Game Review: Mass Effect

With Mass Effect 2 on the horizon, I doubt anybody really cares about my thoughts regarding the original title. After all, we’re talking about a game that was released way back in November 2007, and by now, anybody that had any remote interest in the game has already played it through numerous times and has since put the game back on the shelf to collect layer upon layer of beautiful dust.

More like "Ass Effect", am I right?

More like "Ass Effect", am I right?

Fortunately for you, dear reader, I simply don’t give a damn that this review is woefully out of date. Yes, much like my notoriously late Fallout 3 review, I’m gonna tell you what I thought of the game anyway, simply because I can …

That is, if I can finally decide what I actually thought about the game.

You see, Mass Effect is a tough nut to crack … it did so many things awesomely right, while at the same time doing so many things terribly wrong, that it all blends together to form some sort of bizarre mutant hybrid of good and evil that, despite its flaws, you simply have to see all the way to the very end. You know, like Bob Saget doing stand-up.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are a few things that I particularly liked and disliked about Mass Effect:

The Incredible Detail of Commander Shepard

If there’s one thing Mass Effect got right, it was the game’s protagonist, Commander Shepard (especially compared to the generic Lone Wanderer found in Fallout 3). On the surface he’s pretty much your run-of-the-mill Bald Space Marine, but through a combination of remarkably competent voice acting and the subtle effects of the initial character creation that can be found throughout the entire game, Commander Shepard really comes to life.

Don't let the generic look fool you.

Don't let the generic look fool you.

While not very in-depth, the choices made at the start of the game regarding Shepard’s upbringing and military history really flesh out his background and provide an additional layer to the game’s narrative. There are no amnesia-riddled angsty teens here — people are well aware of Shepard’s past and will bring it up on numerous occasions through the game, opening up new dialogue options, cinematics, and mission objectives based on what you decided had happened to him before the story begins. This level of detail really gives the impression that this is a living, breathing character who belongs in this world — and not just some random jerk that they pulled off the street to play the role of “hero”.

The Empty Husks of the Other Characters

Outside of Commander Shepard, however, I never really gave six shits about any of the other characters found throughout the game. In particular, Garrus, Wrex, and Tali all join your party within a few minutes of one another near the start of the game — but I’m thinking, who the hell are these people (er, aliens) and why did they decide to join me? The game spends so little time introducing you to these characters before they become part of your squad that it is truly impossible to care for them or understand their goals / motivations.

Yeah, you look cool, but why are you following me?

Yeah, you look cool, but why are you following me?

Of course, I can already hear the fanboys whining that everything you need to know about the characters can be gleamed from the completely optional (and tremendously boring) conversations aboard the Normandy between missions. While this is somewhat true, it would have been much more effective to show the stories and personalities of these characters through action rather than words by having them more actively involved in the main story missions. Only once does this really happen (the scene where Wrex freaks out on Virmire) — a little more of that sort of thing would have been greatly appreciated.

Spectacular Graphics — Most of the Time

Even on my small, non-HD television, it’s easy to see that Mass Effect has incredible graphics. Well, after they’ve completely loaded, that is. Then again, seeing the layers of detail appear one after another as the game loads the environment does provide an interesting glimpse into how the designers created the characters and worlds …

Driving in Space — Not Nearly as Fun as You’d Think

While the main story missions are a lot of fun, the sidequests are … well … not so much. The first step of nearly every sidequest is to land on an uncharted planet and drive your awesome looking tank, the Mako, across the most boring terrain ever conceived by a video game developer. Seriously, each planet consists of a single colour of rock and nothing but bumpy, jagged mountains. No rivers, no trees, no animals, no caves, no lakes of fiery magma … nothing. I suppose they are uncolonized planets for a reason, but still, the driving sections really sucked a lot of the fun out of Mass Effect simply because they were so mind-numbingly boring, tedious, and utterly lacking in the lush detail found throughout the rest of the game.

Looks like fun, right? WRONG.

Looks like fun, right? WRONG.

Of course, what happens when finally climb over that jagged-ass mountain and reach your destination?

Research Outposts — Now Available in Bulk Orders!

Well, on each planet there is either a research outpost, a lab, or a mine. The first time you reach one of these structures, it’s pretty neat. The next time you reach one, however, you get this very uncomfortable sense of deja vu. Wasn’t I already here, you ask yourself? Would BioWare actually be so lame as to actually recycle the floorplan for every single research outpost in the game? Yes. Yes they would.

Perhaps there is a single trusted supplier of research outposts and mining structures that all mercenaries and scientists in the galaxy feel compelled to purchase from, lest they be mocked and heckled by their peers? Or maybe the intergalactic Martha Stewart has discovered the ultimated, undeniable feng shui layout for research outposts?

If there is any upside to the tedious and repetitive nature of these sidequests, it’s that knowing the layout of each type of structure ahead of time made the battles much quicker and easier, since you already knew exactly where the enemies would come from and where the crates would be with which to take cover. Not that the battle system needed to be made much easier, mind you …

The World’s Greatest Elevator Simulator!

Do you like elevators? I mean, do you really like elevators? Then you’ll love Mass Effect, where loading times between areas are “masked” (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) behind thrilling elevator journeys! Can you feel the excitement? BECAUSE I CAN!

This image is actually burned into my TV.

This image is actually burned into my TV.

Yes, the game has its flaws (and I didn’t even get into the incredibly frustrating inventory system, or the fact that money is pretty much useless throughout the entire game, or the fact that the game isn’t as long or as open-ended as you’re led to believe). But despite these flaws, I still found Mass Effect to be a very enjoyable adventure. The story was solid (and easily accessible for people like myself who aren’t massive sci-fi nerds), the combat was acceptable (albeit rather repetitive at times), and the method of navigating through dialogue trees was extremely intuitive. Plus, it actually had a climactic ending with a decent final battle (unlike the letdown that was the final chapter of Fallout 3), so that already bumps it up a few points in my book.

In conclusion, Mass Effect gets a definite thumbs up from me. Now, which ancient game will I unearth and review next?

