Because We Must, Let's Talk About Bowie

Yesterday I, and many the world over, awoke to what was possibly the most shocking news I could imagine: David Bowie had died. Apparently he'd been diagnosed with liver cancer 18 months ago and simply hadn't gone public with it, but going back and watching the video for Lazarus, it's clear that he knew his days were numbered and the number was getting awfully low. Two things struck me about this: the first is the massive wave of denial followed by shock that I experienced and, based on others' writings online, I was not alone. But WHY? Bowie was 69 years old and an avid consumer of several kinds of highly destructive recreational drugs during the 1970s (cocaine being the most obvious), and when a rockstar dies between the ages of 45 and 70, it's not precisely a shock. Hell, we lost Lemmy just two weeks earlier, and while people were sad, they were not SURPRISED. Bowie's death was greeted with not just sorrow but abject SHOCK. And I think part of that has to do with who David Bowie was.

Pictured: Who David Bowie Was
Pictured: Who David Bowie Was

I think what it boils down to is simply this: if ANYONE was going to turn out to be an immortal space alien who just visiting Earth for a laugh and a decades-long vacation: it was going to be Bowie. The man was a mononym without even trying (I keep switching back and forth in this very post!) because when someone referred to simply "Bowie," they sure as shit weren't talking about the cowboy and inventor of the eponymous knife. Even Giant Bomb's own Brad Shoemaker took to Twitter to express not just grief but, again, the SURPRISE of it. Bowie truly seemed like he'd outlive us all, his album before Blackstar showcased that he was still vibrant and able to make strange, wonderfully new art in both the songs and music videos, and even Blackstar's more reflective, darker tones (now, obviously, much more meaningful) showed the world that he wasn't going anywhere. For almost 50 years, Bowie reinvented and reinvigorated himself and his music, and it might sound childish, and it is, but there was a tiny part of me that truly believed that he COULD be the one exception to the rule "everyone dies."

The second thing is that everyone posting memorials and memories of him did so in almost completely different periods of his career. I have never seen the Internet, that vast, uncontrollable mass of people, come together in such a singular voice to express such singular sorrow in so many unique and different ways. You could see imagery of his cosmic Ziggy Stardust, his more buttoned up Thin White Duke, his modern phase, and all of them were from people for whom THAT was THEIR David Bowie and ALL of them are correct. No artist has had the career that Bowie has, over FOUR DECADES of not just being relevant, but being cutting-edge. While critics both in the media and the industry itself criticized "new" music, as continues today, as being a passing fad or artistically bankrupt, Bowie exposed that this was not a realistic point, but was being made out of fear for becoming irrelevant.

David Bowie didn't have to worry about becoming irrelevant, he was a genius. Though even if he didn't realize it, he never abandoned his credo of standing up for what was considered "weird," or those considered "outsiders," and while he may not have exactly had a prolific rap phase, you can see that he had absolutely no fear and a great deal of respect for what they were setting out to accomplish. Likewise, instead of decrying industrial rock as the "death of music," or whatever crap heap people always pile at the altar of new music, he decided to collaborate with a little band called Nine Inch Nails and THAT is how you STAY relevant musically, not by trying to tear down the next generation, but by helping them up.

So before the contrarians who mistake disagreeing with a popular opinion for critical thought REALLY marshal their resources and remind us that there are one or two things to possibly dislike, though removing context from those things SURE does help, (and I understand if you don't LIKE Bowie...to an extent, again he's so musically diverse, that it is a LITTLE difficult to believe there's not a single track to find to like, but that's music), let us celebrate the life of a musician who made us question every single truth in music by showing us that there are no absolutes. From outsider to the absolute epitome of cool who never gave up and never became irrelevant, here's to you, David Bowie. Long live the King of the Strange.

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Batman: Arkham Knight and the Importance of Audio Variety

Something I haven't seen/heard brought up at ALL in the varied and interesting discussion about this game is something very, very subtle: there is a metric TON of audio/dialog clips that can be WILDLY different depending on when you hear them.

