Feb 16, 2010

The Return to Rapture: Bioshock 2

Who knew that my first post of 2010 would be in February? Who knew that it would be about Bioshock 2, and not my much-anticipated Mass Effect 2? Life is full of them darn surprises I guess. Below is a review I wrote for Gamespot.com and I thought 'Hey, it's mine, so I might as well put it on my blog'. So here it is. My lengthy review of Bioshock 2. Hey that rhymes!

Gamespot Review:
Sequels, sequels, sequels. 2010 is proving to be the year for sequels. I like sequels, but only if they're done well. Like Mass Effect 2. ME2 was a fantastic sequel. However, unlike Mass Effect 2, I was not in the midnight line at my local Game Stop for the February 9th release of Bioshock 2. As much as I supremely enjoyed the first game, it wasn't one of those titles that I needed to have in my paws before the rest of the world, and it certainly wasn't my goal to beat it the same night and be the first one with a review on the web. For those of you whose goal that was, I'm truly sorry, and I know you are too. MOUNTAIN DEW FTW!!!

As you may have guessed, I ended up picking up a copy. Using a Best Buy gift card, I bit the bullet and bought the game. I will admit, I was wary at first. I had complete confidence that Bioshock 2 would be just as fun and just as an immersive experience as it's predecessor, though I wasn't going to approach it as a blind fan-boy telling myself that 2K could do nothing wrong. The lukewarm reviews from the critics also added to my cautious expectations. This game is a perfect example of not always being able to trust the critics. If you're one of those people who will only buy a game with good reviews, consider this a GOOD review. Remember, critics get PAID to say negative things. No one wants to listen to a review if there is nothing that gets ripped into. It's like watching a gladiator fight where the participants are playing Rock-Paper-Scissor's. Know what I mean? Just me....? Okay then...

Granted, I have not finished the game yet, but I don't think I need to in order to write a helpful review. I've thoroughly enjoyed what I have played (about 10 hours) and I hear (from the critics I don't trust) that it gets better toward the end. Well, I don't think I'm that close to the end and I'm still having a wonderful time with it. While the story is a subtle element that can be easily lost (as opposed to a BioWare RPG where you can't avoid it) if you pay close attention it isn't hard to get an idea of what is going in the world of rapture. The controls are improved but not unfamiliar, so the player doesn't feel lost. The ability to have both a plasmid AND a weapon equipped is genius, and makes the fighting a whole lot more satisfying. Also, as fun as the hacking one is the first Bioshock, Bioshock 2 makes it quicker and more practical so it doesn't interrupt gameplay and won't cause cursing and hair-loss.

After reading several reviews, the main problem that 'they' have with Bioshock 2 is it's lack of originality, or lack of changes from the first one. Half of me is tempted to ask them where they got whatever it is they were smoking, but the other half of me resists the temptation, as I might contract whatever 2-hating disease they have contracted. Simply put, if you really enjoyed the first one, you will really enjoy the second one. Not much has changed, BECAUSE IT DIDN'T NEED TO! Almost all of the complaints people have about the first game have been taken care of in the second game making gameplay smoother and more streamlined. The game takes place in the same setting, with many of the same characters, so HOW DIFFERENT DO YOU WANT IT TO BE? It's a sequel that feels like just that. A sequel. Do I think there needs to be a Bioshock 3? Probably not. But I've been wrong before.

Now, to be fair, I did have a small amount of complaints. I just didn't want to list those off first because that puts everything that follows in a negative light. At least, that's my opinion. One of the most tedious thing about Bioshock 2 is using the adopted little Sisters to gather Adam from corpses. I've only recently figured out a somewhat decent strategy that won't get me killed every time I'm buzzin' for an ADAM fix. It's this tedious process that makes it very tempting to Harvest the little brats. I did once though, and felt awful. After repenting, I focused and really used my brain (a difficult effort at best) to figure out a good strategy that would make doing the right thing not so hard. I found one that works pretty well.

Other than a few technical issues, and one really annoying bug that got me stuck in a room for a near 45 minutes (I really don't wanna talk about it....) Bioshock 2 deserves a lot better than most critics give it credit for. Can't say the same about Dante's Inferno though....

Dec 30, 2009

The Rearview Mirror: 2009 and all it's contributions

A friend of mine posted his top 10 favorite albums of 2009, and I WAS going to do something similar (I swear) but he beat me too it. It's a good list. You can read it here. However, in the interest of all things media related, I thought I would take it a step further and cover video games and movies as well. I think I may have done something like this at the end of last year, but I am too lazy to go check. Also, in the interest of brevity, I will narrow it down to top five. Again, this all heavily opinionated, and if you don't agree, you're just wrong. Get over it.