The NHL Off-Season: No Rest for the Wicked

The long, arduous playoff journey has come to an end, and when the final buzzer sounded it was Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins who emerged victorious as the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.

Make no mistake, congratulations are certainly are in order. After all, the Pens did defeat a very solid Detroit Red Wings team, and did so after falling behind in the series 2-0 after a couple of bad bounces in Joe Louis Arena. They displayed their testicular fortitude (although admittedly not as much as Nicklas Lidstrom) by not backing down and ultimately persevering when they could have simply rolled over and quit against nearly impossible odds.

Yeah, that's nice. Now get back to work, slacker!

Yeah, that's nice. Now get back to work, slacker!

But you know what? All of that is completely and utterly irrelevant. The 2009 NHL season is but a distant memory now, a faint speck of recollection drifting toward the horizon of foggy reminiscence. Indeed, Pens fans, it’s time to stop living in the past — because the 2010 season starts in just over one week’s time!

Football teams get an entire week off between games. Hockey teams get two weeks off between entire seasons.

That’s right. Party’s over. Get the Cup out of Mario’s pool, because with the Draft coming up next weekend and the insanity of Free Agency only two weeks away, there’s a hell of a lot of work to be done.

So many questions to be answered, all with a massive impact on next year …

  • In which city will Dany Heatley continue be a one-dimensional, whiny little bitch? Will Jason Spezza cry himself to sleep once Heatley is finally traded?
  • Who will the Islanders select first overall? John Tavares or Victor Hedman? Or will Garth Snow continue the fine Long Island tradition of trading away can’t-miss prospects for a dozen pucks and a sack of magic beans?
  • Which GM will foolishly overpay for the likes of Mike Cammalleri and the Sedin twins?
  • Will Vincent Lecavalier get traded at the Draft? Even if he doesn’t, he should show up in Montreal wearing a Habs hat, you know, just to mess with the Montreal media. That would be fun.
  • Will Ty Conklin sign with the Boston Bruins, since they are hosting the 2010 Winter Classic? I mean, you can’t have an outdoor game without Conklin, right? It’s in the rulebook, I’m pretty sure.
Ty Conklin loves playing in outdoor games almost as much as he loves losing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Ty Conklin loves playing in outdoor games almost as much as he loves losing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

  • Just what exactly will Brian Burke do during his first summer with the Maple Leafs? Will he move up in the Draft? Will he sign a big name free agent? Will he make Justin Pogge cry?
  • Will any free agents actually want to come to Montreal, knowing full well they’ll have to play for Jacques Martin? Oh, wait … no free agents wanted to play for the Habs before Martin took over, either. My mistake.
  • Will Marian Hossa sign a deal with Pittsburgh, believing that they now offer him the best chance to win the Stanley Cup?
  • Will Marian Gaborik tear his groin simply by answering the phone on July 1?
  • What type of Reebok-sponsored abominations will various teams unveil for this year’s crop of alternate jerseys?
Somebody actually thought this was a good idea. And they got paid for it.

Somebody actually thought this was a good idea. And they got paid for it.

And those are only a handful of the pressing issues that teams across the league have to contend with over the next couple of weeks. Indeed, it seems as though the NHL season truly never ends (well, I suppose there is that dry patch in August when all of the big name free agents have already been scooped up and the only players left are guys like Anson Carter). But really, as a hockey fan, you gotta love it. It sure beats watching MLB highlights on SportsCentre, that’s for damn sure.

The Lost World Dinosaur Killcount Showdown

The Scene: Isla Sorna, Costa Rica. In particular, InGen Site B — the breeding ground /research facility for the dinosaurs that would ultimately end up at the infamous Jurassic Park.

The Participants: A bunch of awesome dinosaurs and dozens of tasty people (albeit mostly of the generic variety).

The Question: Which dinosaur from The Lost World is truly the most effective prehistoric killing machine?

The Methodology: Each encounter (defined as “an edible foe being easily within reach”) will be scored as either a “KILL” or a “MISS” by our panel of judges. Half-points may be awarded for effort or merit, where applicable. Final scores for each prehistoric creature will be tabulated in a manner similar to a batting average in baseball, with additional adjudicator commentary as required.

Allez cuisine!

Compsognathus

Isn't he adorable?

Isn't he adorable?

An curious little creature that is just slightly larger than a chicken, compsognathus can hardly be considered an intimidating foe. While widely thought to be nothing more than a jackal-esque scavenger, it is a viciously aggressive little bastard that travels in packs, meaning that when it does hunt, it has overwhelming numbers on its side.

Its critics maintain that its puny size makes it ill-equipped for a tournament of this nature, but many supporters believe that the compy’s quickness and strength in numbers can triumph over its diminutive stature. So, just how effective of a killing machine was compsognathus?

  • 1/2 KILL — Cathy, the spoiled little rich girl on the beach. While a mere child should be no match for a freakin’ dinosaur, the compy starts the competition on the wrong foot by merely wounding the girl instead of completely devouring her. Partial credit for inflicting injury shall be awarded, however. 0.5 for 1.
  • MISS — Dieter in the forest. Proving to be braver beyond its size, a single compsognathus gets up close and personal with the dude that always gets cast in movies when you need a generic Russian or Swede or German. Unfortunately, it just stands there like an idiot until it gets zapped by Dieter’s cattle prod. Uh, you’re doing it wrong. 0.5 for 2.
  • KILL — Dieter in the forest, part II — The Revenge. While it was extended struggle, it must be noted that the compy does not possess the one-hit killing power of its larger brethren. As such, there shall be no deductions or penalties as a result of not immediately killing Dieter the first time he is jumped by the pack. 1.5 for 3.

FINAL TALLY: 1.5 for 3 (0.500 killing average).
Emphasizing teamwork over individual glory, the compsognathus has proven itself to be an adapt warrior capable of taking down prey several times its size. While it needs to work on its consistency, there’s no reason to believe that this “little dino that could” won’t make a big name for itself in this legendary sport.

Tyrannosaurus

If you close the blinds, he can't see you. True story.

If you close the blinds, he can't see you. True story.

