Video Games: Guitar Hero Aerosmith

Admittedly I’ve never been a huge fan of most rock.  Bands like AC/DC, Ratt, Motley Crue, GNR, and so on do little for me, and the bands that are more thrash, hardcore, heavy metal do nothing for me at all.  There are a few memorable songs here and there that I don’t mind so much, let alone tolerate or hum on occasion, but I’ve never been known to be a ‘rocker’.

When I was in college I actually had some free time on my hands as a senior and had the luxury of taking a few fun or ‘fluff’ classes.  I wanted to learn how to play an instrument and seeing that I liked jazz music a lot, I was actually thinking about picking up the trumpet.  I even asked my roommates at the time, which they would prefer me to learn – the guitar, or trumpet?  They unanimously voted for the guitar, so I ended up taking a semester of beginning guitar.  And I was pretty good.  Far from being a prodigy by any means, but I did end up with an ‘A’ in the class.

That was 1993.

It wasn’t until earlier this year I went over to a neighbors house one evening and they had broken out Guitar Hero II for the Sony Playstation 2 that I had my first laid my hands on anything Guitar Hero.

It was the first few songs and holding that hunk of black plastic in my hand, desperately trying to match the scrolling notes on the track coming at me that I became enamored with the game and the whole concept.  It wouldn’t be long thereafter before I purchased GH III for my Xbox 360 and tried my hand at becoming a solo appreciated rock star within my own living room.

Another funny thing happened as I slowly worked my way from a GH III newbie who could barely hit a note early on in his ‘easy’ career to someone who just recently finished the games on medium and looking to now attempt ‘hard’ mode….I learned to appreciate and even like some of the songs.  So much so in fact, I began dropping my CC number on valued MS Points and began a library of DLC content.

In March, I obtained Rock Band.  Now I could beat the drums (albeit horrendously), sing off-key, jam a bass groove with my neighbors, and love every minute of it while throwing back a beer or two.  We began to play so much we even started our own living room band where we all get together every other week and take turns singing and playing instruments as we unlock new venues, arenas, and prizes…we recently just got the plane.  I’ve downloaded quite a few tracks over the months for both games, and eagerly await each Tuesday to see what DLC is being offered.

So imagine by heart fluttering just a tad when they announced GH III: Aerosmith.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting this new expnasion since it was first announced, and today, June 30, 2008 it has been released.  I was even thinking about scheduling my lunch in such a way as to be able to swing by Best Buy to pick up a copy and ruch home to drop it in and begin playing by this evening.  I couldn’t wait to be on stage with Run DMC and play songs like ‘Kings of Rock’ and ‘Walk this way’.

So why didn’t I rush out an hour ago and get it as I had been planning on it for months, counting down the days up until now?

Well I suppose it came as a combination of a few things, namely the early reviews I read.  I wasn’t expecting Neversoft/Activision to reinvent the wheel here, but early reviews more or less said it’s much of the same, and unless you’re a diehard Aerosmith fan, there’s nothing really here that justifies the $59.99 for a disc.

And I guess when I read that and let it sink in a bit, it started to make sense.  Why exactly should this be $59.99 and not considered a true expansion and maybe come in at $39.99?  I could easily justify $39.99, but $59.99 for a band that really doesn’t generate any actual buzz for me.  I mean I don’t dislike Aerosmith, but I’d never go out and buy a CD or MP3 of their songs either. 

As I write this entry, Eurogamer gave it 6 out 0f 10, and IGN gave it 7.5 out of 10 and even stated that many of the riffs are very repetitive, slightly easier to play, and no other innovations.  So why not spend the money of songs I do like for Rock Band or other GH III tracks?  Though I do want to play Run DMC….

It doesn’t help the cause either when I read that Guitar Hero World Tour will be out in mid October of this year, and now Harmonix has announced Rock Band 2 for September.  Both will bring out new features and many more songs than this outing does.  As a matter of fact rumors are floating that Rock Band 2 may ship with close to 200 songs, or at least have that many available as DLC by the end of the year!

I guess I may just wait now and hope that in a few months GH: Aerosmith will drop in price or become an Amazon.com Deal of the Day.

So let me hear what you think.  Did any of you buy GH: Aerosmith and are you happy with it?

