Monthly Archives: September 2011

(Four of) The New 52

I’ve resolved to keep up with comics for a year and see how I like it. Part of the reason I’ve avoided comics for so long was the confusing continuity issues. I never liked being required to read every tentpole from a brand to understand the stories of just one hero. More so, there seems to be no less than five Batman comics at any given time, and I didn’t want a spreadsheet to understand a story.  With DC rebooting a bunch of their iconic heroes with the New 52, and Ultimate Spider-Man getting its own new take, it seemed like a good time to jump in.

So, I’m keeping up with the new Action Comics (Superman), Batman (not Batwing or Detective Comics or Batgirl or Batwoman or Nightwing; just Batman), and the new Ultimate Spider-Man. I figure dropping $10-15 per month isn’t too crazy, and that leaves me some budging room to pick up whatever happens to catch my eye.

Don’t expect my short thoughts to be anything mind-blowing, since I’m a self-professed newbie towards all this. But hey, they snagged me, and that was probably the point of the reboots in the first place.

Action Comics: Love the new take on Superman as a younger “man of the people” type who isn’t beholden to law enforcement. At least, not yet. I presume that eventually he’ll be trusted like he always was, but for now he’s holding people accountable whether it fits within the boundaries of law or not. And I love that he apparently chucked a wife-beater out a window.

Batman: A passable first issue, though it really only had one action beat at the beginning before I had much invested in it. I liked the cliffhanger at the end, though, and I’m glad the “new” continuity didn’t nix the various Robins. As cheesy as the Batman Family concept can be, it also gives Bruce some stakes to work with.

Batgirl: I don’t plan to keep up with this, but I picked up the first issue. I like the idea of her spinal injury causing an emotional scar that makes her freeze up. It lets them explore some more internal traits of the character. And unlike Samus in Other M, her crippling emotional state makes some damn sense.

Blackhawks: Never read this before. Seems like GI Joe.

Ultimate Spider-Man: This might be a bias towards Marvel, but I’m actually liking this series more than the New 52 so far. The second issue is what really sold me, when you see Miles reacting to his new powers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a superhero origin story where the hero is just a scared kid; or at least, it wasn’t communicated as well. They also do a lot of great moments with “shots” of meaningful expressions or glances, while the DC 52 stuff seems to center its plot more in dialogue. A quiet close-up can mean a lot more than an explanation.

  • I am really, really terrible at Battlefield 3.
  • Nielsen provides a pretty interesting look at anticipation for upcoming games. I wouldn’t put too much stock in it personally — MW3 definitely doesn’t top my list — but this is probably at least a peak at how the holiday sales will shake out.
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Four Swords (minus three swords)

So this Four Swords thing went up today, and it’s pretty beloved. But even as a Zelda fan, this is one game I don’t actually have a lot of experience in. Or possibly any? I actually don’t remember.

I’ve played only a little so far, and unfortunately, I’m the only person I know in real life who owns a 3DS. So I’m playing this game meant for multiple partners as a single-player experience, and it really seems like I’m missing an integral part of the experience. It’s still fun and all, but I know I’m not getting the full experience, and that’s a bummer.

On the bright side: free Zelda. Speaking of which, when are they going to get around to telling us the full GBA line-up?

  • How out of touch am I with music, even from bands I like? I didn’t even realize Foo Fighters had a new album. I’m getting music news through my video game news. God help me.
  • I kind of like how the SEO makes it look like this tournament is giving away $16 million.
  • Wow, James Cameron still really believes in this 3D stuff, huh?

Impending sick

My wife has come down a bit ill with a chest cough, and now I’m sort of waiting for it to hit me. I know it’s coming. All I can do is hope my immune system fights it off. (It hardly ever does, so I’m probably doomed).

Picked up Rochard today. I’ll have more thoughts on it soon-ish.

Amazing Race, Terra Nova

Amazing Race premiered last night, and I’m not really latching onto any of this year’s contestants. Some seem more likable than others, but there really isn’t anyone to root for yet. I was glad the farmers didn’t get kicked off, but that’s mainly just because they hit such a silly snag I’d hate to see them punished so harshly for it.