The reigning heavyweight champion of Jurassic Park, the mighty tyrannosaur is eager to defend its title. While it still brings incredible size, massive serrated teeth, and brutally powerful jaws to the competition, like any good champion, it knows that it can’t simply rest on its laurels and hope to emerge victorious once again. That’s why the tyrannosaurus comes to this year’s event with a nasty new parental defensive instinct and a pimped-out sense of smell — perhaps the best olfactory senses this side of the turkey vulture.

While it still has the same glaring weaknesses as before, including useless forelimbs and poor eyesight, they sure as hell didn’t stop the T-Rex from taking the title before. But that was on Isla Nublar — how well will it fare on Isla Sorna?

  • MISS — Nick and Sarah as they carry the wounded baby tyrannosaur back to the trailer. Yes, we understand that it was injured, but in this type of competition, you have to be able to play through the pain. Instead of crying like a little bitch, how about you try clawing or scratching or biting at the stupid humans as they kidnap you? Just a thought. 0 for 1.
  • MISS — Sarah outside the trailer. After putting a cast on the broken leg of the Baby Rex, Sarah opens up the trailer door and places the infant at the feet of its parents, who are just standing there politely at the door like a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Come on, the chick is right there under your nose! Devour her! Could the T-Rex already be choking under the pressure of defending its title? 0 for 2.
  • 1/2 KILL — The car and the trailer. Realizing how badly it screwed up, the T-Rex goes apeshit (dinoshit?) on an assortment of vehicles. While they can’t be scored as kills (since a car is not alive, of course), a half-point is awarded for mass destruction. 0.5 for 3.
  • KILL — Eddie in the car. Putting the shame of not being able to eat Tim and Lex behind, the tyrannosaur finally snacks on somebody inside a vehicle … and it tastes good. 1.5 for 4.
  • MISS — Sarah and Kelly in the tent. Demonstrating its awesome dino-ninja capabilities, the tyrannosaur somehow sneaks into the human camp unnoticed and pokes its head into the ladies’ tent. While Kelly makes a bunch of noise and squirms around, undoubtedly drawing attention to herself, the T-Rex is apparently not a fan of dark meat and decides not to put the child out of her misery. 1.5 for 5.
  • KILL — Some generic InGen grunt during the chase sequence. While the T-Rex prefers the taste of blood on the tip of its tongue, it’s not averse to just squashing some poor bugger under its massive feet when the opportunity arises. 2.5 for 6.
  • MISS — Everybody else during the chase sequence. The T-Rex can run nearly as fast as a moving vehicle — this fact has been established on several occasions. So why can’t it chase down a disorganized mob of half-asleep people who are very slowly fleeing for their lives? Pundits are already questioning as to whether the tyrannosaur let its cardio slip during the off-season. 2.5 for 7.
  • KILL — Dr. Burke in the waterfall, who decided that a snake was more of a threat than a pissed-off dinosaur. Bad move, buddy. 3.5 for 8.
  • MISS — Everybody else in the waterfall. The tyrannosaur could taste victory — literally — but it couldn’t push itself (or at the very least, its tongue) those last few inches to finish the job. Plus, it was completely oblivious to the location of Dr. Malcolm, who must have been riding on the dinosaur’s back based on how quickly he got into the waterfall once the T-Rex pulled its head out of the cave. 3.5 for 9.
  • MISS — The police officers and security guards fleeing from the boat. The tyrannosaur half-heartedly lunges at one of them, but the officer dives off the dock and into the water just before the T-Rex can get its jaws around him. Close, but no cigar. 3.5 for 10.
  • KILL — The family dog. Yeah, it’s an easy kill, but at this point, the defending champ will take any points it can get. 4.5 for 11.
  • 1/2 KILL — The bus and its passengers. Frustrated with the way the game is going, the T-Rex smashes the hell out of a city bus. As an unexpected bonus, when it rams the side of the vehicle, several people go flying through the windows, undoubtedly causing numerous lacerations and broken bones. While the full extent of the casualties is unknown, this type of damage is easily worth a half-point. 5 for 12.
  • MISS — The rest of the people in the city. While the T-Rex can clearly run as fast as bus when he wants to, a stampede of terrified people once again proves to be too much for the big dinosaur to handle. Perhaps too much motion is overloading its tiny little brain? 5 for 13.
  • KILL — The unlucky bastard in front of the store. Tired of chasing people around the block, the T-Rex goes for the easy kill by scarfing down some schmuck who thought running into a wall would be a good escape route. 6 for 14.
  • KILL — Peter Ludlow, the nephew of John Hammond, in the boat. A truly touching moment in the history of parenthood as Big Rex lets Baby Rex finish the job. 7 for 15.

FINAL TALLY: 7 for 15 (0.467 killing average).
While the T-Rex still put up some impressive numbers, scoring a total of seven points, it doesn’t come close to reaching the impressive 0.600 average that it scored on Isla Nublar. At some points, it looked as though Big Rex’s heart simply wasn’t in it. Has the champ run out of gas? Is the “big dino” era of supremacy finally coming to an end? These questions will dog the tyrannosaur throughout the off-season if it doesn’t come home with the gold.

Velociraptor

Clever girl.

Clever girl.

The velociraptor. According to some, it is nature’s greatest killing machine. However, like the San Jose Sharks choking in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it fared extremely poorly in the first Jurassic Park Killcount Showdown. Now, it hungers for redemption and is determined to defeat all comers and claim the title.

Make no mistake, it is definitely a creature to be feared due to its cunning intellect, incredible agility, and razor-sharp claws. But are those strengths enough to put it over the top and forget about the past?

