Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Armchair Gamer Podcast Season Two Episode 1: That Chris Figueroa Episode

This week on the Armchair Gamer Podcast, I have crafted a one-man, one-mic episode. I talk about how great OUTLAND is, Zynga’s growing legal troubles, the passing of a great video game artist, and interview Chris Figueroa, developer of the upcoming platformer IMAGINE ME.
(Music: Intro/Outro “Moon” by The Advantage
Background Music 1: “Maybe” from Fallout 3’s soundtrack
Background Music 2: “Outland Title Music” from Outland)

Or, look us up on iTunes!
And listen to episodes 1,2,3,5,6 on Internet Archives:

Plugs: Follow Chris on Twitter @Kinifi!/kinifi

Also, I briefly talked about Adam from Bethesda’s passing on the show, if you want to read more- please read here:

If you enjoyed the new format, please leave a comment saying so. If not, tell me why. Enjoy the show! 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat Review: A Wasteland Paradise

Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

Developer: GSC Game World

Genre: FPS, Open World, Survival

System: PC

Rated: M (Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence)

As you may know, I am a huge fan of Metro 2033. Some of you are probably tired of me constantly gushing about it over twitter. Anyway I recently decided to play the other video game series about a post-apocalyptic Russia ravaged with mutants and radiation, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. Specifically for this review I have played the 2nd game, Call of Pripyat.

Gameplay: As mentioned above, Call of Pripyat ditches the hub-based world of Shadow of Chernobyl for a much more open-ended map divided into three different sectors. This vastly reduces the amount of time the player spends in loading different areas and makes the experience much more enjoyable. The map isn’t that hard to traverse, and it usually won’t take you long to get from one end of a sector to the other.

Gunplay is satisfying, and each weapon handles differently from the next without actually feeling underpowered or overpowered. Guns tend to empty fast, so you’ll have to scavenge what you can from the dead, and having several weapons that use different rounds is always a good idea.

Another new addition Call of Pripyat brings is the ability to customize and improve certain aspects of your weapons and armor at local gunsmiths. These upgrades can vary from increasing how a weapon handles to how accurate or how fast it is to how much your armor protects against bullets or environmental hazards. If you want some of the better upgrades though, you’re going to have to look for toolkits. The toolkits aren’t particularly marked on the map, so you may have to ask around to find them all.

A good way of making money is looking for artifacts in anomalies. Artifacts, besides being worth a lot of money, provide bonuses like giving health regeneration or increasing your maximum weight limit but are also radioactive, so you will most likely want to find a firefly or bubble or other anti-radiation artifacts before you equip any other type of artifact. The process for finding artifacts is, at first, a game of hot and cold, and the artifacts are usually right by deadly anomalies. Eventually you get better detectors which make finding artifacts a heck of a lot easier, particularly if you do a certain side quest that nets you a detector which shows the locations of anomalies as well as artifacts

Story: The story in Call of Pripyat follows Alexander Degtyarev as he goes undercover as a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in order to investigate why five helicopters the military sent into the zone crashed without warning. The main story-line in and of itself isn’t particularly interesting, and the conclusion near the end was woefully unsatisfying. I did find finishing each side quest to be incredibly more satisfying. Listening to the epilogue at the end telling you how your decisions affected the zone will both make you proud that you helped Beard and the Stalkers out in Zaton instead of helping Sultan and make you despise yourself for not killing off that hive of Bloodsuckers when you had the chance.

Final Thoughts: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat is a fun game. Its story isn’t going to win any prizes and the conclusion near the end really was a disappointment, but the side quests and gunplay are good enough to more than make up for it. Even if you aren’t the type of person that has to finish every single quest before moving on with the main storyline, I can guarantee you will have finished a good majority of them by the end of the game.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reservoir Dogs Review: A Fine Example Of Brilliant, Controversial Directing...

