Wii Game Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10

I’ve never been a big fan of golf games on consoles.  The button pushing just left a great deal of somethings to be desired.  But I saw potential in the Nintendo Wii and the Wii-mote system for sports games.  The basic Wii Sports package had a short golf game in it, a mere 9 holes, and only 1 course, but it showed me the potential for game play in such games.  I ws intrigued enough to begin considering the Tiger Woods golf game.  When I began looking at the game, I noticed it was only a few more weeks before Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 would be released, and with the new Wii-Motion sensor attachment.  So I held off buying the game, and it was worth the wait.

The biggest addition to the franchise, and the Wii in general is the new Wii-Motion sensor attachment for the Wii-Motes.  This new sensor addition allows the system to pick up on rotation of the Wii-Mote in addition to the usual motion sensor aspects.  With the sensor attached, the system will pick up on left-right rotation, beyond the usual up-down, left-right cardinal movements.  For a game like Tiger Woods, and I can imagine for games like tennis, this adds a wonderful new layer of “realism” and game play.

The game itself is pretty straight forward.  It plays almost exactly like real life golf.  Anyone who has ever picked up a club will have no problem settling into this game out of the box.  More so on the Wii, as if you use the Wii-mote as a golf club, as you will get a real feel of playing.  This is unlike either the PS3 or X-Box systems, where you would still be using a traditional controller set up.  In other words, on the Wii this is an active participation game, where on any of the other consoles, you;d still be sitting on the couch.

The games has several game modes, from casual play (pick a course and go), a career mode (where it’s really at), a “party” mode (multiple players in a casual setting), and several on line features.  The real meat and potatoes of the game lay in the career mode, which is standard for most sports games.  Just like many other sports games, be it MLB, or Madden, or what have you, you create your golfer from the ground up.  The customization is fairly extensive, and perhaps over done given the level of details you can adjust.  I’m not one to bother adjusting my eye widths or tinkering with chin shapes, but there are those that do, and it’s here for them.

As with other similar games, you can set your player’s statistics.  As you progress through the game, you will gain experience points, by making good shots, meeting challenges, and winning tournements, which you can then spend to improve your player.  Unlike other game however, the experience points are specific to the skills, with a general category which can be used for any skill.  So just because you have great drives off the tee, doesn’t mean your putting will improve.

Once you have your player, you can begin in one of three categories: PGA Tour; FedEx Cup; Tournament Challenge.  So far, I have only played the PGA Tour.  In this mode, you start as a rookie amateur golfer.  You have a certain set of objectives to meet to gain your Tour card, after which you can compete with the Pros.  The game will provide you with hints and tips as you play, and if things seem to be going badly, will even offer to ease the difficulty for you.  I have yet to earn my Tour Card, but I’ve still managed to achieve several trophies and win several challenges.

The other career modes, FedEx Cup and Tournament mode, are also accessed from the “My Career” screen.  The FedEx Cup is just as it is in real life.  Individual tournaments and a combined scoring in the chase for the Cup.  The Tournament mode allows you to compete in historical tournaments, against the actual players in those tournaments.  I haven’t tried this one yet, as I’d like to improve my game a great deal before going up against the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Woods.

As you progress, you will get opportunities for things like sponsors, who give you bonus cash for using their gear in tournaments, endorsements, and the like.  This will unlock more items in the club house, such as clubs, clothing, balls, and other gear.  You can adjust what you bring to the course at your leisure, making changes in nearly every aspect.  Club selection prior to a tournament may be important, so be sure to check what you have before each round.

All types of golf tournaments are present in game.  There are match play events, standard tournaments, skins games, and scrambles.  Some are four day tournaments, some less.  The various PGA tournaments, amateur and professional are here to be played, and on the associated courses.

The course selection here is impressive.  All the majors are covered, as are several of the smaller courses.  Every course from Bethpage to St.Andrew’s in accounted for, and are accurately rendered in game.  On of the neater on line features of the game is that you can have the game connect to the Wii Weather Channel and play in the actual weather conditions for that course.  Just as in real life, weather can be a significant factor in how a course plays.

Once you’ve created a profile and a golfer, you can use that golfer in any mode, on or off line.  You can earn some experience points (but not cash) from casual play or in party mode, so it’s worth your while to do so.  The only mode where you don’t (or at least not thaty I’ve noticed), is in Frisbee Golf.  Yes, Frisbee Golf.  Anyone who had a gym class in the 80’s, or spent time on a college campus in that era, will remember this.  It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s a good easy family type game.