  • 6x KILL — The generic InGen guys in the tall grass. As far as quick starts go, this is one for the record books, as the velociraptor ruthlessly demonstrates its hunting prowess, brutal speed, and savage killing power. 6 for 6.
  • MISS — Sarah in the compound. Sarah’s backpack takes the brunt of the impact, but that does not excuse the fact that, for whatever reason, the raptor decided to tear at the bag instead of the fleshy bits located only a few inches above the leather and canvas. 6 for 7.
  • 3x MISS — Dr. Malcolm in the compound. During the tall grass sequence, the raptors were silent, efficient killers that could pick off a half-dozen men in mere seconds. Why then, during three separate incidents, does a velociraptor pause mere inches from Dr. Malcolm’s face in order to bare its teeth or hiss at him before going for the kill? Showboating has its time and place, but your selfish actions are only putting your team in jeopardy and reflect very poorly on raptor-kind in general. 6 for 10.
  • MISS — Kelly, as she attempts to crawl through a hole to the other side of a wall (where there are obviously no dinosaurs). Unfortunately for Kelly, a raptor is lurking on the other side. Fortunately for Kelly, the raptor (being the intelligent creature that it is) is utterly gob-smacked by her stupidity and is ultimately too confused to bite her head clean off when she pokes it out the other side of the wall. 6 for 11.
  • 2x MISS — Sarah leaps tries to leap to a rooftop, only to miss and dangle precariously from the edge. Does the raptor chasing her jump directly onto her back and drag her to hell (especially now that her magic raptor-repellent backpack is gone)? No, of course not. It jumps over her so that it can hiss and look menacing. To add insult to injury, the second raptor chasing her from ground level has a piss-poor vertical, because it can’t quite jump high enough to grab her by the drumstick and pull her off the roof. 6 for 13.
  • KILL — The crew of the S.S. Venture. While there’s no video evidence, there’s no arguing with the severed limbs scattered around the boat — and the T-Rex sure as hell couldn’t have killed them, what with being locked in the cargo hold and all. There’s no doubt in the mind of the judges that the raptors had a hand in it — it’s just that they didn’t like the look of San Diego and decided to go for a swim before reaching shore. 7 for 14.

FINAL TALLY: 7 for 14 (0.500 killing average).
The velociraptor means business, coming back strong after its disappointing performance on Isla Nublar. Yes, the majority of its kills are just nameless grunts, but they all count in the end. While it scored a plethora of points this year, raptor fans still have to be concerned with the troubling trend of coming up small when the stakes are highest.

Stegosaurus

Rumour has it that he's got a brain the size of a walnut.

Rumour has it that he's got a brain the size of a walnut.

A new entrant to the competition, the stegosaurus definitely has the size and strength to make a difference. Its primary weapons are the two pairs of long spikes extending horizontally from the end of its tail, and it also boasts a double row of kite-shaped plates along its back for defensive support.

However, it has a tiny head, which means it has an even tinier brain — is the stegosaurus capable of forming a winning gameplan? Or will it come up short?

  • MISS — Dr. Malcolm and the group when they first arrive on the island. Despite being within tail-whipping range, the stegosaurs ignore all of their ingrained dinosaurian instincts by walking right past the humans without batting an eye. Wimps. 0 for 1.
  • MISS — Sarah, as she examines the baby stegosaurus. A severed pinky finger wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility here, but the baby stego didn’t even snap at her once. Come on, man, stand up for yourself! 0 for 2.
  • MISS — Sarah, after examining the baby stegosaurus. Angry at such a blatant example of child molestation, the adult stegosaurs finally remember that they’re freakin’ dinosaurs and try to attack Sarah. However, they get tired and call off the chase after a single swing of the tail. Suck it up, boys, this is a competition! We need to see more effort than that! 0 for 3.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 3 (0.000 killing average).
It tried valiantly (once, anyway), but the stegosaurus just couldn’t cut the mustard in this year’s competition. While it has the tools, the big dinosaur lacks the brains required to shine when the spotlight glares its brightest. Better luck next time.

Triceratops

Triceratops smash!

Triceratops smash!

Suffering from illness during the previous competition, the triceratops never really got a fair shake at proving itself worthy of the hunt. Completely recovered and raring to go, the triceratops should not be taken lightly, as it brings to the table a surprisingly sharp beak and ferocious triple-pronged assault capabilities — not too mention its massive bulk, which is damn near unstoppable once in full flight.

Now that it’s at 100 percent, can the triceratops make up for the disappointing performance on Isla Nublar? Or will it once again hang its frill in shame?

  • 1/2 KILL — The InGen basecamp. Locked up in a cage for most of the tournament, it seems that the triceratops just can’t catch a break. Once released from the shackles of oppression, however, the triceratops goes on a berserker rampage, putting the phrase “bull in a china shop” to shame. While it didn’t wound anybody, it did cause a significant amount of destruction in a very short period of time (including completely obliterating the InGen satellite), which is worthy of a half-point in our eyes. 0.5 for 1.

FINAL TALLY: 0.5 for 1 (0.500 killing average).
Well, the triceratops finally got a chance to make things happen, and the judges were definitely impressed. While its technique can only be described and uncontrollable and reckless, there’s no doubt that the triceratops is capable of delivering massive damage. However, with no legit kills to its credit, it can’t be considered a true contender — yet.

Pachycephalosaurus

The always popular "Friar Tuck" look.

The always popular "Friar Tuck" look.

Another new challenger approaches! The pachycephalosaurus, meaning “thick-headed lizard”, features a large, bony dome on top of its skull — up to 10 inches of solid bone. It can use this built-in helmet like a battering ram to knock its foes to the ground when the going gets rough.

What sort of an impact will the pachy make during its debut? Will it continue the legacy of sucktitude associated with herbivores, or will it use its distinct weaponry to carve out a new niche?

  • 1/2 KILL — Generic InGen grunt. When the InGen poachers are rounding up the dinosaurs, the pachy proves to be a harder catch then anticipated. During the struggle, it delivers a devastating headbutt to the side of a car, sending the man inside flying out the window on the other side. While it’s doubtful the man died, he probably suffered serious blunt trauma, plus the car will definitely need a trip to the repair shop, which makes this attack partially successful. 0.5 for 1.
  • MISS — The InGen basecamp. Nick and Sarah have freed the dinosaurs, and during the ensuing chaos … the pachycephalosaurus does dick all. Instead of headbutting the nearest sucka to death, or at least taking a cue from the triceratops and smashing shit to pieces, the pachy just runs away. Weak. 0.5 for 2.