Just the ambient dialog around the police station can change depending on where you are in the game, but also Riddler's taunts and Batman's comments based on what you've found so far (in his first racetrack, for instance, if you haven't seen that he's taken Catwoman hostage, Batman will comment "I'm disabling the safeties on the Batmobile's boost. I've got to go as fast as possible," but if Catwoman HAS been revealed, he'll say "I'm disabling the safeties on the Batmobile's boost. Selina's life is on the line."

It's a small thing, but it actually makes me excited to go back for the New Game + and complete things (especially the final Scarecrow mission) in different orders. Apparently Two-Face and Penguin have WILDLY different dialog depending on when you bust them. This is a relatively small thing, but I can't understate how important I find it to the overall "feel" of the game and I think it's one of the reasons I had/have so much trouble putting it down. I'm playing it like I haven't any of the predecessors, and I think how much dialog there is is a HUGE part of that.

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Blogging: It's How the Coooool Kids Cope With Tragedy

We all heard the news, and if you haven't, I'll be brief: Giant Bomb lost founding member and all-around amazing duder Ryan Davis. I don't have a lot to add to the discussion, others who knew him better are doing a FAR better job, but I do have two very specific, very personal memories from what were two of the happiest months of my life as a Whiskey Media intern:

Look at him...knowing so much about OTHER carbonated beverages too!
Look at him...knowing so much about OTHER carbonated beverages too!

Memory 1: at the end of my first day, Mat Rorie (who I actually knew prior to the internship) suggested we retire to the bar for a couple of celebratory drinks. Somehow the entire staff caught wind of this, and I kid you not, over the next hour, an honest-to-God party broke out. I won't even say they were celebrating me being there, I think there was just something right in the air and I got caught in the middle of it (in the best way possible). When it started out, I figured as a dilligent intern, it was my duty to tend bar and LORDY was I making a mess of it, serving half-foam abominations from the WM kegs. Ryan Davis advised me on how, PRECISELY, to tilt the glass so that it not only didn't great the massive head, but wouldn't disrupt the pour nor clink against the metal. It's a technique that has served me well in my amateur bartending at parties. He also used to, on occasion, drink from a large, glass boot.

Secretly: THIS is my #1 favorite Indiana Jones movie...
Secretly: THIS is my #1 favorite Indiana Jones movie...

Memory 2: This was a different, much more staid, time in the bar, but somehow the notion of our favorite Indiana Jones movies got brought up (with Crystal Skull not even needing to be on the list). Everyone went down their list, mine was Raiders, Crusade, Doom, and Ryan pointed out that Doom is his absolute favorite Indiana Jones movie. I scoffed, literally, and DEMANDED to know how the movie with the annoying lady, the annoying kid, and the silly cult could possibly be best. After advising I "shut my mouth" as I had "No idea what I was talking about" (both true), he dropped the knowledge on me that the kid and the woman were the ACTUAL antagonists of the movie, the cult was just window dressing. He expounded at GREAT lengths on this, but I barely heard it as my mind was BLOWN.

Ryan and I didn't interact over much during my internship (my sometimes goofy and WINNING, sometimes legitimately awful gaffes notwithstanding) because I was mostly into the writing (which I still am, thanks to Comic Vine) side of the sites, but I was always amazed to see him work with the more video-inclined interns. As someone who still consumes Giant Bomb media multiple times a day, this loss has me finding difficulty expressing myself, so hey, thanks for listening. And, of course, Ryan Davis will live forever through the internet and through this site, so may he rest well.

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Do We Actually Want Innovation?

This is a long one. Don't wanna read? Don’t eat.

Pictured: Apparently worst than a literal housing crisis
Pictured: Apparently worst than a literal housing crisis

So it’s been about a month since the...controversial(?) DmC Devil May Cry’s release and, while the inexplicable fervor has died down for the most part, it has not gone away despite the game’s excellent review scores and almost universal acclaim from reviewers, with some accusing Capcom of somehow having the capital to pay off the entirety of gaming journalism for positive reviews. I qualify that because, to check out the Metacritic USER score, you’d think this game had committed a war crime. Or swindled someone out of their house and life savings with predatory banking practices as EA apparently did last year when it was voted the Worst Company In America for the crime of nickel-and-diming people’s disposable income away from them and also maybe ruining a prominent trilogy’s ending. That last one really depends on your perspective.

