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gopulpfiction Blog

Don't Call It a Comeback...

Well, I certainly haven't been here for years, but least to say it's been a long time since I last posted a blog. My last entry was about how GLaDOS should be the greatest villain of all time, and so it seems fitting that my first video game purchase of the year is none other than:

I haven't really sunk my teeth into the game yet; I'm only through half-way into the second chapter. While the game hasn't been challenging by any stretch of the imagination so far (especially for someone who's thoroughly played the first game), Portal 2 really sucks you in quickly. The ruined halls of Aperture Laboratories are greatly detailed and players familiar with the original test chambers will quickly realize that some of them have returned but certainly have seen better days since the events of Portal.

But when it comes to the dark, witty humor the first game is know for, Valve starts off firing on all cylinders. I thought Portal's humor slowly kicked in during the course of the game, but when I was introduced to Wheatley at the very beginning of the game, I was in stitches. It's just unbelievable how much value good comedic value can add to a game. I really wish I wrote down some of the stuff he said to share with everyone... perhaps for a future entry.

Bracketology - Final Four of the All Time Greatest Game Villain

So, tomorrow marks the first day of the All Time Greatest Game Villain tournament. Before that kicks off, let me finish my bracket analysis.

Last time I left off saying that the Final Four (or the Fearsome Four as the official bracket calls them) would be Ganondorf v. Bowser, and GLaDOS v. Sephiroth. So let's jump straight into the semifinal matches.

Ganondorf vs. Bowser.

This is a clas sic match-up worthy of a final: two old-school nintendo villains who are just as iconic as their heroic counterparts. In my opinion, Ganondorf is more of a villain than Bowser, while Bowser is merely just villainous (think about that for a second and it'll make sense… hopefully). Ganondorf is the personification of evil in the Zelda games, whereas Bowser just could use a little love, even if he does have to forcefully kidnap Princess Peach for some company. However, Mario fans are aplenty and expect them to carry their favorite foe into the finals.

Winner: Bowser

GLaDOS vs. Sephiroth

This is the match-up I'm betting the success of my bracket on. I'm certain Sephiroth will steamroll through his quarter of the bracket and may continue that momentum into the final (man, I can already hear the thousands of FF fanboys still crying over Aeirth). However, GLaDOS is my personal favorite villain in this whole tourney and I'll be remiss if I don't pick her to go into the finals. And besides, who really wants to crown an effeminate, anime character to be the greatest villain?

Winner: GLaDOS (partly out of principle)

Here it is the Final battle:

Bowser vs. GLaDOS

Last year, it was Mario against Gordon Freeman as the greatest game hero. Super Mario Bros. vs. Half-life. I think this year, those two games will be represented again in this year's greatest game villain contest. Last year, the Valve/Steam community rallied for Gordon Freeman and helped him edge past Mario. Expect a repeat this year as once again, the Half-life universe will trump the Mushroom Kingdom as GLaDOS will take home the title of Greatest Game Villain.

Winner and Greatest Game Villain: GLaDOS

So there it is, my picks for the Greatest Game Villain. I'm sure many of you disagree (and probably rightfully so), but let me know what you guys think, with your own bracket analysis. Besides, it's fun to just throw out random opinions without any real concrete thought behind them. Much like sports writers.Anyway, till next time.

Bracketology - All Time Greatest Game Villain

So, Gamespot's All Time Greatest Game Villain Tournament is looming over the horizon and I'mstoked. I love tournaments for one simple reason: brackets! It's why I follow tennis all year long, and why I suddenly pay attention to collegiate basketball in March. They're fun to fill out, analyze, debate, and gamble insane amounts of money, like $10, over it (what's not fun is realizing that your bracket is utterly ruined after the first round, which tends to happen frequently for me L).

Before every tournament, there's always an editor who will use his expert knowledge to predict the outcome of the draw. Well, for this one I'm going to use all of my non-expertness to summon my powers of prognostication to predict the Greatest Game Villain. With the draw set in place, let's take a look at each quarter:

Top Left Quarter:

There are some old-school powerhouses in this quarter: Ganondorf, Dr. Robotnik, Mother Brain, and Donkey Kong, with Mother Brain making it into the final sixty-fourvia a wild-card berth. This is possibly the toughest quarter out of the four. Expect to see a tough second round match between the Ganondorf and the Greek God of War, Ares,Donkey Kong and Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker, and the other wild-card entry Psycho Mantis against the fallen prince Arthas Menethil.