First, we will start off with the top five best Video Games released this year.

5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
-Admittedly, I have not played this game, nor do I own it. So why did it make number 5? Because no one will shut up about it, AND I just wanted to be the first to create a list in which COD:MW2 scored lower than Super Mario Bros. Wii.

4. Fallout 3: Point Lookout
-Okay, so this is not technical a full game, but it certainly is some kick-ass DLC. With Fallout 3 easily being the best game of 2008, this expansion brings the intensity to a whole new level and is essential for any fan of Fallout 3.

3. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
-Challenging, innovative, and a blast to play, this next installment in the platforming world of Super Mario Bros. is a great treat for both new gamers and seasoned veterans alike. Play solo, or with up to four people if you really want to have some fun.

2. Dragon Age: Origins
-Bioware has done it again. And by done it again, I mean graced the shelves with yet another deeply involved RPG. The game has everything you'd expect from a BioWare game. Good story, good setting, and fun engaging gameplay. If you haven't tried it yet, pick up a copy. I doubt you will be disappointed.

-My personal favorite game of the year. Borderlands is probably the best game that a lot of people didn't play. It perfectly combines RPG and FPS elements to create an experience unlike any other. BUT it's main strength is in the online co-op play. Get a couple of your friends together and play through the main quest as if you were doing it by yourself. With advanced difficulty and more loot, Borderlands is definitely better with a group.

Moving on to the top Movies of 2009. Take a look.

5. Where the Wild things Are
-A heartwarming story of a young boy and the monsters in his imagination. Good soundtrack, great production and a well- loved story make for a good movie, but not good enough for me to go out and recommend to people. In a few short months, this movie will probably be forgotten about completely.

4. New Moon
-As a closet Twilight fan, this movie had to make it somewhere on the list. It wasn't the best movie (lengthy, cheesy, poor acting) but for some reason, it resonated with me and therefore earned a spot on the list.
3. Up
-Just when you think Pixar has run out of original ideas, they release UP. Another totally original totally creative instant classic on par with the likes of Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Wall-E. Go see it for yourself.

-To think, at the beginning of the year, people were more excited about Watchmen then they were about Avatar. Now where are you Watchmen? That's right. No one cares about you anymore. Sure your effects may have been cool and your naked blue man shocking, but the blue men in this movie makes your movie look like crappy claymation. Avatar is a visual masterpiece and nothing like it has been done before. However, where it excels in graphics, it lacks in story and plot. While not bad, the plot is canned and predictable.

1. Star Trek
-Move over Avatar. My favorite movie of the year goes to this masterpiece. Star Trek. Sporting a phenomenal cast, a zealous director, and awesome visuals, Star Trek did not disappoint on any level. Even the Trekkers were impressed at how much justice this movie did to the critically acclaimed franchise. Whether you are a long time fan, or a newbie to the universe, The Star Trek movie is an awesome film for both.



I definitely like Coraline better than Where the Wild Things are and New Moon combined, but I don't feel like deleting and re-writing stuff. Last but not least, Music. What a good year for music.

5. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
For fans of The Knife, or the dark electronica genre, then you will enjoy Fever Ray. I found this gem later in the year, but I still like it enough for it to make the list at the last minute. Favorite Tracks: Dry and Dusty, Seven, and I'm not done.

4. Moby - Wait for Me
I hate that I'm a Moby fan. If you ever listen to his political rants, you get the idea that not only is he an idiot, but an annoying idiot whose complaints only hold validity with people who wear bamboo shoes and faint at the sight of a hamburger. BUT, to his credit, he does make some pretty kick-ass music and his latest album Wait for Me is one of his best showcases of musical genius. Don't speak Moby. Just make more music. Favorite Tracks: All of them

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
I hate being cliché, but this album is so good. It's one I've found myself listening to over and over again, and just enjoying it more each time. It's creative and spontaneous and just a good listen overall. Favorite Tracks: My Girls, Summertime Clothes

Another late discovery brought to my attention by a very dear friend, Arms and Sleepers has taken this year's spotlight for new artist that I've added to my library. It's melodic ambience, and epic guitar sounds make it one of those not-quite- instrumental, not-quite-vocal masterpieces. Combining sounds like Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and Moby, Arms and sleepers is in my opinion, a great candidate for second place. Favorite Track(s): Helvetica

This album is by far my favorite of 2009. I have known about lights for quite sometime, but her debut LP shot her up to being one of my all time favorite artists. She's electro-pop, but done in such a way that makes all other music in the genre sound liked canned beats. She uses the synthesizer and computer in a way that I have not heard before, and she carries herself like an indie artist, and not a pop-star. Give it a listen. I think you'll be surprised.
Favorite Tracks: Savior, Drive My Soul, The Last Thing On Your Mind, Face Up, Up Up and Away.


