Battlefield 3: My Impressions after the Open Beta

The Battlefield series is definitely one of my all time favorite video game franchises. I was actually introduced to the series back in the day when I pirated pretty much everything. I remember it fondly…

The Strike at Karkand is the best multiplayer map ever... of all time.

Battlefield 2 had just been released. I didn’t know what it was about so I decided to check it out, pirate style. I downloaded it and dicked around in single-player. I liked the overall feel of the gameplay but single-player wasn’t enough for me. I decided that I wanted to try out the multiplayer gameplay. This led to my first purchase of Battlefield 2 (I’ve bought it twice, now). I fell in love with the multiplayer and have been a dedicated Battlefield fan ever since. If you’ve ever looked at my Battlefield: Bad Company 2 soldier, you would see that I have veterancy in 3 Battlefield games, mainly 2, 2142, and 1943. It should go without saying that if you’re not playing Battlefield on the PC, then you’re doing it wrong.

When I heard EA and DICE would be running a Battlefield 3 open beta, I got all sorts of excited. It started on Sept. 27th (for me, at least) and ran until Oct. 10th. I played the hell out of that beta and now I have some thoughts…

Firstly, now that EA is way more involved in digital distribution, Battlefield 3 is run through their own digital service platform, Origin. Simply put, this sucks. Everybody wants Battlefield 3 on Steam, Valve’s digital distribution platform (and frankly the best). But EA has decided that Steam isn’t good enough for some reason. So now my gaming library, much like those of many others, is now split between 2 (actually 3 for me) platforms.

No contest

Secondly, instead of having an actual in-game server browser (let alone menu), servers are found and connected to through an in-browser server browser. This means that the game only starts up when the browser plugin says it can. This also means that the game has to be exited to find and connect to a new server. I think Kotaku said it best: “It feels like a step backwards”. Battlefield 3 is essentially run through Battlelog, which, aside from the aforementioned bizarro server browsing, also includes Facebook-style status updates from friends and platoon members about their advancements and unlocks. It’s pretty useless.

One of my other issues with Battlelog is the party system. And by what’s wrong with it, I mean it doesn’t work at all. It’s impossible to join a server with friends other than just retrying the connection manually. That reminds me, there should also be an auto-retry connection mechanism.

But on the game itself: as a beta, the product is inherently broken in some ways and, as beta testers, it was our job to figure out what was wrong with it. Now, I never really reported bugs that I saw, which is bad of me, especially as a beta tester. There were a number of graphical issues, such as the slug bug, but my main concern is actually with the overall stability of the game itself.

When I was playing the beta, I was plagued by dropped connections, lag, and freezes (possibly due to connection issues). The first map, Operation Metro, was a Rush map that takes place in a French subway. This maps was relatively stable… after a few days. The second map, Caspian Border, was a 64-player Conquest map and was lag-tastic. For some people, gameplay was flawless, and for the rest of us, it was nigh impossible to play. This stability issues have tempered my enthusiasm, to say the least. I don’t expect the game to be perfect upon release, but I do however expect the game to be better upon release than it was during the open beta.

Even though the game infrastructure needs a lot of work, I did enjoy a lot of the new stuff that they added into Battlefield 3:

Suppression – Suppression is what happens when you’re surrounded by bullets. When machinegunners unload on your location, you become suppressed. When snipers begin taking potshots at you, you become suppressed. When you become suppressed, your vision reduces to tunnel vision and you become slowed. It can be a death sentence if you’re not extremely careful.

Scope Glint – You know how every sniper in every video game is a total asshole? Yeah, DICE decided that enough was enough and made snipers easier to take out. Instead of being god-like killers looking down from on high, snuffing out life as they see fit, without an trace to their location, snipers are now vulnerable when they look at you in the form of scope glint. This means that light is reflected from their scope when they aim at you. This makes spotting snipers so much easier as well as reacting to them. I approve.

Weapon Unlocks – Whereas in the previous iteration of the Battlefield series, attachments were unlocked in levels, now attachments are unlocked after x amount of kills (typically about 10). They range from scopes to bipods to tactical flashlights (which blind your target, including allies, so point that flashlight somewhere else, assholes!) and even infrared nightvision. It’s pretty boss.

This were the things I enjoyed. There were a few other elements that I disliked, such as:

The Lack of Command Structure – We were promised a command structure. We were told that generals would make a comeback. In Battlefield 2 and 2142, there was command structure, and it was awesome. Generals had a bird’s eye view of the map and resources at his disposal to survey (UAV scans) and interact with (artillery) the battlefield. He could also make tactical decisions, such as key objectives, and relay orders to squad leaders who in turn would order their squads to carry out these orders. Like I said, it was awesome. However, in the open beta, there were no generals. And sometimes squad leaders weren’t even assigned, which is annoying because there are bonuses to carrying out squad orders. Speaking of squads…

Inability to Select Squads – This made playing with friends even more impossible. In the beta, squads were automatically assigned… at all times. You could at no time choose a squad that you wanted to be in. It just wasn’t possible. This is absurd because it’s always been possible to select your own squad.

Like I said, the infrastructure around the game needs work. I think the gameplay is amazing, though. However, some basic flaws in the infrastructure did make it hard to get the most out of the open beta, but, hey, that’s what they were testing for. Hopefully, the game will be loads better by launch on Oct. 25th.

If you had any hesitation about pre-ordering Battlefield 3, I would say that it’d be alright to go ahead and pre-order as I am sure most of this stuff will be fixed. But if you were put off by this post, I’m sorry. The Battlefield series really is worth your time and I’m sure Battlefield 3 will receive the same love and care that the other games in the franchise have. But if you don’t believe me, then go play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. [sarcasm] I’m sure that it’ll be loads better [/sarcasm].

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Review: Bulletstorm (PC)

Produced by Epic Games & People Can Fly Studios, Published by Electronic Arts

The criteria for review are as follows: Gameplay (including mechanics, Story for Singleplayer, and Multiplayer aspects), Graphics, Sound, and Lasting Appeal.

Before I get started, I wanna talk briefly about what got me hyped up about Bulletstorm. It was mostly due to the marketing campaign. It was basically one of the funniest I’ve ever seen, and there were two parts specifically that were funny as hell.

When Halo 3 was about to come out, the people at Bungie made a huge diorama set to sad music that was supposed to highlight Earth’s plight against the Covenant onslaught. It was praised as being simply amazing:

The guys at Epic Games, specifically Cliff Blezsinksi, are a bunch of crazy motherfuckers. They took the same music and made a parody diorama. Instead of the horrors of war, we have hot dogs and guys being shot in the nuts. It was praised as being amazingly funny:

It was official. The Cliffy B was claiming that his game was the best. The guys at Epic made another little something else to back up that claim:

That’s right. They made a parody of all of Call of Duty and it was hilarious. After such an amazing ad campaign, who wouldn’t be excited?

