Ramblings 13: Things I found agreeable last year!

2013 is a year that happened! During this year that happened just a few days ago I found a few pieces of art, entertainment and other good thingies enjoyable! Here is a summary! HUZZAH!

Video games that rely on twitch reflexes and get the blood pumping!

The two key examples I have for this is Metal Gear Rising: Revengence and DMC: Devil May Cry. As well as having awesome use of colons both of these games scratched that fast, high octane, smash shit up really rapidly and feel/look totally awesome whilst doing it itch. MGR deserves props for coming out at all, but then Platinum Games just went and made it freaking awesomely fun to play. They do that; Platinum Games.

Stiletto wearing cyborgs are awesome but demonic All Saints models may be just as awesome! The new Dante design never bothered me in fact I'd say DMC has some of the best art direction of the last generation. Not incredibly challenging but if you go back and play the original games it's at about the same level. It's not Bayonetta but it certainly makes you work for your high rating. A solid combat system, amazing level design, fun bosses.... Yeah call this a win!

Video games that relay of kicking my arse until I'm good at it!

So I rebought Dark Souls and found it harder than when I first played it! I also picked up Virtua Fighter 5, Spelunky and Cloudberry Kingdom. Obviously not all these came out in 2013 but that's when I played them and it was a great year for hard but fair gaming on my 360.

VF5 gets props for being the first arcade fighter I've played in recent memory that feels like it's not all about combo memorization or thumb dexterity and more about timing and strategy.

Cloudberry Kingdom

for making me enjoy having my arse kicked over and over with it's charm and awesome soundtrack.

The best thing about these games was I failed over and over but I never felt cheated. Well except with hackers on Dark Souls PVP but there you go... people are dicks.

Good new horror films!

I saw both The Conjuring and Insidious 2 in cinemas this year against my better judgement and both turned out great. The Conjuring is certainly the creepier of the two whereas Insidious 2 has the more interesting premise. Insidious 2 could be creepy as hell as well, the whole "He's got your baby!" bit still gives a shiver when I think about it but nothing got me more than the witch on the wardrobe in The Conjuring. And the scene where one daughter can see a ghost in the corner but the other one can't was creepy as hell. And the washing line bit following by the floating above the bed bit! And the hanging from the tree bit! And that doll! And when the doll escapes! Fantastic horror was fantastic.

Djanjo, The Hobbit, Gravity and Filth were all excellent too. A great year for film and I missed most of them!

Glen Duncan!

Found this author called Glen Duncan and I read two of his books. The Last Werewolf a book, spoiler, about a werewolf.... the last one. It's excellent, told in the first person, very poetic, excellent prose, memorable characters, brilliant dialogue. It's sad, funny, satirical, erotic, extremely explicit in violence and sex.

It's a knock out and it lead me to buy I, Lucifer a book, spoiler, about Lucifer! For the atheists among you that's what the Devil's mum calls him when she's pissed. I, Lucifer is a autobiography of sorts written, again in the first person, by Satan. It details the fall from Heaven, the Garden of Eden, the temptation of Christ (or Jiminy Christmas as he's referred to by Lucifer). Again it's poetic, sad, erotic, funny. Compelling. Original. Outstanding.

I've bought another one by Duncan called Weathercock but am yet to read it. But this guy is setting up to be one of my favourite authors if his quality maintains and I found him in 2013.

Awesome, melodic, Metal!

I started listening to three bands this year. They are Hell, Twilight of the Gods and In Solitude. I'm a total metal head, I love death metal and grindcore and black metal but from time to time I long for the sounds mastered by Dio and Judas Priest. I saw TOTG at Leeds Damnation Festival in November. I heard two songs. I immediatley went to a the merchandise table and picked up the LP Fire on The Mountain right away. I also picked up Sister by In Solitude and Human Remains by Hell. All three of these are packed with classic heavy metal anthems to the brim. They vary somewhat with TOTG having a more Bathory/Manowar style, In Solitude are channeling Mercyful Fate by way of The Cure. And Hell... well Hell sounds like Hell. They formed in the early 80s and they sound like it. They also having some of the best lyrics I've ever heard in heavy metal:

No, no, no - nobility's no sanctuary

Flee, flee, flee - the rat's bubonic flea

But the sourge is everywhere, England weeps in her despair

And in misty eyes a cure cannot be seen

When that chorus gets stuck in your head there's no shifting it. 2013 was pretty alright entertainment wise. I enjoyed it anyway :)

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Ramblings 12: Nobody Cares About Your Opinion But You

I find commenting to be an extremely masturbatory act (Commenting, not discussing). A blog is just a comment no one asked for so I guess this makes this piece a big jizz in the face of someone who really would have preferred to have stayed jizz free. The act of going out of your way to voice your opinion rather than keep it to yourself has always seemed this way to me, so I guess that makes me a wanker too.

A new Modern Warfare 3 game play trailer has been released, it looked pretty neat, plenty of seemingly in game footage and actually got me interested to see the finished product. It did not get me to voice this opinion below the video.

