Tag Archives: Vanlandw

Down With the Sickness

This is a two part post.

Part 1:
First and foremost, the band “Disturbed” is apparently going on an indefinite hiatus after they conclude the Rockstar Energy Mayhem festival.  I’ll be seeing them play in Detroit with mixed emotions.

On one hand, this is a band that has produced alot of very good music.  On the other, they’ve also been the source of jokes and laughs at cheezy sounding grunts/rahs/suack.  It’s like their debut album was catchy, but we also made fun of it.  Their song “Prayer” changed everything.  It was epic and profound.  No longer the brunt of satire, they carried this respect through Ten Thousand Fists, and through some of Indestructible.  However, my unconditional love and respect for this band certainly ceased with the latest album Asylum.

Somehow Disturbed has come full circle in a bad way.  Back to their laughable and comedic roots, the video for “Animal” sealed their fate in my opinion.  It was cheesy and literally laughable to me.  I don’t really fault Disturbed for this; as I’m sure writing music and lyrics over a decade has it’s ups and downs.  I guess I am a little surprised at how far up they were; vs. how low they have come and gone to be.

As Vanlandw honestly and correctly put – “Maybe it’s for the better”.  I think I agree, but it does still effect me to know that I’m seeing Disturbed on what may very well be their very last tour.

Part 2:
I’m pretty sure I had viral meningitis last week.

Signs is Better Than Blade II

Signs is better...

Wikipedia:
“Reaction to Blade II among critics has been mixed”
“Signs garnered generally positive reviews from movie critics.”

IMDB:
Blade II Rating: 6.6
Signs Rating: 6.9

Metacritic
Blade II Score: 52
Signs Critic Score: 59

Rotten Tomatoes
Blade II Score: 59%
Signs Critic Score: 74%

Make no mistake about it. Any widely used movie ratings system or service will tell you that Signs is a better film than Blade II.

It’s not like Blade 2 wins on one or more of these areas. The critics and users alike universally agree by administering a higher rating than Signs on seemingly every possible system. The fact that Russ Bomhof says Blade 2 is better should alone be enough for any other man to disagree.

That is without mentioning that Signs is a innovative, creative, and attempts to create a level of depth whether or not you agree with the story. Blade II makes itself a cheesy action whore distancing itself completely from the aspects that made the first Blade movie an interesting film. I continue to give solid backing to my stance, where as critics of Signs can seemingly only cite the ending and the water aspects.

I’ll let vanbergs address that via an email:

“I really don’t understand why some people hate Signs so much. Saying it’s stupid because aliens come to our planet full of water, when water can hurt them, is in itself stupid. Humans drown in water. Maybe we should fucking move too. The sun burns our skin. We should fire a thousand arrows in the sky at all times of the day to blot out its rays. As for “swing away” and the whole concept of fate…you may not have agreed with its religious tones or method of execution, but it at least added *some* amount of depth to the story and characters.

Blade II was so bad and awful, it was a truly remarkable achievement in atrocity.”

And finally I’ll close with my own synopsis written some time ago:

While I don’t share the same undying love for Signs that I did upon first seeing it… It at least makes an attempt to tell an original story. Meaning, it’s not just an “alien movie”. The validity and execution of the preacher’s loss and reclamation of faith can be debated on and on… I feel it was done “ok” and I was able to relate to the story fairly well even though I am not religious.

Blade II is a different kind of movie all together. It is all about CGI’d action sequences, blood, vampire slaying, and sheer Wesley Snipes. But even in that, for what it is, it was cheesy BS. Nowhere near as good or innovative as the first Blade movie. It’s not a deep movie, it doesn’t go into a new level or tell an original story. On that alone, Signs is better.

Some may not like the story of Signs. Some may have wanted it to just be an alien movie. But, the point was that it shot for something greater and I don’t think it was a total failure in doing so. It’s an innnovative and creative story – I think that is un-deniable whether or not you like the film. To tell the truth, I actually think the acting in Signs was pretty good as well. From the Culkin kid, to Joaquin Phoenix, and good ol’ Mel G.

I am clearly not alone in my opinion, and clearly I am not wrong.

Everyone’s problem with Signs is whether or not they like the ending. If you don’t like the ending, then it seems for most people that ruins the entirety of the film across the board. Whether or not you liked the ending, watch the films in an attempt to appreciate the originalality of the story.

With that;
Signs is better.

Halo: A Tribute

The Halo series is, in my opinion, the best video game series ever.

It’s an epic journey through a brutal war fought to literally save humanity.  Throughout the main storyline, you play as “Master Chief” – an ironically quiet, humble, subdued character that shoulders the heaviest of burdens.  He is one of few remaining super-soldiers called “Spartans” and is genetically enhanced for combat.  I guess I really don’t want to go too far into the storyline or details of the Halo series – but feel free to read a brief summary on wikipedia if interested.

