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Malik (8/28/06)  

I don't know what to really make of it, but I saw Beerfest this Saturday...along with around 7 other people. I don't mean I was in a group of seven. I mean I was in a group of 5 people (counting myself) and there were a few other people in the theater...on opening weekend.

I hope this was only because I watched it in Bellevue, a few blocks from where PAX was taking place. I know a lot of PAX people would fit into the target audience (especially since most of the people in the group I saw Beerfest were took a break from PAX to see the movie), and I hope this is why the theater was so empty. That and it was early (12:20) when I saw the movie.

What I'm trying to say is that, despite what critics may say, I thought Beerfest was awesome. It had enough laugh out loud moments to easily justify the price of admission. Hell, I would've felt proud to have paid a non-matinee price for this movie. I may even watch it again, just because it was so good.

Some people have not been happy with Broken Lizard (the dudes behind Beerfest) since Super Troopers, and while I felt good about Club Dread, I think this is the right movie to bring many of the old school Broken Lizard fans back to the winning team. I just want to know if Bellevue was the only place suffering from a lack of an audience.

Anyway, I really didn't get in too much gaming this weekend. Despite living a mile from PAX, I didn't feel like attending (and it sounds like I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as others might since it sounds like the tabletop gaming was more of the wow experience than video games). I tried to play a few games, including too much time with Zuma (one of my guilty/mindless pleasures) on the Live Arcade, but I really wasn't feeling the game vibe this weekend.

I also tried to newer Test Drive Unlimited demo on Live...and I can tell you that while the E3 demo didn't exactly make me feel all warm and tingly, the new demo makes me feel a more definite reaction; this game will not be worth the disk it's made from. TDU feels like a cheap attempt to revive a dying franchise, much like how NFS was resurrected from obscurity...except NFS has always been good and Test Drive has outlived it's few moments of glory. I have honestly not enjoyed a Test Drive game since I played it on the Commodore 64...and that's saying something. I swear that I will never allow this game, and possibly even this franchise, into my home least not until the whole series gets made into something that doesn't make it feel like a mere clone of everyone else.

Beyond that little bit of gaming, I was just too damned tired this weekend to do anything worthwhile. I got a few couches and...well...moving two couches is not bad. However, moving two couches that both have recliners built into them is the same sort of hell that can only be found in moving a hide-a-bed. At least they don't open up mid-travel as easily as a hide-a-bed, but they still have the same awkward shape and excessive weight that makes one wonder how a single piece of furniture could weight so damned much.

Well, my posting may be weird and scatter-brained for the next couple of days. Between having some excessively long work days, unusual things planned after work on these long days, and Saint's Row (and Enchant Arms) coming out soon, it will be a crazy and hectic week. I'll see what comes about...but I promise nothing.


Malik (8/30/06)  

I am very f#@%ing tired right now. As I type this (which is about 8 hours prior to posting it), I am half way through two very long, labor intensive, and mentally fatiguing days of lab work. So, that's both a reason why last night was post-less and why tonight I may sound a bit out of it. However, on the bright side, I took out some of my frustrations on a little side editorial on that damned subject of "What is next gen?". Enjoy!

So, I did have enough mental will last night to try out Saint's Row. First off, for those who keep saying it's a GTA are absolutely right. Is this a bad thing? Hell no! Is this a sign of the industry stagnating? Hell no! Is this in any way something to be concerned about or should bring about the flames of fanboys? Once again...hell no!

If Zelda didn't exist, would we have seen Alundra, Beyond Good and Evil, Beyond Oasis, Crusader of Centy, or any of the other Zelda-esque titles that have brought us such pleasure over the years? Maybe, but probably not. By the way, if you don't recognize all of these titles, you owe it to yourself to track them down and play them.

Anyway, GTA set a precident that we should celebrate. It was the first and previously only game franchise to bring the elements it contains and to show them off in a fun and entertaining gaming experience. So, if Saint's Row borrows upon the same concepts and (unlike Godfather, Driv3r, and True Crime) does so successfully. So, if Saint's Row borrows, who are we, as gamers, to complain if the game is fun?

