Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quick Sketch: Thor the Mighty Avenger: Double Rainbow

Thor the Mighty Avenger: Double Rainbow
Publisher: Marvel
Artists and writers: Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, Matt Wilson

Story: Thor protects local women in Bergen from Mr. Hyde; “As in you can’t.”

The story itself was a boring read, but has the potential to be good in the next issues.

Thor was a disappointment. He did not live up to what we see in other Marvel comics (the God of Thunder with mighty powers). He lacks his full fighting capacity. Mr. Hide was a more believable character: a schizophrenic and heartless drug addicted murderer.

The art on this could have been better as well.  Marvel does not live up to its standards. We have seen comics drawn better. And what’s with all this shading ? Do normal people have half of their face black? Overall this was an ineffective use of simplistic coloring.

This series has the potential to have a future (if they use more elements of Thor as god) and if they stop drawing rough sketches of Thor. Thor fans, this was a disappointment, especially if you were expecting the god of thunder.

 Thor has trouble when facing evil when he is not prepared much like we as Christians face every day. But through that experience he learns that he will find help when he needs it.   In the story Thor receives help from his new friend in order to defeat Mr. Hide.  Our lives are much more assured in that we can trust God to help us through battles.

-Story has potential
-Good Mr. Hyde (as in terrible person, but played part well)
- Unrecognizable Thor character
-Bad art


Red Mike

Monday, November 29, 2010

Resistance 3

For those who haven't sold their allegiance to the Halo franchise, we have Resistance 3 to look forward to.  Join Nathan Hale in the 1950's as he fights off evolved mutants.

Impression: I thought I was watching a Youtube commercial, but then I realized that this was a filler movie. Insomniac hasn't shown off some footage yet. I don't really like filler movies because they show absolutely nothing about the game. But it's good to know that Insomniac is feeding us.

Christmas is Coming: Update

Hello True Believers,

I want to take this time to tell you the exciting things that are happening in Brave New Toy.
1. My brother is doing some of the video game and music reviews.  We might be getting his friends to commit to carrying the website load in the future.  For right now you can check out his review of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

2. In December I hope to be reviewing games like EA's MMA, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and NBA Jam.  Also for music and games we have: My Chemical Romance and Escape the Fate's new album.  But don't forget we are going to get a slew of new Marvel reviews.

3. There's a fan link on this blog that goes to Facebook.  If we can get over 25 fans, one of you will win our Christmas giveaway!  We believe in giving!   Also, we are awarding prizes to our writers for making good articles.  Click on the like button if you like a particular article.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (Xbox 360)

Assassins Creed Brother Hood
 Xbox 360, PS3, PC

It’s a little bit historical, a little bit fantasy, and a whole lot of death.

 The story of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood picks up where the last one left off. Once again you’re the same guy plugging into the Matrix to see what his ancestors were doing years ago.
  And here is what I got from it: Ezio, after his home gets destroyed, goes to
Rome to be an assassin ring leader, big shot and restore balance to the newly found, falling apart Rome. I find that, while I am playing the game at times, I feel more like a pimp, and not so much a hardcore stealthy assassin. The main reason is because one of the first major missions and a lot of the side quests have to do with helping out women from a brothel (and giving them money). If you can get past the whole brothel thing, playing out the storyline is actually pretty rewarding.

 Game Play
 The Mechanics of the game are pretty much identical to the past games.  If your new to the game or haven’t played for a while, don’t beat yourself up over the controls, they take some getting used to. The movement is what you would expect of a assassins creed game. The fighting engine in the new game is less methodical and is more freeing then past games. Though you can use a lot more techniques, it has a pretty steep learning curve. Don’t expect to be killing the Vatican any time soon.

Here are some things I didn’t like about the gameplay.  Though the map is huge and offers a lot of different opportunity, it’s a pain to travel, and when you’re in the city, things tend to look the same. So getting lost is easy and finding shops is very hard. You will spend a decent amount of time just walking from mission to mission and you’re lucky if your task is as simple as killing someone or collecting something. But following people around is one of the most provoking things you will have to do in the game. Normally, being faster than everyone is a good thing, but when you’re following people that move just faster than a snail dragging its feet, things can get a little annoying. The only thing worse, is having to climb some really tall building after following them.

But,  unlike the first game you can loot pretty much anything that’s dead, which I recommend because not only do you get money for doing this but you can restock on things like throwing daggers, medicine, and all those little things that keep you alive and your enemies dead. One of my personal favorite things about Brotherhood is that you can call in assassins to help you fight off guards or even take down some targets for you. You can even dispatch them to do certain jobs, and upgrade their equipment when they level up.

 Graphics and Sounds

 They didn’t really change anything much, so if you liked the graphics and sounds in the first game you wont really have any complaint about this one. Series should naturally get better with graphics.  Even still, the graphics in Assassins Creed are quite pleasing. They are like Prince of Persia, but just a bit more realistic. The setting reminds me of the BBC series of Robin Hood.

