ORLY? Nintendo's Wii successor

Filed under: , , , , by: Andy Robinson

Word on the street is that Nintendo is hard at work developing its next console to follow-up the hugely popular money printing press they dubbed the Wii. While there are some that are excited about the Nintendo's next stab, I am rather hesitant about the Big N's next offering. Before you hate, allow me to explain.

The Wii is amazing! Who knew that such an innocent little white box would attract so much attention. Grandmas, aunts, uncles, schools, nursing homes, bars - everyone has swallowed the white pill and it's a blast! I bought a Wii the second week (I thought about using "wiik" but decided it was overplayed like a song on the radio) after it came out and had a great time with it. Friends and family would all gather around the glowing blue aura and we'd lose hours bowling or boxing, running around in a green elf suit or hunting Nazis in Call of Duty. Ah, those were the days.

Then, I returned back to work at a small, private liberal arts school in a small, remote town in the Midwest. Aside from the occasional gathering of college students at my house or taking the hallowed white box to a prearranged engagement at a friend's house, it sat unused in my entertainment center. It quickly went from a fun party type console to a cute novelty.

A few short months went by and I picked up an Xbox 360 on Ebay after giving in to the peer pressure from a few of my college buddies. This became the platform of choice for me to game on and I've wasted countless hours on the experience. Microsoft has focused on the core gamer and continues to do so while enhancing the Xbox with the recent announcement of Netflix and a new dashboard due out this fall. Enough about M$ and its devilish ways; back to Nintendo.

I may be putting words in to Nintendo's mouth, but it seems that the core market is not something they are going to focus on. This is the major flaw in Nintendo's marketing strategy. Gamers are always looking forward to the next hardware announcement. The general market (non-core gamers), the main consumer of the Wii, might not be waiting in the wings to drop another $250 on something that they don't perceive as necessary. Think about it - tech enthusiasts, regardless of the hobby, purchase the new thing because it is new. Consumers, on the other hand, are much more reluctant to stay on the cutting edge. That's why, I believe, the Wii is still in such short supply. The demand has persisted because general consumers are being coaxed over time to jump on the bandwagon even though the core-gamer fervor has died down.

Generating the kind of excitment Nintendo did with the Wii is going to be quite a challenge the next time around, and at least they are aware of it. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said, "But the hardware is a kind of box that consumers reluctantly buy in order to play our games." Too right, Mr. Iwata. Too right.

For what it's worth (nothing at all), my advice to Nintendo is this: Hold off on releasing your next console! After openly shunning the core market at E3, you've lost a lot of following (save for the fanboys). The general market will not be as quick to adopt a new console if you roll it out in the same time frame that console successors are released and your demand will not be as high. Regardless of how awesome your new console is, it will not generate the same demand as the Wii because consumers, while they may enjoy nursing home golf tournaments on the Wii, won't see the necessity for HD golf tournaments with more realistic Miis!

*Disclaimer: I sold my Wii to a coworker back in November 2007 so he could give it to his kids for Christmas. If the online component has gotten better (read: deployed), that's wonderful. I wouldn't know.

The Damnit Game of the Week: Filler

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Never before has there been such a fun game that revolves around the concept of making balls. Yeah, Yeah, I know... insert goofy testicle pun here. But I am above that... ...MUST RESIST URGE... Well anyway, I have had a ball (get it?) with this one in the past and hopefully you will too.

This is a game that will steal your soul and devour your children. It made its way around Digg earlier this year and is back for vengeance on your productivity.

Just don't say I didn't warn you.
..



To play the game in glorious full window click HERE

Second Glance: Wall-E

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

PriestBeast went over the general synopsis of the film in his earlier post, so I will save my inane banter about the plot. I will just cut into the meaty stuff...

Wall-E has proved that Pixar is truly the master of digital film making. Never before has an animated feature been able to contain so much life, especially from seemingly inanimate objects. The movie hearkens back to the days of silent films with Charlie Chaplin. Hardly a word is spoken for the first half of the film, yet there is an amazing story that draws the in audience as it develops. I found the story progression to be more compelling without the dialog. The silence entices you to watch, noticing the details, in order to fully grasp what is going on.

Delving further into the silent film theme is the relationship between Wall-E and his "pet" cricket. I would go as far as to say that Pixar has never created two characters that have had a tighter bond. Every frame shows a deliberate attention to the development of this friendship. There is a genuinely emotional link expressed through nuanced body language, that can be seen in eyes of both characters. It is a very mature way of telling a story, that very few Hollywood studios would be able to pull of.

Speaking of maturing, Pixar decides to venture away from "summer popcorn flick" territory with the film's underlying themes of commercialism. Fortunately, the filmmakers do not allow the theme to get in the way of telling an interesting and fun story. While not hitting you over the head with the message, they subtly show what could be a very real future for our species.