This isn’t going to be a post about any one thing, it’s going to be a post about a problem I’m noticing popping up in the enthusiast circles of videogames and that’s the absolute, savage hypocrisy with which “innovation” is simultaneously demanded and reviled. What this essentially boils down to is this: MANY people who claim to want innovation actually only mean they want games that they don’t now play to change so that they’ll want to play them. I might as well go to the two best examples I can think of: Madden and Call of Duty.

Pictured: Something WORTH getting upset at a company for.
Pictured: Something WORTH getting upset at a company for.

I don’t personally play Madden, I like American football, but not enough to know player names, and I play Call of Duty as a rental for the campaign, so obviously I’m not the target audience for either product, but I can admire what they both do and how they do it from a distance: they’ve captured the elusive “casual” gamer and the hardcore alike. “Casuals” love it because essentially they can buy the one game that comes out every year and that’s perfect for the kind of experience they want, but it’s also led to both franchises stagnating and putting out iterative steps every year rather than a fully-realized, entirely new game every few years. Again: there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, it works for them and their consumers seem perfectly happy with it. But something funny happens whenever a trailer or announcement for either of these, and some other, games gets released: the comments, and even forums, are flooded by people taking them to task, with most of the derisiveness stemming from the “sameyness” of the franchises and how incremental each game is, usually while throwing in something bemoaning the lack of creativity in the game’s industry. But what happens when real innovation DOES happen? Well...why don’t you ask Ninja Theory? Or Bioware? Or Nintendo? Or, yes, even Capcom.

Pictured: UNASSAILABLE BADASS
Pictured: UNASSAILABLE BADASS

The new Devil May Cry game was assailed, from trailer one, for the crime of not being samey enough. For delivering a Dante, and indeed a world, that was markedly different from the previous four iterations (though, to this day I have no idea who the original Dante was from the perspective of the fanboy. First this new Dante was too bombastic and cavalier, then he was too “emo,” which in this case meant “I don’t like how he looks and am not clever enough to describe it,” then, finally and hilariously, he wasn’t bombastic and cavalier ENOUGH). Likewise Mass Effect 2 had blood vomited upon it for DARING to excise the Mako portions (that were the worst part of the previous game), streamlining the combat (or “dumbing down” as the fanboy might say, despite the fact that 2 is much, much more challenging than 1) and in hindsight, it is beloved as the best in the series, which, of course, displays a hilarious lack of self-awareness. Ask Link, who had to endure the japes and jibes of being cel-shaded as not “ADULT” enough...for a game about an elf who wanders the land trying to save a princess from an evil wizard. Yes, surely that is a game that deserves to be taken very, very seriously in terms of art style.

Pictured: Goddamn Emo Punk
Pictured: Goddamn Emo Punk

The sad thing is that this isn’t an especially new thing, the idea of “I just want everything I like to stay the same and everything I don’t like to become something I do like” is as old as human thought, but it’s a shame when people deprive themselves of something truly great because it somehow offends their sensibilities. Oh and before I wrap up, and this is purely a pet peeve: if you spend three years berating a company with knee-jerk reactions over a game you haven't even played, letalone seen very much of, you don't get to be stoked with indignation that the company takes a quick, and clever, dig at your expense. Sorry. I’m not saying you have to LOVE DmC, Mass Effect, or anything else, I’m saying you should at least be CONSISTENT with what you want out of the industry. You can’t bitch and whine that the industry has stagnated and then scream when they change something. It makes you look silly and childish.

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Do We Actually Want Innovation?

This is a long one. Not wanna read? Don’t eat.

Pictured: Apparently worst than a literal housing crisis
Pictured: Apparently worst than a literal housing crisis

So it’s been about a month since the...controversial(?) DmC Devil May Cry’s release and, while the inexplicable fervor has died down for the most part, it has not gone away despite the game’s excellent review scores and almost universal acclaim from reviewers, with some accusing Capcom of somehow having the capital to pay off the entirety of gaming journalism for positive reviews. I qualify that because, to check out the Metacritic USER score, you’d think this game had committed a war crime. Or swindled someone out of their house and life savings with predatory banking practices as EA apparently did last year when it was voted the Worst Company In America for the crime of nickel-and-diming people’s disposable income away from them and also maybe ruining a prominent trilogy’s ending. That last one really depends on your perspective.