Constructive Comments – A lost art

I’ve really been looking forward to hearing from you, to discuss your feelings and insights on comics, sci-fi, etc.  To make my venture here somewhat interesting and to inspire some stimulating dialogue.

I’ll admit, I was a bit excited to have received my very first comment on my viewpoint on Final Crisis #2 earlier and was eager to delve in, have someone explain something that perhaps I missed.  In reading some other forum boards, it seems that reception to Final Crisis so far is a little mixed….and I’d like to know why.

Well, I suppose you can laugh at me for thinking elsewise.  I didn’t expect everyone out there to agree with, of course there will be dissenters, those with opinions, and I’m open to hearing them.  Let me rephrase that…I’m open to hearing the ‘intelligent’ ones.

To my disapointment the first comment I received was “You’re a moron”.  I deleted it.  If I were another person I suppose I may have been offended and even hurt or angry, but strangely I’m not.  Actually confused is more like it.  I’d ask the original commentor to perhaps try again, and explain why I’m “a moron”.  Because my analysis on FC #2 is that bad?  Do you have some insight you can add that I missed?  Explain to me why you thought FC #2 was great or merely just ‘good’, but to just state some adjunct opinion that my state of intelligence is below par with no actual reference just makes you look like a twink, or worse….more moronic that myself.

Anyways, come one back….discuss…put some thought into it.

Comix: Final Crisis #2

Final Crisis #2So I eagerly picked up FC #2 yesterday trying to see if my slight dissapointment with the first issue could be alleviated.

Well, after devouring it from cover to cover all I can say is that I have mixed feelings, and not for the better.

Again, like issue number 1, the first few pages just seem like they came from left field.  We are introduced to a Japanese nightclub filled with numerous 20-something old powered patrons shown dancing and drinking and taking in the nightlife.  There is a brief altercation between a reknown popular superpowered sumo fighter and a mecha- suited guy looking to make a name for himself via a challenge.  So after 6 pages or so of this set up and build…..cut…new scene: DC heros mourning Martian Manhunter.

Um….okay?  What was that all about?  Why introduce all these Japanese characters in a nightclub scene?  It actually made me think about more questions such as: Why has DC never really focused on this segment before…that is supposedly established groups or even established metahuman cultures in other countries?  Yeah, there’s been some exposure to Soviet and even Chinese hero’s, but this just came across as way too casual.  See, when Superman flies by, even though he’s an established character, he still inspires awe and wonderment from the citizens of Metropolis or the world over….like ‘seeing’ a superhero is a ‘big deal’.  Apparently not so in Japan….it’s part of the ‘norm’?

Is it me or does Libra just not yet inspire grandeur of being a main player?  I still look at Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage as power players, and Libra just comes across as a costumed B-lister.  I don’t think Grant Morrison has done a well enough job yet in defining Libra’s motivations or powers.  After 2 issues (of the scheduled 7), I just don’t “get” Libra.

The rest of the DC Universe is investigating the murder of Martian Manhunter and Batman finds himself in a confrontation with an Alpha Lantern who seems to be shutting him down at every turn.  Hal Jordan also faces his ring being shut down by the Alpha Lanterns as he is to be arrested and investigated as well for his supposed ‘role’ in the Manhunters murder.  This upsets Superman.  But these sequence of events aren’t explored enough in detail to make logical sense.  I mean, how does an Alpha Lantern shut of Hal’s ring?  This is the same Hal whose ring as Parallex was virtually unstop-able…leading me to wonder why then if OA and the Lanterns have the ‘ability’ to shut off a ring at will…..then why the hell didn’t they do that eons ago when Hal was on a rampage?  And Batman being bested in his general approach to things and then captured via a Boom Tube by this rogue Alpha with ulterior motives…I dunno.

I have a suspicious feeling the way the Lantern Corps and OA are involved so far that Final Crisis is really no more than a pilot to get the next big DC arc of the ground…The Blackest Night…which would do the whole Final Crisis resolution a big disservice.

Gaming: “I am Murloc” for GH III

Smells a little fishy?I love it when designers, programmers, and producers from varying but overlapping segments within the gaming industry get together and can issue something for the fans….just because they love the the aspect of gaming. 

