With a new generation of consoles coming into their own, the lifespan of the PS3 and XBox360 is rapidly coming to an end. It's not quite as monumental as the end of the PS2's lifecycle, which is arguably the single best gaming console ever made! With the PS3 and XBox360, our console games started to have consistent online functionality, and with online functionality comes a sad side-effect: a game's life-span is finite. I can always go back and play my favorite PS2 games (like Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Ace Combat 4, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Gran Turismo 3, and Devil May Cry) and have pretty much the same experience that I had the first time I played. But I won't be able to do that with some of my favorite PS3 games, because some of them have online features that won't remain active forever.
As long as my PS2 is functional, I can always go back and re-play my favorite PS2 games.
PC gamers have been dealing with this problem since the dawn of the internet, but they have work-arounds. PC Games can be modded to support direct TCP / IP connections in order for their online communities to stay online. Hypothetically, you could keep your favorite MMO alive for yourself and your circle of friends in this fashion. But with console games, there are much more significant technical hurdles to overcome, and when the producer shuts down the servers, that is basically the end of that game.
And that is exactly what is going to happen some day with my favorite PS3-exclusive: Demon's Souls.
Every console has its defining games - those games that are reasons for owning the consoles. The original PlayStation had Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid, the Nintendo 64 had Goldeneye, the Dreamcast had Shenmue and Soul Calibur, the XBox had Halo, GameCube had Resident Evil 4 and Eternal Darkness, the PS2 had Shadow of the Colossus. For me, Demon's Souls is that game for the PS3: the game that makes owning a PS3 worthwhile.
Demon's Souls is a game that completely redefined the way that I think about gaming. My ideas about how a player can interact with a game world and with other players were completely turned on their head with this game. So I want to take a moment to pay tribute to this masterpiece of interactive art with a full review while its servers are still up and running. And maybe - just maybe - I can sell a copy or two to some new players.
The gameplay is based on a simple control configuration in which weapons are mapped to the left and right hand and controlled with the left and right shoulder buttons (respectively). The design is reminiscent of a simplified version of FROM's other major game franchise: the mech-combat sim Armored Core. Weapons equipped in the right hand have a basic attack and a heavy attack, and weapons or shields in the left hand have a block and heavy attack (sorry, lefties, no left-handed characters for you!). These basic controls are very simple, and any player can start hacking and blocking away as soon as they pick up the controller. But more advanced controls and variations in weapon functionality make this seemingly-simple combat system very deep.
Each weapon class has different movesets, ranging from the slashing of a sword to the thrusting of a spear, to smashing of a giant hammer. And shields (and some off-hand weapons) have an advanced parry feature that allows you to stun and counter an attacking foe to land a critical hit. You can also attack while running or out of dodges in order to keep a foe guessing. Mastering these various features takes a little bit of time, but it is immensely rewarding when you finally have the skills to go toe to toe with a giant, butcher-knife wielding skeleton with confidence. But don't get overconfident, because this game will punish you for every mistake!
With patience and practice, you'll soon stand confidently before the Vanguard that killed you in the tutorial.
If you die, you lose all your accumulated souls (i.e. "experience"), and must restart the level from the beginning! But there is a shining glimmer of hope: you have one chance to reach the spot where you died in order to recover your lost souls. If you get there... [More]
Interstellar is a rare hard sci-fi movie.
There has been a sad dearth of hard science fiction movies in recent memory. While comic book and alien invasion movies and the like have been proliferating (and some of them have been very good), there haven't been as many movies that have been willing to take science fiction subject matter seriously. The only mainstream releases that I can think of off the top of my head are District Nine, Inception, and Gravity, neither of which really wowed me. District Nine was alright, but I felt that its racism allegory fell flat since the aliens themselves considered the majority of their species to be mindless automatons. Inception was a fun ride, but nowhere near as clever or complicated as people made it out to be. And Gravity wasn't really "science fiction"; more like just "space drama" disaster porn.
That leaves the indie movie Moon and the surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as the only really good examples of high-brow science fiction that I can think of - and maybe Edge of Tomorrow can count as "medium-brow".
That's why I've been very excited about Christopher Nolan's new movie, Interstellar. It had all the trappings of a modern-day 2001: A Space Odyssey, which (confusing psychedelic ending aside - read the book!) is one of the best hard science fiction movies ever made. Interstellar definitely lived up to this expectation, but it's a much gloomier and more depressing epic than Arthur Clark and Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece.
The space travel plot is, in fact, almost identical to 2001. A crew must travel in hypersleep in an experimental spacecraft to investigate an anomaly around Saturn (the original 2001 book placed the monolith in orbit around Saturn, but it was changed to Jupiter for the film). The sleeping crew is even overseen by intelligent robots. The rising action has conspiratorial undertones, and the climax dives deep into metaphysical fringe science.
Interstellar [LEFT] is very similar to Arthur Clark and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey [RIGHT]
in its detail-oriented depiction of space travel.
A lot of the science in the first half of the movie is solid, and it's actually integral to the narrative and drama between the characters. The second half takes a lot more creative license for the sake of plot. There are significant issues with relativity with regard to a black hole, metaphysical stuff about a "ghost", and some ham-fisted mumbo jumbo about the power of love transcending time and space. But despite some silly science, there's a very real possibility that audiences might leave the theater with a better understanding and appreciation of relativity.
