The Damned Things : Just go buy the damn thing!

The release of Ironiclast, from The Damned Things, has had me excited for many months. I had been reading that members of Every Time I Die, Fallout Boy, and Anthrax were recording something since early 2010. I have always been  fan of Anthrax and their newest lead guitarist, Rob Caggiano is a very under rated player. So to see that Rob and Scott Ian stretch out into a new project got my blood going. The other members include Keith Buckley and Josh Newton from Every Time I Die and Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley from Fallout Boy.

 

Keith Buckley has always intrigued me as a vocalist. I wondered if he  do the ETID screaming or if he would approach The Damned Things differently. Needless to say, I am happy that he took a new approach. He swoons and holds such  catchy melodies with ease.

From the very first song Handbook For The Recently Deceased you realize that this is different for every member. There is a poppy, singable, can’t get it out of my head songwriting, that is refreshing and needed. Let’s face it, 2010 has not been kind to the rock music genre.

My personal favorites out of the 10 tracks released are; The Blues Havin’ Blues, Friday Night, Graverobber, and the title track Ironiclast. It is nice to hear that members from thrash/metal, rock, and punk groups can get together and make something new.

I hope that this is not a one-shot for this group. With luke warm or non-existent new releases from the members other groups, I would hope that they continue a winning combination with The Damned Things.

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Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light : Go get it!

Tomb Raider is a beloved series in my family. Since the first polygon of the British archaeologist landed on the PS1, I was hooked. Every game kept me up for hours, days, and multiple playthroughs. My wife and I have shared stories of our adventures in the games over dinner. We wait for every installment. So Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light has been the most anticipated game in our house this year.

For anyone familiar with Lara Croft and her games, you expect certain things. But Crystal Dynamics departed from the typical 3rd person over the shoulder look, for a isometric viewpoint, fixed camera. This is also the first game that introduces a co-op play. Your partner is a Mayan warrior named Totec who can speak perfect english. Amazing for a Mayan who had never heard spoken english prior to what Lara says to him. But let me tell you the story of the game first …

“Two-thousand years ago in ancient Central America, a battle began between Totec, the Guardian of the Light, and Xototl, the keeper of darkness. Totec’s army was defeated when Xolotl used the mirror of smoke to unleash hordes of ghastly creatures. Totec survived said battle, and found a way to defeat Xolotl, imprisoning him in the mirror of smoke and watching over the mirror as an immortal stone statue. In present day, Lara Croft reads of the legend and attempts to find the mirror. After a long and dangerous hike she is successful. She stops to observe the mirror, only to find that a band of mercenaries led by the local warlord followed her into the temple and took the mirror from her. Unknowing, or unbelieving of the curse upon the mirror, the leader of the mercenaries handles the mirror and recklessly releases Xolotl. The stone statue of Totec comes to life and warns Lara that Xolotl must be stopped before the light of dawn. Depending on whether playing single player or not, Lara and Totec either join forces or go separate ways to try and stop Xolotl.”

This game is a lot of fun! Gameplay is fast paced, controls are tight, and it offers a lot of replay value. There are some downfalls but nothing too serious. The controls take a little bit of time to get used to. Once learned though, actions will become second nature.

During the Co-op play, if your partner is slower than you, it will cause problems. There is not a split screen option and it forces you to truly work with the other gamer. Which is always  good thing. Why play co-op if you are not going to “play nice”?

The graphics are fresh and stay constant. You never feel as though something doesn’t belong. In typical Tomb Raider fashion you will be asking, “Why did this ancient culture build this?” And of course as the game progresses enemies become larger and more hellish. Nothing becomes too frustrating. Some areas might make your blood boil, but that is just because the game knows how to challenge the player.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is at the perfect price point of $15 or 1500 MS Points. Two thumbs WAY up on this game!

 

Final Fantasy XIII : Where has the past week gone?

First off, I am not going to go into the story line of the game. Just know two things : 1. Good vs. Evil and 2. Big monsters.

I knew that Final Fantasy XIII was going to be different but I didn’t realize how much.

The very first thing that I noticed was the linear, tunnel like, “exploring” that your character/party did. Almost like the Tomb Raider series, running through buildings, caves, and the what not. There is very little expansive territory to search through. Of course there is an area where you go through side quests and massive beasts are all around.

Second thing is the battle system. In past games I would make two teams, making each person with certain strengths knowing that if my team leader died that I would have to use the next in line. Nope, not this time. If your team leader dies during battle, you have to start the fight over. This is frustrating when you have been hacking away at something for 10 minutes. There were several times where I would just stare at the screen in dismay,going, “I almost had it! WHAT THE CRAP!” But overall, the battle system is easy to learn and upgrade.

