3 Weeks, 3 Shooters

3 Weeks, 3 Shooters

With about $20 on me I walked into Play N Trade and began to browse. Play N Trade is a typical non-Gamestop used game store. They have games from practically every popular system and hold the occasional local tournament. With a buy 2 get 1 free sale going on I began browsing the Xbox 360 games for any cheap titles I was curious about when they were released but either didn't have the time, interest, or money to invest in them. After what was probably way too long of time to make a pretty simple decision I choose my 3 games.

Warhammer 40K: SpaceMarine:

Brown with bullets.

With a friend or two into Warhammer and one in particular who sang the praises of this game I gravitated to this title right away. I had told myself over and over I would return to this game one day and give it its due.

The game lets you play as a powered up SpaceMarine. You're mowing down fields of Orks, inside brown and bland buildings, with weapons that keep the shooting diverse enough through the 8-10 hours of gameplay. The story doesn't really get going until about halfway through and even then I'm still left wondering what any of it really means. The story and the world do the overall game a disservice though.

The diversification of locations isn't varied at all. You wander through fallen buildings, standing buildings, and underground, below buildings. Really it all serves to give the waves of enemies new spots to rush at you and take cover from your attacks. Luckily the combat is enjoyable and spotting a new group of Orks to rip up is a good thing.

Oh and the elevators. You'll take an elevator down, fight some Orks, pull a lever, and take that elevator back up. About to open a door to the next room? Nope, it's an elevator to the next room. Elevators are a decent way to hide loading times but when your have at least 25 throughout your game you really need to think of an alternative. And that essentially sums up the entire game. SpaceMarine found a handful of good ideas, attached a story, and never let up. New or different ideas don't crop up the entire time and for a game attached to such a crazy universe that seems like a missed chance.

Battlefield Bad Company 2:

More brown and bullets. More blowing things up.

I don't play a lot of Battlefield. Battlefield 4 was by first big introduction to the series and I even tried out Hardline for a few hours just to see what it would be all about. I knew coming into Bad Company 2 that the game's tone would be different from the self-serious military tone I'm used to seeing in Battlefield and COD games. The marriage of the lighter tone, the destructibility, and the tight shooting really serve to give the now stale genre of first person shooters a new and fresh feeling.

The game encourages the demolition bug within all of us. There will be those moments when you're pinned down by some annoying group of enemies and no way around it. In other games you're stuck between the checkpoint and your ability to hide behind whatever cover you can find to heal. In Bad Company you can switch over to the grande launcher and decimate the building their in. It doesn't always root out the nest but it will certainly give you a moment or two to find a solution.

Despite this being a fantastic game all around it was probably my least favorite. We live in a world now where the first person shooter genre is more of a list of features and Bad Company 2 ticks every single one of those off. However those are all features and experiences you've been through before. It's a shame since this is still a stand out so many years later.

Bulletstorm:

Less brown. More bullets.

I saved Bulletstorm for last because I honestly didn't expect to push through all of it. Having played through the demo multiple times when it was released I thought I knew what the combat was about. Either that combat had changed between demo and game or between release and now because what I played back then and now was much more enjoyable.

Each enemy you kill is scored depending on how you managed to do so. Simply shooting a guy a lot scores low and doubles as a poor way to dispense with enemies. Most of the enemies are bullet sponges further encouraging you to deal with them in different ways. Your whip and kick are ways to pull enemies or objects manipulating the battle in your favor. When you see an explosive but it's sitting next to you instead of the enemy, you can kick it right into their face.

One guy is a cyborg. One guy curses a lot. Real depth.

Even without those explosives most sections with enemies will have plenty of ways to earn combat points. You put enemies into cactus, rebar, chasm, electrical wires, and more. Finding out ways to do so makes a group of overbearing enemies almost fun. I accidentally found out that you can pull enemies who are behind cover and far away into objects and earn points. I felt like the combat was a small puzzle to put the enemies where I wanted them.

There were some cringe inducing and frustrating moments. The dialogue was a cross between Duke Nukem and Gears of War. Gruff, foul mouthed, overly tough soldiers running around talking about how their dick just got scared off. It fit the world and story but wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear for 8 hours.

The fun combat, the vibrant environments, and pace of the game overcame all my problems with Bulletstorm. I wouldn't mind seeing another game similar to this one especially now that the newer consoles.