Film: Reservoir Dogs (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
MPAA: R (Restricted)
Starring: Harvey Keitel
Tim Roth
Michael Madsen
Steve Buscemi
October 23rd, 1992

Very few modern directors are more revered, or as controversial, as Quentin Tarantino. Classified by some as a genius of cinema, and by others as a creepy, violent guy, Tarantino has been making movies for a long time. And it all started in 1992 with Reservoir Dogs. The film, lauded by some as a classic of independent film, and by others as an example of the degradation of American media, is a perfect debut for such a director as Quentin. And, by in large, Reservoir Dogs stands up to the test of time.
Reservoir Dogs follows the story of a botched jewelry heist, perpetrated by thieves with color coded titles, such as Mr. Blonde and Mr. White. Where some movies may focus on the heist itself, this film is more concerned with the reaction of the thieves to events after the robbery. A fellow conspirator is shot, and the remaining men are afraid that they have been infiltrated by a rat. What follows is a dark, frightening, and macabrely comedic thriller about bad men in bad times.
The movie moves at a very acceptable pace. At times, scenes go on for longer than usual, usually because of humorous, pop-culture-reference laden monologues about by-gone actresses or why a certain character doesn't conform to social norms. Within five minutes, a viewer is already exposed to a ton of pop-culture references, and witty, vulgar banter. However, Tarantino's now-trademark talent at making interesting dialogue keeps even the most over-long scenes well worth watching. At the same time, a lot of restraint is shown by the director at times where the movie could stop for relief but instead keeps rolling at quite a quick pace.
One of the main components of most films is characters, and Reservoir Dogs has some fine talent recruited. It's a true testament to the acting abilities of the cast, that every character is played very well. Sure, they may fill cliched archetypes of a psychotic ex-con or a criminal bound in honor among thieves, but they work so well that you don't notice. Despite not even receiving proper names beyond the aforementioned color-coded titles, each character has a special feel. I really have to applaud Michael Madsen's portrayal of Mr. Blonde, a character that has been driven insane (presumably by a recently completed prison service). Though I don't want to spoil anything, Madsen perfectly combines sly humor with menacing insanity in a way reminiscent of a character like The Joker. And, of course, Mr. White (played by Harvey Keitel) very successfully brings some grounding to the often off-the-rails story.
The cinematography employed by Reservoir Dogs is fairly intriguing. Rather than using a lot of complex back and forth camera work for the spitfire conversations, Tarantino opted for wider shots at unique angles. In one scene near the beginning, there is a conversation between two characters shot down a hallway. I love this scene because it doesn't seem like a conventional Hollywood thriller decision. Instead, it feels natural and real, something a great camera shot can do very well. All in all, the cinematic camera angles work well, and at times they even excel beyond serving a function. However, I do have to caveat this saying that I think at times different camera shots could have been employed for better effect, and a little more complexity wouldn't hurt.
Finally, there's the reason Quentin Tarantino is so revered, his controversial content. As is stated at the top of the review, the film is rated R. This is very evident, in many different ways. For example, the dialogue at no point attempts to be anything but vulgar. Words like fuck and dick and anything else you can think of are used frequently, and often they are overused. If you are worried about language, this movie- or any of his films, really- aren't for you. I'm not however, and so I'm really only interested in the violence. The film is very, very unapologetically violent. A main character is constantly bloodied throughout the film thanks to a gunshot wound, and as the film progresses his condition steadily declines. Near the end, all his clothes are soaked red and he lays in a pool of blood, in absolute pain. Then, of course, there is a famous torture scene, which I won't go into in depth because of spoilers. Let's just say, it's deranged and brutal. That being said, all of it makes contextual sense. At no point does the director attempt to mislead you into thinking the characters are good guys, and all of their actions can be explained as actions committed by ruthless criminals.
Over all, Reservoir Dogs delivers a unique crime caper, character study, comedy, and thriller packaged into one. If you have a weak stomach, this film may not be for you, but if you can handle it, the acting, cinematography, and entertaining dialogue more than make up for any queasiness felt while viewing.

Final Verdict: 4 Out Of 5 Stars (Must Watch)