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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Battlefield 3

Article first published as PC Game Review: Battlefield 3 on Blogcritics.


The latest and greatest chapter in massive combat comes to you in the form of Battlefield 3. Get ready to grab your favorite gun, jump in your preferred military vehicle and start mowing down your competition. Battlefield 3 brings a lot to the table that makes it a great game to own, but all great games do have their flaws.

Battlefield 3 is beautiful in that bloody, blow your enemies body parts off, type of beautiful. The graphics are just going to blow your mind. This is easily one of the most graphically pleasing military FPS I’ve seen. So much of this game is astonishing from the highly detailed backgrounds, realistic looking fire, even down to the military uniform textures. This is eye candy at its best. The little details are what I feel really bring this game to life and helps immerse you into the action. Exceptional attention was paid to the textures especially. Not only do you see the strands of cloth in the military uniforms, but the guns, muzzle flashes and the dust that bursts from the treads of an M1 Abrams as it fires. The creators of BF3 really took the time and effort to make sure every bit of this game is visually pleasing.
The sound is just as spectacular to the ears as the imagery is for the eyes. The graphics, eye candy, then the sounds in its own right, is ear candy. You are going to be blown out of the water when you hear the sounds and effects of this game in full surround sound. From the bullets whizzing past your head, to the jets flying over and the sound of tanks firing in the distance; it brings you into this almost real world of military warfare.
The multiplayer is out of this world. You get to choose from 4 premade classes that, as you play them more, earn more options for new weapons, optics, specializations and other goodies. When you first begin multiplayer, you are a bit limited but the more you play and the more time you spend on your favorite class, the more you get to modify and tailor make it for you style of play.
One of my favorite parts about BF3 multiplayer is the huge array of military vehicles you can either drive, gun or simply be a passenger in. From hornets to tanks, the options are vast and like playing your class, you can earn more toys for each military vehicle as you spend time in them. The options almost feel completely limitless in multiplayer, with so much freedom to do as you wish. If you’re buying this game for the main reason almost everyone else is, the multiplayer, then you’re in for many hours of time in game and money well spent.
Earlier I mentioned this game is great but does have its flaws. Let’s get to what I feel are the flaws in this game. One thing is how cover sometimes doesn’t really cover you, and at times the computer seems to know exactly where you are without you being in view. I’ve had many hiding places that give perfect cover before any enemy troops ever see me, yet they always manage to perfectly place a grenade under my butt. It does get disconcerting at times but you push through it because lets me honest, all’s fair in war!
The next major complaint I have about BF3, and for me this is a big one, is the single player campaign. Before you say anything, yes I know this game is honestly intended to be about 95% multiplayer and 5% single player. Well, it truly feels like there is about 5% single player in this game. The story is decent but not great, and the overall campaign feels extremely short. First Person Shooters have almost always been about the multiplayer, but I remember long ago when the single player campaign used to be long. Granted finding a great story has always been hard, but at least there was more than a couple hours of single player to keep you occupied. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t do too much with the multiplayer, then you’re better off waiting for this game to hit the bargain bin.
Overall, if you fall into the speculative 95% of players who really buy this game for the multiplayer, you need to grab it and grab it fast. This game is great in almost every aspect and is definitely going to keep you occupied for many, many hours. If you fall into the speculative 5% you might wait to pick it up, unless you plan to really get into the multiplayer. I will say, I tend to not do too much multiplayer, but BF3 has me addicted.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Caite Upton interviews Kevin Conway on the important subject matter of performance enhancer usage in NASCAR.

AS PER REQUEST FROM NASCAR THIS VIDEO WAS REMOVED.

Sadly, NASCAR did not ok this video to be done.  It was a funny video, well worth the watch.  I hope all of you got to watch it, and no, you won't find it on youtube.  The video has been removed from all media outlets as far as I know.



Warning: The Following article is intended to be tongue and cheek.  Please don’t take any of this seriously except the serious parts.  You’ve been warned!
The beautiful and funny Caite Upton (Miss Teen USA 2007 contestant and The Amazing Race finalist) takes on the very important subject of performance enhancing drugs being used in NASCAR.  She interviews NASCAR driver and ExtenZe spokesperson Kevin Conway. 
The interview covers the very important subject as to why NASCAR allows him to use performance enhancers while many other professional sports organizations shun it.  Unlike many other stars around the world, Kevin Conway is proud to admit he is using performance enhancers and never for a moment shy’s away from any question asked.   
This is a hilarious interview that you cannot miss.  I quite literally just about fell out of my chair laughing as I was stunned by some of questions asked.  Caite Upton is as always, charming and hilarious, and Kevin Conway is just as energetic and amusing to watch. 
Through all the hilarity in this video, it does still ask the very important question about enhancers being used by some NASCAR drivers and why they are doing nothing about it.  This video is just the beginning of a series of videos to come, featuring Catie Upton as she is “Learning Stuff.”  Watch for future videos soon and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Time to go Ape with Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Article first published as Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Blogcritics.