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I didn't expect to enjoy all three games. Each come to the genre with a different mind set and try to take a very worn out concept and make it its own. None of are perfect, far from it. But playing something away from the norm was refreshing and made me wonder about other titles I may have skipped over that I should go back a play through.

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Movies Did Poorly This Summer

Will there be Dodgson?

Instead of the usual box office preview this month, I'll spend the time looking back at how 2014's summer movie season really did and look forward to 2015.

More of a 'classic' poster.

Despite a solid series of films being released (Guardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, and Days of Future Past to name a few) this past summer's box office numbers were down. 2014 will go down as the worst summer at the box office since 1997, a 15% overall decline compared to last year's totals. However if you put these numbers in front of film studios they wouldn't be shocked or surprised. The overall sales were already expected to drop about 11% making the 4% difference much easier to swallow. And many studios have been delaying film production for their marquee franchises until next year.

If I could only see one film next year it would be an easy decision.

Seriously look at next year. Taken 3, Jupiter Ascending, Fast & Furious 7, Avengers 2, Mad Max, Tomorrow Land (Brad Bird's next film), Jurassic World, Fantastic Four, Ted 2, Terminator, Magic Mike 2, Minions (aka Despicable Me 3), Ant-Man, Poltergeist, and Assassin's Creed only take us into September of 2015. Not to mention Star Wars. And in between are new Cameron Crowe, Ron Howard, Judd Apatow, and Chris Columbus films. That's nearly 20 films which could have some of us wanting to go to the movies almost twice a month just to keep up. That's intense.

So maybe 2014 was even slower than expected but this may, in part, have been by design for most movie studios. 2015 will be the real test. Can studios really expect everyone to shell out the money to see every film released? With so many franchises being rebooted, refreshed, and redone are movies breaking the summer blockbuster mold?

Take a look at Captain America 2. It was released in April, a month earlier than the official summer move season, and yet still earned $700 million. Marvel put it there as a counterweight for the gamble that was Guardians. So why do studios still wait until June and July to bring out the big guns? Maybe 2015 will be a grand lesson. Maybe we'll have some 'Lone Ranger" like flops in the cards.

Or maybe this Christmas just ask relatives to send you movie gift cards and nothing else.

Check out this New York Times article for more info on the 2014 summer movie season.

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August Movie Preview!

With a dry July it's up to August to cap off this summer in a big way. Sure 2015 and 2016 are the real years to spend some cash at that theater but in case you'd like to escape the heat at all in the coming weeks you'll probably be seeing one of the following films. If I didn't mention the movie you're looking forward to this month feel free to leave it in the comments.

Guardians of the Galaxy-August 1st:

Your Royal Rumble winner.

Quite possibly the biggest release this year and the only Marvel movie of the summer. Guardians is different than your usual Marvel comic film now that we're moving off of the Avengers formula and moving into the deeper, and stranger, Marvel universe. Among fans Guardians of the Galaxy aren't exactly your 'go-to' franchise for a big feature film especially since their tone doesn't match up with what Marvel has already been producing. Change, however, may be a breeze of fresh air into that movie studio that keeps them from taking those billion dollar box office totals for granted.

James Gunn (Super, Slither) is directing and previews give off a goofy and different feel than any other comic book film, and the cast somewhat backs that up. If Guardians flounders it won't be a big blow to Marvel's movie plans but those other one off films setting up the larger universe, Dr. Strange and Ant-Man chief among them, may have to be handled with kid gloves. Do comic book movie fans want more strange comic book movies? Or do they only want more Iron Man and Thor?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-August 8th:

Turtles should always be Henson puppets.

Michael Bay is here to ruin your life! Well not really. The Turtles have been on the big screen before and with great success ($200+ profit) but it really seemed like a franchise rooted in the 80s and 90s. However Michael Bay, who is producing, tapped Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans) to direct this giant question mark of a movie. Even as a fan of the original films, not that terrible third one, I may have little hope in this movie but I also don't mind that it exists. The Turtles have a new TV show on, a new movie coming out, and suddenly their comics are back on shelves. Just be glad we can once again debate openly about our favorite turtle and enjoy it while it lasts.

Let's Be Cops-August 13th:

Gun Five!

I hadn't heard of this film until a full length trailer, no TV edited down version, was aired during wrestling recently. Luke Greenfield isn't an acclaimed comedy writer and Damon Waynes Jr. and Jake Johnson also aren't exactly hard to get actors. The premise is pretty simple, Johnson plays a stuck in life loser who dresses up as a cop with his best friend for Halloween. Their costumes are very convincing and soon they're having the time of their lives. The next night they do it again each time uping their costume and sliding deeper into their fantasy.

