Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Heck, 2010's already lookin' fine.

We celebrated with North American-style Chinese food and the renting of movies. 9 was merely passable, with only a few real striking visual moments. Coraline is a wonderful show, but the DVD crapped out about a half hour from the end, and State of Play was a fine vehicle for Russel Crowe and Rachel McAdams, but nothing I ever feel the need to view again.

I hope your Dec 31st was filled with love and happiness and kisses from attractive lads and ladies. But I think I'll end on a gamer note and say just five more sleeps 'till Darksiders and Bayonetta!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Darksiders gets some real reviews.

Any gamer worth their salt knows not to trust the 10/10 and 9/10 reviews that appear a month or so prior to a game's release. There's all sorts of backroom shenanigans that result in bullshit early reviews (the first exclusive review of any game drives a lot of traffic to the site that scores it, and the game publishers are willing to let the review run early if it only sings the eternal praises of their game), so if you want the real deal you've gotta' wait.

In Darksiders case, you had to wait until today, it seems. The general consensus? It's awesome.

9/10 - IGN Australia.

9/10 - IGN UK.

8.5/10 - Game Informer.

Of all the reviews, my favorite so far is this one from AusGamer, which essentially tells me everything I wanted to hear about the title. Here's an excerpt or two - the first of which addresses how much Darksiders plunders from titles like Zelda, Metroid, God of War and even Portal:
"...Darksiders only utilises its borrowed elements to flesh out the sort of game the creators would clearly like to see. And they've succeeded in doing that, but beyond being creators what's seemingly more important is that these guys are gamers first and foremost, and as an avid gamer, throughout the Darksiders experience I couldn't agree more with almost everything they threw at me; meaning we're finally at the design mercy of a team on the same page as the rest of the hardcore gaming community."
On production values and story:
"...these sequences, told through in-game cut-scenes, are among the best in the biz; oozing with style and stellar direction - and again, I can't stress enough how impressive the whole package is, first development outing to boot. "
Summing up:
"If you like your adventures filled with, well, adventure, Darksiders is going to keep up at night for hours and hours on-end (my longest marathon session came in at around eight or nine hours); the game's level-design is brilliant, it harbours among the best puzzles I've encountered in games, has an excellent and well-thought out learning curve, plenty of reason to explore, great art-direction, excellent sound and a compelling story with equally engaging characters."
What they liked
  • Massive game with so much to see and explore
  • Great characters and art-direction
  • Some of the best level-design and puzzles found in gaming
  • Incredible soundtrack and great voice-acting
  • Seriously challenging

What they didn't like
  • Some graphical elements could have been applied better
  • One or two uber-challenging bottlenecks that were very frustrating

Five days to go!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mmmm, yeah.

I know the player is so big it blots out the right side of my blog - I'm sorry - until I figure out how to make Blogger give me wider columns, this is what we're stuck with. If it's blocking out something you want to click, just open any other post which will show up on its own. Sorry for the inconvenience, but in my defense this is a great thirty seconds.

Song is the "Skreams Lets Get Ravey Remix" of In For The Kill by La Roux.

I know half of... well fine, 95% of media regarding Bayonetta is about how hard the game is trying to be sexy. But man - that is sexy.

The message seems to be "are you ready to kick some fucking ass?" And I am. I am ready - six days to go!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Emotional depth does not excuse a lack of fun.

So I'm playing Braid, and I hear tell there's these hidden stars you need to track down if you want to get the super-secret True Ending. I do a little poking around, and discover the method to obtaining the first star: wait for an hour and a half. Then jump on a platform that moves so slowly it seems immobile. Wait for another half-hour, then jump off the platform, and collect your star.

This is not what I was hoping Braid would be. I wanted it to be clever (which, usually it is), containing a measure of emotional depth (which it does) - but obtaining this star is neither clever nor the least bit interesting for the player.

It's not a test of ingenuity, wit or reflex - merely patience. A touch of required patience is fine - but two hours worth? Two hours of nothing? That does not display the intelligence of design I was expecting from Braid - it only declares the designer's self-importance, forcing you to hurry up and wait for two hours if you want to see his super-special ending.

Screw you, John Blow.

I get it - waiting for two hours to collect a virtual prize has revealed me to be as much of an obsessive nutcase as Braid's protagonist - ooh, aren't you deep. Jerk.

At least I got some studying done.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

GoW III Demo giveaway results.

Congratulations to ButcherPete who came closest with 7. To all others, I'm (genuinely) sorry I don't have 150 codes to give out, but such is my lot. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I'm sleepy.

I've built up a very respectable sleep deficit over the past four days, and today it's decided to catch up with me. As a result, I may not be conscious to put together a post at midnight informing you of the state of the God of War III demo code giveaway.

We'll see - I have an eerie knack for getting second winds just as I intend to fall asleep - but worst-case scenario, the post will go up tomorrow.

P.S. no one's guessed the number yet.

It's surprisingly easy to like Resistance 2.