And what makes it even sweeter than an unexpected l33t drop from fishing at Booty Bay? 

They do it for free!!

So it seems the fine people over at Blizzard have a passion for Guitar Hero, and there own internal house band, Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftan, has forked over their song “I am murloc” to the wizards over at Activision for a 14mb DLC track single for GH III.  And again….it’s free!! 

I find it so cool that sometimes these companies can give away something to the fans without ‘$$’ in their eyes, especially for such a beloved game like GH III that seems to be suffering from occasional dry spells of DLC tracks.

Bungie/Microsoft collaborated a year ago and allowed for the release of the Halo 3 theme for GH III as well.  Though that one may be a little strange to play as it can be a little long, slow in parts, heavy in others, and a unique translation to guitar.

I downloaded it this morning as soon as I heard about, and now I look forward to getting home to play it….that is as a warm up to GH: Aerosmith to be released the next few days.

X-Factor #1: Quick and the Dead

Pretty Boy PietroI was never too much a fan of the early X-Factor days.  I think the only issue I can recall is X-Factor #5 (Vol. 1) because this is credited as the first appearance of Apocalypse.  My friend Brian Liles actually bought this back issue for me as a birthday present years ago because he knew how much I liked Apocalypse.

As a matter of fact I really wasn’t into most of the X-titles as there were just too many of them, and in my personal opinion some of the storylines, and characters for that matter, were just plain crap and filler material that Marvel was cashing in on for anything that had a ‘mutant’ in it.

But when Peter David came aboard to relaunch the title (Vol. 3) in 2005, I’ve been an avid reader ever since.  I truly believe that Peter David is one of the most profound and intelligent comic crafter and story tellers of both sci-fi and comics genres.  If you ever get a chance, please read his Star Trek: New Frontier series or even his run on DC’s Aquaman (Vol. 5, 1994).  Mr. David carves out a unique niche in the X-verse (if you will) and gives so much more depth, personality, and motivations to the characters he touches moreso than anyone else in the current X-verse.

So here we have this one shot #1 issue.  I didn’t even realize it was a one shot when I picked it up.  I just saw the X-Factor logo and figured it was the next issue.  As a general rule, I stray away from one shots unless it has so much hype around it or is critical to another comic event that I would otherwise be lost without it.  Most of the time 1 shots are highly forgettable and generally just fluff.

Surprisingly this issue was a personal treat after I thought about it for some time.  See, Quicksilver has been more or less a prick since the events of M-Day in which he played a pivitol role.  His arrogance and warped sense of justification had him basically on the brink of being considered a villain one again and he gets to a point were he attempts to murder Layla Miller (she knows stuff) of the current X-Factor roster after hurting and killing others.

We pick up the story of Pietro in a jail cell, mumbling names to himself, in the fetal position.  For the first time in a long time I really had the sense of bing in Quicksilver’s mind, and Peter David is able to tell an incredible journey in just a few pages of his personal torment that has been plaguing Quicksilver the last few months.  He’s at one of his lowest points both emotionally and physically, having sporting brusies and cuts from a recent altercation.  He is visited by his sister, father, daughter, and lover in part of his broken psyche until he begins to see the error of his ways.  It’s these flashbacks of historical context and conversation in which Pietro begin to gain confidence once again in himself. 

From his jail cell he witnesses a man beating his girlfriend, and when no one comes to her aid or listens to Quicksilver, he finds the reserve of energy within him to reactivate his powers (perhaps they were never gone to begin with…he just shut down…not his powers) and busts out just in time to save her.  At this point the art work grows from small dark panels within the pages to larger and brighter artwork until there is one large 1 panel splash page about 2/3rds through, clearly showing a new and invigorated Quciksilver.

Using his super speed (though I always thought DC’s Flash speed powers were displayed better) he runs the world in a carefree manner until he launches himself off a mountain…..hits a plane in midflight….falls to the ocean….and is rescued by a passing luxury liner.   Okay, I know that last part seems a little gay, but through the thought balloons and artwork, it actually does gel.

So Quicksilver is free and a good guy again and only time will tell when he shows up again.

