Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm Not Yet Dead.

I apologize for neglecting to post reviews (or anything for that matter) recently. Since I've gotten out of school, not much reading has been done. But, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Between waking up mid-afternoon, playing video games, and bothering people on social networking sites (don't forget getting locked out of friend's houses with their dogs), I've been working on a little creative writing project I'm calling Fallen Angels. I'm not going to go into much detail for fear of it coming to little fruition, but I'd like to think of it as a serious attempt of mine to create a worthwhile piece of writing in a long time.
Another thing I'd like to address- my self created schedule. I've been told never to put trust into schedules, since they have a tendency to fall apart at the seams. Nevertheless, I do intend on finishing "Exploits of a Reluctant Hero", but don't be surprised if something else comes up first.
Alright- just checking up on you guys, and hoping you guys are having a good summer so far.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Off Topic: Halo Reach Multiplayer Beta

Halo. The game that single handedly changed the first-person shooter genre and contributed to Microsoft’s Xbox becoming one of the most popular gaming consoles. A hit phenomena, the Halo franchise has “evolved” from video games to books, movies, action figures, and a fan following of epic proportions. After 9 years and 5 game releases, Bungie is close to completing a new game, Halo: Reach, which serves as a prequel to the series. Set on the fictional planet Reach, a testing facility for new weapons and the birthplace of the Spartan super-soldiers, the game depicts the account of Noble Team (a six man squad of Spartan-IIIs), on the day that the hostile alien alliance known as the Covenant arrives for the sole purpose of exterminating every human on the planet. You play as Noble Six, a last minute addition to Noble, and a “lone wolf”.

The Halo games are know primarily for their multiplayer, and to further produce a perfect product, Bungie has released a multiplayer beta for fans to test Reach’s new features and hunt for bugs and glitches to fix. The beta was accessible exclusively for fans who purchased Halo 3: ODST, and seeing as today is its final day, I decided to do a review and commemorate a job well done and get you guys syked for the game’s release in September.

The Beta was released on May 3, and after two and a half hours (damn internets) I finally downloaded it, launched it, and joined my first game.

The play lists consisted of Arena, Free For All, Grab Bag, Network Test 1 (more commonly known as Generator Defense), and Invasion.

-Grab Bag consists of Slayer and Objective game types designed for a four man team. Same old same old.
-Free For All is pretty much a clone of Lone Wolves from Halo 3. Included is Headhunter (Or Sperm Bank as I like to call it); every kill you get earns you a skull, which you deposit at the various territories across the map. Fantastic to play with a group.
-Generator Defense is a new game type, where a team of Spartans defends three generators against a team of Elites who are trying to destroy them. Didn’t play a lot of this, but the few times I did were certainly enjoyable.
-Invasion is another new game type, again where Spartans are defending against the Elites- this time, the Elites have to unlock a Data Core and carry it to a designated spot on the map. After time passes, new Tiers- loadouts (see below) and weapons- become available for both teams. The slayer version of this game is similar to Big Team Slayer, but with the concept of Tiers integrated into it.
-Arena is Bungie’s answer to excessive competitive multiplayer gamers (try saying that three times fast). It’s hard for me to explain it, but it’s almost like playing in a month-long tournament with global rankings and prizes for winners.

New features include Armor Abilities, all of which are extremely well-balanced-
Scout allows you to Sprint
Guardian allows your suit to Lockdown, and you essentially become untouchable for a few seconds;
Stalker turns your suit invisible, but your HUD displays enemies on everyone’s screen;
Airborne gives you a Jetpack.
Elites can Evade instead of sprinting.

Some awesome new weapons include:
The DMR- Battle Rifle without the three round bursts.
The Grenade Launcher- Hold down left trigger to delay the round’s detonation.
The Needle Cannon- Covenant version on the DMR with Needle rounds that don’t seek.
The Plasma Repeater- Plasma Rifle with a higher rate of fire.
The Plasma Cannon- fires plasma grenades that seek your opponent.
The Pulse Rifle- what would happen if you spliced a Sentinel Beam with a Beam Rifle.

Gameplay changes include:
-the return of the Health Pack. Elites health now regenerates.
-the ability to block swords (which can come in handy, believe me).
-more realistic grenade throwing.
-improved physics engine.

Character Customization allows you to purchase new armor upgrades with points you receive after each match, and some new emblems are available to slap on your shoulders. A greater selection will be available in the full game.

All in all, I was very impressed with what the unfinished product looked like already. The experience I was granted makes me glad to be a part of a tight nit community, and I applaud Bungie in all of their efforts to continuously raise the bar in videogame standards.

And, as to no surprise to those who know me, I have already preordered the Legendary Edition of the game. All $150 of it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mini Review: Incognito

Unfortunately, it's hard to find a graphic novel that isn't part of a compilation or anthology. The majority of comics usually have to do with a superhero (or his super buddies) running around saving people and preaching their philosophy of "doing good".

Which, lucky for writers of that genre, I'm a sucker for.

But "Incognito" is different. The main character is an ex supervillan hiding out in Witness Protection, dealing with monotonous life and yearning for the old days of destruction and law-breaking.

Zach Overkill was once a member of a criminal organization known as Black Death, alongside other villains with unnatural abilities. After the death of his twin brother Xander, Zach is picked up by S.O.S (kinda like the super-hero-police-squad) and forced to live a normal life with a job in an office. But after a while, ordinary, boring life begins to drag him down and eventually he begins to return to his roots, meeting many old and villainous acquaintances along the way.

The artwork (done by Sean Phillips) has a 50's noir feel to them, similar to "Watchmen", but doesn't feel like it was taken from the days of "Spider Man" in the Sunday morning cartoons in the paper because the colors aren't as bright. Props go to the plot (by Ed Brubaker) for extremely maintained creative originality and unpredictability.