Anyway, as for the game itself, if you couldn't tell from what I've said so far, it's damned good. While there are some elements handled better in GTA:SA (like the plot and writing, which does feel forced on SR), SR does a few things far better than GTA could ever hope to handle. For example, while I may be the only person in the world who enjoyed the auto-aim of GTA:SA, the free aiming scheme of SR is nothing short of easy to use and intuitive.

Most of all, it's the non-plot missions that has SR in a massive lead. These "activities" as they are called are not about the same old crap. You don't drive an ambulance or a fire truck to do repetitive tasks of saving lives, despite being a criminal. No. Instead you have jobs that fit your character type (gang-banger) and offer a good level of variety. On one type, called "escort" (I'm about to do something I never thought I'd do...praise an "escort" mission on a game), you have to drive a car while your two passengers are doing in the back seat. However, you'll be followed by the press (wanting to smear the name of one of your passengers who will always be a person of influence) and sometimes a jilted spouse. You goal is to avoid crashing and to keep the press away enough for the passengers to have a fun time of things. Also, every once in a while, the passenger may have an extra one gets off on auto crashes and you need to crash some to influence his happiness.

Another activity has you picking up ho's while you fight back their pimps. This is the snatch mission from the demo, and it's back with some extra twists in the final game.

A third type of activity has you riding shotgun in a hippy drug dealer's van as he does his rounds. It's your job to cover him while he's doing deliveries. It's a lot like any of the missions in GTA:SA in which you ride shotgun, but now you have more control of the aiming and a lot more excitement coming your way.

The most obvious thing in the final game versus the demo is that this game is polished. There are a few minor annoyances, but absolutely nothing you wouldn't find in GTA:SA. The driving is refined, you can drive anywhere from the start of the game, you can store multiple cars in a garage, you can change clothes with far less loading time, and you can call up homies to help you out (and if they die, they will be permanently dead...I learned that the hard way and saved with my late friend six feet under).

The only thing this game lacks is two wheeled vehicles and aircraft...and quite frankly, I don't think they will really be missed. Who really thought the idea of a gang-banger flying a jumbo-jet or a Harrier made any sense? I know I thought it was a bit silly.

Well, I'm out of here for today. I should be refreshed and ready to post with my fullest of attention spans for now, Saint's Row and sleep both beckon me...who will win? Tune in tomorrow to...ummm...not learn the answer (since it's not worth posting) :P


Malik (8/31/06)  

Some potentially interesting or fun Microsoft news to start things off...

Microsoft will do with the 360 Live Marketplace what they did for E3 for the TGS. In other words, they will be releasing game trailers, demos, and other fun bits to let the games see some of what is at the show, in proper perspective of a home entertainment center instead of the usual Internet downloads. While this sounds cool, I just hope they do one thing better than was handled with their E3 coverage; give us some good demos that are actually worth downloading.

Lost Planet offered a fun demo, but Moto GP and Test Drive Unlimited were nothing to get excited about from the E3 offering. In fact, these were two of the first demos I downloaded and deleted in the same exact day. Maybe the TGS demos will be better (at least we'll probably see a Mistwalker trailer or two). All I can say is that if a measly 3 demos are given and that they mostly suck, then Microsoft should rethink this type of approach for the time being and wait until what they offer can actually make their system look good.

Also, the public XNA beta is now ready for use. This is another mixed bag. I've been too caught up in playing insurance fraud of Saint's Row to have even looked at XNA, so I'm a bit behind. However, if XNA offers enough ease in programming, this should be a fun little diversion. Best of all, when the full public version hits in a few months, assuming the architecture of XNA is solid, we'll probably see some really amazing Arcade games.

Well, I hate to sound like I'm not giving any love to the other consoles, but it looks like until September, there just won't be anything worthwhile to talk about with the Wii. As for the PS3...well, I honestly think that there's nothing to get excited about with that thing, and while I'd love to be proven wrong...I don't think I'll be speaking much about the PS3 until November.

However, I can speak about Saint's Row. I had almost no time to play last night (due to the real world being one hell of a bitch), but I finally started playing with the insurance fraud activity. Wow! That's the best way to sum up this little diversion.

