With the video game industry increasingly turning towards annual-installment franchise Intellectual Properties, the resurrection of three high-profile IPs from the 90s and early 00s comes as either a refreshing change of pace or a sign of impending disaster, depending on your level of cynicism about game series “reboots.” With the lackluster release of the perennially vaporware Duke Nukem Forever, fans of the other two IPs (Deus Ex and XCOM) had plenty of reason to fear what was coming.
The original Deus Ex (known as Deus Ex: The Conspiracy when it hit the PS2 platform), launched in 2000, ranks among my personal “best games of all time” lists, and was both the first PS2 game I purchased and the last PS2 game I reluctantly parted with during the last console generational cycle. Its sequel, the mediocre Invisible War, effectively killed off the franchise by emphasizing all the wrong aspects of the original, while jettisoning the things that made the original great. I’m pleased to report that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is just about everything one could ask for in a new installment.
In addition to bad action, kung fu, and the geek staple sci-fi/fantasy movies, I’m a huge fan of Westerns. Be it old-school oaters like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 60s fare like The Wild Bunch or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, or modern reinventions of the genre like Unforgiven or Tombstone, I’m game. Horses, six-guns, outlaws, shoot-outs…what’s not to love? But as an avid gamer, the genre has been almost criminally under-represented over the years. There are a few notable titles scattered over the past few console generations, but mostly it gets overlooked in favor of gritty war games or visually inventive flights of fancy. Enter Red Dead Redemption.
Rockstar Games’ “spiritual successor” to 2004’s modestly successful Red Dead Revolver stays true to the studio’s proven open-world sandbox roots, shifting away from the dense urban environs of the Grand Theft Auto franchise in favor of the sprawling open plains and deserts of the Old West. You play as former outlaw John Marston, a surprisingly erudite man attempting to leave the ugliness of his past behind, recruited/blackmailed into service by the federal government to track down his former gang leader and associates. Reluctantly strapping on the six-gun, Marston ventures back out into the dangerous wilds of the U.S./Mexico border country to hunt down his former friends.
Release Date: August 25, 2009 System: Xbox 360, PS3, Windows Vista/XP Rating: Teen (Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Tobacco Reference, Violence) Developer: Rocksteady Studios Publisher: Eidos
Comic-related video games have a…storied history. They range from the mediocre to the execrable, on the whole, with a tinynumber of counter-examples scattered across the pages of game history. In those few bright spots, though, one hero has been consistently under-served: Batman. Attempts have been made to digitize the Dark Knight before, to be sure, and you might find a few copies still lurking in the discount shovelware bins at used game outlets. They’re not worth whatever price is marked.
From the first teaser images released by Eidos, Batman: Arkham Asylum was clearly in a different league. Using Epic’s Unreal Engine, the game’s designers deliver a less cartoonish caped crusader and a truly disturbing rogue’s gallery of classic villains, all through the twisted lens one would expect with the title’s invocation of Gotham’s disturbing sanitarium. The end result is a tense, atmospheric chess game between Bats and his most notorious foe, the Joker. Along the way, you’ll square off against several other long-time adversaries of Batman, including the game’s most memorable (and disturbing) sequences against Scarecrow and Batman’s own darkest fears.
Release Date: August 19, 2009 System: Xbox 360 Rating: Teen (Mild Language, Violence) Price: 1200 MS Points (~$15 US) Developer: Chair Entertainment/Epic Games Publisher: Microsoft
If you had told me six months ago that a downloadable arcade title was going to be one of the best releases for the Xbox this summer, I’d have laughed at you. Of course, the summer release schedule originally looked a little more impressive than it actually turned out to be, but still. Even with only a couple of premiere titles shipping, an Arcade title as top spot? And not a port of some platinum-clad champion title of old, but an original property? No chance. So imagine my surprise when, ten minutes into playing the free demo of Shadow Complex, I was punching in digits to get my full download.
Adding to the amazement is the game’s genre: it’s a 2D sidescrolling platformer, a genre that had its heyday when this year’s college freshmen were in diapers. In the mold of the classic Metroid and Castlevania titles, it’s a sort of “open-world” platformer, with a massive map meant to be explored piecemeal as you level up your little jumpy dude and find new pieces of equipment that help you bypass various color-coded doors and obstacles. Along the way, you bash, shoot, kick, and explode a variety of enemies, all of whom will respawn in short order after you leave their room.