I found reading "Incognito" very fun, and seeing the world through a sarcastic, disgruntled ex- villain isn't something you do everyday.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SAT: The Aftermath

I was really glad on posting my two newest reviews in such a short time span. I love reading books that way. The hat trick I was hoping for didn't come into fruition, since I'm currently working on an essay for my English III class concerning the Victorian Period. Haven't had much time to read.

On a more interesting note (because I know Timmy doesn't find the idea of an essay very interesting), I took the SAT for my first time yesterday. The essay prompt was perfect- can't tell you what it was (some sort of gag order by the College Board), but I used "Thirteen Reasons Why" as an example to support my thesis. Granted, I ended up only writing 232 words and filling up only one of the two pages provided, but I felt good about it.

So tomorrow, as a few of my followers know, is the commencement of the Halo Reach Multiplayer Beta. Most likely I will be spending all of the spare time I can gather playing this, so if you guys don't hear from me in three weeks time, you'll know why. This may sounds silly, but I am eager to be a part of something as special and monumental as this (it is NOT just a video game. Haters).

The forecast in store for you guys is the eventual reading and reviewing (R&Ring) of "Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero" by Maureen Fergus. Looks promising, but I've learned not to judge a book by its cover.

Hahaha...Ok, enough of my lame book jokes.

Look for my sign...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: "Thirteen Reasons Why"

How would you react if you thought someone you knew was feeling suicidal? Would you try and help them? Attempt to dissuade them? Or would you shrug it off, deeming it as an elegant attempt at attention?

One day after school, Clay Jensen returns home to find a package addressed to him sitting on his doorstep. When he opens it, he finds insides seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker- a girl at his school who committed suicide a few weeks earlier. On the tapes, she explains her decision to take her own life with thirteen reasons, each involving thirteen people. In one night, Clay's life is changed forever as he is sent on a journey traversing Crestmont, California, uncovering the secret suffering of a troubled, lonely girl.

If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would have to be sobering. A major theme of this book is the snowball effect; how every action you take has a reaction, every decision has its consequence. Jay Asher does a very good job on effectively portraying the voice of a young girl spending her final moments telling her story.

I read this book in a matter of two days- not because it was boring, or I wanted to get through it like "Witch and Wizard". The only reason I finished it so quickly was that it was next to impossible to put it down. I do remember putting it down twice in between a few games on Matchmaking (I was downloading several torrents, so naturally it would take longer than usual), but that was it. I feel like a bad person because I can't give it the lengthy, in depth review it deserves.

So if your in the mood for a sobering, realistic story about loss, heartbreak, betrayal, and reconciliation, "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher (his first book, by the way) is the best choice for you.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review: "Witch & Wizard"

First of all, I'd like to say I respect James Patterson for being a successful and disciplined author what with all the novels he has published. I have read a few of his Alex Cross novels, and almost all of the "Maximum Ride" books.

"Witch and Wizard" takes place in a reality where America has been taken over by an organization known as the New Order. This totalitarian faction (ruled by some shady guy who calls himself “The One Who Is The One”) has essentially outlawed free speech, habeas corpus, and other “creature comforts” of the Free World. Two siblings, Wisty and Whit Allgood, are woken up in the middle of the night by soldiers and forcibly removed from their parents and their home on charges of being a Witch and Wizard. They are found guilty without a trial, and taken to a jail solely occupied by children. After a short amount of time (literally two chapters) they escape in search of their parents and the means to rebel against the New Order.

The idea of children fighting the government appeals to me, but I found this book extremely uninteresting. I began to skim after I reached the halfway mark just to get it over with, and the only reason I read to the halfway mark was because I was hoping things would heat up later on.

Needless to say, I was disappointed.

This book is loaded with flaws- it’s written on a 5th grade reading level, the characters are annoying and unbelievable, and the themes hang like humidity on an uncomfortable summer day.

Towards the end of the book, there’s this lame-ass prophecy which reads:

“One day soon, kids will run the world...and do a better job than the grown- ups ever did.”

Seriously? You shitting me? This has got to be the worst prophecy I’ve ever heard of! It doesn’t even sound like an omnipotent being predicting the future. More like a child with delusions of grandeur.

When reading the characters talk and interact, it feels as if they’re all basically the same person. I get the impression that Patterson either is extremely out of touch with today’s youth or has forgotten his own childhood and hasn’t realized that even kids today don’t act or talk like they do EXCEPT in his books.

In “The Final Warning”, the fourth Maximum Ride book, the theme of Global Warming stunk like a rotten egg. This time, it’s the idea of people with power end up corrupted. I’m all for literature as a means to get a message across, but when I’m reading about magical children or human beings with bird wings, you can tell I’m not interesting in politics.

“Witch and Wizard” is yet another cookie-cutter novel from Patterson as a means of income as opposed to trying to write a good book. If you honestly feel the need to read it, I advise you fight it with every ounce of your willpower.

Trust me on this one.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Follow Up: Kick Ass

So tonight I saw the movie adaptation with my friends, and I find it fitting for me to say a few words about it.

It started out just as the graphic novel did, and stuck to it for more than half. Then the ending came, and it's as if Hollywood became the annoying friend no one really likes. They listen to their ideas only to shut them up. They included a romance plot and gave the ending lots of blood and explosions. Granted, it was more entertaining than the original, but at times a bit ridiculous.

Let's just say there was a whole jetpack-flying-over-the-city scene that was (let's be honest) gay.

Overall, I think people who haven't read the novel will enjoy the movie more than the people who did. I felt cheated out of the ending scene when Hit Girl didn't say her best line in the story. (Not gonna include it. It's kinda a spoiler.)