When you go to watch a summer blockbuster, you expect a popcorn flick that doesn’t really stimulate the brain beyond bringing about pleasure, joy and excitement. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie stimulates far more, if you’re open to listening and receiving what is being said. Rarely do we get a popcorn flick the makes us question moral values, explore the relationships between humans and animals, deliver a compelling story and still toss us into an exciting action film. This movie has all of that.

A prequel/reboot to the popular Planet of the Apes franchise, this is easily just the latest chapter that could become a whole new series of movies if they keep the formula used for Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Will Rodman (James Franco) has a dream to cure the deadly disease Alzheimer’s. The disease plagues more and more people every year, including his father. Using apes as the test subjects for a fresh new drug, it shows great promise to become a cure for this fatal disease. But after a mishap in the lab, the plug is pulled and his dreams crushed, until he finds an unlikely surprise. A baby ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis) whose mother passed the drug to him before birth.

Will brings Caesar home to join his family and meet his father, John Rodman (John Lithgow), who is the source of Wills determination and drive to find a cure to Alzheimer’s. We get to experience much of Caesar’s life as he grows from baby ape to adult. Will later falls in love with a woman, Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), who becomes a major source of support for Will.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very enjoyable movie as I was pleasantly surprised with almost every aspect of the film. Being a fan of Planet of the Apes since the very first movie, I had expectations for this film to be just as good. What I was met with was a surprise that wasn’t expected.

The movie isn’t simply a sit down and enjoy movie as most summer films, but rather a movie that makes you think. Testing of drugs on animals, is it right or wrong? Is it ok to do these tests if it means saving millions of human lives? Are we prepared for the potential consequences of these tests? You find yourself asking these moral questions amongst others as the story unfolds.

Before the movie ends, all of your moral questions you may be asking yourself are met by one harsh realization. What has transpired in this movie could honestly happen. The movie really does take the time to be much more than the typical summer action film and is successful at every turn.

If you are a fan of Planet of the Apes, you will be pleased with the many moments in the film that reference back to the original movie. From quotes to events in the story that link it to the first film. The question is do you have the eye to catch it all? This made the movie a lot of fun for me, as it was an obvious nod from the creators. They didn’t go for a prequel/reboot that ignored what’s already there, they embraced it.

The special effects in the film are top notch. From beginning to end, you will be surprised at just how realistic the apes look, move and interact with one another. The effects make the apes so life like that if you are an animal lover it is a little heart wrenching to see one die, even though you know it’s a CGI creation. This adds to the emotion of the movie as it hits you like you wouldn’t expect.

One of the biggest successes of the film is turning what was the antagonist of the previous films, into the protagonist. If you love animals like I do, you’ll find yourself cheering for the apes wanting them to win. And I wasn’t the only one, which was made apparent by the loud applause from the rest of the theatre I was in.

The movie is a huge hit on what could have been a disastrous miss. I loved every moment and would definitely spend the money to see it in theatres again. With compelling story telling, great action, and moral dilemmas, Rise of the Planet of the Planet of the Apes will bring you in, hit an emotional chord and leave you happy with how it all wraps up. I highly recommend seeing this film, and if you’re an animal lover, you definitely won’t regret it.

The west gets wilder with Cowboys & Aliens

Article first published as Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens on Blogcritics.

Mixing movies has been a hit and miss in the movie industry. Some combinations have worked out quite well and others not so well. Now we have a fresh new idea of genre mixing that looks like it could be a sure fire winner, even if the outcome seems one-sided. Take a Western, a gritty genre of cowboys battling at high-noon, robbing trains and chasing Indians across the wide open plains of the west and mix it with other-world visitors bent on our destruction.

What you get may very well seem like a one-sided battle, considering modern day settings of plotting human V.S. alien puts us in a bad situation. Sure, we almost always win but we’re given a stern beating in the process. I know how to fix it. You give the protagonist a weapon that belongs to the aliens, capable of destroying their vessels in a single shot!

Welcome to Cowboys & Aliens.

The latest attempt at alien invasion, based on a graphic novel of the same name, stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, The Golden Compass) as Jake Lonegren, a man with no memory of who he is, or where. The movie begins with Jake awakening in the desert, confused as to his whereabouts. Within moments, he’s met with a group of unsightly men, whom he quickly dispatches. It is from this moment we understand that Jake does indeed know how to defend himself.

He staggers his way into a small Arizona town by the name of Absolution, controlled by the ruthless Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones, Air Force One). Jake soon meets a spineless bartender by the name of Doc, portrayed by Sam Rockwell (Iron-Man 2, The Green Mile) and a mysterious woman, Ella, played by Olivia Wilde (TRON, House).

For the first portion of the movie, it plays out like a western. We have dirty, gritty men, horses, small town and a tyrant who controls it. Let’s take a little dash of extraterrestrial and toss it into the mix and you end up with a fairly decent movie. It doesn’t take long for the aliens to begin their assaults on the denizens of Absolution, and we soon learn people are being abducted.