 Final Thoughts

 Despite the huge map and difficult climbing, I feel the game really grows on you.  It gives a very independent feeling as you play.  It’s not pushing you through the storyline or timing your every move, which results in a laid back style of playing.

 Content: PG 18
 Lots of adult themes
 Blood and violence

 Spiritual Meaning.

Just like Ezio’s brotherhood of assassins is redeeming and restoring Rome, So God does a similar act in our lives. God wants to restore the balance in our lives, and his methods are pure, He teaches us in our experiences that we may be more mature.
  • Very Independent
  • Improved fighting engine
  • Lots of space
  • Mature content
  • Some annoying missions and side quests

Editor’s note—It’s noteworthy to add that the AI in this game is amazing.  In one scene Ezio kills four guards and chases one down.  The other guard tries to escape, but you can chase him down.  If you do chase him down he starts begging for mercy.  Simply amazing character interaction


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Underoath-- 0 (Disambiguation)

Label: Tooth and Nail
Sounds like: Dead Poetic, Zao, Norma Jean

When Underoath came onto the scene they didn't want music that had a narrative path or a melodic flow.  They wanted something that shifted constantly and sounded good blasting from the speakers.  They have succeeded that and the sixth album is no different.  The only real difference is the absence of Aaron Gillepsie and the appearance of Daniel Davison from Norma Jean.

Disambiguation has eleven tracks in which to blast out your car speakers on the way to Hot Topics.  Veterans of this six album band will be tuning their ears for the throaty gurgle of Spencer Chamberlain and the smooth coating of Timothy Mctague.  This album delivers and even pulls in some of their techno backbeats to differentiate themselves from some generic screamo band.  About 4 tracks into this album I had the idea that the singers were trying to convey. Some ambiguous power is holding them back, imprisoning me or threatening to rip the sun apart.  For what it's worth, Underoath is an inspiration to a lot of Left Behind books.  Mostly, I got the feeling that Spencer Chamberlin wrote all these songs while watching demons fight angels in heaven and seeing believers perish in the wake.  He has some valid points about how the world can drown you on Paper Lung, and his imagery on Driftwood suggests a person just getting pushed by the current of life and not fighting.  Some other songs like, Vacant Mouth and Deteriorating Incline are a call for us to fight censorship or some bigger power keeping us from doing something important.  Probably the most direct message is from Who Will Guard the Guardians, which calls humanity only reflections of reflections and calls for God to wake us up.

The guitar licks remind me of Project 86's first album mixed with some soft emo overtones.  On the slower song you can feel the band gaining some well deserved power and dynamic.  I really think that the band didn't play to their strengths here as much as they could.  On the songs that start with fast yelling you get more Rage Against the Machine type riffing.  One thing that bands like Underoath will continue to do is lose the more melodious audience because their songs feel like a big train wreck that can only be taken as a whole.  Disambiguation doesn't do anything to fight that, but the album does grow on you if you need something to blast.  I think I was unhooked by the whole scream scene after track 4 and could safely say that I heard all I wanted to hear.  I'm not sure if it was the bleeding guitars or the doom and gloom of the lyrics, but Disambiguation is really a great way to peel the paint off your walls.

When Jesus listens to Underoath, I can't help but feel him agreeing on Spencer Chamberlain's portrayal of humanity.  Our path into sin can be like drowning, while our compliance with it can make us comatose.  It does have to be God who wakes us up from the sweet sleep of the commonplace of life.  Maybe Disambiguation is our wake up call from God.

I swear we cannot wake up from this hell that we live in
But when the sun finally hits our face
We see that were merely reflections of reflections left by our predecessors
Dragged through the mud
(we can’t wake up)
Chained by the ankle
There is no more running there is no more escaping
If only God could lay his hands down on this barren land and wake us up

--Who Will Guard the Guardians

+ Metal riffs
+ Opening 4 tracks offer variety
+ Imagery on imprisonment and drowning

-- Fast yelling tracks
--Nothing stands out in the rest of the album
-- So much ambiguous topics and repeated themes of gloom


November Update

This review site has been up for over two weeks and I have some exciting news.  My brother is going to be doing game and music reviews.  His first game is going to Be Assassin's Creed Brotherhood for the Xbox 360.  We will have more volunteers to review popular culture in later dates.

In other news, I am currently trying to get a review for Underoath's new album Disambiguation.  Justice League International, Captain America and Justice Society have some new and exciting stuff coming out as well.

