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2671  Art Discussion / Music / Re: What are you listening to? on: June 08, 2010, 02:07:08 pm
Independant - Sacred Reich
2672  General Discussion / Movies/TV Discussion / Re: What Are You Currently Watching II: You Only Watch Twice on: June 08, 2010, 02:03:19 pm
So I was recently forced against my will to watch Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland  Or should I say;  Alice in Underland: The grimdark sequel to the childhood classic where everyone is now a warrior AND crazy instead of just crazy...

Let me preface what is about to follow with this statement.  I used to fucking love Tim Burton.  The first time I saw "Vincent" and the crazy frankenstein dog thing and saw what he was doing I was floored, I thought he was brilliant.  But then he did the same exact thing with every movie he's ever done since...  My love for his work dropped off incrementally as time went on because I wanted to see something different and by different I mean not just bizzare color choices and goth swirlies.  Now that diminishing love for his works hovers somewhere between nonexistent and lukewarm at best.

I was hesitant to see Alice in Wonderland for a few reasons.  My aforementioned diminishing appreciation for Mr. Burton was one reason, another was that I loved Lewis Carrol growing up.  Nonsense is fun, and unlike a lot of things I liked while growing up his works remain fun.  Especially the Alice in Wonderland stories because the nonsense counterpointed by her struggle to remain a proper little English girl takes on new depth when you're older.  And besides, I love quoting from the Jabberwocky and the Walrus and Carpenter during conversations I seek to end quickly by baffling my oppostion conversational partner.  (btw, I have an unpublished book, 101 ways to end unwanted conversations, I can't seem to find someone willing to print a book that encourages people to stick their finger up their nose and hum the theme to Star Wars.)

So anyway, when I was informed that Alice and Wonderland was in the DVD machine on purpose and it was to remain there and I would NOT be playing Red Dead Redemption on the widescreen HD TV I figured "what the hell?" popped open a beer and settled down to watch it.

I should have drank more beer...

I didn't want to dislike it.  I figured I was just going to sit through a mildly amusing tale of nonsense with Burtons signature pastel inspired color scheme and everyone would wear too much pale makeup and flounce about among the goth swirlies.  I was right about pretty much everything but the nonsense.  Of the things I expected from the movie I did not expect to be bored most of the time.  For the majority of the time the denizens of Wonderland *cough* Underland... were suitably strange but the whole Alice is the chosen one schtick?  My gosh man, who thought that outright war in Wonderland *damn it* Underland... was a good idea?  "Let's take a wonderful fanciful tale of nonsense and apply heaps of GRIMDARKTM plus attempts to give it a coherent plot.  Nonsense is supposed to be cheeky and fun, but this nonsense was cruel and tragic... which made it not really nonsense at all...

Yes I love elipeses...

But yea, not so much nonsense, which sucked much of the fun out of it right there.  There were attempts at nonsense, there really were, but they felt strained.  Much like the famous sporks and penguins /b/ chan post it wasn't really zany...  And Alice wasn't acting  prim and proper and English, trying to impose normallacy through reason upon the chaos, she was like a walking zombie whacked out on prozac barely reacting to ANYTHING while complaining that she was dreaming.  Whoever cast her deserves a good swift kick.  Johnny Depp I can take or leave as an actor and in this case he did nothing with the role of the Hatter, or maybe I just couldn't buy the role of the Hatter as some type of warrior.  His bizzare attempts at accents didn't really seem to fit the character and the Alice/Hatter romance angle?  Srsly?  In the books, as in the old Disney Cartoon he was illustrated as being an oldish man.  Given her age when she first arrived in Undergrimdarkland, he would be at LEAST old enough to be her father if not her grandfather now which just made it creepy.  Helena Bonham Carter did a good job as the Red Queen/Queen of Hearts (they couldn't really seem to make up their minds as to which one she supposed to be, maybe both at the same time?) and her CGI was one of the best effects in the movie.  The chesire cat effects were also good.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee were just ok, I loved the March Hare, Anne Hathaway was spacey and sort of annoying but I think she was supposed to be so good acting I guess? 

My biggest complaint has to be the Jabberwock though.  1.  It was a frickin' generic dragon.  Not very epic and certainly not worthy of being called the Jabberwock.  2.  The Jabberwock is a thing of nonsense and imagination, portraying it cheapened it, at least in my opinion. 