From here we go on a chase to save those abducted and bring peace to the old west. The movie is a joy ride through a new genre with a lot of potential. Sadly some of the potential is missed. Some elements of the story I felt could have used a little more explanation to help immerse the audience even deeper. I’m one to rarely complain about story in a blockbuster movie, considering most are intended to be watched for enjoyment. But I could not shake the feeling that at the end, something was missing.

What was missing though? I’m not completely sure, as the movie itself is pretty complete and satisfying. Plenty of action, plenty of explosions and enough entertainment value for me to see it again and again, yet something was missed. Perhaps the graphic novel could hold the key to what is missing. I just felt the aliens didn’t get quite enough explanation behind them and their true purpose here.

The ending was also a negative highlight for me. It felt wrong. The ending felt like it was one of many potential endings and it wasn’t the right one for this film. Granted, most westerns end with cowboys riding off into the sunset, and that wasn’t what this movie needed to end with. For me, the ending was a bit too serene considering what transpires at the end of the film. This goes right back to the reasoning of the aliens being here, it felt like a bit more explanation of their purpose was missed that could have been answered in a small scene. Though I must admit, I didn’t wait till the end of the credits so perhaps Favreau had a scene there I missed that I can catch up with on the blu-ray.

One of the biggest highlights for me in this movie is the Indians. Not only does Favreau do a splendid job portraying them, they play a very important role. Most movies will make a play on the abilities of a medicine man to heal the hero, or someone he loves, and then they are on their way. Favreau makes them a very important part of the story. I was pleased to see so many Native Amercians in the movie with very prominent and important roles to the story.

Beyond these small, minor details, I found the movie to be more than pleasing. The movie is an exciting trip through the wild-west while being chased by aliens. Favreau continues to please with his movies and understands what an audience wants. He brings us excitement and adventure yet leaves enough room for our imagination to run while watching a great action flick. It’s an exciting adventure with cowboys, Indians, and for a fresh change of pace, aliens!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

DVD Reviews: Evil Things

Article first published as DVD Review: Evil Things on Blogcritics.

After taking a trip to a remote location, five friends disappear without a trace. No evidence has ever been found as to what happened to them until now. A mysterious tape has been dicovered and it will reveal the horror that they went through, and hopefully open the door to answering what happened.

Evil Things begins a bit like Cloverfield. You are presented with a single frame showing that what you are about to watch is an FBI evidence tape anonymously sent by mail. From there, the movie begins and we bear witness to what this tape holds and the horrors within. Five friends, Cassy (Laurel Casillo), Mark (Morgan Hooper), Tanya (Torrey Weiss), Leo (Ryan Maslyn whom we rarely see because he is the camera man) and Miriam (Elyssa Mersdorf) travel from New York to Miriam’s Aunt Gail’s (Gail Cadden) country home for a fun weekend.

On the way, they encounter a little road rage and a couple scares before reaching their destination. Once they arrive, they can begin Miriam’s 21st birthday party. But all is not well. As the weekend unfolds, so does the horror that awaits them. What happens next is beyond terrifying.

The movie can be compared to Quarantine and Paranormal Activity, and in my book, I found this to be better than Paranormal Activity. With Paranormal Activity, I found myself wondering when it was all going to end; With Evil Things, I wanted more. It’s a ride through terror that starts strong and well paced, but about 20 minutes in, it slows, and then takes a decent amount of time for the story to ramp up and get going again.

A bit of the mingling and dialogue between the characters could have been substituted with a few more frightening moments. At times during the slow moments it feels as if everything is alright, made apparent as the characters enjoy their party, even after a spooky moment. Over all, everything works out well in the end as we are catapulted into a finale that even caught me by surprise.

Evil Things marks the debut of director Dominic Perez who shows he already has a solid grasp on the concept of a good horror film. Some may say a few of the thrills and chills in this movie are a bit cliché, but what horror movie isn’t? Perez doesn’t go for gimmicky scares or special effects but rather he has gone for grasping your mind firmly and twisting your psyche. He works to trigger your fears and freak you out. He does so very well and sparks some intense moments throughout the film that almost have you looking over your shoulder.


The cast's performances make you believe their fear is genuine. Never did I find any of them lacking in talent and it only added to the sheer horror brought forth from the film. This is especially important in a genre that is already full of performances that are cringe- or laugh-worthy, depending on your perspective. The whole time they are screaming, panicking or just caught in a moment of pure fear never made me feel they were overacting. All performances are solid and added that much more realism to the horror.

The DVD has a crisp, clean image quality that is constant throughout the movie. The sound especially adds to the atmosphere of the movie and helps to draw you in and make you part of what’s going on. Unfortunately I cannot comment much further on the DVD as my copy was a screener, and only contained a trailer for the film and the film itself. Whether any further extras will be added by the time of release is yet to be seen, as I would love to see a small behind the scenes documentary.

Overall the movie is good. The pacing could have been a bit better as we get a good start, slows down a bit then hits a finale full of trepidation and consternation. It easily could have had a few more moments of fright weaved into the story to help progress it faster. However by the end of the film, you are grasped tightly with fear when we see what happens to these five friends as they struggle to survive. The footage at the very end and during the credits is especially disconcerting.