Match to watch: Donkey Kong v. The Joker. I'm really not sure who'll come out of this one. Will the old-school appeal propel DK into the next round? Perhaps. Then again, he's going up against THE Joker. The baddest comic book villain ever! But will voters think of him more as a comic book villain than a game villain?

Semi-finalist: Ganondorf. The wielder of the Tri-force of Power will edge out Psycho Mantis in a close quarterfinal showdown.

Top Right Quarter:

There's one name you simply cannot ignore in this corner of the draw: Bowser. I predict he'll see the PacMan Ghosts, who are possibly this year's Bub & Bob, in the quarters (only I think the PacMan ghosts actually deserve to go this far). If Bowser doesn't face Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, it's probably because they were knocked out by Kerrigan. Those Starcraft fans haven't been fans for twelve years for nothing.

Semi-finalist: Bowser. Just as you can count on him to kidnap the Princess year in and year out in every Mario game, you can count on him to make it to the final four.

Bottom Left Quarter:

Another tough corner of the draw.Could it be the tale of two Darth's in the quarterfinal? Not ifM. Bison from Street Fighter, Dr. Wily, Megaman's perennial nemesis, & Castlevani's Dracula have any say in the matter. I'm keeping an eye on this section of the draw as two of my favorite villains, Andrew Ryan and GLaDOS have a potential second round match-up.

Match to watch: Dracula v. Darth Vader. REALLY? This is a first round match-up? Who the heck set up this draw? Thismatch should've at least happened at the quarterfinals. With a strong showingin the wild-card round,will Darth Vader ride the momentum into the second round? But really, should a guy who used to be this whiny dude filed with teen angst be in this draw at all? I rest my case.

Semi-finalist: GLaDOS. You made us all kill the beloved Companion Cube, and nearly incinerated us. All for the promise of cake. And for science. You monster.

Bottom Right Quarter:

Just how Bowser will dominate his quarter, Sephiroth will dominate this one. Besides, aside from Dr. Breen from Half-Life 2, I really don't know anybody else in this quarter (ha!). And I'm certainly not going to have Team Rocket progress out of the first round as a matter of principle. Although I'd like to see Officer Tenpenny go deep. A character voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson has got to be one bada** motherf***er.

Semi-finalist: Sephiroth. All those weepy FFVII fanboys still haven't forgiven him for what he did to Aerith.

So that's my draw analysis for up to the semi-finals. Stay tuned for my predictions for the final four and who I think will be the Greatest Game Villain of All Time.

I Get a Chance to Try Out Kinect... and I Wasn't Impressed


It's been a while since I've added anything substantial to this blog, mostly due to the craziness over on my end. I'm still "working" on my review for Red Dead Redemption, and I've yet to even unwrap Super Mario Galaxy 2. But for now, I do have a bit of gaming news to share so here goes…

So last weekend (yes, I'm a bit slow in reporting this… ) my friend and I were shopping for my wedding suit at Herald Square and decided to hit up Macy's to look around the men's department to see what kind of suits are out there. As we passed by the window display, we noticed that it wasn't adorned with this year's summer's fashion. Rather, we were treated to a display of this:

New Xbox 360 w/ Kinect

I was like "Oh…cool! That's the New Xbox 360 with the Kinect… I wonder why they have it up there?" And immediately afterwards, we looked to our right and realized why.

Microsoft Kinect Booth

They were giving live demonstrations of Kinect! I was curious to check it out and since the line wasn't long, I figured "Why not?" I asked my friend if he was down, and with a little hit of hesitance, he was like "All right, let's do this," and we got in line.

As we were waiting, we watched the people ahead of us try out a mini-game that involves riding a platform, not unlike a rollercoaster while avoiding the obstacles that pop up. I didn't know what game it was at the time, but when I looked it up later, I found out that the game that was called Kinect Adventures, which is basically a bunch of adventure-themed mini-games. Finally, after 15 minutes of waiting inhot and humid weather, my friend and I stepped inside the kiosk.