The ending where she went back into the real world was retarded and felt tacked on.  I won't go quite so far as to say I hated the film but I imagine Lewis Carrol would weep if he saw it.
2673  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: What are you playing? Episode 2: Sequel Reloaded! on: June 08, 2010, 09:27:29 am
Yea, they took me a bit to get used to.
2674  Art Discussion / Music / Re: What are you listening to? on: June 08, 2010, 07:54:25 am
That whole album was good.
2675  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: What are you playing? Episode 2: Sequel Reloaded! on: June 08, 2010, 06:26:38 am
Well I said relatively easy which means in relation to other Roguelikes.  Roguelikes by definition are brutally hard so yea... what HK said.

EDIT:   By the way, if you have an iPhone or an iPod touch you can download the original Rogue as a free app.  I prefer NetHack but it's still a fun way to pass the time and you can either play with sprite tiles or old school ASCII graphics.  Just keep in mind if you're playing in public that not everyone will understand when you begin cursing your iPod, the people in the doctor's office waiting room didn't...
2676  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: 72 Charitable Hours. on: June 08, 2010, 06:25:14 am
Thread is now sticky.

I'm interested but I'd have to know dates before hand and I seriously don't think I'd be able to open up three commplete days for it. 
2677  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: What are you playing? Episode 2: Sequel Reloaded! on: June 08, 2010, 05:38:42 am
Shiren is relatively easy as Roguelikes go because you can actually buff items and store them for future use.  

EDIT:  Future use meaning after you die one of the many horribly humilating deaths in store for you.  
2678  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: TZH Achievement Hunters? on: June 07, 2010, 01:17:05 pm
Confirmed through googling, it randomnly glitches for some people.  Other people I know have had it unlock with no problem, others have missed having earlier mutations not register.  I guess I'm waiting another week.
2679  Art Discussion / Music / Re: What are you listening to? on: June 07, 2010, 10:19:22 am
I have no idea. they rock.

Yes they do.
2680  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: What are you playing? Episode 2: Sequel Reloaded! on: June 07, 2010, 10:17:39 am
Fallout 3, with Anchorage, Pitt, Broken Steel and Point Lookout expantion packs. I love that game.

I bought all of the expansion packs a couple months back when they were half off as deal of the week, I still haven't played them yet.

And my Alpha Protocol review is up.
2681  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: TZH Game Reviews II: Sins of the Reviewer on: June 07, 2010, 10:15:13 am
Recently Completed:  Alpha Protocol

Time to Completion: A little over 20 hours.

System:  XBox 360

Story:  Without getting into too much spoiler territory you play as a secret agent in a shadowy government organization that doesn't officially exist. Your first mission series goes wrong and you end up rogue, on your own and trying to figure exactly what happened and why.  Along the way you can recruit allies, betray them, make friends and stay loyal to them or just be a complete asshole and shoot damn near everyone in the face and/or bounce their head of tables and bean them with booze bottles.  In short fun for the whole family.  Oh, you can also sleep with 90% of the female cast if you feel inclined to be the cyber reincarnation of James Bond.  And it's funny I should mention James Bond because...

The Good:  The main character has three main personas he channels when dealing with people based on the three JB's of the spy thriller genre.  Suave (James Bond), aggressive (Jack Bauer) proffesional (Jason Bourne).  During conversations you choose which stance you will use and you have a time limit to make the choice.  If you don't choose the game will simply choose for you using the last stance you used.  Occasionally you have the chance to choose a fourth option which is usually either an extreme action move, such as impromptu execution, or sometimes if you've gathered enough intel on someone you can catch them lying or something of that nature.  Or you can just be an ass and end the conversation.  At first while playing through some of the earlier conversations the thought "Mass Effect rip off" crossed my mind more than once.  But the more I played the more I realized that isn't really the case.  The game does not morally judge you for your choices.  There is no good/bad.  There's just results and consequences.  You want to get in good with the reporter chick?  Send her intel she can publish.  You want to actually make money from that intel?  Blackmail the bastards you stole it from.  You want to throw your weight around and be a dick with an informant?  Beat the living shit of him in a bar and publicly humilate him, but don't be surprised when he doesn't cut you in on his distribution network.  In fact, how you treat some characters will have direct reprecussions on how others deal with you because you will gain a reputation and they do keep each other up to date on your activities.  I played through the first time as a pretty "morally flexible" character.  I tried to keep a decent amount of allies to help me out but I also shot a lot of people in the face and burned a few bridges.  My buddy, (who is almost done with his playthrough) was pretty much a complete cockmonger but he kept damn near everyone alive so he could extort the hell of them at every opportunity.  Known differences so far, he missed out on a number of lucrative bonus objectives as well as not getting an assisst that would have made one of his boss battles almost infinitely easier.  I have access to more weapons and equipment than he does but not as much raw cash.  Also I got Mike (the main character) laid twice...