The trailer reveals little plot besides the titular phrase "let's be cops!" but with a raunchy comedy you really don't need much. The main plot essentially writes itself but it's all the in between stuff, also called jokes, will be the glue of this movie. Also Johnson's character, according to Wikipedia, is named Ryan Davis. So hopefully this is up to his standard.

The Expendables 3-August 15th:

Continuing the grand tradition of hiring every old 80s/90s action star and current wanna-be action stars, Expendables 3 should have been the last big action hit of the summer. Then it leaked. Not a slight drip that echoes down the hallway and keeps you up at night. The film is already reported across several torrent sites and it's gone beyond the talk of seedy forums and onto movie sites like Deadline and AV Club, essentially guaranteeing even more illegal viewers. This leak only makes the life of this film even tougher since the third film of most franchises aren't usually known for quality or their box office gains. Expendables 2 was generally regarded as a downgrade and no one would be surprised if this one followed in those footsteps. But when your specialty is explosions and mayhem it's hard to go wrong.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For- August 22nd:

Ladies...

The original Sin City came out in 2005, nearly a decade ago in a world devoid of Giant Bomb. It introduced audiences to a deeper and more stylized comic book film. Only in black, white, and red this sequel seeks to follow up on the original and still has the stamp of approval from Frank Miller, the comic's creator. A lot of the cast return including Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, and Michael Madsen and Robert Rodriguez, with help from Miller, will be directing once again. This looks like a return to form for an almost forgotten franchise and hopefully this will anchor this summer off nicely.

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July movie Preview!

Somehow July is a weak collection of films. With Transformers looming in late June, July was left kind of empty for the big early holiday. Luckily what does come out really seems to be interesting and hopefully pan out into some decent summer films. Personally I think comic book films have somewhat raised our expectations from blockbusters. We need character progression, an epic story, and quality action and effects from every film just to be worth our money. But really don't we all just want a fun distraction for a few hours? Just let me watch apes fight humans without tearing the film to pieces first.

Deliver Us from Evil (July 2nd):

Eric Bana looks for traces of his career.

Somehow the biggest release of the long Independence Day weekend was only this horror film. Maybe studios thought they should steer clear of Transformers possible path of destruction. Luckily that gives smaller films and less popular genres a chance to pop up on marquees and hopefully make their money. I'm not sure how horror films became suddenly so popular that they can crop up during the summer and survive but as long as it's good that's all that matters.

This one has some decent pedigree. Director Scott Derrickson has some horror directing background and is attached to the upcoming Doctor Strange film. Eric Bana and Olivia Munn might not win over everyone to rush out and see the film but horror films don't always need world class actors to be good.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th):

Arguably the biggest release of this month could mark the revival in earnest of the Planet of the Apes franchise or be the film that ends it all. It isn't as if the Apes series is much to live up to and despite being a sequel this one has some bigger actors casted, like Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, and Judy Greer, and returns the same producers to the series along with new director Matt Reeves who has some JJ Abrams connections with his past work.

I'd love to see this franchise flourish but hopefully, like the originals, they never take themselves too seriously. The science fiction action mixed with overarching themes of man's hubris and violence always married well in the older films.

Sex Tape (July 18th):

Jason Segel why? If you haven't seen some of the commercials or trailers for this film then perhaps you don't understand my deep disappointment with Segel. Get yourself ready, if that's possible, and venture to Youtube and check one of those trailers out.

Now maybe you understand my disappointment. I wouldn't mind a silly, R-rated, comedy about a couple and their sex tape. Instead this looks like a comedy made for my mom who hears words like "upload", "the cloud", and "computer" with some sense of confusion. This was hopefully a case of a film looking better on paper than in practice and is only a slip up for Segel and not a sign of things to come.

Hercules (July 25th):

HA!

Having won against and then lost against John Cena, The Rock left the WWE looking for solace and peace in his life. And soon he found a role perfect for an action star best known for his muscles and personality as much as his Rock Bottom. This is more about what Hercules did after all his famous feats rather than the biography of the legend which sounds more interesting than a "by the letters" film. This one does seem to come across as a typical action film but it is based on a comic from Steve Moore so maybe this movie will have a good story to go along with all the Rock action. If Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is this months biggest release then Hercules is a close second. I'm hoping this one stands out in July and brings some fun to the theaters.

Lucy (July 25th):

"Am I an action star yet?"