First the girl inside the kiosk told us not step beyond a certain point or else we'd be too close for the Kinect to register our movements accurately, which was about 8 to 10 feet (... I think. It was over a week ago so....). So my first impression was not only do people need the extra space to jump and move around, but also people need to clear 8 to 10 feet for Kinect to work optimally. That's a lot of room. So kids, make sure your have the required room to play before you ask mommy and daddy for a Kinect.

Then the game menu screen came up. My friend was player one, and I was player two and we were both represented by two generic avatars on the screen. As we're casually just moving around, the girl told us that the avatars on the screen are moving according to our movements. At first I thought this entertaining and even muttered something like, "Wow… that's kind of cool." While my friend and I were demonstrating this, the girl pointed out the huge zipper in the middle of the screen. She told us in order to start a game, my friend had to glide the zipper across the screen using his avatar, which I thought was a nice detail. However, my friend had a little trouble precisely controlling his avatar's hand. But after a quick few tries, he manages to unzip the game and the loading screen pops up.

While the game was loading, we're shown a few instructional slides outlining the rules of the game. To get the platform moving, we had to pretend like we were grabbing onto a bar in front of us and sort of ourselves forward like one would as a skier preparing to go downhill. My friend, a bit enthusiastic with his gestures, particularly took to this as he got himself nice and low, knees really bent, very much so like a skier. He looked ready to go. On the other hand, I just kinda casually put my arms out stood up. A countdown began, and soon we launched ourselves down the track.

As soon as we were rolling down the tracks, obstacles would pop up from all sides. By dodging these obstacles, you collect coins. Some would pop high, so we'd have to duck down, while others would pop low which we'd have to jump straight up to avoid. Other times, we'd have to step either to the left or right to dodge the obstacles. Occasionally, there would be a bunch of coins in a specific formation that show up during the course of the track and in order to collect all or most of the coins, you either have to stick your arms out to your sides or jump up at the right time. Also, I think twice during the course we had to jump up and down to force the platform down a shaft. Finally at the end of the course, the game tallies up how many coin we each collected (I demolished my friend… with a score along the lines of 498-204).

Once the game ended, the TV screen showed a series of photographs taken of my friend and me by Kinect as we were Playing the game. It showed us jumping, crouching, waving our arms around, etc. The photographs were kind of funny, and it shows how silly and funny Kinect games can be.

Afterwards, my friend and I discussed the whole Kinect experiene and we both came to the conclusion that we weren't really impressed. Sure, it was sort of fun, but overall the pros weren't outweight by the cons. The game itself was really shallow and simply jumping or crouching didn't really add an additional level of immersion. All it really did was make us a bit sweaty (the heat and humidity didn't help either). When I think about it, I really don't want to be uncomfortably sweating during my leisure time in front of a TV doing something as recreational as video games.

However, a shallow game and a sweaty gamer aren't the biggest of Kinect's problems. We both noticed there was something inherently off about how Kinect detects our movements, which was first displayed when my friend tried to start the game by moving the zipper. But when we played the actual game, we noticed there was a very tiny fraction of a second before our avatars appropriately responded whenever we jumped or crouched, etc. While it was only a fraction of a second, our brains immediately recognized that something was wrong. It felt like the "uncanny valley" for motion controls; the avatars on the screen moved accordingly to our movements but our brains just knew something wasn't quite right.

While it was cool to have a chance to try Kinect out before it's out to the public, the whole experience left me with some very deep reservations about the Xbox 360's controller-less device. That's a shame because playing a game without a controller, based solely on the player's movements is a bold step into uncharted territory. However, there's still time between now and when it'll be released to the public so I can still be hopeful that it can correct its shortcomings. But for now, I'm just a little less hopeful than I was before I tried it out.

Breaking News - Pacman on Google!

Thanks to my fiancée for sharing this:

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Pacman is on Google! That's right, if you go to Google's homepage (not iGoogle) and you'll see Pacman just above the search bar. Instead of "I'm feeling lucky" you'll see "Insert Coin". Click on it, and you're good to go!

Edit: If you hit "Insert Coin" twice, you get Ms. Pacman for co-op play (she uses W-A-S-D controls).

