Thursday, March 05, 2009

Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes is the greatest real-time strategy game I've ever played. Campaign mode is challenging, graphically appealing, and so simple to control.

The problem arises when I try to get into multiplayer. Simply trying to login to multiplayer means I have to download a number of patches. These download by themselves. A few of them are huge (we're talking 1.8 Gigs for one of them), so they're slow to load. Once these are installed, I load the CD back in the tray to play. There is no option to PLAY the game! Only an Install button is available. I click Install. I get an error message saying the game is already installed. I try to load the game from the Start Menu, but there is no option available. I finally go to the install directory and try to find an executable file to click on or shortcut to. When I finally find it, it loads directly into Multiplayer and tells me I have to download that same 1.8 Gig patch!!! I've already uninstalled and reinstalled everything TWICE!

I go online to try to find a resolution. There is no link for Technical Support on the Company of Heroes website. I go to the forums. These are littered with posts from people having problems loading patches, joining multiplayer games, or dropping from the server. There are no real answers from anyone resembling Tech Support. Just a few random suggestions from people to try this or that solution.

Is it commonplace that a great game is often marred by technical issues that go unresolved? I have become so stressed out over this issue that I want to trash the game entirely.

Way to go, THQ and Relic. I won't be buying anymore games with your logos attached.

Sifted: 4/10 for compelling campaign but unplayable multiplayer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review: Let the Right One In (2008)

Yes, it does make "Twilight" look amateurish.

from Wikipedia:

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, was released in 2008 to widespread critical acclaim. An English language remake, to be directed by Matt Reeves, is scheduled for release in 2010.
I suspect the English version will lose all the subtlety and play down the issues to make it more appealing to the masses, thereby destroying the story in its entirety. It's the timid, subtle cinematographic elements of this film that give it credence. When we look into Eli the vampire's eyes and see how oddly blue they are, even in the dark; when Oskar has a sublte face twitch, or his gaze fades, or he is admiring a classmate. I suspect any English translation will lose its charm, by virtue of us American's having the subtlety of Anne Coulter at a gay pride parade.

If you like morbid-type film, you need to see this movie now. I wouldn't rate it as a thriller or a horror movie, or even a romance; it's kind of all three rolled into one. And very much a movie to watch on a hot, midsummer sunday, when you're lingering on the couch and dreaming of the snow.

This film is ultimately subtle, rarely relying in the cliché special fx we see in typical vampire movies. And perhaps more impressively, it doesn't delve into the romance of being a vampire. Eli's existence is a lonely, solitary existence, for the most part. By virtue of her vampirism, perhaps out of an analogy of outward racism, she is dejected by society and forced to live in an apartment complex similar to the projects. When she meets Oskar, the film's protagonist, we see her standing triumphantly over a busted jungle gym. This is the theme of the film, in fact: to win out, despite your oddness.

The soundtrack was so subtle that I don't even remember there being one and I didn't miss it. That, in my opinion, is the definition of subtlety.

The cinematography was excellent. I noticed no problems with lighting or failed special fx, save during one instance: cats, is all I'm gonna say. You could tell their budget got stretched there, but it wasn't so jarring to cause any permanent damage to the integrity of the film.

This is a modern-day Romeo & Juliet. Oskar is beaten by school bullies, while Eli is subjected to a life of boredom in her apartment. Only by using each other's skills will they find a way out of their pitiful lives.

If this movie fails anywhere, it's in the slow, drawling, almost dream-like way this story is told. Perhaps it is this that reminds the viewer of their own adolescence. Nevertheless, there are times when camera lingers in a place we don't want to be for a touch too long, but that's part of the beauty. I really wanted to SEE the outcome of their spree and I was left feeling as if there was no final development.

There are places the director seemed to feel comfortable, while other places he did not (or could not show us--probably due to budget constraints). If the English translation could flush out these parts, it might be good. I think if they stick to the same point of view as this film, they will do well.

Somebody give THIS movie an Academy Award, please.

Sifted: 9.5/10

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How much will they pay Sam Adams' accuser?

I am curious how much Beau Breedlove will be offered to "turn State's evidence" against Sam Adams during this devious attempt to investigate drag another Democrat through the mud? How much will it be Beau? Couple of million dollars to sell out your ethics and ruin the life of one of your former lovers? Just how much is a gay man's soul going for these days?

I realize Beau is young, but I hope he has more sense than to sell his soul to the media and ruin another man's life and potential in the process. Only bad could come from that. It's certainly not worth any amount of money to bring about someone's ruination. If Beau is a good person, I know he'll realize that and turn down any offers. Lying about a relationship with a person as good as Sam Adams is simply evil.

Sam Adams is gay. He was involved with a younger man. So what? If Sam could get married, he probably would be married by now. But he can't, so there is no point in trying to discredit him morally when the man is obviously single and ready to mingle. I hate to be cliche, but quit hating the player and hate the game.