(It didn't get me to write this blog either, the subsequent comments below said video did, that said I'm just sectioning off my comment away from that site and bringing it here. But then this blog isn't about the trailer more the response to it and other articles, videos and what have you. Maybe that's ironic but I don't think it can be irony if it's self aware.)

There was the expected flame war between BF3 fanboys and MW3 fanboys below the video prompted from a "How much for this DLC?" comment on the video with various "my dick is bigger than yours" and quotations from The Rock... seriously. And I got to thinking what prompted the "How much for this DLC?" comment? Well clearly opinion but then why share it? No one but you cares about any opinion you hold. This statement is largely true in life and ALWAYS true online. Ever debate anything in the pub? See how much time you spend listening to the guy opposite you as oppose to waiting for your turn to speak. This is all the more true when the topic is something we feel strongly about.

The Internet has bred a sea of people who comment, blog and vlog (IRONY... but self aware so fuck off) in the bizarre notion that their opinion is worth voicing. The vast number of times it's not. How often do you see a comment like "Not gonna pick this up" or "awesome :D:D:D:D" or "FIRST!". The people who type such a comment below a whatever it may be.... do they honestly feel that this is a contribution to anyone's day? If they do then they're probably socially inept or below the mental age of 15. If they don't, if they realise that this comment with affect no one in any considerable way but say "fuck it I'll type it anyway"; they are filling the internet with their onanism!.

Discussion is totally different. Anyone who comes to comment to impart new info, ask or answer a question is engaging in an act of interaction which couldn't be correctly classed as masturbatory. The old adage "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing" could be adapted to comment sections for "if you have nothing interesting, informative or funny to type, type nothing." Of course what is interesting or funny is subjective so just stick to the informative to be safe.

This may have been my most rambling ramble yet, not even sure if that comes across as coherent.

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Ramblings 11: Wanderlei

At UFC 132 Mixed Martial Arts and Vale Tudo bone fide legend Wanderlei Silva entered the cage to fight Chris Leben. The match was billed as a possible fight of the decade. Both men are known for their violent brawling style, Leben has a caste iron chin and survivor instinct, Silva is known for his berzerker style and killer instinct. This match up had classic written all over it and was almost guaranteed to end in a knock out.

It did. Wanderlei Silva fell to one of the most sickeningly violent knock outs I have ever seen in the UFC. It started with an opening hook from Silva which landed clean on Leben's chin. Leben replies and rocks Silva. Silva is clearly dazed by this single shot and he moves to get the Muay Thai clinch rather than retreating to compose himself. While he's trying to sink in the clinch Leben fires of a barrage of brutal upper cuts all of which land clean. Silva crumbles to the floor and Leben follows up with hooks to the prone Silva before the match is called at 27 seconds. And Wanderlei Silva's world has just changed.

Even the most die hard fan of Silva (and I am a die hard fan) will admit that Wandy has never looked as good in the UFC as he did in Pride. Lets not forget Wanderlei held the Pride Middleweight belt for five years. He was literally the Anderson Silva of Pride. He went 18 fights without a loss finally losing a decision to Kiwi Heavy Weight, Mark Hunt.

Since coming to the UFC Wanderlei has not shown the same venom or ability he showed in Pride. Barring a glorious knock out of Keith Jardine at 205 lbs and a well earned (IMO) decision over Michael Bisping at 185lbs Wanderlei just isn't winning as much as he used to, and this KO at the hands of Chris Leben seriously underlines the question: is Wandy done?

Wanderlei has gone 7 and 7 since and including his loss to Hunt. The record itself isn't damning, his overall record of 33-11-1 is still impressive but it's more the manner of these losses that hits home. The knock outs he has received from Dan Henderson, Rampage Jackson, Cro Cop (another Pride legend finding it hard to gain ground in the UFC) and Leben were not just KO's, there KTFO's on a, as I said, sickening scale.

Dana White eluded to a Chuck Liddell esq forced retirement after UFC 132 for Silva. Chuck was forced out by White after being destroyed by Rich Franklin due to White's concern for Liddell's health. He said after UFC132 "[para] I just don't want to see this happen to him again." To be honest neither do I, but I'm not sure if he's done yet.

The Axe Murderer has lost yes, he's lost bad on occasion, but he hasn't been losing to small fish. In the UFC with the exception of Leben Wandy was defeated by former world champions only. He's also made Michael Bisping look amateur when they fought in Australia. Bisping is a very dangerous Middleweight and he simply could not hurt Wandy. Leben is possible the most dangerous pure fighter in the middle weight division, the man, like Wandy, has no fear.