The idea of having an agenda present is an interesting turn, from a studio that has traditionally made films that were fairly neutered. Hopefully Pixar will continue branch out and mature, maybe even touching on topics that would otherwise be viewed as taboo in animation. Who knows, maybe someday Touchstone will release the first rated "R" Pixar flick? If Wall-E is any indication, it could be sooner than we think!

Below is the theatrical trailer for Wall-E:

New Segment: "The Damnit Game of the Week"

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

Here is the story of my life... I started playing one of those goofy online flash games as a brief "mental sanity break." After some time has passed I look down at my watch and say, "Damnit! What time is it?! That can't be right..." Little did I know that I had blown over an hour playing this worthless, piece of crap game.

Worse yet, as the day goes on I find myself wanting to go back and play it more and more. When all is said and done, this goofy little applet has ruined any motivation I had, not to mention sabotaged the productivity of my entire day! This leaves me saying only one thing... "Damnit!"

Keep an eye out for "The Damnit Game of the Week" every Thursday. Just beware, playing these games can be harmful to your health, they are addictive!


Be careful not to get too hooked!


Disclamer: We are not responsible for loss of job, due to excessive gameplay.

The Dark Knight

Filed under: , , by: Jimmy the Greek

Background

Unless you've been living under a rock since 20-diggity-5, I say diggity because I'm led to believe Iran stole our word "zero," you may have heard of a small art house film called The Dark Knight. This is a sequel to the wildly popular Christopher Nolan reboot of the Batman franchise Batman Begins.

It must be stated that this is a highly biased review. I have an unhealthy man-crush on Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan has done nothing short of awe me since I saw Memento in 20-diggity-1, back when I was convinced Saddam Hussein was trying to steal the word "zero" with WMDs. Thank the Almighty that Nolan's vision of Batman doesn't even resemble the Joel Schumacher homoerotic theatrical abortions of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. The latter not only burned the franchise to the ground, but sprinkled it with salt in hopes no other movie could be made.


Plot

At the end of Batman Begins Wayne Manor was burned to the ground and a "better class of criminal" was on the loose. The Scarecrow as well as many other Arkham inhabitants were free and the Batman was synonymous with bad ass. This leads us to the opening of The Dark Knight.

Bruce Wayne has moved from a multimillion dollar mansion to a multimillion dollar penthouse and the Batcave has been substituted with a different hole in the ground, albeit one that's better lit and has fewer actual bats. There are Batman impersonators wreaking havoc in the name of justice. The Joker, which you learn from the elaborate and well executed heist scene in the first six minutes, is our main antagonist with support from Sal Maroni and a breadth of the best the Gotham underworld has to offer. Lieutenant Gordan has his own unit in the Gotham police department, Rachel Dawes still fills her role as love interest/conflict to Bruce Wayne, and a new District Attorney, former IA detective Harvey Dent, is on the scene promising a brighter tomorrow.

The kingpins of Gotham are getting sick of Batman ruining all their fun and the Joker stealing their money so they decide to pool it all together and send it to China. Things don't work out, as any viewer would expect, and the mob is forced to turn to the Joker for aid. The Joker requests the modest sum of half all of their money to kill the Batman. This is not even the halfway point of the movie. If I say anything else it'll spoil the movie and if you really want to know the goods, you can send me a message. Suffice it to say Aaron Eckhart has plenty of character development and no part of the story is out of place, each scene leads to the next. A few deaths and dark jokes later the movie ends on an incredibly uplifting and somber note.

The major themes of the movie are human nature, escalation, what it really means to serve justice, and being the hero. Not necessarily the hero Gotham wants, but definitely the hero Gotham deserves. Loose ends are addressed in a matter of fact manner, with a few nagging questions I'm sure will be answered in the unrated 3 hour edition released on DVD this coming Christmas. An example of this is how does Bruce Wayne get away with squandering millions of Wayne Enterprise's money on his toys without leaving a paper trail? Well... he doesn't.

Good

In Brokeback Mountain fashion, people are tossing each other off over Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. I'm certainly not the first to say it and will not be the last, but he does a masterful job. A true professional taken from society at the peak of his career. I guess now I'll have to ask for a seat in the massive circle jerk of praise coming from this movie, and no matter how many showers I have to take afterward, it was well worth it.

Not only does Heath Ledger do a fantastic job, but the entire cast wowed me. Eric Roberts played the part of Sal Maroni. It certainly plays to his type casting but you really need someone who knows how to play the part. Casting Michael Jai White as Gambol, William Fitchner as the Bank Manager, and Anthony Michael Hall as Mike Engel, each well known actors, in a combined screen time total of less than 15 minutes is a stroke of genius. They add depth to otherwise ancillary characters and make the whole experience that more believable. There's even a cameo by Tommy "Tiny" Lister towards the end of the movie. Needless to say type casting for him but a very pivotal role.

I watched this in IMAX. The first six minutes and roughly 20 more throughout were all filmed in IMAX film stock. There are stomach churning scenes that add real cinematic value to the action. On top of the slight vertigo, the IMAX I went to served beer. That's right. You could get tanked while watching a two and a half hour movie. Unfortunately the crowd combined with my misanthropic nature prevented me from leaving my seat, but it was the thought that counts.