I didn't know this movie existed until last week when a trailer popped up in a commercial break. Scarlett Johansson plays the titular Lucy who has been experimented on giving her the ability to use more and more of her brain power. At each boon to her mental capacity she can change her appearance at will, control others, and become incredibly powerful all while being hunted down.

This film seems more like vehicle for Johansson to become more of an action star ever since that avenue opened for her after the Avenger films. It certainly helps Luc Besson (The Professional, Fifth Element) is directing but the trailers don't inspire too much hope. But with such a drought of films in July it does have a chance to succeed.

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June Movie Preview!

June is supposed to be the real start of the blockbuster season. When movies get even bigger and box office busts get even uglier. This year doesn't really have that bite previous years have had. Last year saw Monsters University, Man of Steel, and This is the End all come out during June. This year however is a bit light on the heft. Maybe sequels just don't carry the weight they once did or the complete absence of any comic book film (which is actually a little crazy).

Edge of Tomorrow - June 6th:

How many things can Tom Cruise run from?

Tom Cruise is still trying to be the action hero he really seems to think he is. Luckily for him Edge of Tomorrow may actually be worth a ticket. Cross Groundhog Day with futuristic WW2 where Cruise is a typical soldier who dies, relives the same day, dies, repeat. Along the way he is supposed to learn and figure out how to defeat a threat to all of Earth. Emily Blunt plays along side Cruise as his teacher and war hero who will most likely turn into a love interest. Early reviews hold this to be a fun and interesting sci-fi movie and I've been hankering for one of these for awhile. And who can say no to anything that can be described as "like Groundhog Day"?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 - June 13th:

There was a time when Pixar ruled the world of computer animated feature length films. You could probably argue they still do, but in 2010 How To Train Your Dragon proved DreamWorks could put out a quality CGI film. Now the sequel is coming out and I'm still wondering if they can mess it all up. Shrek practically imploded in quality once the sequels started coming out. I managed to never see the original so for me this film barely shows up on my movie radar. For some, especially families, this is a major release.

22 Jump Street - June 13th:

Look at the wacky adventures college brings!

I wouldn't have bet that 21 Jump Street would have done well enough to deserve a sequel. An R-rated comedy based on a late 80s TV show doesn't sound like a diamond in the rough to me. A $200 million box office however changes minds pretty quickly. Somehow it does seem this film has gone farther off the 'dumb' comedy deep end. The changes just seem to come from a sequel checklist. Before they were undercover in a high school, now they're in college. Same plot but probably with more explosions and action moments. And probably a last minute romance subplot that has little impact on the story line or characters.

I lament these movies because I think Channing Tatum has some comedy talents. With a better story these films could be akin to the Bad Boys films which also starred two comedians in an action film. But the Jump Street movies lean too hard into the comedy theme without ever truly allowing the action and story grow.

Transformers: Age of Extinction - June 27th:

While there are other, smaller, and more interesting releases in June, its all leading up to Transformers. After the third film enough drama had built up around the films (lack of quality, actor complaints, racism, or sexism take your pick) that a somewhat reboot was in order. Gone is Shia and in comes Mark Wahlberg. I'm hoping, but not expecting, the new actors and Dinobots bring new life this series only had a spark of when it started. But with Michael Bay still at the helm, the same producers, and even the same writer as previous films expect explosions, terrible characters, terrible acting, and a terrible film.

How great could Dinobots be on film though? The T-Rex spit fire!

If I missed any movies you're looking forward to feel free to add them in the comments. And feel free to follow me on twitter!

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Coming Back To KOTOR

In 2003 I live with my mom in a two bedroom town home. The management would "lose" our rent check at least twice that I can remember. I shared a bathroom with her and would often just sit in the bathroom, showering running, to have a few moments complete peace. My room was mostly filled with moving boxes we never unpacked. My parents separated and divorced forcing a downsize from a 4 bedroom home to this town home. Eventually there would be arguments, restraining orders, and yelling, all at a time when I was trying to really figure out what Middle and High school were all about.

I played my brother's SNES so much I think he might have started asking I that I get.

I was spoiled up until my parents divorced. Not too long ago I found some home movies (VHS tapes converted to .mp4s) from Christmas 1998 where I unwrapped a N64 and a SNES. My room is lined with stuffed animals and my closet has bin upon bin of leftover toys from my brother and toys I had been collecting. Snap forward only a handful of years and I somehow knew to take advantage of what I did have.