I came away from this film with a bit of a cringe and a little paranoid. It leaves a lot for your mind to interpret and play with to bring your fears into the open. This is where the movie's true horror effect comes in. Dominic Perez doesn’t just try to bring you a film that’s scary with Evil Things, he goes a step further by messing with your psyche and making you walk away paranoid and concerned for your own safety. At the time of this review Evil Things was not rated. It will be available on DVD August 9th, 2011.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Movie Review: Super 8

Article first published as Movie Review: Super 8 on Blogcritics.

In the summer of 1979, a group of kids film a horror movie for a film festival. While filming a scene of their movie at a train stop, an Air Force train collides with a truck causing a massive accident. In the confusion of the explosions and destruction, something escapes from the train. Now, a small Ohio town begins having strange phenomenon. Animals run away, people are disappearing, and household appliances go on the fritz without warning. The town deputy, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) investigates as the military begins moving in and covering up.

Written and directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Cloverfield) and produced by Steven Spielberg (E.T., Jaws, Transformers); take you on an adventure in Super 8.

The movie was enjoyable and fun with plenty of humorous moments to keep it light hearted and still gave the intense suspenseful scenes. Though I did feel that the movie was trying to reach a happy medium and it didn’t quite get there. Super 8 is filled with many moments of humor amongst the kids and a friendship that felt like a true camaraderie reminiscent of Stand by Me. It was moments like this that felt like the movie was trying to be kid friendly, something akin to Steven Spielberg. I felt this could detract from the more adult audience, as at times it felt like it was a movie made more for the younger ones.

Then there were moments of suspense and horror, true to Abrams Cloverfield. This is where Super 8 became confusing, as these scenes were more adult oriented. The action was suspenseful and it seemed like it could be a bit much for a younger crowd. One scene for example where the creature is holding a severed leg seemed to be something that could be too intense. It felt like Abrams was trying to bring the two worlds of E.T. and Cloverfield together, which left it a bit jumbled as to which audience this movie is intended for.


The story behind Super 8 was well written and engaging. We are left in suspense, wondering what this creature is, running around town and causing havoc. However in the end, you may find yourself siding with the creature. Unlike most monster movies, there is generally very little explanation as to what it is, why it is and what it is. There tends to be a singular goal of destroying it. However, this is not the case with Super 8. It takes a step away from the norm and eventually reveals everything to you about the creature and its purpose.

The young actors do a great job in their roles. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is wrestling with the recent death of his mother. Charles (Riley Giffiths) tries to help Joe by keeping him busy with the movie he is directing; Along with his other friends, Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso) and Cary (Ryan Lee) who feels like a young Michael Bay with his infatuation with explosives and fireworks. There is also a love interest they invite along to be in their movie, Alice (Elle Fanning), who does an exceptional job in her role. She is very convincing and shows to have a bright future in acting.

Overall the movie was very enjoyable and I think it works well for both an older and younger audience. Some scenes may be a bit intense for younger kids, though a bit of parental guidance should have no problem dealing with it. All in all I would definitely recommend seeing Super 8. It’s a fun film and good for the whole family.

Super 8 is in theatres now. It is rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action, violence and some drug use.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What's up?

Hey gang, what's going on out there in the world for you?  Leave a comment, let me know how you are.

As for me, I've been a little busy organizing some things around the house which has put my reviews on hold for a bit.  Now new games and I haven't had a chance to go and see any movies lately.  I am wanting to see the new Pirates, X-men, Super 8 and a few others.  For those of you who know me, you already know I'm excited as hell for one movie.  Can you guess it?  Transformers Dark of the Moon.  Definitely can't wait for that, and I've been nabbing up the toys that have been coming out.

On that note, I am seriously considering reviewing toys as I get them.  Expand my review horizons, ya know?  Let me know what you think, and just leave a comment in general.  Say hello. 

So until my next post, take care everyone, be safe and have a good time.

Thalack

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I've been struck by Thor!