The cast, the script, and the atmosphere were all positively sublime and merits a view, or two, from even the most jaded movie goer.

Bad

There is very little to complain about. Not to spoil too much, but there's a scene where the Joker throws Rachel out a window and Batman follows her. Don't worry she is saved, but what kind of gets me, is they don't show what the Joker does afterwards. We assume everybody else at the penthouse party is unharmed but that's just the thing, we have to assume it though we're given no logical cue as to what transpired after Batman jumps out the window.

It's little things like that that bother me. The cinematography is fantastic as well as the realistic approach in art direction, but I can't say for sure if emphasing IMAX film stock hurts the experience or makes any difference.

For some, certainly not me, the savagely dark tone is a turn off. I preferred this adult approach, which I remind you is based on adult source material, to something more lighthearted. It alienates the parents who want to take their children to a movie based on a comic book. If you want a comic book movie with a lighter tone, do us both a favor and watch Iron Man. It's a comic book based movie that has a sense of humor but not the same sense of humor wrought from watching a clown make a pencil disappear. Watch the movie and the term "disappearing pencil" takes on a whole new meaning.

Final Thoughts

A fantastic movie that deserves all the praise it has gotten. It doesn't feel like two and a half hours and it is not for children or the faint of heart. The actors and acting are A-list and if I see a better movie until Batman 3, I'll crap my pants where I sit. They'll have to clear the theater. I will be glad when it breaks the $600 million box office hold Titanic has had since 1997.

Random Observations: Social Commentary in Grand Theft Auto IV

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has been been public enemy number one for politicians all over the world. With each title released, Rockstar Games has made a point of challenging the what is viewed as "mature content" in video games. Politicians have taken it upon themselves to try to make an example of the studio. Numerous states have even commissioned research to find if violent games warp the minds of young children... but that is an conversation for a different day. Despite the obvious public resistance, Grand Theft Auto is the strongest intellectual property in gaming.

Traditionally, this a franchise that is known for gratuitous violence and raunchy, tongue-in-cheek humor. What makes this objectionable content palatable is the exaggeration and sharp wit of the script. Most people don't realize that the humor in the game actually works at two levels. There was always the punchline that was so obvious that you could see it from space, normally revolving around toilet humor or ass jokes. This barb would be used to stifle to underlying second level or deeper meaning of the dialog.

It seems as if the developers and writers had been sitting quietly in their offices, making observations on the media circus going on around them. This is reflected in how they portray the media in the game. First of all, the game's fictitious news conglomerate is named Weasel News. Boy, that's subtle... During gameplay, news reports consisted of a host attempting to deliver a piece of news, followed by placing their own sarcastic judgment on the topic. While this was humorous, the deeper message is reflecting the obvious bias of mass media. In some extreme cases commentators would even make jokes about a death! Deeper analysis would say that this reflects our that our society has devalued human life.

In-game advertising continues to paint a damning picture of our society. A brand that is advertised throughout the city is the beer company, "Pisswasser." The name alone is sophomoric shot at imported beer companies. "Pisswasser" billboards are really meant to be both shocking and amusing. They consist of an image of a mouth, performing what appears to be what can only be described as fellatio on the beer bottle. I think it would be a safe assumption that this is may be making a statement about the overuse of sex appeal in advertising.

In yet another shot at lampooning, Rockstar even has a sense of humor about their own past legal incidents. If you have a successful date you can get invited into the date's apartment. The "exchanging of pleasantries," will earn you an achievement titled "Warm Coffee," an obvious reference to the Hot Coffee scandal of several years ago. Though never officially acknowledged by the developer, a certain senator also makes a cameo in the game. Ironically, the seeming lookalike is actually in replacement to the Statue of Liberty, otherwise known as the "Statue of Happiness." A comparison picture is below:

You decide for yourself...

A last situation where social commentary is shown is the title's dating system. The player can use the Internet to arrange dates with different women. Most of the women that Niko can are misogynistic caricatures of female stereotypes found throughout society. Whenever a player picks up a date, she automatically comments on what you are wearing. This judgmental comment normally will set the tone for the date. One would wonder if this is a reflection of how our society places judgment because of what a person wears, without ever getting to know who that person is.

To close, here is a video of Niko Bellic himself making reflections on his life and decisions he has make. It becomes painfully obvious that there was a lot of work put into bringing the character of Niko to life in a very emotional way.

Below is the trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV --
"Niko's Reflections":

Upcoming: Excuses Edition

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

Sometimes life has a way of taking plans and turning them on their ear. That said, the last GTA feature of the week remains unfinished. I hope to wrap it up and get it out by the end of the weekend. Also keep your eye out for a "Second Glace: Wall-E". Afterall, two heads are better than one, why can't it be the same with opinions?

In the meantime, enjoy reluctant_gamer's review of "Lego Indiana Jones."