This isn’t going to be a post about any one thing, it’s going to be a post about a problem I’m noticing popping up in the enthusiast circles of videogames and that’s the absolute, savage hypocrisy with which “innovation” is simultaneously demanded and reviled. What this essentially boils down to is this: MANY people who claim to want innovation actually only mean they want games that they don’t now play to change so that they’ll want to play them. I might as well go to the two best examples I can think of: Madden and Call of Duty.

Pictured: Something WORTH getting upset at a company for.
Pictured: Something WORTH getting upset at a company for.

I don’t personally play Madden, I like American football, but not enough to know player names, and I play Call of Duty as a rental for the campaign, so obviously I’m not the target audience for either product, but I can admire what they both do and how they do it from a distance: they’ve captured the elusive “casual” gamer and the hardcore alike. “Casuals” love it because essentially they can buy the one game that comes out every year and that’s perfect for the kind of experience they want, but it’s also led to both franchises stagnating and putting out iterative steps every year rather than a fully-realized, entirely new game every few years. Again: there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, it works for them and their consumers seem perfectly happy with it. But something funny happens whenever a trailer or announcement for either of these, and some other, games gets released: the comments, and even forums, are flooded by people taking them to task, with most of the derisiveness stemming from the “sameyness” of the franchises and how incremental each game is, usually while throwing in something bemoaning the lack of creativity in the game’s industry. But what happens when real innovation DOES happen? Well...why don’t you ask Ninja Theory? Or Bioware? Or Nintendo? Or, yes, even Capcom.

Pictured: UNASSAILABLE BADASS
Pictured: UNASSAILABLE BADASS

The new Devil May Cry game was assailed, from trailer one, for the crime of not being samey enough. For delivering a Dante, and indeed a world, that was markedly different from the previous four iterations (though, to this day I have no idea who the original Dante was from the perspective of the fanboy. First this new Dante was too bombastic and cavalier, then he was too “emo,” which in this case meant “I don’t like how he looks and am not clever enough to describe it,” then, finally and hilariously, he wasn’t bombastic and cavalier ENOUGH). Likewise Mass Effect 2 had blood vomited upon it for DARING to excise the Mako portions (that were the worst part of the previous game), streamlining the combat (or “dumbing down” as the fanboy might say, despite the fact that 2 is much, much more challenging than 1) and in hindsight, it is beloved as the best in the series, which, of course, displays a hilarious lack of self-awareness. Ask Link, who had to endure the japes and jibes of being cel-shaded as not “ADULT” enough...for a game about an elf who wanders the land trying to save a princess from an evil wizard. Yes, surely that is a game that deserves to be taken very, very seriously in terms of art style.

Pictured: Goddamn Emo Punk
Pictured: Goddamn Emo Punk

The sad thing is that this isn’t an especially new thing, the idea of “I just want everything I like to stay the same and everything I don’t like to become something I do like” is as old as human thought, but it’s a shame when people deprive themselves of something truly great because it somehow offends their sensibilities. Oh and before I wrap up, and this is purely a pet peeve: if you spend three years berating a company with knee-jerk reactions over a game you haven't even played, letalone seen very much of, you don't get to be stoked with indignation that the company takes a quick, and clever, dig at your expense. Sorry. I’m not saying you have to LOVE DmC, Mass Effect, or anything else, I’m saying you should at least be CONSISTENT with what you want out of the industry. You can’t bitch and whine that the industry has stagnated and then scream when they change something. It makes you look silly and childish.

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GOTY 2012: All The Coooooool Kids Are Doing Blogs!

2012 was certainly a weird-ass year. The console generation's almost certainly overstayed its welcome (thanks in part to a global financial meltdown), and devs who would perhaps rather be breaking new ground have been forced to retread the old. In spite of that, and my list will certainly run this joke into the ground, I can't think of a year in recent memory that I stayed up well past midnight (and I work early) more times than this year. But the year was not without charm nor delights! I think I can wrangle up at least 10 excellent games that I'd call...GAMES OF THE YEAR!