The online aspects, other than the afore mentioned weather connect, are interesting, though I have yet to try most of them out.  One mode allows you to “play along” with the real pros.  So, when say the Masters comes up, you can play along with the real Pros, and compare your game score to their real life scores on the same course on the same day.  There are also online tournaments where you compete against other players, and happen on a regular (weekly I believe) basis.

No matter what mode you choose to play, or at what difficulty, I highly recommend going through the tutorials.  Especially if using the Wii-motion sensor.  In a departure from the usual, these tutorials are actually worth while.  Even if you are an experience golfer, going through the tutorials will give you the feel for the game play, and how to make use of the various features and sensor capabilities.  It will also show you the various differences in some options, such as between classic and precision putting, and how to intentionally do a draw or fade (aka hook or slice).

While I am certain that graphically the PS3 and Xbox versions blow the Wii version out of the water, the game play on the Wii more than makes up for it.  As I said, it’s a more “natural” game play with the Wii-mote compared to the traditional controllers.  You take your stance, then back swing and swing through.  The Wii-mote system is sensitive enough to pick up on the actual force of your swing, so you can control how much force you use in a natural way.  Just like using a real golf club.  It is all very intuitive and wonderfully easy to pick up.

Putting is the same way, no matter which mode you choose to use.  The classic mode is what has gone before.  Anyone who has played a Tiger Woods game prior to this will be familiar with this mode.  It’s an easier (supposedly!) method of putting, geared now more towards the casual and new player.  The precision mode allows for greater individual control, from putter choice, to angles, spin, and strength of putt.  Personally, I much prefer the precision putting to the classic mode.  I just found it easier to assimilate into my game play, and found it a more “natural” choice.  YMMV as usual.

So far, I have progressed about 6% in my career.  I’ve only won 2 tournaments, The Highlands Challenge at Turnberry, and the European Shootout at St.Andrews.  The Highlands Challenge was a 16 player natch play tournament.  After winning round 1 on a play off hole, I quickly dispatched my remaining opponents by the 15 hole in each successive round.  This win earned me a “Player of the Month” trophy ball (there is one for each month).  I then struggled through three more tournaments before the European Shootout.

I only wish I could play like I did at the European Shootout.  After a +1 first round, I shot a -9, -11, and -11 to finish the tournament at a whopping -30!  This was by and far the most impressive game of my life.  I eagled (2 under par) 7 holes, including a par 5.  I was consistently sinking 40+ foot putts, and in successive rounds hit all fairways, then all Greens in Regulation (GIR).  I set course records for lowest score in a round (tied the record actually), fewest putts, most fairways hit, and most GIR.

I can’t quite give this a perfect score.  I’d like to, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 suffers from the same issue as every other sports game out there.  That problem is the commentary.  It doesn’t matter what game it is, be it Tiger Woods, MLB09, Madden, NCAA sport game of choice, or what not, the commentary tracks universally suck.  The canned comments get real old real fast.  You play through once with it on, and that is more than enough.  No matter the game, the canned dialogue is generic at best, and inappropriate at worst.  It fast becomes an annoying distraction, and really doesn’t add anything to the game play.  Play with it on once, then turn it off.

Even so, I think that this is by far the best sports game out there, especially on the Wii.  The game play aspects alone makes this more than a worth while pick up.  If you have any interest in golf, this is a game for you.  One of the selling aspects of the game is how professionals say “it will help improve your game,” so it will also appeal to regular golfers as well.  I will say this, it can help your real life game, especially if you have a hook or slice in your swing.  I myself have “corrected” my usual slice (to a degree at least), and improved my putting approach.  And where else can you get 72 holes of golf in 2 hours, and feel like you’ve actually played 72 holes?

9/10

A box of Cheeze Makes for a Fun Weekend

Last week, I placed a “hefty” order with Amazon.com.  I would venture to say that 90% of was pure “cheeze” entertainment.  Movies and TV shows on DVD, that while never going to win any awards (at least none to be proud of!), were staples of Staurday and Sunday afternoon fare back in the day.  Kids today are spoiled with the various movie channels, genre specific channels, and the advent of home videos that the joy that many of us felt, lounging in front of the TV (it was analog-RIP, and we only had the over the air channels), on a weekend afternoon, watching absolutely rotten movies and TV shows.  Heck, ABC even had Friday Night Movies as a regular feature.  But all that has been consigned to the dust bins of history, and the nostalgia of us that remember.

So, as I said, I placed an order with Amazon, dropping a small wad on some of those cheezey movies and shows of my youth.  OK, so not all of it was cheeze.  I did get the first season of NCIS, so I’ll exclude that from this commentary.  But the rest of it was pure Saturday morning and afternoon fare.  Some it was “retro,” dating to the early to mid 1970’s, a bit from the 80’s, and a bit that is “modern.”