I want to see Wanderlei have at least one more shot with the UFC. I understand White's concern but recall: as sickening as the KO from Leben was Wandy was up and coherant soon afterwards and back training with Shogun Hua and Jason Miller within days. If Wandy wants to fight again I feel he should, the damage was sickening to see but evidentially he recovered quickly. So who does he fight? The Loser of the upcoming Sonnen vs Stann fight springs but maybe not straight away. Jorge Rivera could be interesting as could a re match with Rich Franklin. My memory of their first fight is one of Silva being drained due to the weight cut which wouldn't be a problem now and as Franklin won that by a small margin (IMO) I feel that could be an excellent match. Akiyama would be good also, if only because both men have recently lost by brutal KO's and are possibly looking retirement in the face. A Belfort rematch would be amazing but I feel todays Vitor vs todays Wandy wouldn't be competative. Vitor would steam roll him. Alan Belcher also springs to mind.

If he loses the next fight then I'd accept forced retirement and keep the fond memories of one of the best to ever fight in the sport. And if you think about it who better than Wanderlei Silva to join Randy Couture as an ambassador for Mixed Martial Arts? Whatever Wanderlei does, like white, I don't want to see him seriously hurt. He's one of those fighters that (real) fans just feel an affinity for, and whatever he does the real fans will still love the man.

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Ramblings 10: Games, please stop doing the following 2 things.

Dear all game developers ever, please stop putting the following in your game. They fucking annoy me.
 
Unskippable Cutscenes 
  
This is something that always gets my goat. Unskippable cutscenes need no introduction really, we've all fallen prey to them, and they suck. You've reloaded an old save, begun the game a new or for whatever reason seemed suitable for you you just want to get to killing things. WAIT! We have a 6 minute cut scene you NEED to watch first. Why do I need to watch this? Because the game says so that's why! 
Personally this always kills the flow of the game for me, especially if it's a shooter. I usually just turn to my laptop/book for a while and keep an ear out for when the whole needless bother is over with. Now I'm in no way opposed to cut scenes mind you, they can be awesome as well as essential for plot driving but give me the option to skip them if I want to. There's really no excuse for this. I could maybe grasp it if the game recognised this was an initial play through but even then what if I've played the first few levels on my friends system earlier? huh? game!? Didn't think of that did you. 
  Unskippable cutscenes can fuck right off. 
 
Recent example that springs to mind: Shadows Of The Damned, Crysis 2
 
Checkpoints Placed Directly Before The Above 
 
This isn't just about cutscenes this one, this is more a checkpoint that's placed right before a piece of character dialogue, or a conversation with an NPC. This also only really comes into play when the game is hard. For example when playing Halo: Reach on Legendary and I will not stop dying. The only thing that's going to annoy me even more than being shot down by the same fucking Banshee 64 times in a row is hearing Jorge spout the same fucking dialogue at me 64 times in a row! 
What's worse than this though? Well if you have a game that mixes action with dialogue trees. Mass Effect or, more notably from my recent experience, Silent Hill: Homecoming. What's worse is when there's a checkpoint placed right before a dialogue tree that is followed by a boss that will kill you... alot. So each time you die you now have all that lovely dialogue to go through hitting the same responses before you can tackle the thing that did you in. If the spoken dialogue is unskippable too then we're in for a real treat! 
 
Examples that spring to mind: Halo series, Silent Hill: Homecoming 
  
More of these will spring to mind no doubt, I'm sure people have their own examples...

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Ramblings 9: How I fell for American McGee's Alice

I picked up Alice Madness Returns from Amazon a couple of weeks ago. Firstly can I just say to EA, THQ, Activision, Sony, Microsoft, everyone... This is how you fucking  
incentivise people to buy your game new! For those not in the know if you buy Madness Returns new you get a code to download American McGee's Alice, gratis. My hat goes off to whoever at EA or Spicy Horse thought this up cause I think this is a perfect solution to the "how do we get people to buy our game new without castrating them in the process?" question. I mean think about it. What if Warner Bro's, rather than having an online code for Mortal Kombat, had included a voucher in new versions of the game to download MK Trilogy? Or what if Battlefield 3 has a code for a port of Battlefield 1942? Honestly you'd encourage people to buy the game new without pissing off those who can't afford too. Bravo EA! How often can you say that?!
 
Anyway American McGee's Alice (Alice from now on)... I fucking love this thing. It's incredibly good. And I don't mean good in the traditional sense that say Portal 2 is good (See  Ramblings 8: Portal 2 & what makes a perfect game....) in fact a lot of this game is down right broken. They built a platformer on the Quake III engine. There's a perfectly rational sentence. A platformer. On THE QUAKE THREE ENGINE... and it shows. 
 
The camera makes no sense kind of disassociating itself from the game in general almost as if it feels like the artistic nature of the title should be taken to extremes by concentrating on close ups of this wall or that tree or the underside of this lily pad. Honestly the camera has killed me more times than any enemy in this game. Speaking of enemies the hit detection is literally, without using hyperbole; non-existent. Non-existent that is until the enemy dies. You'll be hitting a Card Guard with your knife or playing cards and you won't have any clue you're being successful until he splits in two in a fountain of blood. Also the game stutters like a tasteless joke about Michael J Fox and it's crashed on me more than once. Twice meaning I restarted the game. 
 
