Archive for the Lists Category

The Top 8 Best Gaming Series

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Tony Hawk Series, Uncharted, Ys on January 24, 2016 by slateman

best-series
Another long-brewing article, I pondered this for quite some time. Why not put together a best gaming series article? Good question! Now that vacancy is now filled! Let’s not wait. Article start!

There are a few games that missed this list, some better than others, but honorable mention goes out to:

  • Mega Man
  • Tony Hawk
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Gears Of War
  • God Of War
  • Tomb Raider
  • Ys

With those out of the way, let’s start with number eight!

Castlevania_logo_color
#8: Castlevania (1987 – Present)
This series has been quiet as of late. With just two titles issued in the past half-decade, it’s safe to say we’re in a lull. However, from 2001 until 2008, we saw about ten solid Castlevania games, and this is after the classic trio and subsequent rejuvenation with Symphony Of The Night. And what spectacular titles those are! The first game was a great start, the second a stumble that at the time I loved and memorized and the third was the pinnacle of platforming back in ’89. SotN remains in my top-whatever list of games, and the music alone can transport me back to ’97 and where I was in my life.

The handheld titles that followed each trumped the last and some of those I played more than once. I even liked Lords of Shadow and its handheld quasi-sequel. Last year’s second installment was quite the opposite. I hated that one. Some rather dismal Castlevania games aside, there are easily a dozen top-notch games to replay as we wait
for another renaissance of Dracula and the Belmont clan!

Zelda_Logo.svg
#7: Zelda (1987 – Present)
Everybody knows Zelda, Link and of the rich history of games relating to them. The problem with Zelda is that moving backwards, I can’t say love any recent titles other than 2013’s 3DS game and maybe the Minish Cap from 2004. I wasn’t a fan of the GC or Wii titles and I never played Majora’s Mask. So, two portable games since 1998? It should go without saying that I’m excited about this year’s Wii U game.

Of course the original, the SNES game and Ocarina were all perfect 10s. I didn’t get an NES until around when the SNES came out, but I remember playing the first Zelda game, completing the second quest…bombing every single inch of the map in order to find the last dungeon’s location. A Link To The Past? Ocarina Of Time? Nothing needs to be said about those titles. But while I love me some Zelda, the series hasn’t wowed me in quite a while, thus putting it at a shockingly-low number seven on this list.

uncharted_logo
#6: Uncharted (2007 – 2016) (R.I.P.)
I played the demo for the first game and wasn’t impressed. But upon playing the full game, I realized that Naughty Dog had crafted a special 3rd-person shooter that coupled solid gameplay with excellent storytelling and likable characters. I obtained three platinum trophies in 2011. Uncharted, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. I liked the games that much. And the portable game was surprisingly-fun as well. There’s not much to be said about this franchise that hasn’t been mulled over by countless others. I don’t quite know if UC4 can possibly live up to its predecessors and it’s rather sad the series will be done after part 4. Will it still be as memorable a decade from now when other developers are making the umpteenth version of the same game? *shrug*. But Nathan Drake sure had a good run!

Do_Don_Pachi_Japan
#5: DoDonPachi (1995 – 2012)(R.I.P.?)
Some series tout diversity but with shmups, it’s not quite so easy to discern. The outsider would recognize no true difference between Daifukkatsu and Sai-Dai-Ou-Jou. In fact, their names alone might confuse. However, to the dedicated player, those two titles are night-and-day different. While I can pass on Don Pachi, DDP and three of its four sequels are the pinnacle of the genre. Cave supported the scene until its dying breath and even put out a remarkable home port to make the goodbye ever bittersweet. And while DFK and SDOJ were fun and amazing titles, DOJ remains the best shmup ever made. The recent surprise IOS release (Ichimen Banchou) may breathe hope into the franchise, but I won’t hold my breath. DDP is that good.

top_title-logo
#4: Resident Evil (1996 – Present)
Some franchises have a handful of main games, but not RE. We have 1-6, which I’ve played all but the third. There are the Revelations games, Zero, the Chronicles and Gun Survivor games, etc. and this doesn’t include remakes, movies, CG movies and remasters of 1, 4, 0 and 2 coming up.

Therefore, with a pool of so many games, surely there will be some great ones, right? Obviously but the good games are damn good. I positively loved going through the HD remaster of RE1. I played through RE4 on no fewer than four consoles (GC, PS2, Wii, PS3). RE5 I platinumed on the PS3 and also beat on the Xbox360. RE6 was bloated, but the good in that game was quality. Too bad there was so much excess.

The remaster of 2002’s RE0 is an entertaining romp (it’s so strange to think that 2002 is 14 years ago. It’s a classic era in a sense.) With the re-make of RE2 and the inevitable RE7 on the horizon, I don’t see a shortage any time soon. I liked the survival horror of the first games and the action-based nature of the recent ones. Despite a number of iffy titles, the diversity and sheer quality of the great games lands this at #4 on my list.

logo-sf
Street Fighter (1987 – Present)
I played SF in the arcade, then later as Fighting Street on the TurboDuo in the late ’80s.
I vividly remember seeing SFII for the first time at the mall arcade on Long Island in ’92.
I recall SFIII (and sucking at it) but still giving it a go while at some flea market down in Florida in ’99.
SFZ was my favorite; I played the first in the mall in Albany, then SFZ2 at the same mall mentioned earlier on Long Island. (’95-’96) I imported SFZ3 from Japan the day it was released.
SFEX was shipped to me, along with the cool Chun-Li shirt, and I played it incessantly while my girlfriend was in Florida in October of ’98.