For “conniseurs” of such fare, I highly reccomend looking for the “Midnight Movies Double Features.”  I picked up two of these, at a very reasonable price ($8-$9 each).  The first was one I had wanted for a long time.  I kept passing it over for quite a while, but since I could not find it locally anymore, I broke down and ordered it through Amazon.  This is the “Midnight Movies Double Feature” of “The Land that Time Forgot,” and “The People that Time Forgot.”

I first saw these on a Saturday afternoon, probably sometime around 1979 or 1980.  I think local channel WRGB 6 showed them.  “Land” is based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story.  In short, it’s about the survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship who are picked up by a German U-Boat in 1916, and find themselves on an island where evolution works in a very different fashion.  The big star of the movie is Doug McClure.  Fans of the Simpsons may find the name tantalizingly familiar, and with good reason.  The Simpson’s character “Troy McClure” is a combination of Doug McClure and Troy Donoghue, two “heart throbs” of the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Fans of “classic” Dr.Who will notice one Anthony Ainley, aka The Master, in this movie as well.

This is far form Academy Award winning film making.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s a fun action adventure movie.  It doesn’t try to be anything other that faithful to the original source material.  The same can be said for the sequel, “The People That Time Forgot.”  The sequel does have a late in the film appearance of McClure, but the main star is Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne) and Sarah Douglass (later to appear as the evil queen in Conan the Destroyer).  Both films can be considred “period pieces,” given that the original ERB stories were written at the end of WW1, and reflect that era wonderfully.

The other “Midnight Double Feature” I picked up has “War Gods of the Deep” and “At the Earth’s Core.”  “At the Earth’s Core” is another Doug McClure vehicle, this one also having Peter Cushing and Catherine Munro.  This is another movie based on an Edgar Rice Burrough’s story.  It’s a straight forward Victorian science fiction story, much like many of ERB’s contemporaries like Jules Verne.  Simple story line is a Victorian era scientist and his assistant build a giant drilling machine and travel to a strange land beneath the Earth’s crust.  Just like any of the various versions of “Jouney to the Center of the Earth,” it has the same basic premise, and a few anachronisms.  Even so, it’s another fun bit of esacpism, a good way to kill a couple of hours without feeling cheated.

“War Gods of the Deep” is a Vincent Price movie.  Unlike the previous three films, this one is loosely based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe (City in the Sea).  It is also known as “The City Under the Sea” and “The City in the Sea.”  The film also features Tab Hunter, another one of those pretty boy actors of the “beach bingo” era.  The film has a slight Lovecraftian over tone, with an under water city, and merman type slaves.  Anyone who has played the video game “Bioshock” will see more than a passing resemblance to many of the settings and characters.  In many ways, this is a fairly typical Vincent Price piece.  Price plays a tyrannical, megalomaniacal ruler of the under water city, whose own ambitions eventually lead to his downfall.

What needs to be remembered in all four of these films is when they were made.  The most recent is from 1976, 33 years ago now (ouch!).  So one must keep that in mind when viewing, as the special effects and such are definitively dated.  However, once you get beyond that (which is a problem for many younger viewers), one will find some find performances, excellent cinematography, and quality writing.  If you are a fan of action adventure movies, and not just the shooting and explosion packed films made since the 80’s, then definitely drop the $15-$20 for these two double feature movie packs.

This brings me up to a staple of Saturday morning viewing in the mid-70’s, Land of the Lost.  Oh this is terrible TV is so many ways, yet is thoroughly enjoyable none the less.  Yes, I know, the effects are horrible, the green screen work is lousy, and all too apparent.  The stop motion animation is not even up to Ray Harryhousen standards.  The acting is B-List at best, and dinner theater at worst.  Yet the actual stories, the writing is rather good.  It’s a shame to a degree that such visions were never properly realized on screen.

Anyone who grew up in the 70’s will remember this series, as long as they had access to a TV on a Saturday morning.  Park Ranger Rick Marshall and his daughter Holly, and son Will are trapped in another dimension, brought there while rafting.  The show lasted three seasons, and a total of 43 episodes.  The show wandered from prehistoric creatures (all those dinosaurs), to dimensional time travelling (Enik, The Marshalls, and various “guests”), to high end Science Fiction (the pylons, weather control, etc).  This was another creation of Sid and Marty Krofft, also known for creating HR Puffnstuff.

OK, I fully and freely admit that I got this one purely for nostalgia’s sake.  So far I’ve watched the first disc of season 1.  It’s both as bad, and as wonderful as I remember it being.  Perhaps that’s just the rose colored glasses of youthful memories coloring my perceptions, but what the heck.  If anything, I appreciate the writing far more than I ever did as a child.  The effects are truly, painfully dated, and on the cheap.  Yet is has this wonderful Dr.Who quality to it, though I must say that Dr.Who and the BBC did it all better, and on a tighter budget.  Even so, I found it quite relaxing to lie on the couch  and watch this.