(if look more closely you'll see that one of the tabs is "post a blog entry - gopulpfiction"... Yes, I was that excited to share this)

I wonder if they built in the "Split-screen" bug into it... guess we'll have to find out.

My Friday just got retro!

Red Dead Redemption - First Impressions

Yesterday, I got my hands on a copy of Red Dead Redemption. And surprise, surprise: I really enjoy it!

First, my experience with Red Dead Redemption didn't begin very smoothly. Due to the high volume of users, Rockstar's servers were overwhelmed so I couldn't redeem my Best Buy pre-order bonus, nor try out the multiplayer. Also, I ran into a problem where everyone in the game, including my character, would suddenly stiffen up like a board and float around like chess pieces across the landscape. Soon afterwards, the menu screen wouldn't show up, so I was essentially forced to restart the game. After several attempts of installing the game on the hard drive, I finally had a smooth gaming experience. (Anyone else run into this problem?) Now that the unpleasantries are out of the way…

Red Dead Redemption begins with basic expositional story telling, told via a combination of cutscenes and some gameplay tutorials. These cutscenes serve to paint the socio-political climate of the West, and they do it rather effectively. Rockstar has successfully dropped you in a time and place where the untamed 19th Century West is being encroached by modern 20th Century East. While the cutscenes effectively set the stage, I couldn't help but not be that impressed with the graphics, especially with the character models. I had been recently revisiting The Orange Box a lot lately, so it was hard for me NOT to compare the facial animations in that game to those found in Red Dead Redemption. I find it really surprising how Half-life 2, despite its five-year old technology, can still outshine today's games in this regard. However, the voice talent in Red Dead Redemption is top notch, which made me overlook this particular minor shortcoming. And with such good voice actors, they easily carry the burden of portraying characters you can connect with and immersing you into the time period.

Once the exposition was done, along with the obligatory tutorials, it was time to explore the open frontier. It's the exploration of the barren, yet beautiful wilderness that sets it apart from GTA, and also what draws me to enjoy this game much more than it's urban counterpart. I work in New York City, and the idea of "exploring" an urban environment is not my idea of fun; it's a bit too close to realty for me. But throw me into the sun-scorched desert of the West, and I'll be out there looking at every cacti and rattlesnake I can find. The splendor of the open landscape and the sounds of the wild animals really immerse you into the world of Red Dead Redemption. Once you experience trotting along a dusty road at night with nothing but the moon and stars above you in this game, it's really easy to forget that it's simply just a video game.

The exploration of the West gave me the sense that I wasn't playing a typical sandbox game, but an open world RPG. In fact, Red Dead Redemption took me back to my World of Warcraft days. I was looting dead corpses, killing and skinning animals, and looking for wild herbs, not unlike the professions in WoW. I remember at one point I felt that I had done so much skinning that I was definitely going to be an artisan skinner in no time. Once I was done exploring, I was ready to take on some baddies.

For the most part, the gunplay is fun and satisfying. Since I'm only at the early stages of the game, I've only had the opportunity to try out the revolver and the repeater, but both have tremendous feel in terms of stopping power. Taking out a bandit with a headshot and seeing his head kick back from the moment of impact is one of the greater pleasures in this game. You could also toy with enemies by shooting the gun out of their hand, which is really cool. At one point, not only did I shoot the gun from out of bandit's hand, but I also decided to shoot him in his shin (which I imagine to be painful and eventually turn gangrene). He decided he was done for and he requested to be put out of his misery, a request that I promptly ignored.

However, I did find some of the controls a bit unwieldy especially when it comes to switching weapons. There have been a couple of instances when I was trying to switch to a different gun but found myself standing still while taking fire because I'm trying to navigate a whole wheel of weapons. I know over time I'll grow accustomed to the controls, but I wish there were a simpler way, or pause the game while I cycle through the weapons menu.

I also had the opportunity to hunt for bounty. It's straightforward; find a wanted poster, look for the guy in the poster and either kill him or bring him in alive. Of course, I decided I wanted to bring him in alive, but not to be saint or for the fact you collect more money if they're alive. I wanted to capture him because I really wanted to hogtie him and drag him across the desert and into town for some public humiliation. However, I couldn't find a way to drag him with my horse so I had to resort to just laying him down behind my saddle (if anyone knows how I could do this, let me know!).