So here’s Bulletstorm, a game about a foul-mouthed space pirate killing baddies as creatively as possible. It’s nice to see something original, but, based on the ending, expect a sequel.

Gameplay

Bulletstorm may seem like your standard first-person shooter at first. Oh boy are you wrong. If you’ve just started the campaign, you may have realized that you are in for a ride like you’ve never seen before. Skillshots, curse words you haven’t even heard of, and much much more. Bulletstorm is some pretty damn good satire on ultraviolence and it is awesome.

Story: As Grayson Hunt (voiced by Steve Blum who has voiced something in everything ever), a foul-mouthed space pirate, you make your way through the lost paradise planet of Stygia. Some general military asshole betrayed you in the past so you have to trek across the planet along with some girl named Trishka (it’s Jennifer Hale’s voice, names don’t matter) to hunt him down and kill him. Shenanigans ensue.

The planet is infested with mutants, convincts, and crazies, meaning that it’s your job to stomp, lash, explode, and decapitate them in as many awesome ways you can think of a.k.a. the Skillshots. You get points for killing enemies in creative ways which can be used to upgrade your arsenal. At your disposal is a small arsenal of weapons that fuck people up in ways that are just awesome.

There are three thing you have with you at all times:

  • Peacemaker Carbine: A standard assault rifle with red-dot sight. However, when upgraded, it can fire an annihilator blast that melts the flesh off of people’s bones. It’s especially fun to use in attempting to get the “Rear Entry” skillshot (kill an enemy by shooting them in the ass)
  • The Leash: This electronic tether can be used to grab enemies and reel them in. It can also be upgraded with the Thumper which sends enemies flying into the air in slo-mo.
  • Your boot: Gray loves kicking people whether it’s into a cactus’ spikes (Pricked!), off a cliff (Vertigo!), into the maw of a giant man-eating plant (Bad Digestion!), or into electrical wires (Shocker!). Also, dudes slow down when kicked. It’s awesome.

The other guns in your arsenal are awesome in their own respects:

  • Screamer: A powerful revolver that, when upgraded, can launch a rocket that can send enemies rocketing into the sky as they explode catching everyone around them on fire.
  • Flailgun: A gun that shoots  two grenades attached via chain that detonates via trigger. It can be upgraded to be fired at higher velocities which rip enemies in half.
  • Boneduster: A quad-barreled shotgun. It shoots people in two.
  • Headhunter: A sniper rifle with controllable bullets. Even though the enemies might dodge your shot, you can steer it into their skulls. Or balls. Whichever. Can be upgraded to EXPLODE.
  • Bouncer: A cannon that fires bouncing cannon balls that explode when you want them to. Can be upgraded to bounce AND explode at the same time. Repeatedly.
  • Penetrator: A gun that fires drill missiles. When upgraded, they can be redirected.

Basically, the guns are fucking amazing. You also get to use a minigun and, my personal favorite, a remotely controlled Mecha-Godzilla that shoots eye lasers. Even the music you hear when controlling the “mechaton” is all kaiju.

The story is pretty much irrelevant. The game is all about the skillshots. Ever killed an enemy with a hot dog cart? There’s a skillshot for that. It’s pretty great. You also get more points for killing enemies while drunk or hallucinating due to toxic spores. My favorite skillshot? One called “Fire in the Hole”. After stunning a miniboss, you kick open his bum cover. With his disgusting, pimply ass revealed, you fill it with hot lead. As he dies, he let’s out a flaming fart. It’s awesome.

There’s supposedly some multiplayer aspect of the game, but I didn’t feel like getting into it since it was Games For Windows Live based. I’m boycotting G4WL until it stops sucking, so basically forever.

Graphics

Bulletstorm runs on the newest Unreal engine which looks amazing.  The planet of Stygia is simply amazing. It’s lush and beautiful with some amazing scenery sometimes. But that’s besides the point. This game is about using one dude’s head to blow up another dude’s ass. The blood and guts are awesome. Neon orange blood is pretty cool. But back to the graphics. The textures are awesome. The Unreal engine never fails in that regard. Lighting looks incredible. My one beef is with the models. The Unreal engine is notorious for what I call “Unreal huge”. Things in the Unreal engine just look bigger. Inhumanly bigger. The best example of this is from Gears of War where the soldiers have feet bigger than the torsos of most men. I said, “whatever,” though and just chalked it up as Unreal being unreal.

Sound

The sounds in this game are exactly what you would expect. A lot of effort was spent in making the sounds of guys dying sound awesome. The different ways in which a guy screams “AARAUUGH!” as he’s flung of a cliff while burning alive is simply incredible. The gun sounds are really top notch as well. However, once again, I found the music not very memorable (except for the kaiju bit).

Lasting Appeal

There are leaderboards for running little snippets of levels called “Echoes” but if you’ve been paying attention, you’d realize that those don’t matter at all. Discovering more skillshots or just going on a murderous rampage are what this game really has to offer. I mean, where else can you wrap grenades around a guy’s neck and then kick him into more bad guys and them blow him up? This game is all about killing creatively and unless you run out of creativity, you’ll be coming back for more.

Summary

  • Gameplay: “Kill with Skill” is pretty much all you need to know. Did you read the part about the Mecha-Godzilla thing with eye lasers? IT’S AWESOME!
  • Graphics: The Unreal engine delivers beauty with a hefty dosage of brutality.
  • Sound: You may not be buying the soundtrack, but you will purchase the “Death Screams” and “How to Swear like A Pirate” collections.
  • Lasting Appeal: Do you really think you can find every possible way to kill enemies in this game let alone pull them off? Go on. Try. We all want you to.

Final Score

Bulletstorm - 4 1/2 out of 5 Bens

Bulletstorm: Play this game if you are 18 years or older. You won’t regret it. This game is truly awesome.

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Review: Dead Space 2 (PC)

 

Produced by Visceral Games, Published by Electronic Arts

The criteria for review are as follows: Gameplay (including mechanics, Story for Singleplayer, and Multiplayer aspects), Graphics, Sound, and Lasting Appeal.

Dead Space 2 is the sequel to Dead Space, a sci-fi survival horror third-person shooter. I had issues with the first installment mostly due to the ported control scheme which suffered from console afflictions such as mouse acceleration, auto-aiming, and target tracking. Controls aside, Dead Space did exactly what it set out to do: be scary. The gore and death scenes were simply incredible. Dead Space 2 returns with the promise of more gore, crazier deaths, and an even more frightening experience.

