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Gee, I sure do love the bible! Using it as source material for a video game plot is probably the most creative idea I've heard in the past five minutes. And bro, as soon as I heard that demonic choir belting out broken Latin, I knew shit was about to get real. And by "real," I mean laughably pretentious (if you're convinced that Darksiders is going to be a good game, there is a 95% chance you don't even know what that word means).

Let's face it: the bible is outdated. How could you trust the writings of a civilization that hadn't even invented the iPhone yet? And pitting heaven against hell in a video game is like adapting a young adult novel about vampire abstinence into a film, in that both make me want to jump off a cliff and land on a switch which makes all the creators involved jump off a significantly higher cliff.

"But wait," you tell me, "the main character's name is War! That's pretty fucking deep!" No. Naming characters, like children, after abstract concepts, is a good way to get people to pick on them for the rest of their lives. In storytelling, hardly anything is more obnoxious than going out of your way to spell out symbolism. The trailer convinced me that, as is the case with the first one hundred pages of The Sound and the Fury, that the narrator was literally retarded.

The graphics are OK, I guess. But giving everyone epic level 80 World of Warcraft gear is the visual equivalent of going to Arby's and ordering food; just because you can, it doesn't mean you should. And for some reason, like Arby's, it appears that everything is covered in melted cheese for no reason. By the same token, I venture that anyone who buys this game will feel the same kind of soul-crushing remorse as someone who has just ingested a Bacon Cheddar Roastburger.

3:32 AM on 05.26.2008

Judging from a few trailers or isolated clips, Speed Racer may appear to be a veritable cornucopia of visual delights. On closer inspection, the film relies on a very limited number of tricks and milks them beyond any conception of dry. Every possible object is used as a wipe, so that the film often folds in on itself in a jumble of images, with totally unnecessary flashbacks peppered throughout the entire affair, probably confusing the hell out of the kids in the audience. The inspiration of the color scheme for the film seems to be not any particular aesthetic but the rainbow itself, meaning anything could be pretty much any color for no good reason; thus the screen ends up looking the way I imagine unicorn vomit to be. Between the frantic transitions (it's not the speed of the cuts or the action that gives you a sense of vertigo) and the eye-gouging palette, my eyes actually felt reality-challenged as I tried to readjust to the world outside the theater, which I suppose is something the film could be proud of.

While the races have the potential to be exciting, there's so much visual excess that the real drama of the contests become obscured in the CG candy coating. However the biggest problem might be the plot, which takes itself entirely too seriously and eats up too much precious screen time (the movie is well over two hours long). I'm a fan of a good narrative, but the amount of brooding about the past and stilted character development here just drags the entire experience down, especially for those of us who wanted to see an action film (read: everyone). And if you hadn't gotten the drift already, the plot is bad, and thus not worthy of such a colossal effort on the writer's part. The huge potential for having some good campy fun is only partially realized and snuffed out by the constant attempts at gravitas (oh my beloved dead older brother, I must avenge you! etc). What's worse is that the annoying fat kid and his monkey pal are in pretty much every fucking scene doing something retarded, instilling a ravenous desire to wreck theater property like you would Scarlett Johanson's asshole if given the chance. Too bad she wasn't in Speed Racer, because at least then there'd be some real eye candy to write home about.


The overwhelming amount of bile that people are spewing over GH4 lately is simultaneously maddening, confounding, and hilarious. Reading through the comments on various blogs and trailers lately, I've found so many blatantly uninformed arguments that I didn't even know how to start writing about them. But now I've devised a means by which I can rant and you guys choose to read only the statements that apply to your own stupid opinions! Sounds like fun, right?

Protip: These are ordered from most to least stupid

Guitar Hero 4 is copying Rock Band!

Actually, Rock Band stole their idea from the Drummania/Guitarfreaks series of video games. But then again it's not like it would have taken a genius to come up with the idea of a networked band game. It's just a natural part of the evolution of rhythm games. Guitar Hero is copying Rock Band to keep up with the market and is attempting to win back their userbase, just like any sane capitalist would do.

Guitar Hero should be just about the guitars!

This is the next big thing in rhythm games, and Activision has to follow Rock Band's lead in order to remain competitive. Many people prefer the guitar note charts in the Guitar Hero games to those in Rock Band, and that's why they stick with GH instead of playing RB. But guess what, if GH doesn't properly compete, the franchise is going to go under. Also, is it really a question of integrity or honor if a game isn't exactly the same as its predecessors but carries the same name? "Oh man, in Super Mario Bros. 2 you can play as Peach and Toad too? Why are they even calling it Super Mario Bros.?"

I don't want to blow my money on a lot of new peripherals

If you knew anything about rhythm games outside of, oh say, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, DDR, and Elite Beat Agents, maybe you would be able to see that this new drumset is pretty much guaranteed to be vastly superior to Rock Band's. You were willing to spend money on Rock Band's peripherals just to play the game, even though they were mediocre, and honestly didn't complain enough about the price, considering what you got for it. Now I think you're all just worried you're going to be bullied into paying a lot more for the game you wish Rock Band was in the first place. And besides, the hardware/software bundles haven't been worked out yet, so we don't know for sure that you're going to have to buy everything en masse.