Somehow, a few years after it's initial release, I was given an original Xbox. I never asked about finances but I distinctly remember worrying this gift would somehow make it harder to pay for bills. Despite my anxiety it was still video games. Among the handful of games I would eventually get for the system was Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic. A big release for the Xbox, KOTOR was a Star Wars RPG that set up an amazing story line and gameplay that can only be described as Mass Effect like. You controlled a budding Jedi who had to travel the galaxy, talk to and level up companions, and solve missions earning either evil or good side points along the way. I dove deep into this world I had only really seen in movies like I never had before.

The only fighting game I ever got "good" at.

It was the first game I played through repeatedly, back-to-back. I wanted to see every potential scene and solve every problem in every way. I was roleplaying my unique character each time. One time acting as the boy scout Jedi I imagined I would try to be if any of this were real. Then the evil and malicious bad guy who would rather kill all those in his path than even talk to them. I was learning more about my favorite movies and giving myself a habit I would break for months.

Years later my mom would eventually move us into a rented home. Those boxes sat in the spare bedroom and a large window would light up my room while I played Sum Of All Fears and Soul Calibur 2 on the GameCube. High School would eventually end, I'd be off to college, and those years of a tiny room and only a few games to string out would be gone.

Now I sit only feet away from an Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U. I'm lucky. Incredibly lucky. And yet I use my PC to play that same game, KOTOR. I play through the opening that takes something around 4-5 hours to get through before the game opens up. I meet HK-47 and replay his conversations over and over because I missed the way he spoke. I lead Bastila around the universe knowing full well I hold her true future in my hands. I realize some characters I liked are full on jackasses and characters I remember ignoring now becoming much more interesting. The layers your typical Jedi story with strange noises being heard around the ship. With side stories worth milking out every word of. I'm getting more out of a 10+ year old game than any of the newest games released this year.

I've stopped playing though. I could say it's the newer games I just grabbed from the One's launch. I could argue my new girlfriend is occupying more of my time. Or that my continuing job search and possible apartment hunt are stresses that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. But really it's that memory of the box filled room. Watching TRL in the afternoon and playing video games until my mom came home to make us leftovers for dinner. Intermingled are warm feelings for my mom, who tried so hard to give me everything. Cold feelings from that strange and, at times, frightening time in my life. A time when I latched onto anything to give me a moment away from the life I had. I don't need to sink deep into this game to escape again.

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May Movie Preview!

May Movie Preview!

May has swiftly become the unofficial beginning of the summer movie season. Perhaps it's the gluttony of comic book movies or the desperation by studios to find a weekend all to themselves in hopes of getting a bigger box office . Either way more movies over more weekends isn't a bad thing. I used to do these write ups over on Screened so I figured I'd keep it going over here! This won't cover every film released over the month (if I miss anything feel free to add it on in the comments!) but will focus on some of the bigger and more interesting releases.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 - May 2nd:

Since I'm writing this up at the tail end of the first weekend of May we've already had our first major release, Sony's next Spider-Man installment, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The first release was Sony's hopeful attempt to revive a now dead film franchise as the rest of Marvel was doing so well with the Avengers films.

With a darker tone, newer and more popular actors, and a different story it seemed Sony was going to do well with this new Spider-Man but it wasn't the huge hit the first Sam Raimi films were. But with a new actor and setting established with this well known hero Sony was hoping this would be a growing opportunity. You can already read the review for this sequel over on ComicVine and it seems to echo most of the sentiment on this movie. Worth seeing but nothing worth going crazy for. With $90+ million in the first weekend I fully expect a sequel so I hope you're enjoying yourself some Spidey man.

Neighbors - May 9th:

Seth Rogen and Zac Efron is a wacky comedy! Rogen is a husband who moves into a new home with his lovely and pretty wife, played by Rose Byrne, and their newborn baby only to realize their neighbors are Zac Efron, Dave Franco (James Franco's younger brother), and a crazy fraternity. Their loud parties are too much for the young couple and you know how young males can't possibly control themselves? So of course is comes down to a prank war between the two.

The previews look alright and it is rated-R so perhaps it has a chance to tell some decent jokes, especially since it comes from Nicholas Stoller who's other film is Forgetting Sarah Marshall. More than likely it looks like a poor vehicle for a poor comedy. Rogen hasn't been the tour-de-force like he was a handful of years ago but this does seem like a decent mix of funny people so hopefully it works out.

Godzilla - May 16th:

Godzilla shortly after stubbing his toe.