At two weeks out or so, depending on your holiday persuasion, time is growing increasingly short for any gift acquisitions still left on your list. Thoughts of circling the mall parking lot for an hour or more looking for a space fly through your brain, and the crush of similarly lackadaisical shoppers elbowing for space in the aisles and at the checkout line haunts your dreams. Got a gamer on your list? Got several? Then look no further. Uncle Ez will hook you up with some excellent leads that will please most any gamer and won’t break the bank. That’s because I have a secret, and I’m here to share it with the huddled, confused shopping masses yearning to breathe free of canned Christmas muzak.
The secret is: the best way to acquire kickass gameage for your favorite console jockey or WASD wizard is to buy no games at all. Better yet, you can make most of the purchases from the spot where you are currently sitting and without putting on pants (unless you read the site from work, in which case I suspect — read “hope” — you had to put on pants to get there…but I digress).
So amidst the old commercials and lame cellphone vids of college students doing shit they’ll regret in 10 years, YouTube holds the unrecognized talent of multitudes. Much like I use MySpace now, YouTube exists primarily as a vehicle for me to stumble on random musicians that can rock my face off without me giving the RIAA any money. I previously shared the faceless Fretkillr, flat-picker extrordinaire. And thanks to CNN/SI’s penchant for weird pop culture tidbits, I can now bring you the awesome that is Sungha Jung, a 10-year-old Korean boy with some serious acoustic guitar chops. He’s got over 120 vids on his channel, but I’ve pulled a couple of my faves out here. Let’s start off with a little Pink Floyd, shall we?
Yesterday, rock & roll lost one of its Old Gods. Bo Diddley passed away of heart failure at the age of 79. His unique style, iconic rectangular guitar, and legendary “Bo Diddley Beat” made him a pioneer, and he’ll forever be known for helping usher in the age of rock music by taking traditional blues and punching it up with driving guitar riffs.
Having recently encouraged the bastardization of our mother tongue in the service of LOLPoetry, it’s only fitting that we leap to the other end of the spectrum to set the cosmic balance to rights. Work is afoot to render the entirety of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction into Shakespearean iambic pentameter. LJ user ceruleanst, the mad bastard, started the insanity with an innocuous LJ post, but the idea has now exploded into a full-on wiki soliciting for additional scene-writing. Here’s a little snippet to whet your appetite:
Julius: Speak ‘What’ again! Thou cur, cry ‘What’ again!
I dare thee utter ‘What’ again but once!
I dare thee twice and spit upon thy name!
Now, paint for me a portraiture in words,
If thou hast any in thy head but ‘What’,
Of Marsellus Wallace! Brett: He is dark. Julius: Aye, and what more? Brett: His head is shaven bald. Julius: Hath he the semblance of a harlot? Brett: What? (JULIUS strikes with his blade and BRETT cries out) Julius: Hath he the semblance of a harlot? Brett: Nay!
If I had any head for scansion, I’d be all over this, but my talent for pentameter is limited in the extreme. So I leave it to you lot. Fly, monkeys! Fly!
Another titan has departed the science fiction world. Arthur C. Clarke, author of more than 30 novels and inventor of the geostationary communications satellite, passed away earlier today at his home in Sri Lanka. As hard science fiction goes, there were none greater than Clarke, and his vision and tireless advocacy for human exploration and utilization of space may well be as important as any of his contributions to fiction.
Among his many awards and recognitions, he was one of only two dozen SFWA Grand Masters, a Knight Bachelor, and a Commander of the British Empire. He also had an asteroid and a dinosaur named after him, and an Apollo command module named after one of his fictional spacecraft (Odyssey).
Have a little musical number in the spirit of the holiday. Also, green beer is for poseurs. If you really want to honor the Irish in your potables, man up. Or throw a shot of Bailey’s in your coffee for the best of both worlds.
Yes, we’ve posted it before. But the original video link is dead, and any excuse to post the Muppets is a good one in our book.