Have a good weekend!

Review: Lego Indiana Jones

Filed under: , , , by: reluctant _gamer

Here is another guilty pleasure for adult gamers brought to you by Legos. You remember Legos right? The little blue, red, and yellow pieces that you use to put together to make cities and then crush them like Godzilla. Kids today have it even easier, Legos on games. No longer must they put in the hours of effort with three different color blocks or suffer the consequences of dad step on them on the way to the bathroom at night.

Brought to you by Traveller's Tales, makers of Lego Star Wars, is Lego Indiana Jones. This is a compilation of the Indy's first three movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. No Harrison Ford or Sean Connery here, just remarkable Lego look alikes.


Seperated at Birth?
Onto the review.

Game Play/Story

There are actually three stories within the game, four if you count the college. They run in line with the Indiana Jones movies, taking the most memorable scenes and characters from each, adding more humor and some interesting characters from other movies. Each movie is broken up into 6 chapters as follows:

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Lost Temple
Into the Mountains
City of Danger
The Well of Souls
Pursuing the Ark
Opening the Ark

Temple of Doom
Shanghai Showdown
Pankot Secrets
The Temple of Kali
Free the Slaves
Escape the Mines
Battle on the Bridge

Last Crusade
The Hunt for Sir Richard
Castle Rescue
Motorcycle Escape
Trouble in the Sky
Desert Ambush
Temple of the Grail

You also can go to Barnett College, which is the central hub for the whole game. The stories follow the movies’ plot lines, many of the violent parts, like the airplane propeller and the boxer, are toned down (his head pops off and he chases it around). Lego Indiana Jones offers more interaction with the environment then Lego Star Wars. There is more stuff to break to get studs, weapons to throw or shoot (like bottles, chairs, or my favorite the rocket launcher). And LOADS of things to find and unlock. The levels are pretty easy to get through, until you get to the boss. Normally in this type of game it's pretty intuitive what you have to do to beat the boss. Most of the time in this game however I was about ready to through the controller through the screen. How am I suppose to know that you're suppose to through dynamite at a guy throwing rocks at you. But once you figure it out, they're easily beat.

Unlocking
Most of your unlocking is done by buying characters with studs (the little silver, gold, and blue lego pieces you get when smashing objects or people). You can unlock over 60 characters, which can get expensive, so gather your studs. There are also special things to find in the levels such as the artifacts (the gold treasure boxes) and mail/mailboxes. The mail boxes unlock secret codes and are pretty tough to find in each level. There are some other things to find, but those secrets I'll leave to you to find.

Characters
Each story has its own set of characters that you meet or play, 83 regular characters altogether. Each character has its own ability, for example Indiana Jones has his whip, while Short Round can fit into the small hatches. This is just like Lego Star Wars, but Traveller's Tales went a step further. Some characters have phobias. When they see the object that they are scared of, they cower giving you very limited functionality. When playing in free play the characters abilities and phobias play a big role in completing the game.

Bonus: There is also a special unlockable character from the Lego Star Wars Series

Controls
The control scheme is extremely simple, but that understandable, the game is made for 10 year olds. The left analog stick controls character/vehicle navigation, the A button is jump, the B button is to use the ability of the object you picked up or if your Indy, your whip, the X button is attack, and the Y button is to switch between the two playable characters that you see in the upper right/left corners of your screen. In free play, where you have more than just your two characters, the left and right bumpers allow you to cycle through your characters.

Camera

Let's face it. You know if you played Lego Star Wars, the camera sucks. The same is true here. The camera causes more deaths then the sharp spikes that pop out when the other character steps on the trigger. The camera problem gets worse when two people are playing. The game does not split screen like most every other two person game. The camera follows one person most of the time, which can leave the second player in quite a predicament. Like respwaning on the edge of the cliff only to fall down again and start the cycle all over again. But don't fall all to pieces, get it, fall to pieces... nevermind... the game is still playable with two people, you just have to communicate with your partner, preferably with in an indoor voice with non-potty words.

Final Words

Game reviewer overall gave the game about a B/B+ rating. I'd have to agree. The game is alot of fun to play, but the camera wonkiness and boss battles detract from the fun at times. I would say if you are a parent who is afraid to let your child play most action video games because of the violence, this would be the one to give them to get them to shut up. There is no blood, the legos just fall apart. Overall, I recommend this game to children and adults alike. Believe me, after playing it, you'll want to see all the movies again.

Review: Grand Theft Auto IV -- Part 3

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

The never-ending review concludes...

Mission Structure

The process to receive missions remains mainly unchanged from past games. Normally, all you need to do to get a mission is go and meet with one of the many characters shown on your map. In another way of mixing things up a bit, you can receive cell phone calls from people that have "errands" for you to run. Early on, Niko will only have the opportunity to take part in small time drug trafficking and assassinations. As the story progresses he moves onto the more exciting missions like prison breaks and bank robbery.