Gameplay

After a brief “Previously on Dead Space“, you return to slightly to the right of the back of Isaac Clarke’s head, a space engineer recently gone insane due to the events of Dead Space. One thing is noticeably different from the first game right off the bat: Isaac Clarke. He looks the same, but he speaks. A lot. In the first game, he was silent except for the screaming in pure terror bits (which were quite often). I said “fuck it” though and rolled with it. It definitely gives Isaac more depth as a character, but I did feel less immersed, a side-effect of a non-silent protagonist.

The control scheme was also different. It felt legit as opposed to ported. It seems as though Visceral actually put a little bit of love, just a smidgen, in the PC version. It’s a standard third-person shooter that borrowed from  Resident Evil 4, except you can move while shooting. Resident Evil relies on immobility to artificially create panic where as Dead Space relies on terror.

Story: Like I said, we’re Isaac Clarke again. He’s insane mostly due to being tortured by his dead girlfriend. There’s another necromorph outbreak and it’s our job to dismember the vomiting, exploding, crushing, gnawing abominations against science and the gods with an engineer’s idea of an arsenal. That means plasma cutter, saw blades, and flame welders. They do the job and fairly well. What takes place is essentially running through a space station trying to make it from save point to save point on small amounts of ammo and precious health packs. Various people tell you what to do and you have no choice to do them, dismembering the necromorphs as you seek to accomplish your tasks like unfucking all of space.

There are plenty of “OH FUCK” moments. The biggest one I had was when I was in these Unitology catacombs filled with frozen dead people. As soon as I stepped inside, I was expecting something to burst out. Just as I felt like nothing was about to happen, the sceen turned red and instead of frozen glass there were now screaming dead people shaking to get out. Let’s just say that I discharged an entire pulse rifle clip out of sheer panic. The second biggest “OH FUCK” moment was when Isaac had to sit in a machine of some sort while the player controls a slowly descending needle into his eye. I learned the hard way that if you bring the needle down too fast, it goes through Isaac’s eye into his brain in a shower of blood and screams. It was brutal. The third biggest moment was at the very end. I won’t spoil anything, but the following dialog took place where Isaac is thinking that he’s just finished everything:

Spectre of the Marker: “Time to die!”

Isaac: “WHAT?!”

Props to the guys at Visceral games for making the game a little more psychological in it’s attacks on the player. I mean, a guy’s felts melts off on your face in the first minute of the game. You watch a woman willing grab a necromorphed baby that explodes on her splattering her blood on the window separating you. Also, Isaac has flashbacks that can kill him if he doesn’t react to the fast enough, leaving you with a sense of “what the fuck just happened back there?”. Dead Space 2 is brutal and not for the faint of heart. It’s one of those games that earned it’s M Rating.

My one complaint about gameplay is that after awhile, it gets repetitive and a little boring, and the gore just becomes common place. Towards the end, finishing felt more like a task rather than something I wanted to do. I didn’t exactly feel rewarded for finishing the game but rather a little relieved. I suppose the game isn’t meant to be played in one sitting.

There is also a multiplayer aspect of the game, but I didn’t try it out. I consider Dead Space 2 a campaign game and don’t need fancy multiplayer. But I hear that it’s like Left 4 Dead in some respects. If you want to know more, I advise you look elsewhere.

Wanna see the many and gruesome ends to Isaac Clarke? Watch the following video (WARNING: May contain spoilers. I didn’t exactly check. Also, it’s gross as fuck.)

Graphics

The game runs on an in-house engine called the Visceral engine which handles the game just fine but leaves some improvement to be desired. The graphics of Dead Space 2 look alright. Compared to other games on the PC, the textures seem a low-res even on maximum settings. Since you spend most of the game walking instead of running (mostly due to fright), you notice the textures could be better. The graphics aren’t bad, but they aren’t great.  But the blood and gore? Actually pretty good. And the lighting seems pretty good. Surprisingly, most of the game doesn’t take place in utter darkness a la Doom 3 style, but you do have a flashlight that comes in handy quite often.

Sound

The first Dead Space was renowned for it’s haunting sounds of space. Dead Space 2 delivers much of the same. The best sounds are actually in a vacuum. The only thing you hear are Isaac’s heartbeat and breath and a ticker keeping track of your oxygen levels. The engineering that took place to achieve this must really be commended. The music is pretty much all tension-filled orchestral strings that keep your own heartbeat racing wondering when the next “OH FUCK” moment is going to occur. The music isn’t memorable at all, but it’s instrumental (get it?!) to setting the tone and pace of the game.

Lasting Appeal

As previously stated, Dead Space 2 has a multiplayer mode, but that’s now what would make me play again. Instead, there are actually unlockables and upgrades that can only be achieved through multiple playthroughs, the most amazing of which is the HAND CANNON.

That’s right. For finishing hardcore mode (which seems like truly impossible), you are awarded with a foam finger that requires no ammo but easily destroys your enemies as Isaac shouts “pew pew!” and “bang bang!” It’s a trophy weapon for sure.

Other than that though, once you’ve played through the campaign, there’s no real reason to play again unless you feel like it. There’s not much lasting appeal here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

Summary

  • Gameplay: A brutal, terrifying campaign as Isaac Clarke, space enginner, bound to keep you on the edge of your seat.
  • Graphics: Although not bad, better textures would definitely help.
  • Sound: You will be scared due to music.
  • Lasting Appeal: Further challenges and unlockables await through additional campaign completions.

Final Score

Dead Space 2 - 3 1/2 out of 5 Bens

Dead Space 2: An good advancement of the tale of Isaac Clarke, but the PC game feels like a lackluster port from the console version. Improvements could be made but it’s worth playing at least once.

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He’s Famous Now: An Interview with Ben Williams

Earlier today, Ben was made officially famous with the creation of his IMDb page. With this new revelation, we decided to catch up with Ben and learn more about him. The following is Awesome People Quarterly‘s interview with Ben.

APQ: So Ben, how did you react to the official unveiling of your IMDb page?

BW: I knew that it was inevitable. Honestly, it’s a little hard to believe that it took this long. I’m really excited, though, that I’m finally being recognized for my work.

APQ: What do you think you’ll do now?

BW: Well, I expect that I’ll get a lot more media attention and job offers. I think I’m about to get much busier.

APQ: What would you say got you here?

BW: It’d be impossible not to mention Patrick Willems. He was the one that got me started down this path. I don’t think I’d be where I am without him. Plus, we make a great team.

APQ: You’ve known Mr. Willems for quite some time. How did you two meet?

BW: We actually went to college together. We lived on the same floor in Barrows our first year at Oberlin College. We became fast friends. I mean, we just clicked.