If there is a movie to see in May, it's this one. The less said about the last Godzilla movie the better and now we may have a new one to wash the bad taste out of our collective mouths. Coming from the director of Monsters, Gareth Edwards, this one seems to abandon the summer blockbuster feel of the 1998 film and goes for the more traditional monster movie flavor were used to seeing in our Godzilla films. If you're worried about what exactly this film will be do yourself a favor and go watch one of the full trailers on Youtube. If they don't get you excited for this film, not much will.

Perhaps the success of Godzilla, and the previous success of Pacific Rim, we could be seeing the beginning of a new monster movie era in Hollywood. I don't want it to be as big as comic book films are now, that would be insane. But just give me a few more and I certainly wouldn't mind it.

X-Men Days of Future Past - May 23rd:

Sentinels were one of my favorite X-Men ideas. Glad to see them finally in the films.

Days of Future Past marries those first few X-Men movies with the most recent successful one, perhaps setting the stage for the next set of X-Men giving the older actors a break and the new actors a bigger chance. Taking possibly one of the more interesting and popular comic book story lines will certainly help.

For the X-Men the future is a bleak place. The Sentinels have taken over North America and are bent on over taking the world and either killing or capturing every mutant along the way. Wolverine is sent back in time to warn his colleagues of what will happen if they don't act and change their fate.

It's certainly an interesting way to go since this would change the timeline and give these new actors, and Hugh Jackman, their own X-Men universe to flourish. This film has lots of promise and really looks to have a chance to be pretty big.

A Million Ways To Die in the West - May 30th:

Seth on his day off.

Somehow, someway, Seth MacFarlane is not only still relevant but is still pretty funny. MacFarlane was once just "the Family Guy guy" for good or for ill. Now though he's branched out with American Dad, Cleveland Show, hosting the Oscars, and the movie Ted. Not bad for a guy who started out writing for Dexter's Lad, Cow and Chicken, and Johnny Bravo. Maybe you don't like his particular brand of humor but you can't deny MacFarlane's steady success.

A Million Ways to Die is a western movie that not only stars MacFarlane, but also has him producing, directing, and writing, making this a pure MacFarlane venture. Albert, played by Seth, is a cowardly sheep farmer who meets a new girlfriend but also a new villain who looks to challenge and end Albert's courage. Really it all sounds like an excuse to have fun in a western setting which not a lot of movies go to anymore. The previews seem more encouraged to tell jokes than tell an interesting story, which isn't a bad thing.

MacFarlane is a bug question mark when it comes to comedy. I personally like American Dad and was really surprised by Ted, however Family Guy only had a few moments before it quickly got annoying rather than funny. Hopefully A Million Ways to Die ends up being a funny surprise than an annoying disappointment.

Thanks for reading! If you like this perhaps I'll keep it going here on GB. Mainly it liked doing these because it kept me pretty updating on movie releases throughout the year. If I missed a release feel free to add it onto the comments.

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Infamous Incursion

Note: Spoilers beyond this point.

In an effort to prepare for the upcoming Infamous: Second Son, as well as play through a backlog of PS3 games, I began pushing through the first two games in the franchise. I probably should have given more time between the two to fully enjoy both, but oh well.

Infamous:

The feeling of wielding superhero powers to save "your" city is incredibly satisfying.

Right away the first Infamous didn't exactly hook me. Released two years after Crackdown, a game I played plenty of, Infamous looked and felt like a beefed up version of the same game. And in some ways it really is. Open world, hidden items that improve your character, earning experience points, spending points on upgrades, and the idea of verticality all are obvious focuses of design in both.

What finally hooked me was the tight focus Infamous had married with its game design. Leveling your character up, purchasing new powers, and exploring the world and combat with these powers feels really natural. Just as I began to get tired of the beginning island (and this was after playing through a good chunk of the side missions) the second one opened up and the enemies got a little harder. Soon the story got more interesting, even with Zeke's annoyances, and I earnestly wanted to see how my decisions would play out.

The comic book style of the cut scenes underscore the game design in a subtly awesome way.

The one piece of design I didn't enjoy were those decisions. The morality felt more tacked on than a part of the overall design and game play of Infamous. It felt like someone had the idea to add morality and no one expanded upon or evolved the idea any further.

The story was another weak point. While I did want to see the ending, and enjoyed fighting my way through the myriad of gang bosses within the game, it felt as if what was being set up would be grander. Both games have TVs placed around the world that show you how the outside world is responding to the in-game events. Neither cash in this set up though. While I knew what Infamous 2 was doing, Infamous 1 felt like this was one thread left untied.