I did not however, get the lunch box set.  I just got the regular boxed set of all three seasons.  I just couldn’t justify the extra cash for the lunch box edition.  Not to mention I’d have no place to put it.  😉  I’m gathering that these sets have been released to coincide with the motion picture version about to come out.  Previously, the seasons had been available, but only as individual sets.  I do not plan on going to see the movie version.  Why?  One, it’s a Will Ferrell movie.  I don’t care for anything in which he stars.  They tend to be terribly unfunny.  Ferrell is best as a supporting actor, not a lead.  Second, I just can’t get past the idea of Holly getting the hots for Rick.  Eeeewwwww.  I don’t care if in the movie she’s not his daughter but an admirer.  I have been forever poisoned by the original series characters, so all I can see is an incestuous relationship, even if it isn’t.

I also found a great deal on all three seasons of Tripping the Rift.  This animated series had a good run on the SciFi channel on cable a few years back.  This humorous animated series follows the crew of the Jupiter 42 on its escapades across the universe.  They go from one one misadventure to another.  This is a fairly humorous send up of just about every SciFi show ever made.  Obviously swipes at Star Trek and Star Wars abound, along with far more subtle, and not so subtle references to many other SciFi classics and not so classics.

This is definitely an adult oriented series.  Between the language and overt sexual references and banter, and graphic, though cartoon violence, this cannot be reccomended for anyone under the age of 14.  Even so, I still find this to be a fun romp through space.  It is witty and incisive in its writing, and in the voice acting,  It’s pretty much all CGI, and that is very clear.  But it works extremely well for this series.  Dorph Bobo alone is worth the price of admission.

So, I should be more than set for entertainment for a while.

PS3 Game Review: MLB09 The Show

With the regular Baseball season in full swing now, it’s past time to put up my review of this latest entry.

There is good and bad to be had in MLB09.  I’ve had the game for a few weeks now, and wanted to get in a good deal of play time in various modes before putting everything down in writing.  Baseball fans will still enjoy this title immensely, and there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in the various game play modes.

The main strength of MLB09 is their propietary Road to the Show (RttS) mode.  In this mode you create your own player, and try to build a MLB career with them.  You start by customizing your player.  The degree of customization available is impressive.  While most people won’t be spending that much time adjusting chin size, it’s there for those that do.  You can set just about everything for your new player.  Age, vital statistics, skills, position, uniform number, and so on.

You then have a choice.  You can either enter the draft, and take whatever team team drafts you, or go the free agent route and try to sign on with the team of your choice.  I took the draft option with my 1B player, ending up with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  At this point, it’s on to spring training.  It’s tough to make the team as an 18 year old rookie.  I didn’t do it.  Instead I was sent to AA for my first pro season.  Due to some injuries at the ML level, I was promoted to AAA after about 6 games.

You must take advantage of your opportunities, just like in real life.  I made the most of my promotion, and stuck at the AAA level.  I didn’t make the 40 man roster at the end of the season, and began my second year in AAA.  Spent the entire year in AAA, no try out for the majors.  End of contract, and the Angels offered me a 6 year deal to be the major league starter.  Cut it back to 5, as I did want to be able to “move on.”

If you are on your teams 40 man roster, you get to go through spring training.  This is unlike previous versions where if you were on the MLB roster, you just fast forwarded to the regular season.  This gives you more chances to improve your player in a more balanced way, so you don’t skew one way then another during your career.  The other great feature to be had, both in spring training and in the regular season are coach called for training sessions.  This could be extra batting practice, featuring specific pitches, or base running training.  These allow you to put your generated skill points into other areas, and give you a better over all skill set.  I haven’t played as a pitcher yet, so I don’t know what training sessions they get as yet.  I’ve also heard that there is fielding sessions, but I haven’t had one of those as yet.

Your progression is tied more intimately to your skills.  Yes, your stats matter, but your skill levels are more important.  Much like the actual majors, they won’t rush you to a higher level if they feel you aren’t ready for it.  This can be a bit frustrating for a player “languishing” in AAA, but if you meet the majority of your in season goals, and improve your skills across the board, you can still rise quickly.  Case in point, in my 3rd pro year, I was the starting 1B for the Angels.