Guitar Hero 3 sucked, so this is going to suck

We don't even know the tracklist yet, which is really the backbone of these kind of games. In terms of the hardware, things look extremely promising right now. Then again, Guitar Hero 3 wasn't even that bad, and was extremely popular. The Metacritic rating of 83 is below the series' usual average, yes, but that's still solid. Also, one of the main complaints people had about Guitar Hero 3 was that it didn't deliver enough new content to the franchise. With Guitar Hero 4, we're getting features out the ass! We're getting a veritable diarrhea of features (in a good way)! You've got customizable rockers and instruments, the Music Studio, "the largest on-disc set list in a music-rhythm game to-date," (I'm admittedly skeptical about that one) and 8-player online play. You've got to be blind not to see that the devs are working hard not only to one-up Rock Band, but to improve the Guitar Hero franchise. The need to compete may end up being the saving grace of the franchise.

I have a love/hate relationship with Konami, because they make a few amazing rhythm games here and there, and then just totally fuck up all the localized versions of them.

In the case of Rock Revolution, Konami doesn't seem to realize that the "band game" craze is really about an arms race of sorts: Guitar Hero brought rhythm gaming to the casual console crowd to a magnitude DDR had only flirted with; Rock Band one-upped the game by networking guitar with drums and vocals: Guitar Hero 4 looks to up the ante by releasing similar game with an arguably better drumset (ok, "objectively better"). However Rock Revolution's failure to deliver the vocals means it will necessarily fail to compete with the "big boys." The sad thing is that in a developer interview, they said they didn't include vocals "for whatever reason." No really, they thought that was an acceptable answer. Whether or not they think it will make for a better game or not, the truth is they would be able to compete much more easily by including it in the total package.

Of course, there is the silver lining of the Rock Revolution drumkit, which will have six pads and a bass pedal (oddly enough I can't find all of these pads represented in any of the screenshots so far). Also, I love that the notes are presented in overhead perspective, which is clearly superior. And yet, those are just about the only positives I see. One thing that's truly unfortunate is the absence of note judgments a la every other Bemani game ever made (ie perfect, great, etc). Not that casual audiences care, but if the devs made an effort to include just a few small things such as judgments, display mods, and higher difficulty levels, they could successfully attract both the casual and hardcore rhythm game players (beating "Through The Fire and the Flames" on expert has nothing to do with this kind of "hardcore," by the way).

So by once again failing to please both hardcore and casual players in their approach to marketing a new rhythm game to Western audiences, we'll just have to hope that the one thing we don't know about yet--the quality and difficulty of the note charts--may be able to outshine the competition. Otherwise, things look dire for Rock Revolution.

Hands-on Preview

Why does this game get me wet? I love that it tries to be a little bit of everything, taking the good parts from several closely related (sub)genres and creating a beautifully eccentric yet easily digestible mashup (Girl Talk, anyone?). How do I love thee, unfinished game I've never heard of until this morning? Let me count the ways:

1. "No HUD or Cutscenes." This sounds perfect for a survival horror game, and I agree with the developers that it would make for a more immersive experience. Narrative shouldn't be about words; it should be about experience.

2. Gravity-based puzzles. We can squeeze a few more years out of the gravity puzzle gimmick, so for now I honestly don't mind milking that teat just a little harder in the games of this generation. Hopefully this survival game will have real puzzles, unlike the laughably easy key-finding endeavors of the usual titles in the genre. I also got pretty excited when the developer rhetorically asked, "what is fire like in zero-g?"

3. Limited Ammo and Health. Fuck yes, challenge.

4. It reminds me System Shock 2, Silent Hill, and Metroid Prime. This one just speaks for itself.

The Interview I'm referencing can be found here.

This saucy and slightly controversial quote brought you courtesy of Official Nintentdo Magazine UK, in a recent interview with PlatinumGames.

Combining games and book-learning has always been a sticky point, generally because people seem to think that it's a battle over "fun" and "not fun," which isn't necessarily the case. First of all, the word "education" sounds more official than "learning," which makes the quote harder to pin down. Learning happens in all video games, because gamers have to adjust to control schemes, enemy attack patterns, and so on. On the other hand, "education" sounds a bit more formal and applicable to every day life, right? Dictionary.com's first definition is: "the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life."

The key words here are reasoning and judgment, things I believe many games develop. But where do we draw the line between a game that makes on learn, and an educational game?

In Myst, players often resorted to taking page upon page of notes to keep up with the game's demanding puzzles. The kind of knowledge the game tested could fall under logical ability, as well as "common sense." In its sequel Riven, players had to figure out which written characters equaled which numbers, and that puzzle involved some basic arithmetic. Would someone draw the line here? I think that definition would be too narrow.

The problem with "educational games" is that they want to bridge the gap between interactive learning tool and video game. Games that ask for the application of too much real-world knowledge seem to invite tedium and repel new players (besides some anomalies like Brain Age). And yet, many people devote years of their lives to studying and mastering every aspect of a game like Starcraft, which requires a huge deal of memorization, pattern recognition, and strategic thinking. The weird thing is that most of them enjoy it.

Despite the huge variety of "learning styles" out there, it seems that the best learning still happens in the classroom. While games can be good at sharpening our senses and shaping abstract reasoning and behaviors like resource management and pattern recognition, part of the reason why games are so enjoyable is because we get to keep them separate from "education." The work/play dichotomy helps people structure their lives.

So, should games try to teach you math or foreign languages? No. But should they be stimulating and enriching? Yes. Hopefully PlatinumGames agrees with me.

EDIT: I don't understand how that comment got there.