So, that Terra Nova, huh? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a show more clearly telegraph its plot points, but for some crazy dinosaur action it works. I think I’ll have to watch a few more episodes to see how I feel about the show as a whole. But hey: dinosaurs!

I’m almost finished with Gears 3, and I think I’ll wrap up the campaign tonight. I’ve tried to get into Beast Mode since hearing so many good things, but so far no luck. I’ll be sending it back soon-ish, since I never got heavily into the multi modes in Gears, but let me just say: that campaign is polished to a mirror shine.

I’ve noticed people don’t respond to these posts much which makes me unsure if they’re reading them, so you know what? Bringing out the big guns. Here’s a baby cheetah meowing.

  • I never played Crysis, but I’m not sure if I want to pay $20. Maybe I’ll wait for a sale.
  • Like Sony, I’m not particularly surprised by Origin using this legal language. I don’t even really blame them for it, considering the AT&T precedent is really at fault. I am surprised that weeks went by without anyone noticing before Sony’s started making headlines, though.
  • More detail on I Am Alive came from the ESRB in one day than we’ve gotten from Ubisoft in three years.

Batmans of Interest

I’m progressively working my way through the new fall season, and one of the most promising shows I saw advertised was Person of Interest. I blogged about Lost for MSNBC, and Michael Emerson is one of my favorite TV actors, so it caught my interest on that alone. Add JJ Abrams and the involvement of a Nolan, and it’s kind of hard

That “Nolan” influence is pretty important, because this show is basically about Batman. It’s in New York, and the hero doesn’t mind killing or using guns when necessary, but those differences aside it shares a lot of Bat-DNA. With a little bit of Minority Report thrown in for good measure.

I’m kind of okay with that.

This first episode set up a lot of the groundwork. Reese is a former government black ops agent of some sort, approached by Mr. Finch to stop crimes before they happen. This essentially splits the aspects of the Batman character in two: Reese serves as the highly-trained muscle, while Finch is the millionaire bankroller, and double-duty as an “Oracle” type of character. The system informs them of people likely to be involved in crimes, a nice shortcut so that Reese doesn’t have to skulk on rooftops waiting for them to happen.

They even have a crooked cop to serve the Harvey/Flass role, and a determined police chief to stand in for Gordon. If they introduce a chaotic supervillain by the end of this, it will cross the line into being too transparent. For now, it feels about right.

The scenes with Emerson are always the best. Something about his twitchy, bird-like demeanor is just so pitch-perfect. He gives a speech about midway through the episode explaining the system, and you could even draw some interesting statements about America’s war on terror from that part of the episode alone. Not to mention the constant surveillance that makes up the entire show.

This is one of those shows that has a strong premise, but it will take a few episodes to see if it pans out. For now, it has a great opportunity, and I hope they don’t waste it.

Gears of War 3 first impressions

I chipped a few more hours into Gears 3 last night. It’s fairly unsurprising, but that’s not really a bad thing. When you play a Gears game you know you’re going to get beautiful environments and really fun, solid game mechanics. I’m not actually sure how long I played last night; I think I lost a little time.

The writing is being lauded in this one, and it’s definitely a step up. It didn’t choke me up like I heard from one podcast, but the moments that are supposed to be emotional actually pull it off without seeming cheesy or dumb. There’s a pretty early moment with Cole Train that shows how they thought the impact-moments of this one through.

  • I presumed this Battlefield 3 news would upset the PC crowd, and it looks like I was right.
  • The first comment in response to this OnLive story is pretty smart. It does sound a lot like the company is positioning itself to get picked up by a hardware manufacturer.
  • I wondered about the legality of the new PlayStation Network TOS, but I suppose there’s precedent? I can’t say I support the Supreme Court in the initial decision, but Sony jumping on that opportunity makes sense.

The Return of Hantz Sexism

So I didn’t watch Survivor for several years, and I’m not super-familiar with some of the modern “celebrities” of the show. I did tune in just in time for Russell Hantz’ first season, though. Russell gained a following quickly as the most brilliantly manipulative player in the show’s history. His strategy was simple: ally with a couple of blonde girls and use them to get to the end.

