Comic Movie and Gaming Console news plus more Dead Space update

A few intereting tidbits is movie news:

  • Looks like director Robert Rodriguez (“Machete”) may not be the director afterall for the Ryan Reynolds ‘Deadpool’ movie spinning off of Wolverine.  Rodriguez cites a tight schedule with Spy Kids 4 and other commitments puts his timeline in jeapordy.
  • Speaking of Wolverine, it looks like the sequel has found a new director in Darren Aronofsky.  The sequel will be ‘somewhat’ based on Wolvie’s lore of finding love in Japan (sans Jean Grey).  Maybe we’ll see the Silver Samurai?
  • In more sequel news, it’s noted that Honathan Liebsen has signed on to direct the ‘Clash of the Titans’ follow up.  It appears that the sequel will be filmed in native 3D as opposed to the post conversion process of the first and filming will kick off in January.
  • Now that Pirahhna 3D is out, someone is making a Sharks 3D movie…*sigh*
  • Rumor has it that sunglass make Oakley will have a tie-in with Disney’s new TRON movie, meaning cool new glasses ala the game grid?
  • Major Nelson over at XBOX has revealed that a new XBOX 360 controller will be released in North America shortly with an enhanced D-pad.  This will make the pad more accurate for hard-core gamers that love their fighting games such as Street Fighter, but unless you’re one of those types of gamers, no real need for it.  Said to also launch in Europe most likely in Feb. 2011.  One draw back?  The cost.  It’s reported to have a U.S. street price of $64.99
  • Also, expect Xbox Live to raise the price on their Gold membership by $10 come November.  That sucks, but they site the cost and demand of delivering and maintenance on more streaming and enhanced content. Boo!
  • In funny news, a compnay going by the name of Mojowijo has developed and will be marketing/selling ‘sex toy’ attachments for the Wii controllers, taking advanatge of the vibration technology.  Somewhere, somehow, bluetooth will be involved, but really?  Is there really a need to turn your Wii remote into a sex toy? Why not use the billion other products or your electric toothbrush for that matter.

Now onto my Dead Space updates:

The book, ‘Dead Space: Martyr’ – As of this writing, I’ve had the novel for about 9 days now and am close to being 3/4’s done.  It is not what I expected at all, but intriguing none-the-less.  Overall the book is a bit slow, but the good news is the chapters are relatively small and makes for a swift and easy read.  It’s definently geared towards mature adults with the language and descriptions inside and weaves an origin story about ‘The Marker’ and the church of Unitology as depicted in the game.  As far as I can tell, The Marker, very similar to 2001’s Monolith is a device of alien origin that has the ability to drive people slowly insane, mad, and violent when exposed for lengths of time or in close proximity to it. 

Of course, enter the cliched scientist who is discovering teh real meaning behind it, and the cliched military man who has his own ideas for The Marker and you cover a good a portion of some sci-fi rehash.  That being said, it’s not a bad book.  I actually find the authors writings very clever and it appears he’s taken great thought and care into developing a story that will have a good payoff for Dead Space fans.  I’m having a hard time deciding how predictable the events within actually are.  I can see some of the elements a mile away, but how the author gets there still holds my interest, and even this far in, The Marker, and its symbols are just as mysterious to me the reader.

Now that game: Beginning with Chapter 4 & 5, I have noticed the game is indeed getting harder.  I still love audio, text, and video logs I’m picking up and really help to set the tone.  I’ve also picked up the ripper and contact rifle as weapons.  I find the ripper is good in tight quarters when low laying necromorphs are surrounding you from various angles at once, but it’s damn slow on the reload.  The contact gun on the other hand…..I’m having a hard tiem figuring out exactly what it does.  It has a low ammo capacity, and shots are either hard to come by in the wild or expensive at the store and I just haven’t figured out how to best use it.

I’ve found a few more schematics, but the best upgrade so far is to Suit #3 and extra oxygen capacity.  There were a few moments in both 4 & 5 where oxygen is key, so make sure you have at least one extra air canister on hand.  I’ve also been using teh med packs a bit more as well.  There is one baddy in general that shoots off a ‘spore’ to the ground, which in turn sprouts a tentacle, which in turns spits out a deadly projectile at you.  Those projectiles pack some punch, so make sure you are in run-n-gun mode, have extra health packs, and are willing to use stasis.  You need to take these out quickly, because if you don’t they tend to multiply and once that happens, you’re as good as dead.  The key here is to sever all the vital points of the creature generally stuck to the wall that spits them out.  I think there are 6 vital points that must be dealt with and through trial and error, I found the good old Plasma Cutter and Stasis combination do the trick.  There’s one sequence here that the creature is at the end of a long hall….you need to run up to it (not to close though as it can one-shot you and rip your head off in one strike), but close enough to use Stasis and then ‘aim’ for the six points.  This may take a few attempts.