I mean, I liked the first game - sure - and Sony had enough faith in the sequel to put a nice big ad campaign behind it, but I think there's more to it than the actual quality of the game.

It is a quality game - and that makes it easier to like - but I don't think that's why I like it so far. I think it boils down to two things.

(1) Here are some monsters. Shoot them. Resistance 2 feels so unpretentious, compared to... well, most triple-A titles on the HD consoles. It offers a nice game world and a reasonably interesting plot, but the act of playing the title isn't about an epic tale or beloved characters.

You just shoot monsters. And I love that. In a way, it kinda' harkens back to days spent on my old Aptiva PC playing the shareware version of Doom. It fills that niche in my gamer appetite. As with Ratchet & Clank (but in a totally different way), Resistance 2 is very much like sitting down to a huge meal of comfort food you haven't enjoyed for years - it is, to me, surprisingly satisfying to just shoot some ugly monsters.

(2) I was not hyped for this game. To be hyped for a game is not merely a state of anticipatory excitement, for me. It is a craving for all things related to the game - as a result, by the time I get my mitts on Darksiders or Bayonetta next month, I'll already know a very great deal about them. It's not that the games won't have the capacity to surprise me, it's just that I've been breathing deep of their media for the past six months, and I've reached a point of saturation. I'll be very comfortable in their zany worlds - I've already lived there for some time - so those two day-one purchases won't feel very new to me.

Resistance 2 doesn't have that handicap, simply because it was always on my B-list. I would have passed on it for $30 while I happily paid $50 for a C-quality title like Wet. I always knew I intended to pick it up at some point, but I never paid a great deal of attention to the title, so snuggling into its world and mechanics feel pleasurably alien to me.

You know you want me.

And really, who wouldn't want to try what is - easily - the best demo of the year? Better than inFamous, better than Arkham Asylum. So this is a reminder that I'm giving away a code for the God of War III demo tonight at midnight. Entries are piling up, so give it a shot!

Happy Boxing Day!

Yesterday I agreed to put $100 towards my little brother's purchase of a PS3. The precise reasoning of my give-y-ness eludes me, but at the very least I'm happy to see him taking an interest in pleasure - that boy works very, very hard and he more than deserves whatever leisure time he deigns to indulge in.

It also works out rather well for me, because he went and got a Boxing Day deal at Best Buy - a 160GB PS3 with Uncharted, Little Big Planet GotY Edition and Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.

He was more than happy to let me have the R&C game - so in the end, I can comfortably feel I have simply purchased a game I was going to buy anyway, and given my little bro a bit of a helping hand towards his purchase. I am kinda' burned that some asshat at Best Buy slashed up the case with a box cutter - I absolutely hate having ugly cases in my library. But luck! Little bro doesn't give a crap what his game cases look like - he's willing to let me swap it out with one of his new ones. My collector's neuroses is well satisfied.

...of course, when I got home today from my Boxing Day journeying, I discovered he had pilfered my beloved copy of Valkyria Chronicles as well. Burgled! Pundered! Purloined!

Ha ha! Loins.

In fairness, I told him he could borrow it, but it... still feels wrong. I dunno. I love giving, I spent the better part of two hours trying to locate a copy of the game so I could buy it for him - but I loath lending. And he fully understands that should any harm befall my beloved Japanese strategy-RPG critical darling, he will be replacing it. Anyway, thus far my Boxing Day Business has been largely successful!

Fifty dollars. I'm not thrilled with the price, but after a guy at a local mom & pop shop quoted me $47 for Wet, I realized I was willing to pay it. It was on "Clearance" at The Source By Circuit City for $60, so I was pleased to find it for $50 at Best Buy.

Of course, fifteen minutes later I walk into my local EB and find it for $40. Is $10 a reasonable price to pay for a game case that hasn't been molested by goddamned stickers? I think so. But my other purchase was a fucking steal.

Ten dollars. Ten. Nine dollars and ninety-nine cents (plus tax) for a brand new, sealed copy of Resistance 2. From the Sony store, of all places!

On the one hand - way to stand up for one of your flagship developers, Sony! On the other? Hey, ten bucks! Deal.

I think I'll wander down to the local Blockbuster and see what there is to be seen.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Ahhh. It is done. Well, it's done until tomorrow and I go hunting for Boxing Day deals.

But today - today was a stunning success, all 'round. I'm super-excited about all the lovely items I received, but since the spirit of the season supposed to be about giving, so I feel compelled to tell you what I got for my family - though that feels (a) like bragging and (b) somehow an invasion of their privacy. Instead, let me just say I gave my ass off - all told I spent around $700.00 on Christmas gifts this year - and while that may not sound like a lot to some, it's a prideful sum to me. I was very happy with the various reactions.

As for me, I made out like a bandit. Let me share my joyeux Noel with you.