If anyone is interested in writing for this site, please go to the volunteer section.  If you just want to peruse the offerings than please make a comment and let us know you exist.  We are also on Facebook and Twitter and we would love to have you join us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Justice Society America # 44

Justice Society of America # 44
Publisher: DC
Writer/Artist: Marc Guggenheim, Scott Kolins

The JSA are starting over fresh with new writers and new artists.  Forget what you know about Starhearts, Black Adam, JSA All Stars and Nazi takeover, this story starts tabla rasa.
No bones about it, the justice society is an aged group, filled with the experience of 100 JLA or Avengers.  Wildcat, The Flash, and The Green Lantern have kept the group a unit since the early days.  Now the group has to fight an meta terrorist that has the power to level the whole city.

The story direction is fresh and not just in a DC way.  Marc Guggenheimer did Spider-man before, which puts a new spin.  The artistic style is more defined and the edges are rounder.  The writing takes more focus on Michael Holt, Lightning and Jay Garrick and the use of the new villain shows that the new artistic team is dedicated to making this a new season for the Justice Society.

The new question is, will this new season be engaging or just another small potato story in the shadow of JLA and the Avengers.  We will see if the stories pick up, but for right now the first issue holds a lot of promise and the characters are a rich new take.

I've always credited the JSA of being like old school faith, sticking to the ancient path of Jesus, holding strong to their values and being an inspiration to the new ones.  They have always been an inspiration to the other heroes.

+ New story
+ New Art style

(too early to tell if the story is worth following)

Spotlight: Rocky Loves Emily

Rocky Loves Emily
Album: American Dreams
Label: Tooth and Nail
Sounds like: Rocket Summer (without the prepubescent vocals) + Schoolboy Humor

A bunch of long haired, strong strapping boys either means a band is forming or Twilight is coming out with another sequel. In this case, Tooth and Nail is showcasing one of their new lines ups, Rocky Loves Emily.  They are six strong with all the necessary fix-ins and a keyboardist.  Their headline song, "Clueless," is a string burner with a riff that will get the kids jumping in the front row.  Their latest EP, American Dreams, has five songs, each with the promise to fill teenage hearts with gooey lyric goodness.  Give them a try if you like the song below.

Enslaved (PS3)

Escape from NY, the Island, Escape from LA and Running Man all have something in common.  They are cyberpunk stories of people trying to escape evil dictatorships in America.  Add Enslaved to the list as the official video game of that genre.

Ninja Theory is producing their second next gen game and Andy Serkis is still the acting director and voice for the characters.  For those of you light on your Lord of the Rings trivia, Andy Serkis is the animation director/voice behind Gollum.  But for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to experience his first game, Heavenly Sword, Enslaved has all the acting bells and whistles that you will need.


You play Monkey, a man with no past, no patience and great climbing skills.  He just wants to be free of the mysterious race of enslavers.  Instead, he meets Tripp.  She is a computer hacker with no street smarts to survive.  Instead she places a slave crown on you that forces you to help her get home safely (not a good first impression).

Monkey gets to do all the climbing missions, reaching from pole to ledge.  He also does all the robot fighting.  Tripp is the breadwinner of the relationship, pimping out Monkey with new gear, special upgrades and hacking.  She may be good with the computers, but she needs to be babysat a lot.

It's okay, you can come out.  I promise not to threaten to shank you.

Their relationship builds over the journey, as the two honeymooners work together to fight off the robot apocalypse.  The storytelling is superb in respect to it focusing on Tripp and Monkey’s relationship.  About thirty minutes near the end of the story the director decides to assume you have the backstory all mapped out and throws in a larger scheme.  Needless to say, it’s confusing near the end.

Best contestants for the show Amazing Race:
1. Prince of Persia
2. Lara Croft
3. Monkey
4. Nate from Uncharted
5. Mario with warp whistles


The game is one huge 3D game board filled with climbing, fighting and navigating—but mostly climbing.  Climbing gives you a sense of how gigantic post apocalyptic America is.  Since the game doesn’t let you die from falling, it is incredibly easy to jump from ledge to ledge.  In fact, the game won’t let you jump at all unless you are near a ledge where you can transverse.  This is helpful for anyone who has ever died millions of cheap deaths from a bad camera in Prince of Persia or Tombraider.  The downside is that you can be stuck on a tiny ledge with no way to get down because your character isn’t positioned in the right place to hop.  Finding the next pole or ledge can be tricky when you are trying to find the next sparkling piece of scenery to grab onto.  Luckily, most of the swinging levels are smooth sailing.  They really aren’t meant for challenge as much as they are to show you the great level design.