One other part I found very difficult was the manual gunnery station against the asteroids using the rail gun.  There’s a sequence where you sit in a chair and take aim at asteroids headed to the Ishimura and you need to pulverize them into dust before they hit the ship and take out the armor and bulkheads.  Sufefr enough damage and you’re dead in a fireball sequence.  Suffice to say, your aim, even with an analog stick must be true on and fast.  If too many slip by, you’re toast and you can’t recover.  Thus far this was my most frustrating moment in the game.  The whole sequence takes about 1.5 minutes, but after the first 60 seconds, it seems like it takes forever.  I must have died at least 10x in a row before I made it, and I made it by the skin of my teeth.  It’s a fun part and a nice departure from the rest of the game but it’s a little agressive and I felt it out of balance (meaning more difficult than I think it should have been). 

Too put it in perspective the ‘boss’ sequence at the end of Chapter 5, I got on the first try (cryo freeze 2x) and run, where this mid-level challenge seems very unforgiving.

These last two chapters, 4 & 5, I was able to complete each in about 1.5 hours instead of 2.  So I’m starting chapter 6 with about 9 hours under my belt thus far.

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Dead Space: Downfall

So maybe I was a little overly excited yesterday with my Dead Space post.  Yeah, I realize I’m talking about a game that is two years old, but when you’re married, have a slacker teenage daughter, and a mundane job where you’re more educated than those you report to, it’s the little things in life that get one excited.

My wife happens to bowl on Monday nights as part of a league, so that usually affords me Monday nights to myself for entertainment.  As I was so enthralled with the game over the weekend and began reading ‘Martyr’ yesterday in earnest (currently Chapter 15, pg 79) I came home and fired up Netflix over my Xbox360 account.

I looked up Dead Space: Downfall and added it to the instant queue and began watching this 74 minute anime movie.  The events of Downfall take place over the course of a few days and lead up to the opening credits of the game itself.

In the game, as Isaac Clarke, you are fighting for survival on this large derelict ship, but just days before, the Ishimura was teaming with hundreds of crew members going about their daily lives and jobs until the ‘artifact’ is unearthed and brought aboard the ship.  The unearthing of the artifact itself unleashes a certain paranoia and an unseen force amongst the people, and throw is a good alien flying face hugger (kinda looks like a Star Wars ‘mynock’ to infect people and turn them into necromorphs for good measure).  By the time the captain and crew figure out what’s going on, it’s too late, the ship is doomed.

This anime is not really intended for kids.  It’s a ‘mature’ movie, filled with lots of bloody content made of nightmares and tons of colorful language (i.e. liberal swearing).  While there are some subtle stylized differences from what the game presents, the overall look of the interior of the USG Ishimura is pretty close.  You’ll recognize a few areas and even a few names.  You’ll learn the fate of the Captain, and even get hints of the overall Unitology conspiracy taking place.

While it’s not the best animation on the planet and a far cry from any CG work these days, the style fits just fine; even some of the rougher parts doesn’t detract from the story.  That being said, the story itself, while entertaining, seems to ‘borrow’ a few concepts and ideas from other sci-fi movies and shows.  It’s not to say that Downfall isn’t ‘original’, but if you’re an avid Sci-Fi fan like myself you’ll note some common themes and ideas throughout.

But the movie was intended to be a prequel, to lead the viewer upto the point where they begin to play the game, and it does a fine job, (not stellar), but fine job at doing just that.  Anything longer that 70 minutes may have been a detriment.  There’s plenty of action, recognizable locals, faces, and names that the gamer will identify with and that light bulb will begin to glow over your head.

One of the final scenes of the movie is the Isaac Clarke’s rescue ship approaching the Ishimura just as it did in the opening cinematic of the game which is a great tie in that marries the two together, so you know what your up against and where on the time line you fall.