1. The Walking Dead

There's really nothing left to say, is there? But I guess if I had to I could list the fact that every single person in this game acted, more or less, like a real person (even if that real person was unstable/under a lot of duress), it involved one of the ONLY likable child-characters in ALL media, let alone videogames, gameplay that was somehow minimalist, but never quite "not a game"-level, and some of the most genuine, emotional rides in years. One of the greatest videogame experiences of all time on any system and proof positive that videogames truly earned that protection under the 1st Amendment.

2. Mass Effect 3

I liked the ending even before the extended cut (and even more after it) but that's not the point. The point was/is the journey and this game had one of the most emotionally resonant ones since...well Mass Effects 1 & 2. But there's another aspect overlooked by so many in the debates about endings, DLC and plot twists: the multiplayer. It's been almost a year since this game came out, and in addition to no fewer than five free expansions, there's been an entire new layer placed over it. So frankly, I feel like I paid for the single-player campaign and got this for free.

3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

"There's no MARKET for a turn-based, hardcore, sci-fi, top-down shooter!" someone said, not accounting for the fact that Firaxis knows a thing or two about a thing or two about "Just...one...more...mission...oh hey, when did the sun come up?"

Glitches aside, which I never experienced until the very end, this game was basically perfect for me. A no-frills story (what? You need MORE than the Earth being overrun with extra-terrestrial invaders??), the by-the-seat-of-our-pants research-style, the expendability of your units (and how CRAZY attached you get to them, especially after slapping a nickname on 'em) along with a game that very rarely felt cheap and much more just felt punishing. A beautiful example of how streamlining doesn't have to mean dumbing down.

4. Sleeping Dogs

SSSSSSSSSSLEEPY DAWGS!! There, now I got that out of my system and can say that this game is one of the most satisfying open world experiences of all time. Particularly because it bridges the whole "what else can I do in this world besides story missions and random rampages" perfectly with actual character development. That and having an actual awesome melee combat system was something I didn't even know was missing from open-world sandbox games until this one showed me the error of my narrow thinking.

5. Persona 4 Arena

We're going to follow our deep, strategic RPG with a fighting game that continues both the story and the character arcs. STOP LAUGHING, IT'LL WORK!! And it did...AND it had a deep, nuanced fighting game system. More accessible than Guilty Gear or BlazBlu, and a truly rewarding, gradual learning curve with room to grow. I may not return to it, because I don't have time to dedicate in order to become truly proficient, but the single-player alone was worth it.

6. Spec Ops: The Line

What if, instead of trivializing the horrors of war, we actually showed the psychological impact that it had? This game began the trend of disempowerment fantasies that have seemingly swept videogames recently AND made player choice really, REALLY matter in a very granular way. The shooting may not have been on the level of a Call of Duty or a Gears of War, but for a game that had me legitimately breaking down and wishing for a way out, I'll take the switch. And if you hear what the head writer has to say about the deeper levels of the plot, it gets EVEN better.

7. FTL: Faster Than Light

Okay, this time I'm going to...have a Mantis on my ship, but also have this guy in the engine room, this guy in the life support, this guy on guns and GODDAMNIT, they just blew up my life support!! VENT THE AIRLOCKS INTO SPACE! PUT OUT THE FIRE BEFORE THE SHIP BURNS UP-well the ship burnt up...I'll try it one more time...it's 3AM...

8. Borderlands 2

"Sorry babe, I know it's 2AM , but the roommates and I are just...we just need to defeat this guy, then I'll come to bed...yeah, it'll only be another 10 minutes..." A truly great multiplayer experience but VERY playable as a solo venture with enough development to be fun and even some legitimate laughs to be had.

9. Dust: An Elysian Tail

This one just BARELY snuck in after a couple of marathon sessions, but it was more than worth it for a great, character-deep story along with a no-frills, incredibly satisfying and sleek combo system. Large enough to make exploring feel fantastic, but not big enough to become tedious.