The cutscenes are gorgeous. This is where you spending big money for that TV and sound system comes into play. The playing graphics, for that matter, are gorgeous as well. Often I could not tell the difference. The one thing that I did find funny is that each character had to have their “We can do this speech!” cutscene. Some of it is quite high school drama and some can get to the point where you want to turn the volume down.

The main problem, it is very petty, with the game is the map. You are able to view a map of the area and some of it is difficult to see. There are no markers saying where each spot leads to and you do not have the ability to mark it. I can’t remember if other FF games did the same. I just find it odd and annoying. Some of the caves start looking the same and running down a path for 20 minutes before realizing that you are going the wrong way is a time waster.

I also find it funny that every and I mean every Final Fantasy follows the same character stereotypes.

  1. There is always a bad ass lead character that is driven and will throw themselves in harms way no matter the cost. You will play them the most.
  2. Always a macho, testosterone, “dude”.
  3. A cute, flirty, giggle giggle girl that can do major damage.
  4. A random, easy going black guy that feels like he has nothing to live for. You always want to use him but in the end he is a so-so character.
  5. Someone with a staff who is rough, tumble, and secretive.
  6. The useless guy. Sometimes is a animal.

Overall Final Fantasy XIII is wonderful. Even with little flaws and occasional bad acting, it is still worthy of your attention. If you are the type that does not enjoy long epic adventures, you might want to look somewhere else. I am currently clocking in 60+ hours, still have all the side quests to complete, and have not beaten the final chapter.

This is a buy for those who know what they are getting into.

Summer, bands, Red Dead and FF13

Well, I got a lot going on and nothing to really write about. I am playing through Final Fantasy 13 and Red Dead Redemption. Both are huge games! So far both are worthy of anyone looking to really sink their teeth into epic games. Also, I am busy with my band, The Great Liars. You should check us out!

Until I finish a game or come across some awesome new music, it might get light here during the summer.

Mini Ninjas : Its like Calgone and Japanese feudal warfare wrapped up in one.

Charming, relaxing, and simply fun. Mini Ninjas is a great game from start to finish. The game offers a surprisingly long gameplay adventure, I logged in around 12+ hours.

I was not thinking that this game was going to be too difficult or frustrating. Knowing by the cover that it would appeal toward younger ages, I figured that if I wanted it to be more difficult I would have to make it that way. The replay value is fairly low and for the perfectionist player it offers several trophies/awards to obtain with multiple runs at different difficulty levels or replays of different stages.

The story is wrapped around a little ninja named Hiro. His master has sent him, along with Futo, on a journey to destroy the Evil Samurai Warlord. Along the way they rescue other ninjas that had been captured. The rescued ninjas are playable characters and have certain strengths. Hiro, for the most part, is the most used and is the only one that can use the powerful Kuji magic.

The graphics are quite stylized and the music is very relaxing. Some of the levels are fairly large and offer a lot of exploring. Parents watching their kids play will want to join in because it is very inviting. My wife and I shared gameplay duties. It was just fun!

The game has been out since September 09. I would figure that you could find it for fairly cheap or easily available to rent.

Battlefield : Bad Company 2

Ahhh, March 2, I will remember it well. Snow coming down, covering the road, myself, I was sick with a stomach virus, but I was determined that Battlefield : Bad Company 2 would be in my sweaty palms. Worth every penny and slide on the highway.

Of course comparisons to Modern Warfare 2 will be thrown against the wall. Some will stick and some will fall flat. Both games have their flaws. But this isn’t about MW2. It is about a bold move for DICE. The gamble of forced squad tactical playing.

The single player campaign is tight, linear, and fun. Bad Company is back for round two. Quite simple : Russians are in search of a new weapon. You have to stop them before they invade the US and take down the head honcho. The story has been played out in hundreds of games, so no points for originality. Still, the globe trotting adventure brings in a types of great environments. This really sets you up knowing that there will be some awesome multi-player maps.

With most games, the AI is confusing! They either see you right away or never see you, even if you are standing in front of them. The most problematic area is that no matter if your entire squad is firing, all enemies will focus their attention on you. The other three guys in the squad just stand there shooting and getting shot, blown up, and beaten down. They never get a scratch on them. You? Well, you will die a lot. Dudes with shotguns have accuracy of sniper rifles. Sure your squad will take care of some of the baddies, but it mostly lies in your hands. That is fine, but if it is a “squad” based game, DICE could have made it more interactive. I would have loved to been able to tell certain squad mates to stay put or go to point A.