Muse - The Resistance
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Company of Thieves - Ordinary Riches
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

Looking back on this list, I'm not sure I did this right. I might like Muse's 'The Resistance' a little more than I like Fever Ray, and might like Moby a little more than Animal Collective, but Alas, what's done it done. All of the artists I mentioned have great music to offer, and truly, every album deserves it's own full length blog entry. Good job everyone. Fuzzy navals are on me.

Yes, its been a good year friends. I already know some items I'm looking forward to for next year *cough* Mass Effect 2 *cough*
Stay safe at your parties, don't drive drunk, and most importantly, don't make any resolutions because you'll forget it by March. Happy New Year everyone!

Dec 29, 2009

Artist Spotlight: Arms and Sleepers

Ignoring the fact that it's been a month since my last post (and the encouraging feedback that anonymous haters leave) I've decided that today is as good a day as any for a new blog post. I've had material to blog about for quite some time, and just never got around to writing about it. I want to blame it on all the important stuff I'm doing, but I can't because I haven't been doing a lot of important stuff.

Anyway, a good friend of mine who always has something cool to show me introduced me to this new band called 'Arms and Sleepers' and they are quite fantastic. The reason I like them so much is because they are a perfect combination of all kinds of other music I like. When listening to them, you'll hear a little bit of Moby, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Múm and Mogwai. Their resonating ambience mixed with the epic sounding guitar effects makes their music powerful and beautiful.

But you can't really describe a sound now can you? No, you can't. It's like describing smell to a blind person. IMPOSSIBLE.
Pay no attention to the static album-cover image of this video I am about to show you. It's more the music that I want you to hear.

Nov 30, 2009

Shoot 'em up: Borderlands

It certainly has been a while since I've posted about a video game. I believe my last one was regarding LEGO Star Wars. As fun as that game is, c'mon. It's LEGO Star Wars. We can do better than that here.

Over the long weekend, I went to one of my favorite places. A place where I am accepted, and my tendencies to freak out over nerd things is completely normal and in fact, encouraged. It is a haven for all those who would rather sit and stare at a television than go to work, school, or even socialize with friends. I am of course speaking of the local Game Stop. Perhaps that build up was a bit much. Anyway, I'm at Game Stop, and I found a used copy of the Halo 3 collector's edition. It was the same price as the normal Halo 3 used copy. I lucked out big time. Anyway, I go up to pay for it, and I am informed that if I were to buy two used games, then I would get the third one free. Well, I couldn't pass this up, so I began to scan the shelves for two more games that looked remotely entertaining. I picked up a copy of Fable 2 (collector's edition as well....far out!) and this game called Borderlands, which I had heard many good things about.

I'm guessing the reason I had heard so many good things about it is because...well...it's awesome. It is a very well made RPS (Role Playing Shooter) with many selling points that will keep you wanting more. The first thing people will notice is the extremely artistic styling of the graphics. It's right in the middle of real-looking, and cel-shaded. It reminds me of that one movie with Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. and confound it all, I can't remember the name right now. If I think of it later, I will put a in a hyperlink.

Another thing that is really cool about this game is the simplicity of the story. While there is a main plot, the amount of side-missions is very high and it gives you a lot to do. The only thing more numerous than the side-quests is the amount of weaponry available to you. Seriously. There are a TON of different guns in this game. It's tempting to get attached to some weapons that you really like, but eventually you have to let it go. Don't worry. The only reason you would let it go is because you found a weapon that was even better, perhaps one whose bullets can set people on fire or maybe blow them up into tiny tiny pieces.

The other selling points are the RPG elements. I already mentioned the quests and missions that are recorded in your 'journal' but you also gain XP by killing enemies and you level up. Like all good RPGs, leveling up gives you the opportunity to kind of customize and tweak your character however you would like. This is done by adding skill points to different categories. If I would rather be a better doctor than shooter, I can add points one of the medic skills. However, I prefer to add all my points to the skills in the 'bad ass' category. No, it's not a real category, but it should be.

I could go on and on about how it reminds of other great games like Fallout 3 and Bioshock, but I won't go into that. I will give it a 9 out of 10 and recommend to almost anyone because it is just a lot of fun to play and very well made, and any gamer can appreciate that.