So Interstellar definitely earns its comparisons to 2001... [More]
I was looking forward to a breakout year for the Bears. I even drafted Jay Cutler in one of the later rounds in one of my fantasy football leagues expecting him to have his best season ever and be a top-tier quarterback. All the pieces were in place. And the defense being a liability seemed to be even more promising, since Cutler would have to play from behind more often, giving him plenty of opportunity to put up huge numbers.
But then the season started, and my excitement was almost completely squashed by losing the season opener in overtime to the Bills.
But I never feared it would get this bad!
The Bears have only three wins in the first ten weeks of the season, and the past three losses have been embarrassing. A loss to the Dolphins in which the Bears couldn't even score more than 14 points. And now two straight games against the Patriots and Packers that were both over by halftime. And the loss to the Packers came after a bye!
The Bears are failing at every level of play. The offense can't move the ball or score points. Special teams hasn't done anything special. And teams are cutting through the Bears' defense like butter. The defense at least has the excuse of injuries. Charles Tillman is out for the year, and Lance Briggs just returned from a multi-week injury. But that doesn't justify giving up over 100 points in two weeks, nor does it justify the defense being the statistically worst defense that the team has ever had in its 90-plus-year history.
The Bears' defense has set franchise records for awfulness.
But as bad as the defense is, it wasn't expected to be very good. New coach Mark Trestman is an offense-oriented coach, and the defense is old and has lost some of its best talent (like Brian Urlacher).
What is disappointing is that despite being the most "talented" and hyped offense that the team has ever seen, the offense is completely inept. It's as bad as the post-SuperBowl Rex Grossman offense!
The Bears don't even look like a professional football team right now.
There's two obvious scape-goats here: coach Mark Trestman, or quarterback Jay Cutler.
Cutler has been inconsistent and oft criticized, but his apologists always said that he needed a better offensive coach... [More]
Continuing my series of strategies for Brave New World, I am going to take a moment to discuss one of (if not the) most sorely misunderstood civilizations from the vanilla game: Gandhi's India. India received a very minor tweak in Brave New World (its unique building was modified to provide tourism instead of gold), but the new trade route mechanics radically change the way that India should be played. In some ways, the new features make India feel like a completely new civilization!
The ancient civilization of India is one of the world's most populace and diverse countries. More than 1/6th of the world's population currently calls India home (that's over a billion people!), it is one of the cultural and spiritual centers of the world. India is the birthplace of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions, which make up third and fourth most populous religions today. The less-populous faith of Jainism also has roots in India. In addition to the variety of religions, there are also over 100 distinct languages that are spoken in India! Indian society used to follow a rigid caste system in which a person's status in life is determined at birth. Although this caste system is not enforced (and is actively discouraged by the government), it remains a persistent force in the nation, and still leads to a great deal of prejudice and conflict within the country.
One of the most significant leaders of Indian history (and world history) is Mohandas Gandhi. In the early 1900's, India was under British occupation, and Gandhi, the son of the Prime Minister of the small state of Porbandar, was successful in leading an unprecedented non-violent rebellion to drive the foreign rule out. This peaceful rebellion lead to Gandhi being recognized as one of the most courageous and moral leaders the world has ever known. Indians affectionately refer to him as "Bapu" (translation: "father") in recognition of his role in creating the modern Indian nation. His birthday, October 2, is a national holiday in India, and is celebrated outside of India as the International Day of Non-Violence. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1948 (at age 78) by a Hindu nationalist who believed that Gandhi showed too much favoritism to Pakistan, one of India's bitter rivals. The assassin was tried and executed the following year, and Gandhi's ashes were distributed around the country for numerous memorial services.
Gandhi's representation in Civilization V gets a lot of undeserved criticism from some players, who often cite India as the "worst civ in the game" based solely on the fact that he is the only civ with a penalty explicitly stated in his unique ability (except for Venice in Brave New World), and that his unique unit is in some ways inferior to the unit it replaces. However, it is important to note right off the bat that there are plenty of civs who receive indirect penalties as part of their uniques. But the "Population Growth" ability, itself, is very poorly understood. Many players assume that this means that India must be played with a small empire, and that India cannot compete for any victory except for culture or diplomatic. This is simply not the case, and I'm going to explain why! [More]
It's been a long time since there's been a mainstream survival horror game. Alien: Isolation may not be the same kind of traditional survival horror as its classic Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Alone in the Dark predecessors, but many players may not have much familiarity with the stricter resource management that is required in a game like this.
Dead Space and The Last of Us had resource management elements, but since those games were more action-oriented, you weren't under as much pressure to conserve supplies. Alien: Isolation, however, is a bit slower and requires slightly better management, since it isn't quite as generous about providing supplies. As such, I thought I'd offer a few tips for inexperienced survival horror players to help them cope with surviving on Sevastopol.
Don't hide in plain view of a doorway or down the hallway, since the alien will be able to see you.
I'm not going to post specific tips for problem areas of the game. For those, you can look for actual walkthroughs provided by other authors. Instead, these will be five general-use tips that will apply to the majority of the game:
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