On that note I suppose the sex in the game must be covered since everyone lusts after pixelated boobies and virtual sex acts right?  No?  Just me?  I mean of course not, only perverts care about stuff like that.  Ah the hell with it, by this point everyone knows I'm a pervert anyway...  I thought the game handled the sex scenes well.  There are apparently 4 women you can sleep with at some point in the game (assuming you haven't killed them or pissed them off, yes I killed one and pissed off another) so I can't speak for all four but the two I did see were tastefully done, they didn't show anything graphic nor dwell on it overmuch.  You know what's going to happen, then they fade to black.  Mass Effect had more nudity (the butt shot) but if you're playing a game for the pixelated nudity, seriously get yourself some help.  But sleeping with every attractive woman who moves is a staple of the spy thriller genre ever since James Bond so I can see why they felt inclined to include the option in the game.

And since this is nominally an RPG you have a wide variety of skills to choose from as well as weapon upgrades.  The upgrade system works much like Mass Effect in that each weapon has slots you can upgrade (barrel, magazine, sights, and accessory which can range from stocks to complete frame replacement) all of which tweak some stat of the weapon.  One of the things I really liked was the fact you could buy different chokes for the shotguns to affect the spread pattern.  Another thing I liked was how there is no set inventory for the black market, what's availble is strongly influenced by your interactions with other characters.  If someone likes you well enough, or you if you drive a hard enough bargain when dealing with them, they'll give the nod to someone they know who knows some people and the next time you check there's some more stuff available for you to buy.  In fact some of the areas have nothing available when you first arrive, you have to cultivate local contacts first.  The armor system is similar, generally speaking the stealthier armor has less pockets and carrying space for gadgets than the bulkier combat armor but there are naturally a few middle of the road options that have nice balance. 

The skills are much as you would expect, weapons specific skill trees, stealth, hand to hand combat, gadet use, breaking and entering, overall toughness.  Unless you have a couple points put into a skill tree, it sucks.  You will not be able to be stealthy, you won't be able to punch your way out a paper bag, you won't be able to hit what you're aiming at.  If you max out a skill tree?  You will be as unto a god in that area.  My first play through I did a recruit who starts with NOTHING.  I spent most of the first area thinking stealth was broken in the games favor.  By the end of the game I had maxed out my stealth and was convinced it was broken in my favor.  The game gives you a LOT of flexibility as to how you specialize your stats.  And that being said, do not attempt to be a jack of all trades.  This is a game where specializing is key because the better skills open up late in the skill tree.  If you don't specialize you're going to suck equally at everything.

Closely related to the skill system are the perks.  The game will reward you for how you play.  Depending on how often you use various response types, or how many kills you make with a certain weapon or even how many hit points you've lost in your career the game will reward you with bonuses of AP (action points buy your skills), EXP, and even health and damage bonuses.  It's nice to be given a bonus for hanging up on enough people  laugh

The Bad:  The graphics are not pretty.  The character models and animations range from "servicable" on the high end to "first gen 360 or possibly even late gen XBox" on the low end.  I get that an RPG is about story first and graphics second but some of the jerky animations (the main characters hunched over "stealth" walk) leave you scratching your head and asking "couldn't they have polished this just a LITTLE more?"  Textures have a bad habit of not fully loading in, this is especially noticeable when you're checking out weapons and armor and the game chugs to load the texture while you're looking at an amorphous blob; wondering if it's a new bulletproof vest or if the rendering card just vomited straight to the screen.  Also you WILL get noticeable moments where you transition from one area to another where the game will pause to load.  A little rotating Alpha protocol logo pops up and the screen blurs to assure you that the game didn't freeze up and they USUALLY only have these at doorways but I encountered a few in hallways or large rooms which was jarring.  I will say though that I never had the game actually freeze on me so that's pretty cool.