So what makes the Halo series so great?  Well, There are different aspects in different games – and they culminate together to form something that I find to be profound.  I’ll break down some of my opinions before breaking down what I like most in each of the three main games.

The Master Chief
The hero you play is the single most powerful part in the series.  He hardly ever speaks, but his actions speak volumes.  Fighting until any bitter end, this faceless and nearly voiceless character is a perfect personification of a video game hero…  I think the Bungie designers deserve a fair amount of credit here because the player subconsciously projects themselves fully into this character.  It’s impossible to play through the Halo games and not picture yourself behind the helmet.  I think the fact that you never see the face of Master Chief makes it easier for the player to put themselves in his place.  Even his mirrored visor plays a role, it reflects what he sees allowing the player to unknowingly be put just that little bit more into the character.

A fearless guardian that does whatever it takes, Master Chief’s quiet confidence sets the tone for the entire story…

The Music
Maybe a slighter role in the quality of the series to most people is actually quite strong for me.  The majority of the music the Halo games is original composition via Martin O’donnell and Michael Salvatori.  Their unique style fits perfectly alongside the in-game action, and adds an impossibly perfect touch to the cut-scenes and pre-realease teasers and trailers.  Some of my favorite examples are the Halo 3 E3 Trailer, and the Return to Sender cut-scene.  But, even aside from the impressive original works; there are artists contributions that have had perfect fits within the series.  Specifically here I’m referring to this part in Halo 2 where an instrumental version of “Blow me Away” by Breaking Benjamin plays…

The music is just awesome, plain and simple.  It adds a whole dimension on the game, making it feel as though you’re playing through an amazing action movie.  It couldn’t have possibly been done any better.

The Plot/Story
As I said, I don’t want to simply re-tell the entire story of the Halo series…  But it’s important to address what it adds to the mix.  For me, I relate hugely to this type of storyline.  It’s similar in a way to the Matrix trilogy, or the Harry Potter series.  In the Matrix movies, Neo comes to know that his destiny is literally fight for the survival of the human race.  It is only he that can do it, and it is something he faces without fear no matter the outcome.  The subsequent final battle depicts Neo sprinting full speed toward his fate

Many people may laugh at the mention of Harry Potter here, but it’s honestly a genuine comparison.  Harry has to face the same sort of fight, and once again it’s only him that can do it.  “Neither can live while the other survives” – I still remember that quote from the book, and it is just profound.  My point being – a single person fighting against almost unbeatable odds.

The Halo series has a similar element, where the Master Chief willingly faces fate no matter what the outcome.  Not only to face it, but to run full speed directly at it. I’m not exactly sure why, but that sort of notion really appeals to me.  The fight or flight, the will to act, the choice to keep fighting.  These few examples I believe accurately illustrate what I’m trying to get across.

Finally, the Gameplay
The first Halo game was ground-breaking.  The main launch title that defined the Xbox as a console.  There really isn’t anything much more to say about this first game in the series, other than that it set the bar.  And, also, this warthog jumping that the Vanbergs, Vanlandw and I tried to re-create back when I lived in Ramblewood will always be a part of me.

Halo 2 increased the intensity, pushed the bar further, and all the while brought on a ton of criticism for its introduction of the Arbiter.

Halo 2’s battle against the scarab is possibly my favorite part in any video game.  The music fits it perfectly (once again, a perfect example of the music making the experience).  The first time you leap onto the massive scarab  from a bridge above is really without rival as a standalone moment of gaming excellence.

Halo 2 also honed in the multiplayer capabilities to new levels, and really this was the first case I could recall where the multiplayer was almost more sought-after than the single player campaign.  I personally didn’t get into the multiplayer until later, and I wasn’t all that great at it anyway so my loyalties continued to be with the single player storyline mode.

Most people’s primary complaint as mentioned earlier was the fact that Halo 2 had you play as the Arbiter for several levels.  You get to try out cloaking, the plasma sword, etc.  But, many people didn’t approve of surrendering control of Master Chief.  I didn’t mind playing as Arbiter, but definitely I did not love how Halo 2 ended…

Halo 3 brought the same level of multiplayer gameplay, but made use of the better graphics hardware of the Xbox 360 console.  The campaign was maybe a tad short by some accounts – but the plot and storyline out was enough to get me over Halo 2.  Again, some people did not enjoy the plot of the game – but really the expectations had been set so high that it is almost impossible to meet them.  I liked the storyline, and I thought the ending was fitting for the conclusion of this particular trilogy.