Combat is equally smooth and refreshing, though the melee is very limited.  You either have to fight droves of robots or you have to sneak up on a few mechs and take control.  Certain parts of the game ask you to take command of a certain robot and use their carcass as an EMP, explosive or as a machine gun turret.  These were the exciting parts of the game and I would have loved to see more utilization of mech takeovers.  Combat is probably the hardest part of the game because you can get ghetto stomped by four mechs at once and half of them have a shield that needs a special EMP move to knock out.  There are parts of the game where turret guns are blowing away your cover and you have a limited supply of plasma lasers.  Upgrading your weapons and shield are a good way to combat this, but you’ll notice the difficulty is still present.  Checkpoints are in odd places in a few parts of the game.  Sometimes they are right next to each other and other times it feels like an entire desert is between you and the next one.  In some cases, your checkpoint is before a substantial cutscene and you’ll have to sit through it again (unless you smash all the buttons and learn to pass it).  It’s not a deal breaker, but it is kind of an easy fix.


Ninja Theory blew everyone away when they had the PS3 with Heavenly Sword.  Now that we are clearly three years past that, how do these graphics look now that the PS3 and Xbox360 have it?  The PS3 version is colorful and the outdoor terrain is absolutely gorgeous.  Some of the in game cutscenes start off with some frame rate hiccups.  In later levels I found the sound cutting out for no apparent reason.  The loading of environments was slow as you could clearly see the textures rendering in the background in some cutscenes.  Ninja Theory has some great art design and some of the best art direction I have seen in a game, but their hardware might have some issues.
Monkey is the kind of guy who loses his Tripp, but realizes she was on his back the whole time.

The music is a mix of Matrix techno and epic drama orchestra, which adds to the tension and fury of the battle.

Best Game Story Rankings
  1. Alan Wake
  2. Resident Evil 4
  3. Final Fantasy 7
  4. Metal Gear Solid
  5. Heavenly Sword
  6. Enslaved


Probably the most engaging part of this game is the story and the characters.  Monkey and Tripp grow to trust in one another when they find out their lives depend on one another’s strengths and abilities.  Like most cliché buddy films, both characters eventually get onboard to complete the ultimate goal.  But like in real life, if two people have conflicting goals, one usually has to surrender their goal so both can work together.  Rarely is a partnership 50-50 and lots of married couples will agree.  In the story, Monkey has to give up his freedom to help Tripp find her home.  At the end of the story, they are both working together, united as one.  Who will give up their life to work with you?  Better yet, who would you give up your freedom for just to help?

Content: PG-13
S words: plenty
Lord’s name taken in vain: plenty
Tripp’s outfit: Good for raving
Pigsy Character: A little weird

       + Great acting and character chemistry
+ Good balance of climbing and fighting
+ Taking over mechs is fun
--    More variety in melee would have been nice
-      Graphical nuances
--      The story drops off


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011 (PS3)

Type: Review
Developer: THQ

In most cases, telling someone you are going to control glistening oiled men in their underwear will get you some weird looks and a call from your pastor.  If you tell them its from the WWE, you might get less weird looks and at least the pastor will take you off the prayer list.

Raw vs. Smackdown 2011 is the latest annual installment of sport's entertainment.  Whole new rosters, whole new modes and a whole lot of tweaks and twinges have been added to the latest installment.  There's a lot of reasons to check this game out if you have never played a wrestling game.  Also, there are a lot of bad graphics choices that make me wonder what THQ was thinking.  But overall, the game is worth the three count.


Create modes are what attract a kid like me.  There is a robust roster of wrestlers reflecting the 2010 roster, but I hunger to build all my wrestlers from scratch.  Create a Wrestler mode will take you a solid hour and a half to make a full fledged combatant.  If you are worried about the nitty gritty of the wrestler, than expect 3 hours.  This includes making the move set, the in ring attire, the entrance movie and the highlight reel.  You can't take shortcuts otherwise your combatant will walk around in his skivies in the backstage with no entrance music.  Other create modes include a signature move creator and a way to capture wrestling scenes and put them into a movie.  I always had envisioned a Create-A-Story mode for wrestling games, but never got around to creating the patent for it.  Now you can setup wrestlers, storylines and matches fulfilling your soap opera needs. 


Speaking of soap opera antics.  WWE SvR 2011 has some of the wackiest stories this side of the squared circle.  In Road to Wresltemania, you get five storylines to choose from.  Currently, my character, The Reaper, has to face off against the Undertaker.  What are my side missions, you ask?  Collecting souls and putting it into a magical urn.  What???  This and many more odd jobs are part of the story mode.  You walk around backstage, talking to different wrestlers.  Some will give you missions and others will start a backstage brawl.  You can even start the brawl with others.  Once you get into the ring you get your main objective.  The main objectives are easy, which are a blessing because wrestling games have never been that easy.


The fighting system covers virtually every move a wrestler can do in the ring.  This can seem overwhelming, except WWE was smart with their tutorials.  Much like NBA 2010, you can practice your moves on the title screen.  Figuring out how to irish whip, get into the ring, climb a turnbuckle and pin a wrestler has always been tricky and it doesn't get any easier in this game.  You don't have to worry about combos or button bashing; your only concern is hitting the R2 button at the right time to counter.  One thing you’ll have to get used to is the fact that this is more of a simulation than an arcade fighter.  Moves aren’t going to sky rocket your opponent through a brick wall.  But there will be that one moment when your character reverses an irish whip into a top rope moonsault and you find yourself chanting, “this is awesome!”