But when it came down to it when I finally finished Infamous, I just wanted more.

Infamous 2:

Whereas the first Infamous left me with a lackluster initial impression, Infamous 2 blew me way with in the first hour or so. The visuals were turned up, the art within the game became more bright and colorful, and the tweaks to characters, powers, and overall art design really made Infamous 2 seem more like a true AAA title of its era. However the further along I went into Infamous 2, the more it's continuing sore spots wore heavy on me. I couldn't get enough of the well designed side missions and collectibles in the first game but in the second everything felt tacked on or easier.

Color!

Blast shards are the game within the game of Infamous 2. In the original the first batch on each island were a good mix of low hanging fruit and cleverly hidden. Some of the tougher ones would force you to climb the highest tower or stare at ledges for several minutes as if figuring out a complex PushMo puzzle. In 2, the majority of these shards are all easy to grab. Before opening up any new areas of the game I had already wrung the shards out of the first area completely. This was repeated several times through each new section of the game until the final area only had a scant few on really high buildings or structures.

New Conduits and swapping powers kept the game from becoming too stale.

The game play also felt as if it was getting in the way of itself rather than serving the overall design. You're meant to be a running electrical storm and yet each new batch of baddies would terrify me as soon as one had a rocket launcher. With deadly aim and one blast these bad guys could have you on your ass while a few more bullets put you down even before your animation allows you to move again. A similar death trap occurs when the Ravagers, a tougher to beat enemy that would roll around with other swamp monsters, would catch you in a melee charge. This charge would trap you on the ground and require you to mash R1, shocking the Ravager off of you. The problems happens when the other swamp enemies would also rush you while trapped in the Ravager escape animation. Now your health is dwindling at twice the rate with no where to run.

The Beast, and it's impact on the story, was truly amazing. Just one of those great video game moments I'll remember.

Making me feel trapped within the confines of the design when I should feel like a superhero severally cut my enjoyment of Infamous 2 the further I went along.

The story was both a plus and minus. Overall I enjoyed the broadening of the Conduit concept, allowing more characters with powers allowed the writers more room to play around in. Where it felt more lackluster was the execution. Both the swamp monsters and the sudden appearance of 'the plague' went unexplained long enough that I almost thought it never would be. For a few hours I wondered if these new story hooks would just sit around and just be wasted time. Finally though the story came around on itself. Revealing John as the beast, Kuo and Nix switching moralities in the end, and all the characters feeling more well rounded. Even Cole and Zeke's bromance felt like two real friends than a pestering Zeke and gravel voiced Cole.

Second Son:

I don't know what I want from a new Infamous, and I like that. Ending Cole's story after two games felt right. They set up the plot in 1, then knocked all the pins down in 2. But they left a complicated and changed world in their path. Playing around in this new world, with new characters, and new stories sounds more interesting than anything I think they could come up with for an Infamous 3.

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A Long Overdue Thanks to Giant Bomb

The Bombcast set the bait, the Endurance Run reeled me in.

In late 2008 I was not in a great place in my life. I had just gone through a breakup and was on the tail end of an discouraging job. I was faced with a familiar place psychologically and that was depression. I wasn't unstable and I wasn't in need of serious help, I was simply sad and unhappy with where I was. In my spare time between making sandwiches and playing some video games I began looking for a place online to put my time into. One of those places was the iTunes list of video game podcasts.

I had always been interested in video games but never was able to dive too deep into the business or enthusiast side of things until college. After listening to a handful of shows I stumbled upon only one really stuck out with a level of energy and enthusiasm that I was drawn to. That energy was led by Ryan Davis, the first voice you hear on most Giant Bombcasts, who drew me into the site itself. Soon I was an avid user watching the Persona 4 endurance run daily and burning through the older Bombcasts eventually reaching Arrow Pointing Down.

Shame and breast milk.

Eventually I was a user and then a member. I explored the site itself and eventually discovered Comic Vine and Anime Vice. When they launched I tried out Tested and then Screened. In particular Screened was a place I rediscovered my love of movies and TV and could openly express it. In what all seems like one big blur I was a moderator and now community manager. Quite simply Giant Bomb led me to a paid position at a Whiskey Media website.

