Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Archive for February, 2010

Be Sure To Join The Forum

Today marks the one-week anniversary of our forum opening up shop and we’ve already accrued a healthy roster of people posting on a wide variety of topics.

Please drop by and register, we’d love to have you aboard!

Alternate Panel of the Week

Alternative Panel of the WeekThere. An attempt to re-focus the panel of the week onto something not related to Power Girl or psuedo-bondage. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, in fact they kind of rock.)

Ronin’s Gaming Reviews: Bioshock II

“Daddy won’t you please come home…”

Bioshock 2
Bioshock 2

Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360
Preferred platform: Whatever’s your fancy.

Notable tropes:
Videogame Caring Potential
Videogame Cruelty Potential

Whenever I ask someone why they play videogames, a very common answer is because “it’s an escape from reality.” I for one agree with this answer. Although a strangeness occurs whenever you are placed into a reality and your character is looking to escape. We leave our world and become engrossed in a new realm, whether it be a wasteland, dystopia, or other abominable setting that any sane person would want to leave immediately, and yet we want to stay as long as we can. Rapture is one of these places. The hidden, underwater world of Andrew Ryan welcomes all to its arm with the promise of unlocking true potential without the hands of the government or church holding us back. That is, before SCIENCE! went rampant and genetic modification forced its residents to risk their sanity for progress and survival. Forced Social Darwinism is a bitch.

But then again, anyone who played the first Bioshock knows this. When Bioshock 2 was announced, needless to say the palms of many fans began to sweat. Will it live up to the first? Is it being handled differently? Will it trade storytelling prowess for a multiplayer mode? Everyone who played the original can remember their first contact with Rapture’s disfigured splicers, the hulking Big Daddies, the seemingly innocent Little Sisters, and other enigmatic characters. Ask anyone that has completed Bioshock the meaning of “Would you kindly…” and instantly they are able to answer you, as if the phrase had been permanently etched into the walls of their mind. People were left wondering if a return to Rapture would be able to recapture the rapture of Rapture. ( >_> ). My experience with Bioshock 2 left me just as entertained as the first game, although for different reasons.

In the first game you played as the silent protagonist Jack, seeking answers for why he had arrived in a mysterious setting. In the second game you play as Subject Delta, the original Big Daddy on a search for his lost daughter. Some saw this as an odd change in the format of characters. Previously, a human thrown into an unfamiliar world and now a seasoned, lumbering powerhouse? The fact is that Delta is just as relatable a character for the gamer, and a natural progressing exists between the two character. Originally I thought of the two characters as representing a slave and a master, but upon further reflection I’ve come up with another conclusion. In Bioshock, you play the part of the child. In Bioshock 2, you play the part of the father.

(Bioshock 1 plot spoilers follow (even though you should now this already) and end at the next paragraph).
In the first game, you found yourself (unknowingly) being lead around, force to comply with your master. You were just recently brought into this world, and forced to rely on a more powerful figure in order to survive. In order to grow more powerful, you need only be selfish and reap your rewards, or be selfless and wait for mother to reward you. In the second game, you found yourself in a familiar world. You know the evils that plague this world, you set your own goals, and you must sacrifice. In order to progress you must adopt the Little Sisters, look after them, and protect them.

Generally speaking, Bioshock 2 is much of the same that was the in the original, but mostly, every gameplay aspect has improved by some degree. Depending on who you are this can be a good or bad thing. If you were expecting something completely different in the sequel, you may be disappointed. Andrew Ryan, the believer in the greater individual, is replaced with Sofia Lamb, the believer in the greater society. Weapons are new, but each one ultimately possess the same function as its similar counterpart from the original. The original plasmids return, but they have been overhauled with new functions and ranks. The best news is that you can dual wield weapons and plasmids so you no longer have to switch between the two. Combat is rebalanced so that there isn’t as much dissonance between overpowered and underpowered plasmids like the first one.