10. Lollipop Chainsaw

Hilarious writing coupled with addictive gameplay. It's either endemic of videogames' attitude toward women or a brutal, hilarious satire of it. Either way, it's clever enough without being too in love with how clever it is and the gameplay is a perfect mix of hack-and-slash hilarity and arcade-style fun without the coin-pumping requirements.

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Mass Effect 3 Ending (TITANIC SPOILERS)

I am not going to spoiler block ANYthing in this blog, because the entire thing would read like one of Richard Nixon's memos. So if you haven't beaten ME3 yet and decided to ignore my giant, obvious warning, I will say again: Turn back. Turn back. Turn back.

Upfront: the fact that they have very similar cinematics sucks and I really didn't care for the starchild (I thought the projection could take the form of your love interest or at least a Prothean), but neither of these things even came close to ruining the experience for me. And frankly if the former ruined it, that's incredibly shallow. It basically says to me that, rather than really consider what the ending actually MEANS, one would rather be wowed by production values, which is ironically anathema to what MOST people were complaining about before the game even came out! But more on that later. Alright, it's been talked to death but this is my blog and I'll talk if I want to (I feel like we've been here before, have we been here before?), but this ending has GOT to be one of the most polarizing things to ever happen in the history of videogames. I'm not even being hyperbolic when I say this. Name me one other single in-game event from any other videogame that has divided the entirety of such a huge chunk of the community like this has. And I can even see why: having seen my ending and then discussed the other two (and I'm talking top-tier Galactic Readiness endings), it's definitely not the direction I'd have thought Bioware would go in. And I think that's PARTIALLY what some of this backlash comes from: a certain subset of people really, really don't like being surprised. They like to brag about how they "totally saw it coming," usually with a single pinky outstretched and nose turned to the ceiling, so that they can feel superior to their peers. But this? Nobody could have seen this coming. Shepard sacrificing him/herself (only time I'm going to do that) so that the war could end, even at the cost of the Relays, was heart-wrenching. This article postulates that it's one of the only videogames to ever actually earn the "visceral" descriptor and I agree: I had an actual, gut reaction both to the revelation that the game was coming to a close and to how it ended, and I'll admit: I felt initially betrayed.

Like this only with power armor. And her head is shaved around the crown.
Like this only with power armor. And her head is shaved around the crown.

A large part of me wanted to see Shepard make it, to sweep Jack off her feet in the proud VJ-Day photo tradition, get shitfaced with Garrus, arm-wrestle Wrex, see Tali lead her people and on and on. But then I really sat down and thought about what this ending meant in the greater galactic context. Mass Effect has always been a series about contextualizing greater conflicts into personal stakes, but this ending is almost an exact mirror-image reverse of that concept. It's an incredibly personal moment of sacrifice to give the entire galaxy lasting peace. I couldn't bring myself to destroy the geth or go down the same path as the Illusive Man and try to control the reapers just to selfishly give myself a chance to live because that's not who my Shepard is. Over the course of three games and over five years, these characters have grown to mean something and to betray that just to give myself a shot at a happy (or at least happier) ending actually seemed completely antithetical. Of course the game ends with Shepard dead. How could it end any other way after all the previous sacrifices to make the galaxy safe? Ironically Brad's joke during the ME3 Quick Look of "So this is an even suicidier mission?" turned out to actually have a huge chunk of truth to it: Yes. This WAS an even suicidier mission, because for me the only way it could end was with Shepard's death. It also precludes them looking at all the zeroes they'll see with sales figures and having EA go "Make another one, we don't care that you said you wouldn't." Or if not precludes, then it at least makes it a LOT less likely.

So I guess at the end of the day, I really, REALLY don't understand the vitriol that's being hurled at this game. So much vitriol, in fact, that there's apparently a petition started for a NEW ENDING?? Setting aside the incredible stupidity of that notion, how would that even WORK? Furthermore I remember before the game came out, people were screaming, or really screeching, that the game had gone in a "generic, DUDEBROHUAH!!!!" direction. Now whether or not you think that's true: you must admit that the ending they wind up giving you is the absolute antithesis of that mentality. It's almost as if people are just looking for a reason to justify the hate they preemptively threw at this game rather than admit that, perhaps, they were wrong about what they wanted in the first place. I'm not saying you're wrong to be upset with the ending if it's not what you wanted, I'm saying you can't accuse the game of going in too generic of a direction then complain that the ending wasn't straightforward enough. It's not a picture-perfect Hollywood happy ending, it's not even a particularly happy one. But to say it's depressing is doing it a MASSIVE disservice because depression implies an absence of hope and this ending is anything but hopeless. In fact, in retrospect I actually find it incredibly uplifting. Anyway, thanks for reading (if you did, and if you didn't I'll probably be able to tell by your comment). I feel like I'm still processing it and the more I do, the more I find myself liking it. Not being happy about it, but being satisfied with it.