There is only so much you can do in one issue, and Peter David did a great job.   But, and I do mean BUT, there are other aspects that have yet to be explored?  So after the events of M-Day, does this new found confidence aleviate fim from any responsibility for the deaths and destruction he caused?  Will X-Factor, or especially Layla, forgive him?  Will the Avnegers and various mutants forgive him?  Eh…just seemed a little too neatly wrapped up there at the end and hoepfully will be explored more in depth later.  I hate when comics leave major chracters or major events surround certain characters shelved for no particular reason like a bad cliff hanger that we as a reader never get any resolution of and everybody just seems to move on.

Gaming: What does $765 get you today?

According to a recent Gamestrata reseach poll, the average gamer spends $765 a year on gaming.

At first I thought that seemed pretty excessive, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered how much is too much, and where do I fall on monetary scale?

Sure, $765 may seem a lot to a teenager or even younger who has no ‘real’ source of income, lest he/she has an old fashioned paper route (Paperboy anyone?), but how much does $765 really equate to today?

When I was in my mid 20’s when I did a lot of serious gaming on my Sega Genesis system (1989), or my 386PC I think the going rate for games was about $39.99 each, give or take.  The consoles themselves were close to $200 and PC’s were even more at the time.

I remember almost having a heart attack the first time I purchased my gen 1 X-Box back in 2001 for $299 and games were $49.99.  By the time you bought an additional controller you’d be lucky is you could buy 8 games throughout the year just for the X-Box.  By the way, I still play my X-Box on occasion, even today.

So, by today’s pricing, my X-Box 360 came in at $399.  Add a controller and wireless capability and I’m already at $550 + tax without a single damn game.  With ‘A’ games for both PS3 and 360 coming in at $59.99, you can only buy 3 – 4 games.   If you already had the system and other hardware, your $765 might get you 11 games a year. 

You might say 11 games for one console isn’t too shabby and may actually seem like a lot.  But in reality, is it?  What about subscriptions fees for MMO’s?  DLC for games such as Guitar Hero or CoD4?  Skins?  Accessories?

Then what about your other systems?  If you’re anything like me, you may own more than one gaming device.  I own quite a few, but I guess I regularly play my PC, X-Box 360, Nintendo Wii, and even my Sony PSP.  Games range anywhere from $19.99 to $69.99 anymore.  I guess the secret is to wait just ling enough for some of the titles to get the coveted Platinum or Greatest Hits moniker, in which the game may be reduced quite a bit.  I actually just bought Gears of War for my 360 and a newly reduced price of $34.99, essentially $25 dollars from its original price a year ago.

I figure in the last year alone I may have bought 2 PSP games, 4 Wii games, 7 360 games, plus periperhals, plus PC subscriptions, DLC for Rock Band and GHIII, then I’ve easily spent over $1000 this past year alone and not even on the consoles themselves!  Yikes!

PC: Malware Invasion – worse than any Skrull

I don’t consider myself a computer ‘expert’ ny any means.  I don’t check out NewEgg everyday for the latest prices on mother boards, or study trends in server cooling fans, or compare frame rate and packet loss on a regular basis.  However, I do consider myself above average when it comes to desktop technical issues and through my career I have had a hand in quite a few upgrades, troubleshooting, and help desk ventures.  A few years back I even got my CompTia A+ certificate, started my MCSE (before I realized how expensive and never ending it was), and have even built my last 3 PC’s from scratch.

With that being said, even I was recently duped into installing some malicious rogue malware on my computer.  I surf the net at home just like anybody else, and have both McAfee Virus Scan (updated regularly) and MS Security Updates turned on.  I am generally very careful not to open any unsolicted email and have come pretty atune to most tricks, but would’t you know it, the other day I let my guard down for a single minute and before I knew what happened my IE browser was hijacked and thus started one of the most frustrating hours I had recently experienced.

I clicked on a pop-up window in haste, not really realizing what I clicked before it was too late.  Instantly I was taken to a very official ‘Windows’ looking dialogue box that insisted that my PC was ‘unprotected’ and needed to be protected.  Here’s their dirty little secret: No matter if you hit ‘Okay’ or ‘Cancel’ it downloads and installs anyway.  Bastards!  I couldn’t click any link or new page without being taken to some bogus message, effectively raising my blood pressure and confusion.