I really could go on and on, as every entry is special and so very unique, all while retaining the necessary familiarity. My story continues with the Vs. series, spin-offs, SFIV, web sites I’ve run, countless art books and the like. And this isn’t even discussing the gameplay. It set the standard with SFII, it reinvigorated the scene with SFIV and I’ll be a day-one purchaser of SFV when it ships next month, more than 25 years after I started playing this series. It is the king, its characters iconic, its music memorable and it’s easily in my top-three favorite franchises ever. Not a question. The real downside is that I’m not particularly good at it. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it for most of my life. And as I write this (before SFV is released), I’m not entirely sure this doesn’t belong at #2 on this list…..

Metal_Gear_Solid_logo
#2: Metal Gear Solid (1998 – 2015)(R.I.P.)
I’m eschewing the first Metal Gear games as I never played them and it’s only truly when MGS shipped in ’98 that the series became so iconic. And here’s the thing: MGS, MGS2, MGS3, MGS4, MGS:PW and MGSV are almost all so totally different from one another. Each has a unique purpose, statement, gameplay innovation or take on stealth that makes no one better than another. It’s also worthy of note that other than MGS2 and MGS3 both being PS2 games, every title appeared on a different generation of hardware. Kojima always wanted to do more and more and finally with MGSV, he accomplished his goals and ended his involvement in the series.

And for a person who isn’t the greatest at stealth games, this series brought me across 50 years of a convoluted history and kept me compelled to keep playing, despite my lackluster ability. Having gone back to replay some titles, I was no less amazed on subsequent playthroughs. MGS4 was my GotY in 2008, MGS5 in 2014. They were emotional and fun, powerful and silly. Kojima’s attention to detail cannot be overstated. Masterpiece after masterpiece, any new MGS sans Kojima will be lacking that special touch. Thus, 1998 – 2015, and #2 on this list.

Super_Mario_Logo
#1: Super Mario Bros. (1985 – Present)
If the grandeur of MGS cannot be overstated, then surely Mario can be. Everyone knows of him, and every game gets great scores. However, this is no conspiracy. While the golden years of gaming had a long string of amazing Mario games, even recent years have been consistently excellent. I once ranked the Mario games stopping around 2008 but the newer titles stand up with those others. As Super Mario Bros. 3 still sits atop the best-games-ever list, there are easily another half-dozen games featuring the plumber on the top 25. From the Galaxy games to the New SMB titles to the 3D World games…Shigeru Miyamoto has produced the single greatest series in gaming history with one of the most iconic characters in all of media. No new Mario games will come out in 2015, but whenever a new title comes out, I will be in line to get it. Why? The one-word review of Mario and the reason it’s the greatest ever? Fun. I could continue with ingenious and tricky and comment about replayability but the end result is a fun game each time (well, I hated Sunshine) and the noble title of:

Best.Franchise.Ever

Game Of The Year: 9-Year Recap

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted on January 18, 2016 by slateman

gotySince I’m on the kick of making lists and since I haven’t really done a Game of the Year list consistently, I figured I’d toss this up. I went year-by-year to figure out not only the best game for each year, but also which was the best new IP. In a world of endless sequels (see the post below), new franchises are important. These lists are mostly for me, honestly; I love looking back at each year’s greatest titles. I moved to Maine just at the end of 2005 but I couldn’t really pick a best of 2006. Perhaps I’ll return and make this a true 10-year list. Well, without further ado…

Year GotY New IP GotY
2015 Metal Gear Solid V Rocket League
2014 Shadow Of Mordor [Same]
2013 Tomb Raider Guacamelee!
2012 Borderlands 2 The Walking Dead
2011 Portal 2 Torchlight
2010 Red Dead Redemption Darksiders
2009 Uncharted 2 Borderlands
2008 Metal Gear Solid 4 LittleBigPlanet
2007 Uncharted [Same]

It’s worth noting that 2010’s Red Dead Redemption was a toss-up with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Both are pretty much perfect 10s in my book. Two MGS games and two Uncharted games topping this list! And Borderlands is on there twice too. Pretty cool!

What To Play: 2016 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Uncharted, Ys on January 17, 2016 by slateman

2016
2016 is here and it’s time to look forward rather than backward. The top three on last year’s list ended up being pushed back to this year, as did a handful of others. Thus, this list is somewhat of a duplicate. Here’s the list with known dates. Almost all titles are PS4 games with the exception of Zelda and the last two.

Resident Evil Zero Jan 19 Pre-Ordered
Mighty No.9 Feb 9 Buy? GF? Wait?
Street Fighter V Feb 16 Pre-Ordered
FarCry Primal Mar 1 GF likely
Ratchet & Clank Apr 12 Buy / GF?
Uncharted 4 Apr 26 Pre-Ordered!
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst May 24 Maybe GF later
Sherlock Holmes: TDD Spring Maybe GF
No Man’s Sky June GF?
The Legend Of Zelda ??? Day One Buy!
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana Summer To US in 2016?
Rise Of The Tomb Raider December Buy?
Shadow Complex Remastered ??? Likely Buy!
Zero Escape 3 Summer GF probably
Final Fantasy XV ??? Unknown
Broforce ??? Unknown
Doom ??? Unknown
Crackdown 3 ??? Loved CD2
Gears Of War 4 ??? Loved GoW1 & 3!

So, SFV, UC4 and RE0 are all a-coming. Zelda is, without question, a title that will be in my library. The rest though…I don’t know. I loved the last Tomb Raider (GotY 2013!) and the new one got good reviews. I’m likely going to want that one. A new Ys game?! Sherlock Holmes is fun to play alongside my wife. I don’t know. 2016 may not be the best or most innovative year, but it should be a good one.