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In-Depth Demo Thoughts

Probably a titsch redundant at this point (since it's more than 5 minutes after the demo was released) but fuck it, it's my blog and I'll write I want to. Write if I want to. Wriiiiite if I want to. You would write too if you just played this demooooooo. Oh and I haven't tried the multiplayer, so I may edit this to include that after I do, or I may just make a separate post. Long story short on the single-player portion: You start where the game will start, play through the intro mission, and then jump ahead to somewhere seemingly within the first third of the game to give you some idea as to how the skill progressing works.

The Bad

This demo starts out presumably around where the game itself will begin and herein lies my first, and biggest, complaint: the game begins with a whimper. After you played Arrival (in which you killed 250,000 batarians to cut the Reapers off from the Mass Relay that would give them unfettered access to the more populous parts of the galaxy), I expected Shepard to be in the midst of a court-martial when the Reavers interuppt the precedings, but no. You've been stripped of your rank and effectively grounded (with Andersen making vague reference to "that shit you pulled"), but the Alliance seems to have come around and believe in the presence of the Reapers. They call you in to consult (again, I thought the Reapers were being widely denied as even existing?), when the massive, sentient ships make landfall on Earth and begin indiscriminately blowing up EVERYTHING IN SIGHT! This is where the demo kicks off, but it's an oddly hollow moment compared to the absolute "WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK!?!?!?" moment of The Normandy being destroyed in the first five minutes of ME2. The whole thing came off as a little rote.

On a more nitpicky level: I chose the default JaneShep character and her facial animations were a little wonky at times. The closest thing I could think of is Juno in Force Unleashed who, in the first game, appeared to just be opening and closing her mouth when she talked, giving her a weird fish/ventriloquist dummy appearance. It wasn't NEARLY as pronounced in this game, but it looked weird. And Wrex's voice actor seems to have trouble finding his ...well voice. He sounded a little unsure, which is something Wrex absolutely should NOT sound like (but it was still good to have the big lug back).

The Good

Everything else. The game plays incredibly smoothly. The animations transition much more organically from one into the other (as opposed to the more "snap from one to the next" of the previous two games), Shepard is MUCH more dynamic now able to jump, climb, drop down, combat roll, and vault over cover, thus eliminating the incredible logistic irritation of the previous two games. On a more fundamental level, this game does exactly what they promised it would: it splits the difference between ME1 and ME2 in terms of action VS RPG. The shooting is still very much ME1 with Shep now able to wield any weapon effectively (as any combatant with this level of experience should), but the number of weapons you can take into a mission limited by class (with Soldier being the only one that can wield all of them), but the abilities now branching at every level past the third. Yes, even ammo abilities have completely different branches which, even just previewing them, makes me extremely excited since the branches seem to be change how each ability works substantially. It's also great to already see in this preview who's coming back and who has yet to be seen. Edit: Additionally, I picked up a number of weapon customizations, which I couldn't/didn't use in the demo, but the sheer number I got seem to indicate that customization is back in full force, so anyone missing it in ME2: your prayers have been answered.

Ultimately this demo failed to completely WOW me, but it did absolutely show me that they're going in the right direction. It also makes sense that they wouldn't put a giant "OH SHIT" moment in their demo necessarily, so I'm still absolutely willing to be wowed. For those worried that Bioware had somehow lost their way or were just shoveling a pile of crap when they talked about compromising between ME1 and 2, it absolutely seems like they're doing exactly that. And there are PLENTY of dialog wheels even in this hour or so, so no worries: the game is still plenty chatty. This demo did exactly what it should have: gave me a taste so that I'm absolutely down to pay for a full experience.

