Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Standing Strong Inside the Inferno

The God of War series is one of my favorite video game franchises. The stylish game play as well as the visceral and intense combat ranks this game very high on the list of best action games of all time. It makes me sad to no end that I am not able to play the third entry in the series (as I lack ownership of a Playstation 3). It is very, very hard to overrate the God of War series and its impact on the world video games.

Yet it seems that critics have finally found a way to do it.

Dante's Inferno is a game that I have always been extremely interested in playing from the first time I heard about it. As the months wore on and I saw more trailers and previews of the game the more excited I got in anticipation. But something started happening.

Something sinister that spoke of a bias and disdain among video game critics and so-called experts.

Everywhere I turned Dante's Inferno was being blasted and dismissed as a God of War clone. This was quite curious to me because the game play elements they were saying Dante's Inferno "ripped off" God of War were, themselves, not unique to God of War. The God of War series is an amalgamation of the finest qualities of all the action/platforming games made over the years. It combines the stylish, brutal combat of games like Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry with the platforming of the Prince of Persia series, albeit a much simpler system of platforming. Hell, even the quick-time button events were not something that gamers had never seen before the God of War series (although it was the first series to grossly overuse them).

After finally getting my hands on a copy of Dante's Inferno and playing for slightly over an hour I have been vindicated in my distrust of the naysayers.

Dante's Inferno is not a ripoff of God of War. It is just another take on the ever growing stylish action (not my name for it) genre of video games. The thing that people seem to be forgetting is that God of War is not the original over the top, slaughter with style game. Dante has just as much in common with Kratos's misadventures as he does with any other extreme hero dudes in his respective genre. Like the God of War games it is simply an amalgamation of everything that came before. The only thing God of War did differently than the games that preceded it was take the action to a higher level of intensity.

The curious thing to me about all the backlash is that the developers for Dante's Inferno never claimed that the game was going to be anything original or revolutionary. I think it was crystal clear from the start what they were going for with this game. Personally, I think Dante is a much more compelling and sympathetic protagonist than Kratos. Where Kratos is a "fuck the world and everyone in it, I'm number one" kind of dude, Dante just wants to reclaim his lost love and will gladly sacrifice himself to do it.

While hacking and slashing my way through Greek mythology with style to spare was infinitely entertaining, I ultimately never cared about Kratos's ultimate goal. The only motivation for Kratos succeeding was knowing that it meant I had succeeded and beaten the game. But if Dante succeeds then (hopefully) he reunites with his stolen love and they live happily ever after. I have an emotional investment in Dante's quest that I never had for Kratos. Whatever the outcome I am 99.9% sure that I will be satisfied with the personal, as well as visceral, journey.

Dante's Inferno does, without question, kick incomprehensible amounts of ass but it is definitely no God of War.

Ah, Kratos, here's hoping that someday I can partake of your third (and presumably final) bloodbath.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Death By Way of Rebirth

One of the most disappointing days of my life was when I found out that Creed, my favorite band (at the time), was breaking up. Three of the four members went off and started another band, Alter Bridge, which was a more mainstream version of Creed. My initial excitement upon being able to hear more music from some of my favorite musicians immediately melted away once I realized how typical and unoriginal Alter Bridge’s sound was. Every once in awhile I would give the band a cursory listen but I never was a serious fan.

Last year the impossible happened and Creed reunited, putting out a new album. I was beyond ecstatic at this news. The band that had the most impact on the development and direction of my musical life was back with more alternative rock goodness. It took me several months to procure the album but now that I have I am wondering if it would have been better to leave the past in the past. Creed is not Creed anymore. They are a Frankenstein amalgamation of every post-grunge cliché and chord progression ever committed to an audio format.

What made Creed so special to begin with was that they did not sound like any other band out there. Creed made their own style of music that transcended the restrictive confines of their genre. While other bands were literally raping our ears with horrendous rap metal or recycling grunge riffs that were new and exciting in the early ‘90s Creed was carving their own path through the musical wilderness, forcing us to tread off the beaten path into an exciting new world. Granted, not everyone was willing to go along for the ride and for those of you who resisted you do not know what you were missing. Now they are just another typical alternative metal band hammering away at tried and true riffs and power chords that have been done to death by numerous other bands in the eight years since Creed disbanded.

I feel at this point I should say that Full Circle (the new album’s title) is by no means a bad album. It is a very good album if taken on its own terms as an enjoyable, rollicking ride through the aural landscapes of the average post-grunge album. But that is where the inherent problem lies.

Creed is not supposed to be the band that churns out manufactured, average post-grunge albums.

