Monday, November 30, 2009

Games Played 11/23/2009 - 11/29/2009

- 11/23/2009 -
Bioshock Demo - PC*
Mass Effect - PC
Nervous Brickdown - NDS

*Sometimes I tend to do the strangest things.

- 11/24/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Nervous Brickdown - NDS
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/25/2009 -
Beat Hazard Demo - X-Box 360*
Borderlands - PC
Demigod - PC
Mass Effect - PC
Osmos Demo - PC
Platypus Demo - X-Box 360**
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3
X Over Demo - X-Box 360***
World of Warcraft - PC****

*It's like Every Extend Extra Extreme... Only more extreme!
**Cool clay-based graphics but overall a boring shoot-'em-up.
***Another terrible wannabe shoot-em-up, Japanese style.
****I can't believe I have abandoned this game. Have to get back on it soon.

- 11/26/2009 -
Mass Effect - PC
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/27/2009 -
Demigod - PC
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Gravity Crash Demo - PlayStation 3*
Mass Effect - PC
Nervous Brickdown - NDS
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

*Yes, a lot of crashing to be had in this boring shooter.

- 11/28/2009 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Flower - PlayStation 3
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Stars Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/29/2009 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins - Of Length and Leisure

Today, I was looking at my progress summary while playing Dragon Age: Origins for the very first time - I have never paid attention to the "Heroics Accomplishments" button from the character screen before - and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I have only completed 22% of the game's content - I have already clocked in 50 hours into the game! Very, very impressive. Looks like there's more for me to look forward to in the game.

What? 50 hours in and there are still more pleasures ahead? Absurd!

I should really be concentrating on my one mage character and get to the end of the game but I was very curious to see at least another of the game's six unique openers, so I created a new character. A dangerous act to say the least because when I did that, I ended up playing that new character for 3 continuous hours and I wanted to keep playing her instead of my original guy. Looks like I may be switching back and forth between the two. What a truly magnificent game Origins is turning out to be. A game that all gamers should definitely play. But yes, please skip the console versions and play the game the way it is intended to be experienced - and you don't want to miss out on the user-created contents, especially with the support from the game's truly impressive toolset that comes complete with voice-over recording options - GASP! The mods are going to be very, very interesting indeed! Thank you BioWare and please consider making that Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO into a single player game!

Update Note: 11/30/2009 - I ended up playing my new character for a total of 10 hours yesterday.

Oh my galaxy, I shouldn't have created the new character.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Games Alert!

I purchased 2 downloadable games today - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on Steam and Flower for the PlayStation 3. Both of them are on sale, $2.99 and $4.99 respectively. I probably wouldn't have purchased KOTOR again but I have this gift VISA card that has been sitting around for a month and it still has $3 left on it. When I saw the sale, I thought it would be worthwhile because I remember how bad the game looks the last time I tried to play it again. As for Flower, I missed the opportunity to get it the last time it was on sale and there is just no way I am going to miss out on it again because I have been wanting to play it for a long time.

Looks much better now but it's still an old game mind you.

So simple yet so beautiful.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mushihimesama Futari... Faint!

I love my Japanese shoot-'em-ups and while games from famed bullet-hell (or bullet-heaven if are good at learning bullet patterns) developer Cave have graced the X-Box 360 in Japan, those unlucky people - myself included - who don't own a Japanese X-Box 360 have been cheated from experiencing them. Realistically though, I have only really missed Deathsmiles because I already have the import Dodonpachi Dai-Ou-Jou on my import PlayStation 2. We have been fortunate that obscure publishers like UFO Interactive and Valcon Games have brought the Raiden series to the North American market and hopefully, they will continue on their efforts in bringing us more of these rare gems from the land of the rising sun. I used to do a lot of game importing during the past generation of consoles but to buy a Japanese X-Box 360 just doesn't seem very feasible to me, especially with most games coming out everywhere around the world these days. I knew for a while now that Cave's insect-themed Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5 was coming to the X-Box 360 in Japan but one thing that I apparently missed out on is the fact that this exclusive Japanese title is being released REGION FREE, which means that the game will play on any X-Box 360!

Because insects shoot laser bullets too.

Apparently, this was revealed several months ago and I haven't been keeping up on the details for the release because I know I would only hurt myself by doing so. A friend of mine on the X-Box 360 shared with me the news today and my whole body started to shake uncontrollably because the game was just released two days ago on the 25th and I don't want to miss out on it. Thus, immediately, I went to my favorite online import store and ordered the game!

Deliriously delicious!

That's right. In a week's time - hopefully it will arrive sooner - I will have Mushihimesama Futari on my X-Box 360! The game costs a whopping $74 so I opted for ground shipping just to save a little bit of cash. I have Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins that will keep me content while waiting for Cave's mesmerizing shooter to finally be here. For all the shmups fans out there... What are you waiting for? Order this game before it is sold out!

Buy this today... As in right this instant!
Show Cave that we want their games here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Milestone Celebration

The addition of the two games I found yesterday marked the 200th and the 201st games for my Personal Computer game library. Click here to view the complete list of my PC games or click here to browse the entire game library. And for those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving!

201 is cool.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Games Alert!

Sometimes, I wonder how many games that I own that have fallen victim to being misplaced and forgotten. While moving away some boxes today in preparation for the Thanksgiving weekend - I am still not fully settled yet, it's a big house - I found 2 Personal Computer games that came with the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS that I used to have installed in my old PC build. They both were packaged with the hardware so they don't have the corresponding retail boxes. Apparently, I must have been too excited about my new sound card that I didn't even bother installing and playing these games before - I didn't even take these games out of the paper sleeves because they are still sealed. A pity truly because these games should be pretty fun to play: Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. Better late than never I'll say.