ODST and Reach, while still being Halo games, don’t really count in my opinion.  They are parallel storylines that center around characters other than the Master Chief.  I think that’s fine, and I have and will play these games – but for me the meat of the series are the three primary games where you play as Master Chief.

In summary…
Obviously I’ve got Halo on the mind because of the Halo Reach beta.  I’ve been able to balance a solid 3-4 hours of this beta into my life so far, and the multiplayer is amazingly fun.  FINALLY I can run in a Halo game using the scout class.  I could use a little more practice though, as my .70 ish kill/death ratio will attest.

I hope the fun continues as Halo Reach is released, and I’ll be sad to see Bungie’s final Halo game come to fruition.  It’s pretty amazing to look back on these games that I played in different phases of my life – hopefully another video game series comes along that can come close to meeting this level for me.  But if you ask me – I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Trials HD “Marathon” Achievement

I am one persistent, stubborn, ornery ass son-of-a-bitch.

Trials HD is an amazingly fun motorcycle game.  Sort of like the old-school “Excitebike” game with a modern twist.  I have really enjoyed playing this game backwards and forwards; enduring literally countless moto-bike spills, endless attempt at completing nearly impossible tracks, and having a blast doing it.  GG Trials HD.

Enter the “Marathon” Achievement.

This achievement is ridiculously hard.  You have to complete a 20-track long tournament, straight through, without falling or retrying even once.  It’s so hard, that the developers actually swapped out a couple tracks with a recent update to try to make it even remotely a possibility to attain.  Anyone that has ever played Trials HD knows that it’s a pretty significant challenge just to get through some of the tracks in that game.  Period.  The game is even nice enough to keep track of your retries and falls for you (counted as ‘faults’) – and this is a counter that I have driven up into the hundreds and hundreds.  The mere thought of attempting to conquer TWENTY tracks…. Straight… in one singular tournament without a single fault is just a staggering premise.

Yet, I found that this was the only achievement I was lacking in this game.  I had to get it.  Had to.

“It’s impossible – Just give up” – I heard from several different people including my Wife, my Brother (happy birthday apparently), and even my own self.  And really; I was starting to think that was the honest truth.  This is damn near impossible to accomplish.  But I had set my mind to it.  I had to accomplish it.  There was no way I was giving up.

I started thinking about all the easy achievement points I’ve been getting recently…  Blasting from a 9,000 gamer score to over 15,000 in just a couple of weeks.  All those painfully easy achievement points demanded a penance of blood.  A consequence of my choice to pursue them.  I had to validate my gamer status, even if only to myself.  I felt a need to justify my gamer score, and that this impossibly difficult achievement would do so.  I simply had to get the Marathon achievement.

I don’t know if I’ve ever worked so hard at something in all of my life.  I have spent an un-trackable amount of time meticulously analyzing and honing skills on all 20 tracks.  It’s so frustrating, because if you fall on the 17th track out of 20 – you still have to start from track 1 in order to get the achievement.  It really seemed like the world did not want me to succeed – on probably my best run ever; my xbox froze once on track 18 while I had 0 falls.  Just a soul crushing event.

I kept grinding it out.  I kept analyzing the harder parts of each track and forming an exact strategy and pattern for each obstacle, trying to do the same thing every time.  I kept trying.  I kept re-trying.  I don’t have any official stats but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have played these tracks up to a thousand times.  It’s just completely ridiculous.

But I started to notice it getting easier.  I found myself getting further and further, and more often.  I got to a point where I started to notice myself getting to tracks 15,16,17 pretty regularly without falling.

And, then, FINALLY… Today, after weeks of pursuing the 40 point “Marathon” achievement – I have succeeded.  I got through a couple close calls, frequently paused and nervously tried to compose myself before moving into the 19th and 20th tracks…  I made it.  I finally survived this rancid despicable ordeal.  I feel amazingly good right now, extremely proud of my hard works’ eventual success.  February 14th lives onto a tri-fecta of celebration.  My beloved brother’s birthday, Valentine’s day, and the day I got the Marathon achievement in Trials HD.

All I can say, once again, is I am one persistent, stubborn, ornery ass son-of-a-bitch.

XboxLIVE – Mission Victor Charlie: Success

The mission that I am dubbing “Vacation Catch-up” has been completed as a success.

As Vanlandw was away this week enjoying a much needed and EXTREMELY overdue vacation – I took it upon myself to catch him in gamerscore.  At the beginning of the week, I was almost 4,000 points behind him – so it was a pretty vast undertaking.

Originally I didn’t even think it would be possible; but as previously posted Vanbergs and Myself found a solution to that.

Vanlandw and I are tied for the time being; and I’m sure he’ll fly past me in no time.

TODAY, JUST TODAY, IN THE BATTLE OF VAN VS. VAN….

Van won