Saturday, December 19, 2009

Applause for Avatar

I just took my family to see James Cameron's Avatar, and it is magnificent beyond superlatives.

As I told a friend, Avatar is so good you won't believe it. You'll BELIEVE IT, which is why you won't believe it. It is so well-done, it kicks you beyond the "wow that's an amazing special effect stage" to being unaware that you're watching a movie and being absorbed in the story.

The story works at many different levels -- sci fi speculation, historical allegory, contemporary political tale, and individual psychological/spiritual metaphor.

Go see it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best video games of the year

Our annual video game gift guide, which is our list of the best games of the year, is up on Techcetera.

Big contributors this year are my reviewer apprentice Fortiscule and Mrs. ArcDream.

Fortiscule also handles the review this week on DJ Hero. Check it out!

You'll find a roundup of my reviews and recommendations (which include Fortiscule's reviews, of course) on my profile page.

Are you playing any new games for the holidays? Let me know about it! Email me at and let everyone know what you think of the game. We plan to see Avatar this weekend, and we'll be playing the game afterward.

Old girlfriends in Mass Effect 2

A G4 blog post says that your old girlfriends from Mass Effect might show up in Mass Effect 2, which is interesting. Then the blogger goes on to say he doesn't even remember who his girlfriend was in Mass Effect, Liara the blue alien, or Ashley the regular human lady.

Oh, for crying out loud! How could you NOT remember who you hooked up with in Mass Effect?? A BLUE alien chick with TENTACLES on her head is memorable. Either you remember that you DID hook up with her, or you DIDN'T, which means it was the other girl (unless you ticked her off). How could something like that not leave an impression?

Oh, these jaded gamer youths, for whom romance with a beautiful blue alien is mundane and forgettable! If I meet a sexy blue alien woman, I'm going to write it down.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dads talk about profanity in MW2

I've posted a column on Techcetera that's a series of letters between me and another father about parenting decisions and video games. He had inquired about the intensity of profanity in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, because he was considering whether to get it for his son for Christmas.

My son Fortiscule and I both love video gaming. We share a lot of fun gaming together, like some dads do with baseball, watching football or fishing. Many of my friends in the Xbox Live community are parents like me. I hope y'all will feel free to chime in with your thoughts as well.

The column is called Dads discuss profanity in Modern Warfare 2.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Spartans On The Ground

Here's the trailer for Halo Reach. This looks absolutely awesome and gives me chills.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Halo Reach first look gives chills

The new trailer for Halo Reach that was shown on Spike TV's VGAs gave me goosebumps.

I'll post it here as soon as it's available somewhere. In the meantime, here's the first trailer, which has a goosebumps moment in it, too.

Halo Reach - Halo Official Site

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Furlough from MW2

An e-mail letter to Sythbane Squadron, from our friend Fartknockker:


I will be taking a break from Modern Warfare 2 for a while. Not because of problems with the Javelin glitch, but terrible respawns and lag have elevated my frustration level with the game to a point of walking away.

Above, Fortiscule serves as an example of a frustrated gamer, like Fartknockker has become lately.

My theory: Respawns have been programmed to increase the chances of payback kills. As a result you tend to spawn closer to enemies more often than in previous COD games. The other day I was playing Team Deathmatch on Wasteland. I respawned, turned around and there were three enemies 10 feet away. I am not saying this has never happened but it seems considerably more prevelent in this game.

Lag -- seeing an enemy pop in a window for a second and then getting shot by that enemy in that same second and then watching the killcam and that enemy having a full 3 seconds to draw sights, aim and shoot. I have a 6M down and 1M up net speed. This should be sufficient. In my book, that's not fair.