There is a wide variety of jobs to choose from and moving from mission to mission helps progress the storyline at a steady pace, leaving the playing wanting more. Also worth noting is that there are hundreds of side quests that are available that have no effect on the plot of the game. These tend to be a welcome distraction from the intensely gritty storyline.

Problems

With all the things that this game does right, there are areas where the game tends to fall flat. First of all, the production values of the cut scenes seem extremely polished in the beginning, but dwindle as the game goes on. It almost seems like the developers intentionally beefed the graphics up early until the player is grabbed by the plot. Near the end of the game this is especially evident when cut scenes consist of a hyper-detailed Niko and another character that looks like a department store mannequin. The contrast blatantly sticks out and could pull a player out of the experience.

The other main complaint that I have is the supposed branching storyline. On several occasions you get the chance to make a choice over who to kill or whether to let a person live or die. When these decisions are made, they seem to have very little effect on the overall outcome of the game, other than what person appears in the next cut scene. I would have liked to see these decisions have more of a long term effect on the story.

Final Judgment

While it is not necessarily perfect, Grand Theft Auto IV is the most complete package of story, game play and depth available on the market. The amount of thought and detail shines through, as it creates a realistic environment that you actually want to spend time in. I can attest to this, as it took me almost three months and over fifty hours to complete the game. The sense of humor and social commentary within the game kept me coming back for more.

What blows my mind is that while I have finished the campaign, the progress bar says I still have twenty two percent of the game left to complete! There is so much content squeezed on the disc, that it would truly be a feat to achieve one hundred percent completion. Fortunately, for those playing the game on Xbox 360, the story of Niko Bellic is far from over. The Xbox 360 will be receiving two exclusive downloadable content packs over the next year.

Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the few games that not only lives up to the hype, it exceeds it. This is a landmark title that should be the cornerstone of every gamers' collection. There couldn't be a better argument for games as a form of art. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Below is the fourth trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV --
"Everyone's A Rat":


Review: Rock Band DLC -- "The Best of The Who"

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

The Who have recently seen a huge surge in popularity. This is pretty remarkable considering only half of the original group is still alive and they has been performing together for over forty years. Last week they were out in full force trying to pimp their VH1 Rock Honors special. Considering that VH1 and Harmonix are owned by the same parent company, this brand of shameless cross-promotion is to expected. A twelve track greatest hits collection was released onto the Xbox Live Marketplace last Tuesday. Last Thursday the VH1 Rock Honors special aired, and the week was capped off with an amazing performance to close E3.

There is actually quite a history behind this song pack. It was originally announced at the same press conference the Rock Band debuted. Here is the kicker, it was supposed to be the first complete album available for download. The planned album to be released was "Who's Next." As they prepared to release the album, there was a snag... Some of the master tapes were missing. Meanwhile, the first full album released on Rock Band was not "Who's Next" leaving many a fanboy frothy around the mouth. In June of 2008 the missing masters still had not been found, so there was a compromise that had to be made. The two remaining original members, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend handpicked their favorite tracks for this collection.

The following tracks are included:

  • Amazing Journey
  • Baba O'Riley
  • Behind Blue Eyes
  • Eminence Front
  • Going Mobile
  • Leaving Here
  • My Generation (Live at Leeds)
  • Real Good Looking Boy
  • Sea and Sand
  • Summertime Blues (Live at Leeds)
  • Who Are You
  • Young Man Blues (Live at Leeds)
First I must say that as a child of 90's pop music, I didn't think that I knew any songs by The Who. Boy was I wrong! I pleasantly surprised to find out that was familiar with almost every single track in the collection. Each track features a strong lead guitar that is challenging enough that as a decent (some have said I'm mediocre) player, I was being pushed to my limits. Even the most highly skilled players should find these tracks enough to keep your fingers very busy. The baselines are among some of the best in the game, featuring both solo-ish sections and a fun walking part. Singers are going to have great time belting out some of rocks best hits, while also mixing things up with a ballad or two. There is really a good variety in the vocal range, but I would make sure your falsetto is ready to be challenged. Unfortunately, I can't attest to the drums because currently they are in pieces in my closet. However, it has been mentioned on several blogs that there is plenty of variety to be found, as long as you do not have problems keeping a syncopated beat.

The bottom line is that this is a MUST HAVE for any serious Rock Band fan. It provides a good variety to all of the instruments, while still being accessible to those who are not as skilled. Now if you would excuse me, I have to practice my windmill strumming technique.

Below a video of a hilarious moment at the E3 performance where Roger Daltrey makes fun of the color of the fret buttons on the Rock Band guitar. He then realizes that the guy who designed it is in the audience... Hilarity ensues, Enjoy!




Review: Grand Theft Auto IV -- Part 2

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

The epic 3-part review continues...

Addressing The Critics


Past entries in the GTA III series have been criticized because of their cartoony graphics and physics systems that felt like you were living on the moon. That is definitely not the case with this installment. Every step, altercation, and hairpin turn reacts like you would expect it to happen in the real world.