Nov 24, 2009

Hey, who turned out the: Lights

I checked my inbox this morning only to discover about 100 unread messages from Blame it on the Media subscribers and they were all very cross with me about the lack of new posts. Don't believe me? Just check how many angry comments I got on my last post about the Avatar movie! Oh wait, I must have accidentally deleted them all. I swear there were at least 70 something comments! Now you probably all think I'm lying to you. Oh dear, what am I ever going to do to gain back your trust.

I know! I'll ask you to take a leap of faith by telling you to check out a female electro-pop artist! No no no! Don't walk away! She's actually really really good, and I can't believe I haven't told you all about her already! She's not one of those sellouts, creepers, sex symbols, or generally annoying bad musicians! Why am I using so many exclamation points! That should have been a question mark!

Anyway, she calls herself 'Lights' and she makes all her own music and writes all her own lyrics. Her LP entitled 'The Listening' was released this year and ever since hearing her EP last year, this was one of my personally most-anticipated albums of 2009. It didn't disappoint me either! A solid album from start to finish. I generally try to be as critical as possible, but there is nothing about her or her album that I could possibly say anything bad about. She's cute, witty, and talented. She'll win your heart if you give her a chance. As always, I won't just ask you take my word for it. I will include a music video and a live video for your viewing pleasure. No, you know what? Make that two live videos. I'm feeling generous today.

Oct 30, 2009

Heck Yes: Avatar

I ignored watching the trailer for this new movie Avatar because I was under the impression that it was going to be a movie based off of that anime-wannabe nickelodeon series. Boy I could not have been more wrong. Turns out this film is actually a BIG deal. It's directed by James Cameron (Terminator, Terminator 2, Titanic, Aliens) and the visual effects alone are going to be worth it. Unlike that giant disappointment whose name I won't mention, this film looks (and by everything I've read on it) sounds like it's going to be one of those revolutionary films that is going to set the bar even higher for special effects and filmography.

The film is about a marine who is in a wheelchair, and gets stationed on the jungle moon of Pandora. Then he....well I'll just post the trailer. Aren't I a great friend? Yes sir I am. Prepare to be utterly dazzled by the visual effects. With a track record like James Cameron's, I don't think the plot will suck either. Sure, it might be predictable once you see the trailer, but I think you willl agree that this is going to be a movie that is certainly worth watching. So sit back and enjoy Avatar, and don't forget to thank me for posting it.

Oh, before the Trailer, I will say that in reading about this, I discovered that the anime-wannabe nickelodeon series IS going to be made into a film. Sleep in fear.

Sep 18, 2009

Artist Spotlight: TV on the Radio

I keep forgetting that I can blog about whatever I want to. It doesn't have to be new, or original, or anything of the sort. Hell, I'm still not convinced this gets read half the time, so what the hell do I care what I put up here? This is supposed to be a therapeutic outlet dammit, so I'm going to make it just that.

Sorry, I think someone laced my morning granola bar with PCP and we all know I'm allergic to nuts. Kidding. About the nuts thing.

ANNNYWHO, one of my recent favs in the music world has been this wonderful band called TV on the Radio. I know they've been around for a while, and I had their album 'Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes' sitting in my itunes library for quite some time before I gave it a real honest listen. Even then, I didn't find anything all that great about them. It wasn't until a good friend of mine recommended I pick up a copy of their latest album 'Dear Science' that I really began to dig their sound. Dear Science really began to grow on me, so I started listening to their older stuff and by this time, they had already received mention in several facebook status'. That's how you KNOW a band is good. So late one evening, I was having a Youtube night with me, and I decided that I would see what they were like live just for giggles. I found them preforming their song 'Wolf Like Me' on David Letterman, and was blown away. I officially loved these guys now. After watching, I purchased 'Return to Cookie Mountain' (the album that 'Wolf Like Me' was on) and haven't looked back since.

TV on the Radio remains one of my favorite bands and I hope you will enjoy them as well.
Here is the fateful clip that boosted them into 'favorite' status with me.

Sep 17, 2009

My cereal is dead: Dexter Season 4

If you're not already an obsessed Dexter fan, than I suppose it's time you run out to Blockbuster and rent the first three seasons so you can get caught up for season four. If you're already a Dexter fan, that it is without a doubt you know that the fourth season starts in just over a week on Sunday September 27th on Showtime.

Personally, I thought the ending to the last season was a little weak, but as a whole, I enjoyed it very much. Well-written, as all the seasons have been, I have no doubt that the fourth season will be even better and more exciting than all the other seasons thus far. I'm still really mad Doakes is gone, though. I don't know if I can forgive Showtime for that one. Oh well.

Here is a preview of Season four, and as you can see, it looks like it'll be quite the ride. I can't wait.