Now, this strategy blew up in his face twice. In relishing being a manipulative bastard, he forgot that in the last stage of the game, people have to like you. So the girls he brought with him came out of the situation relatively likable, and won the money. But there was a subtle undercurrent of sexism — made less subtle the more he talked about it. He would refer to them as “his dumb girls” and so on. He didn’t really know about their intelligence; he just seemed to assume they were dumb because they were young and blonde and pretty. Again, keep in mind these “dumb” girls beat him by being smart enough to stay likable. Twice.

Watching him weep was cathartic for me. I almost want him to come back just to see it happen again.

When this season started last week, we were introduced to Russell’s nephew, Brandon. This kid seemed nice at first. He talked about the stigma on his uncle’s name, how he doesn’t want to be associated with that, how he wants to play an honorable game based on his Christian values. I thought this was refreshing, and thought I’d give him a chance.

But in the last two weeks, he’s shown himself to be as sexist as his namesake. Maybe not quite as blatant, but he’s definitely got a strange, skewed view of women. Or at least, one particular woman. He’s severely uncomfortable with one lady on his team named Mikayla. He talks about how he doesn’t want to be around her, how she’s too seductive, how as a married man he doesn’t want to be close to that, etc. He basically stopped just short of screaming “HARLOT” and trying to cast out demons.

Now, Mikayla isn’t exactly flaunting. Unless they cut out the footage of her pole dancing on a palm tree, she’s not doing anything out of the ordinary. She’s dressed like any other woman dresses on Survivor, which is to say she wears tank tops and her bra because it’s hot out. As far as I can tell, he’s just attracted to her, and that makes him feel guilty and uncomfortable, so he foists that blame onto her. It can’t be that he’s too immature to be married when he clearly feels tempted at the slightest provocation; it must be that she’s a slut.

It’s really uncomfortable, and hard to watch. Even Coach, who’s sort of douchey and pretentious in his own way, thought there was something off about Brandon’s judgment of Mikayla. I kind of wonder if his wife is sitting at home watching this season, just horrified at how he’s acting.

By the way, this week didn’t have nearly enough Papa Bear. I demand more Papa Bear.

I was thinking about blogging with “Gears of War 3 first impressions,” but I think I’ll give that another day to percolate. I got in an hour or so, and so far it is a solid Gears experience. I might have a few more personal insights as I go on.

  • A Mass Effect movie will almost definitely be terrible, and I will almost definitely watch it.
  • You know when you dangle a milkbone in front of a puppy and watch it jump around for a few moments before giving the dog its treat? That’s what Blizzard is doing with these constant Diablo 3 on consoles teases.
  • God I hope this story is true.
  • When I rented Star Fox 64 3D, the lack of online play didn’t really stand out as a major miss to me. Maybe because Mario Kart 64 was more my multiplayer game fo choice and I played SF64 more for the single-player, but it just didn’t bother me. The explanation seems reasonable enough, I suppose, and maybe this means we’ll see future Star Fox games. Without Krystal. Or dinosaurs.

Resident Eeeeeevil

Apparently as a PS+ subscriber, I get a bunch of PS1 classic Resident Evil games for free. I spent a bit of the day batting around whether I wanted to play Resident Evil 4 again, but a 50% discount on the HD version just seemed too good to pass up. It’s been a long time for the first two, and I never played Nemesis, so I’ll have to see how I feel about the series after saturating myself in it.

I watched Glee tonight. I’m not entirely sure why. It was pretty funny in the first season, but really went off the rails last year. Now I’m just convinced that the writers neglect major aspects of their characters on random whims. Tonight, Sue started a campaign to eliminate arts programs, and Will shouted at her that it threatened his job security. The writers have apparently totally forgotten that Will is a Spanish teacher. This glee club crap is an extracurricular activity that he’s sponsoring. He’s not a music teacher at all! Jesus. Just lazy, sloppy writing.

  • I can’t see myself actually playing as the Animated Series skin, cool as it looks. That said, when they release it as DLC later, I will get it, because Batman.
  • I like to think my contribution to Duke Nukem Forever feedback came in my review, which I re-read today. I still think I was too nice.
  • I almost resent FF13-2 for convincing me to try it, but it’s coming out in late January alongside nothing else, so I can just rent it to see if I like it.