Thor follows the story of a god of the same name.  He is the god of thunder.  Arrogant and proud, he rushes headlong into battle without much thought.  But when he attacks the Jotuns (Frost Giants) against his father’s will, he is banished from Asgard and forced to live amongst the realm of Midgard (Earth).
This sets the stage for the latest comic to movie adaptation from the Marvel universe.  It’s an enjoyable thrill ride that I found myself pleased to take part in.  I have never read the comic, but I have studied Norse mythology to a great extent; so stepping into this movie I had certain expectations of the material staying true to its mythological counterpart.  I was quickly pleased to see many things remaining true to the myths and legends, even down to the detail of Odin’s horse, the six (sometimes 8) legged Sleipnir.
The story of the movie never gets slow or stale in the least.  It explains everything very well and clearly.  This allows anyone interested in this movie who has never read the comic or Norse mythology to step into the movie and not get lost.  Though I will say having some knowledge of either does help. 
Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, he brings us an exciting story that keeps us engaged, and lets us have some humor along the way.  Never at any point is the humor silly or out of place.  It is fun and spot on perfect. 
Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek, A Perfect Getaway) plays the arrogant god of thunder, Thor.  He plays this role with precision and I honestly feel it was made for him.  He brings a great level of arrogance to the character that brings Thor to life in a way I did not expect.  However, he doesn’t over play the arrogance and never makes you dislike him.  You clearly see he has an ego but at no point makes you dislike the character.  As the movie progresses, you find yourself liking Thor more and more as you cheer for him.
Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is cast as Jane Foster, who befriends Thor and becomes his ally.  She is charming in her role and simply shows her broad ability to play almost any character and make you believe it.  Along with her companions (Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) she helps Thor find his footing here in our realm of Earth.
Tom Hiddleston (Archipelago) steps into the character of Loki.  He feels right in the role of the god of mischief and trickery.  I was please to see Loki receive a fair amount of screen time in the movie, and Hiddleton’s performance was the right mix of eccentric and devious.
And then there is Odin, king of the gods.  The ruler of Asgard is played by Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal) and he plays the part well.  I personally had always wondered if a movie had Odin, who would play him?  Well, I can definitely say whoever did the casting for this movie did a great job, and bringing Hopkins in as Odin was a great decision.  Strong and powerful, yet wise and merciful, Hopkins plays it perfectly.
Overall the movie is extremely enjoyable and a lot of fun.  I went in with low expectations in terms of story, yet high expectations on the mythological.  Both expectations were well surpassed.  The acting was great, the story engaging and fun, and Brannagh a brilliant director.
You will love Thor before the movie ends, but don’t leave your seat just yet.  As with any Marvel movie, there is a special surprise at the end of the credits.      

Movies

Hey there,

I've been toying with the idea of opening up the site a bit to extend beyond game reviews, considering I don't have a ton of money to spend on games to constantly review the latest and greatest as they come out.  I will continue to review games as I can get my hands on them, but I will also expand into movies.  Yes, some of your favorite blockbusters just might get a review and I've got one coming up here in moments.

Thalack

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dead Space is Dead on

Dead Space, where no one can hear you scream.  At least, no one who is still alive is going to hear you scream.  Dead Space follows a rescue ship, sent to the planet cracker ship Ishimura to learn why communications was lost, and assist with any repairs needed.  Upon arriving, you're quite literally sucked into the ship, as you and your team barely survive a crash landing into the docking bay.  This is when all hell breaks loose, as soon you are separated from your team, who are trained fighters, left to stand alone as a lowly engineer.  And obviously an engineer who knows quite a bit about guns and how to use them.  From here, you learn everyone aboard the ship is dead.  Now, you and the surviving team members must find a way to reunite and escape the horrors within the ship.

Dead Space started out to be a very fun and enjoyable experience, however, this quickly changed for me.  I was quite surprised they didn't label the box with a warning that you might need diapers to play the game cause it so effectively scares the piss out of you.  I found my self, many times over, running, screaming and trying to hide from the monstrosities aboard the Ishimura.  After hiding under my covers for 15 minutes I finally realised they were in the computer and couldn't chase me.  When I finally got my wits about myself I could continue the game.  This is a well done horror game in the sense.  It does bring you a great sense of fear, tension and excitement as you play through the game.  You battle beings called Necromorphs, which are, well, you'll have to play and find out.  Everything in the game is explained, from the necromorphs, to whats really happening.  Along the way you will fight various versions of these necromorphs, as they prove to be deadlier and deadlier the further you get into the game.

Unlike most shooters, this game is in the 3rd person, and as for guns, you don't just pick them up and go.  You earn credits and purchase weapons and equipment from the ships store.  In your journey of survival you find power nodes which will allow you to upgrade your weapons and equipment.  But use them wisely as you will receive a limited supply.  I personally chose to focus mainly on my suit and a machine gun I picked up.

The story of the game is engaging and interesting if you take the time to listen and read the ships logs.  However you will miss out on a lot if you simply skip past them.  The creatures in the game tend to follow your basic monsters with a new look.  You will have your weaker versions and slowly progress to harder, uglier looking monsters. 

One major positive I enjoyed about the game comes after you beat the game.  You are rewarded a bunch of power nodes and credits, allowing you to play through the game again, this time starting with everything you left off with.  The game also has difficulty settings allowing you to choose what is best for you.  If you're new to this type of game there is an easy setting, normal if you're looking for a mild challenge, hard to add some stress to your life, and nightmare, for those people who are perfectly zen and need some excitement.
Overall the game is enjoyable, some content is typical repeat from other games or stories, but it presented well and keeps you engaged.  A few things in the story can be predicted but this is the case with almost any story.  The graphics are beautiful and you will find a lot of fun in this game.  If you're looking for a 3rd person shooter that brings fun to the table, this is one to definitely pick up.  Just don't get sucked into Dead Space.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rift, see you on the other side!

