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Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 The Summary: Part 3 "All Things Gamey"

2010 was the year of the sequel when it came to video games. It seemed more so than ever that publishers were less willing to take a risk and put their sole focus into producing safe bet sequels to established franchises. That’s not to say there were not any original IP’s put out this year but they were few and far between.
One of the few original IP's released this year.

These comments should in no way be taken as a slight on the quality of games that arrived this year. All in all it was one of the best years ever to be a gamer with a glut of high quality releases causing more than a few gamers to stare at their pile of shame while bemoaning the lack of time in their lives (myself included). Here are my highlights for your perusal.
Commander Shepherd Returns.

February saw the release of one of my most anticipated games of all time, Mass Effect 2 and boy it didn’t disappoint. Generic combat, poorly implemented inventory management and boring exploration missions were replaced by tight 3rd person shooter mechanics, an almost non-existent inventory system and some of the best mission structure I have ever seen. In fact about the only bad thing I can think of with the game is the monotonous mineral collection mini game (which was fixed to some extent in a later patch). Along with a steady stream of both free and paid DLC, ME2 gave you plenty of reason to keep it in your Xbox the whole year round.
Sergio Leone eat your heart out.

The next big gaming release in my eyes was Red Dead Redemption. This is simply a masterpiece of storytelling and gameplay. The open world that Rockstar has created is simply breathtaking, seamlessly portraying a living breathing world that evokes the spirit of Sergio Leone and transports the player into the life of the title character John Marsten. Generally I find open world games a bit of a chore to get through. Once I am done playing in the sandbox I tend to lose interest as the narrative is not strong enough to carry my through to the end. RDR bucks that trend by creating a compelling cast of characters that range from the weird to the intense and somehow manages to make the player care for every single one of them. With RDR and ME2 the gaming industry dispelled the notion that games cannot tell an engaging tale.
A Good Shooter on the Wii?????

The Wii this year fought back against claims that it is nothing but a kids system with a range of games aimed at the older generation. The high quality of Super Mario Galaxy 2, the nostalgia of NBA JAM and the hardcore difficulty of Donkey Kong Country Returns all help to bring the Wii back into the minds of the serious gamer. The major coup that the Wii pulled off was the successful return of Goldeneye. This remake was more than a simple graphical face lift giving fans of the N64 original new levels, tight shooter mechanics and online multiplayer that actually worked on the Wii (which really has never been done.) The replacement of Peirce Brosnan with the current Bond Daniel Craig may cause some purists issues though in reality it is both a minor issue and a logical choice for creators Activision.
Production in South Korea reduced by 60%
Starcraft returned to our PC’s this year after a 12 year hiatus with part 1 of a 3 part sequel. The fact that Blizzard is milking the proverbial cash cow by splitting Starcraft 2 into 3 parts (one part for each of the races) was met with anger and disappointment from a lot of fans. It did allow Blizzard to tell a more complete story in the single player. The first part told the story of the Terran race and a rebel leader Jim Raynor as he faces a dictator, visions from a Protoss priest, Zerg incursions and his old flame Kerrigan who is now the Zerg leader, the Queen of Blades. The quality of the game is as high as you would expect coming from Blizzard and while they may have played it safe with the RTS mechanics they have still put together the best RTS since Company of Hero’s.
A great story is the perfect topping to superb multiplayer
I can’t let a summary for 2010 go by without mentioning the largest entertainment release of all time. Call of Duty: Black ops smashed all sales expectations (and records) out of the water selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the first week alone. The game its self was a strong continuation of the COD series, introducing a new time frame (The cold war/Vietnam war) and a new hero (voiced imperfectly by Australia’s own man of the moment Sam Worthington). Multiplayer as always is COD’s strong point, though this time developers Treyarch have molded a compelling single player story that weaves a tale of intrigue that the best thriller writers would be proud of. All in all another solid entry in what is probably the premier game franchise today.
So for the final paragraph I want to do what every Tom, Dick and Harry does and that is give out a few “best of” titles for the year, I know it is clichéd but sometimes a cliché is fun.
Game of the year: Mass Effect 2, (Runner Up: Red Dead Redemption)
Best Multiplayer: COD: Black Ops (Runner Up: Halo Reach)
Best New IP: Darksiders: (Runner Up: Epic Mickey)
Biggest Disappointment: Star Wars, The Force Unleashed 2 (Runner Up: Puzzle Quest 2)
Worst Game: Naughty Bear (Runner Up: Star Wars, The Force Unleashed 2)

Massively Disappointing.

Words cannot describe how bad this game is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 The Summary Part 2: Music

Well 2010 has been a pretty good year for my style of music. I say my style because music is such a subjective medium that I don’t believe that any review can accurately describe the feelings that are evoked by a piece of music for any individual. That being said here are some of my musical highlights for the year:

Aussie Rock at it's most basic.