Aside from looting the dead bodies of the people you've killed and collecting bounties, you could collect money playing several mini-games like horseshoes, five-finger fillet, and Texas hold 'em. It's really easy to get sucked into them, especially five-finger fillet, but they provide an entertaining respite from exploring and shootin' and killin'. (Unfortunately for me, I'm still equally bad in poker in this game as I am in real life… )

Anyway, these are some of my first impressions of the game. I didn't include all of them, since I feel like this has gone on long enough. I'm looking forward to trying out the multiplayer and I'll probably write a review about the game (and maybe some videos and screenshots) once I feel like I've played the game enough to warrant a solid opinion. Till then, take care.

WINNER IS YOU! (who is me)

So last week, JodyR was giving away a Plants Vs. Zombies T-shirt to the person who posts the best 'mustache' image on a zombie or plant character. Here's a pic of the coveted prize:

And lo and behold, I won the T-shirt with this entry:

The winning entry

Along with this T-shirt, another T-shirt for the Box Art Hunt, and the Dante figurine I won two months ago(?) for answering trivia, Gamespot's quickly turning to a place to get awesome free stuff! Ironically, I don't own either Plants Vs. Zombies or Dante's Inferno. I've only played Plants Vs. Zombies while I was messing around with the iPad at an Apple store. It's really an enjoyable game, and probably plan to get it one day. On the other hand, I don't plan on getting Dante's Inferno,I just felt like answering trivia :) Maybe one day I'll get something for a game I really like.

Anyway, thanks to JodyR for the T-shirts. Keep 'em coming!

What the Fuse is going on GameSpot?! Achievements?!!

If you haven't been following my blog, I can really be achievement crazy. So when I found GameSpot will be tracking their own achievements (previously know as emblems), as well as achievements in other places like XBox Live and Steam, etc, I was on board almost immediately. Just to put into context how amped I was about this: I broke a personal cardinal rule of "I shall not add anymore social networking sites" and signed up for Raptr (because really, how many places does one really need to be socially networking?). Inadvertently, I got an emblem... oops, i mean, achievement for signing up. Awesome...

So far, there area few glitches here and there (like not all of my Xbox achievements or games are showing up), but I like it.Anyway, here is my achievements page here on GameSpot:

Yeah... I've been playing a lot of Bad Company 2...

(yeah... I've been playing a lot of Bad Company 2)

One cool thing about how it works around here is that achievements are grouped and color coded into how common or rare they are. Really easy achievements are designated "Common", while harder or rare ones are designated "Epic" or "Legendary." Personally, I think all of my achievements are legendary, but that's neither here nor there...

So if you're achievement crazy like I am, or you like to compare game achievements and see how you stack up against other people, friend me here and in Raptr. My username there is "ACBU." Catch you all next time.

New Preview of Castlevania is getting me souped!

I haven't contributed to my blog in a while, so I figured it's about time I should. But rather than expend my time and energy writing my next review (which I should...) I'd rather talk about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

I've been tracking this game since last year, when I saw the announcement trailer. I was impressed not only with the intense gameplay, but by the sheer talent of the voice actors (Patrick Stewart & Robert Carlyle). And besides, it's a Castlevania game! Why wouldn't I be excited?!

Anyway, it's been a few months since any new screenshots or info have come out. But with Konami event this week, Gamespot and other video game publications have released new previews and screenshots.

Previously released screenshots have looked great, and the latest batch look no less impressive. The world where the game takes place looks well-imagined and detailed, and looks to visually immerse the player into that world. I'm particularly enthralled by the screenshot below, as it effectively captures the opulent decadence of vampires. The fluting on the columns, the gothic arches, the sexualized marble statue of the angel in the background… While not my architectural cup of tea, it looks damn good in this screenshot.

Hopefully, this game will live up to my expectations. Despite not having played it, Dante's Inferno really disappointed me. While I was keeping up with that game, I progressively got worried it'd be a mediocre game, and the general consensus has proved me right. This time around, I'll keep my fingers crossed that a great third-person action game will be added to a great franchise.

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