None of the game modes stuck out so much, but they all had their replay value.  Road to Wrestlemania was the story mode part of the game.  You can also play an entire year of PPVs and see how many titles switch around.  Online presented a bit of a lesser experience.  The camera angles had to be pulled back for more than 6 combatants and the framerate dropped down to a halt.


Now for the downsides.  Road to Wrestlemania has some very pecuilar design choices.  The backstage is setup like a Legend of Zelda dungeon and it is pure ugly.  This is not just normal ugly, this is losing a bet ugly.  From the loading screen which shows you Playstation 1 quality trees and skyline to the very bland looking backstage area, THQ dialed back the quality of this mode all the way into the Stone Age.  Even the backstage brawls look spacious and boring.  Why?  Beats me.  Perhaps the art director had a nephew who wanted to give it a shot.  Perhaps this is a tribute to PS1 games.  It just doesn’t add up.

So technologically, the game did not proceed forward, but I feel this iteration of WWE SvR made some logical choices.  Removing the long load screens, the flustering controls and the annoying extras, we have a solid game.

Pro wrestling has always been a constant metaphor for the human condition.  Just watching an episode of WWE you can see trials of determination, greed, covetousness, pride, hope, joy, trial and failure.  All these wrestlers are fighting for the belt and they will do whatever is in their power to get it.  In the same way, life presents its own belts and asks us to fight for them.  Some people will beg, borrow and steal for the newest toys.  Others will puff themselves up for the praise of others.  Others will train themselves till they are considered perfect.  While we chase after these things, a certain psalmist explains what the true title belt of life is,

 “1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
   who walk according to the law of the LORD.
2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
   and seek him with all their heart— “    
Psalm 119: 1,2

To the psalmist, pleasing God and living by his ways is the best reward for this life.  Those who sought after God were considered blessed and their lives were richer than anyone else’s.  Is this a call to be absolutely perfect?  No.  If happiness came through perfection no one would be happy.  But I do encourage you to negotiate what your title belt of life is.  If its not to please God and live for him, then what is it?

+ Simple, easy to use interface and controls
+ Great create modes
+ Much replay value

-- Ugly backstage
--No superior single player mode


Fallout New Vegas (PS3)

For those of you shy on the post apocalyptic RPG gaming, Fallout is a mission based FPS RPG. Set in an atomic fallout world, you play a former package delivery person. The game starts out with you surrounded by some Legionnaires and a guy in a checkerboard suit. You were supposed to deliver a specific package, but it ends up the mission was to cap you in the skull. You wake up in Goodsprings, Nevada with a new mission on your mind: find the guy who did this to you and get some revenge. From this point on you get full control over your character.

When I say full control: I mean full control! Whatever tickles your fancy. It’s an RPG so you might need to level up before you take your six shooter and start decimating a town. Fallout is what you make of it. You can cut to the chase and follow the storyline or you can:
- Follow one of the many gangs and become a leader
- Get registered as a ranger or a sheriff
- Lose all your karma from stealing and killing
- Hone your computer hacking and medicine skills
- Get a town decimated
- Smooth talk your way into some deals
- Follow your own mission path

With that said, Fallout is a slow paced game. You don’t go in with six shooter blazing to see how much damage you can do. You will need to level up in one of the games numerous stats. If you need to win a gun fight you need to level up guns and make sure you bought the right kind of bullets. If you need to convince the town to start an army, you will need your speech skills. All this takes time and planning. THIS IS WHY THE GAME IS EXCITING TO PLAY BUT SO BORING TO WATCH! Even if you just want to go through the story, you will find that the dungeons contain enemies that are quite tricky. Levels are gained easily by going around to different towns folk and accepting missions. If you are like my brother you can play this game multiple ways, raising in different stats for each player you create. He is the only guy I know who can spend countless hours selling useless trinkets so he can afford a fusion rifle, which will help him level up his science skills.

Leveling up is the meat of the game. You get attribute points, which ultimately help you complete future missions and win gun battles. Then you get perk systems, which gives you an added boost or bonus in different gameplay elements. My favorite is Cannibal, which lets you eat dead bodies for health, but in return you lose serious loyalty from good folk. Aside from the leveling up, you need to collect apparel to show what faction you are in, weapons for battle, trinkets to tweak guns and sell stuff, and different food for healing. All this adds up to one of the most expansive games on the market.