Speaking of a real world... GTA IV silences all the past complaints that Liberty City being nothing more than non realistic and repetitive environments. They have gone above and beyond in the areas of density, detail and realism. There was such detail put into the city, that you would be hard pressed to find a single art asset that is reused. In a miracle of engineering, these environments stream dynamically from the disc, making load times almost nonexistent.

Taking realism one step further, every randomly generated citizen walking down the street seems unique. There is no cookie cutter character models to be found, even down to the variation in the intonation of their voice. Each person seems to be going about their daily lives, and you are just taking part in it. The bystanders will react to what you are doing, even going as far as to make disparaging comments about your driving, calling 9-1-1 when a crime is occurring, or asking if a person is OK when they are knocked to the ground.

Another issue present in past GTA's was the driving system seemed unrealistic and became monotonous through the course of the game. To combat this, Rockstar Games created a taxi system that is available at any point. This will allow you to get from location to location without ever having to drive. During the taxi ride you get to relax and enjoy the scenery. If a player is willing to pay more money, the entire trip can be skipped, in favor of instantly arriving at their desired location. However, if you do decide to drive you will have the opportunity to once again see the work that has been put into giving life to Liberty City. Rockstar's attention to detail was so high that other drivers will start honking at you if you hold up the flow of traffic.

A last critique that is solved in GTA IV is the combat and shooting mechanics. Prior titles featured a press and pray combat engine. This consisted of pressing the trigger and praying to God that it hit the enemy you were pointing at. More often then not, this system was an utter failure. Skip forward to 2008 and now Niko will take cover, survey the battlefield and shoot down enemies using a gun play system similar to what is seen in Mass Effect or Gears of War. The combat engine has be redesigned from the ground up and is much improved over the past iterations in the series.

Below is the third trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV --
"Move Up, Ladies":



Be sure to check back tomorrow for the final installment in this three-part review feature.

Review: Grand Theft Auto IV -- Part 1

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

I know that this post has been long overdue. This is a game that has gotten universally good reviews and there really isn't anything that I could say that would change that. It doesn't help that the game came out several months ago, but I figured it is better to actually finish the game before I pen a review.

Storyline and Character Development

The story revolves around an illegal immigrant by the name of Niko Bellic, from an unnamed country in Europe. Initially the only thing known about Niko is that he is a veteran of the Bosnian war. He has come to Liberty City in search of the "American Dream," which his cousin Roman raved about in his letters home.

From the very start, it becomes very evident to Niko that Roman is a troubled character that has issues with embellishment. What was described in letters to be a huge mansion, turns out to be a dingy, dirty apartment, infested with insects of the worst variety. Feeling upset by the deception of Roman, Niko sets out to make a new life for himself in the United States. More than anything else, Niko desperately looks to distance himself from his troubled past. This is something that he hauntingly reflects on over the course of the game.


Throughout the storyline you get to meet many different and interesting characters. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • A gibberish speaking Jamaican who has a strong appreciation of the hippie lettuce and unfortunately little appreciation for English grammar. His dialog is saved by the fact that the game has subtitles. Ironically sometimes even the subtitles will show that his speaking is unintelligible!
  • A rare female drug lord who has a habit of snorting away a good portion of her profits.
  • A selfish, wanna be gangster who speaks of doing great things for the community once he hits it big. It should be noted that all of his income is from a collection of strip clubs that he owns... a real model citizen.
  • A troubled, but endearing Irish family that has there hands in crimes all around the city. Did I forget to mention that the oldest sibling is the much maligned Liberty City Chief of Police?
These are just a few of the early personalities that you will come in contact with. Each character in the game is an interesting contradiction within themselves. That said, they are so well developed that you can't help but want to help them. Later on in the story there are characters that are even more compelling, that will pull you further into the gutter of organized crime.

The most revolutionary new feature of GTA IV is the complex relationship mechanic. Every character that you meet will add their phone number to your cell phone. It is then your responsibility to keep in touch with these people and keep them happy. Remaining in the good graces of these characters will benefit you later on in the story in the form of backup going into intense firefights, a ride when you can't hail a taxi, or an instant healing over the phone. However, if they feel ignored, you will not be able to reap the rewards.

These scenes where you essentially "hang out" with your friends are used to develop the back story of Niko. Through dialog and deposition, you are allowed a look inside of the head of a very complex individual. I found these to be some of the most satisfying and rewarding scenes in the game.

Below is the second trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV --

"Looking For That Special Someone":




Stay tuned tomorrow for the continuation of this review feature.

Upcoming: A Week Worth of Grand Theft Auto IV

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

I had so much to say in my Grand Theft Auto IV review, that it turned into a damn dissertation. The result is a week of GTA IV that will feature a comprehensive three-part review of the landmark title.

On Friday you can expect to see another special feature on the underlying social criticisms featured in the GTA Universe. Sounds deep eh? Tune in to find out!

So sit back and enjoy, its gonna be a bumpy ride!