The Best Games Of 2015

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists on January 8, 2016 by slateman

I haven’t been quite as consistent in making a best games list annually but this year I thought I’d change that. Much like music, I felt that 2015 was not the strongest of years, but that the top titles were utterly stellar.

To begin, I went through all games I had received trophies in and/or beat (plus a few Nintendo 3DS games, as those are the only two platforms I really played). That list is as follows. Oh, and for titles with an *, it means they came out prior to 2015 but that I didn’t play those until last year. A + means I beat it again, perhaps an updated version or on a new platform.

  • PS4: Bastion (*)
  • PS4: Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3
  • PS3: Chariot (*)
  • PSV: Color Guardians
  • PS4: Dying Light
  • PSV: Fat Princess: Piece Of Cake
  • PS4: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (*)(+)
  • PSV: Hotline Miami (*)
  • PSV: Hotline Miami 2
  • PS4: Jamestown +
  • PS4: Journey (*)(+)
  • PS4: Just Cause 3
  • 3DS: The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (*)
  • PS3: Lego The Lord Of The Rings (*)
  • PS3: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (+)
  • PS4: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • PS4: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (*)(+)
  • 3DS: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (*)
  • PSV: OlliOlli2: Welcome To Olliwood
  • PS3: Rain (*)
  • PS4: Rocket League
  • PS4: Resident Evil HD Remastered (+)
  • PS3: Resident Evil Revelations (*)
  • PS4: Resident Evil Revelations 2
  • PS3: Resident Evil 4 (*)(+)
  • PS3: Resident Evil 6 (*)
  • PS4: Rogue Legacy
  • PS3: Sherlock Holmes (*)
  • PS4: Shovel Knight
  • 3DS: Super Mario 3D Land (*)

Plenty of other titles (PS+ games, for instance) that I chose not to include. So, what are my thoughts on this year? Well, first, I went through a Resident Evil rage and then a Mario Renaissance upon purchasing a New 3DS. In preparation for the big autumn release, I started going through Metal Gear games again, trying out Peace Walker, replaying MGS3 and Ground Zeroes and diving right into the glorious Phantom Pain. It was a year of binge playing, much like many of us do with television shows nowadays.

I got a pair of platinums, played the excellent Far Cry 4 and enjoyed some titles with my wife by playing Rain and Sherlock Holmes. It was a good year, not a great one, with several of my best experiences being old games (3DS titles especially).

But what was the BEST? Which were the top 5? Everyone else’s list have titles like Fallout 4 (never played any of those games) or The Witcher 3 (same!) Here’s a rather-unofficial Top-5 list.

2015-dyinglight#5: Dying Light
While I haven’t beaten this title yet ($15 Black-Friday deal), it’s a huge improvement over the disappointing Dead Island and truly gave me a sense of fear and dread. Nighttime in this game was a truly horrifying experience. Visually it’s one of the best-looking games ever and the gameplay was different enough to keep me interested. It’s just a shame I got this at the end of the year when my #2 and #1 games came out!!!

2015-rocketleague#4: Rocket League
The year’s fourth-best title was FREE? I usually download PS+ titles right away so that I ‘own’ them but I don’t usually prioritize actually playing them. After a few weeks of hype, it was time to check it out and oh man, I was hooked fast! Simple, pick-up gameplay but a deep system of play allowed for newcomers to start off on an even keel. There were so many “OMFG” moments! Unlike some other titles, I’ll come back to play this again here and there surely.

2015-residentevil#3: Resident Evil: HD Remastered
I was always embarrassed to say I never actually beat Resident Evil. I’d played it on the PS1, borrowed it from somebody…way back in like 1997. Then I played the original REmake on the GameCube but bailed on that. When half a zombie was crawling through a window and I had one before me and one behind, I was done. But the HD version drew me in and I beat it several times, once even speed-running it in 2-and-a-half hours. I quite liked it and that led into my RE madness for a few weeks. Didn’t help that my wife was away for four months at the time!!!

2015-justcause#2: Just Cause 3
Oh, Just Cause. If I’m not mistaken, IGN gave the console version a 5.9. Whatever! JC3 is a terribly-flawed game…but I don’t care one bit! I never encountered the game-breaking bugs others did. What I did encounter was a ludicrous and amazingly-fun game dedicated to blowing every goddamn thing up in sight. And for that, I salute its intent. I had a blast (total pun) wing-suiting around the world, flying, diving, crashing, jumping massive chasms, using the grappling hook for infinite purposes and liberating the most beautiful and insanely-detailed world in gaming history. While my #1 game ruled, its world was barren compared to the diversity and the nooks and crannies of this title. I don’t care what review other sources give this title, it filled its purpose perfectly and was utter madness…just what I expected and wanted.

2015-mgs#1: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Back in 2010 I wrote about MGS I vs. III vs. IV. I’ve spoke of this often, but I had in the summer of 2008, run through all four main entries into the MGS saga in one summer. It was friggin’ great. And then Kojima announced V. Do we *need* part five? Snake’s story was told. I was satisfied. And so I avoided all press entirely, really. I mean, c’mon, Snake on a horse? Open world? Whatever. But as the date approached, the MGS world beckoned me and I couldn’t avoid it. And when September 1st arrived, holy shit, I was blown away. What you get in 5 is the least-cohesive of all MGS stories (and that’s saying something), but it is also the most silky-smooth gameplay I’ve ever witnessed. The usual Kojima depth is there in spades…far more hours still await me after I’ve passed the hundred-hour mark. I don’t know how many other games I can say that about. I wrote about its awesomeness a few months back. Ultimately, while the story was the weakest part, MGSV sits aside its brethren as triumphs in the gaming world and my reservations about the need of another game were rendered nonsensical. This game is spectacular and is the best game, hands down, of 2015 and probably the past few years as well.

