Studies in Pop Culture

Pop culture, from my point of view.

Posts Tagged ‘entertainment

Torchlight. Buy it now!

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Ok, so I’ve been looking for a good hack ‘n’ slash game for a while now, and haven’t been finding one. Tried Sacred 2, which is rubbish. Tried Diablo II but it’s way too dated for my tastes. I’ve beaten both Champions of Norrath games more times than I can count (which doesn’t mean I won’t play them again, because they are awesome, I just need to give them a rest).

Last week I stumbled upon a game called Torchlight. A full review is forthcoming, but all I can say for now is GO BUY IT. It’s $20 dollars. You can download it directly to your hard drive. It’s insanely fun, intuitive, and addictive. If you enjoy hack ‘n’ slash games, you won’t be disappointed. What are you waiting for? Go play it!

Torchlight

My Level 13 Destroyer. He's nigh invulnerable.

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Written by Jason Stroming

March 22, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Posted in video games

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360)

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I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie, so now it’s time to talk about the video game tie-in.

Story

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

If you’ve seen the movie, then the game will be familiar to you, though with some notable changes. The plot is basically the same, with a lot of plot points explored in a lot more detail. The whole mission in Africa takes up about half of the game and is explored in very great detail, via “flashbacks” that are actually part of the gameplay (but more on this in a bit). The escape from the Weapon X facility is also a big part of the game, and is much lengthier than it is in the movie. Certain things are changed  from the way they played out in the movie, and sometimes they make sense, and other times, not so much. I won’t go into much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything. But overall, the story follows the movie, even if just superficially. You’re Wolverine, you have a mission in Africa, you quit the team, your wife dies, you get adamantium grafted to your skeleton, you escape, and you try to get revenge. Oh, and just like in the movie, Deadpool is a poorly-handled afterthought.

Gameplay

The controls in X-Men Origins: Wolverine are pretty solid. You have your basic strong attack, weak attack, jump, grab, manipulate, targeting, etc. A nice feature is the Feral Senses, which highlights enemies, where to go to your next waypoint, and destructible objects in your environment and puzzle-solving clues. The controls were pretty easy to pick up, and you’ll be hacking and slashing in no time.

The hacking and slashing is pretty satisfying. This is a true Wolverine game, and they don’t sugarcoat what his claws are meant to do, like in pretty much every other video game starring the mutant. You’ll kill enemies in a variety of ways, from decapitating them, eviscerating them, chopping them in half, chopping both their arms off, or just throwing them against spikes or impaling them on the forks of a forklift.

There are some puzzles in the game, but most aren’t too tough, once you get the hang of them. Some of them were actually quite clever, and it made me wish there were more of the clever ones rather than the ones of the “platforming” variety. And I think that’s the game’s greatest weakness. Every time you get into the groove of slaughtering people, the game throws in some stupid, frustrating platforming sequence. I know they wanted to mix things up a bit, but for me, this took me out of the game a lot. Was I Wolverine, or Mario? I just wanted to kill people, not pull a lever, jump on a platform, jump to another platform, which activates another platform that I need to jump onto, before a door closes. Boring.

Another thing that I felt took away from the gameplay was the “flashback” motiff. Again, every time you were getting into a level, the game would flash back to the Africa mission. Which would be fine if they weren’t all almost identical. One or two would have been fine, but the game just jumps back and forth so often that it’s hard to stay invested, because once you do, you flash backwards or forwards. Also, and this just seemed odd to me, new powers that you’d gain in the current storyline would be available to you when you flashed back. Huh? So you’d level up in the Weapon X facility, upgrade and get a new power that you never had before, then flash back to Africa and have that power back then? Just didn’t make sense to me.

These are minor gripes, but cumulatively, they hurt the game overall, in my opinion.

Graphics & Sound

The sound in this game is pretty good, from the voice acting from Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber to the sound of Wolverine’s claws slicing through things. The graphics are also pretty good, and I really liked seeing Wolverine take a ton of damage, exposing his adamantium skeleton. And then of course his flesh slowly regenerating to heal himself. Nice touches. The environments look great, though the enemies are all pretty much the same: African guerrillas, Weapon X facility grunts, and the same rock-creature bosses almost all the time. But then again, they all look the same on the inside, right?

Balance

The game is woefully unbalanced, in your favor. And this is a good thing! Wolverine is supposed to be almost unstoppable, and in this game, he is. His healing factor makes sure you survive almost anything, and all you need to do is occasionally rest or hide so you can regenerate. Most of the boss battles are pretty easy, as you can play a God of War-style button sequence, or just hack at your enemy. Again, it’s good to play as a superhero for once and actually feel, you know, like a superhero.

Replayability

 Honestly? Not much. You can play it on a harder difficulty, or go back and collect all the figurines that unlock the other costumes (though since you only need 2 of each, and there are 5 of each in the game, you’ll have no problem getting them all on your first run-through), but otherwise there’s no real reason to play again. For me, most of the platforming puzzles were so frustrating that once I got by them, I never wanted to see them again.