FINAL TALLY: 0.5 for 2 (0.250 killing average).
There’s potential there, and while we caught glimpses of what the pachy is capable of, it ultimately needs more experience if it wants to be able to score consistent points in this type of competition. We look forward to seeing how it progress in the future.

Parasaurolophus

A relative of Elvis, apparently.

Coward!

Finally, we come to the parasaurolophus, a docile herbivore known for its distinct long crest on the top of its skull.

Included in this competition primarily for the sake of posterity, these guys are the New York Islanders of Jurassic Park — they have no hope in hell of winning and mostly just happy to be there.

  • MISS — InGen poachers. When InGen first arrives on the island, they cause a massive stampede involving all of the hippy vegetarian species on the island. Unlike the pachycephalosaurus, which at least goes down swinging, the parasaurs just run away like the cowards they are. It had its chances — I mean, how hard can it be for a two-tonne animal to knock down a dude on a motorcycle? — but the parasaurolophus chooses not to engage the enemy. For shame. 0 for 1.
  • MISS — More InGen poachers. When captured, the parasaurolophus puts up a meek struggle, gently lifting a couple of wranglers off the ground for a couple of seconds before surrendering. It could have swung them around violently or trampled them or something, but it didn’t, because he’s a coward and a disgrace to dinosaurs everywhere. 0 for 2.
  • MISS — InGen basecamp. During the escape sequence, the parasaur runs away with its tail between its legs instead of trying to exact some measure of revenge on its captors. Seriously, what a useless sack of meat. No wonder you went extinct! 0 for 3.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 3 (0.000 killing average).
A pathetic display of supreme patheticosity, these dinosaurs should be truly ashamed of themselves. An absolutely travesty, to say the least, and here’s hoping that these losers are banned from future competitions.

The results are in! The winner, and new heavyweight champion of the (lost) world …

Yes, you're scary, we know. Just eat the guy already!

Yes, you're scary, we know. Just eat the guy already!

The Velociraptor!

Yes, technically, the velociraptor tied with the compsognathus for the best killing percentage of all of the dinosaurs on Isla Sorna (barely edging out the defending champion, the tyrannosaurus). However, in a tie-breaking scenario, victory is awarded to the creature with the most number and highest quality of kills — and in this case, that is most definitely the velociraptor. Butchering several people in tall grass is worth much more than a single Peter Stormare, no matter how charismatic the guy is.

Congratulations, velociraptor! You have restored honour to your species and brought smiles to millions of adoring fans around the world! But can you do what the T-Rex could not and defend your title in the next competition? We shall see …

Deadliest Warrior, Season Two: The Deadlierest

There’s no denying the fact that most shows on Spike TV are absolutely terrible. I mean, there’s a reason why 90% of their programming consists of UFC fights and CSI reruns — even the bigwigs at Spike realize that their original shows are downright atrocious and wish to limit their visibility as much possible.

Which makes it incredibly shocking that, despite their track record, they somehow went out and produced one hell of a television gem: Deadliest Warrior.

The best new show in a long time.

The best new show in a long time.

Daring to answer mankind’s most pressing questions (or at least the types of questions posed by history buffs and anthropology nerds), the crack team of experts on Deadliest Warrior picked apart the strengths and weaknesses of history’s greatest warriors to declare, once and for all, what would happen if a Viking faced off with a Samurai, or if a Shaolin Monk went mano-a-mano with a Maori Warrior.

Needless to say, the show was twelve kinds of awesome. Unfortunately … the season is over. All of the battles have been played out and all of the warriors have been sent back to their respective eras. The elephant in the room, of course, is the question on so many minds: Will it return for a second season? And if so, what new warriors will enter the fray?

Luckily for you, dear reader, I have the inside scoop. Yes, Deadliest Warrior will return for a second season, and from what I’ve heard, the battles will be even more insane than ever before! If you thought the Taliban versus the IRA was ridiculous, wait ’til you see what Spike has in store for next season!

Indeed, prepare to be shocked as we discover, once and for, who … is … deadliest!

ADOLF HITLER vs. JOSEF STALIN

William Wallace against Shaka Zulu was just the beginning — now it’s time to pit two of history’s most evil bastards against each other to find out who … is … deadliest! For this fight, we’re not talking about Nazis versus Soviets. We’re not talking about massive battles with armies and commanders and generals. No, we’re talking about one-on-one, man-to-man combat between two of history’s most ruthless and despised leaders!

Unfortunately for him, Hitler's arm-mounted miniguns are more fiction that fact.

Sadly, Hitler's arm-mounted miniguns are more fiction that fact.

There will be no weapons … just fists, feet, and cunning intellect. Will Hitler’s gastro-intestinal problems and Parkinson’s Disease be able to triumph over Stalin’s short stature and crippled left arm? And what impact will Stalin’s larger moustache have during the battle? Watch as the Deadliest Warrior team systematically tests each leader’s military uniform to determine which one could withstand more weak, pathetic blows!

Remember, one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic. Find out which evil monster comes to a “tragic” end in an episode that you’ll definitely not want to miss!

RCMP MUSICAL RIDE vs. BUCKINGHAM PALACE GUARD

The RCMP Musical Ride — well-trained police officers who spend their time learning how to make horses prance around in formation in order to impress children and tourists. The Buckingham Palace Guard — well-trained military soldiers who spend their time perfecting the art of standing completely still for hours at a time. Both sides wear funny red uniforms and ridiculous hats. But which of these national icons/stereotypes … is … deadliest?

Watch out! They've got long wooden poles!

Watch out! They've got long wooden poles!

Will the outstanding discipline of the Buckingham Palace Guard be enough to triumph in battle? Or will the animal husbandry of the Mounties give them the edge? In terms of weaponry, the Queen’s Guard carries an impressive looking rifle that, while unloaded and present only for ceremonial purposes, can still be used as a dangerous blunt weapon. But will they get to use it, seeing as how the Musical Ride just might have a distinct reach advantage with their non-threatening pennons and flags?