The thing I think I liked the most was the handling of the return to Rapture. I’ll be the first to admit that the first Bioshock was certainly a frightful experienced. I’m not ashamed to say that I was damn hesitant on leaving the bathysphere you use to first arrive in the original game. It is only natural however, that some of that fear is gone in the second game if you are a returning player. You’ve experienced the dark and wet corridors, you’ve battled splicers and Big Daddies, you seen the antics warranted in any horror game. It was a challenge posed to the developers to make sure that anyone returning to Rapture wouldn’t find themselves totally desensitized to the mysterious locale. The immediate answer is to simply throw in as many horror clichés as you can. Things popping around corners, shadowy figures speeding across your view, and other cheap frights. But the way it was handled in Bioshock 2 was completely relevant and involved in the world that nothing seemed out of place.

The problem with reviewing a sequel is that you must account for people who haven’t yet played the first game. Bioshock 2 is a game that is perfectly fine played alone, from a gameplay and story standpoint. But when it comes to personal satisfaction I couldn’t recommend both games hard enough. Bioshock can be picked up for $20.00 or lower, so if you had to choose between the two, I would recommend playing the original Bioshock first, then pick up the second whenever you have the time and/or money. These two games are much a part of the same experience and should be played in their entirety.

Verdict: This is one of those games that I feel is genuinely good. Not one of those games that I feel you need to have a certain mindset, or genre appreciation to enjoy. While there may not be any mindset needed to enjoy Bioshock 2, there are some mindsets that may prevent enjoyment. And that isn’t completely not a total non-contradiction. This is definitely a product that can be hampered by over-hype and high expectations. The breakdown is this: If you like the first game, you will probably like the second. If you really, really like the first one, there’s a chance you won’t like the second one. If you didn’t like the first one, there’s a chance you’ll like the second one. If you really, really didn’t like the first one, you probably won’t like the second one.

Hell and I didn’t even talk about the multiplayer. Oh yeah, I forgot that existed. Oh, not because it isn’t very good or anything, but because I was completely overwhelmed by the single player mode just like the first one. Did you hear that online community? Adding multiplayer doesn’t not automatically make a game worse because “now they’ll just be diverting time and resources.” *rabble rabble*

Panel of the Week

POTW 7From Wonder Woman # 41

Okay, I’m getting the feeling that this Panel of the Week thing might just turn into a recurring shrine to Power Girl….

Ronin’s Gaming Reviews : Dante’s Inferno

Let’s kick this of with something that Reverend will surely hate…

Dante's Inferno
Dante’s Inferno.

Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360
Preferred platform: PS3 (For the special edition that costs the same amount as the 360’s standard edition)

Notable tropes:

Rule of Cool
Large Ham

And then there was that time that Dante from the crusades killed the Grim Reaper with his own scythe before returning home to find his wife dead, her soul stolen by Lucifer to make his bride, and he had to descend through the nice circles of Hell and fight some crazy shit with holy magic and wicked scythe attacks…

Okay, so maybe the Dante in this game isn’t the poet Dante Alighieri that we’re familiar with, and maybe the game does take a few (read: more than a few) liberties when it comes to the story, and maybe a bit of the gameplay is derivative of God of War (read: more than a bit), but the fact remains that I had a load of fun with this game. I made Death beg for his life, I severed the heads of Cerberus, I strode atop Phlegyas, and fucked up the City of Dis. I traversed the nine circles of Hell and flipped Satan the bird. Okay, so that last one wasn’t in game, but that’s how immersed I was in Hell for the ten or so hours I spent with the game.

Although the experience was by no means a lengthy one (I’m looking at you 100+ hours logged at Fallout 3), it was an enjoyable time similar to what I’ve come to expect from modern action games. It becomes one of those experiences that you become locked within the brutality. Your senses become dulled to anything that doesn’t involve the damned souls of Hell. The problem is that this feeling becomes necessary if you wish to thoroughly enjoy the game. Dante’s Inferno falls into the pitfall that besets many games: The fact that what you get in the beginning is also what you get in the middle and end. If you tire of the combat that the game has to offer in a hurry, you’re in for a bit of disappointment.