APQ: How did you snag the role of Ben in Mr. Willems’ movie, A College Student’s Guide to Stealing Art (ACSGtSA)?

BW: Well, believe it or not, but I’ve had a small part to play in many of Patrick’s works be it coming up with scenes, lines, voice-overs, or single-shot parts. When he was writing the script for the movie, he knew that I would have to be in it. He originally wrote a character for me, but eventually dropped it. Upon further refining, he just decided to use things I say in real life and had me play myself. That’s right, “Ben Williams as himself” was a big deal for Patrick and myself, and it paid off for everyone.

APQ: Do you think you’ll continue to work with Mr. Willems?

BW: Of course. We work really well together and we sort of rely on each other.

APQ: Are you working on anything else right now?

BW: Actually, I’m not. At least nothing in the movies. My time is currently being devoured as a full-time student. Although now that I’m the biggest thing since sliced bread, I may drop that and really focus on my work.

APQ: We have to know – what’s the story behind your beard?

BW: It used to be that I didn’t have a beard. In high school, I was just “that guy”. However, once I got to college, I was sporting the beard you see today. Before I was in Patrick’s movie, I was “beard guy”. Now, I’m just “Ben” and my beard has it’s own name: The Serendipitous Time-Ocean Intertwined Consecutively. I just call it STOIC, though.

APQ: What would you say is your passion?

BW: Knowledge. Knowledge is a big turn on for me. I want to know everything. I want to know everything about science, I want to know how to play instruments, I want to know how to do martial arts. I want to be a Renaissance man. I just need to work a little harder at it such as the “everything” part.

APQ: Before we wrap up, we’d like to ask about some favorites. First off, favorite color?

BW: Ha! There’s a funny joke to answer that. (In a death Metal growl) Black, the color of my soul! Ha ha ha! But really, my favorite color is navy blue.

APQ: What about your favorite food?

BW: Easy, Alaskan king crab legs. I can never get enough of those things. I usually only have one chance in a year to eat some so I try to never miss that chance. Now that I’m bigger than cigarettes, though, I’ll probably be eating them all the time.

APQ: We know your favorite kind of music is Metal, but what is your favorite band?

BW: Hyperion. It doesn’t exist yet, mostly because I haven’t formed it yet, but it’s already the best band ever. I already know the cover art for the magnum opus I’ll make after the return from my narcotic oblivion caused but ultra-fame.

APQ: And finally – all the ladies are dying to know – are you single.

BW: As a matter of fact, I am.

APQ: Well then, we have to squeeze in one more questions – now that your greater than the pyramids in Giza – what Hollywood babes are you planning to woo?

BW: It might be a little ambitious to say all of them, but I’ve got a list of top targets. I plan on keeping that information confidential though. But I’m expecting “the family business” to really pick up now.

Ben has recently been recognized for his award-winning performance in A College Student’s Guide to Stealing Art.

In the trailer, Ben can be heard delivering the classic line “Like Boston before us, let’s rock!”

He’s been in many featurettes which include the following:

Enemies Among Us! (Voice-over)

Ben was consulted by Mr. Willems to be the voice. His personal flair brings chills to the audience. Not to mention, the lasers were his idea.

Oberlin College – Dining Halls (Lead)

Mr. Willems was consulted to make a series of videos for Oberlin College. He needed Ben to make them awesome.

The Need to Feed (Proto Sub-Director Alpha)

When Mr. Willems needed an idea, he came to Ben. TNTF was the result.

If you have any questions for Ben, he can be contacted through his official blog. Until next time, stay AWESOME!

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Games You’ll Want to Get this Year (based on what we know now)

Gaming is expensive and some of us have to choose what to get in lieu of everything. However, if you’ve got the cash and the resources, I highly advise you get the following games in the suggested formats and why…

(The games are listed in order of release date as listed by Amazon.com)

OUT NOW: Dead Space 2 (PC) – $59.99

If you haven’t played Dead Space, you really should. The game was a fantastic horror game. Dead Space 2 promises more of the same. You might think that “more of the same” might be bad, but if you’ve played Dead Space, it’s what you’d want.

OUT NOW: LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3) – $59.99

LittleBigPlanet 2 is LittleBigPlanet unleashed. If you check out some of the videos of user generated content in LittleBigPlanet 2, you’d see that players have made everything from the first dungeon in The Legend of Zelda to levels in Wolfenstein. You could potentially be playing the game forever with all the user generated content.

02/15: Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (PS3) – $59.99

The people at Capcom have finally decided to come up with the next installment in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Check out the character reveal trailers. Seriously. If you can only get one game this February, make it MvC3.

02/22: Killzone 3 (PS3) – $59.99

Now, I never played the original Killzone on the PlayStation 2, but when I got my hands on Killzone 2, I pretty much lost my shit. The Killzone series on the the PS3 looks simply incredible. If you like amazing-looking first-person shooters, then you need to get your hands on this game.

02/22: Bulletstorm (PC) – $59.99

The Unreal engine was birthed on the PC and by the gods, if you’re not playing Unreal-based games on the PC, then you’re doing it wrong. If the Gears of Wars were on the PC, you should be playing it there instead of the Xbox 360. But yeah, Bulletstorm looks like it’s going to be a hilariously great game.

03/08: Dragon Age 2 (PC) – $59.99

First, play Dragon Age: Origins, then get this game. The masters at BioWare are at it again and you can expect amazing RPG story, adventure, and characters. If you can only get one game for March, this is top contender.

03/10: Dawn of War II: Retribution (PC) – $29.99

The Dawn of War series by the fellows at Relic is incredible. If you enjoy real-time strategy games or anything about Warhammer 40k, then you need to look into it. Retribution is probably going to be a stand alone expansion, so you can just get this game, enjoy the campaign and probably a single race in multiplayer. For owners of the other 2 Dawn of War II, this is an addition that you’ll need.

03/15: Shogun 2: Total War (PC) – $49.99

The Total War series is great featuring aspects of both turn-based strategy (on the map) and real-time strategy (on the battlefield). Shogun 2 is the return to Japan where the Total War series started. The game is going feature unprecedented levels of detail. This is another top contender for the must-have for March.

03/22: Crysis 2 (PC) – $59.99

The first Crysis game was basically the end-all, be-all for PC gaming when it first came out. I used its requirements for maximum settings to build my current rig. Now a new Cryengine has been built and we all need to get new machines. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing.

03/31: Ghost Recon Future Soldier (PC) – $59.99

Yet another Tom Clancy game. However, much like the Splinter Cell series, the Ghost Recon series is pretty great.