Hang on to your Stetsons and Bearskins — this one will be epic!

AMERICAN FOOTBALL PLAYER vs. AUSTRALIAN RUGBY PLAYER

It’s time to settle the age-old debate — are football players really just a bunch of pussies that should be playing rugby instead? In this squad-based match-up, the Deadliest Warrior team will put each team through its paces to determine, once and for all, who … is … deadliest!

A deadly projectile?

A deadly projectile?

Football players are known for their size and strength — can they use their bulk to their advantage? Rugby players like to make jokes about all of the padding worn by the football players — but when push comes to shove, will they be able to find a way to break through that imposing defence? Will the versatility and endurance of the rugby players carry them past the football players, who are known as dedicated specialists that can only play for a few seconds at a time? Plus, what kind of damage can a rugby ball and a football do to a ballistics gel torso?

Yes, in a match-up this heated, we might need overtime to declare a champion!

ULTIMATE WARRIOR vs. TIE DOMI

He claims to the be the “ultimate” warrior. But is … he … deadliest? In this episode, our team of experts will find out what happens when you take two so-called fighters and set them on a no-holds-barred collision course with destiny.

Feel the DESTRUCITY!

Feel the DESTRUCITY!

In one corner, you have one of the WWF’s greatest showmen of all-time — a roided-up meathead with a severely limited knowledge of grappling and even more limited grasp on reality. In the other corner, you have one of the NHL’s greatest showmen of all-time — a small dude with an oddly-proportioned head and a severely limited knowledge of basic hockey skills. Both are fighters in only the loosest sense of the word, engaging in scripted bouts of pugilism for the sole purpose of getting the fans riled up and out of their seats. The question is, who will be victorious when everything’s on the line and the punches are real? Which sports hero will flinch first?

No count-outs. No disqualifications. Two men enter, but only one man will survive!

Wow. A bunch of classic battles, to be sure. And that’s just a taste of what’s coming up in season two of Deadliest Warrior. Man, I can’t wait!

The Greatest Game and/or Movie Never Made

Ah, dreams. The brain’s equivalent of terrible late night television, where you sit back and watch retarded shit that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but you can’t get up to change the channel because it’s 3 a.m. and you’re too tired to move an inch.

Yes, everybody has dreams. Usually they mean nothing, and more often than not, you forget absolutely everything about them the minute you wake up, no matter how cool you insist they were (even if you can’t recall any of the details). Last night, however, the dream I had was just so insane, so memorable, and so fantastically awesome, I had to put it into words.

First off, it started with me pitching a video game to somebody. Not sure who, or for what reason, but I was involved in some sort of brainstorming session for a new video game. My big idea? A crossover between Megaman X and Metal Gear Solid. I have no idea why it was those two games, as I haven’t played either in quite some time.

Anyway, as I was pitching the game, I could envision the introductory screen. It started out in 16-bit SNES style, very similar to the intro to just about any Megaman game out there — a series of static images with a bunch of text underneath. In this case, the intro talked about the fact that Megaman and Zero had set out on yet another adventure, but they mysteriously vanished and all attempts to contact them failed. The calls from headquarters were never returned …

Hold on a blank black screen for a few seconds, and then …

*BLEEP* *BLEEP*

The familiar sound of Solid Snake’s Codec!

Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAKE!

Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAKE!

The two-panel Codec screen pops up, with Solid Snake on one side and Col. Roy Campbell on the other. I guess it would be up to Solid Snake to rescue Megaman and Zero and save the day!

Hey, if he can appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, why not?

At this point, the person I was pitching the game to decided to interject — what if the Umbrella Corporation was behind the disappearance of Megaman and Zero? That way, we could have a triple-crossover with the Resident Evil franchise! Solid Snake could explore the mansion! Yeah! Well, for whatever reason, I wasn’t a big fan of this suggestion, pointing out that doing so would make absolutely no sense.

You know, because Megaman meets Solid Snake does.

Now, here’s where things get a little messed up. I’m not sure if I woke up briefly or what, but the dream takes a radical new direction from here on it. For starters, it’s no longer from my point of view or about me pitching a stupid game to another person. Second, it’s more like a movie than it is a video game — or at the very least, it’s gameplay from the video game I had described, but shot and framed in such a way that it quite closely resembled a standard Hollywood action flick.

What "Mondo Metal" is, according to Google.

What "Mondo Metal" is, according to Google Image Search.

Anyway, the game’s hero, Solid Snake, has confronted some generic thug in a warehouse. It should be noted that for whatever reason, Solid Snake is wielding a katana. The thug grabs a couple of swords from a rack (big futuristic-looking scimitar type things), but Solid Snake easily cuts them in half with one swipe of the katana. The useless halves of the thug’s swords clang noisily against the ground. Solid Snake points his katana at the thug’s neck, forcing the thug to shuffle backwards against a wall. While he never takes his eyes off of the katana, the thug smirks, telling Snake that Mondo Metal has much more powerful and advanced weapons that could never be broken by mere steel.

Yes, the big bad guy’s name is apparently Mondo Metal. Your guess is as good as mine.

The thug then informs Snake that he is too late and that Mondo Metal’s plan is already underway, to which Snake gruffly replies (as if he could reply in any other fashion other than gruff): “What, putting everybody on the planet in hives? It’ll never happen.”

CUT TO:

A bunch of giant wasp nest structures, suspended in air by a single helicopter propeller on top. Each “hive” has a cave-like entrance near the top, which is guarded by a guy behind a giant rifle. Dozens of people, all wearing shabby clothes, mill about near the entrace to the hive. They look like prisoners.

And one of the prisoners is Shaq. As in, THE Shaq. And he tells the guard that he has to go into the hive and get his cell phone because he needs to Twitter. Shaq promises he’ll be back in just a second, and the guard agrees (because everybody knows that not allowing Shaq to Twitter would be a crime against humanity). So, Shaq enters the hive.

Moments later he emerges, but not as Shaq, but as his superhero alter-ego, Steel! At the same time, dozens of other costumed superheroes zoom out of the hives in some sort of coordinated effort to escape and overwhelm their captors!