No, Alice is not perfect. 
 
What she is is gorgeous. This game's art is amazing. The aforementioned enemies ooze personality, they are as inventive as solider ants in colonial era military dress to giant farting mushrooms (that sounds kinda lame written down but trust me it's menacing). The detail on the main characters; Rabbit's suit, the occult symbols on Alice's apron, Cheshire Cat's earring, everything just feels lovingly detailed and crafted making the game a joy to observe.  This detail goes to Alice's weapons too. Her knife, playing cards, flamingo club et al. All lovingly detailed and beautiful to behold amidst the gore.
 
The level design is also prime. This is something that dawned on me when playing Perfect Dark, that in previous generations level design was so much more inventive. This was probably down to the limitations but if we look at The Fortress of Doors level in Alice it has a kind of symmetry, a sense of place that is really hard to explain objectively you just kind of have to feel it. They feel so confined yet huge. For example in the  Fortress of Doors, which floats in space, in several room the floor falls away to reveal an animated abyss. It's not really an abyss it's just a picture but the effect is perfect it says: this area is huge, without it being huge. For me that makes the game more magical like it's an optical illusion. Today they'd just make it huge. 
 
The Audio is beautiful too. Cheshire cat has an incredibly creepy English accent yet also exudes a sense of wisdom and authority, and reliability. He comes across as omnipotent. Alice is a little flat to be honest but then she is unhinged and her dialogue is genuinely creepy, almost as much as Cheshire Cat but Alice seems more coy about the whole thing. The only character I'm not hot on voice wise so far has been The Mock Turtle. He seems just kinda... there.  The mournful, beautiful, haunting music however is also thankfully there and it's divine to listen to. The chime bell in the opening level of The Fortress of Doors is a highlight. Some of these pieces could turn up on a My Dying Bride album without any problems. Except for copyright of course. 
  
I'm yet to finish Alice. I reckon I'm about half way through, maybe less. I want to complete it before I plough on with Madness Returns. This game has enchanted me. After all it's faults and discrepancies I love this game. The story, art, music, the sheer warped twisted horrific beauty of this game makes it possibly one of the best games I've played this year. Certainly one of the most imaginative. I've often held that game play isn't the be all and end all with games and a game can overcome weaknesses in the playing if it has the imagination to capture me. American McGee's Alice may be the finest example of such a game.

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Ramblings 8: Portal 2 & what makes a perfect game....

Portal 2 is a perfect game. There's a perfectly reasonable statement. And it's my aim by the end of this rambling collection of hyperbole to convince of it's validity. 
 
Portal 2  is perfect largely down to the excellent gameplay and art design and dialogue etc but personally I class this game as perfect because I feel Valve achieved exactly what they set out to achieve. Portal 2 has no tangible weaknesses. It's gorgeous to look at, smooth as melted butter to play, fiendishly clever, exhilarating and rewarding, written with a razor sharp wit and satire so dense you could bite it off in chunks. The voice acting is unparalleled with J.K. Simmons and Stephen Merchant supplying some of the most hilarious dialogue this side of Monty Python. It's just about the perfect length going on long enough to surprise you with how much fucking "stuff" there is but ending before it begins to feel drawn out. Also the ending is brilliant. 
 
Then there is the co-op. One of the best implementations of  duo co-op (du-op?) I've ever seen and easily the best since MW2's spec ops. I'm yet to finish the co-op section but it has all the charm, wit, intelligence and (so I hear) longitude of the solo game. The Art direction really shines in co-op with Atlas and Peabody being some the most expressive and beautifully grafted characters I've seen this generation. Coming from a source engine game that is significant. 
 
These are all perfectly good reasons to call Portal 2 and excellent game. But I claim it is perfect. My reasoning behind this is thus: 

With Portal 2 I feel Valve set themselves a task which they met or exceeded in every facet of Portal 2. Everything came together in the pacing with the puzzles and the art design as mentioned above but here's the nub of it for me: nothing, not one solitary element of the Portal 2 experience feels as though it was not lovingly crafted. Nothing feels rushed or crammed in to save time. Portal 2 feels like a labour of love in every way. 
 
Let me give you a comparison. Lets compare Portal 2 to Mirror's Edge. Now I loved Mirror's Edge but if we look at every facet of that game something becomes apparent. The firearms combat lacks satisfaction and feels, here's that word: rushed. It's as if the developer at some point felt "that'll do" with the combat be it through laziness or time constraints or whatever. Nothing in Portal 2 feels rushed. 
 
Another comparison: Dead Space 2. More specifically the Dead Space 2 multi-player which was clearly shoehorned in to cater to EA's project ten dollar and was, objectively speaking, utter shit. Nothing in Portal 2 feels shoehorned in. Everything is there for a reason. Every virtual inch of that game was crafted with care and consideration. Everything included is to the overall strength of the product. 
 