The Best Albums Of 2015

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on January 7, 2016 by slateman

soilworktheridecd
I recently updated my Best Records List to tidy up the annual AotY entry and I also included the best of 2015. What follows is that article (The Best Records Of The 2010s). Enjoy!

2015 was a rather weak year with this list generally being a ‘least-worst’ list rather than a ‘best of!’ It’s also very varied both in musical style and country of origin. Shall we?

8: Ghost: Meliora (Sweden)
I never really got into this band. Satanic, Beatles-inspired metal? Just weird. But with the release of the single Circe, I was sold. The album is
pretty solid, catchy and the evil undertones are worthwhile. I don’t know if it has the longevity of other great albums, but it’s good enough to land at #8.

7: Lamb of God: VII: Sturm Und Drang (U.S.A.)
I like these guys, then I love ’em, then I don’t…however this album is easily better than the last. There are some killer, catchy riffs and I haven’t any real complaints. However, that’s only enough to place it at #7 on this list. Good album.

6: Amorphis: Under The Red Cloud (Finland)
So, Tales is now 20+ yrs old. They went prog rock and arose back on the metal side years ago. I think this is their 6th album since ‘coming back’. I find every second album is great and I quite liked their last. This is another solid album with some varied, worldly themes and the staple Amorphis sound. I like it, but like Lamb of God, I don’t love it.

5: Sulphur Aeon: Gateway To The Antisphere (Germany)
OMG, this band is heavy. Their second album is the first I’ve heard by them and while it’s a bit heavier than a lot of what I listen to, it absolutely crushes. This needs to be played loud. And repeatedly. Not an every-day listen for me, but one that impresses me every single time I give it a spin.

4: Korpiklaani: Noita (Finland)
I never really liked these guys but for some reason, months after this album came out, I gave it a try. And I dug it! It’s catchy, cheesy, ridiculous and awesome! Its upbeat rhythm and sound are a complete opposite of Sulphur Aeon. But that’s OK and Finland makes its second offering in my top 10.

3: Svartsot: Vældet (Denmark)
Another band I liked but never loved. There are some excellent tracks on this album, mostly in the second half. The last two are spectacular and capture what Svartsot does best. I only wish there were more just like these. Ultimately, it’s an excellent record, but it wouldn’t have landed in last year’s top 5. Or 7. This year, it’s my #3.

2: Tempel: The Moon Lit Our Path (U.S.A.)
Now the list goes from least-worst to BEST. These next two albums make me roar and press play again.

Tempel is a band I only heard of in December and within one month it raced to the top of my list. This US duo’s sophomore instrumental effort is a triumphant journey. This record is utterly amazing. The first tracks of my first spin left me indifferent but the soaring peaks of track 3 left me overwhelmed. By the end, it was another “I MUST LISTEN AGAIN” album and one that impressed more with each subsequent experience. Bits hearken to Opeth and entire segments call to Agalloch but this is an example of not even realizing I needed this in my life. As cliché as calling an album an ‘experience’ might be, this one as a whole is a remarkable voyage that grips and doesn’t let go.

American atmospheric doom, progressive, instrumental black metal? *Shrug* OK! Second-best album of 2015!!!

1: Soilwork: The Ride Majestic (Sweden)
The coveted AotY award goes to the same band who won all the way back in 2000 making the 15-year lapse the longest between AotY winners. This album is no Chainheart Machine, but it is more consistent than the surprisingly-excellent Panic Broadcast. Much like Amorphis, the awesome-then-dreadful band has come back with a more sporadic sequence of excellence but The Ride Majestic is a fun, fast and heavy outing. The pair of title tracks are the album’s strongest, with Soilwork doing what they do best, melding speed, melody and catchy, chunky riffs into a pristinely-produced and hum-worthy tenth album. Dirk Verbeuren’s drumming may be the best the band has ever seen and the new guitar duo of Coudret and Andersson proves to capture exactly what I love about classic Soilwork. While it sometimes descends into the band’s common formula, it is still a consistently-solid record and one that trumps all others in a very weak 2015.

AotY 2015 is Soilwork. I think I’m going to go listen to it again…if I can stop listening to Tempel, that is. And that’s the only real downside. While las year’s AotY went to Einherjer over At The Gates for offering something totally different, I don’t think I can say the novelty of Tempel bests the consistency of Soilwork. Either way, #1 and #2 were incredible albums while the rest of the list is just good.

Noteworthy Item:

Fastest Song: Marduk – Thousand-Fold Death
OMFG this song is fast. I never loved this band and think the album is a good record. But nothing is as good as this. It’s fantastic.

The 9 Best Games Of The Last Generation

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Borderlands, Games, Lists, Portal, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Uncharted on July 20, 2015 by slateman

I’ve been thinking of this article for some time now. Should I list 10 games? Should I list them in tiers? Ultimately, I’m just going to post this and go with it.

This is a list of the nine best/most important games of the last generation. That means the Xbox360/PS3 and PC if it appears on consoles. I am not looking at PC-only titles.

Bottom Tier

resident_evil_5_medium_1Resident Evil 5
This is not an important title. I can’t say it really did anything massively new or reinvented anything spectacular. Although it is entirely co-op, it’s not utterly groundbreaking. And it’s not widely heralded as an excellent title.