If Sam broke a law, surely it might involve the buggering of a 17-year-old gay man-boy (although it's possible that Sam was the one being buggered). It's my understanding that they never knew each other even existed prior to Beau being 17--which I'm sure the media are frothing to discover was actually 16, or better yet: 11. Sheesh.

I realize sex with a 17-year-old is illegal in the US, but come on ... really? Maybe Sam Adams should have married the kid first? In fact, none of this would be a problem if he could, right? Double-standardized Hypocrite Alert!

I, for one, am not buying it. And I won't be reading the Willamette Week OR Just Out anymore either.

If you are going down, Sam Adams, go down with some flare, will ya? Don't crawl away like a political lamb to the slaughter. Go out with court cases and courtroom drama, with lawsuits against every newspaper in the county, against the city, against the county--I recommend a good defamation lawsuit against the Willamette Week and Just Out, for starters. This kind of information is not newsworthy or of any benefit to the community. Mainly because no one cares what you do in your bedroom, Sam Adams. And the community needs to treat those who do shamefully, for this type of smear campaign is costly in money and human souls and it needs to simply end. It is the darkest propaganda.

We need to protect the children from watching this modern-day witch-hunt, to refrain from giving them any bright ideas, and to protect them from the wiley, wicked ways of the liars and false prudes who are pursuing the downfall of a gay man right before our eyes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review: Black Milk "Tronic" (2008)

This is the best Rap album I've heard in years. I'm SERIOUS! We're talking six 5-star songs out of 14. And two more 4-stars. In this day and age of fabricated Hip-Hop, an album with three or more 5-star songs is good, so this album is off the chain. Some of these joints are epic, almost anthemic, with great beats and some electronica mixed in with classic soul all mashed up in it for great effect. The flows are tight and don't bother with all that flossy bullshit and foul language that so many lesser rappers are prone to spit. This album resurrects Rap and yanks it from the hands of all those trashy billboard hos once and for all.

If there's any weakness, it's that it could be a little harder, but that just goes with the territory when you stir in Electronica.

Sifted: 10/10

Review: The Wrestler (2008)

I'm not a hater. Mickey Rourke has had it tough, and there's nothing Hollywood loves more than a comeback, and The Wrestler is more than a worthy entry for movie of the year; not to mention, Rourke's performance is strong, nor does Marisa Tomei disappoint in her cliché role as a stripper with a good heart.

"But come on! It's a movie about Wrestling!" some people might say, and they would be right, but it's a film about so much more than that. This is a film about redemption and the sordid elements of a life lived to pursue a dream. Rourke's performance is spot-on and very touching.

The ultra-violence of the sport at times becomes laughable and it's horrifying that we can laugh at it, but the fact that it's all an illusion, however dangerous, makes it somehow less disturbing, even comedic. When Rourke steps backstage after his masterful performance, covered in blood, embedded by glass, thumbtacked back and all, he's met with applause and cheers from his co-performers and we're shown the ugly truth: that a man has damaged his life (and continues to do so) to create an illusion for us to enjoy. It's ultimately very sad and I left the movie feeling depressed.

There was a strong Christian subtext that bothered me. Rourke's character is compared to Jesus, undergoing bloody punishment like the Christ in The Passion. The end almost slides into blatant obviousness that comes just short of getting all church-preachy, off the top rope, hands extended all messianically. Hell, is that even a word?

Despite the obvious subtext, the movie is great. I just don't know if it's Movie of the Year good. I suspect The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will steal the win, simply because it's safer and more sanitized, much like Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction. But time will vindicate this movie, for it's an instant classic reminiscent of Raging Bull. And while I don't forgive Rourke's douchebaggery from the 80's when he was all wife-beating and being a giant asshole, I give his performance kudos. And Marisa's role as a washed out stripper is a mirror to Rourke's, and in many ways almost sadder. Honestly, I don't know how Aronofsky pulled this one off without elliciting the audience's tears. This film is beautiful and harsh all at once, like a dollar bill stapled to someone's forehead for nothing more than comic effect.

Sifted: 9/10

Now playing: Black Milk - Losing Out (feat. Royce Da 5'9")
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Review: Far Cry 2 (XBox 360)

Wow, I've never seen such a beautiful game marred by sluggish controls and generally bad gameplay.

You play as a mercenary in an African country on the brink of civil unrest. Your mission: find the person arming both sides in the conflict--aka The Jackal--and eliminate him.

Ubisoft went out of their way to give Far Cry 2 a lush landscape, full of captivating imagery, a massive, open gameworld, and incredible audio. Problem is: it's a hot mess.