My elder brother (and his lady love) gave me this! A $50 PSN card. Things are super-tight for them right now, so frankly I was blown away with it. I knew various constraints had led him to buying gift certificates for everyone, so I had thought I'd be lucky to score a $20 card - this came as a total shock, and I'm already putting it to good use. So, by extension, they've also been kind enough to give me...

Linger in Shadows. I've always wanted to give this $2.99 "interactive art" a spin, and... to be honest, I need a bloody walkthrough. I can't seem to get past the second section. Still - it's lovely to finally have my curiosity sated.

Braid. Finally, I have put hands on one of 2008's critical darlings - and thus far (I got all the painting pieces in World 1) it is definitely living up to the hype. It's gorgeous, it's clever, it's a brain-teaser and so it's immensely satisfying. It's also preeminently pretentious, but - heck - so am I.

I've still got $30+ left in my PSN wallet. I know I should save it for BioShock 2 / Heavy Rain DLC, but...

...they call to me. We'll see.

My younger broski was kind enough to provide me with all four seasons of Futurama. I dunno about you, but to me Futurama is up there with Harvey Birdman, Ventures Bros. and Samurai Champloo - it is a shamelessly ownable cartoon series. Like the Warner Bros. Batman shows - those things're great.

But all was not as it seemed! As I curiously pawed at the package, I felt each season-sized box within, each feeling approximately the correct weight. I thanked him very-much for them, set 'em aside and continued handing out gifts.

But later... there was another gift from him. It was nearly the same size as the earlier one, but this time - through the paper - I could feel slim, individual cases for many individual discs. What could this possibly be? It occurred to me that he may have produced some home-made DVDs for me, but where did he procure the thin cases?

I opened the second package, and it was revealed: here were all the slender cases for the Futurama disks. He had weighted down the Futurama boxes with books. A Catcher in the Rye here, a Neitzsche here, and a copy of the Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection! Wooo!

To be precise, it's a gift from my little bro's paramour - and it's awesome. Super, super bloody awesome and very much appreciated. I explained how - back in the day - my older brother and I would pool our money, go to the video store, rent a Genesis with Golden Axe or Ecco the Dolphin or Sonic and spend the night wallowing in the awesomeness of state-of-the-art, 16-bit gaming. Golden Axe, Ecco and Sonic are all in this collection, of course - along with about thirty-seven other games! An awesome gamer gift, if ever there were. But we're not done yet!

From the parents? Preorders!

On January 5th, Bayonetta and Darksiders are coming to an EB near me, and the preorders are all paid up! This is doubly nice in Darksiders' case, as the preorder bonus is an 80-page art book. I wonder if Bayonetta has a preorder bonus at EB too? Eh, I'll find out soon enough - I'm sure I'll hit EB tomorrow as part of my Boxing Day sojourn.

So clearly, I have a large amount to be thankful for this Christmas. Thankful that I received no socks, shirts or sweaters, thankful I was in a position to score some really awesome gifts for my loved ones, and thankful my family is understanding enough to provide me with items of questionable cultural value that I, personally, consider to be outstanding.

Ahhhh, life is good. And I've not felt like saying that for a long, long time. Merry Christmas to you, and to me. I hope you and yours found the day just as pleasant, just as pleasurable and me and mine.

A gift to you, dear reader.

My valued readers, I just wanted to tell you I appreciate your patronage - but words are hollow things, so let me instead offer a gift.

I am in possession of the code for a certain bloody phenomenal demo, and it would be my great pleasure to give it to you. Unfortunately (in this case) you are more than one person and I only have a single code, so here's what we'll do:

Send me an email at whyisdavidferber [at] gmail [dot] com, and toss out a number between one and one hundred. Whoever comes closest wins!

The contest will run until midnight (my time) on Boxing Day, at which point the winner will receive an email and everyone else can read on the blog about how sorry I am they can't get the code as well.

Two rules:

(1) I'm working on the honor system here, but please don't apply for the demo if you already have / have played the demo. Let's give someone who's never tried it a crack!

(2) Only one email - but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. You won't be disqualified if you send me two :)

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

4 weeks of preparation,

2 days of work,

8 people,

5 hours,

1 shitton of food (and red wine and beer)

= Christmas Eve around here. It was awesome - we never get into the crazy holiday shenanigans Christmas and Thanksgiving movies attest to - we just get together, eat delightful stuff like kolbassa and Nanaimo bars, and have some yuks.

My bros and I also sat down to some LBP and played through the Pirates of the Caribbean DLC - which produced some good whoops and laughs. Now it's only... fourteen hours until we all get together tomorrow for The Present Presentation Ceremony.

Fortunately I was so buzzed on Pepsi last night, I stayed up 'till six or so, and woke up at 11am - so getting to sleep tonight should be a non-issue.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Nice try.

So check this out. Apparently, sources (not a singular source!) says that Insomniac Games will be going multi-platform for their next title.
"According to our sources, development of the title is still very hush-hush and it hasn’t even been given a final name yet. However, it is certain the game will come out for the PS3 and XBox 360 in the foreseeable future."
Which is possible. It's possible that Insomniac will abandon the already-confirmed Resistance 3 for 2010 and make a new, multiplatform IP. Unlike Naughty Dog, Insomniac isn't owned by Sony - they're free to do whatever they want - but...