Below is the debut trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV:

The Once Over: Wall-E

Filed under: , by: Priestbeast

Waaaaaaaalllllll-Eeeeee.  The cry that we have all become accustomed to during the previews in movies for the past while.  And it lives up to this humorous cry by an even more humorous voice.

Set a long time in the future, Wall-E is full of political backdrops that lark back to today.  Mounds of trash carpet the earth.  One company runs absolutely everything.  And humans have given up on the problem by running light years away from it.

The movie opens with a small box like robot searching through the garbage.  He is basically an intelligent trash compactor and scrapes trash into his stomach and compacts it.  He then takes that trash and stacks it on piles as high as skyscrapers.  Where all of his counterparts have fallen apart, he collects their working parts and keeps them for when a part of himself breaks. He also collects random trinkets which he finds interested.  

One day while working a space ship shows up and drops off a far advanced robot.  Wall-E is incredibly interested in this robot and follows it everywhere.  The robot finds what it is looking for (won't say, will spoil the movie) and is picked up once again.  Wall-E latches on to the ship and his world explodes with the realization that humans still exist.

The rest of the movie is spent with the human race which has succumb to obesity brought on by the One company (kinda like Walmart).  If to much is said about this part, it will make it less exciting when you go see it.  Which I suggest you do.

This movie is a fresh idea, where as many movies are repeats of different ideas.  Pixar yet again separates itself as unique and witty.  And the movie short before the feature presentation is funny as well.

Rated: G
Running time: 98 minutes
Overall: 4 out of 5

On My Soapbox: Music Games and Band Exclusivity

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

While I was typing my review for Guitar Hero Aerosmith I hit on a disturbing trend in music games, band exclusivity.

As a fan of Aerosmith's music, I was extremely excited to hear about this exclusive title. Now I would be able to find all of their best tunes in one place. But after thinking about this for a second, I began to see this as more of a step back for music games. People seem to take for granted the fact that artists actually want to be a part of games. In the original Guitar Hero and most of Guitar Hero 2, the tracks were cover bands. Seeing the recent success of these games, artists began throwing themselves at publishers, trying to get a small piece of the pie.

That is when bands started striking up exclusive deals with Activison and Harmonix, with the promise of having their own exclusive game or downloadable content. Now it can be assumed that you will no longer be able to find any Aerosmith music in the competing Rock Band franchise. That is disappointing, because the Rock Band experience is far different from that of Guitar Hero.

Unfortunately with the expensive nature of these games, very few gamers have the luxury to have both titles. Having an exclusive band is a slippery slope that could force gamers to choose sides in the music game war. Knowing that your favorite band may not be available on your game of choice would be enough to frustrate even the most steadfast fans.

I will close with this. Competition only will stimulate innovation if your product is worth having. Walling off your product to a select few will never expand your fan base, it will alienate then. Activision and Harmonix need, end this franchise war, before the war kills the genre.

The Once Over: Hancock

Filed under: , by: Priestbeast

Will Smith.  An actor with films that make him seem superhuman.  I, Robot.  MIB. I Am Legend.   This time, in Hancock, he is a superhuman character.


The film opens up nicely.  Hancock is a drunk bum sleeping on a bench with alcohol bottles all around him.  After a little kid wakes him up, he stops a car chase on an LA highway between gunmen and police.  In the process he causes millions of dollars in damage and makes a lot of people mad.

Eventually he saves a PR guy from getting hit by a train.  This guy, Ray Embrey, played by actor Jason Bateman, is desperate for work.  Instead of getting mad at Hancock he thanks him and invites him home for dinner.  Ray's wife, Mary, played by the beautiful Charlize Theron, steps outside to meet them and instantly you can see there is an inner turmoil within her.  But all she does for a while is act really angry and frustrated towards Hancock and you don't know why.

Ray ends up being Hancock's PR guy and the rest of the movie works on improving Hancock's image so that he does not look as bad to the public.  Hancock spends time in jail, goes to anger management meetings, even stops drinking.

Don't get me wrong, there are other twists in the movie that I really cannot give away.  And while most of the movie is really good, it ends a little melodramatically.  The ending, and some low budget CGI at various moments in the movie, are my only complaints.

Rated: PG-13 for violence and language
Running time: 92 minutes
Overall: 3.5 out of 5


Review: Guitar Hero Aerosmith

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Guitar Hero has been a staple of house parties for several years now. Many can attest that this is a game that has been widely enjoyed by both sober and inebriated. The next evolution of this franchise features Aerosmith, as they try to take over the world, one playschool instrument at a time.

The loosely connected story starts with the young Aerosmith at their first gig at Mendon Nipmuc Regional High School, and follows them through the important shows of their career's. This comes to a climax when the band performs at the Super Bowl and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Anyone who is a fan of the Guitar Hero games knows that between each new venue there is normally a goofy cartoon of some sort. This title breaks that trend by show amusing commentary from interviews with the band. I personally found this to be a very welcome change of pace.