I never met Ryan Davis, nor any of the Whiskey Media family of staff. But each one of them has gotten me through some good days and some bad days with a smile. They've challenged me to think of the things I love differently and did it in a way that entertained me. So I'm taking this moment, albeit way too late, to give one big thank you to those of you in front of, and behind of, the cameras at Giant Bomb for years of smiles and laughter.

I apologize, this was more stream of conscious rather than well thought out. I'll miss Ryan Davis and owe him more than a thank you.

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12 Hours In: My Thoughts on Dark Souls

You started all this, I hope you're happy.

Since before the release of Skyrim I had been craving to play a video game with depth, with systems, with a certain quality that would both challenge me, allow me to craft my own character, and not leave me wanting. Skyrim did just that for long long time, more than one hundred hours worth of time. But yet that game finally worked it's way out of my system and I was left again with something akin to RPG blood lust. And not any RPG could do either. I wanted something deep and engaging that would snatch hours away from me at any given moment and leave me battered, bruised, and happy. Basically I wanted a game to beat me to a pulp and make me happy for it.

Somehow in context with these other games, FTL feels casual.

In that time plenty of challengers rose up to fight the good fight and plenty of them were well worth my time. FTL was chief among them. After dabbling in Oblivion (a game I need to restart and play through) I wanted a game that didn't necessarily require a time commitment. With the RPG elements I wanted and the difficulty level I craved FTL is a nice game to just have for a few hours when you want to play a game but might be unable to commit to a full on RPG. I still need to unlock more ships and I've spotted a few mods that give custom ships from various science fiction sources, so it's a great game that feeds the addiction but just doesn't cure it.

Then, on a whim, I purchased Dark Souls. Recently it had been on sale for something around $20 after sitting at $35 or $40 for the longest time (just like Forza 4 >.<). I thought this my time to strike, to try out this divisive game that I'll admit, intimidated me to no end. Without knowing exactly what that game is you're left with the impression of sheer difficulty that harkens back to games for the NES or worse, the arcade which are only trying to get more quarters out of you. Finally, after weeks of debating, I had a fresh 20 dollar bill in my pocket and spotted a $17 used version at Gamestop. Spontaneity overtook me and I was already at home popping the game in.

I both hate and love bonfires. They're life saving save points and monster re-spawners.

Dark souls isn't a game for a "casual" gamer. You already know if you want to try Dark Souls out or not. No demo, no few hours with the game, can really leave you with an accurate impression of what that game is. It's a game you must spend a weekend with before finally feeling positive or negative about it. It's frustrating, annoying, requires large amounts of your attention, and worst of all can be very cheap. Most sessions with Dark Souls feel like I've accomplished nothing, or worse that I've regressed. My first invasion, wherein someone can come into your world and hunt you down, the played attempted to kite me towards a larger and tougher enemy which I had already stumbled upon and died. He wouldn't stop. Eventually he killed me, both having more experience and simply griefing me until I just didn't care anymore. I lost 4,000 souls (a currency and upgrade mechanic for the game) and after dying attempting to recover them (which loses them forever) I shut my game off and didn't come back for a day.

Endlessly frustrating doesn't being to describe that feeling. I felt like those 12 year olds who yell "hax!" whenever you kill them. I was honestly cheated and game didn't actively discourage, in fact the game set it all up, as if the game wanted me to lose all my hard work and set me back to square one. Which is why, 4 hours later, when I beat the boss of that area, and moved onward to a fresh part of the map I felt amazing. I walked around my house exclaiming to my roommates about my victory and about a game they only had a limited interest in. Later on after beating the next boss I interrupted my roommates phone simply to say that "I did it".

I'll never invade someone...until I'm strong enough.

It's a delicate balance between shoving your face in death and failure and rewarding you shortly afterward. The game hates you, doesn't want you to win, and builds itself up to be something you despise. Which is why when you beat it, playing within its tight rule set and parameters you feel all the better. I beat you at your own game and there is nothing you can do about it. It's like the game had been bullying me for years and one day I come to learn it's just been hired at the company I run. I don't want revenge, I just want the game to know that I had won.

Of course with Dark Souls every victory is met ten minutes later with another series of strong enemies leading up to a seemingly unstoppable powerful boss. Checks and balances I guess. I haven't scratched the surface of Dark Souls and can't tell if I'm hopelessly addicted or one cheap death away from breaking the disc in half, or both. But Dark Souls is an accomplishment. It exists, it's popular, and it made money. All in a world that values slightly iterative sequels and the most popular of games are almost always shooters and sports sims. Maybe secretly we're all just masochists.

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