What it is however, is awesome. I’ve already raved about it as a stand-alone title. The DLC was fun and diverse. Nowadays I rarely replay games entirely. Instead, I 100%ed it on two consoles (-achievements). It was fun, packed a powerful punch and epitomized what I loved about the PS3/Xbox360 generation. A large game, fully co-op, good save system, tons of weapons and reason to replay it. That last one is an important one. Infinite rocket launcher? Magnum? And this doesn’t even count Mercenaries mode.

Rdr_torquemada_lookoutRed Dead Redemption
GTA in the wild west? No thanks. I love GTA, I don’t like westerns but…well…this is fun and diverse and the writing is impeccable and dead-eye is a hell of a lot of fun and WHOAH, that story twist!!! How many times did I get off track, wandering the woods for a bear or through the vast, arid desert skinning animals and saving people? I lost my save for RDR but I got to see the true ending and it was one of the best stories of the entire generation. And let’s not forget the song when you finally cross into Mexico. It’s rare that one song in a game stands out but its power was in how your rode south, the gentle song leading you into a foreign (yet similar) land. And how different it was, different people, chatter and style.

A sequel in this generation would only make me smile. I certainly hope it’s on the horizon somewhere.

Middle Tier

DLC4_Envishot_LostCity_smallGears Of War 3
The first GOW was great and the second just OK. The third, in my opinion, was the strongest and the most fun. It expanded the color palette for one, and tweaked everything to make it run faster (less clunky) and was just a spectacular and powerful game. So, while the first title really did more for this generation, specifically its cover system, excellent reload mechanics and a fully co-op campaign (oh how I wish for more of those!!!), the third perfected it. If I were to go back; I’d play this one.

call-of-duty-4-mwCall Of Duty: Modern Warfare
I don’t care what anybody says about MW and the series as a whole. Here’s what matters to me…

After hearing all the hype, I finally rented the game and tossed it in my 360. Of course, the visuals were impressive and the sound was solid. It was when my character stepped out into the streets, with bullets flying everywhere, my eyes opened wide. Games up until that point had enemies shooting at you. Some team-based games had more targets, but for the first time, I felt like I walked into a world that was going on around me. I remember having surround sound going, bullets pinging everywhere, and it was utter mayhem. It was precisely what I wanted in gaming. Now, while the sequels upped the ante considerably, it was the first MW where my mouth truly dropped. As a player who avoids multiplayer almost entirely, the campaign was all I cared about. And it was a solid, entertaining and compelling campaign. Its brevity wasn’t disappointing either. Quite the contrary, it was sweet and to-the-point. Solid controls, insane action and at the time, superb visuals made for a game that was truly a game-changer. Once again, say what you will about the series and its subsequent milking. That first game was a turning point.

Just-Cause-2-1Just Cause 2
I never played (or had even heard of) the first Just Cause but this title was a free game on PS+ one month. I’m all about grabbing just about any free game I can but my first play session was merely OK. The controls were a bit loose and it was hard figuring out the whole grappling hook. I remember my second session, however, where my opinion changed entirely.

I had a hard time going back to open-world sandbox games after this. Moving around was so slow and boring (well, with the exception of Saint’s Row, but that’s just a ridiculous game!) The things I managed to do with Rico in this game were outrageous. Tethering cars to helicopters and scaling buildings with ease were awesome, as were the insane amount of explosions but the most important word in a review of this game is “fun”. I had a blast playing this, destroying everything. Just the number of options in this game make it for a memorable and long-lasting experience. Shoot a guy? Tether him to a truck and drive off? Tether an item to a truck and pull it down onto him? Oh, it goes on and on! In December of this year a sequel is coming out and I can’t limit my excitement. This might be one of those games where more of the same is just what I want. We’ll have to see!

walking dead lee clementine

The Walking Dead
Sure, I loved the show, but a choice-based, point-and-click adventure? Once the first two episodes were free, I grabbed them (remember, I love me freebies!) and everything changed. I connected with Lee, the game’s protagonist, more than perhaps I did with any character in any game ever. I cannot even discuss the finale without getting a lump in my throat. It was perhaps the single most powerful gaming experience ever. (yes, that trumps Metal Gear Solid IV and the at-the-time surprise of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII.

And while there were action sequences in this title, those were by far the least exciting, the least compelling, the least enticing. Episodes four and five start to rip your heart out and as I’ve written about already, the tears were genuine. I was talking to my TV. I was moved. I was hurt. And I will recommend this game to anyone, zombie fan or not. In some ways, it should be top-shelf material. Ah…I hate making these lists. Just know that it’s awesome. I shouldn’t have to say more.

Top Shelf

872182-portal-2Portal 2
I missed out on Half-Life and that whole thing and so it wasn’t until after Portal 2 came out that I even tried this series. The first game was certainly fun, but I’m pretty certain I played that (PC) after I beat it on the PS3 (and subsequently played it all again on the PC, beating both 1 and 2 within 24 hours).

This is a triple-A puzzle game…something that’s generally unheard of. Without playing it, my claims of Brilliance can not explain the sheer awesomeness of this title. Sadly, it’s the only thing I can even say. After each test room or the later colored gels, I marveled at the absolutely-ingenious design. I felt such delight at the solutions and the miraculous lack of unsolvable puzzles. The game was designed and tested to perfection. GLaDOS and her anger were written with utter sarcasm and it all delighted as the weird story unfolded. I can think of nothing about this game that isn’t perfect brilliance. You can go back at any time as well, provided you haven’t memorized all the solutions, and enjoy those brainy solutions all over again. Sadly, I never got the chance to play co-op. I bet that’s awesome.

bl2_1

Borderlands 2
After renting and beating Modern Warfare, I rented Borderlands. I’d heard good things, etc. etc. After such a visually-compelling and powerful experience, my initial thoughts of BL were…eh. The cel-shaded presentation coupled with a weird premise didn’t totally impress me immediately.

