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Monday
Feb062012

Saints Row the Third Review - Outrageous Brilliance

Saints Row the Third revels in being a video game in a way that most modern titles seem afraid to. In our obsession with gritty realism and complexity, we seem to have forgotten the simple fun of the insane. Volition has crafted a game that is the heir apparent to the days of cheat codes and craziness. Not a second of this game takes itself seriously and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Saints Row began years ago as little more than a lazy clone of Grand Theft Auto, albeit one with an amusingly in-depth character creator. I got bored of its stale antics quickly, but my friend managed to create a startlingly accurate portrayal of George W. Bush as his avatar and squeezed quite a bit more fun out of the game as a result. Perhaps this could be seen as an early testament to the game’s true strength - outrageous, unbridled fun. 

With the third installment, Saints Row has truly become its own beast. Hover bikes, VTOL jets, fluffy pink game show mascots going on murderous rampages through the streets, a streaking minigame, and more goodies that would be a shame to spoil here are densely packed onto this disc.

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Saturday
Dec172011

Review: Nightwish - Imaginaerum

Imaginaerum is the first Nightwish album in four years. It is a bold concept album. It is a movie. It is experimental. It is almost certainly not what you’re expecting. More than anything, it is a clear case of the devilish specter of ambition grabbing hold of the creator and dragging him into new depths faster than he can keep up. Imaginaerum is a lot of things, but the one thing it isn’t is the one it needs to be most - a cohesive album that satisfies from start to finish.

Uncertainty set in the moment I glanced at the track listing. “I Want My Tears Back”? “Turn Loose the Mermaids”? “Scaretale”? Who in their right mind let Tuomas label his creations with these hideous titles?

Nightwish has always been a band best experienced with no knowledge of the lyrical content, and Imaginaerum is no different, so let us continue to more important matters.  

“Taikatalvi” leads in with a hauntingly simple melody and the band adventurously deciding to lead in with their native language. One can’t help but take a quick glance at those track titles and wish they did this more often. “Taikatalvi” is undoubtedly beautiful, but there’s not enough here to satisfy. As with most pointless intro tracks, it ends right as its momentum builds to a peak, a great idea without a proper song to contain it.

Transitioning that momentum into lead single “Storytime” doesn’t do Imaginaerum any favors. Annette’s screechy vocals and the bored choirs ooh-ing in the background give off a decidedly lazy single vibe. “Storytime” is almost conspicuously generic, as if Nightwish knew they needed a traditional lead single to sell the album but their heart wasn’t in it. This is Nightwish composed by checklist, a feeling that slips into many of the band’s efforts to capture their more traditional sound on the album. It feels out of place among Imaginaerum’s wild experiments. 

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Sunday
Nov272011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - A Question of Identity

Star Wars: The Old Republic is an interesting beast. Developed by a company better known for its ability to tell compelling interactive stories rather than couple those tales with top tier gameplay, I feel it may end up with something of an identity crisis.

While the attempt to add something resembling a decent story into the routinized trenches of the MMO space is a noble goal, one has to question what the appeal of an MMO is in the first place. Grounding a gigantic interactive universe in compelling fiction is well and good, but that effort is meaningless if the players don’t care. I’m willing to bet this is the mentality of the average MMO player.

That’s not meant to be a dig. It’s simply a matter of the strengths and weaknesses of the genre.

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Thursday
Oct132011

Review - Cowboy Bebop - Fool me twice...

From my distant, ignorant perch, Cowboy Bebop always seemed to be one of the pillars of anime. Along with Evangelion and a select few other choice favorites, I have heard it pulled out time and time again as an untouchable favorite of countless anime fans everywhere.

While I enjoyed my time with the odd crew of the Bebop, I can’t say I empathize with the level of unbridled reverence lavished upon what seemed to me to be a slightly above average action romp.

Perhaps the weight of such lofty expectations prematurely killed any chances of me joining the ranks of the Bebop faithful. Perhaps I somehow missed the point. Perhaps I simply wasn’t paying enough attention. One way or another, this anime classic failed to instill the wonder in me that I was hoping it might.

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Thursday
Jul142011

L.A. Noire Review: A muddled mess disguised by shiny packaging

Think back to when you were a child. In front of you are a pile of presents for your birthday, Christmas, or whatever. In the back, standing tall above all the rest, is a giant gift that promises hidden spoils like none you’ve yet received. You drool over it until your mouth goes dry. Thoughts of what wonders it might contain keep you awake at night.

Then the day finally comes. Rushing toward the magical gift, you can’t open it fast enough. Paper flies in every direction. The beautiful exterior is shredded as if by a cat on a catnip-fueled rampage. As the ruins of the colorful paper lie in tatters on the floor, you finally glimpse the package’s contents. This is the moment you have been waiting for. The truth takes a few moments to sink in. You don’t want to believe it at first. Inside is a giant box of tube socks. 

L.A. Noire is that giant box of tube socks. Its impressive visual wrapping quickly gives way to a mundane, repetitive, and unsatisfying gameplay experience that fails to capitalize on the wonderment it once instilled in you. All you’re left with at the end is frustration, disappointment, and a giant box of proverbial tube socks.

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