I am not saying I want Creed to be stuck in the past or that they need to sound exactly like they did eight years ago. Refusing to evolve or trying to recapture past glories can result in some bad, bad musical and lyrical decisions (see Motley Crue’s latest, Saints of Los Angeles). But it is like Creed is not even the same band. Some of the songs (“On My Sleeve”, “Good Fight” are the two best examples) sound like Creed is unsuccessfully trying to copy their own signature sound and fuse it with their newfound fondness for mediocrity and conformity while others (“Fear”, “Full Circle”, “Away in Silence”) have no business being anywhere near a Creed record.

None of the songs on the album are bad songs (“Away in Silence” being a painfully obvious exception) for your average band. But here again we run into that same old problem: Creed is supposed to be better than your average band. And that is where the heart of the problem (and my dejection) lies.

Creed went from being superior to the crowd to becoming part of the crowd.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Explains A Lot

The history of liberalism according to my uncle:
The RNC teaches us that it was the hubris of men that brought the liberals into our world. The democrats had sought to usurp heaven but instead they destroyed it. They were cast out, twisted, and cursed by their own corruption. They returned as monsters. The first of the darkspawn. They became a blight upon the land.

What he did was genius. This is the opening voiceover from a supporting character in the video game Dragon Age: Origins. The amazing thing is how accurately it can be applied to the modern democratic party. He hardly had to change anything to make it work. Don't believe me? Compare it with the original transcription:
The Chantry teaches us that it was the hubris of men that brought the darkspawn into our world. The mages had sought to usurp heaven but instead they destroyed it. They were cast out, twisted, and cursed by their own corruption. They returned as monsters. The first of the darkspawn. They became a blight upon the land.

As you can see he only changed 3 words out of the whole paragraph. I doubt the developers of the game were going for that kind of subtext but it is still interesting to muse upon. Especially considering how the liberals are trying to twist the United States into their own image and curse humanity for all time...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making A Point of It

It seems to me that the band Nonpoint is underrated and practically unaccepted in the world of metal. They appear to be shrugged off as just another one of those crappy nu metal band. While this may be one of the sub-genres of music that they fall under they are so much more than just a nu metal band. In reality they are one of the most complete, talented, and diverse bands in metal music today. Allow me, if you will, to provide some examples to make my most compelling of arguments.

First there are the standard nu metal stylings of semi-rapped vocals over irresistibly powerful, pounding guitar riffs as in this first song...:

...or almost full on rapped vocals over snaking, ambient guitar lines as in this song:

But wait! We're not done yet! Because, as I said earlier, Nonpoint is so much more than just another throwaway nu metal band. They are also rather capable purveyors of modern thrash metal as in the case of this next song:

Granted their thrash attack may lack the technical proficiency of say Slipknot or Mudvayne (other talented bands unfairly jumbled into the nu metal category) but they make up for it in the sheer ferocity of the music.

Every good band needs to have some good ballads to give variety to the music. Nonpoint has those as well as exemplified by this song:

Still not convinced that Nonpoint is more than they're made out to be by the metal snob masses? Well they also can produce some sick, straight ahead, grooving metal riffs that get you in the mood to kick some serious ass:

Hell, for good measure they even throw in some flamenco tinged metal...:

...and some salsa tinged metal (start at the 2:03 mark of the following song):

Although they are clearly more than they are made out to be, Nonpoint would still be a kick ass band if they stuck to their nu metal roots. Nu metal is a rather misleading term as it is. All it really means is modern metal. Nu metal in and of itself is not exclusive to the bad rap metal connotations that is has come to be stuck with. Contrary to popular belief and urban legend, nu metal is still freakin' metal.

I'm not saying there are no shitty nu metal bands out there. There are actually probably more awful bands than there are good ones. But the whole point of this post is to provoke thoughtful questions about what makes the good nu metal bands rise above the steaming mass of shit. Most likely it is because they are so much more than the limited confines of their sub-genre will allow them to be. And as my persuasive arguments (personified by YouTube music videos) have shown, Nonpoint is definitely one of the great ones.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obsessing, Obsessions

I don't think I've ever been so obsessed and hooked on a band as I have become with Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. When my friend, Dell, introduced me to this band I have had a constant overdose of awesome everytime I listen to these guys.

And I'm listening to them at least once a day.

I've posted below my three favorite songs from these guys. I have a routine of listening to this album out of track order but in the order that I like to listen to the songs. This is how I've posted them below.

Incidentally I'm posting them in order of number 1 favorite to number 3 favorite.

Awesome right?! This band perfectly combines the metallic firepower of thrash with the cocky swagger of southern rock into a musical cocktail that is hopelessly addictive.