 “We’re not in Azeroth anymore!” 
That’s what an advertisement for Rift says.  It’s a very true statement as well.  The game is a well rounded online game that holds a lot of potential in its future.  Some people have screamed WoW-killer about this game.  I won’t.  Why?  Online games die from the player base or the company, not other games.  Everquest, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot are all a decade old or older and still have a solid community today.   So if Rift isn’t a WoW-killer, then what is it?  It’s a game that’s going to take a good chunk of the player base away from World of Warcraft in my opinion.  The game did what WoW did in the beginning.  It took everything good about online games and made improvements.  What’s so surprising about the game is the bugs.  They are few and far between.  Unlike many other games I’ve beta tested before that would have many bugs, including game breaking bugs; Rift stands as one of the cleanest betas I’ve tested.
Upon starting the game you choose one of two factions.  Either the faithful Guardians who believe and follow their gods; Or play as the techno-magical Defiant who have lost faith in the gods, and turned to technology.  A lot of the lore suggests that though each faction sees the other as evil, this game really doesn’t have an “evil” faction.  Both factions are battling one another while battling for a common goal, save Telara.  Your journey begins literally in the future, where Telara is on the brink of being completely annihilated by the evil Regulos.  As you quest and fight your way through the tutorial, you are eventually thrown back in time to try and stop the events that lead the world to this horrible point.  You are an Ascendant, a warrior sent to save the world.  Makes you wonder if you might need to save any cheerleaders along the way.  (I hope someone got that reference.)
One thing you’ll notice upon entering the game is the User Interface (UI).  It’s fairly straight forward and simple.  The real positive of it is the fact that you can customize it how you like.  Move your action bar somewhere else, bring up more action bars, move the health bars and even more.  There is a lot of freedom with the UI and what you can do with it.  A downside for some however is the fact that currently, there is no add-on support.  Trion has mentioned that in the future they do plan to allow 3rd party programmers to create add-ons but we’ll have to see how much freedom they are given in that aspect.  On the option screen there is one very nifty tool that I believe everyone will enjoy.  After you’ve taken the painstakingly long time to setup your UI to be perfect for you, and just the way you like it, you decide to make an alt and have to do it all over again.  Actually you don’t cause in the options screen you have the choice to import UI, allowing you to take the UI settings from one character to another and saving you a lot of time.
The game play in Rift is quite smooth and easy to get into.  The game starts you with an easy tutorial and anyone who has played an online game recently will find the controls are very similar to what you’re probably used to.  It is easy to launch right into the game without much time invested into learning the controls.  A lot is familiar from the crafting to questing, making this game fairly simple to leap into.  Even people completely new to online games such as these will find it easy to get into the action and start fighting, without the need to worry about how to do it tutorials for a couple hours.
The overall graphics for this game are beautiful.  From the sky to the well done water effects, particle effects and even how the rifts open are great.  Though you pay a price with these beautiful graphics, you will need a good graphics to see it all.  Lower end cards work but you will have to lower the settings to do so.  The creature models are clean and well done, as are the character models.  I would have to say that my only complaint is some of the animations in the game.  At times they seem unnatural or choppy, some movements seem unfinished or perhaps intentional.  Either way, it took a little getting used to but in the end, everything in just gorgeous.
The quests in Rift appear to follow your basic questing system as seen in most MMO’s.  You travel out and kill 10 of one creature, or have to collect 5 animal parts.  Where this may be a little dull to some, it does follow some nice quest lore that should interest the lore junkies.  Almost all of the quests have a purpose to train you in the ways of the game, or teach of the evil that plagues the world of Telara.  Some quests are actually quite fun while others of course, are simple kill, kill, kill.  What I enjoyed most is learning of the threat that exists that you are fighting to defeat.  It made me feel like I was truly fighting for something here and I wanted to push forward even more.  In many other MMO’s I find myself not reading quest text as it gets dull and boring after a while.  The quest and lore team working for Trion has their stuff together as they have made me care about the world I am fighting.
One of the big things Rift is about is, well, rifts!  The world is plagued with other worldly invaders who attack randomly and unexpected by entering the world through rifts.  This is something fresh and new I’ve seen in online games.  These rifts are not a static location for you to go and get some extra loot.  They truly pose a threat to the world if left untouched.  Invasion forces enter through these rifts and begin heading towards towns and cities to destroy them.  The invaders will attempt to establish a foot hold, they will kill your quest NPCs, and they will make it impossible for you to get things done.  This further pushes you to care for the world you are in.  If these go unchecked for too long, they become very deadly.  I had a time when I logged into the game, thinking I was safely in the middle of a town, only to find myself surrounded by enemy invaders who had taken over.  It is up to the players in the game to go and defeat these invaders so that the players still control these areas, and so people can continue questing and leveling.  I really enjoy this part of the game a lot as it is unique.  There is a true threat to the world instead of just an NPC saying, “Rifts are dangerous, mmmkay!”