Not sure if I’d buy the movie and unsure what the Blu-ray version would give you since it is standard animation.  If you are able to rent it, or even better, stream it like I did, then you’ll be happy.  Assuming you are playing the game as well, I’m not there is much replay value in the movie, so I wouldn’t buy it.

Shifting gears a bit, I was then able to play Chapter 3: ‘Course Correction’ last night afterwards.  Again, it seems I’m averaging about 2 hours a chapter, so if there are 12 chapters in this game, I expect I’ll get at least 24 hours of play time out of it.  I’m a cautious gamer as well….I don’t run headlong like Han Solo, guns blazing down cooridors.  I tend to creep, flashing my headlamp all about into all the dark spaces, and I also take the time to look for hidden items, power-ups, and all the logs strewn about.  I really enjoy the text, audio, and video logs.  They add so much backstory to the game, it’s a shame if you are the type that just balzes through the enemies getting to the objective in the fastest times.  If you are, then you’re missing out on some good lore.

I really enjoyed the centrifuge room last night.  The one in zero-g, in which you need to start up the engine manually and then dodge the centrifuge itself while in the vacuum fighting of a few necromorphs.  Ahhh….the silence is just so tense at times, and when you finally make it back to an airlock with seconds of air left to breathe, and your suit re-pressurizes, you really get a sense of gratification and unloading of a burden.

The last standoff in this chapter is pretty intense.  You throw the ignition switch in the bay, turn around, stars at your back, engine wailing super loud, and you spot a team of running necromorphs headed your way.  Gotta love the line gun at this point.  I also bought the ‘ripper’ weapon last night as well, but haven’t gotten the chance to use it yet.  I really need to get me some more power nodes and get some extra capacity on my rig (bio-suit) as my inventory slots are on the low end and now that I have a host of weapons, I need some more slots to carry ammo.

Dead Space..better late than never.

I have a hard time finishing games I start.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy them or I don’t wish to finish them, it’s that there have been so many this last year that have gotten my attention I just can’t seem to find enough time to play them all.

As it stands right now I am currently playing the following on my Xbox, but haven’t finsihed any of them: Grand Theft Auto IV, Assasins Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, CoD Modern Warfare 2, Tiger Woods 2010, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2 (still in the cellophane), Saints Row 2, and Crackdown (yes, i still play the original Crackdeon).  Most of these I am anywhere from 50-75% done, although I think Grand Theft Auto IV and Saint Rows 2 is way down, but they have such an unforgiving failure structure in missions, I get frustrated if I have to start over so far back because there aren’t any real save points.

It doesn’t help there are also a bevy of games that all have high ratings that all came out or are about to come out as well, that I really want to play, but these $60 price points are just killing me these days.  There’s Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Limbo, Gears of War 2, just to name a few. Oh, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to two Wii games as well: Epic Mickey, and Kirby: An epic yarn.

All this being said, and realizing I need to get the most bang for my buck these days, I recently saw a preview for Dead Space 2. It looked pretty cool and then that seemed to trigger a lot of memories of all the positive buzz the original Dead Space got back in 2008. The whole action packed, horror/survival genre intrigued me and since I tend to get pwnd by players half my age anymore, the thought of me picking up the original Left 4 Dead and getting lambasted over the headset didn’t sound all that appealing to my ego.

I went to check out Dead Space and learned it is now part of the Xbox line of Platinum Hits, meaning it has a price point of $19.99, or a fraction (34%) of the original price. I went to Game Rankings and Wikipedia (89% favorable rate on average) to get their impressions and I was really surprised to learn that there is such a backstory and supplementary products and lore to support this franchise.

There are prequel comic books, an actual prequel novel “Dead Space: Martyr” (dated even earlier in the timeline of the comics), an anime movie, a Wii rail shooter (Dead Space: Extraction) that takes place days before the events of the original Dead Space game. In short, I love games or franchises that take on a life of their own and a new universe is created around them with so much deep and original content. I now have Dead Space fever and went out to buy both the Platinum Hits version of the game and also the novel, Martyr.