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Internship Blog: One Must Fall

Around three months ago, and quite on a lark, I sent our friendly neighborhood community manager Ethan a PM after seeing a post for a Whiskey Media internship on his Twitter feed. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it since I lacked experience (in video editing, specifically), I wasn’t in college (I’d already graduated) and I figured I’d be too old (none of your damn business!), but he PMed me back and set up an interview that led to an audition, that led to a second audition, that led to me getting a two month, full-time internship. Two months have passed and I’ve met people in the industry I’ve admired for over a decade, I’ve worked the journalist side of E3, and I’ve non-launch partied with a major development team. Hell, I even met a reallife Kingtern and trained a newbie. But let’s focus for a moment on that sweet, sweet, insane, gray-hair-giving conference known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The biggest roller coaster content-wise
The biggest roller coaster content-wise

When I realized that my internship would intersect with E3’s schedule, I immediately asked Ryan if I would be going with them and if I should be preparing to spend a week in LA. Ten minutes later, after he stopped laughing, he assured me that I wouldn’t, but that I’d be holding the fort at the office with the other intern (Ben had yet to burst onto the scene) and Kessler, who would be in charge. This was probably for the better, I’d only been with the company for a little over a month and E3 was the last place for a neophyte intern to be not only screwing up, but constantly asking questions. The decision was a good one as even being in the office turned out to be absolute pandemonium for the first day. Trailers had to be posted every few seconds, and remember that we need to write decks for them, find screenshots to represent them, fill in various bits of info about them, and keep our eyes on the conferences. After a twelve hour workday on Monday, things settled down considerably and we were able to commiserate about the various announcements. It was an arduous and absolutely insane experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And that kind of defines the internship itself.

I will cling like a symbiote to this site!
I will cling like a symbiote to this site!

I’ve been in the job market for a long time now and I’ve been fortunate enough to have one other job that I actually enjoyed, though I was too young to fully appreciate it at the time. Since then, it’s been miserable drudgery that’s been a means to an end. Having a job that I’ve actually cared about is, in some ways, more stressful since working the others. If I didn’t do well here, not only did it actually get noticed, but I’m letting down a company that I myself respect. And I learned that waking up early is still kinda crappy, even if it’s for a job that you love. At the end of the day, though, and at the end of the job, it was some of the best two months of my life and I will miss it terribly. Until I show up on Friday for the Comic Vine podcast. That’s right, you should have killed me when you had the chance! Cause I’m sticking around as a freelancer for Comic Vine and also continuing in their weekly podcast! Getting paid to write has always been a dream of mine, but I’m not going to call Whiskey Media some kind of magical dream factory...because if I did, I’d have to give up the Dream Formula, and no one wants that. Now to get a little indulgent: thanks to the community for the support and well-wishing. Ethan: thanks for believing in me enough to hire me, Tony: thanks for giving me a chance to get paid to write. Nick: good luck, you'll NEVER want to leave this job if you do well enough (which you will). And Ben, Kessler, and Lemon: thanks for helping me fill some of my professional blanks (and I had to train one of you embarrassingly for me) A transition like this is always easier with a lot of great people backing you up. I’m not done by a longshot, so keep your eyes on this blog, and my articles.

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I'm a Wizard, and THAT Was E3

No Caption Provided

There I am in my Whiskey Media "I'm a Wizard..." shirt (which I DID have to pay for, just in case anyone thinks us interns get special privileges) holding a goblet of...magic potion...let's go with that, on Friday, June 10th 2011. E3 technically ended yesterday, but we're still putting up videos, and I have COMPLETELY checked out mentally. You can hear me on ComicVine's podcast, and read me on their frontpage, though that probably won't be til the weekend. I'll also probably show up in various Lemon Lense/Kessler Kams, so look for me there. I think this is gonna be the first blog that i don't post to the forums. Keep this one for my loyal followers. Hope you guys enjoyed our coverage, it was absolutely insane around here, though not as insane as it was in LA I'm sure. Oh and expect a full-on blog about the E3 experience. Long story short: it was one of the most intensely incredible experiences of my life, even though I didn't actually GO.

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