Though the player is able to spend souls he gathers to upgrade his weapons, armor, and skills, (what the hell hero?) your playing experience won’t dramatically shift. This upgrading is done through to multi-tiered, two branch system of the Holy and Unholy. Throughout the game you find famous historical sinners strewn about hell, waiting for you to absolve or condemn them. Absolve and you are granted points that unlock more powerful Holy skills with which to spend your hard earned souls. These are mostly related to upgrading your cross (your partner weapon along with the scythe that shoots out holy pew pews of light). Condemn and you are granted points that unlock more powerful Unholy skills. These are mostly related to upgrading your scythe. The slight problem with this is that any sane person would choose to either condemn all the souls, or absolves all the souls in order to max out their tech tree. This means that one of your two weapons will be much more useful than the other and the un-upgraded one will be unused except for the occasional situational moments. The solution to this problem is that once you finish the game, you are able to start a new game with your skills carried over. This way you can have one nice guy play through, and one total dick play through and end up maximizing your skills.

A good deal of enjoyment from this game comes from its scenery. As you begin your decent you see the world of the living begin to crumble and give way to the opening bowels of Hell. Countless condemned souls woven into the architecture as punishment. While the enemies encountered aren’t particularly numerous, you meet unique designs as you conquer each circle. The battered souls of Limbo. The temptresses of Lust featuring clawed appendages sprouting from the womb. The disgust spewing Gluttons. Also, demons and stuff. This game set out to shock its audience and it succeeded. No matter how hardened a gamer has become over the years there will be something that will cause you to grimace in this game, and this is coming from someone who once introduced someone’s face to a drill press as the Punisher.

This is a game for someone who is looking for brutal uncomplicated combat. It is for the person who complains that that other game doesn’t have enough blood and gore. It is for the person who feels that a game cannot shock them. I know some of you might be saying, “But Ronin, Isn’t this game just a clone of God of War?” I say, sure, why not, it doesn’t make the game’s experience play out any differently. If it’s fun, it’s fun. “But won’t this style of copying just encourage developer to not think on their own and just copy successful game models?” Maybe, but if a game is different enough that I can still play it, I’m okay with it. And when the developers of the game that was “copied” see the product in front of them, the ball is in their court to kick it up a notch. I have no doubt in my mind that God of War 3 may end up being a wholly better game, but that’s good for them. Competition can breed better games. That’s right, I’m all Republican up in this bitch with my games.

Verdict: If anything I have said above slightly interests you, I would recommend playing this game. Now that doesn’t mean I necessarily mean purchasing it. Now that doesn’t mean go pirate this game, I hate those fuckers. I mean that this one definitely warrants a rental or preview. With a demo available it shouldn’t be too hard for someone to make their own impression. Honestly, I’d recommend trying the demo before anything else. A lot about a game like this can be seen in a demo. If you find yourself tiring of the combat before you finish the demo, that may be a sign that this is not a game for you.

Damn, I thought I said this shit was going to be concise. Rev does a movie review in 400 words or less while I ramble about tech trees and demonic vagina claws. And barely any sarcasm, I am ashamed of myself.

Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

Hey, guess what? I read some books! Just like last week? Aren’t I unpredictable? But seriously folks, I got my books yesterday, though about six hours later than usual so I actually stayed up late reading comic books to ensure that I would be able to get this post up in a reasonably timely manner. You guys should send me a gift basket.

CAPTAIN SWING #1 (OF 4) 3.99
CHOKER #1 (MR) 3.99
DEADPOOL #20 2.99
GI JOE TP VOL 02 19.99
MS MARVEL #50 3.99
SUPERMAN #697 2.99
THOR #607 SIEGE 2.99
X-FACTOR #202 2.99
X-MEN LEGACY #233 XN 2.99

That’s a pretty healthy haul. So what did I think?