Offending program:

Bastards in Disguise

Because I was at home and not at work, thus alone, I panicked.  After 10 minutes of letting it sink in that I indeed had been duped, I reluctantly agreed to pay some unknown company $39.95 for their spyware cleaner (billingware.net). 

This was mistake number two.

As I forked over my CC information in a rush, little did I know when I hit ‘submit’ the offending company not only charged me $39.95 for their ‘spyware killer’, but also charged me $24.95 for premiere support and an additional $19.95 for something called AlphaWipe Tracks Cleaner 2008 for a grand total of $84.85 to some Euro company with no phone number listed on their web page.  It was billed to billingware.net and of course there is no one there to speak to.  My email inquiries have yet to be responded to.

IE AntiVirus (latest is v3.2x) basically hijacks your IE browser with annoying messages, writes tons of crap to the registry, processes and files.  It’s a rogue anti-spyware program that initimidates users to buy their full fake version with numerous hidden charges.  I bet they bank on the fact that no one complains or eventually gives up and decided they made an $85 blunder and move on.

Not me.  The next day I decided to investigate IE AntiVirus and after reading and understanding how I got hornswaggled, I am contacting my CC company to fight back and report a fraudulant charge.  So far in my life I have won every errant charge I have ever made, so hopefully my win streak will continue and I’ll get my $85 dollars back in all humbleness and humility.

But let me impart a few lessons here:

  1. No matter how well you think you are protected, there is always someone else out there whose motivation is money, and where there is a will, there is a way, and there is a way to defeat you.
  2. Always be vigilant in what you click.  If it smells fishy, no matter what, go with your gut and run like hell.  It only took me one minute of being lazy and not paying attention to be tricked.
  3. Do not panic.  Panic leads to making irrational decisions.  In my case handing over my CC information and being charged more than double what I had intended to be.
  4. If you have the time and you can wait….use another PC and a thumb drive to research ‘valid’ malware killers and install on your system before you try and use the Internet. 
  5. Set a regular schedule for both quick scans and deep scans of your system, change your passwords regularly, and always try an update spy-killer/ad-killer signature files.

For those that have been affected by IE Anti Virus, please…please check out: Malwarebytes.org.  They have a ‘Free’ (and legit) malware killer which if I would have known about this before hand would have saved me all the confusion, letters I have to write to my CC company, and hours of agitation.

Comix: Final Crisis ….or is it?

Final Crisis 1 I suppose you can call this my inaugural post.  I spent the last few days wondering how I really wanted to breakout to the world and it just so happens there are a few major ‘events’ in spandex universes that are synonymous with summer.

Between the major two, Marvel and DC, we have the requisite universe spanning crossovers that are supposed to affect the majority of their respective titles and continuity for decades to come.  At least they always say that in Wizard, but you know how these go.  They’ll shake it up for a few months, maybe even a year or two, and then its back to the status quo.

Anyway for Marvel, their follow-up to last years Civil War and Initiative events, they have the Skrull Invasion.  A nice side mini-series that goes with it (but not mandatory reading) is the time traveling ‘Secret Invaders’ which brings back Captain America to life (dead in current era?) in a time-travelling yarn.  But I’ll leave all that for another post.

Today, I bring you Final Crisis #1, by DC.  It all started over two decades ago with the masterful ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ which was supposed to tighten the reigns on the DC multiverse into one cohesive universe where there would only be one Batman, one Superman, one Wonder Woman, and one history.  The reason being was at the time, those over at DC had a plethora of multiple main characters and parallel histories which often made the casual reader confused on which ‘history’ or ‘origin’ was the correct one.  When you have 50+ versions of Earth, each with its own brands of metahumans, including multiple Supermen and the like, you can see that eventually chaos reigns.

Anyway, the original Crisis, at least in my opinion, did a great job in condensing all the multiple histories and characters into one large DC universe.  Sure, there was some growing pains, some disgruntled readers and the like, but in the decade to come readers accepted this and all seemed right.