The cover system... it has the same problems most context sensitive cover systems do, you hug the wrong wall and open yourself for being shot for instance.  Plus they added a few more just for your torture.  Most doorways allow you to take cover next to the door so you can cautiously push the door open without getting a bullet in the teeth.  But some doorways that appear to have just as much room if not more won't allow it..?  Plus there's the fact that really the cover is almost completely pointless, most of the time I just crouched behind something and didn't bother wall hugging and it served me just as well without the goofy control issues.

The camera is just plain stupid.  It will not track to your movements all and I HATE having to run in half circle or some other tactical move while manually panning the camera.  Call me spoiled but cameras haven't been this dumb since the inception of 3-D platforming.  The one slightly redeeming quality is that you can click the left thumbstick in to center the camera, a fact that isn't covered in the manual and that I found on accident.  Still, it's not the same as having a proper camera.

And speaking of dumb... The AI is straight up ridiculous.  As if being crippled by horrendous walk paths where they will stand staring at the wall waiting for you to show up and stick a shiv in their back wasn't bad enough, these poor saps also have NO peripheral vision.  I've approached some of them who are facing three quarters towards me and they continue to stand stock still, jaw hanging slightly open to let the drool escape until I crush their windpipe and snicker under my breath.  Or I'll attempt to perform the same manuever and lo and behold!  His ESP will kick in and he'll quickly pivot and empty his AK mag into my forehead, then call for backup.  Then his friends will take turns dumping rounds into my skull while I fractically attempt to backpedal while mashing the ineffectual cover button until I die from blood loss.  And they never really seem to get smarter as the game goes on, instead you merely face more of them with better weapons and more health.  They also will get upgraded with some brutal hand to hand moves so don't expect to pimp slap them to death like you can in the early stages unless you keep your martial arts skills buffed up.  In other words inconsistent and nintendo hard instead of properly intelligent.

Overall:  Overall I'm equal parts disappointed and satisfied.  I was a huge fan of Black Isle studios (Planescope Torment anyone?) and have bought everything they've done since becoming Obsidian.  (Like KotOR 2.)  And just like KotOR 2 and Planescape there are truly awesome moments in the game.  And sadly like both of the aforementioned titles it also have parts that just seem so unfinished.  For KotOR 2 I blamed the fast turnaround time from original to sequel for the lack of polish but Alpha Protocol can't hide behind that excuse.  The game has been in production for at least two years and got delayed from a release in October of last year for more polishing.  What they did with the game in the last seven months sort of mystifies me.  But beyond the sometimes clunky controls, dated graphics and usually goofy AI I actually enjoyed the game.  I liked the character interaction and I've already restarted with my veteran character and am enjoying trying different actions to see their consequences.  At the end of the game while the credits roll there's a voiceover of a news broadcast which lets you know the longer reaching implications of your choices in the different world arenas you affected, it was a nice touch.  If you're an achievement point completist or want to see all the different endings the game will take you a few playthroughs.  But if you're not looking for an investement that long term I really can't reccomend buying it, and even if you were to buy you're probably better off waiting till the price drops to 30 or 40 bucks.  That probably won't be too far in the future.

Final Grade: C+/ B-
2682  General Discussion / Game Discussion / Re: What are you playing? Episode 2: Sequel Reloaded! on: June 07, 2010, 05:26:19 am
I beat Alpha Protocol this weekend and already starting playing through again on the veteran career setting.  It ended up better than I thought it would and one of my buddies is also playing through it.  Comparing notes we're seeing some of the differences between our game choices and I have more respect for the game than I did initially.  I still wouldn't give it an A+, more like a C+ or B -

In fact I think I'm going to do a review on it.
2683  General Discussion / General Discussion / Re: PP: Not having a Pet Peeves thread. on: June 07, 2010, 05:23:43 am
And they cut off support for all Xbox Original games... So yeah...

All the more reason for me to get my old X-Box hard drive transplanted to a working machine.
2684  Art Discussion / Music / Re: What are you listening to? on: June 07, 2010, 05:22:22 am
Alestorm - Wolves of the sea.

Why did it take me so long to start to listening to these guys?
2685  General Discussion / Webcomics Discussion / Re: Funny Webcomic Thread... It lives! on: June 07, 2010, 05:21:39 am
Hehe, good old Pyramid Head.
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