It also doesn't hurt that these guys are pretty kick ass musicians.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Devil's Advocate

I recently discovered a blog titled JammieWearingFool. These guys usually have a lot of funny criticisms and articles about the state of the political world. However, today when I was perusing their latest posts I came across this:

This bullshit gets me so angry when people hate Obama so much that they instantly turn on anybody who has a positive thing to say about him. I posted a comment on that article which I've copied and published in this post. The thoughts that I expressed to them are the following:

I have to say I think you guys are being unfair to O'Reilly. He's not backtracking on anything. He has never slobbered over Obama. What people tend to forget is that O'Reilly is an Independent, not a standard bearer for militant Conservatism like Hannity or Mark Levin (both of whom I highly enjoy watching and listening to). As such he offers an Independent analysis of what's going on. Granted, he can be naive sometimes in his desire to be "fair and balanced", sometimes giving these people too much of the benefit of the doubt.

However, if you published the whole article and didn't selectively quote it to get your viewpoint across then people would see that what the article is really about is thanking Obama for being gracious enough, despite the White House's war on FNC, to invite O'Reilly. Being invited to the White House Christmas party is an honor no matter who the President is. Hell, even O'Reilly acknowledges in the article that he's surprised he was invited given the recent events.

I understand that to you guys Obama is the Antichrist. I don't like the fact that he's President anymore than you do. I think he and his hyper-Liberal cronies in Congress are destroying this country. But your eviscerating of O'Reilly for being a normal, rational person by accepting an invitation to a prestigious event is ridiculous. Saying a positive thing about Obama here or there does not a hypocrite make. Obama is a terrible President and extremely self-obsessed to be sure but he definitely comes off like one Hell of a charming, personable guy. Despite my intense ideological differences with him I sure as Hell wouldn't mind meeting him myself.

That doesn't make me a traitor to the Conservative cause and it doesn't mean all of a sudden I'm rooting for these people to be victorious. It means I have respect for the position of President of the United States no matter who it is.

By the by, anyone who wants to read O'Reilly's whole article and analyze it for themselves can find it here:;jsessionid=08CE4FF50FFA635391F3D9B17321046D?pid=28603

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Double Take

A couple weeks ago I was perusing IGN for the latest video game news. I came across their list of the top 25 Xbox 360 games. Here it is if you want to check it out yourself:

Now as much as I enjoy reading IGN, I find myself disagreeing with a lot of their opinions and positions on certain things about games. Even so I was surprised at how many more than worthy games were excluded while there were several that, in my opinion, have no place anywhere near this list. So, combining some of IGN's top games and some of mine, I decided to come up with my own list of the top 25 Xbox 360 far. I have to add "so far" because let us not forget that the 360 is still thriving and there's quite a large number of huge games that are coming out next year which could bump a lot of these games off this list in the future.

See what you think of my top 25 list compared to IGN's. Keep in mind that this is in no particular order:
  • Mass Effect
  • Gears of War
  • Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 - Terrorist Hunts, combined with earning experience to rank up and unlock kickass guns and body armor for your character, give this game virtually infinite replayability.
  • Dragon Age: Origins - Read about my obsession with this game in my previous post.
  • Dead Space
  • Resident Evil 5 - It's almost criminal that IGN omitted this game from their list. Not only is this one of the best Xbox 360 games available but it is also one of the best Resident Evil games ever made.
  • The Darkness - One of the most emotionally affecting video games I've ever played. Rarely have I ever been so invested in a video game character's success and ultimate fate.
  • Lost Planet
  • Halo 3
  • Gears of War 2 - Bigger set pieces and more variety in the campaign missions make this sequel bigger and badder than the original game. The only downside is that, in trying to improve the first game's horrendous story, the writers turned Dom into a whiny bitch and tried to force some awfully heavy handed emotional bullshit.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Lost Odyssey
  • Prey - One of the most creative, mind boggling FPS's I've ever played.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • Call of Duty 2 - The best World War II FPS that was ever made (I think).
  • Halo 3: ODST - Firefight...'nuff said.
  • Prince of Persia
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum - Best superhero video game ever made.
  • Fable 2 - Once again, how IGN left this game off their list is just baffling. It's one of the greatest action RPG's the gaming world has ever seen.
  • Assassin's Creed - Honestly, I am not a fan of this game by any stretch of the imagination. I think it is a terrible game. However, there are a lot of people who lost their minds over how "amazing" they thought the game was and just because I personally don't like it doesn't mean that it's not an important game for the 360.
  • Left 4 Dead - Yet another game that I'm not really a fan of. Still, the game pretty much revolutionized cooperative multiplayer. Plus you get to battle through the Zombie Apocalypse without being in any real danger and who in their right mind wouldn't want a piece of that?
  • Bioshock - Played the demo but couldn't really get into it. The game does have a cool setting and the story is supposed to be pretty good. Critically acclaimed and loved by many means this game certainly earns it's place on the list.
  • Borderlands - I haven't played this game yet but something tells me I'll be getting it for Christmas ::wink, wink:: Everything I hear about this game confirms my suspicions that it's basically an FPS version of Diablo 2 which means that it probably fucking rules.
  • Fallout 3
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2