04/19: Portal 2 (PC) – $49.99

The first Portal game is basically a PC cult classic. It gave birth to dozens of memes. The sequel will have co-op puzzle-solving robots. It’s gonna be great.

05/03: Duke Nukem Forever (PC) – $49.99

Get. This. Game.

05/08: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC) – $49.99

Many of us want to be excited about the next Deus Ex ever since Invisible War sucked ass. However, it seems that things are getting sort of strange in the Deus Ex universe. Human Revolution is supposed to be a prequel, but things look way too advanced for a prequel. We want to be excited, but it seems that Square Enix might be Japanifying the series. In a distinctly Western, dystopian first-person shooter with adventure elements. Check out the reviews before making a final decision.

05/08: Homefront (PC) – $49.99

As you can see, Homefront is set in an alternative future where North Korea is really pissed off and somehow becomes a global superpower overnight. This game promises to be very emotionally engaging since the story is penned by the same guy who wrote Red Dawn. (I love these kinds of settings, by the way)

05/17: The Witcher 2 (PC) – $49.99

The first The Witcher game is pretty good (I admit that I still have to finish it) which is based on a Polish dark fantasy novel (that supposedly has its own television show). The sequel looks like it has the same awesome story elements but with massively improved gameplay mechanics.

09/13: RAGE (PC) – $59.99

So you’ll need a new rig for Crysis 2, but you’ll need a newer rig to get the full RAGE experience from the boys at id Software. The game promises to be amazing.

11/01: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3) – $59.99

I shouldn’t have to say anything, so I’m not going to. Get the goddamn game.

11/01: Metal Gear Solid Rising (PS3) – $59.99

Ever wanted to slice up motherfuckers in anyway you want with Raiden, the suddenly not lame Metal Gear Solid 2 star? Then this game is for you.

11/11: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC) – $59.99

If you aren’t excited for this game, something is seriously wrong with you. And play the other Elder Scrolls games if you haven’t already.

12/31: Mass Effect 3 (360) – $59.99

Another BioWare game but this time in space? Yeah, the Mass Effect series is amazing. Play the other ones and then get this one.

If you get everything, the total comes to a whopping $1109.80.

Yeah, we’re not exactly done yet.

03/27: Nintendo 3DS – $249.99

The Nintendo 3DS is Nintendo’s new handheld for 3D Pokemon games. Come on, you know that’s why they made it and you know that’s why you’ll buy it. But yeah, the 3DS will feature 3D graphics without glasses. Seriously. I don’t know how, but if it works, it could mean a revolution in 3D household entertainment. Maybe, I don’t know. Keep track of this one.

Holiday Season: Sony “NGP” (Next Generation Portable) – $249.99 (projected, not official)

The NGP was just announced last night in Japan in a PlayStation meeting with members of the (video game) press and many studio and developer heads (Hideo Kojima was there!). Basically, everyone is going batshit insane over this and for obvious reasons. The NGP will be almost as powerful as the PlayStation 3 (fun fact: the PS3 is currently the most powerful console… ever), have a big ass OLED screen (lined up to be the biggest in portable gaming), feature dual analog sticks (not the thumb stick like on the PSP), have 2 touch-sensitive surface (front and back), 2 cameras (front and back), 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, and play games on a flash memory-based system meaning you’ll load games, DLC, and more on a big ass flash card specially designed for the NGP. Basically, it’s pure sex in gaming form. Keep your eyes on this one. It may actually dislodge Nintendo as the dominant power in portable gaming. Might makes right, after all.

So yeah, save up your pennies, girl and boys. This year is going to AMAZING for gaming. Like some sort of golden age, like a Renaissance of gaming or something.

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On Stalking: Why You Should Play the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Series

Please listen to this music while you read the post (trust me)

In 2007, the small Kyiv-based developer GSC Game World released S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl, an open-world sci-fi first-person shooter with elements of survival horror for the PC. The game spent 7 years in development but was still filled with bugs and glitches. Even though the game was fairly unstable, it received decent reviews. Players were willing to deal with the bugs to get through the game.

Today, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has a robust, international fan base that is always craving more. Professional artists are working on a series of mods, called the Complete series, to give the series a makeover. A S.T.A.L.K.E.R. television series is currently in production. GSC Game World is even working on releasing an official S.T.A.L.K.E.R. clothing line (which I’ve just got to have). S.T.A.L.K.E.R. may not have Call of Duty-level sales, but its success, especially in the Eastern European region, makes this PC game series one of the most successful in its own right.

Back in my pirating days, I always had a copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl on my computer. I’ve purchased the game twice now. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is one of those games that keeps bringing you back. When I found out about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete 2009, I knew that I would have to replay the game even though I’ve beaten the game 5 times already (compared to Metal Gear Solid 4 having been beaten 7 times, my most for a single game). So let’s take a look at what keeps some of us coming back for more.

The Zone

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series takes place in The Zone which is based on the very real Zone of Alienation created by the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. However, if you take the time to read the encyclopedia entries in the game, we learn that The Zone was created by a second disaster in 2006. This second catastrophe dramatically changed the already irradiated area surrounding Chernobyl into a deadly area spanning several square kilometers. The Zone is an entity that is constantly changing. The Zone creates an atmosphere that leaves every player in total awe. Just looking at The Zone sets the tone for the entire game. It is a place of mystery, death, and adventure. The Zone is filled with many perils such as mutants, anomalies, radiation, and stalkers (which consists only of males with females existing only in lore).

There are all sorts of mutants, but most are just animals. To name some of them there are blind dogs (emaciated wild dogs with no eyes that roam in packs), fleshes (mutant pigs left with no face and stilts for legs), pseudodogs (mutated wolves that can sometimes induce hallucinations of a pseudodog pack that can rip you to shreds), snorks (former special ops soldiers reduced to wild animals), controllers (deformed humans with psychic brain-scrambling abilities), and my personal favorite, bloodsuckers.

Also known as Cthulhu-faces, these guys can turn invisible

Bloodsuckers the things of nightmares. You never forget your first encounter with a bloodsucker. When you first encounter a bloodsucker in Shadow of Chernobyl, you are in the Agroprom Underground (a terrifying place that instills the fear of underground locations forever). When entering a room, you hear a roar followed by heavy breathing that continually gets louder. As you cower in the corner, clutching your half-broken AK-74u with only 1 magazine of ammo left, you see a shimmer moving in between the shadows. Finally, the bloodsucker uncloaks in front of your flashlight and begins slashing you. As you scream to yourself, you unload your weapon in panicked full-auto, praying that you slay your attacker before it can slay you.