I played a bit; I returned the game.

A few weeks later, I was humming this tune in my head. I started missing the skill tree options. I had to rent the game again. Perhaps I was lucky but the local video store was closing and I bought the game for like $12. I then played the game. A lot. My save game ended up getting deleted and so at some point I started again. Then did true vault hunter mode. Then I returned a year later and got the platinum. The DLC was spectacular (I bought 3 of the 4, IIRC). We’ve all played our share of FPS games. None compelled me like this one. The outrageous guns that I’d receive were motivation alone to continue! It was stylish, unique, funny and full of loot! The light-hearted story was trumped by the second game, itself a superior product. Just about every fault I could find in the first title was remedied. Things were tweaked where necessary and left alone where needed. Even the trailer was insanely awesome! I love this game and while I skipped the Pre-quel, I fully anticipate grabbing part 3 whenever it debuts on this current generation. LOVE IT! (said in Torgue’s voice!)

B001JKTC9A.03.lgUncharted 2
To complete the trio of sequels…

Sure there are other 3rd-person action games. They’ve existed since the advent of 3D games. In so many ways, Uncharted is inspired by Tomb Raider which itself was inspired by Indiana Jones. So Why is this so important? Because it was fun, challenging, looked great and its gameplay was perfection. The first game is amazing, the third game is more of the same and the second was pristinely balanced. Headshots were truly enjoyable and the ka-ching of every kill was the most rewarding sound of the entire generation of games. Seeing Drake hanging by one arm got a bit old by the third game. However, the cinematics of the second, the chemistry with Elena and Chloe, the diverse and lush locales, the exciting finale, the co-op levels…*takes breath*…This game is probably my favorite of the entire generation even if it didn’t redefine like Portal or Borderlands did. It just did what I love the most…perfectly.

New Albums: Summer/Autumn 2015!

Posted in Lists, Music on June 21, 2015 by slateman

Under The Red CloudAfter a long, slow, uneventful first half of 2015, it seems like the behemoths are ready to unveil some true metal for the second half of the year. Sure, we had Blind Guardian and Armageddon. Arcturus and Solefald are good but not AotY material. Marduk is some solid shit but nothing else stands out. Faith No More? Svartsot? Maybe Sulphur Aeon. No…instead we have the following records to look forward to in the next four months. Color me psyched. Some of these are just nostalgia bands, but I’m excited for what could be a good finale to 2015!!!

Updated to include My Dying Bride

July
10 – Cradle of Filth
24 – Joe Satriani
24 – Lamb of God

August
07 – Fear Factory
21 – Ghost
28 – Soilwork

September
04 – Iron Maiden
04 – Amorphis
11 – Slayer
18 – My Dying Bride
18 – The Black Dahlia Murder

October
02 – Children of Bodom

What To Play: 2015 Edition

Posted in Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Tony Hawk Series, Uncharted on March 1, 2015 by slateman

Maybe I’ve hit a wall. Turning 40 next year and it’s starting to feel like a lot of the things in life I’m passionate about are all becoming…the same. I recall a few years back hearing about this TV show about zombies. A TV show about zombies?!?! Now…season five? Games, movies, TV – so many are feeling awfully predictable and ‘been there, done that’. Even the predictability of some things are predictable. I wonder. Is this normal? Is it my age showing rather than the stagnation of media?

Whatever the case, this wasn’t meant to be a gripe session. Although my expectations for games are still high, they are still realistic, knowing what I might (and might not) get. Here are some titles I’m looking forward to in 2015. Let’s see if they can live up to the hype, their predecessors or if perhaps they exceed them!

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
U4_E3_1920x1080I didn’t get the first Uncharted right away. Who knows why…but once I did grab it, I was sold. This game (well, #2) may be my favorite game of the last generation and for good reason. It is everything I love about gaming. Rock-solid gameplay is coupled with good storytelling and a fun plot. While I feel #3 was rushed, #2 is just stellar. So…where do we go? If it’s everything I expect, it’ll be great. But…will Naughty Dog surprise us with more than just the predictable? I feel they will. They’ll keep all that I love – the shooting, jumping, climbing…but after The Last Of Us, I have a feeling they won’t settle for just more of the same. This is a pre-order, day #1 purchase. I can think of no reason for it not to be.

Psyched Level: 11/10

The Legend Of Zelda

Zelda Wii UOK, here’s all I care about: Standard Controls. I really couldn’t care less about any other element of this game because it will be classic. I just simply cannot stand swinging my goddamn hands around NOT killing that stupid spider because I’m not swinging properly. A huge, seamless world allowing us to adventure wherever with our trusty Epona? Sign me up, take my cash and don’t get too gimmicky. The Wii U screen should be a map, my TV an open adventure of joy and delight.

Bonus Perks: I can play this with my kids. In fact, they’ll probably love it.

Street Fighter V
SFV: Nash!The ’80s

That’s when I started playing both Zelda and Street Fighter. I got caught sneaking across the highway to play arcade games when the pizza place (and the Chinese-food place and the deli…) had an arcade machine and this one was Street Fighter. Fast forward a few decades and I’ve never NOT played Street Fighter. And I’m old and I’m slow and I’m no damn good at the games (well, not very) but I don’t care. SFV will have a pre-order beta program, it’s coming out on the one next-gen system I do have (eff you Tomb Raider) and I wants. My cash is waiting. So is my website.

