Sunday, November 30, 2014 04:50 AM
Prior to UNLV's season-closing game against rival Nevada, head coach Bobby Hauck announced that he would be resigning after the season. It's unfortunate that Hauck couldn't accomplish more in his time at UNLV. He had a repuation as a winner at Montana, and his teams at UNLV definitely had the talent to be successful.
But the team was inconsistent, often playing well for half a game and then crashing and burning in the other half. Third quarters were real killers for UNLV this year, as the team regularly collapsed and allowed their opponents to break away after halftime. And that is exactly how UNLV lost (49-20) in Hauck's final game against rival Nevada. Hauck accumulated four seasons with only two wins, as well as one outlier year in which UNLV won seven games and earned a trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year's day last year (which my dad and I attended).
It's hard to tell where exactly the problem was. I had some issues with the decisions that were made by Hauck and his staff over the years. Specifically, I thought that Hauck set up former starting quarterback Nick Sherry for failure. Sherry performed well as a pocket-passer in his first few games running a west coast-style offense, and when the Rebels starting running a spread pistol formation focused around the read option, Sherry struggled. He was clearly uncomfortable as an option quarterback. He wasn't very mobile, he didn't make the right reads, and his accuracy and decision-making out of the pocket was terrible. So when Hauck continued to run that pistol spread offense, I was frustrated. Maybe Sherry handled it well enough in practice that Hauck honestly believed that he could handle it in games? But as game after game went by, and Sherry just kept looking worse and worse, it should have become obvious that he and that offense did not fit together.
UNLV collapsed in the third quarter to lose the Freemont Cannon to rival Nevada.
A sadly fitting - and representative - conclusion to Bobby Hauck's tenure at UNLV.
But UNLV's players didn't make Hauck's job easier. Both the offense and defense were horribly inconsistent year in and year out. It's hard to tell if that was the result of bad coaching or just bad players. But there was definitely some physical talent on the field. UNLV has had a quality receiving corp during most of Hauck's tenure, but aside from Caleb Herring, they just didn't have a quarterback that could reliably get them the ball. And even when the ball was on the mark, those receivers still dropped quite a few of them. The offensive line had trouble stopping blitzes, and the defense struggled to fill gaps and make tackles, leading to opponents regularly accumulating over 200 yards rushing against UNLV.
So it's difficult for me to be able to say with any degree of confidence whether Hauck was unfit for the job.
In any case, Hauck has decided that he and UNLV are not a good fit for each other, and he is moving on. UNLV will now have to search for a new head coach, ... [More]
Regular readers of my blog who happen to be football fans may have noticed that I never reviewed last year's EA Sports football games. I had played and reviewed the games every year for the previous three years, but not last year. The truth is: I didn't play last year's games. There were a few reasons for this.
For one, I was kind of burnt out on football games, and was neck deep in RPGs like Skyrim and Dark Souls, as well as Brave New World and some modding. So my plate was rather full. I was somewhat curious about the next-gen football games being released on the PS4 and XBox One, but I had neither system, so couldn't play them. And I wasn't really sure that the PS3 version would be worth playing, since EA's focus was probably (and hopefully) on improving the next-gen games. I didn't want to waste my time on an inferior version of the game that may have been "incomplete" compared to its next-gen counterpart. So I skipped last year's football games entirely.
I still don't own a PS4 or XBox One, and don't have any immediate plans to buy either. But a friend granted me the use of his PS4 so that I could try the P.T. demo. I figured while I have the PS4, might as well try the new Madden, so I picked up a used copy on eBay fairly cheap.
Since I was borrowing a friend's PS4, my time with the game was limited. As such, this review can't be as in-depth as some of my previous football game reviews have been.
EA is continuing to make small, iterative changes to the game's mechanics, as well as recycling mechanics and features from earlier iterations of the game. This year's focus was on defensive control and line of scrimmage play, both of which are areas that were in desperate need of an overhaul. Unfortunately, EA's changes were mostly superficial.
"New" defensive controls are just prompts for commands that already existed. At least they work better now...
The game advertises new defensive controls for breaking blocks and tackling. The only thing that is really "new" is the ability to steer blockers in order to fill gaps or maintain containment. This helps to give defensive linemen a greater sense of presence, as they aren't run out of the play by blockers quite so easily, and gap control is actually possible.
The other new defensive controls are really just fluff features... [More]
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]
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