Of scale of 1 -100 in terms of what Valve wanted Portal 2 to become I have to believe they score 100/100. What I mean by that is I feel that Portal 2 The Game is the perfect reflection of valves vision of Portal 2 The Concept. Nothing is lacking in Portal 2 from my perspective. I honestly cannot find a fault in this game. Obviously that's subjective but I also get the feeling (as I have read nothing to contrary) that this game is precisely what Valve wanted to release with no concessions or compromises.  This is why it is Perfect.
 
The only other game in the last ten years I can think of that also fits this criteria is Half Life 2.

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Ramblings 7: Braveheart

I got thinking today. I really fucking hate Braveheart. I also kinda hate historical fiction but Braveheart kind pigeon holes everything I loathe about the vast majority of historical films that were produced by the American film industry during the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. Films like The Patriot, U571, Pearl Harbour, Titanic...etc. Now this loathing of these films is probably not exactly a shock. They are pretty much all terrible, this being confirmed by the fact they were hugely successful. But my venom for films of this ilk is incessant to the point of obsession. For example with Braveheart (which will be my main example) I can't even watch that film any more,  it sends me into such an hysteric stupour of rage and amusement at the stupidity of it all.

Braveheart is a specific choice because the subject matter is something close to my heart. I am passionate about early to mid medieval history. I'm not about to say I'm the most well read guy on the planet or any kind of scholar but for example I've read biographies on Attila the Hun, Edward I and Edward III, books covering barbarian and roman culture, the 100 years war and the crusades. Now if any of you pick up say, for example, Marc Morris' excellent biography of Edward I (A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain) you will read a narrative book based in established historical fact that is literally jam packed with exciting battles, political intrigue, riviting characters and more twists, turns and emotional investment than Randell Wallace (Braveheart's writer) could ever attain with mere fiction.

Braveheart is a film  based on historical events and characters. It's also anglophobic, homophobic, racist, jingoistic, and Innacurate in regards to dates, events, characters, ages, dress, weaponary and locations. The tale covers Scotland's fierce war of independence against Edward I in the late 13th century. The politcal intrigue of the time, the events that led up to the battles of Stirling Bridge and Banockburn aswell as the events in the battles themselves are, from a narrative standpoint, solid gold! Failed assassination attempts on Edward I in the holy land, a civil war in England at the time, the conquering of Wales, the pogrom against the Jews in London, the death of a Norweigian Princess on her way sailing to Scotland that plunged an entire nation into chaos, the chance death of a Scottish King whilst riding that led to one of bloodiest era's in British history. The rise of a Scottish Knight named Uilliam Uallace (correct norman spelling) to inspire his country men and his inevitable downfall, and the ageing yet resolute King of England dying on the road to Banockburn in Cumberland days before battle with Robert De Brus, to have his much less capable son lose the battle and all he had fought for.

This is a story worth telling! It's rich, it's packed with incident, the Truth of these bewildering years in Anglo-Scottish history is so much more interesting and gripping than the bullshit fiction that was committed to film by Mel Gibson.

 


And that's more my issue! Of course as an Englishman I find Braveheart to be insulting to both my intelligence and my nation, but raping and rewriting history should be insulting to us all! Especially those involved in the event. U571 insulted those involved to a magnitude rarely witnessed before or: Rather cynically, American screenwriter David Ayer depicted American rather than British naval officers capturing the first Enigma machine, “in order to drive the movie for an American audience.” The first Enigma machine was in fact seized by officers from HMS Bulldog in 1941 and by the time the USA joined the war later that year, Britain had cracked the code. The post-release furore led Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time, to agree that it was “an affront to the memories” of those involved and Bill Clinton, then US President, to write a letter emphasising the film’s fictional nature. In 2006, Ayer told the BBC he had come to regret the alteration: “Both my grandparents were officers in World War II, and I would be personally offended if somebody distorted their achievements.” 

   And if I was an American I'd find a film like The Patriot deeply insulting to my intelligence: Gibson (rugby) tackles history again with his turn as an honest farmer drawn into the American Revolutionary War, which historian David Hackett Fischer claimed in the New York Times “is to history as Godzilla was to biology.” Crimes erroneously attributed to British soldiers include immolating villagers inside their church, an atrocity actually committed a century and a half later by Nazis in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane. Meanwhile the director Spike Lee complained that the film “dodged around, skirted about or completely ignored slavery.” There is also strong evidence that Francis Marion, the basis for Gibson’s character, was a slave-owning serial rapist who murdered Cherokee Indians for fun. 

What I really hate is that these film makers that the incredibly arrogant posistion of re-writing history and in doing so they cheapen it. History is amazing. It's a rich tapestry of incredibly stories and characters that links us all to our roots and to each other. History doesn't need to be re-written! If you take an historically narrative biography written by Ian Mortimer or David Starkey or John Man, in those pages you have an historically accurate narrative of a person's life or a real event or period that could be crafted to film without needing to be reorganised or amended or deleted.