The misuse of tactical inserts to acquire a nuke is another deterent from my play. A player on team A will get a friend to be on team B. The player on team B will equip a tact insert and keep spawning in front of the player on team A at a predetermined spot on a given map that is not traveled very often and out of the way, so as not to be noticed. (I believe these spots were intented to be safe areas for players to operate killstreak rewards and call in airdrops but are now being exploited) The player on team A can get a 25-kill streak very quickly by killing the player on team B over and over because on the tac insert, not to mention the killstreak reward player A acquires for the tac insert kills. I have no patience for cheaters.

I will be working on Left for Dead 2, Borderlands and Call of Duty Classic until I have stored enough patience to return to MW2.


Mode of Duty: Core or Hardcore?

Editor's note: Our friend and contributor Mr. Fartknockker offers this rejoinder to my recent post about the shortcomings of hardcore mode in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. "I did not in any way take offense to anything in your piece. I actually agreed with most of it," he said. "I just felt like elaborating on the subject."

By Fartknockker
Sythbane Squadron contributor

There has always been a decision to make when playing online multiplayer in a Call of Duty title. Core or hardcore? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Depending on your strengths and skill, one might work better than the other.

Some advantages in core mode include crosshairs on the screen. They help aiming quite a bit. The HUD displays match information, score, and ammo and equipment count, which is very handy considering the new scavenger perk.

If you’re good, core mode offers the best playlist for ranking up weapons and equipment, and completing challenges for bonus experience points -- the key for ranking quickly. Constantly changing weapons, equipment and perks will net you bigger XP on average at the end of every other match. Points you earn from completing challenges far outweigh those from kills or bomb plants.

If you are going to play core though, you have to be accurate with your shots because every one counts. That is really my only major gripe with core mode and the main reason I prefer hardcore.

Hardcore features decreased health and increased bullet damage, which means not only do you have to be accurate, but very quick. I want to know if I shoot you first, you will die, as opposed to me dumping half a clip and you turning and killing me. If I want to use an entire clip to kill somebody, I will go play Halo.

In core mode you can be a little more liberal in running around the map because you have more of a chance to escape damaged but not dead. Hardcore has to be played more conservatively because you can end up pushin’ daises very quickly. If you are a run-and-gunner at heart, like me, respawn times in hardcore might be a little annoying at best.

Camping is one of those things most people complain about but most of those same people will do themselves, at least from time to time. You will find more of it in hardcore because it tends to be a lot more tactical mode because of quick deaths. But, is a player that finds a high point on the map and snipes camping? No. He’s sniping. Is a player that hides in a bush near a bomb plant in search and destroy camping? No. He’s protecting the plant. I would consider a camper somebody who picks a certain spot on the map and stays the entire match. There is no skill in that and that’s why people find it annoying.

No HUD on the screen in hardcore means no clutter and as much visibility as possible. Some people might consider having no crosshairs a disadvantage, but people who play hardcore just know where the center of their screen is in relation to where they want to aim. It becomes instinctive.

It all comes down to personal preference. Personally I like both modes but I prefer hardcore. Luckily, most of my friends such as Big Daddy Ogre, TeeBoan, notatreehugger and BigTODA78 prefer it, too. I can speak for those guys when I say the main reason we prefer hardcore is increased bullet damage. You will find me, however, scoring dome shots and dominating with Sythbane in Core Team Deathmatch.

Sythbane hates it when he empties an entire magazine into Mr. Fartknockker, and then Fartknockker turns around and kills him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My review of Dragon Age: Origins

My Xbox Live friends might have noticed that I've spent a lot of time playing Dragon Age: Origins lately. My review is up now on Techcetera! Take a look and pile on the comments.

You can find all my recent reviews collected on my profile page.

Below, you see sexy mage Morrigan, voiced by Claudia Black from Farscape. You better believe Morrigan is always in my party of adventurers in Dragon Age. Because, my name is Sythbane, and I party! (... just like Hot Rod.)

Coming soon: Mr. Farttknocker takes a long-range shot at me as he responds to my recent post about hardcore vs. core in Modern Warfare 2. I'd better duck.