So far, I’ve found the balance in playing to much improved over previous versions.  In MLB07, it was just too easy to hit 60 HR with a .400+ average.  In MLB08, getting stolen bases was ridiculously easy.  I had over 200 SB in one season.  In MLB09, the balance has been quite refreshing.  The statistics and what you can generate are far more linked to your skill levels than ever before.  A player with only say a 40 in power isn’t going to hit many home runs, no matter how well you hit.

I’m sure that as I progress to higher skill levels, the ridiculous numbers will follow, but so far, they’ve been more than reasonable, and reflect the skill progression I’ve made in game.  In my second MLB campaign, I’ve started off rather well, with very reasonable statistics.

The other modes can be just as fun.  Manager mode can be real frustrating, just like real life.  Having to sit and watch your players choke is just awful.  But managing your bull pen, giving signals is as much fun in game.  Franchise mode is for the budding GM in every baseball fan.  Take a team, and to your best Theo Epstein impression.  It’s not always as easy as you think.  Injuries and problem players will tax your patience at every turn.  Then add inn budget concerns, from revenue to spending allocations, and you see why these guys make the money they do.  It’s not all just player management.  Season mode is pretty straight forward.  You play out the season.  Some player movement happens, but you pretty much just use the stock rosters.

However, while there has been some great additions and improvements, there has been a bit of a back slide in some areas.  Mainly these are graphix issues.  The camera can be a pain in the ass, with players disappearing, odd angles that don’t allow you to make plays, or views of peoples feet in the stands (this happens a lot in Minnesota).  There is also an issue of players running through walls to make catches (really annoying), the ball disappearing as it comes at you while hitting, and the usual “super fielding” ability of the AI.  There is also an issue with the announcers saying the wrong name for a player.  This only happens with computer generated players, but it can be disconcerting.  It also happens with pinch hitters, where the hitter is not who is announced.

The AI itself still sucks badly.  It makes very strange decisions all the time.  David Ortiz bunting with the bases loaded and no outs.  A-Rod batting lead off.  Sending players for an extra base too often with the wrong base runners on.  The AI bunts far too often, and in all the wrong situations.  The defensive AI also makes odd choices at times, going to the wrong base, or just always taking the easy out.  Take for example a situation where you are up by a run, there’s a runner on third and 1 out.  The batter bunts, the pitcher fields it.  Instead of going home, where the runner would be out, he goes to first, allowing the run to score and tie the game.

The in season manager interactions could also stand to be tweaked.  In my current RttS season, I’m second in the AL in RBI’s, and Mike Scioscia is whinging about my “lack of RBI production.”  Say what?  Only Dan Uggla has more RBI than I do, and I have 31 RBI in 25 games.  What lack of production?  So I haven’t had an RBI in 2 games.  That’s a bit touchy, more so as the team won those two games.

The music provided with the game is OK.  Nothing special, and at least you can turn off anything that annoys you.  Same with the voice announcers Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and the god-awful Rex Hudler.  Hudler has to go.  Get anyone else.  Well, maybe not Ken Harrelson, but someone else for sure.  The commentary beyond Vasgersian is lame at best, and pathetically awful at worst.  Far too often, the commentary is off by a wide margin, inappropriate to the situation.  But, like with the music, it’s easy enough to turn off, and you don’t really miss anything.

On the whole, this is a mixed bag of terrific improvements, and awful backslides.  If you like the franchise, and are into the whole create a player thing, the bugs and such are little more than annoyances.  Otherwise, you may find some of the frustration to be more than it’s worth.

7.5/10

PS3 Game Review- Resident Evil 5

Without a doubt, this will be the early odds on favorite for Game of the Year (GOTY).  One of the more highly anticipated games of 2009, this does not fail to deliver the goods.

The game picks up some time after the events of Resident Evil 4.  You take the reigns as Chris Redfield once again, this time as an agent of the Bio terrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA).  You are teamed up with Sheva Alomar, another BSAA agent, to investigate an occurrence of Bio Organic Weapons (BOW) research in an unnamed West African nation.  The usual and expected Resident Evil antics happily follow.

Game play is essentially the same as in Resident Evil 4.  The view is an “over the shoulder” view, with some specific views, such as when you use a sniper rifle.  Movement, aiming, combat actions, and the like are all ports of the RE:4 system, so those who have played RE:4 will already be familiar with them.  I must admit it took me a bit to get used to them again after playing so much Call of Duty, and it having been so long since I played RE:4.  Even so, it all came flooding back in short order.