While snatch, drug trafficking, and escort have offered some amusement, it's insurance fraud that makes me see what truly let's SR stand out from the GTA games. Basically, in insurance fraud, you have the duty of throwing yourself in front of moving cars to try to help a lawyer rack up the most fraudulent insurance claims as possibly. This can be enhanced by having more witnesses to your mayhem, traveling far through the air, being dragged, or (best of all) being hit by a police vehicle.

You start the first level with a small amount of time and a need to rack up a small amount of claims. Finish that level and you'll need to rack up more claims in a slightly larger time frame. Also, the location you have to get "injured" in will sometimes move mid-level and you'll need to remain on your toes. Best of all, you can start a mission with a nice point boost by driving at full speed head-on into on-coming traffic and fly out of your windshield.

I think if the SR game becomes the SR franchise, this activity will become like what crash mode was in Burnout. Crash started as only a thing that occurred in the game when you raced, but with time it become a legendary game mode. If SR2 ever comes along (strong possibility), I wouldn't be surprised to see insurance fraud continue in that game, and maybe even be turned into a mini-game playable outside of the standard single player experience. Hell, an online multiplayer version doesn't seem like such a far fetched idea. After all, this would be one hell of a cool party and multiplayer game.

I also went ahead and purchased Enchanted Arms last night. I haven't played any yet, since the world was...well, you know that "one hell of a bitch" thing I mentioned. However, I do have to say something on this game, even before I've played it any.

Follow this link (it goes to the Enchanted Arms message boards of GameFAQs) and look for any topic about Makoto, "not straight" people, or anything that sounds kinda...ummm...non-PC. Yes, there is a gay character in EA. Yes, he is one of the main characters who does indeed join your party. Now that that is cleared up, let's f$#@ing get over it!

For some reason, whenever a gay video game character is seen, so many people seem to get up in arms about how they will never play that game just because there's a gay character in it. Either that, or the game is considered a joke, no matter how great the game may be. For example, Shadow Hearts 2 became a huge joke because there are two merchants you deal with for the whole game that are quite obviously gay lovers and one of them likes to trade sleazy pictures (of guys) for dresses (for a doll). Well, here's my questions for you all; how many of you knew about this? I bet a lot of you did. How many actually played this game, despite the "teh gayzor" characters? Not nearly as many, I'm willing to bet.

I know a lot of my friends, including ones who love good RPGs, never played this game, but could not stop joking about it. These friends include one who likes Suikoden and Final Fantasy games...yet never even considered playing SH2. Hell, I only know a couple of people who've play SH2, yet I know of about ten times that amount who loved to joke about it. You know what? The gay characters made up so little of the game's experience, yet it's all it was known for.

Seriously, let's get over it already. If I go to Starbucks, I don't freak out and start giggling like a school girl because that guy who's making my mocha is gay. I walk down the street and don't start to snicker because two guys are holding hands. Let us face reality...there are gay people in the world. Whatever you feel about that orientation is up to you and your beliefs. However, you have two choices. You can either be civil about it, or you can be a dick. If you want to be a dick, might I remind you that whatever your reasons, they/you are probably either criminal or blinded by ignorance of your own supposed faith (that's for the religious nuts who use the Bible as a reason to hate).

Now that we've established that gay people live in the world, let me ask this; why should it be so bad for them to be in video games? True, they are usually portrayed as a bit overly flamboyant in games, but that's not the point. The point seems to be that we are supposed to laugh because it's a "joke". I'm sorry, but I find that type of behavior from games, and any attempt to use it purely as a joke by developers, to be nothing short of bigoted and morally bankrupt.

Anyway, to not sound too preachy, I'll just finish with this one thought...just like my editorial on the issue of a game not being "next-gen enough", the same applies to games with gay characters; if the game is good, then that's all that matters. Don't turn potentially good games into jokes that are blind and bigoted. Most important, there's a lot of hate and ignorance in the world...try not to add to it if you don't have to.

Anyway, if it's something you find morally objectionable...well, you could always shut the f#@% up and let those of us who don't mind enjoy it!