Shaq is awesome.

Shaq is awesome.

The question is, which other superheroes would appear in this dream / movie / game? Well, that decision was all mine, as the viewpoint shifted from Hollywood cinematics to that of some sort all-seeing god — which was apparently me. As the action paused, I could see, in a first-person perspective ripped straight out of a video game, my hand rummaging through a box of old action figures. This box happened to include all of the X-Men action figures I had played with when I was younger, even the duplicates. I eventually grabbed brown Wolverine (as opposed to blue/yellow), blue/white hooded Cyclops (instead of blue/yellow), Sabretooth, Juggernaut, and a couple others. I distinctly remember passing over Banshee, even muttering “You suck, Banshee” while flinging the figure into some sort of abyss.

You suck, Banshee.

You suck, Banshee.

Then, all of my chosen X-Men characters emerge from the hive and start fighting with the guards. However, the action is interrupted by a female voice (not entirely sure who or why), which tells me that it makes no sense for only mutants and superheroes to be held captive in the hives — there should be some regular people imprisoned as well, and these people should get caught up in the moment and try to fight against their captors, too.

Yeah, about that cheese ...

Yeah, about that cheese ...

So, we switch back to the “God’s Toybox” point of view, where I rummage through the remaining action figures and settle on some generic black dude in a red shirt. I then decide that it sort of looks like Steve Urkel from Family Matters, to which it instantly does become an action figure of Steve Urkel, complete with the following ability — when you squeeze both his legs together, a little voicebox in his chest says “Got any cheeeeeese?”

Anyway, Urkel, wearing a bedsheet cape, also emerges from the hive and starts flying around.

And then I woke up. At least, that’s the last I can remember of it, anyway.

So, did I just imagine the plot to the greatest video game and/or movie that will never get made? Or am I just crazy?

Probably a little of both.

Game Review: Fallout 3

Although most of the traffic to this blog seems to be coming from Google Image Searches for items such as “Vigo”, “Magus”, and “Ovechkin”, there might be a handful of you out there that actually take the time to read the nonsense that I type into this thing. And if you’re one of those select few heroes of the blogosphere, you’ve probably noticed that Steve McCutchen’s Cavalcade of Awesomeness has been a bit of a ghost town as of late. No, my friends, I haven’t been critically wounded. Instead, I’ve just been spending far too much time roaming the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360.

Yes, I know, I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to reviewing this game, seeing as how it came out last fall and has already seen three expansion packs come its way. However, it was never really a high priority. For starters, I wasn’t a crazed Fallout fanboy clamouring to get my grubby paws on the newest iteration of the franchise. Sure, I had tried the original, but could never really get into it. Something about the slow and clunky battle system, isometric viewpoint, and annoying random encounters on the world map that didn’t really click with me, I guess.

A very excellent game ... but you already knew that.

A very excellent game ... but you already knew that.

Second, I had never played Oblivion, so I was completely unfamiliar with the game engine that Fallout 3 would be built upon, and more important, rather apathetic about the whole third-person / first-person Western RPG genre as a whole.

However, I had heard (and seen) good things about Fallout 3, and with no game lined up to play after defeating Twilight Princess, I finally decided to give it a shot.

In short, the game is really, really good. Quite excellent, in fact. Great atmosphere, pretty graphics, an extensive levelling system that lets you create a variety of character types, some nice dashes of humour thrown in now and again … but that’s not what this review is about.

Everybody already knows that the game is super awesome. Instead, here’s my take on some of the minor, nitpicking issues I had with Fallout 3:

The World’s Greatest Scavenger Hunt!

So I spent upwards of 45 hours completing the main quest and quite a few of the sidequests scattered throughout the Capital Wasteland. But enquiring minds need to know — just how many of those hours were spent slooooooowly scanning every desk, shelf, cabinet, and locker in DC for loot? Far too many, by my estimation. And what is the reward for pillaging an entire city? Sure, you might find a useful item or two, but it’s mostly a bunch of tin cans, mugs, scrap metal, and financial clipboards. I can’t feed my family with financial clipboards, dammit!

On that note, why are the clipboards and plates and drinking glasses even in the game? Mere cannon fodder for the incredibly shitty Rock-It Launcher? No … I refuse to believe that’s the case. There must be more. Bethesda Softworks must be working on an expansion that will introduce the ultimate in protective clothing: Clipboard Armor. Schematics for this item will call for seven Clipboards, Wonderglue, two Fission Batteries, and a Toaster. Yeah … that would rock.

The World’s Greatest Inventory Management Simulator!

So what happens after you’ve unleashed your inner kleptomaniac and shoved everything that isn’t nailed down into your pockets? Well, you get very heavy and unable to move, of course! It’s completely natural to be able to carry a dozen different weapons on your person at any time, but if you try to add one more bottle of whiskey to the pile, your boots suddenly turn to lead. And when that happens, you get to experience the ultimate thrill ride of sorting through your inventory and deciding which crap you really need and which crap you can nonchalantly toss on the floor until you’re light enough to walk at a non-herniated pace.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

And don’t think the fun stops just because you’ve levelled up a bit and boosted your strength so that you can carry a few more pounds of junk. By the time that happens, you’re packing super heavy T-51b Power Armor and Gatling Lasers, which means you can actually carry less stuff before having to go through your inventory again and again every time you want to pick up a new item.

Architectural Diversity — The First Casualty of War!

There’s a lot of area to explore in the Capital Wasteland. Regrettably, you won’t really want to, because it all looks the same. Whether you go north or south, it’s the same dreary landscape, over and over and over again. When you finally make it to a settlement, it’s the same type of house over and over and over again. And whether it’s a Vault, the Nuka-Cola factory, an aircraft carrier, a robot factory, or a food processing plant, every single major set piece in the game must have used the same interior decorator, because it all looks freakin’ identical. It takes some of the thrill out exploration when the new place you just discovered looks exactly the same as the last dozen places you discovered.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Biodiversity — The Second Casualty of War!