Bloodsuckers only get worse as the series goes on. In the second game that is the prequel to Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky, bloodsuckers are invulnerable while cloaked. When you first encounter a bloodsucker in Clear Sky, it is in a scripted event (once more in Agroprom). You hear the bloodsucker roar as a fellow stalker is felled, grabbed, and then taken as the bloodsucker leaps off into the forest. In the third game that is the sequel to Shadow of Chernobyl, Call of Pripyat, bloodsuckers are no longer invulnerable while cloaked, but now turn completely invisible at a distance of about 5 meters. Not to mention, they can now also grapple people and begin sucking their blood. If a stalker is by himself when grappled, it usually means that he is going to die unless another stalker can interrupt the bloodsucker.

The second deadliest thing in The Zone are stationary (most of the time): anomalies. Anomalies are spaces of broken physics. Distorted gravity, sourceless flames, pockets of electricity, and bubbling pools of acid. There are some anomalies that are huge areas of anomalous activity, such as a huge section of land split in two, a hill of boiling land, or a crater of circling fireballs.

A whirligig anomaly sucking up some unfortunate stalkers. In a moment, the anomaly will discharge causing everyone to explode in a red mist of gore and limbs.

Anomalies also produce objects called artifacts. These condensed pieces of “what the fuck” can be potentially beneficial. Each anomaly produces a set of different artifacts. Some can artifacts absorb radiation at the price of reduced endurance. Others can increase your resistance to bullets at the price of being irradiate. There are many different artifacts with many different benefits and costs. Some rare artifacts are only beneficial.

A stalker holding a glowing artifact

In Shadow of Chernobyl, artifacts are usually just chilling out in the world waiting to be collected. They were sort of everywhere. However, in Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat, artifacts are contained in anomalies making obtaining them much more dangerous. Using detectors, you can hunt down the much rarer artifacts which usually means carefully maneuvering around a field of deadly anomalies.

Another peril of The Zone is pockets of radiation. In the beginning of the game, when your only protection is a leather jacket, radiation is a huge issue. It prevents you from accessing certain areas since you can become irradiated very quickly which can lead to a nasty case of death. There are a few ways of dealing with radiation. Most armors later in the game can almost completely negate all but the heaviest doses of radiation. As stated previously, some artifacts can absorb radiation making it a non-issue. Anti-radiation drugs treat radiation with no side effects. A hilarious way to cure radiation is to drink vodka. That’s right: by getting drunk you can prevent irradiation. The player can consume entire bottles of “Cossack’s vodka” in seconds. Of course, this leads to drunkenness which becomes more severe if the player consumes more vodka. Vision sways side-to-side, becomes blurred, and eventually causes double vision. It makes shooting a gun almost impossible. Almost. Killing bandits while drunk is simply too much fun. The bastards have sawn-off shotguns while you drunkenly waste them with an AK-47. It’s pretty great.

 

Drunk-o-vision means blurred double vision with occasional blinding flashes. Click to enlarge alcoholic shenanigans

There is one more peril of The Zone that is probably the most dangerous: Stalkers. Who are the stalkers or more accurately S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s? Well, so answer that it’d be a good idea to explain what S.T.A.L.K.E.R. actually stands for. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. means “Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventure, Loner, Killer, Explorer, Robber”. Most stalkers are just trying to get by. They can be seen all throughout The Zone doing everything from fighting mutants or other stalkers to play the guitar to pass the time in the unforgiving Zone.

The most common type of stalker are the loners, stalkers who are just live or perhaps make a profit in The Zone. They rank from rookie, newcomers to The Zone, to veteran, stalkers who have penetrated deep into the heart of The Zone and have survived to tell the tale.

A loner in a homemade stalker suit

There are also bandits who are criminals that have escaped to The Zone and wreak havoc on their fellow stalkers through murder and theft (they’re total jerks).

A bandit in a trench-coat indicating a higher rank

You’ve got the military, regular soldiers who patrol certain parts of The Zone and prevent people from entering. There are also mercenaries who are guns for hire who are specialized for contracts that require operation in The Zone. Then there are factions such as Duty, a group of stalkers trying to bring order to The Zone, and Freedom, a group of stalkers trying to keep The Zone free and enterprising. They totally hate each other.

Left: A member of Duty in an exoskeleton with a RPG / Right: A member of Freedom with a SVD

The final faction is Monolith, a cult of fanatics. They are even bigger assholes than the bandits. They aren’t friends with anybody. They shoot on sight. Why? Because. I can’t say much more without getting into some serious spoilers.

A member of Monolith with a shotgun

Every time you play S.T.A.L.K.E.R., it is different. No two players have the same experience. Although the locations (except in Call of Pripyat), weapons, and factions are the same, each play-through has its own unique encounters. In fact…

STORY TIME: In Shadow of Chernobyl, I was roaming around an area known as the Wild Territory looking for artifacts and better weapons. In the distance, I heard the gunshots of some poor souls fighting something. Usually, when you hear gunshots, it’s a signal for free loot. So I decided to trek over to the area to find a couple of pseudodogs feeding on a bandit corpse. I could handle a couple of pseudodogs, I thought. As I opened fire on the mutant wolves, I heard a bunch of different noises. It turns out that just around the corner were several packs of several different mutants. Almost 3 packs of blind dogs, a pack of pseudodogs, a pack of rodents (mutant rats), and even 2 bloodsuckers. It was such a target rich environment that I just opened fire in full-auto. The mutants just kept coming. I soon blew through some 500 odd bullets (in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., that’s considered a lot) meaning that I was out of rifle ammo. I had to turn to my pistol, a .45 caliber Desert Eagle. I couldn’t shoot fast enough with the pistol so I had to turn to grenades. It got to the point where I was tossing grenades at my feet and then sprinting away as the mutants attacked.  In the Wild Territory, there is a burning helicopter wreckage that I had to climb to the top of to finish off the last few blind dogs. When all was said and done, I had 23 shells left and 4 grenades. I was lucky to survive. That has never happened to me before. I felt like a complete badass.

One of the great things about the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games is that they look and feel so authentic. When traversing The Zone, you can tell that the developers at GSC Game World put their hearts and souls into every last detail of the games. The amount of detail put into the world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is no mistake. The designers at GSC Game World carefully studied footage, photographs, and supposedly even visited Pripyat, the modern city neighboring Chernobyl NPP that had to be abandoned following the 1986 disaster.

The ferris wheel at Chernobyl (left = real / right = STALKER)

Aside from the detail in the design of the game, when playing, you also get the distinct feel that the game is Ukrainian. Since the game takes place in The Zone surrounding Chernobyl, everything hints of a time when the Soviet Union once dominated. Most of the weaponry in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is of Soviet origin. There are a few Western weapons, such as the M1911 and FN 2000, but most are Soviet, like the AK-47, SVD, and RPG-7. Signs all around The Zone, such as those found in the terrifying, secret underground laboratories, are in Russian.  The Zone is also populated by broken Soviet vehicles. There are old Soviet APCs (armored personnel carriers), trucks, and even Soviet military transport helicopters. None of them work. There are a few mods that enable vehicles like Jeeps, but using those are a terrible idea since it is incredibly likely you’ll drive straight into an anomaly.