# of SF Games That Exist: Shut Up – Don’t Care – STREET FIGHTER FIVE!!!

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

MGSVI struggle with this one. I’ve already written about the glory and perfect end of MGS4. It truly wrapped everything up and was it. Done. Perfect. Much like The Last Of Us and God Of War 3, no sequel is necessary. But here we are and I’m a sucker for MGS so I don’t know what to say. I’m keeping my expectations low. Ground Zeroes was OK. It just bothers me that we’re opening this whole can of worms and I fear anything less than perfection will mar the entire MGS mythos. Fine, that’s pompous and absurd but damnit MGS4 finished it! Ah, whatever.

Buy Or Rent??? – Grrr…See, I’m the sucker they make these games for.

No Man’s Sky
No Man's SkyRandomly-generated worlds? Meh. I figured that’s how I’d feel when I played Rogue Legacy and I was wrong. And that’s just a simple dungeon crawler. You mean, entire worlds are unique and different and…wait for it…maybe unpredictable? Not only does that fly in the face of Uncharted #4, Zelda #200 and Street Fighter #&infin…Not only does that fly in the face of all that I complained about in my opening paragraph…No, it also looks to represent all the universe is founded on. I can’t even envision what other worlds might look like and…that’s the point! OK, way too deep there. This game has a good chance of being boring as shit. How will this run? How will it even play? Is it even really a game? *hrmph*

Chance Of Being Cool: Still Processing Mathematics

Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3This is another title I didn’t get into initially. When JC2 was free on PS+ I tested it out. An hour in, I was hooked (heh, pun). I’ll keep this brief. JC3 could be essentially the same as #2 and I’d love it. It’s one of those titles. Latching onto helicopters and flying around with parachutes just about ruined me for other action games for six months. This one will look better and I just hope they don’t try to do anything stupid to the fun and ludicrous gameplay. I’m on board!

The Only Problem: Too Many Games – May GameFly this

Rise Of The Tomb Raider
Rise Of The Tomb RaiderI’m a hypocrite, I know. Street Fighter V is OK, but Tomb Raider is not? Fortunately, I’m fairly certain this title will come out on the PS4 eventually. It’s gotta suck being an Xbox fan and knowing you’ll literally never get SFV. That sucks for everyone. In any event, I won’t be playing this game in 2015 but after it was my Game Of The Year in 2013, I can’t wait for the sequel.

Can It Be Better Than UC4? Good question!

Noteworthy Titles

Mighty No. 9 – A spiritual Megaman successor? OK!
Ratchet & Clank Reboot – Don’t need to say much, I’m game!
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Not a 2015 game but I never played it, so a New 3DS + this sounds great!
Resident Evil / RE: Revelations 2 – Both came out already and I’m enjoying them…they count!
Final Fantasy XV – Not sure if I will even try…The hype for this one will be huge!
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Return? – We’ll see. It’ll be hard to genuinely entice me.

Well, there you have it. That’s a long article that no one will read but hey, we’ll see if my predictions were any good. Now that I’ve written this whole lot, I’m kinda excited about 2015 after all! Screw this predictability nonsense. I’m psyched!!!

The Pros & Cons Of The Hobbit Trilogy

Posted in Best / Worst, Lists, Movies, Reviews, Tolkien with tags , on December 30, 2014 by slateman

307252id1L_TheHobbit_TBOTFA_Teaser_27x40_1Sheet.inddNow that The Hobbit is done, we can look back at the trilogy that is a miracle to even exist. I recall the promise of it coming out being squelched by lawsuits. Now that the trilogy has ended, there is plenty to mull over. The verdict has come and it isn’t pretty. Rotten Tomatoes lists the finale as the worst of the three movies. I’ve heard of at least two comparisons to Episode I – just about the worst analogy a multi-part film could receive. It’s not quite so bad, but some commentary is needed.

The most important part of an article such as this is to preface the entire lot by saying this trilogy was no LOTR. The book, the lighthearted feel, even the way it was filmed differed. Comparing a children’s tale to the “if we don’t destroy the ring, the entire world will cease to be” feel of LOTR would be utterly foolish. Having said this, by the conclusion of the series, I found this tone, the colors, the presentation to be a charming alternate to the darkness found in the first film trilogy.

Nothing is more exemplary than the barrel scene from the second movie. If you read the book, you’ll remember it was a consistent, silly tale of “Aww shucks, we’re in trouble again – Oh look at that! Bilbo saved the day!” Contrast that to, “OMFG darkness, Nazgûl, Sauron’s gonna kill everyone.” The movies’ entire atmosphere is representative of this.

Letting go of this comparison allows for a better appreciation, so just do it.

The Good

The Dwarves
The variation of the Dwarves in the book was limited to color and some simple personality traits. The film does a good job in at least visually differentiating each. Time is limited, clearly, so by the third movie, there were some whom I couldn’t name whatsoever (Bifur and Nori, for instance.) I feel Jackson did a splendid job at making a colorful cast work well in the constraints presented by film. I did quite appreciate the fact that Glóin looks like his son, Gimli.

Out-Of-Control Action
It’s safe to say that some scenes were almost ‘comic-book’y. Yes. Just in case you were forgetting already, This Isn’t LOTR. Read the book again to get a feel of how silly it all was.