Okay, so a nuclear war wiped out American civilization as we know out. Towns annihilated, infrastructure completely wiped out … and damn near every single species of animal totally vapourized? It would seem so, because the only living things inhabiting the Wastes are mutants, ghouls, dogs, ants, molerats, scorpions, bears, crabs, and deathclaws. For a game as in-depth as Fallout 3, that’s a rather piss-poor variety of things to shoot at over the course of your lengthy adventure. You can only headshot so many Super Mutants before it grows tiresome, you know? Where are my mutated eagles, giant sandworms, feral warthogs, sharks with laser beams, and other assorted horrors of the apocalypse? Not in this game, that’s for damn sure. Just lots and lots of Super Mutants.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Think of it this way — Kirby had to face a greater variety of enemies than the Lone Wanderer. And that ain’t right.

Weapons, Weapons Everywhere!

So there are only a few different enemies you can encounter in the Wastes. Not to worry, Bethesda understood that this would cause some concern among players, so they created hundreds of different weapons with which to slay these fiendish beasts!

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll go through the entire game without using any of your awesome Mini-Nukes or Bottle Cap Mines or Plasma Rifles, simply because you’ll want to save your ammo for when you face something really big and nasty beyond your run of the mill Raiders and Super Mutants, right? I mean, when you finally have to take out the Enclave, you’ll need all the firepower you have to get through the final showdown, right? Well …

The Ending Sucked (SPOILER ALERT)!

Too bad, because there is no epic final battle! Psyche! Destroy the Enclave by whispering sweet nothings into its master computer! Watch the base explode, content with the knowledge that you didn’t get to blow up a single thing! To top it all off, if your speech skill is high enough, you can simply tell the last boss (if he can even be called that) to beat it! Scram! Take a hike! Hit the road! Can you say climactic showdown for the ages? No? Me neither.

That, and the fact that Fawkes refuses to activate the Purifier on your behalf, despite the fact that it’s already been established that he’s immune to radiation, is just plain stupid. Destiny my ass, you stupid mutie. Now get in the box and take one for the team.

So there you have it — my take on Fallout 3. A great game that has its flaws, to be sure, but still a great game nonetheless. If you haven’t played it, do so. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you don’t have any pressing commitments, because this game will swallow your soul. Seriously.

The Lone Wanderer strolls through another generic settlement.

The Lone Wanderer strolls through another generic settlement.

Movie Review: Hunger

Hunger. Great art, terrible movie.

Hunger. Great art, terrible movie.

I saw the movie Hunger the other day. A darling of the film festival circuit and recipient of rave reviews, I went in with high expectations.

Unfortunately, what I witnessed was nothing but pretentious art-house bullshit.

Now, I’m not saying it was entirely bad with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Far from it. For all intents and purposes, it was very well crafted. The cinematography / framing / mise-en-scene was outstanding, the acting was excellent, and delivered powerful, raw, gut-wrenching imagery and messages about the treatment of the IRA prisoners and the effect the hunger strike had not only on them, but the prison officials as well.

But it simply wasn’t my cup of tea.

While I’m not saying that every film should be a formulaic summer blockbuster piece of tripe, I do appreciate it when movies have certain essential elements — you know, things such as plot, characters I want to care about, dramatic conflict? Yeah, Hunger really could have used some of that stuff.

Regarding the issues of plot and character, I know it’s based off the real life of Bobby Sands, but in my opinion, the goals of Sands and the rest of the prisoners were rather ill-defined. Sure, they wanted to be recognized as political prisoners / prisoners of war, and in the bigger picture, for the IRA to win and the British to leave Ireland, but that’s a big pie-in-the-sky type of goal that the characters in the film can never actually physically achieve. I would have liked to have known about their hopes and dreams on a more personal level, the day-to-day goals of the prisoners, how they interacted with the “criminal” prisoners, whether all of the IRA prisoners were on board with the hunger strike … in other words, the type of stuff that can make us actually care about these characters and, as an added bonus, form some semblance of a flowing, cohesive storyline.

On a related note, it doesn’t help that the main character isn’t introduced until halfway through the movie. We first see Sands get beat down by the guards, and then the next time we see him it’s for a 15-minute conversation with the priest about his decision to start the hunger strike. It’s a wonderful scene which is amazing done in one continuous take, but why should I give a damn about him or his cause when we’ve never really been introduced to the character?

If the movie is supposed to be about Bobby Sands and his death then make the movie about friggin’ Bobby Sands — don’t waste half the picture on some prison warden and a couple of random prisoners. Even when the movie switches to the Bobby Sands story, we never really know all that much about him. From a quick Google search, it appears he wrote a diary during the first few weeks of his hunger strike. The filmmaker could have used this material, but why flesh out his character when we can see some more bed sores?

Sorry, but I don't know anything about you guys, so I don't really care what happens to you.

Sorry, but I don't know anything about you guys or what makes you tick, so I don't really care what happens to you.

At times it felt like I was watching a live-action art gallery exhibit, in that it was nothing more than a series of images about a common theme or topic. Case in point — the scene where the prison official is mopping up the piss in the hallway. Normally, a scene in a film is designed to advance the plot or alter the level of dramatic conflict between characters. Not this scene, however, which is simply a guy mopping up piss in a hallway. For five whole minutes.

While watching that scene, I couldn’t help but think of Family Guy — in specific, the scene where Peter scrapes his knee and spends a minute wheezing in pain, or the scene where Peter randomly cuts to a Conway Twitty song and the show proceeds to play the entire song from start to finish. I thought to myself, they’re not really gonna show him mopping the entire goddamn hallway, are they? Really? Seriously? Come on, get to the point already!

In conclusion, Hunger is a gritty, yet appallingly beautiful, piece of art that showcases what life was like for the IRA prisoners and how the human body can be used as a form of protest. In addition, by not really taking sides, it allows the viewer to form his own impressions and draw his own conclusions as to who’s right and who’s wrong. However, as a function of cinema, it fails terribly, as it was structurally weak and overall quite aimless and meandering, not really sure where it was going or why it was going there.

In the end, this movie can only be recommended for pretentious art-house types. You know who you are.