A Mi-24 Soviet military helicopter rusting away in the vehicle graveyard

What really drives home the authenticity is the fact that all the stalkers speak in Ukrainian when not addressing the player. They speak to each other in Ukrainian. They tell stories in Ukrainian. They beg for help in Ukrainian. They throw grenades in Ukrainian. Although the original localization effort may not have been a great one (misspellings and grammatical errors are common but can be fixed by most mods), it makes you want to learn Ukrainian and Cyrillic just to be able to play the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games in their original state.

I have fallen in love with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. It’s one of those few projects that comes along and is made with love and care. It doesn’t have the mass appeal of games like Call of Duty, where you fight for every inch of a linear level with 30 scripted events every minute and pretend your in an action-war movie. These games aren’t for that crowd. These are games for people willing and eager to explore and create their own adventure with a given set of tools. These are games where night vision is just as valuable as ammo. These are games where you have to survive everything, including starvation, not just some nameless bad guys trying to ruin your shit. These are games that you are supposed to experience. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are ones that are meant to be played in the dark. I always play with the lights off and headphones set to the max.

If I was reviewing the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, I would also have to complain that sometimes bugs can really mess up a game. In fact, in the first iteration of the prequel, Clear Sky, it was originally impossible for players to access the area after Cordon because the programmers actually left out the “YES” button in a prompt asking if the player wanted to move to the next area. It was quickly fixed, but it’s something that you know a bigger game studio wouldn’t have allowed. But that’s one of the great things about the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. It’s not by a big studio attached to an even bigger publisher that makes demands. It’s by a Ukrainian studio working with what they’ve got, and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has one of the most dedicated fan bases of any game I’ve ever seen.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was recently announced, but it isn’t expected to hit the shelves until 2012. But you know what? Something like that would piss me off if it were any other studio, but I know that the people at GSC Game World are working hard to produce something that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. fans will appreciate just as much if not more than the current S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. We are patiently waiting for the next installment. If it means waiting until 2012 to get the next chapter in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, then I have no problems waiting that long as long as the game turns out great.

If I was reviewing the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, I would be forced to award them…

5 out of 5 Bens!

Keep up the great work, GSC!

(P.S. Check out this awesome chapter in a video game design book all about S.T.A.L.K.E.R.)

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A Tale of Brutality: One Man’s Love Affair with Metal

In October, my heart was broken when I learned that one of my favorite bands, The Sword, fractured and had to cancel their entire live tour the day before I was supposed to see them. I had no idea how long it would take for them to re-book the tour. Fortunately, they grabbed a replacement drummer and came to perform in Atlanta on November 29th. I had a test the next day. I said “Fuck it” and went to go see them instead of studying. Fucking awesome.

The Sword

The Sword, Warp Riders Tour, 11/29/10 @ The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA

Now, you might be wondering a little bit about my back story and why I like Metal. If you recall, I used to be a bit weeaboo but then radically transformed. What caused that radical transformation? Two words: METAL EXCO. To understand what I’m talking about, we must travel back in time to the far off year 2007.

In the spring of ’07, I was in my second semester of my freshman year at Oberlin College. If you know anything about Oberlin, it would be the last place on earth you would expect to find Metal. But Metal just doesn’t give a fuck. You see, up at Oberlin, they have the “experimental college” program in which students get to teach courses they want to, or ExCo’s. In the spring of ’07, there were many interesting ExCo’s, but only one that I had to take: The Metal ExCo. Up until that point, my exposure to Metal included In Flames, DragonForce, and the then fledgling Metalocalypse. When I saw that there was going to be a class that I could take for credit for listening to Metal for 2 hours and then watching Metalocalypse and was going to be taught by [redacted] (one of two “smokin’ hot Metal chicks”), I needed in.

Over the course of that amazingly frozen spring semester, my mind was blown. I learned that I knew nothing. The Gods of Metal had opened my mind and filled it with their heavy Metal gospel. I learned of Metal’s fine structure of sub-genres. I learned how to mosh. I learned how to be METAL. My Metal collection went from about 500MB to over 70GB, and it is still growing. Prior to the Metal ExCo, I had attended one live Metal concert. By the end of college, I would have attended dozens as well as become WOBC‘s Metal Director.

After taking the Metal ExCo, things seemed different. I would try to watch anime, and notice that it sucked. I would go to my Japanese classes and caught myself sneering with disapproval at the weeaboo students. I was born again. I filled my iPod with Metal and listened to it all day. I wanted other people to listen to it as well, but not everyone hears the beauty of Metal like we chosen ones. I did not know, however, that my Metal journey was just beginning…

In the fall semester of ’07, I received an email:

Dear former metal exco goer,
have you considered having a radio show this semester? Please do, there could be a lot more metal on WOBC.
Applications are available outside the radio station, Wilder 319, and they are due this wednesday by 5pm.

What? A “radio show”? But there were only two words that I needed to read: “more metal“. I decided I would apply for a radio show on WOBC. But I needed a cool DJ and radio show name… it took me less than a second. I knew exactly what I would do. I became Warboss, host of FIGHTIN’ JUICE! I applied for 2 insanely brutal hours designed to make people get up and mosh. My tagline: “Let the Metal fuel your rage!” Every weekend, for 2 hours, I let the world know that Metal lived in Oberlin. I. Would. Be. HEARD!

Spring of ’08 came. There was to be another Metal ExCo. This time it went by the name “The Heavy Underground” and was taught by [redacted]’s friend [redacted] (the second “smokin’ hot metal chick”). [redacted] was probably more brutal the [redacted]. I learned a little bit more that year, but the primary purpose was to re-familiarize myself with the material that was taught. [redacted] and [redacted] were about to graduate, after all. Someone had to pick up where they left off. Everyone knew it would be me. I was the heir apparent to the Metal throne at Oberlin.

Things changed for the better in the Fall of ’08. I got my 3rd radio show, but there was something new: Erik Hinnov. Erik is the biggest Judas Priest fan I have ever met. Erik had just replaced our previous Metal director who did nothing. Erik changed that. He met with all the other Metal DJs (a number that had always hovered around 7 for as long as I can remember) and told us what was going. He also informed us that we could get into concerts for free if we promoted them as well as interview bands that came through Cleveland. I started attending concerts like mad. I conducted my first interviews. I was learning that I was part of a greater Metal community.