Three Films
In the recent weeks, reviews have slammed Jackson and his expansive Hollywood rendition of the timeless 200-page book. Most state that two films (the original vision) would have sufficed. But let me say this…in the original book, Thorin, Fíli and Kíli were all killed in three sentences. The nephews were relegated to saying they died defending their uncle. A film translation cannot introduce main characters and kill them without some weight and gravity. And Thorin’s death would come how? By the hands of a normal Orc? By a stray arrow?

hobbit-azog

Enter Azog & Bolg
In the books, Azog was slain by Dáin after killing Thrór. In the extended version of The Desolation Of Smaug we’re given information about Thrór’s death by the hands of the orc-chieftain. While Azog’s involvement in The Hobbit trilogy was greatly expanded, it presented us with a very important nemesis.

I didn’t like the idea of Azog originally. Another CG character – but think about it…Tolkien created Azog and while his backstory isn’t fleshed out (much like countless other characters), his purpose in the book is legitimate. And Thorin has a genuine interest in him. Who is the main antagonist in the story otherwise? Peter Jackson took an underused enemy, beefed him up and gave the trilogy a veritable (though not the most innovative) main enemy. It had to be done and while it’s far from canon, it ties in well.

Oh, Bolg was Azog’s son. He fought in the final battle and was slain by Beorn. In the movie, Legolas took care of him, but that’s OK. I guess Legolas needed to have some purpose (more on that below).

Extended Editions
We still wait for the last film’s extended version but I look forward to Alfrid dying! I liked the first movie’s extra footage but the second’s was far more powerful. It included much more about Thrain and Thrór. The potency and overarching importance of the magic rings is played out. Beorn has his time in the sun and seeing him next to Gandalf next to Bilbo was a cool height comparison!

Seeing the the Witch-King of Angmar’s burial grounds, the added scenes in Mirkwood and even the naming of Bilbo’s sword Sting were all nice touches that added to the fidelity of the motion picture as well as effective tie-ins to the LOTR trilogy.

The Bad
I positively hate how Galadriel handles things in Dol Guldur in the last movie. However, in The Silmarillion, details are given about the White Council, though few they are. Essentially, while Galadriel is part of the council in some form, she wasn’t there for the actual event. All that’s told is that Saruman, Gandalf and Elrond “assailed Dol Guldur and drove Sauron from his hold.” You can understand Peter Jackson’s desire to include this portion in the films. It ties this trilogy with LOTR and also gives Gandalf something to do. That is why he left the party at the edge of Mirkwood after all. So, having this is ok, but man, I hate the weird magic they give to Galadriel (but it’s not much different than what she was like in LOTR. And, having that meeting in the first Hobbit in Rivendell with Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond is pretty cool.

hobbit-tauriel

Tauriel
I don’t know of a single reader of the book who enjoys Tauriel’s presence in these films. Her acrobatics were entertaining. Many cite Tauriel as one of the worst decisions of the movies but I’ll just say one other name. Arwyn. I still haven’t a clue how it was the she was dying in the LOTR trilogy. As a purist, I hated her entire storyline and Tauriel is no better. She is Hollywood’s love story and as dreadful as it was, I understand the need to have this type of character.

Legolas
I realize time doesn’t pass the same way for Elves but it’s hard to hide the 10 years of age in Orlando Bloom’s face. To counter this, some film tricks have been used but he looks less natural. Visuals aside, my biggest issue with him was his lack of purpose. The entire second film just made him seem like a whiny boy slighted by his true love.

The WTF?

Thranduil’s Goodbye
Really? Go find Strider? That’s absurd, ridiculous and unnecessary.

Gandalf Knows?
I look forward to the extended edition to tell me more about this. I’m guessing he may think Bilbo has one of the Dwarf rings of power. This was another unnecessary attempt at a tie-in to LOTR.

Worm Things?!?!
I guess the Orcs need a way to travel. I don’t remember any worm things…

Alfrid
He kept getting screentime in the third movie but never died! Perhaps the extended edition? He was annoying but the comic relief was appreciated by one of my daughters. I expect this was the goal, but like Tauriel, readers groaned at his inclusion and recurring appearance!

It’s Over
Regardless of what you think, we’re done. The Silmarillion will and can never be made into a film so let’s not even pretend there’s hope. So, that’s it. Two trilogies that were dreams in the first place have been issued and while The Hobbit will never receive critical fame, I thought all three movies were fun. I enjoyed them all in some fashion and each has its own merits. I can’t wait for the extended finale. While most will disagree with all of what I wrote above, I’m a reader. I’ve read everything at least three times. I love my stuff and was highly entertained by the motion pictures. For me…that’s good enough!

New Albums: Spring 2014!

Posted in Lists, Music on April 11, 2014 by slateman

melting-sunThere are finally some good releases coming up. I figured we could take a peek at the whats and whens! Some I don’t know if I care about (Marty Friedman?) and some can’t possibly be good (Opeth!) but whatever. I’m certainly excited about new records from Lantlôs, RodGab and of course GODFLESH! Here’s what the next few months look like. Some exciting releases are coming just in time for summer! I’m psyched!

Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun (April 25th)
Rodrigo Y Gabriela – 9 Dead Alive (April 28th)
Lantlôs – Melting Sun (May 2nd)
Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (May 13th)
Down – Down IV – Part Two (May 13th)
Marty Friedman – Inferno (May 23rd)
Burzum – The Ways Of Yore (June 2nd)
Anathema – Distant Satellites (June 6th)
Arch Enemy – War Eternal (June 9th)
Opeth – Pale Communion (June 17th)
Overkill – White Devil Armory (July)
Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (?)