Thursday, February 26, 2009

Call of Horror

The party conversation took a turn for the macabre last night. TFH 5 had been talking about the economy, which was scary enough, and then Bama Breeze remembered a news story of the day about a funeral home director who left a body in a hearse over an unpaid bill. This train of thought led Bama to tell us a frightening tale she'd read about a psycho who abducted a woman and kept her in a swamp. When the victim tried to escape, she was eaten by the guy's pet alligator.

After a lull, Bama exclaimed, "I feel like I'm having to DRAG conversation out of you guys tonight!"

Apparently we were too petrified to speak, and our little avatars had gone pale.

It's fine to tell scary stories around the campfire, but now we know that a burning tank in Call of Duty: World at War is a good venue for horror, too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Motley Crue keeping us in the game

Fortiscule, jRySix and I attended the Motley Crue concert last Sunday in Birmingham, and we greatly enjoyed our collective Primal Scream!

The Crue is still going strong. They're from my generation, and seeing them so full of energy keeps me rockin', too. A song called "Go Down Swinging" on their autobiographical Saints of Los Angeles album makes it clear that they're not ready to yield the stage yet. Me, neither, guys. Keep crankin' it.

In addition to kick-starting your heart with rock 'n' roll, guitarist Mick Mars is inspiring to see. He has suffered and struggled with a rare bone disease that limits his movements, yet there he is in the spotlight, shredding on his Strat. He's shouting at the devil with an amp turned up to 11. The photo above is Mars playing a solo. It was grand.

Drum Roll

Speaking of rockers, last night jRySix and I joined Daddy Rocks LV for a few lively rounds of Call of Duty: World at War. We shot the shinola about music while we were shooting tanks, although those heavy metal monsters dealt us some misery. Daddy Rocks seems to have a different schedule than most of my other late-night gaming friends, but I hope he'll be able to circulate more among the gaming cadres of Sythbane Squadron. You would all enjoy his company.

Sythbane Squadron boasts several musicians: Daddy Rocks drums, jRySix and Fortiscule play guitar, Crownshend plays saxophone and piano, and I play banjo. Do we have more musicians among us?

I had the finest of intentions to step up my blogging when I posted that Red Sonja item, but then I got sick. I'm feeling much better, so I hereby renew my resolve. This time, definitely!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Red Sonja to offer stimulus plan

Rose McGowan will star as Red Sonja in a new movie to be released this year or next.

Scholars such as myself who specialize in the study of Barbarian Warrior Women are abuzz with this news. As some of you know, I am the chairman of The Institute for Cultural, Anthropological and Aesthetic Studies of Barbarian Warrior Women, and as such I have boundless enthusiasm for this important genre of art, literature, cinema and collectible action figures. We at the Institute are hoping that President Obama will give us a generous research grant as part of his economic stimulous package to really get the foundation off the ground.

Rose McGowan is a gorgeous actress who had an unfortunate association with Marilyn Manson that falls in the "What was she thinking?!" file, and we must not speak of it again. She is turning over a new cheek by donning a chainmail bikini. And really, what kind of world would it be if a lady can't get a fresh start by wearing a shiny new chainmail bikini? Bless her heart.

Thanks to the miracle of Netflix, I recently saw Rose's performance in Grindhouse, where her leg was eaten by zombies and she used an M-16 for a prosthesis. She demonstrated amazing flexibility and dexterity in this nuanced and layered performance, which doubtless will serve her well in swordplay scenes.

In Grindhouse, Rose was inexplicably coy and demure, an incongruous bit of modesty in a movie bursting with nauseating, over-the-top gore and grossness. The filmmakers obviously wanted to maintain some semblance of decency; after all the oozing, bulbous pustules and beheadings, the sight of Rose in immodest repose would have been offensive.

But compare Rose's shyness in Grindhouse to her scant trappings at an awards show where she was photographed on the red carpet with Marilyn Manson. (Dang it! Didn't I say not to speak of that again?) She wore a chainmail dress with lots of missing links in the caboose. This ample, public display of her healthy complexion gives me hope that Rose is at least willing to portray Sonja as equally daring in her fashion choices, and whoops, maybe she forgets her chainmail bikini in a scene where a sabertooth tiger surprises her. It could happen. This common scenario too often ended in tragedy, as archaeologists will tell you, but it would end differently for Sonja. A lack of metal lingerie wouldn't deter Red Sonja from winning a sabertooth catfight, that's for sure and certain.

Because, really, do you really think any self-respecting Barbarian Warrior Woman like Red Sonja would be consumed with notions of Victorian modesty? I think not. She has better things to do, like sharpening her sword and smiting her enemies.

This wardrobe issue is really a matter of historical credibility in cinema. Take, for example, the caveman movie genre: In the 1966 film One Million Years B.C., you knew right away when you saw Raquel Welch as Loana wearing an intricately crafted deerskin brassiere that she wasn't really a cavewoman, right?

But in Quest for Fire, cave people weren't concerned with modesty in the least. Rae Dawn Chong wore only dried mud, and that was for camouflage, not modesty. Which film was more believable? I, for one, prefer realism to suspend my disbelief while I am engrossed in a historical Barbarian Warrior Woman epic. Authenticity. Credibility. These are vital to the integrity of the genre.