Unlike previous Resident Evil games, there is a strong co-op play element here.  It is not necessary to play co-op to complete the game, as the co-op AI is fairly intelligent for once.  Not perfect, but more capable than many games.  It does not pay usually to get too separated from one another, as if either you or your partner dies, it’s game over.  With such a strong co-op aspect to the game, there are some “new” commands to work with that are situation specific.  If you or your partner is trapped or pinned by the enemy, there is a command to help them out (or call for help), which is indicated once you are in range.  If you or your partner are dying, you can rescue them by getting close enough and pressing the O button.  Doing so will restore just enough health to get you or your partner out of the dying status, but you better have an herb or first aid spray ready.  In addition, there are several situations where you will have to separate yourself and your partner to get past an obstacle or to gain an item.  One will “assist” the other in a jump, which will be indicated on screen.

The co-op play aspect is very central to the game.  While not necessary to have a partner to play with, I can see where it will enhance the game play.  I have not yet tried co-op in any form.  You can play co-op both online or off line.  Off line is split screen, so having a “big screen” TV will be an asset here.  Otherwise I suspect you will lose detail, and the play will actually be hampered by the lack of ability to see enemies approaching your partner.

Combat, as previously stated, is the RE:4 engine, just refined a bit.  Weapon combat is relatively unchanged.  You aim, you fire, repeat as needed.  Where the noticeable improvement comes is in hand to hand combat.  In the right circumstances, you get opportunities for some “special” hand to hand attacks.  As an example, Chris Redfield can do some nasty upper cut type punches, knocking back and stunning enemies, and in some cases, kill an enemy.  Sheva has some of her own as well, but I haven’t had an opportunity to try them out yet.

The weapon assortment is nice.  The weapons are all real world items, from the M92 pistol, to an RPG-7 type launcher.  I’m not quite sure why there are 3 different models of sniper rifle though.  There just isn’t quite enough variation between them honestly.  In total, there are: 4 Pistols (M92F, H&K P8, SiG P226, M93R); 4 shotguns (Ithaca M37, M3, “Jail Breaker,” “Hydra”); 4 SMGs, though 2 are Assault Rifles (Vz61, AK-74, H&K MP-5, SiG 556); 3 Sniper Rifles (S75, Druganov SVD, H&K PSG-1); 3 Magnums (S&W M29, L.Hawk, S&W M500).  Ther are some “special wepaons” as well.  There is a grenade launcher (like the ARMSCORP rotary launcher), the mentioned RPG-7 style launcher, a stun rod (suped up cattle prod), a long bow (so you can go all Rambo), a Gatling Gun (think Jesse Ventura in Predator), and at times, some turret weapons, mounted on trucks or fixed emplacements.  Just as with RE:4, you can buy upgrades for each weapon, increasing various aspects.  Unlike RE:4, there is no “mysterious merchant” from which to get items and upgrades.  Instead, you can buy before you resume a game, after you die, or between chapters.  This is a good/bad thing.  The good is that if you get stomped, you get a chance to upgrade after dying.  The bad is that you don’t get an in game opportunity mid chapter as in RE:4.

The enemies are a varied assortment of bad guys from previous Resident Evil games.  I mean, who knew that having played the Resident Evil: Outbreak series would ever come in handy?  Most of the opposition are variants from RE:4, the Las Plagas infected zombie types, and such.  The bosses are interesting for the most part, with varying degrees of difficulty.  There are a few “old friends” who make their appearance in the game as well.  I won’t go into details here as I don’t want to spoil any of the story elements.

The story itself is interesting.  The designers and writers have definitively moved the game story on, and are not just rehashing the same scenario over and over.  OK, so they are in a very broad sense, but the devil is in the details.  The biggest change is the setting.  Instead of being in a dark urban setting, or in a claustrophobic base set up, you are in the wide open of West Africa.  No brooding storm clouds hang over head, it’s not perpetual night.  The sun shines brightly, sometimes too brightly (to be expected in a tropical clime).  The various open spaces, such as the villages, are actually more troublesome than the close confined spaces of previous games.  If you’ve ever seen the movie (or read the book) Black Hawk Down, there are several scenes in game which will evoke those same images.  The combat situations tend to be short, intense affairs, and can come somewhat unexpected.  I say somewhat, in that you know something is going to happen, but the timing is just off enough to throw you a bit.

A quick note here on the game story and the Resident Evil: Degeneration movie.  While it is far from necessary to have seen the movie for the game’s story, it will give you just a bit more back story to the bad guys in game.

The graphics and sound design on this game are superb.  The cut scenes are extremely well rendered, using motion capture technology to improve the movements of characters.  Much like many of the current generation games, the scenery itself is worth just taking a moment to look around.  The villages are wonderful in their details, the shading and light sourcing is paid careful attention to (shadows are “correct”), and the characters and enemies move “naturally” (though there are still moments where things don’t look quite right).  The sound is well done as well.  Not only do you get the “background noise” of an environment (wind, water dripping, machinery, etc), but even “proper” sounds of running enemies, and things going crash when they get shot or knocked over.  A good example is in Chapter 3 when you’re cruising around a lake on an air boat.  You get a proper meshing of the engine whirring, and the water splash from the wake and the boat slapping up and down.  Majini (the “new” basic zombie) also make a nice thud when you run over them in the boat.