Back to Braveheart. One of the most random arse scenes in that film is when Princess Isabella fucked Mel Gibson and they she's presumably Pregnant suggesting Edward III was Uallace's son. This scene adds nothing to the story other than to fuck over the English one more time, it's also entirely fictional. Princess Isabella was wedded to Edward II in 1308 when she was 13 years of age. Uallace died in 1305 so the film is insinuating that Uilliam Uallce shagged a ten year old. Nice. I'm sure the ghost of Scotland's greatest hero is really happy about being portrayed as a paedophile.  

Uilliam Uallace
These kinds of historical butchering's also breed stupidity. I've met Scot's who (rightly) deride the film just as much, if not more so, than I. Then I've met Scot's who took some kind of pride in this fantasy and got Mel Gibson tattoos on their legs or built sandstone statues of Uallace in Gibson's Image. Thankfully said Statue was worked over by many a pissed off Stirling resident but honestly, isn't the fact that someone, somewhere, felt it was appropriate to make and disply such a statue kind of worrying? Luckily Uallace has a stunning cast iron statue to his name, as does Edward I in Cumberland.

Edward I
These films that rape History in the arse and call it a night are thankfully seeming to crop up less and less. The most recent I guess is Robin Hood, but like Troy there is so little factual evidence on Robin Hood I can hardly take much issue. Kingdom Of Heaven seemed to do OK with the errors I noticed largely relating to the dress and design which Ridley Scott admitted was intentionally inaccurate to depict a renaisence esq view of the time. Give me time to read a book on the second crusade and I may return to rip it apart but as of now I love Kingdom of Heaven. The directors cut anyway the cinema cut was toss. 

So please read a book. Don't watch Braveheart, or The Patriot, or U571. They lower the collective IQ of our species.    
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Ramblings 6: The Key Component To An Excellent Gaming Experience


  I was playing Dead Space 2 last night and I'll point out right now I've not finished it yet so please, anyone who comments, no spoilers :). I was playing that section in the church where you're attacked by a group of stalkers, the first time you encounter the creatures in the game. A little later on I was in the cryo freezer area below the church you see in the demo with all the frozen corpses. Now I played the demo so I knew at some point one of these coffins was going to burst open and I would be attacked by some deliciously gnarly looking bugger. Also back with the stalkers I knew they were there before they attacked, I could see their shadows and hear them scurrying about. They took cover only allowing me to see them up close once they'd come barrelling towards me with a crescendo of them screaming and me going "fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK, FUCK!" 
 
It put me in mind of one of my best gaming experiences ever. Around... damn it must be at least 10 years ago now, I was playing a demo of Thief: The Dark Project on my mum's pc. The Demo level I had (I think two different ones were released) revolved around a failed hit on Garrat (Me) by two town guards and my proceeding to tail them back to their HQ to enact in some thieving and maiming and what not. The level was, like all Thief levels, bathed in shadow. Garrat in that game was a weakling and many times I allowed myself to be seen by the guards and they just full on murdered me. So I replayed and replayed desperate to get to the mansion area of the level without being seen. 
 
Years later I'd play Far Cry 2. I'd been in a violent gun fight with some dark skinned people and as a white man with a tattoo on my arm I was legging it! I was in my jeep and shredding rubber through the jungle, right up until the point where I crashed into a tree, totalling my car. I have to jump out and I consider fixing the car but I take two bullets in the back. I pull up my desert eagle and drop 3 militia but there are more coming. I take cover behind my wrecked transportation, reload and shoot two more from behind cover. Now I have a problem. I am low on ammo, low on health and out of stim-packs and my car is out of commission, and I can't fix it from my cover. I need to move but if I move I could die, if I stay put with will definitely die. 
 
These three scenarios all occurred and they all share the common bond of tension. All of them were all in their own way terrifying to play out. My heart was beating faster, I was unsure of what would occur after my next move and when I survived, when I won, when I defeated the gauntlet that had been laid down for me by these 3 equally Stella releases I fell adulation and relief. It was a rush because the games created a sense of peril that felt real. 
 
Now it wasn't just the odds being stacked against me in these areas (less so in Thief where it was more an issue with my newness to the stealth game style), Metal Gear Solid always seems to stack the odds against you, as does Halo, and Street Fighter IV so what is it about these three scenarios that made me tense about playing them rather than frustrated, and feel relief because I had succeeded rather than relief because the trial was over. 
 
I guess it'd have to be investment. Investment in the story and the character. Investment coupled with peril. That Thief managed to invest me in the game world with a demo just shows how downright kickass that series is and god help me I'm just about masturbating myself into a gibbering state of retardation over the idea of Thief 4. Or Thi4f if you want to be a dick. 
 
Of course investment is entirely subjective. I've never been particularly invested in the Halo universe and to be honest I didn't really give a toss about the fate of Reach. That said I did care about the fate of Captain Price at the end of MW2 but saying I was feeling tension would be a stretch. 
 