Insomniac has been with Sony for over a decade, and they're constantly listed as one of the best companies to work for - which doesn't strike me as a bunch of people who are dissatisfied with what they do.

The Resistance titles tend to outsell Ratchet & Clank (at least in the short term), and both IPs are owned by Sony. Would Insomniac really abandon both their bread-and-butter franchises?

* * *

On the other hand, of course, multiplatform games recoup a helluva lot more of their investment than exclusives do (on the PS3). Even the universally praised Uncharted 2 hasn't even approached the sales of Halo or Gears.

It does make business sense for Insomniac to go multiplatform - and I don't believe for a moment their next game will appear on the 360 - but after Resistance 3? Well, it's possible - for argument's sake it's absolutely possible - but that article and its sources are still spouting absolute crap, at this point.

That was surreal.

So yesterday I go and cash my tax return cheque, and as I wander home I stop in at the local Blockbuster (I assure myself I don't actually want to rent The Saboteur), a small nearby pawn shop (I assure myself I won't pay $20 for Tomb Raider Underworld used, when I don't feel it's worth $20 new at Wal-Mart) and a very large pawn shop a few blocks away.

I like poking around such places - occasionally you find copies of Ico for four bucks, or Heavenly Sword for thirty (which is a great deal in Canada).

Anyway, as I enter the last shop, I recognize a large figure leaning over my destination - the case holding the PS3 games.

It's Ian Ross.

When I was a wee thing of thirteen or so - back when I had dreams of writing prose or plays for a living - I attended a three-hour workshop led by Mr. Ross. He was (and is) a very gentle-looking, very kind, very intelligent fellow - and although we never "worked together" again, we were always friendly. Oh wait - we did work together once after that. He did some voice work for a miniseries I contributed to for CBC (he was hilarious). Anyway - at the time, I was scratching my way up the entertainment industry ladder, and he was planted firmly atop it.

In the Winnipeg art scene, knowing who Ian is is no great feat - he's a Governor General's Award-winning playwright for fareWel. It's the highest honor for literature in Canada. I remember, in the months after he won it, Ian switched from casual dress to Armani suits. Yesterday he was somewhere in between, but still looking good.

Anyway, we quickly dispense with pleasantries and I ask what he - of all people - is doing in a pawn shop the day before Christmas eve.

"Trying to find a Christmas gift for my nephew," he says. "But I really have no idea."

"How old is he?"

It takes Ian a good forty-five seconds to do the math.


"On PS3?" I ask. He nods. "You're talking to precisely the right person," I tell him. The store had 50-odd PS3 titles on display, and after a quick scan I tell him that BioShock is one of the best games of the past decade, and Dead Space is one of the best of the last few years. "If I was buying games for someone, and I didn't know what they already own, those are the two I'd get."

He takes my advice, and gets a copy of Oblivion for good measure. Then he writes down his email address and phone number for me.

Ian and I were always friendly - but he knows I don't write (creatively) any more: I told him so. Why would he want me to get in touch with him?

I probably lost the paper anyway. But it's... still...

It was a strange encounter.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fucking awesome.

Pardon the coarse language, but I just ran through the demo for God of War III, and joyous expletives are the best descriptors that come to mind. I've seen every minute of the demo in video form over the past year, but getting my hands on it is another thing entirely - I said the words "that is fucking awesome" twice during my ten minutes with it. It feels perfect, the combat is smooth but gives you nice feedback and...

Even the quicktime events are a teensy bit improved. They no longer take up a great deal of the screen, and the button-press prompts now appear on the top, bottom, left or right of the screen to reflect their placement on the controller (triangle is up, X is down, et cetera).

Beyond that, it's precisely what I wanted it to be. It's a feast for the eyes, it plays beautifully, and it delivers that phenomenal, epic scale of the previous games.

After playing it, I can't imagine what Visceral Games was thinking when they dropped their demo for Dante's Inferno. Did they not go to E3? Did they not see what I just saw?

They have to know their game is in direct competition with God of War (not on the 360, of course). Why wouldn't they want to show us something that in some way - in any way - tops what Sony Santa Monica is showing? I'm a little baffled, but it's not as if EA's marketing machine has been... well, anything better than awful in 2009.

It's Christmas Eve Eve!

I tried to find a nice gamer-related Christmas image, but Critter Christmas will have to do. Mostly just because I love that episode.

Anyway - it's the night before the night before Christmas! And that's easily close enough to start really getting hyped for the occasion.

Christmas Eve's tomorrow,
too bad it's not today.
Let's have a happy
happy happy happy
Christmas, anyway!

And lo, I celebrated with the purchase of Pepsi and preorder. Bare-bones five-dollar preorders for BioShock 2 (EB finally got the Special Edition in their system) and God of War III (EB finally got the cards which grant you access to the demo).