I had been eagerly awaiting this game since the end of last year.  I even “geeked out” and went to Gamestop’s midnight release to get it.  I still am of the opinion that RE:4 was one of the best games for the PS2 I ever played.  So, my expectations for RE:5 were fairly high.  I had played the demo several times prior to release, but all that did was whet my appetite.  The full game has not disappointed me at all.  As I have not yet played any form of co-op, I can’t speak to that.  Nor can I speak to the DLC available.  Nor have I attempted the Mercenaries or Versus modes yet.  I’m not that good yet.  Even so, there is replay value here.  After surviving a first play through, you should have enough stuff, upgrades, and points to spend, that you can be a bit more thorough in a second or thrid play through.

9.5/10

Damnatus- The Movie

Fans of the Warhammer 40K Universe, be it through the table top miniatures games (WH40K, Epic), the Dark Heresy RPG, the Dawn of War PC game series, Final Liberation, or what ever, will by now, have heard of this fan movie.  It gets commented on the various messgaee boards at least once a month, sometimes more.  Those same people will also know of the legal challenges raised by Games Workshop, which effectively scuttled the release of the picture.  It can be found on the internet, just don’t ask me where or how to do so.  Though it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.  The trailer can be seen however (www.Damnatus.com):

There is a better quality trailer available on YouTube, but it doesn’t have the English subtitles.

GW’s stupid legal issues aside, this is an excellent fan movie IMO.  Yes the acting and fights scenes range from average to cheezey (like a LARP group really into their roles), but it’s a solid 40K story.  Even the “low budget” special effects and “wide shots” are worth while, better than many video games with a “real budget,” and 95% of what the SciFi channel puts out as Saturday night fare.  It is obvious that Damnatus was never quite finished in post-production.  This is really noticable in the CGI shots, which at times have an unifinished look to them.  But the legal challenge issued by GW’s nimrod marketing and legal departments probably scuttled that.

If you’ve seen it, then read on.  If you haven’t, well, this won’t make all that much sense to you.

As I was watching Event Horizon, I got to thinking about Damnatus.  Event Horizon is a good movie for a “40K feel,” and the perils of warp travel.  Which made me think about Damnatus, which I recently watched.  I got to thinking that if someone wanted to, they could turn Damnatus into a real Hollywood motion picture.  The elements are all there, and with a bit of Hollywood polish and shine, could be really awesome on the big screen.

My mian thoughts focused on casting the Damnatus as a major Hollywood production.  The rest of it really doesn’t matter.  It would all get the high end treatments by ILM or whoever for the effects.  Maybe a John Williams score as well.

So, the cast:

Inquisitor Lessus: Sam Neill.  This character only appears at the begininning and the end of the film, and needs a certain screen presence.  Sam has the right look, and conveys the right appearance on screen.

The Inquisitorial Operative Leschias: The “younger version” should be Shia LaBouef. The “cultist” version should be Robbie Coltrane.  Not sure Shia can pull of the last third of the movie, but he at least looks right for the part.  I’m open to any more suggestions here.  The more I think about it, I really want someone other tha Shia LaBouef for this role.  Someone give me a name here!

Osmar Adeodatus: Sean Pertwee.  The son of the late Jon Pertwee (aka Dr.Who), has the right talents for this role.  He’s played military roles before, and can pull off the right fanatical attitude for the PDF commander.

Nira Gippus: Need a “babe” to play the role of the novice psyker.  She also need to be “young looking,” figuring the character to be no more than 24 years old.  Rose McGowan was my first choice, but I’m waffling a bit on her.  No actress is striking me as “ideal” at the moment.  So, suggestions are more than welcome.

Hiernoymous VI von Remus: Our ostensible hero must be a serious star, but one with action flick chops.  Given the nature of the character, and how he progresses in the story, my choice is Clive Owen.  His dry wit and presentation fits perfectly with the character’s almost resigned fatalism.

Sgt. Corris: James Marsters.  His role as Spike (Angel and Buffy), as well as his turn as Captain John in Torchwood, make him well suited for this role.  Corris is a bit of an odd ball, a semi-superstitious gun slinger with a rapier wit and just a touch of mental instability.  It’s a role made for Marsters IMO.