Death is also common in battle. Like I said earlier, unless you have the time to hone your skills and buy the right weapons, you will get chewed up and spit out very fast. The enemies don’t hold back in a fight. You can engage an enemy in what is called a VATS system. The VATS allows you to freeze a battle, pick out a particular appendage and attack it. This is a life saver when you are sneaking up on a villain. It’s a waste of bullets to try to gun someone down the traditional way; so you might find the VATS the only to ensure victory in a fight. Each limb and body part can be crippled, but I noticed that crippling someone’s head doesn’t make them act any different than crippling someone’s arm. I can literally paralyze someone from the neck down and they could still beat me to death.

The game also has Hardcore Mode which makes you responsible for drinking water, eating food and taking care of your limbs. No thank you, I’m good with what I have.

This game requires a very intelligent gameplay engine. And while this game is nothing short of a great achievement, I found the engine being dumb at times. Some of the enemies will run into walls or get stuck in the environment. NPCs have a very limited vocabulary and you will hear the same three settlers tell you the same piece of advice. Sometimes you can kill an innocent in cold blood and the person next to you will not react accordingly. There are some flaws in the engine and it reminds you that the world Fallout: New Vegas is trying to create might be too big.

Load times are not bad and the game will let you wander for quite some time before you will see a hitch in the frame rate telling you that its loading. The game has an excellent autosave function that comes in really handy.

The year is 2075, but the style of the game is 1950’s West Coast. You can hear Benny King on the radio, singing jazzy music, or you collect old sheriff magazines. The whole world is freeze framed in the atomic era of McCarthy. But New Vegas also puts the spin that its a midwest podunk world that has sheriffs and rangers. This gives free reign for the characters to be rich with southern drawls and speak to you like you are coming in from a spaghetti western.

Since this is the apocalypse, the world of New Vegas seems almost empty. Each village has about three interesting people that will talk to you. You can walk for miles and not see anything more than wildlife. Expect a slow and quiet game when you are not in a dungeon.

I give Vegas credit for quantity over quality. This is a huge world, filled with lots of different buildings, caves and nuclear plants. The rich artistic world of the post apocalyptic 50’s is eye candy. I would consider this one of those games you buy because you are tired of all the same old WWII and Middle East shooters and you need something with style. Other notable mentions is the different old timey radio stations you can play, while shooting enemies. It’s all part of an artistic package.

One of the more freeing (disturbing) parts of the game is the ethics system. You can be the good guy through helping out innocent people or you can toy around with shady characters and end up getting a whole town nuked. One of the things I liked about this game is that you can’t help everyone. If you want to be the moral man, than you will have to complete 5 sub missions just to get to completing the original mission. OR you can just shoot the guy who is making you do something and take what you want. It’s all based on a karma system.

This is probably the closest to real life you can get in a game. We face moral questions like: “do I buy the MP3 or do I download it off of Limewire?” “I can tell my dad I was drinking too much at the party or I can feed him an excuse?” In life, there are some very easy ways out of tight predicaments. But sometimes the easy way does not have the best long term rewards. If life was like an RPG you would get -3 TRUST and -2 DEPENDABILITY from people if you lived a less than honest life. Every choice we make effects the stats of our growth and our relationships. I believe Jesus sums it up quite well, “What good is it to gain the whole world (the easy part) but lose your soul (the long term reward)?” He is referring to those people who give up on the richness and eternity of their souls to chase lesser things. These are the shortcuts in our existence, which we use to get through the day. Most of the Gospels are spent urging people away from these shortcuts to embrace what life truly has to offer: God’s free gift of life through Jesus.

+ Very meticulous level up system
+ VATS combat
+ Ethical choices
-Can be seen as too slow
- Minor glitches with controls and AI
- Not as epic as the first one


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Children 18:3

Rain's A' Comin'
Label: Tooth and Nail
Sounds like:  Bis + Dogwood

Those loveable homeschooled kids are back with a razor rock vengeance.  Nothing has really changed since their last self-titled album and that's a treat to anyone whoever loved their pop/punk/grunge.  They still sing in three part harmony against sliding punk riffs and echo off each other with haunting vocals.  It's grunge meets beautiful.

This album is short.  With twelve tracks and two of them being merely instrumental, I kind of wish I could yell encore at the end of the album.  Most of their melodies depict evil arch villains like Cruella Deville or sing the tale of a soul in search of significance with Oh, Bravo.  My personal favorite is Jack o Lantern's Dreams, the sarcastic frustration of sharing their ideologies with someone who just doesn't understand.  These kids are mature for their age and don't let their gutterpunk clothes fool you; nowhere else can you get the bittersweet garage rage and the heartfelt cry to faith like in Rain's A' Comin.  I just wish their attention span was just a little bit longer.

Lyrics sample:

Crawl down
Won't you come on down
Run down with me
Fly down
Come on down
Run down
The rain's coming!