Character selection also plays a different role in this version of the game. At the beginning of each venue you will select your rocker. These are the same characters that are available in Guitar Hero 3, along with a few other exclusives that can be purchased in the store. You will play the first three songs at every venue with this player. All of these songs will be non-Aerosmith songs. After successful completion of these tracks, you invite Aerosmith on stage. The player will then proceed to play through three to four songs as the rock legends.

Now onto the most important thing, the music. With the exception of "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," (Thank Goodness!) all of Aerosmith's the classics are featured prominently. The total track list for the campaign clocks in at thirty-one songs. There are also ten more tracks that can be purchased in the store. The store tracks include other Aerosmith songs as well as some from Joe Perry's side project.

There has been a general outcry that a game that only features forty-one songs should not be packaged as a stand alone, sixty dollar package. After playing the game, I somewhat agree. While yes the added content was nice, there was no evolution to gameplay that would warrant a full disc release. It might have been better served as DLC for Guitar Hero 3.

The bottom line is that this is a game for the fans of Aerosmith. If you are not in this camp, then you may be better served in giving it a weekend rent. That said, I bought it... but I am stupid like that! The game is definitely worth a play through, so give it a try, you'll be glad you did.

Below is the trailer for Guitar Hero Aerosmith:


First Impressions: Lego Indiana Jones

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Let me preface this by saying that I am a fan of the Indiana Jones franchise, so this may be a bit biased. Also, I have only had the chance to play the game in Co-Op with my wife, but so far we have both had a fairly positive experience.

The game's story covers the plot of first three Indiana Jones films. Each mission has provided a strong variety of platforming and puzzles, all while steadily progressing through the story. Each character has their own unique abilities. For example, Indy can lasso hooks that are above his head and use his whip to swing across wide chasms. Many of the other special abilities are clones of those found in the Lego Star Wars game, just attached to the other supporting characters from the Indiana Jones universe.

So far I only have two real complaints:

  • The camera is not made for Co-Op gameplay. Frequently, my wife would be fighting an enemy on one side of the screen while I would be searching for coins on the opposite side. The camera would only pan out to a predefined distance, which would prevent both of us to progressing in our respective directions. While yes this encourages cooperative communication, it should not be a hindrance to enjoying a game experience.
  • Objectives in some of the puzzles and boss battles are unclear and/or confusing! Enough said, I will elaborate on this further after I have had more time with the game.
Stay tuned for my full review coming soon!

Below is the trailer for the game:


Review: Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

On the surface this looks like an interesting game. It debuts a hand-to-hand combat system designed by HighMoon Studios, specifically for this game. This system tries to encapsulate what it would be like to fight as Jason Bourne. Your character will fight using highlighted objects in the environment as weapons, a trait highlighted in all of the films.

When you are not in the hand-to-hand combat mode, you find yourself traversing levels in a over-the-shoulder third person perspective. This is very much in the same vein as Gears of War. They have also stolen/borrowed the cover mechanic from Gears, with one minor tweak: If you press down on the left control stick, you will change which shoulder the camera is viewing. It is very useful in the intense firefights that are encountered later in the game.


The plot of the game seems to coincide with the general plot of the movies. Man forgets who he is, man tries to find his identity, man kicks ass of anyone who gets in his way. And boy is there a lot of ass-kicking. This actually becomes problematic as the game goes on because
every single boss battle in the game is a hand-to-hand encounter. This combat is downright unwieldy and difficult to use. It doesn't help the matter when the camera control is mapped to the right stick. This is the same thumb that you have to use to actually mash buttons to punch and block. The result is a lot of fights end up being lost when your enemy works the player into a corner and the camera is not smart enough to correct itself. You instead end up looking down on your fight from above, not being able to direct your player in any way. I died so many times on one boss battle, that I damn near destroyed my controller!

As for the enemies, it looks like there is a factory that is manufacturing identical clone cronies. It is rather ridiculous to have to kill the same enemy over and over again. The AI was decent, but nothing to write home to your mother about. Gun wielding enemies would take cover when necessary, but had a nasty case of "short bus syndrome" when it came to keeping their hear out of the line of fire. Frequently firefights would degenerate into a target practice session where the player would end up shooting at a slivers worth of an enemy's head, sticking out from behind cover.


Overall, the game has a decent story and a moderately compelling main character. Unfortunately the combat ends up being a tedious exercise in repetition. It would be difficult to justify spending your hard-earned sixty bucks on a game that has flaws of this magnitude.
You can rent this game if you are a die hard fan of the Bourne movies. Instead, I am going to save my money for the upcoming Bond game.

Below is the premier trailer for the game James Bond: Quantum of Solace.


Welcome to MY world

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

I am just a random guy who decided to start a blog on a topic that I feel passionately about, video games. In the coming weeks I plan to post anything from reviews to articles that I find interesting. Who knows, maybe I will even talk about my mundane life... but on with the fun. Look forward to hearing from me soon!