It seems - despite the late date - my Official Family Christmas Gift Wrapper duties are not yet through, as I've been presented with additional presents in need of adornment. As someone fast approaching thirty I should - by all reasonable measurements - be over this whole "Christmas thing".

But brother, I ain't. Merry Christmas! And yes, you can expect one of these posts every day for the next few days.

My last fear about Darksiders has been allayed.

Let's not get too excited that Play Magazine gave Darksiders a 10/10. The review's author, Dave Halverson, also gave Golden Axe: Beast Riders an 8 - so I can't exactly cite him as a trustworthy criticism-slinger.

I will thank him for one service, though, and that is pointing out that Darksiders is over 31 hours long (page 3 of the review). I was always a little concerned about the game's length, since interviews with the devs have only revealed four major bosses prior to the confrontation with the big baddie - of course, they could just be pulling a Zelda on us - letting us "beat" the original objective outlined in the game's opening, only to discover we've successfully completed Chapter 1 of a magnum opus.

Which is precisely what I want. Okami takes me about 30 hours to run through, and that's a perfect length for this type of game. If it ends up being 40 hours and I'm still having fun at the end of it? All the better.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You can go hands-on with MAG, right now.

The public beta for Zipper Interactive's 256-player online shooter is go, on the PSN. Give it a shot, if you like. I got my fill when I dabbled in it earlier, so I can't say I'll be giving it a second try.

Also, the water update has finally come to LBP! I know my older brother's been chomping at the bit, for that one - and really, who can argue with a Jack Sparrow sackboy?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hey, there's an End of Eternity demo up! Japan, of course. To be honest, I'm not sure if it's called End of Eternity or Resonance of Fate in Japan (or North America), but I am sure it's a turn-based RPG with a bit of a tactical bent that has the characters running around, doing twisty jumps through the air and looking very cool while shooting guns at enemies.

That's all I need to know, really, to want to try it out. I just hope my feeble anglo mind can navigate its Japanese interface to the point where I can actually play the game. I'll post an update with some impressions when I can.

Update: it's End of Eternity in Japan, Resonance of Fate in NA. Looking at the title of the demo gleaned mountains of information.

Pure white tendency is go!

The toughest game of the year got a little easier today with the winter solstice ushering in the pure white wold tendency event. Of course, this means enemies won't drop as much phat lootz, but when you're playing New Game+ you'll take any break you can get.

Just got myself the Dragon Bone Smasher!

No demo for Darksiders :(

There's an interview with Vigil Games' David Adams over at VG247 which essentially explains what the hell Darksiders is about, the inspirations it draws from and its general ambitions - it's worth a look if you've never heard of the title - but for me, the interesting bit comes with the last four paragraphs:
Will there be a demo, and if so, do you have a release laid out?

David Adams: We aren’t doing a demo. We didn’t have the time our resources to prepare one – finishing the game came right down to the wire.

Awwww. That blows. It also blows that the development "came right down to the wire" - I know Vigil is a virgin developer and games are a highly risky venture, but I still would've preferred to read "we really put all our effort into polishing the hell out of it." Either way, I'm still looking forward to the title.

And, as someone who was (is) concerned about the title's length, this is nice to hear:

Loads of games were moved into 2010 this year, and with such a gluttonous amount of titles for consumers to choose from, how does Darksiders stand out amongst the crowd?

David Adams: I think Darksiders is fairly unique, in that you can’t find the same style of gameplay from any other game. It may bear similarities to other games, but the experience itself is quite different – a combination of combat, puzzles, exploration, character advancement, light RPG elements, seamless world, etc.

I, personally, think it’s the kind of game that you can sit down to play then look up and realize five hours have gone by. It has that immersive quality that draws you into the story and the game, and like all true adventure games it constantly teases with something new around every corner – so you want to keep playing just to see what the game will throw at you next.

I don't know why he'd throw "five hours" out there if the game only lasted eight. It's hardly rock-solid proof of the title's length, but it's the hazy outline of an indicator - which is good enough for me (for now).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Final Fantasy XIII just got more interesting (to me).

Thanks entirely to this import preview over at 1up, my interest in FFXIII went from I've-got-better-things-to-do to I'll-give-it-a-shot-when-it's-very-cheap.

The combat system sounds cool.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Take THAT, Holiday downer!

I don't have Photoshop. So sue me. Anyway...

The Grinch is not merely a story book character or a fine way to describe someone who is "grinchy." The Grinch can also appear in the foul fucking luck that robs your brother of his beloved (and heavily used) Playstation 3 six days prior to Christmas.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I had a quest on my mind. An objective. I'm very single-minded when one motivation or another seduces me, and around 4am, as I tried to get to sleep for the umpteenth time, I realized what was bothering me - my brother's broken-down PS3, and that nobody else in the family seemed to realize that this was precisely the sort of emergency the term "Christmas Miracle" was coined for.