The ship was all but grounded for the tide had not come in

After forty days of waiting for the journey to begin
Now the castaways are stranded and the natives have grown thin
And the fuses that were lit have come to their end


+ Good energy throughout
+ With melodious vocals to match
+ Smart theology and honesty

-- Too short


Monday, November 15, 2010

Captain America 611

Captain America 611, Marvel
Quick Review: Brubaker, Acuna

Steve Rodgers has dropped the mantle onto Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, but it hasn't been a smooth transition by any stretch of the imagination.

Nazi nemesis, Zemo, has revealed to the world that Bucky Barnes was really the Winter Soldier assassin.  Now Bucky is wanted for murder and he is an escaped convict.

Brubaker is bringing over his Daredevil type drama to display the struggle between Steve's beliefs in Bucky's innocence and the skepticism before the other Avengers.  In the background of the story, a team of Nazi terrorists are threatening to bring over a new threat in New York City.  The comic is mostly Steve arguing for Bucky before TOny Stark and the president, but it gives some great background information into the Bucky Barnes character.  Was he brain washed, or did he kill those people with his own will?

The artistic style looks very simplistic and dark.  It's never daytime in the issue and the muddy colors accentuate that.    The minimalist art style gives proper mood lighting between the struggle of the characters.

What does it mean?
As Steve Rodgers fights for the cause of Bucky, we are reminded that Jesus clears our name in a similar way.  We may not have been brainwashed by Soviet Assassin camps, but sin has done its own fair share of teaching us to do wrong.  In those times of failure, where it feels like the world is out to get you, we have Jesus to fight for our cause.

+ Great minimalist approach
+ Very heated dialogue
+ Wonderful use of Steve Rodgers
--More Bucky?


Call of Duty Black Ops (Wii)

Type: Review
Publisher: Treyarch

Game: Call of Duty Black Ops, Reviewer: Michael Mordenga
November 15th, Rochester, Mission: to review this game.

Back in the early 2000's, games were gaga for the soldier outfit.  Medal of Honor, Call of Duty (original recipe), Army, Brothers in Arms and Spectrum Warrior were hugely into military forces.  Since the late 2000's, the new trend is to focus on special forces.  This includes Tier 1 or Black Ops members who are so secretive that even Obama doesn't know they exist.

This new trend is getting eaten up like hotcakes in Georgia and the Wii, aka the little brother, wants a piece of the action.  This is the first time that the Wii has gotten a straight port from the next generation systems that also included a zombie mode.  I wanted to review this game on the little brother because I knew the other reviewers would jump all over the next gen, but I was curious to see how Activision would get around making a version of this game even though the Wii wasn't really built for it.

The big drawback is the graphics and the Wii does not disappoint in its attempt to fail at them.  Now I am not saying that the Wii did a worse job than the PS2. but I am saying that no special attention was remotely applied to helping the Wii overcome this handicap.  The game is unashamedly gross in all its non-HD glory.  Muddy textures and grainy objects rule the day.  The problem is not that its Wii technology because we know that Metroid Prime and The Conduit made some very good looking games.  But the problem is that Activision would have had to build the game from the ground up in order to make it look good.  With the lack of lighting and the resolution that the Xbox360 and PS3 take for granted, the game is a mere shadow of its glory.  The ironic part is that some of the cutscenes use FMV footage from the next gen version, which gives you glimpses of how the game really should look.

Which brings up my next big point.  Without the flashy dramatics and HD graphics what exactly is a new Call of Duty sequel?  Here's what's required by law to be in all COD sequels.

1. Snow Level
2. Campaign involving Russia
3. A few scenes involving time slowing down
4. A handful of levels where you blow up at the end of the mission and the enemy captures you
5.  A few scenes where you are in front of the enemy and someone tosses you a gun to fight them
6. Recon planes
7. An underground bunker level
8. loading screens involving detailed global map graphics
9. A flashback
10. That one mission where your team mate gets captured and HQ tells you to forget him, but you disobey orders to save him.

You'll read the story from 100 reviews and articles so I am going to skip to the parts that I thought were interesting.

I feel like Treyarch just finished a Saw marathon and thought, "How can we incorporate this movie into our game?"  I'm not going to pretend to know what the 60's black ops missions were really like, but I think COD really stretches its creative license.  This game is one part Manchurian Candidate, three parts Saw and just a hint of the X-Files.  As Treyarch starts to step away from the historicity in favor of the mood inducing drama, you start to feel that this game is no longer a shout out to history.  The time period is just a backdrop to feed the audience that this is an adult game.

Treyarch may have played their cards a little too rough in this one.  The game is just too dark and when it isn't being dark its too much of a stretch in the sci-fi department.  The Cold War, JFK and Vietnam parts of the game weren't even necessary because Treyarch totally took this game off the beaten path.  This could have been in the future.  This is why I favor Medal of Honor's dose of reality than COD off the wall plot--you can actually relate it to facts.