I'm not entirely sure what I'm getting at here. I rarely am in these blogs to be honest I just kinda start writing and stop when my fingers begin to develop calluses, but I guess my point is my fondest memories of gaming have been when the game has made me scared. Now I'm not talking about the whole "boo woogy woogy woogy" style of hammer horror scares you'd usual associate with such a statement I'm talking about being fearful of the scenario. Now anyone can tell you being scared of something doesn't mean it has to have been conceived by Stephen King. Bully's are scary, so are car crashes and fights and being told off by your mum when your 6. With genuine fear comes genuine joy once the peril in question has passed and this builds game experiences that are untouchable and remain with us just as clearly as the best songs, films, and books of our lives. 
 
Of course, as stated, feeling peril is completely subjective. What scares you may not scare me and vice versa so it's hard to developers to hit such an obscure target but I hope they're trying because all off my favourite games are the ones that caused me to sweat. 
 
Further Playing: Thief Series, Deus Ex, Far Cry 2, Tenchu Series (last generation iterations), Dead Space 2, The Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of The Earth
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Ramblings 5: UFC 127 Musings - Bisping/Pissbing

Not content with being one of the most riled and trolled Mixed Martial Artist's this side of Josh Koscheck, Michael Bisping really seems to have his heart set of dividing everyone who follows the sport. His actions at UFC 127 were at best foolish and unprofessional and at worst malicious and childish.  
 
Now I'm English and therefore feel certain connection with 'The Count'. His home town isn't too far from me, I have a similar accent so I can understand him when he speaks and too be honest I can't blame him for his actions. If I had been on the receiving end on Jorge Rivera's tirade of school yard insults I'd want to knee the ugly mother fucker in the face too whether he was technically grounded or not. *Literally of course Jorge wasn't grounded* and he went on to milk the knee for all it was worth al la Koscheck vs Daley but this time the knee actually hit home. 
 
I can also understand Bisping lying his limey arse off and saying it was unintentional. After Hendo admitted to punching a fighter he knew was unconscious just to shut him up (Bisping incidentally) at UFC 100 he got fired for it. Bisping doesn't want to say "yeah I meant to knee the gormless prick and I enjoyed it!" cause he'll be following Hendo to Strike force quicker than a prematurely ejaculating pig! But yeah he said it was an accident....Bull. Fucking. Shit. 
 
Mike you took time to line that up, he was clearly on his knees, there is no way on earth you could be a professional fighter and not know full well the knee you were about to throw was illegal as all hell. That knee, although I feel he milked it a bit, changed Jorge is that fight. He just wasn't coming back anymore and Bisping was able to steamroll him and make the point deduction for the knee a nothing-ness. 
 
Mike then proceeded to call Jorge a loser and spit at/on (depending who you ask) Jorge's coach who took part in all the pissant school yard jibing. Bisping apologises for that too. Not cause he's sorry. Because he's covering his arse. 
 
Now the general consensus from MMA commentators has been sympathetic to Bisping. He was riled up beyond any point I've seen in recent fight history. Chael Sonnen never went this far. The trolls on the other hand who, remember, know everything, have been unified in called for him to be sacked, demoted, KTFO'd by Vitor (actually great match potential that) etc etc. For myself I, as you may have gathered, sympathise. Bisping is a highly skilled fighter and, I feel, a genuinely respectful fighter but he's also very emotionally vulnerable. What I mean by this is he, unlike the stiff upper lipped stereotype of the British, takes things to heart. Seeing him on TUF season 9 and earlier on 3 when he competed rather than coached gave numerous examples of how personally he can sometimes take things. Jorge knew this, manipulated it, and paid the price.
 
No doubt this led to Bisping fighting in the first place. We all know the people who take a friendly insult too seriously and wade in with fists first. This childish characteristic reminds me of Bispings behaviour on Saturday. At that point he wasn't a pro athlete. He was simply a man who'd had enough of these guy's who'd gone out of their way to mock him time and time again. In all honesty I can't say I would I reacted any different. As an athlete and ambassador for the sport in England Bisping fucked up royally. As a man he did what I feel any of us would do. Jorge asked for it in my humble opinion, it's just a shame Bisping couldn't rise above him.  
 
*This no knees to a downed opponent need to be revised. To me you're down if your hips or torso are on the floor. If you're on your knees you're not down, you're kneeling. If you are on your feet and put a finger on the mat you are not down, you are touching the mat with your finger. Both positions do not mean the fighter cannot defend against knee all it means is he won't be expecting it. Change the rule UFC it's stupid.
 
Also that Mark Hunt fight was fucking brutal! love it. And the Lytle fight! Cartwheel kicks! WHAT!? 

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Ramblings 4: Popularity Philosophy

My dear old elderly ancient not young mother has a saying which I've tended to adopt into my own philosophy of life, the universe and everything. It goes approximately like this: Popularity does not equate to quality. 
 