I tried several routs today, but no one was interested in combining their efforts with mine to acquire a new console for him. At last, I phoned my younger brother and presented him with a plan: essentially, he's loaned me the $200 my older brother couldn't afford to replace his console with a sleek new Slim in return for receiving said elder brother's borked PS3.

(That's right, Matt - borked.)

So now my little bro has a PS3 that can only play PSN games (which was all he really wanted anyway), and my elder brother can continue his never-ending journey into Little Big Planet.

And I? I'm a little in debt, and I can look forward to giving my older brother some presents on Christmas morning that he can actually use.

God bless us, everyone.

Update: turns out the old PS3 is so borked it won't even let my little brother play PSN games off the hard drive. Damn you, Grinch.

MOVIE - Something The Lord Made.

This distinguished-looking fellow is Dr. Vivian Thomas. He was instrumental in some of the most important medical discoveries of the twentieth century, not the least of which was his part in the very first successful surgery performed on the human heart - which up until then was considered impossible.

The reason I bring him up is because it occurs to me, I saw another movie worth mentioning lately. It's an HBO made-for-TV flick called Something The Lord Made, and it stars (above-par rapper turned above-par actor) Mos Def and (the bad guy from Die Hard) Alan Rickman.

Def plays Vivian Thomas, and he's excellent in it. What's a little remarkable about Mos Def is he plays various characters of various qualities, but even when he's playing an idiot or a jerk - he does a wonderful job at it, but - he still seems so cool. I'm not talking John Travolta cool or even John Cusack cool - it's... why is Harrison Ford the first guy who comes to mind? Anyway - it works.

The movie is intensely interesting, totally touching and highlights the crushing hardships Thomas endured in pursuit of doing what he loved.

For years, Thomas - who had no official medical training - did the work of a surgical technician, but thanks to race relations being what they were at the time, he was categorized and paid as a janitor. Although Dr. Blalock (Rickman) performed that first cardiac surgery, he did it with Thomas standing on a box behind him, walking him through every step of the procedure.

It's a pretty remarkable story, and if it ever shows up on the tube in your neck of the woods, I highly suggest putting aside some time to give it a look.

Friday, December 18, 2009

In mourning...

I hate writing these words: my older brother's PS3 has crapped out on him. Eugh.

He bought it used from my little brother (who bought it used off his best friend) - it's one of the old 80 gigs with software backward-compatibility. The thing's probably been in use since '06 or early '07, and the Blu-Ray drives of the older models will occasionally die.

First, at my bidding, he called Sony customer support and found out what the deal was - $180 (Canadian) to get it repaired. Then, having experienced similar disc-read problems with his old PS2, he proceeded to take the thing apart in order to clean the laser of the disc drive.

Needless to say, Sony won't be taking it in for repairs now, and the thing still doesn't work any better, despite his ministrations.

I feel so fucking bad for him. He just got himself a sweet new 40 inch 1080p TV, and now - a week before Christmas, no less - his sole platform of HD media decides to cough and die.

Well, not die - he can still play games downloaded off the PSN - but if it requires using the disc drive the experience seems to be very hit-or-miss.

/sigh. This sucks balls. I'm glad my old 60 gig's still truckin' along (knocks on wood.)

As if I needed another reason to preorder Heavy Rain.

Crying Girl here was the first drip of promotional media for Heavy Rain. The second bit was The Taxidermist scene, which introduced us to Madison Paige and showcased the gameplay, atmosphere and lovely presentation of the title. Even when they were showing it off, they were careful to tell us that The Taxidermist scene won't actually appear in the game - it was merely a technological test-run - an attempt to clearly present what they intended the final game to look, move and feel like.

You may remember the crew at Quantic Dreams have been telling us for a while that there's DLC planned for Heavy Rain, and the first piece has been announced - Madison's Adventures In The Taxidermist's Creepy House will appear (with an estimated price point of $4.99) on the PSN.

At first it seemed to me that $4.99 for a five-minute walk through a creepy house before being confronted with an angry fat man isn't a particularly good deal, but we are assured that Heavy Rain: Chronicle One – The Taxidermist...
" an expansion and update to the original “Taxidermist” demo that received such positive response when shown last year."
So maybe it's meaty enough to be worth five bucks - not that I'll have to risk it. The Taxidermist comes free with preorders (at certain stores), and preodering Heavy Rain was always the plan for me, anyway.

Yeah... um, no - I'm not paying for that.

A reader sent Kotaku the .pdf file of a survey sent out by (survey company) Ipsos. This quote is taken directly from the survey:
"Sony is considering offering a premium PlayStation Network subscription in the future. The subscription offering would provide new premium features you could choose to pay for and are in addition to the features currently available for free such as access to online multiplayer gaming (current features would remain free)."
On the bright side, it sounds like there are no plans to charge for the PSN we know and love/tolerate. On the downside, stuff we've been begging for for years which would bring the service in line with Xbox Live are ripe for the penny-pinching. Stuff like cross-game voice chat. Here's all the content, ripped straight from the .pdf:
Open in new window/tab to see the full image, which contains four different packages and two different price points.