Malik (9/1/06)  

If you're a PS3 fanboy (which still confuses me since we've hardly seen the damn thing in action and the vast majority of us have only seen the thing in videos and not even in real life), you will say that PS3 exclusive titles make sense from third party developers because the PS3 is "far more powerful than the 360". If you're a 360 fanboy (more understandable since the 360 is in many homes and does have a couple of nice games considering it's only year one), then you may say that the 360 will have some third party exclusives since a few parts of the system are more powerful than the PS3 is supposed to be.

Whatever your stand may be, I like to think this will be the generation that removes most exclusive titles from the common third party developers, like Rockstar, Ubisoft, and EA. After all, the reality of it all shows that the PS3 and the 360 are very similar in abilities, and the use of Blu-ray will not make a real difference (one disk versus three...who honestly gives a f#@^ is the 360 users have to swap disks a few times since that's been going on since the PSX days). 1080p? Doesn't mean shit to a real gamer.

So, with that little interlude, I can now proudly say "I f#@%ing told you so!". Yes, Assassin's Creed is coming to the PS3 (as we always knew), the PC (was that even a surprise), and the bane of the PS3 fanboys in the 360 version. Now we just have one more important question about this game before we can put the hype to sleep and wait for the game to be released or for some trailers; why is everyone so damned excited about this game? We haven't seen enough to merit such hype, we haven't seen any real game play, and we've yet to know anything about the game beyond it's medieval setting and the systems it will be on.

On the note of hyped games, and this is about one that delivered upon the hype, Saint's Row is going to get an update in the near future. The details are limited, but something about fixing some single- and multi-player issues. I don't know about the online issues since the single player game is too good to take a break from, but I've yet to encounter and single player issues. However, it's good to know that Volition is still working hard to make this awesome game (unless you're a GTA fanboy...but then you could go f#@% yourself) even better.

Since I don't want to show any favoritism, I have a little PSP news, for once. I gave up my PSP and will probably never look back, but if anything would have the potential to bring me back to the dark side, it would be the chance to play Syndicate on the PSP. Yes, EA is bringing EA Replay, a compilation of 14 classic EA titles, including one of my all time favorites (Syndicate). Most of the titles will probably not live up to modern standards, especially the Road Rash games. However, when you toss in Ultima: the Black Gate, it's going to be worth the price of admission...assuming the game goes for around $35, and not a full $50.

To round out the news for this wonderful day (it's Friday before a four day weekend...damn straight it's a wonderful day!), Duke Nukem Forever is "almost done". I don't know what to necessarily make of this, but if it's true, then one of the great geek legends of vaporware may be coming to an end. Hell...what am I saying? This game may supposedly be nearly done and just going through some polish, but one of two things is almost assured. Either the game will be another example of Daikatana (long delayed and then archaic and crap-tacular) or it will somehow get "delayed" again and we'll continue to forget all about it. Either way...I don't see anyone having "fun" with DNF anytime this lifetime.

Well, I've still been playing Saint's Row and I have to say that while I may be a giant GTA fan (not fanboy), this game is kicking it's ass in my eyes. For one thing, it was not too often in GTA that I would tell myself "just one more mission" and end up going through about 6 more. SR, on the other hand, had me doing that for the last two nights. Also, I enjoy that the missions, despite what some reviews may say, are very diverse. While it does all still come down to one of two things (gunning or running/driving), there's still a good deal more variety than GTA:SA gave us. Plus, I don't remember a mission as cool in GTA:SA as the one in SR where you have to commit random acts of violence while dressed as a rival gang member so that it's captured by the news.

Also, on the technical side of things, the weather effects of GTA:SA don't have shit on SR. While the weather effects still aren't quite as real as I'd like to see them, it's fun to have a blinding rain storm hit town. It will add to frustration if you're mid-mission, but it is really amazing to be blinded by torrential rains as you're in a high speed chase. I still wish we could see an open-ended game of this style with realistic snow effects (as a very limited time event). Maybe GTA4 could deliver this...especially since rumors seem to point to a Chicago styled setting for the next in this series.

Well, like I said, I have a four day weekend coming up. So, while I may try to post on Monday or Tuesday, I will guarantee nothing. It's all up to how well I can manage my new found freedom...and how much time I end up spending looking for a new job so I can get this level of freedom more than once a year.

Safe Labor Day to all, and let your grills be searing hot and your beers icy cold!


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