Wodan Dubrovnik: Adam Baldwin.  No, he’s not one of “those Baldwins.”  This is the guy who played Jayne on Firefly and in the movie Serenity.  Dubrovnik is not that much different from Jayne in terms of characters, so Adam was a natural fit for me.

Oktavian Stimme: The actual physical portrayer for the Techpriest just needs to have the right size.  The voice will be over dubbed, preferably by Laurence Fishburne.  I had thought of James Earl Jones, but that would have lead to some uncomfortable comparisons to Darth Vader, which is not what we’d be going for.  But Laurence Fishburne would do a stellar job of it.

Inquisitor Zyriakus Makkabeus: Rutger Hauer.  Few people can pull off the whole is he a good or bad guy type role.  It’s tough to switch between trying to be imposing and villainous, and then to being a somewhat sympathetic character.  Hauer has done this several times before in films (and TV), and would be ideal for this role.

Imperial Naval Officer: This unnamed character has several lines, and only appears with Inquisitor Lessus.  So, this is essentially a cameo role.  So who better than Christian Slater?  It’s right up there with his appearance in Star Trek VI, where he informs Captain Sulu about the USS Enterprise.

Everyone else in the movie is an extra, a target, cannon fodder.  They just need to die well on screen.

So that’s my casting call for this “what if” scenario.

The director was easy: Ridley Scott.  Between Alien and Blade Runner, and even Black Hawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven, Scott has the right approach, the right “feel,” and the right sort of directorial vision a project of this sort would need.

So, if I ever get a few hundred extra million to throw at this project…

OK, So I’ve been lazy of late

And I haven’t done much of anything with this blog in quite some time.  Sue me.  I’m not one of those whose entire existence, whose sole self worth is determined by the number of hits I get here.  This is a place where I get to sound off when  I so feel like it.  I am not compelled to post daily, nor do I have any sort of need to do so.  I post when I like, about what I want.

That said, I have had thinsg to post of late, from PS3 game reviews, to Bluray movie comments, even to some political ramblings.  I just never quite got around to it.  I think I’ll get to it this week, or maybe weekend.  But as a teaser, for those that care (all 5 of you I’d guess), these will include:

PS3 games: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe; Call of Duty: World at War

Bluray Movies: The Dark Knight; Resident Evil-Degeneration; Hellboy II; Event Horizon

On the political front: Kirsten Gillibrand’s appointment to the US Senate; Who will replace her in the 20th Congressional district; the “bail out”; the farce that the Minnesota Senate race has become; Joe Bruno’s “indictment”.

That should keep enough posts coming for a few days…

PS3 Game Review: Rock Band 2

I picked up Rock Band 2 when I purchased Bioshock.  As we already had Rock Band, I was able to just buy the game, as the peripherals were unnecessary.  I have not tried any of the new peripherals, so I on’t be commenting on them here.  Though I am contemplating getting a new guitar controller, and using my current one for bass on the rare occasions we have a fourth person to play.

As for the game itself, there’s not a whole lot new here.  It’s the same game play as in Rock Band (or Guitar Hero or Sing Star), and will be very familiar to anyone who has played before.  The background screens and intros are bit nicer, cleaner, but that’s pretty much it.  Though the new drum tutorials, covering “fills” and such are a very welcome and nice addition.  They are much more “in tune” with actual drum skills.

There are a few new things in addition to the drum tutorials.  There are challenges in game, each based on difficulty and instrument type.  You need not play the instrument for that challenge to complete it.  Completing challenges will give you additional fans and cash, as well as unlocking additional challenges.  The tour aspect is also changed somewhat.  Instead of having separate solo and band tours, it’s all one now.  You need not have all members of a band present to play, and people can join in between sets. 

The two big things for RB2 are the new song list (over 40 new songs), and the ability to port over your existing Rock Band songs.  In addition to the original Rock Band songs (they can be “ripped” from the original disc), all of your dowloaded content will transfer over.  So you won’t need to repurchase or redownload what you already have.  The new song list is impressive, and features all original recordings, no covers.  A very wide variety of musical genres are covered here, from classic rock to metal to progressive to punk.  Some of the song choices are interesting, as they are not the songs form certain bands I would have chosen.  Even so, it was very cool to see Steely Dan, Judas Priest, and Squeeze all on the disc. 

If you already have Rock Band, and the peripherals, you will not be disappointed by just purchasing the stand alone game.  All the original peripherals work just fine with the new game, so there’s no need to rush out and get the new ones, or splurge on the package.  If you enjoyed the original, you will also be quite pleased with the new game, if only for the new songs.  This is also a good way to jump in if you held off on buying the original.  This is still a great “family” game, supporting up to four players, and is a greta way to be introduced to some different mucial styles and bands (for both young and old alike). 

 

8.5/10