The intended price point is $69.99 annually or $9.99 per month, though one of the four listed packages is at $29.99/year and $4.99/month.

What stings about this isn't that Sony is trying to wring a few extra dollars out of us, but that a lot of what they're offering - to me, at least - seems like it shouldn't come with a price tag. The cross-game voice chat is a big one, disc-free Netflix (which I could care less about) really should be standard, and I don't see why a guy like me with thirty-plus PS3 games and a dozen or so PSN purchases shouldn't be included in some sort of loyalty program simply by virtue of being exceedingly loyal.

They already have a paid-for program that allows early access to demos and guaranteed invites to betas - it's called Qore (and it's not worth the subscription price either).

The fact that they think people would be willing to pay for "customer service priority access" is appalling - mostly because it directly implies that their customer service is poor enough that someone should feel the need to seek out preferential treatment. A three-year warranty on the PS3 should be standard - there's very little here that feels like it warrants a paid service.

Cloud storage for your saved game (or other) game data seems like a great idea for a paid service, and the idea of a free-for-all on PS1 classics isn't a bad idea either - but "members only in-game content" is just vile. Almost as vile as a discount for purchases made on the PSN store. You're letting me pay you a lot now so I can pay you a little less later? How kind.

About half of the stuff on the list is targeted squarely towards the Home crowd - the "casual" market - while the other half clearly caters to the "hardcore" gamer. The thing is, I know very, very few "core" gamers who'd be interested in paying seventy bucks a year for any sort of package like this.

All this is a long way off, of course - this survey is just Sony testing the waters to discover how to best implement some sort of paid system, and it's entirely possible that a great deal of these services won't be included, with other, unseen items taking their place. But still...

I can't shake the feeling that this thing is going to engender a lot of ill will among Sony's gamer community.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

MOVIE - Jennifer's Body.

Why is horror the only genre of film I blog about? Perhaps it's because I sense my readership doesn't give a damn that I thought Julie & Julia was great, but as much as I love Amy Adams I would have much preferred to see ninety minutes of Meryl Streep chewing up the scenery as Julia Child. The "geek" genres are sci-fi, fantasy and horror - but you likely don't need me to tell you that J.J. Abrams' Star Trek was awesome and Terminator Salvation kinda' sucked. That leaves the occasional fantasy yarn (Stardust is excellent, by the way) and horror.

Let me turn you on to a horror movie you've very likely dismissed, due to its lead.

Beyond total indifference, there's really only two emotions one can feel towards Megan Fox - she is either super-hot and therefor to be worshiped as such, or she is super-hot and the only reason she's working in Hollywood is so directors can leverage that attribute in the pursuit of separating horny young men from their money.

I fall in the latter camp. Megan Fox is super hot, but I don't like her. I don't like how every movie she's in spends a good five minutes of footage panning up and down her body in slow motion. It is blatant pandering - it's a little insulting - and for that alone, I don't like her. So I was equally prepared to dislike Jennifer's Body - a teen horror flick that advertised itself based solely on the merits of her hotness. I was prepared never to watch it, despite a modicum of curiosity.

But yesterday, I'm browsing movies - I think I've settled on Public Enemies - but then I see Jennifer's Body. As a general rule I like smart teen horror flicks, and there was a slim chance this could turn out as entertaining as, say, The Faculty. So why not?

Expectations seem to have a huge impact on movies. If you saw American Beauty after everyone and their dog told you it was the best movie evarr, you'd have no idea what they were talking about. Inversely, I believe that since I went into Jennifer's Body expecting a poor film, I had no option but to be impressed with what it actually is.

Don't get me wrong, it still showcases lingering shots of Megan Fox in various states of undress, but it's also just a... smart movie.

Isn't that weird?

It's about the kind-of unhealthy attachment between friends-since-childhood Amanda Seyfried (who, it may surprise you to learn, is actually the protagonist of the story) and Fox. At first the relationship seems parasitic - Seyfried caters to Fox's every whim - but as the story waxes and wanes it becomes clear that Fox is just as dependent on the mousy, polite friend as her friend is on the bigger-than-life high school diva.

Here's an article I found from a clever blogger who examines it much more closely.

If, like me, you were prepared to ignore Jennifer's Body based solely on your proud distaste for Megan Fox - give it a shot. It's not a great movie, but it's certainly rather good, and a good way to blow ninety minutes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Go hands-on with Gran Turismo 5.

There's a time trial demo for Gran Turismo 5 up on the Japanese PSN - it's pretty hard to miss, and is 100% English-friendly.

What's more than a little impressive is that the whole thing takes up a mere 202 MB. It doesn't offer much - a time trial to perfect a single lap in a pre-chosen car, though you can choose between a tuned and untuned version of the car. There are three views (cockpit, guages only or outside the car) and... that's about it. Online leaderboards to test your skill against others are a nice touch.