The voice acting was a little weak, considering that your NPC's all had nothing better to say than "blow the $%^& out of this wall," or "give me cover fire."  I have yet to take an NPC seriously when they ask for cover fire or for you to watch their back while they are reloading.  It's also required by law that your NPCs say the following.

1. "I'm reloading"
2. "Hey, I'm on your side."
3. "Give me some cover fire."
4. "Flank left."
5. "Suppressing fire."
6. "Sniper on your six."
7. "Weapons Free!"
8. "Tango down."
9. "Contact."
10. "Good shot."

Percentage of it that actually has anything to do with your mission: 40%
Percentage of it that is stuff you already know: 99.9%

The single player gameplay is broken up into 3 types of levels: vehicular, corridor shooting and stealth.  Corridor shooting seems to rule the majority of the levels and you can sense that Treyarch wanted to make the gamer feel like the single player campaign was not too short.  After like the fifth corridor level you feel like you are just going through the motions.  Vehicular levels have a little spin on the usual aim and fire.  You actually get to navigate the boat, helicopter or car that you are traveling in.  Stealth only takes up like thirty percent of the game and it usually ends in giant firefights anyways.

Treyarch may have been a little over ambitious in some of their "Hollywood moments" of gameplay.  Slowing down time in certain battles, getting attacked at the end of a level and watching your character struggle and falling on the ground with only a pistol and  a bunch of bad guys is a repeating theme.  It's like dark chocolate, it's good in small doses, but this game has full servings of it.  Also, it doesn't help that the Wii can't make it look pretty.

The game definitely upped its difficulty.  In the more chaotic firefights, you will be sent to a lot of cheap graves via an unknown shooter.  I had trouble on Recruit mode.  On the flip side, the yellow markers that tell you what to do seem kind of ambiguous and insulting, as if they expected that you were playing your first FPS ever.

Controls are always an issue when you only have a Nunchuk and a Wiimote.  Like previous Call of Duty games on the Wii, you get to change every part of the sensitivity until its the way you want it.  Frankly, the Wiimote has become second nature to me.  I still hate having to use the d-pad to change weapons and do melee, but that can be changed as well.  An inclusion of the pro pad controller is also allowed if you want to be old school.

Needless to say, single player is the weakest part of this sequel on the Wii.  But, the multiplayer is still dynamite.  Two kinds of multiplayer are available: Zombie and deathmatch.  Zombie is the coop portion, playing like Horde Mode from Gears of War 2.  You have to pool your resources together, survive the undead and buy new weapons.  It's good fun for you and some online buddies.  Since the Wii does everything by the friend code, don't expect to be playing anyone familiar (or American).

Death match is still kicking after all these years.  The gameplay is balanced so you can net a few frags at any level and the killstreak bonuses still make it the best multiplayer experience out there.  Some added additions is the ability to buy weapons with currency you gained from winning matches, new classes like Scavenger and the RCXD explosive car.  You can even practice killing bots before you go into a real game.  Is it just me, or could COD totally be a standalone multiplayer?  The Wii only lets 10 people into a match, which makes the levels a little bit like a ghost town, but not for long.  It seems like the Wii nailed more from the multiplayer than the single player.

Where does this FPS fit in the Wii's conservative lineup of FPS's.  Well...this game isn't terrible by any means, but it is going against Metroid Prime 3, Golden Eye and Call of Duty 4.  If you own those games than you probably don't need this one.  If you never played a Call of Duty game than this shouldn't be your first one.  This game is mostly for Call of Duty fanatics and fans who need a reliable death match engine.

Caution:  Treyarch might be thinking that they have the perfect formula, but they also have some serious campaign flaws to work out.  COD Black Ops has a story that edges closely to the realm of silly writing and I fear a sequel might push it over.  How dark can a game get before it is completely unbelievable?

What does it mean?
So what's the big deal about these covert ops type games?  Black Ops netted millions in the release.  There's something special about being given a secret assignment and handling something too heavy.  Just like in the first level where you have to assassinate Castro, your team members are the covert squad who have to do it.  I think men like that kind of responsibility and I think video games seem to be the only outlet for it.  But in reality, we need special squads to help the cause of the homeless.  We need covert teams to push back the enemies of sex trafficking.   We need tier 1 operators to fight off the affects of poverty.  Call of Duty will make any man feel like a hero and a servant to his country, but only God truly calls us to be the few and faithful.  We are not called to stop missiles, kill Castro or lay down suppressing fire, merely to understand that God made us for something special.

The Score Card:
+ Great multiplayer
+ Lots of online replay value
+ Lengthy campaign mode
-You probably don't want this for the Wii if you have a stronger system
- The story needs work
- Corridor shooting gets monotonous

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