The action is frantic at points and you will have to rest sometimes from the white knuckle firefights you will encounter. By the final level you would think that the enemies would be tougher. The final dealio is more of a hold down the trigger and eat through the bullets than a use your head play tactic. On top of that, you end the game with a “That should have been bigger.” Still a great ride though.

The real star is the multi-player. Twelve on twelve teams, broken down into 3 squads per side. You team up with your friends or are randomly placed into a squad. You are able to stay with the same team mates until one decides to leave. I have played on the same squad with two players for 5 hours straight. We got to know our playing styles and really started to turn into a machine of hot death!

You chose from 4 classes : Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Recon. Each class holds an important function for victory. If your squad is a bunch of recon (snipers), you are going to suck. Yeah, everyone likes to hide and kill people. That might be fine in Modern Warfare, but not in this game! This is a team effort and lone wolfs are lame. Another key to success is to “spot” for your team mates. This function calls out the position of the opposing side and makes it easier to take them down or change battle plans. Be prepared to change roles often during a match. You may start out as a medic but end as an engineer, and that is ok.

One of the best features is the use of vehicles. From ATV’s, tanks, to helicopters, there is a wide variety to get the upper hand on the other side. It is nice though that just because your enemy might have a tank, it doesn’t mean that you are not able to take it down. Once again, understand what each class does in battle and use that to your advantage.

Bottom line, I loved the game! It will stay in the PS3 for a longtime. If you are not a multi-player fan, I would rent it. You will get a good 2 days worth of playing. For those that love to kill online, get it! You will become addicted.

DICE has answered Activision with a solid runner for the crown. And since Infinity Ward is now off the Modern Warfare project, it would behoove DICE to pick up that team to work on upcoming Battlefield releases. The two companies could really turn out an amazing game!

God of War III better be able to make me lunch.

Every morning I open up my browser and read the headlines, press releases, and Woot Deals. Anyway, God of War III better be able to kick my butt through my television, go into the kitchen, make me a sandwich (no mayo), and force it down my throat with the love of Kratos. With as much hype as it is getting, you would think that it is setting itself up for harsh user scrutiny. Sure the critics are raving about the  ultra violent, eye candy. But what if common Joe Gamer does not get the idea of it?

Everyone has seen the big action flick of the year *ahem*Transformers 2 *cough* that looked so good in the previews, critics raved that it was “MIND BLOWING”. Went and sat through an hour and a half of explosions, only to feel full with popcorn. Not filled with the excitement that makes you want to be that guy in the movie.

All I am saying is that, Kratos, you have a lot of eyes, ears, and thumbs waiting. You better deliver.

On another plane of existence, I will be doing reviews  for Bayonetta and Battlefield : Bad Company 2 in the next week. So keep watch for it.

Warhawk is $14.99 on PSN

The 32 multiplayer game, Warhawk, is $14.99 for a limited time. Available only on the PS3 through their PSN Network. From personal experience Warhawk is one of the best games to land on the PS3. Warhawk was released in 2007 and has several DLC packages, that are also on sale. There is still a rabid following for the game and servers are always filled. Games can go from mild to total chaos in seconds.

One of the greatest things about the game is that it gives the player so many options for gameplay. Fly a Warhawk, destroy with a tank, snipe from a mountain top, or just run around laying mines, players can change up the gameplay on the fly.

Warhawk is the only game that I continue to play on a weekly basis. This is the best way to spend $14.99! GO GET IT NOW!

I am having Borderlands withdrawal

I sent Borderlands back to GameFly yesterday and I am now wishing I had not. The game is addictive . . . very addictive. Yes, the ending was a little lame but the ride there was great! Going through it a second time was a real challenge. The enemies up in power and number. Sometimes there are so many things to shoot on the screen, you just “Spray and Pray”.

Games need to be more like Borderlands. The addictive quality of games is slipping. Games should haunt your thoughts! There have been way too many in the past years that I have gone through and never thought about again. I can think of a handful of games that I crave to play. Legendary games like Castlevania : Symphony of the Night (PS1), Resident Evil 4 (GameCube, PS2), The Legend of Zelda (NES), Zelda Windwaker (GameCube), Final Fantasy VII (PS1), WarHawk (PS3), and Uncharted 2 (PS3). Let’s go ahead and place Borderlands in there as well. It has the drive and the possibility to really change the FPS/RPG gaming style.

Maybe I can find Borderlands on sale somewhere. The idea of going through the game with all the characters really make it appealing. I know that the review below isn’t a complete review. You just need to trust me on this. Borderlands is worth your time and money!