One thing you may notice upon creating your character in the game is that there are only 4 classes.  OH NO, so few.  Actually that’s intended to give you flexibility.  There may only be 4 classes, Warrior, Rogue, Mage and Cleric.  However, they are very diverse through a new system called Souls.  Each class has access to eight souls.  You can choose any combination of 3 souls for your spec and spec how you like.  You can mix and match souls, making different combinations giving you a lot of freedom and diversity.  Another great thing is alternate specs, as you can have four of them.  This further expands your ability to mix and match and be very diverse.  This also makes dungeons and raids more accessible to each person as you can fill certain rolls otherwise not able to be filled in other games due to their limitations.  This allows you freedom and diversity.
Player versus player, the battle between Defiant and Guardian; who will win, who will lose?  The only PvP I was able to take part in were the battleground.  The PvP in the game seems very fast paced and aggressive.  As I entered my first BG, I quickly learned it was a battle for points, which team could hold the flag the longest.  In the one battle ground I did get to fight in was very fun and engaging.  It took team work to win as with any battle.  One person grabs the flag and tries to hold onto it as long as possible.  The longer they hold the flag, the more points your team gets.  You must defend this person, healing him while fighting off enemy forces.  There is a catch though.  The longer one person holds the flag, the more damage they will take, making it easier to kill the flag carrier.  Now this may sound very one sided as the first to grab the flag will win.  This is very wrong.  Many times our team lost the flag, and got it back.  We on many battles and lost just as many.  It is a very enjoyable battle ground to engage in and try to fight in.  Other than battle grounds, there is world pvp.  In some instances, I found world pvp to be very sabotaging.  I played on a pvp server for a bit and found enemy players attack out towns and cities while forces from rifts were attacking.  This made it even more important to defend your towns and cities as now we didn’t have to worry about monsters form rifts, but the other faction destroying our towns.  It was gripping and engaging with a lot of potential if the producers of the game do it right.
Though the beta had many dungeons to take part in, I only had time to journey into one of them.  The Iron Tombs, a Defiant dungeon, full of darkness and mystery.  Three bosses await you inside, ready to kill you and destroy your soul.  Our group journeyed inside to destroy this evil and wipe it clean.  Rifts dungeons seem to follow the basic rule of most instanced dungeons in MMO’s right now.  You have trash monsters to fight, then a boss, then more trash, and another boss until you are done.  What made it different was the challenge.  For the beginner dungeon I felt it put forth a decent challenge.  The bosses tested the different classes in different ways.  The first boss tested mainly the damage dealers and the healers.  The fight is a basic tank and spank, but he has a deadly dot that requires a lot of healing, so you’ll want to kill him fast.  The second boss seems to be a test of the tanks ability to handle multiple creatures at once, while the damage dealers work together to kill them one at a time.  The final boss tests everyone’s ability to pay attention, as he can kill the whole group in a single attack if you don’t do the right thing.  This final boss, though he wasn’t too hard, is the first time I’ve seen an introductory dungeon with a boss capable of killing everyone in a single hit if you didn’t do what needed to be done.  I truly wish I had more time to see the other dungeons in the game, but this review was more important and I wanted to get a fair amount of time in on everything I could.  I can just imagine how rough some of the later dungeons will be.  As well, the end game dungeons will have three versions, the regular version, a heroic version and a second heroic version that I’m going to call an expert mode, making the dungeon extremely difficult and deadly.  This end game setup sounds great and I look forward to release to see how it all plays out.
As I battle my way through dungeons, killed the enemy faction, and sealed rifts, I found myself enjoying my time in the game.  For some time now, I have not played an MMO that was as enjoyable as this one.  The game has a lot of great potential, and as such, the Trion Worlds team is taking advantage of that potential.  One of the best parts of beta was how polished this game was.  It was easily one of the most polished games I’ve ever seen for a beta.  Very few bugs plagued it, and what bugs did were quickly fixed.  This shows a strong intent by the Trion team to bring the best gaming experience to their players as possible.  If they continue down this road, I can see Rift being around for a very long time and becoming very popular.  However, only time will tell.  I truly hope this game can be a huge success as the makers have truly put a lot of effort into it.
PROS –
Rifts, fresh and new, they make you care about your game world because if left untouched, they will destroy it.
Graphics are beautiful and clean.
Quick and easy to get into, game play is smooth.
Dungeons give a good challenge while being fun.
CONS –
Some animations seem choppy and unnatural.
Beautiful graphics means you need a better card, which could limit people from playing this game.
Quests can be dull as they follow your basic quest system in most MMO’s, however the lore is great.