The book, Dead Space Martyr by B.K. Evenson clocks in at 414 pages and is a slightly oversized paperback. I started reading it today and am already enjoying the slow build of events that are taking shape all the way to my current page of 57. I will most likely read a good portion of this book by this week and it reall sits the tone and mood for events that I can only guess so far already took place just prior to the start of the game. So far it appears to me a very smart novel and not hokey schtick, minutae, or shovelware to get a few extra coins and milk this franchise. Already it makes me think of Indiana Jones meets “Abyss” meets the X-Files. Something spooky, mysterious, scientific, paranormal, alien, archeleogical, and conspiritorial all wrapped into one. If I enjoy this novel as well as I think I will, I just may have to buy the 6-issue comic collection and get the anime movie from Netflix to satiate my appetite and round my experience out.

Now about the game itself:  My initial impressions is that it is indeed very fun and a visual treat.  Right from the get go, there is a beautiful cinematic that sets up the initial quandry and within minutes I’m already tense.  This derelict planet cracking ship is quiet….too quiet.  With only the strained voices of my A.I. controlled, yet seperated from me crew members, its clear from teh get go I’m on my own and I need to survive.  From both lighting direction and sound design, my personal mental state is elvated on trying to be alert.  Not only am I being very cautious in my movements as I push the left analog stick forward, while looking all around with my right stick, I’m really trying to use my ears.  Everything makes an isolated sound, and the majority of the sounds are not that of a joyous ice cream truck looking to off load some delicious treats.  Nope, there are thuds, and scampering, and moan, and howls, and shallow breathing, and then nothing.  The silence is deafing, and even though I am on high alert, I am still scarred shitless at times.

The game is broken up into 12 chapters, and although I’ve taking my time (4 hours to complete the first 2 chapters), I have plenty aways to go.

The ship I am on, the USG Ishimura feels gigantic and vast.  I’ve only explored a few sections so far, but I am intrigued and in awe of some of the design and magnitude of the environments.  One minute I feel clausterphobic, pulse welder ready and aimed for discharge, the next I’m in a large mechanical ship bay, or medical lab that also feels too big, as if my sixth sense is telling me I’m not alone in here.

The environs are pretty diverse as well.  I’ve already experience both zero-gravity, and the dead silence of the vacuum of space.  I’ve run down blood stained cooridors, jumped when the lights flickered, and cringed at the sight of medically tampered fetuses in statis tanks.  There’s the sound of flies buzzing near body bags, cryptic blood drawn symbols on the walls, and then there is the occasional audio or video log tape that I find that fills in some blanks or drops a clue on what happened to the crew.  None of it is good.

The voice acting in above average, and the story is rich and tense.  No doubt the novel and anime will even do more to flesh everything out.  There are some criticsims that our protaginist Isaac clarke (an amalgam of Isaac Asimoc and Arthur C, Clarke me thinks) is a bit silent and uninteresting as we really never see his face or hear his thoughts, but in this case, I’m okay with it.  I hadn’t really noticed myself until I read that from other sites, and in no way do I think it affects my game.

Games controls are slightly different from other first person shooters I’ve played up to now, but the online ingame tutorial is both very unique and refreshing.  Once you get the hang of things, the U.I. actually seems very clever and intuitive and now I wonder why more games haven’t taken this approach before.  Here’s to hoping that EA keeps this formula in the sequel with only a few minor tweaks.

Weapons are unique to an extent and I like how they handle upgrade options in the game, either via used power nodes or found schematics.  Isaac’s HUD is really original as well, and really does have a futuristic feeling to it.  My only beef is with the amount of inventory he can carry on early in the game.  He’s very dependant on his plasma welder and thus needs to pick up ammo early on, but the ammo tends to take away from his ‘backpack’ space whcih can be frustrating early on until you get the hang of the game and work on your own personal strategy.  Now that I am starting chapter 3, I think I kinda understand the mechanics a bit better and I can do without as many plamsa clips.  The other weapons are pretty brutal as well, especially the line gun, alhough I’ve yet to buy/try the flamethrower.  You don’t need all these weapons thouugh…there is an achievemnt for completing the game using only the plasma welder which makes me believe the other weapons are for pure mayhem and eye candy value only.  However, that being said, the line gun has saved my ass a few times and I think a much better addition than the pulse rifle.

I don’t want to spoil anymore for you, but the necromorphs (aka bad guys) are downright scary.  While they may seem a bit repetitive (there may be more variety later on), they still seem gruesome in their size, stature, and movement when you do encounter them.  The animations of dismemberment and blood squirts and sounds are visceral to boot.