Although the character of Red Sonja was created by Conan creator Robert E. Howard, her good name was tainted by an unfortunate 1985 film starring Brigitte Nielsen. The dreadful failure of that movie demonstrates the folly of trying to make a "kid-safe" Barbarian Warrior Woman film, sans nudity, sexuality or realistic violence. Barbarian Warrior Woman films properly should be rated R, with rampant gratuitous nudity and sexuality, intense action and dazzling swordplay. A decent story would be a crowning touch. I hope the new Red Sonja will be captured in the magnificent style of 300.

We at the Institute will be eagerly awaiting this film, which is sure to enrich and ennoble the venerable Barbarian Warrior Woman genre. It will certainly stimulate the economy, too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cheevos: Satisfaction for a job well done

By TeeBoan
Sythbane Squadron contributor

This is a follow-up to our beloved Fartknocckker's post concerning Achievements (cheevos).

I agree with him whole-heartedly. However, I would like to add to it.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is admittedly hooked on cheevos. In talking with him, I discovered that he sits at a desk and “puts out fires” all day. I, on the other hand, work in the trades and have for twenty years now. When my day is over, I have a sense of accomplishment, because I can see what I have accomplished. This friend doesn’t experience this luxury.

I like cheevos because I get a sense of accomplishment from them, but I am reasonably assured that my friend gets a greater satisfaction out of cheevos because he rarely gets a sense of accomplishment from his daily work life.

Cheevos come in all types and sizes, and each game has its own philosophy in how it implements them. Call of Duty: World at War took me four or five weeks to get all 1,000 cheevos. That was work, hard work. Avatar: The Burning Earth gave me 1,000 cheevos in under a minute.

Each game has its own emotions that go with earning the cheevos. CoD:WaW obviously was the more difficult and returned a hard-earned “I did it” set of emotions. Avatar returned a different set of emotions that were exhilarating for only a few minutes.

Don't overlook the way cheevos are set up in each game, because they may be too easy or too hard. We have to pick and choose which ones we want to add to our ever-growing gamerscore.

At any time in the future, each Achievement can be browsed and remembered. Men are by nature very task-oriented, and we like our cheevos. Cheevos represent tasks. Whether you see little accomplishment at work or otherwise, or if you see tasks accomplished daily, achievements can provide satisfaction. Sometimes it's only a little satisfaction, but sometimes they bring great satisfaction.

Cheevos may be insignificant in life, but they nevertheless can give us a little bit of enjoyment and happiness.

Keep on Keepin’ on!

TeeBoan feels a great sense of accomplishment every time he snuffs you in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Don't count out Dead Space

By Fartknocckker
Sythbane Squadron contributor

Back in October, EA released Dead Space. If you were too busy with any of the other superb titles that were plentiful this holiday season and missed Dead Space, I strongly advise you to pick up this exceptional game.

Dead Space brings some cool features to the survival horror genre. There are no traditional meters, numbers or gauges on the corners of the screen or pause menus. All HUD functions are projected from your rig (suit) in real time about a foot in front of your character. This handles your inventory, objectives, logs and a 3-D map that can be tumbled in any direction.

Your health bar is a luminescent, segmented vertical tube on the back of your rig that follows your spine. Ammo is counted on the weapons themselves, although most of them are actually mining tools that cut or displace.

That is another unique aspect to this third-person shooter. Head shots won’t get you anywhere. You have to take off the limbs of the necromorphs to kill them. To aid your aiming, a stasis device is provided to slow down enemies. Telekinesis is also used to pick up objects to shoot at your enemies to conserve ammo.

The locater system which is similar to the “breadcrumb trail” in Fable 2 is very convenient to steer you in the right direction. Click the right stick, and a thin blue laser is projected from your palm to the ground.

Sections with zero-gravity and segments with no atmosphere (aka space) do not break the action and bring continuity to the theme and story.

The story of Dead Space is very well written. The voice acting stands out. The controls are tight. The visuals are some of the best I’ve seen in the past several years and the sound design is superb. This game has a very high production value and the positives far outweigh the negatives. I commend EA on their efforts.

Fartknocckker, a veteran gamer and a veteran veteran, was never scared of the necromorphs. They were scared of him.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Call of Duty: World at War maps

At last, some new hunting grounds for Call of Duty: World at War are on the way. Activision said today that Call of Duty: World at War Map Pack 1 will be available for download sometime in March.

Check out the details on each map that I posted here on Techcetera.

(Yes, I admit, I'm nudging my friends who read these personal notes on Sythbane Squadron to please look at my "official" reviews and essays on Techcetera, too, because that blog is for my workplace. The more hits Techcetera gets, the more job security I have! Many thanks to those of you who read it. A feed from Techcetera showing my reviews -- along with those by Arc Dream, ANT Pogo and jRySix -- is posted in the right column here.)

I apologize for neglecting Sythbane Squadron for a couple of weeks lately. A friend from my childhood passed away last week and I've been a bit addled. I'll post a more detailed note later as a salute to my friend Dusty.

I also have another post from our friend Fartknocckker in store for you, so stay tuned!