Overall

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a good game, especially for a movie tie-in. The controls are intuitive, the graphics and sound are awesome, even the story is good. The boss battles are a bit anti-climactic, and the platforming really kills the momentum of the game. Throw in the flashback sequences, and it really disrupts what truly could have been a great game. If they make a sequel, I hope they skip the flashbacks, get rid of the platforming, and just unleash Wolverine to do what he does best.

Final Score: 7/10

Thoughts on X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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So I got to see “X-Men origins: Wolverine” on Saturday night. While it was a good movie, there are a number of things that bothered me about it, and its connection with the earlier (later?) films.

Warning: Spoilers ahead…

  • Sabertooth is different: This is probably the most glaring issue in this movie. Here, he is played (quite well, I must say) by Liev Schreiber. But in this movie, Sabertooth is smart, suave, confident. In the original X-Men movie, he’s not really any of those things. Sure, we can assume that a lot has happened to him since, but it’s a bit jarring to see him here as this totally kick-ass, intelligent mutant, and to see him as a big dumb oaf of a lackey in “X-Men.”.
  • Sabertooth doesn’t remember Logan: Ok, so the movie goes out of its way to explain (the subtlety is like a hammer over the head) how Logan loses his memory, but does nothing to mention how or if Sabertooth loses his by the first movie. In the first “X-Men,” Sabertooth crosses paths with Wolverine a number of time, ultimately being killed by him, yet doesn’t remember that Logan is his brother?
  • Professor Xavier: He’s one of the world’s greatest psychics, yet when he meets Wolverine 15 years later, he has no memory of the feral, adamantium-clawed mutant who helped destroy Three Mile Island? Really?
  • They ruined Deadpool: Though they may be bringing him back for his own movie, I kind of feel like they ruined the Deadpool character. Yeah, they tweaked his origins a bit, and the little Easter Egg at the end of the credits was a nice touch (he whispers “Shhh…” to the audience, breaking the 4th wall, like in the comics), but I still don’t feel like they did him any justice. Ryan Reynolds, who was born to play a smart aleck, wisecracking character like this, was not given nearly enough to do as Deadpool.
  • Wolverine was Darth Vader-ed: Sometimes origin stories can be cool, showing how a character developed his psychosis to become a hero or a villain, like “Batman Begins.” But why do people continually try to make the most bad-assed character that way because of a woman? Darth Vader becomes the most brutal, powerful, feared and evil killer of Jedi in the whole galaxy because his wife died during childbirth? Really? Awww, I don’t want my girlfriend to die, so I’ll just turn to the dark side and betray all my friends and everything I’ve believed in since I was 9. For a woman. Yeah. Here, we see that Wolverine becomes a bad-ass loner because his wife died. Yep. Not because of being near-immortal because of his healing powers and all the trauma that can bring, or because he had his flesh removed and adamantium put on his skeleton, or because of the years of killing he was forced to commit. Nope, it’s because his wife died. Hollywood loves a good (and completely unplausible) love story, I guess.

That being said, there were some pretty cool scenes in the movie, so it’s still worth seeing. Just be prepared to say “Wait a minute…” a lot during the course of your viewing.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Ashton Kutcher is Officially the Biggest Twit

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Ok, so this is news? Ashton Kutcher, who is best known for showcasing his diverse acting abilities by playing a stoner douche on “That 70’s Show,” a drunk douche in “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” and a possibly-stoned douche on “Punk’d”  is apparently the first person to garner 1 million Twitter followers. Really? Who is following this guy? People who love celebrities who haven’t done anything noteworthy in over 5 years? Besides marrying a washed-up actress old enough to be his mother, I mean. He beat out CNN. What does this say about America?

More people care about what this guy's finger smells like than what's being done to fix the economy.

More people care about what this guy's finger smells like than what's being done to fix the economy.

Written by Jason Stroming

April 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

Marilyn Chambers Found Dead

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I just read this story, and it made me really sad. I wasn’t really a huge fan of Marylin Chambers. Not because I didn’t like her. Quite the contrary. But she was in her prime of porn a little before my time. I only had one porn movie with her in it, and right now, I honestly can’t remember the name of it. But she was older at this point, and in the movie was playing a sex therapist who helps a younger couple spice up their sex life. This being a porn movie and all, she of course eventually joins in the fun. But even though she was a bit older, I kinda liked her style, her sultry voice, and she had more of a natural beauty (and body) than the younger, blonde Barbie doll-type who was cast opposite her. Note how I can’t remember the name of that actress. I never owned another Marylin Chambers movie, but I’d occasioanlly come across movies or scenes of hers on the internet, and I always found myself attracted to her. Again, that voice would drive me wild.

Marilyn Chambers

Marilyn Chambers

Sadly, there is the ugly side of porn, and exotic dancing, and prostitution, and any of these “red light” professions. Their lives are usually riddled with drug problems, financial woes, cases of abuse and domestic violence, and even diseases. The article mentions how she was found dead in a mobile home. She was only 56 years old. Police say they don’t suspect foul play. But I think we can all suspect financial difficulties and drug abuse here.