The problem with Water Dungeons…

I went on a bit of a hiatus with Ocarina of Time 3D, mainly because other games that I hadn’t played before got in the way. Or, in the case of Star Fox 64, games that I probably have more fondness for. Now I’m trying to wrap it up this week, and I just made it through the Water and Shadow dungeons.

You might’ve heard the fixes they applied to the Water Dungeon. Your boots are now an item, rather than gear, so you can hot-key it to slip them on and off. They also made some clearer visual cues to the water levels. Now, these are both welcome fixes. But, the Shadow dungeon arguably has the exact same problem, needing to switch on the Hover boots, and it hasn’t gotten nearly as much hate over the years. I realized in this play-through that the tedious boot-swapping was not the major problem of the Water Dungeon.

The major problem is: it’s a poorly-designed dungeon.

The whole thing is meant to be done in sequence. It demands to be done in sequence. You lower the water level, then mid-level it, then raise it to the highest point. In an ideal run, you would probably only have to do this twice, maybe three times. But Zelda puzzles rely a lot on trial and error, entering one room and then another to find the right one. So unless you’re some kind of Zelda prodigy, you’re probably repeating this cycle 4 or 5 times. Every time you miss a room or do something out of sequence, back to the beginning with you.

That’s not to say the Shadow Dungeon doesn’t have its problems. It’s basically a straight line, and the items (especially the Lens) felt less empowering and more like the game had hobbled you and then given you a crutch. It’s only necessary because they broke your legs first.

In other games, I finished up Renegade Ops, and that’s just a big ball of fun wrapped up in a crunchy shell of crazy. And I got Killzone 3 on the cheap from Gamefly, so I’ll be cracking into that shortly. Gears of War 3 is on the way (rental) too.

I’m officially two-for-two in my Fantasy team. Whooo! That makes the baffling defeat against the Titans a little better.

  • I have to imagine in the pantheon of games that were hard to localize for Japan, Scribblenauts may be among the top ones. The task had to basically be “translate the entire dictionary.”
  • I don’t think Dan Amrich is totally off-base about gamers’ sense of entitlement, but I have to wonder if his brusk approach puts people off. Being in PR generally means treading lightly, and he just doesn’t do that.
  • Sony’s mistake, not ours! But still, disappointing news. If you, you know, missed out on one of the other dozen ways to play these fantastic games.

The Lion King, 17 years removed

I think at some point in their life, everyone — or at least every cinephile — creates a vivid memory of the first movie that showed them what movies are capable of doing. I think for me, that happened when I was 12 years old, and watched a movie called The Lion King.

I must’ve watched it 5 times in the theater that summer. The culmination of the story and the score just struck me as so epic, and it hit me every time. Plenty of movies have done that since then, of course, and some probably hold a higher place in my heart. I’ve become a huge Star Wars nerd, for example — those films entertained me when I was a kid, but I understood the nuance a lot better when I rediscovered them as a teenager. But The Lion King endures as the first movie that just swept me up in total rapt wonderment at what was happening on-screen, and did so multiple times.

We went out to watch it tonight in 3D, mainly just for the novelty of seeing it in theaters again. What a wonderful movie that is. It’s still just as charming and grandiose as it ever was — even if the new sound mix seemed to make the score less prominent than I remember it.

A note on 3D: I hate it, and resent paying extra money for a hated feature, but I’ll deal with it if it’s my only option or if the movie is particularly praised for it. This was sort of an interesting mixture, since it was a movie always intended to be 2D. It was more like a pop-up book, where you’d see flat characters appearing on different planes. That might not sound appealing, but it was kind of an interesting style. If 3D ever catches on , maybe someone could actually do that on purpose — like Paper Mario, but for movies.

  • Putting a game developer as a playable character in your game sounds insane, but about right for Saints Row 3. (Note: I kind of resent the name “Saints Row: The Third” for making it harder to search when I’m doing research for a story.)
  • I haven’t picked up any Dragon Age 2 DLC, but this trailer for Mark of the Assassin looks interesting. I especially like how they’re tying it into the web series. Synergy!
  • Shut up and take my money! [meme reference]
  • I enjoyed Dead Nation for what it was. $4 DLC seems about right, so maybe if I have some money leftover after some other purchase, I’ll pick it up.