I'm definitely not the market for this thing, though. The experience feels very sterile to me - but the last racing game I truly loved was Mario Kart on the SNES, so don't take my position very seriously. I was thrilled to get to try out the damage modeling... but that doesn't seem to be included.

Yep, that DS teaser-tweet is white tendency.

Remember that Demon's Souls-related tweet about how "the Old One's power will falter soon after the winter solstice"? Well, turns out we were right - they're changing world tendency to white.
...when precisely is the winter solstice... I choose you, Wikipedia! Ah, the shortest day of the year. That seems like something I should know. And it occurs...
"...some time between December 21 and December 22 in the Northern hemisphere."
Neat. I'll be working. Of course, it says "soon after the winter solstice." Not very precise, is it?

COMIC - Hiimdaisy's video game comedy epics.

So there's this woman, right? And a half-dozen times (or so) a year she'll update her Livejournal with these epic comics that essentially point out every plot hole or modicum of ridiculousness that occurs throughout the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Recently she's moved on to Persona 4, so at this point it's fair to say I am in love with her, and if she asked me to - yes - I would have her babies. I've only been checking in on her blog for the past eighteen months or so - but it's always great stuff, and often sigworthy material.

Here is a tiny (tiny, tiny) excerpt from part 2 of her 4-part megacomic, Let's Destroy Metal Gear Again. Remember when Raiden sneaks into the central strut of the Big Shell, dressed as one of Ocelot's soldiers to find... I think his name was Aimes? And Ocelot shows up?

Here's all her comics thus far...

Let's Destroy Metal Gear!

Let's Destroy Metal Gear part 2.

Let's Destroy Metal Gear part 3.

Let's Destroy Metal Gear part 4.

Let's Destroy Metal Gear Again!

Let's Destroy Metal Gear Again part 2.

Let's Destroy Metal Gear Again part 3.

Let's Destroy Metal Gear Again part 4.

Mother 3 Chapter 1 spoilers!

Mother 3 Ending spoilers!

Let's Destroy the Shagohod!

Let's Destroy the Shagohod part 2.

Let's Destroy the Shagohod part 3.

Let's Destroy the Shagohod part 4.

I apologize for this comic in advance. Really.
(Metal Gear Solid 2)

Let's defeat the FOX unit! (Portable Ops)

The Big Long Persona 4 Comic!

This contains spoilers! (Professor Layton)

Big Long Persona 4 Comic part 2.

In the NEWS - Dec 16th.

Lots of stuff to get to, today. Let's kick it off with yet another non-refusal of Mass Effect 2's possible appearance on the PS3...

BioWare still not outright denying PS3 ME2.
"We definitely want to give as many people as possible a chance to play the game."

There's an interview with BioWare's Adrien Cho on the website I have no idea what language it's in, but I do know that along the right side of the article, there's an English translation. Here are the last four paragraphs:
Q: "There is one more thing I have to ask you. Jay Watamaniuk said during PGA that Mass Effect 2 is coming out for the 360, PC and probably PS3. So, how probable is it?

A: Well, we've spent the past 2 years working just on the 360 and PC versions.

Q: But if BioWare and EA want to release Mass Effect 2 on PS3, there wouldn't be any legal problems, in terms of IP rights? Microsoft cannot do anything about it?

A: We definitely want to give as many people as possible a chance to play the game. The Unreal engine is cross-platform. I think maybe the only platform it doesn't work on is the Wii."

Thanks for the total lack of hard information. Again.

Heavy Rain gets demo, DLC
In a video interview over at Joystiq, Heavy Rain executive producer Guillaume de Fondaumiere reaffirms Quantic Dreams' intention to release a demo, and all but officially confirms episodic DLC support post-release:
"Buy the game, don't sell it. Keep it to yourself. You'll need it to continue and experience more episodes in the months following the launch of the game."
Nice. Well - could be nice. We'll see.

Visceral Games dev likes the idea of life-sized Plasma Cutter in Dead Space 2 Collector's Edition.
Dead Space 2 executive producer Steve Papoutsis answers a bunch of fan questions in a video on Dead Space's Facebook page - and doesn't really provide many hard details. "Can't say much about it" is a common response. One kinda' stands out:
Fan question: "(Blah blah blah) If you made the Collector's Edition it would be the best if you put in a real sized Plasma Cutter. I would pay lots of money for that."

Steve P:
"(Blah blah blah) far as the collector's edition, definitely something that we've been talking about with our marketing buddies and trying to figure out what makes sense for a really unique and compelling collector's edition for people like yourself that are really interested in that. As far as a real-life Plasma Cutter? Yeah. That would be pretty badass and I think maybe... we might look into things like that. I can't promise, but I certainly would love to have one and it would be pretty badass."
After the supremely disappointing Assassin's Creed II Forty Dollars More Expensive Edition, I'm much more guarded about such things - but I must say a life-sized Plamsa Cutter would definitely compel me to drop another fifty bucks on my copy of Dead Space 2.