I hope she’s in a better place now, and at peace.

Written by Jason Stroming

April 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Xbox 360 Releases (or Video Games I Need)

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So since I got my Xbox 360 for Christmas, I’ve played a few games. I started off with the original Fable and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Once I beat those two games, I moved on to Fable 2, and I’m now playing Fallout 3, quite possibly one of the greatest video games I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a lot of games over the years. I picked up Assasin’s Creed a few weeks ago, but I’m just not feeling it. The graphics are great, but it just feels a little stiff and way too structured for my tastes. But there are a few games coming out in the next few months that I’m really excited about. And I will need to own.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1): Video games based on movies usually aren’t very good, but this one is generating some buzz. For one, you’ll actually be able to use Wolverine’s claws like they would work in the real world. That is, slicing, dicing, eviscerating, decapitating, etc. Previous video games featuring Wolverine (like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance or the X-Men Legends games) have basically made his claws into blunt weapons. No blood, not guts, no slicing or dicing of anything. Pointless. But this game is looking to change all of that. Add in the fact that you’ll see Wolverine’s healing factor in action and it’s shaping up to be quite realistic (as realistic as a game about a fictional mutant can be). When he gets shot, his clothes will rip away, his flesh will rip away, eventually revelaing his adamantium skeleton, and you’ll see him regenerate flesh over time. Sweet.

 

Sacred 2

Sacred 2

Sacred 2 (May 12): There’s really nothing I like more than a good hack and slash video game. Start out low-level, go kill things, take their weapons, armor and gold, sell said loot for more gold in which you use to buy even better weapons and armor to slay bigger enemies with better loot so that you can sell it and buy better weapons and armor so you can…well, you get the idea. My favorite games of all time have been the Champions of Norrath games and the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games, and Sacred 2 is looking like it will fall into those genres, just with a more open world. It’s also out for the PC, but I prefer my hack and slash on a console, where I can button-mash, rather than the point-and-click interface of the mouse. Quite excited about this one.

 

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters (June 16): Ok, how could I not be excited about this one? Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite movies. I’m a ghost hunter in real life. Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson are all back to reprise their voices. Ramis and Akroyd wrote this game. The graphics look amazing. And how many of us have been dying to strap a proton accelerator to our backs and bust some ghosts since 1984? Well, quite possibly just me, but I like to think not. This one looks like it’ll be great fun, and a nice game to play when I need a break from the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3. The last Ghostbusters game I played was back on my old Commodore 64. Geez.

 

 

Fight Night Round 4

Fight Night Round 4

Fight Night Round 4 (June 30): Boxing games are usually a mixed bag, but the Fight Night series has always been highly respected. I never played Round 3, but I heard it had its problems. That’s looking to be changed with Round 4. The Fight Night series has always been pretty realistic, or at least as realistic as any boxing game has been thus far. I’ve always liked the Career Modes, creating a fighter and bringing him up through the ranks from an amateur fighting in gymnasiums in Queens, to a heavyweight prizefighter. I’ve always liked the strategy in the Fight Night games, too. You can’t really just go in there and pummel your opponent. you have to make each punch count. This will be my first boxing game on a next-gen console, and I can’t wait.

 

 

Champions Online (TBA): Ok, so you get to create your own superhero. you get to choose your superpowers. You get to create your own unique superhero costume from thousands of individual parts and colors, creating nearly limitless possibilities. You get to creat your own arch-villian. And you get to play this online with thousands of other players. How cool is this? I played City of Heroes, and while it was a good game, I felt it lacked a little depth. It was pretty much running around beating up thugs, and joining other superheroes to beat up tougher foes. Not a bad way to have some mindless fun, but not quite sure it was worth paying $15 a month for. I’m hoping that the Xbox version of Champions Online lets you play online with no extra charge if you have a Gold Xbox Live account. I suppose we’ll see. this one won’t be out for a while, but I’m still anxious for it to come out.

Written by Jason Stroming

April 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm

A good “Star Trek?”

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According to this CNN.com article, as well as Ain’t It Cool News, the new Star Trek film coming out in May is really good. I really hope so. I haven’t been too optimistic about this, as reboots or “early years” takes on classics usually don’t work well, but J.J. Abrams seems to be on a streak. I really liked Cloverfield, and if what people are saying is true, he may just have breathed some much-needed life back into the Trek franchise. Voyager had its moments, and I’m enjoying it more now in syndication than I did during its original run, but that may simply be because there’s been no new Star Trek on in a while. It didn’t really have any “Wow!” episodes like The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine had. Enterprise was a syndicated abortion. A seemingly intentional non-Star Trek feel, almost weekly screw-ups with continuity, and a cast nobody could really care about or get behind. Not a good formula.

Reinventing the series, and replacing icons such as William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy is a risky venture, but if buzz is to be believed, the risk paid off.

 

The "new" Enterprise

The "new" Enterprise

Written by Jason Stroming

April 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm

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