All in all, a great game, albeit from 2008.  A highly recommended buy for $19.99, and now I’m not sure if I can wait for Dead Space 2 to hit Platinum status in a year from now.  As a budget minded gamer, I may have to splurge at $39 or $29 when it happens.

Electronic Arts update.

ea_logo1Seems like a lot of news was dropped yesterday from developer Electronic Arts:

  •  – Sims 3 is delayed until early June, 2009
  •  – Mass Effect 2 has been announced for an early 2010 date across multiple platforms (guessing that means XBox 360, PS3, and PC)
  • – Some 1000+ jobs will be cut including the closure of 12 facilities due to recent economic slow down and under performance.
  • Dead Space will be coming to the Wii.
  • Left 4 Dead has sold over 1M units world wide so far.
  • Boom Blox sequel has been announced and scheduled for a spring, 2009 release.

An onslaught of titles for the 360

Whew….

It seems a damn busy time in the realm of console games for personal consumption over the next few weeks.  With so many A & B titles being released for my 360, I have no idea on which ones to grab first.  With the average price being $60 each to, I really have to be careful in my choices.  Hopefully for our 5th wedding anniversary, my wife will also be getting me a certificate for one of the store to help out.

So let’s see, what do I have to choose from:

  • Fable II: I loved the first Fable and had a blast completing it on my original Xbox.  I like the idea of revisting the world of Albion, especially with an AI dog as my companion and the co-op online mechanic.  Reviews of this game have been highly positive and a reads like a great solo casual RPG that isn’t overly complex.
  • Far Cry 2: I never played the original, but I like the idea of the open style sand box of a 20+ square miles of Africa.  The visuals look lush, and decisions really do count in the game and affect how you progress.  I also like the idea that the game never breaks for pauses if you need to look at a map or inventory….It’s all real time.  Explosions and fire mechanics look great.  Another highly reviewed game, although there is a comment about inconsitent damage to baddies.
  • Fallout 3: I never played the originals, so I’m a bit unfamilar with the Fallout universe, but hey, it’s Bethesda.  A lot of great hype is surrounding this game and the visuals I’ve seen are also fantastic.  Promises over 100+ hours of game play with a lot of RPG elements and special effects.  Can we sat VAT and PipBoy?  Yup…I’m in for this one.
  • GH-WT: Though I am just scratching the surface of my recent Rock Band 2, I totally play these games with my friends and can spend hours on the music rhythm genre.  Much more customization and a killer song list.  I’m also jonesing for the re-tooled guitar (bigger, badder).  There will be a lot of late night weekends coming up with my house band rocking the party soon.
  • Tom Clancy’s End War:  Voice controlled RTS set in the Clancy universe. ‘Nuff said.
  • Gear of War 2:  I may put this one on the back burner for now as I still need to complete the original GoW.  I figure I’m about 50% done on that one?
  • BIA – Hell’s Highway:  I’ll get this eventually.  Maybe when the price drops or it becomes a Platinum Hit.  Got above average scores and I enjoy that kind of strategic FPS’s.
  • Dead Space: Also looks good.  I like the story line premise, even though it may not be super original.  Reminds me of the original ‘Alien’ movie.  Already out and the user community says its a nail biter.  Maybe another I’ll wait for the Platinum Hit price drop.
  • Banjo Kazooie – Nuts & Bolts: I like the cheaper price point of $40 and it looks to be a fun ‘casual’ style platformer.  I’ve never palyed any of the Banjo games before, but I really like the ‘Lego’-ish aspect of collecting parts and building my own creations to solve puzzles. 
  • Call of Duty – World at War: Another in which I suppose I should finish CoD4 before I buy this one.  Although I’m tired of WWII games, it is CoD afterall, and the idea that it’s in a different theatre now…along with flamethrowers makes this look interesting to me.
  • Wrath of the Lich King: Okay, so technically not a console game, I do love my WoW and this will be a must buy on my list.

All the games I listed here either just came out this past week, or will be out before the end of November.  That’s a lot for such a small window of time.  Thankfully there’s nothing I really see on the horizon after November that I’m really stoked about as the games above (even if I end up getting 2 or 3) should keep me busy for many months to come.  My 360 will be very busy.

I think my top runners right now are Fable II, Fallout 3 and Guitar Hero: WT.   Now I just need to prioritize and come to the realization that a few will not be purchased until sometime in 2009, and hopefully by then, many of the prices will indeed drop.