Fast forward to 2004 when DC decides to give writer Brad Metzler the green light to launch ‘Identity Crisis’, a 7 issue series that would lay the foundation for bringing back the multiverse to DC after almost 20 years.  Brad’s tale (along with Rags Morales on art duties) crafted yet another wonderful tale in which former B-list and even C-list villains raise there way to the top and make a name for themselves.  You see they discover some of the secret identities of the super heroes and begin to target their families, resulting in the death of Robin’s (Tim Drake) dad, the murder of Sue Dibny (wife of Elongated Man), the stabbing and eventual death of Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond), just to name a few.  In these 7 issues, the DC universe as we had been now been accustomed to began to change….and it was good.

These events then led to other events such as Countdown, The OMAC project, Villains United, and 2005’s ‘Infinite Crisis’ (7 issue series by Geoff Johns).  It’s here that some of the original heroes thought dead from the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story, (Superboy Prime, Alex Luthor of Earth 3, Superman and Lois Lane from Earth 2) escape a pocket universe they have been living in and hatch a plan to restore the multiverse in which Lois Lane (Earth 2) will live once our Earth has been replaced by a more perfect Earth 2.  Superboy Prime reveals a disturbed side and begins to kill off even more heroes (Conner Kent, multiple Green Lanterns) and villains alike.  His psychotic nature leads him to the planet OA where he is captured by the Green Lantern Corps and imprisoned in a Sun-Eater.

While all this is happening, events begin to break down in the weekly published series 52 in which all the gloves come off.  It’s my opinion that 52 started pretty darn well and for the most part was a good weekly read, although some story elements seemed a little lack luster or used for filler material.  The best aspects that came out for myself was the emergence of an all powerful Black Adam and the World War III series.  After events of World War III, DC then begins its final push to by the new 52 week ‘Countdown to Final Crisis’ (May 2007) series which in fact now reveals that the multiverse is back in full swing with 52 varying versions of earth.  The Monitors are back and want to correct all the out of place ‘aberrations’ of both heroes and villains that have displaced over the years.  Of course Darkseid wants in on the action, some New Gods (Orion being one of them) end up dead by the hands of his father Darkseid, and Jimmy Olsen inherits some New God powers.  A Monitor visits the ‘Source Wall’ and learns of a looming ‘Great Disaster’ in which only our Atom (Ray Palmer) can stop, and oh, Superboy Prime has escaped and on the rampage once again to destroy all the sub-par earths in search of the perfect earth.  All the chaos once again brings us to ‘Final Crisis’ after other events suchs as Amazons Invade (Wonder Woman) and Death of the New Gods.  While Countdown had some entertaining moments, I found it to be sub-par as a lead into Final Crisis.  There were some silly moments, some confusing ones as well, and some loose ends that never were tied up…at least not yet. 

Suffice it to say, the saga of the multiverse is much, much more complex than I can espouse here is a simple post.  This post was supposed to to be about Final Crisis #1, so let me get into it…

Metron appears to give fire to the first boy of our Earth who defends his village against Vandal Savage, thus making the boy out to be the first superhero, if you will. 

Darkseid’s human avatar form Boss Dark Side reveals that he has given the anti-life equation to some recently abducted metahuman children.

The skies of earth turn red and OA send the Alpha Lanterns not only to investigate the death of Orion, but to put our Earth on lock down.

Meanwhile, Libra (I know…who?) calls together all the villians, both A-listers (Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, Gorilla Grodd) to name a few, and some lower tier ones (Dr. Light, Mirror Master, Human Flame) and kills a captured and drugged Martian Manhunter in front of their eyes showing he means business.  To me the death of Martian Manhunter came across very weird, and I highly doubt he will remain ‘dead’ for any stretch of time.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even know how he was drugged, let alone captured.  supposedly this all happened during the events of Salvation Run.

The most mind-numbing portion of the story is the supposed trial of one of the Monitors for his role in the destruction of Earth 51.  It just seemed ill-thought out as it unfolded…the trial, that is.  Perhaps it will make more sense in upcoming issues, but so far other than Martian Manhunter being killed, and our Earth (with its red skies) on lockdown by the Alpha Lanterns of OA, I wasn’t to impressed with Final Crisis’s first offering.  Compared to the Skrull Invasion over at Marvel, I really think it fell short, with the only real meat so far provided by Libra and his newly resurrected Secret Society.