Spring of ’09: I would be tested. Since both [redacted] and [redacted] had graduated, it was up to me to teach the Metal ExCo. How did it go? Fucking awesome. People learned. They fell in hate with new bands (there is no love in Metal). We had a mosh and headbanging workshop in the classroom. And the big finale: we blew the speakers on the last night of class with Erik’s DVD of Emperor’s last concert.

Things were much more low key my senior year at Oberlin. Even though I was Metal Director of WOBC, I didn’t have much time for concerts, but I kept up with my radio show every Saturday night. I taught what might have been the last Metal ExCo. It was an unfortunate time because I wasn’t able to dedicate as much time as I would have liked to Metal. What was even worse is that I had no heir. It seemed as though there would be no one to carry on the Metal legacy. Fret not, dear reader, for Metal still exists in Oberlin thanks in no small part to me. I, however, do not know of it’s ultimate fate.

I’ve told you what I’ve done, but what exactly have I done? Let me tell you some interesting highlights.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing 4 people from the Metal community:

  • Mario Duplantier of Gojira. This was my first interview ever, but it’s probably one of my best. It was a little difficult with him being French and all, but it was a really good interview.
  • Mike Martin of All That Remains. This interview took place on the same night (I think) as the one with Mario. I had no idea what to expect since I hadn’t listened to much All That Remains. They just weren’t my cup of tea. I was definitely unprepared and nervous. This was probably my worst interview. Mike was also kind of a dick.
  • Aaron Weaver of Wolves in the Throne Room. This might be my favorite interview. Aaron and the WitTR guys are bizarre but still very cool. They have their own sort of mythos since they live on a farm.
  • Johan Söderberg of Amon Amarth. When I learned that I would be able to interview someone from Amon Amarth, I flipped my shit. I can’t seem to find this interview, which is unfortunate if it’s lost forever. This interview was fun but a little difficult with Johan being Swedish and all.

Speaking of Amon Amarth, this leads me into a nice little anecdote. Back when Amon Amarth had just released their album Twilight of the Thunder God, there was a contest to promote the album called “Show Us Your Most Viking Pose”. The prize:

Custom-made Amon Amarth Drinking Horns

My reply:

I hereby vow to win one of these horns.

I had to take a picture of my “most viking pose” to win a drinking horn. So I did.

Ben, The Tyrant of Oberlin

There are also some shirtless versions of this pose that I sent in along with the above picture. I have no idea which one they picked, but I intend to keep those off of the internet for as long as possible. The picture took time and effort to put together. Tool Man (the one cowering in fear) and Dwarf Fortress (the one offering the beer) were more than ready to help out with this. Jeffrey (the one beneath my foot) and Nathaniel (the camera man) thought it would be hilarious so they agreed. Liz the Lustful (the only girl in the picture) took some convincing. Luckily, I have a silver tongue and can pour honey in the ears of any woman.

My efforts paid off:

The more observant readers out there might have noticed something: markings on the horn here that doesn’t appear an the photo above. You have some keen eyes. Those markings are Amon Amarth’s signatures. They didn’t come with the horn. When I went to see them live and interview Johan S., I got the band to sign the horn. They were actually surprised to see that I had a horn made by the same guy that made theirs.

Horn facts:

  1. It is made of real animal. I don’t know which one.
  2. It is awesome.
  3. I drink out of it.
  4. It is awesome.
  5. It used to taste like animal. It ruined a few beers.
  6. It’s a fucking horn made of animal that I can drink out of! It’s fucking METAL!

I’ve mentioned concerts more than a couple of times. Now for some concert tales.

Fact: If I attend a concert, I must purchase a shirt.

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Kylesa, Mastodon, Clutch, Slayer, Vader, The Sword, Gojira, Iced Earth, Meshuggah, GWAR, Lamb of God, Psycroptic, DragonFroce, Ghengis Tron, WOBC Metal Short (for symmetry). Cat added for comparison.

Each one of those shirts represents a different concert experience. I’d like to talk briefly about the DragonForce shirt since it’s pretty funny.

Way back when, when I still hadn’t taken the Metal ExCo, I thought DragonForce was the bee’s knees. They were great in my opinion. I still think that Sonic Firestorm is pretty good. So, of course, I told everyone I knew on 3rd floor Barrows that I was going to go see DragonForce in Cleveland and that everyone should come with me. Many did. But even before we left, there were those that conspired against me, namely one Katie McVay. You might know her from her blog Big-Time Shenanigans! If you don’t, that’s fine. We’re not exactly on the best of terms ever since she called me a “domestic goddess” for making cookies for the Kegger House Holiday Gala.

So, there we were, driving out of Oberlin while listening to DragonForce to get super pumped for the show. Then, just before we reached the highway, Katie McVay pops out of the back of the Rage’s SUV (the Rage was my roommate). Of course, back then, McVay and I were bitter enemies. By bitter enemies I mean that I inexplicably hated her and she inexplicably loved me (platonically). I was furious as she sat in the back giggling about how she would get to spend time with me at a Metal concert. Luckily for me, even at power Metal concerts, people still mosh.

As you can tell by the above picture, things went well. We moshed, we listened to the weedily and the deedily. After their performance, we heard that DragonForce would be signing things in the back of the venue. I ran and purchased the shirt and then got in line with my friends to meet DragonForce. They signed my shirt (the signatures are mostly faded now) and drew penises on my friends as you can see.

Each shirt has a story attached to it. I almost didn’t get to see Clutch because the WOBC promo director forgot to send in my name. I saw Slayer here in Georgia with K-Dawg. We left shortly after Marilyn Manson began performing, because I didn’t pay money to watch a guy touch himself. There were religious protesters outside of the venue where Lamb of God performed and summoned on of the best pits I’ve ever been in. No one told me to wear a white shirt when we went to see GWAR which is highly unfortunate. Psycroptic was just one of dozens of bands I saw during the Summer Slaughter Tour of ’07 (I think). Mastodon is one of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen. I had especially bad tinnitus after their concert (I never wear ear plugs). After Meshuggah, Ministry performed and made a lot of people nauseous with their abundance of strobe lighting.

Now that I’m out of college and in graduate school, I won’t have near as much time to go to concerts. It’s unfortunate, really, because tons of great bands come through Atlanta. Way more than Cleveland, at least. Seeing The Sword live, however, has once more infused my interest in Metal with vigor. I hope to see Blind Guardian later this month. You know, one of the original power Metal bands that has made Tolkein so popular in Metal? Yeah, those guys. Anyways, even though I may get on in years and explore different music, Metal will always have a special place in my blackened void where humans commonly have hearts.

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