Early in the year I was greeted by quite a few new additions to my musical catalogue. Airbourne – No Guts, No Glory was basically the same at their previous album but in a world of soft rockers like Nickleback and Maroon 5, their no nonsense approach to rock is a welcome blast from the past. Sevendust hit us with a new album in March and like all of their albums it was another great metal album that no one seems to be listening too. Support these guys folks, they bring the melody with the metal!
Melodic Metal at it's best.

At about the same time I was greeted by the biggest surprise of the year. Slash’s debut album was a ripper. Showcasing his brilliant guitar playing along with some exceptional crafted tunes Slash with the help of some guest stars (Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge and Fergie were standouts!) has crafted one of the best rock albums of the decade. This man can bring it and in the process has made the world stand up and say “Axel who?”
Rock Album of the year!

August brought us a new album from Avenged Sevenfold and it was another corker. Once again A7X have thrown away the standard conventions followed by Metal bands and left us with Nightmare. My wife fondly refers to A7X’s recent albums as “dramatic metal” and during the album you will hear strains of their influences like Metallica and Iron Maiden. This is a quality album to both bang your head too and enjoy at a deeper level. Metal with a splash of different!
Dramatic Metal Ahoy!!

Disturbed brought their new album to us at the end of August and really little can be said. It was a bit of a disappointment, most songs sounding a little samey and apart from a few standout songs (Asylum and Another Way to Die) it was a very generic album from one of the biggest Metal acts in the world today. All in all you are better off grabbing the singles of iTunes than wasting money on the whole album.
Not an Epic Fail, Just a minor fail.

The final big release of the year for me was AB-III, by Alter Bridge. The band consisting of the good parts of Creed (i.e. everyone except Scott Stapp) and rock wailer Myles Kennedy once again has released a very accomplished Hard Rock album. The sound brought forth on this album is both new and familiar at the same time, with one particular song (Slip through the void) opening with a very Pink Floydesque introduction before kicking into the familiar riffs of their past Albums. A big thumbs up from me!
Simple title, kick ass rock songs.

All in all a good year in all for the rocker within us all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 The Summary Part 1

2010 the summary……
Well it is that time of year. It is the time to get the Xmas trees ready, time to get inundated with bad greeting cards and time to reflect on the year that was. This, dear readers, is what I am going to do now, go over the things that excited, annoyed or surprised me over the last 12 months. I am going to split this up in to 4 categories to make reading easier for you folk out there (and it gives my older readers the ability to skip the topics that they don’t understand ;-))
Well the year that was for movies, was it good or bad. For me it was somewhere in between. There were a lot of dud’s out there this year but the big surprise for me was the return of the old school action movie. Predators, The Losers, The A-team and of course The Expendables all brought the 80’s action vibe back into the mainstream and I for one loved it. Now these movies are no Oscar winners but they know it, in fact they revel in it. Big guns and big bangs never get old and these movies prove it.

No Story + Big Guns = A Shitload of fun.
My best movie of the year is Inception. I know I wrote an article earlier about how I disagreed with critics saying it was the most unique piece of cinema around, and I still agree with this point however it doesn’t change the fact that this is one hell of a heist movie. I would go as far as to say that this is probably the best heist movie ever made (yes even better than Heat). Great performances from great actors make this super confusing concept not only seem plausible but actually real. I will never look at a metal spinning top the same way.

A true mind bender!
Another surprise movie for me was Daybreakers. It came out of the blue and made me remember why Vampires were still badass and not pussy sparkly emo dudes that can’t stop pining because the love of their life wants to cuddle someone with a bit more hair. What made Daybreakers so cool was the fact it was Australian made. I thought Aussies had forgotten how to make genre flicks and only knew how to make gritty Melbourne based crime dramas and low budget comedies, but this proved me wrong. If you want to remember when vampires were on the top of the monster pile and forget the fact they are now nothing but a teenage girl’s fantasy then this is the movie for you.

Aussie vamp flick that makes you forget about Twilight
In wrapping up movies here are some more flicks that I enjoyed in 2010: Date Night, The Book of Eli, Hot Tub Time Machine, Law Abiding Citizen, Iron Man 2 and Get Him to the Greek. Movies I didn’t like included: I Love You Man, Edge of Darkness, anything at all to do with emo vampires and the steamy pile that is Sex and the City 2 (didn’t even have to watch that to know it was crap). Finally movies I missed that I fully intend to watch ASAP: Harry Brown, Shutter Island, Robin Hood and Tron: Legacy.

The best part of a pretty good movie!
Tomorrow: Music, in the days following both Games and Miscellaneous will be examined