw the line somewhere. Star Wars is a special case since I will collect almost anything Star Wars. Against my better judgment (what little I have) I bought a pack of the Pokemon and a pack of Halo figures. Pokemon looks f-ing confusing but Halo looks decent. I think I should develop a mix where Ash & Pikachu can face off against Master Chief and Grunties. "Cortana, I choose you." A Flood-infected Pikachu would make an awesome figure.

I've rattled on enough tonight. Nothing much on the Star Trek front except looking forward to "The Menagerie" in theaters, and the 2nd Star Trek manga is out. In high-school I used to wonder what Trek would look like if done by Japanese artists and I finally have my answer. Now lets see if they do an Anime version of Star Trek. I'll have to wait another decade or so. In the future I will start reviewing anime since I'm a huge Otaku (uhh, fanboy). Keep your wireless charged and see you next broadcast.

My Blog 1.0

This morning is the first day ever I will Blog. Please bear with me as it is two in the morning and this first time (heh heh) is as much a test for me as for anyone trying to follow my train of thought.

The purpose for this near-daily internet journal is to define, as best I can, what it is to be a geek. I choose the term "geek" over "nerd" because I feel the latter tends to have more negative connotations. "Nerd" to me still feels like a high-school/college taunt that doesn't help define who you are when all the "Nerds" get together. "Geek", to me, is a more preferable term because geeks tend to focus on non-human interactions (ie Internet surfing or playing Xbox) but not to the point of being social outcasts. Geeks are very useful to have around for the MacGyver quality of the know-it-all and can-do-it-all attitude even if they have a hard time with the social interaction part. Anyway, I like the term "Geek" so I'm sticking with it. I am a geek and so can you with this guide.

The part of this definition of "geek" I'm interested in is the knowledge base (hence the site name). What do you have to know to be a geek? Anyone can be social inept, but it's a lot harder to fail at social etiquette and have a vast data-base of cult movies, pop culture, and computer code on top of a scientific background that would shame Alex Trebec. As I wrote a friend of mine this week, geeks have a responsibility to know a lot of real world tech and pop culture trivia, "field strip" a PC and actually know what "PC load letter" means, and can argue Kirk vs. Picard with conviction.

Part of this Blog will be about my day-to-day adventures being a geek as I review a movie, play a game, or whatever occurs to me. The other part of these postings will be about different things that geeks have to know to be called geeks. There is an immense amount of knowledge you need to have to be a geek, and I intend to break these areas of expertise down into different parts, so even a non-geek can get an idea what makes someone like me tick. Usually a geek has a core focus or two or three that they are masters of (and will share everything at a moments notice), but still has a peripheral knowledge of other areas that have a nominal connection to his/her interests. (An Anime fan may only watch Japanese stuff but at least have heard of Animaniacs, Exo-Squad, Power Puff Girls, and Samurai Jack.) Maybe I'll take the Jeff Foxworthy approach (You know you're a geek if...) or I might delve into the esoterics of Star Wars and The Matrix. Pop Culture knowledge is important, usually with a sci-fi/fantasy/horror bent, and I want to discuss what makes a particular movie, TV show, video game, book, magazine, website, graphic novel, anime, manga, technology, or person important to the cause. Yes, I may even discuss Star Trek at length and, for those that might not stomach heavy comparisons of The Enterpise circa 2265 vs. The Enterprise circa 2270, I will warn ahead of time this Blog contains Star Trek.

My current video game obsession is the Xbox 360. I have a goal to obtain a Gamerscore (GS) of at least 15,000 by years end. Saturday was a good day as I racked up a total of 560 points across three (3) games. The majority of them came from Gun which I wish was a larger game, but has a compelling story that drew me in enough to want to see the game to conclusion. A sequal fully designed for the next-gen systems would be nice, as well as a movie. I have also been playing Half-Life 2 on The Orange Box. For those that don't know, The Orange Box contains five (5) games, the first three (3) being Half-Life 2, HL2 Episode 1, and HL2 Episode 2. I just finished HL2 and have moved on to Episode 1. This series is incredible and I'm ecstatic to see it on a console as I am not a PC gamer. Sorry, I will probably not be reviewing PC games, but I will talk about the history of PC gaming when the topic is relevant. I even played a little Sonic The Hedgehog, available from XBLA. I used to be a master of this "back in the day" but I suck at it now. Decent set of achievements, makes me wonder how I played anything without a GS. BTW, I don't own a PS3 and I might not get for a while, but I love the new Ratchet & Clank commercial and I'm beginning to desire BluRay. Maybe in 2k8 I'll relent.

WARNING, Star Trek. As a huge fan of Star Trek, you can rely on me to drop most things, except maybe Half-Life 2, and watch an episode I've seen a thousand times. However, the "peoples" responsible for making new Trek on a weekly basis aren't making new weekly Trek, but for the 40th Anniversary of TOS they are making Remastered Episodes with cleaned up film and new, I repeat "New", special effects. I initially balked at the idea until I saw "Balance Of Terror", and even the sound was fantastic. The whole thing is done in 5.1. It's like watching a new episode every week. So, I watched "Galileo Seven." An all-time favorite, but now with special effects you get an even better look at what the hell was going on in space. It was good before, but now you see the "quasar" and the planet Spock and crew are lost on and, the best part, Spock's plasma-burn, thrust-maneuver which is awe inspiring. I actually felt more for the crew when you can see FX in HD. This episode still shows the "hand" closing the door and I love the crewman who gets stabbed with a giant spear. The Red Shirts of the episode weren't stupid and stayed behind to let everyone else die. Of note: after the crash landing one crewman is bleeding out the nose and obviously hurt, but Bones ignores the crewman to help the only female crew they brought, and she's perfectly fine. Way to go Bones.

I will attempt to post things every couple days or so. Once I figure out how to put links in the text these musings will become more exciting. See you next broadcast.