For my own outlook this statement is true to all things in life the vast majority of the time. By and large those products, works of art, locations, foods which are most popular are with very few exceptions inferior to their less popular counterparts. Examples of this are rife. McDonalds for example is incredibly popular the world over but the quality of food from both a taste and nutritional standpoint is at best barren and at worst damaging. Let's take another example from the world of Hip Hop. There are many popular rappers out there but one of the most popular I can think of off the top of my head, and one of the most appalling, is 50 Cent. Popular rap is a barren place anyway with Kayne West offering some rest bite but then he's a total cunt... Then if you search for even a brief moment into what I, as someone who is unfamiliar with the hip hop hierarchical structure, would call the underground, you find the likes of Diabolic and Immortal Technique. Rappers who have skill, finesse and something to say that doesn't revolve around shooting niggas and fucking ho's. Quaity stuff seriously reccomend you find A Liar and A Thief by Diabolic and The 3rd World by Immortal Technique
 
We find the same thing in Metal, who are more popular: Bullet for My Valentine or Exodus? Cradle of Filth or Taake? Now I'm being purposefully selective but here we have primes examples of the more popular option of the two being the worse. Which do you think is the more popular film franchise? Saw or The Evil Dead? And which is better?  
 
Now maybe some of you are reading these examples and saying "well I know plenty of people who prefer Evil Dead to Saw your talking shit!" But here's the thing; by reading this blog on this gaming specific website you are falling into a group of people who are discerning. This basically means you take care in your pass times. You dedicate time and energy into exploring the very best of your chosen subject, to sample as much as you can to give yourself a grander picture on the subject of choice as a whole and decide what you like based on an established wealth of experience. Moviebob once said: Geeks are people who take something fun and make it a chore. I disagree. I think geeks, and I profess to be one, are people who put effort and passion into their past times because they want to get the most of it be that past time be it football, cooking, video games, comics, sex, music etc. We are geeks because of this and we are in the vast minority. 
 
Laziness keeps us in the vast minority. Most people are too lazy to look past what is readily available. This is the sole reason acts like N Sync sold records and Burger King fills seats. Most people do not have the energy or the get up and go to dig deeper into what they like to spend time doing. As geeks we spend at least some of our time engaged in research. Now this act of research doesn't appeal to a certain type of person who simply doesn't have the time or can't be arsed to make it. For myself as someone who enjoys Mixed Martial Arts (See Ramblings 3) I spend a fair bit of time between other activities at home and at work re-watching old MMA matches and reading biographies of my favourite fighters. By partaking in the "work" activity and "working" for knowledge on my chosen subject to enhance my enjoyment and appreciation and the fact that I enjoy the "work" makes me, in my eyes, a geek. 
 
Non geeks hate this kind of  work. They're happy to eat whatever is easiest to obtain, listen to what the radio plays and watch what Dave (British TV Channel showing mainly reruns) puts out on a Sunday morning. These people are not passionate or energised by what they enjoy in their lives and because of this they are happy to wallow in mediocrity. We, the geeks, are richer than the non-geeks. We appreciate our games, our books, our films on a level that they cannot. Because of this we identify what is popular as repugnant because we are used to so much better as we have put in some fucking effort. 
 
The vast majority of the western worlds population cannot be arsed to put in the effort with the vast majority of their life. They may put effort in with sports or beer or working out or music or any single area but when you have people who neglect other areas where geeks nurture you get McDonalds, Bullet For My Valentine, 50 Cent, Transformers (the movie) etc, 
 
These are two conflicting viewpoints on life and I actually don't think either one is better than the other. Being a geek does tend to alienate you from the general population. Example of this came up when a work colleague and I talked about bands we liked and I realised he hadn't heard of any of the bands I named. Because of this geeks form cliques and secularise themselves in extreme cases. My musical taste has got to the point where I clash with metal heads on taste more these days that people who listen exclusively to Dub Step and Bassline. 
 
On the flip not being a geek means you're left out from some truly beautiful and amazing aspects of this world and the art and food and everything it produces. It also means you're partly to blame for Justin Bieber (oooo snap Bieber bashing ahoy). 
 
I would like to amend my mother's turn of phrase at this point: Popularity is usually a sign of mediocrity, and unpopularity intrigues.
 
To just side step slightly and touch on another one of my life philosophies which I stole from Lord Harvey in Dorian Grey: Everything is An Experience. I feel this is completely essential to becoming a well rounded human being and if everyone took this on board the world over, using it in partnership with their own moral compass, I can only see positives emerging because of it  Experience as much as you can and  your life can only be richer for it! Never shy away from something that is new or wierd. No EMBRACE THEM! Celebrate the bizarre and the fucked up. Even if you hate it at least you experienced it! Watch a foreign language film, read a hentai, fuck someone you wouldn't usually, eat a type of food you've never tried, buy an LP of a band you haven't heard of, next time you're at a bar buy a drink you've never had before. Ignorance is the condition of not knowing. By experiencing we learn and know. The more we experience, the more we know, the more we learn, the richer we are and the more we can stamp out prejudice and ignorance. 

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