Overall I enjoyed this game a lot, and can’t wait for its release.  As always, I hope you enjoyed this review of Rift:  Planes of Telara.  If this review has done anything, I hope it has been informative to you and helped you make your decision to either pass or buy this game.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read and I’ll see you on our next review. 
Thalack

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The countdown continues!!!

Thats right, we are almost ontop of the headstart of RIFT!  If you're like me, then you, like me, are one of many eager to wake up tomorrow morning and login to play, or perhaps wait in a queue, or god forbid, find the servers are down.

With this many posts on the forums for Rift have popped up.  Some asking how your GM felt when you told him/her you were leaving <insert game here> for Rift.  Or people tyring to predict tomorrows release, how it will go, and will it fall flat on its face like other MMO's, or be smooth and clean.

Only time will tell and that time is now less than 10 hours away!

To hop in on the forum chats to tide you over, go to http://www.riftgame.com/

I'll see you on the other side of the Rift!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The countdown has BEGUN!

That's right fellow Rifters, the countdown to headstart is on.  With just a bit over 24 hours to go, everyone who placed a preorder for Rift is most likely eagerly downloading with high expectations of Thursday, feb 24th.  If you haven't preordered Rift and want to see the game, I highly recommend you get your orders in fast to take part of the headstart.  Rift releases March 1st, and eager fans await.

If you'd like to preorder, you have the choice of a regular edition and collectors edition, in both digital download or box form.

For your digital download orders you can visit www.riftgame.com , steam or direct2drive.

For your physical copy you can order from many fine retailers such as Amazon.com, Gamestop.com, Best Buy and many other place.  For a full list visit www.riftgame.com.  Get those orders in and see you on the other side of the Rift.

Thalack

Monday, February 14, 2011

Incoming review!

Hey everyone, I know its been a few days...ok well about a week or so...ALRIGHT!   Nearly a month since i've posted anything, thats cause I've been working on a review that I don't want to post till the right time.  What is it?

RIFT

I've got a review coming for rift, and with the final phase of beta starting tomorrow, that means I can put the final touches on my review this week and get it posted.  I will also work on getting some videos posted.

I will say this much about Rift right now, I'm impressed.  I'll also toss this little touch in.  For a beta, it is clean.  I don't think I've ever played a beta that is as polished and solid as this.  This game is ready for release.  Lets just hope I don't eat those words when March 1st comes around and issues arise form unforseen difficulties.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BRAINS!!! Plants V.S. Zombies PC and Iphone review

Grab your lawn mowers, prep your lawn, plant your…plants and get ready for all out mayhem.  You’re in control of some of the deadliest plants this side of the street.  On the other side of the street, brain hungry zombies!!!  Your mission is to use plants to defend your brains from becoming a midnight snack.  Can you setup the right plants to protect you from a bunch of crazy zombies that show off their skills in being running backs, riding dolphins and even dancing?  If so, grab your plants and get ready to rock.
Game of the year, many times over and a special game of the year edition; Plants V.S. Zombies brings you into an exciting 2d world of carnage.  Your goal is to setup plants on your lawn to defeat zombies with limited resources.  The game takes you across night and day, from the front yard, to the back yard and onto the roof as you defend against endless waves.  The creators brought a lot of humor into the game with many of the plant names.  Pea-shooters, Wal-nuts and many other creative names that bring a smile to your face as you play. 
The game mixes a good bit of action with strategy to bring you a really great experience.  I’m not a huge fan of many 2d games like PvZ, but in this case I’m in love.  You are given just the right amount of resources to begin the game to deal with the zombies.  As the game progresses, you are introduced to more menacing and deadly zombies that want to eat your brains for lunch. With this, you get a new arsenal of plants to deal with the new zombies.  Setup your lawn how you need, but be careful, you only get so many resources to plan your strategy. 
Sun power is the source of life for your plants.  During the day, it falls from the sky and you can get it from Sunflowers.  You will need Sunflowers to be successful in every stage.  As you battle through hordes of zombies, day will eventually turn to night.  At night, you will receive no sun power from the sky, making your Sunflowers the only source.  Your strategy has to change with every major stage chance. 
Along the way, you meet your neighbor Crazy Dave.  He may seem crazy, but there is a method to his madness.  He provides you with valuable advice.  Later, he will sell you plants and items to help you along the way.  Unfortunately it only evens it out as the zombies become more aggressive.  Cone heads, zombies with screen doors and even zombies using balloons to try and fly over your plants.  You’ve got your work cut out for you.
The great part of the game is the creators knew how to keep it fresh, fun and enjoyable.  They’ve also thrown in mini games like Zombie Bowling that has explosive Wal-nuts.  These mini games bring another layer of freshness to the game to prevent it from getting redundant or boring.  Everything is well done and well rounded in this game that it’s unbelievable. 
I’ve had the chance to play this game on both the PC and Iphone app.  Yeah, I’m addicted to this game.  The only grueling difference I have noticed between the two versions in the mini games mode.  So far on the Iphone version I have not been able to find an option to play the various mini games like you can on the PC version.  Aside fm this being the only downside I see to the Iphone version, you can’t beat the entertainment you get for $2.99. 
I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun filled, silly game that’ll give you a good laugh alongside some fun action and strategy.
PROS
Hilarious Plant names.
Well rounded mixture of strategy, action and fun.
Great 2d game with funny animations.
Awesome sound effects, you’ll get a laugh.
CONS
The only con I find is in the Iphone version.  I can’t seem to find the mini games.  If I can find them, this con will be gone.

I hope you enjoyed this review of Plants V.S. Zombies and find yourself knee deep in plants soon.