First of all, the gameplay is frustrating. Ubisoft pulled out all the stops and wanted to give us a massive gaming world to play through. Unfortunately, this is what gets in the way of enjoying the campaign! You are given missions that are usually on the other side of the map. And the map is huge, mind you. We're talking miles. Each mission seems to relish in sending us on a 5-10 minute trek just to get to the mission! And that's not the most irksome part! There are armed guards and patrols that come at you relentlessly. So by the time you actually get to the mission, you may be running low on ammo, and/or injured and low on health packs. And there is no way to simply jump around to the next mission. Yes, there is a bus you can take to four other points on the map, but those points are usually just as far, since they're positioned near the four corners of the map! Who's the idiot who came up with that concept? Fire him or her at once. For even clearing a guard station will not aid you next time you need to cross that path because the armed guards simply respawn over time. Ack.

Fun, Quick Gunplay? NO.
We are given several character choices at the start. Refreshing. But there's no real relevance regarding who you choose because this is a first person shooter anyway. In other words, you won't see yourself, so who cares who you choose? Cool, yes. Required? No. Important in the game? No. Big waste of time? Yes.

And despite the spoiler, I'm gonna tell you anyway: you start the game with malaria. So all the cool things you would like to do will cause you to die, like oh, running and jumping. I swear, this is becoming more and more like a bad relationship. Far Cry 2 is like being able to date a supermodel who never lets you touch her. Beautiful, sophisticated, but a little shallow and ultimately frustrating.

There are a number of side missions you can choose to pursue, along with missions you are forced to perform in order to acquire medicine. Because if you run out of malaria pills, you're likely to drop dead in the middle of a firefight. So hey, if you don't want to pursue those missions, you're free not to. But how much fun will you have when you're dropping dead in the middle of a mission? In other words, these are forced missions, veiled as not. Yeah, there's a beautiful open world to play in here, but having malaria is like being put on a short leash. Or like being forced to stay in your hotel room during your vacation, with diarrhea, on beach day.

There are some excellent points in the game, like being able to sneak up on someone with a machete (a gloriously missed opportunity to throw in some cinematic murder cutscenes ala Manhunt). Alas, no. We're left with a largely unwieldy mess that often times doesn't drop an opponent and leaves them calling their buddies for help. Other times, it seems like you've dropped someone with a tap that wouldn't hassle a fly.

Several times I was sent on missions to eliminate certain individuals in a no-gun zone. I used my machete. And suddenly half the town starts shooting at me! Even though no one witnessed the killing. It's just unfair and unpolished.

Throw in some cliche monkey bullshit diamond case collecting and I'm about to chuck this one out the DVD Drive.

But it's so pretty. I just can't bring myself to do it. It's like a love affair with low-grade Crystal Meth. You know it sucks. You know it's rotten. But you're chasing the dragon.And for what? Another diamond case with its huge solitary diamond that inches you closer to being able to buy an AK-47. Though everyone knows a diamond that big would buy you the entire country in a heartbeat. Just 6 more cases to locate via GPS until I can buy an AK! Bullshit.

Audio is something rarely noticed in gaming. A good soundtrack stands out. A bad soundtrack stands out like a sore thumb. I usually turn off the game music and stream my own tunes via my computer. This proved a challenge in this game, however. Boat engine noise would drown out anything I was listening to while I traveled downriver to my next distant mission. At other times, that same music would be too loud. Ugh. And there are no sound effect settings. So while characters converse in whispers, bullets and explosions are overbearing. And nothing sounds right. People who are fifty feet away sound like they're having a conversation right next to you. The sounds of the jungle seem to convincingly harbor wild animals stampeding beside you in the brush, but when you look they're farther than you can throw a football pass. The sound in this game is simply atrocious.

Driving is tedious. And looking at a map while driving doesn't seem to be a good option. For some reason, a gentle nudge with the right thumbstick would make me crane my neck as if I were having a stroke. Nothing some simple QA couldn't fix. It's a shame the game was shipped this way.

Everything else seems adequate. I am left feeling like Far Cry 2 dropped the ball miserably. I didn't even bother with the multiplayer. Simply because I could already tell the controls would be too frustrating. Aiming shouldn't be a chore in a video game. And when sending me on missions that span through 20 miles of jungle filled with omniscient guards, I'm sick and tired of it after the 4th mission or so. Nevermind the other 20.

I was left feeling like this was a game that could have just never been made. There was no real innovation here. The controls sucked, and ultimately, all this does is showcase Ubisoft's ability to make a pretty-looking jungle.

Sifted: 6.5 out of 10

Friday, November 07, 2008

Can we run a System Restore on the country, please?!?

Wouldn't it be grand if we could rollback the country's systems and policies by at least 6 months? Obama will need to undo the changes being imposed by the current administration as they claw their way out of the white house.

Dammit, Bush just ... the whole thing!