ASM 622

For the last few week’s I’ve really been boosting up ASM as a book. I think it’s been consistantly good and that the naysayers have been blinded by their own biases. This issue however is a bit of a mixed bag, in that the lead story with Morbius is actually quite fun if a tad on the light side, not actually being full length and thus appearing somewhat rushed, while the second story with Flash Thompson is just sort of a discombobulated mess.

I am willing to bet that the secondary tale is in there because they need to quickly set up Flash’s new status quo for when he inevitably comes back into the fold of the supporting cast on a regular basis. It feels like the writing team’s attempt to get us re-aquainted with Flash and let us know that by featuring him in such a beefy role in what amounts to a backup story, he must be important enough to care about. Continuity wise, at least.

Like I said, the issue is a mixed bag, but it’s only a slight hiccup in the road as far as I’m concerned, because it’s a one-off story meant to act as an interlude anyhow. I don’t blame them for trying to cram some exposition in there that might have gotten cut short if it were rammed into an ongoing storyline. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…Amazing Spider-Man.

Choker # 1

It’s like Sin City meets Blade Runner with enough of the classic Marlowe noir not to feel cheap. Choker is Ben McCool’s debut creator-owned story and damned if he didn’t knock it out of the park with this first issue. The dialogue is crisp and feels as solid as noir dialogue can, which admittedly can sometimes come off as really cheesy. Remember Frank Miller’s script for The Spirit? Yeah, it’s nothing like that.

I’ve admitted that I’m not normally a fan of Ben Templesmith. His artwork is hard to critique because any complaints can be attributed to his wanting to add a sense of style. And luckily, in the case of this book, the style works. Whereas I felt it actually hindered the story in something like 30 Days of Night, here it feels like any other type of art style would have seemed…off.

Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I’m always telling people that there’s great new stuff out there and this is no exception. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you pass it up.

Captain Swing

Speaking of original material, fuck you Warren Ellis. How the living hell do you manage to crank out so many titles in such short periods of time, and all of them be thoroughly entertaining? Where is your off month? When do I get to read something from you that sucks. That would be a surprise. I would actually be shocked if I picked up an Ellis book and didn’t like it. The man has such a vivid sense of world-building and setting that he could tell an infinite number of stories simply by interchanging the characters and plots from his different endeavors into each other’s locales. In this case, we get a pre-industrial revolution London in the time of the formation of the Metropolitan Police (aka the “Met”) and a mysterious steampunk villain(?) who fires electric bullets and cavorts around town in a flying airship.

Once again, fuck you Warren Ellis. You creative prick.

Ms. Marvel Finale

It pains me to say that reading this final issue of Ms. Marvel, I understand why it’s going away. When your grand finale is so astoundingly anti-climactic that it makes the reader’s chest hurt, you probably should thank your lucky stars that you made it to issue 50. Now, I’ve followed this title since # 1, and I’ve tried to get people on board, because I think that it’s been a really damn good title for the majority of the run. But I see the final arc as sort of a missed opportunity. It seemed…I guess rushed is as good a word as any. Like this is all Brian Reed could come up with because the weight of delivering a final issue was weighing on him so heavily.

The backup story is passable. I’m not a big Noh Varr fan, so it didn’t speak to me on any real level. But something tells me that what happened there will come into play whenever they decide to focus a little more on that character. At least when that happens I’ll be prepared.

Overall, this would have been a fine issue were it not the grand finale. In that sense, it feels like a bit of a misfire.

Wonder Woman 41
Wonder Woman # 41

It’s an extended Power Girl cameo, how the hell do you think I felt about it?


And that’s it for this week, join us next time when I aim to be even more passive aggressive.

Introducing Our New Contributor, RoninJD

This Man's Ego > Your Shame

My brother has a borderline addiction to videogames. Rather than attempting to cure this, I have put him on staff here at CCQ as our resident gaming blogger. He will update us with his opinions (which he will claim to be facts) on newly released games, and perhaps even the occaisional older game that everyone has forgotten about.

He’s on the forum, so feel free to hassle him about his shit on there. Because that’s how forums work.