I bet there are still some missing games somewhere within the confines of my house.

Mass Effect: The PC Experience

I am so glad that I picked up the Personal Computer release of Mass Effect because this version truly outperforms the reviewed X-Box 360 version. For starters, the crisp, detailed graphics from the console version have been improved using higher texture resolutions and the frame rate runs at a much smoother 60 frames per second - this with all the graphical settings maxed out and the resolution set to 1080p. If I were to play this version first, I would not have been able to tolerate the console version's low frame rate and longer loading time. It almost feels like I am playing a new game, especially with the Quick Slot access that allows usage of abilities without having to pause the game.

My Shepard is going full Renegade! Don't mess with the Commander.

The game's improved beauty is truly captivating.

Oh my galaxy, I still hate Ashley Williams so much.

Since we are on the subject of Mass Effect, the sequel's system requirement for the PC has been announced by BioWare earlier today. I of course skipped the minimum system requirement and analyzed the recommended requirement:

Windows XP SP3 / Windows Vista SP1 / Windows 7
2.6+ GHz Cure 2 Duo Intel or equivalent AMD CPU
ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT, or better recommended
100% DirectX compatible sound card and drivers
DirectX August 2008

I was like... That's it? I mean, this is actually a downgrade to the specification recommended for Dragon Age: Origins and that game runs perfectly on my PC so I know that Mass Effect 2 is going to perform really, really well for me. It makes sense though since Origins is the better looking game comparatively. I am really looking forward to it. I hope that the sequel is going to be implemented into BioWare's Social Network site, just like Origins.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Borderlands Patch 1.01 Test

Gearbox Software had released Patch 1.01 for the Personal Computer version of Borderlands on November 16th. I haven't played the game in a while - thanks to Dragon Age: Origins - so I haven't patched the game until today. Like many other unlucky gamers, I have been a victim of the game-breaking random crashes while playing this game, an issue that I was able to resolve using RivaTuner to manually adjust my fan speed setting for my Nvidia 9800 GTX. Before I patched up the game, I looked about the game's official forum and saw that there are still people who are having problems with crashes after the patch. The patch notes in itself doesn't address a fix for the crashing so I didn't anticipate the much-needed elimination of that problem. Yet, lo and behold, I played the game for one straight hour with the fan speed set at the default manufacturer setting and the game didn't crash! So for those who have to manually adjust their fan speed every time they decide to play the game, this patch may fix that issue for you as well! Good job, Gearbox Software. Now, please work on announcing the game's expansion, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned for the PC. This expansion is supposed to hit the consoles today. PC gamers love to kill zombies too, you know?

Update Note: 8:47pm - Bad news. The performance from this morning was definitely a fluke. I was only able to get through the first 40 minutes before the whole game froze up and I had to do a hard reset. Looks like I have to go back to the fan speed method to keep this game stable. The patch also brought about some problems with the real time shadows - sometimes, they are out of whack. You will notice it on the title screen but refreshing the screen resolution will correct the issue. Sigh. Hope everything will be resolved with the next patch I suppose.

Patched but still not enough for a lot of us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bad Remake: God of War Collection

Though I was disappointed with the terrible Ultimate Edition of the upcoming God of War III, I used to be very interested in picking up God of War Collection that contains the visually updated remake of the first two PlayStation 2 games. In fact, I almost bought it when I picked up the three new games last Saturday. The reason why I didn't is printed on the back of the game case: it only supports up to 720p resolution. Talk about laziness. So, you want people to repurchase this game because it is remastered in High Definition but then you are not going to give us 1080p? Preposterous! Isn't it irritating that once upon a time, Sony bragged about the PlayStation 3's 1080p capabilities but they haven't even enforce native 1080p for all of the console's games up to this day? If you have never played these games before, you shouldn't hesitate to buy the collection. As for me, I'll stick with the PS2 versions.

Remastered in Lower High Definition.

Games Played 11/16/2009 - 11/22/2009

- 11/16/2009 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

- 11/17/2009 -
Rock Band 2 - X-Box 360
SingStar - PlayStation 3
SingStar '90s - PlayStation 2

- 11/18/2009 -
Castle Crashers - X-Box 360
Dash of Destruction - X-Box 360
Gyromancer Demo - X-Box 360*
Rock Band 2 - X-Box 360

Puzzle Quest + Pokémon? Kind of fun though.

- 11/19/2009 to 11/20/2009 -
Planet Puzzle League - NDS

- 11/21/2009 -
Mass Effect - PC
New Super Mario Bros. - NDS
New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Wii
Planet Puzzle League - NDS

- 11/22/2009 -
Mass Effect - PC
Nervous Brickdown - NDS
Overlord II - PC

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Games Alert!

So, spending several days at a number of popular theme parks may be fun and all but as soon as I got back home, I had to go out to the store to satiate my video game cravings. I picked up 3 of them last night: New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the Nintendo Wii and Mass Effect and Overlord II for the Personal Computer. Yes, I have played through the X-Box 360 version of Mass Effect - click here for the review - but at the low $19 price, I just couldn't resist picking it up. I always wanted to replay the game again and what better way to do that than playing this PC version that has better graphics and improved controls. This purchase also solves my recent dilemma in regards to Mass Effect 2: I want to buy the PC version of the sequel but that means I can't carry on the adventure of my character from the 360 version. With that problem resolved, the only tricky thing is to actually finish playing the PC version before the sequel comes out late in January of 2010.

The red case for New Super Mario Bros. Wii is so very Mario.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Loner Disappearance

If you were wondering why I stopped posting entries over the last couple of days - I hardly miss publishing at least an article per day lately - it is because for the last 2 and a half days, I was in the Los Angeles area for some fun time away from home. I was in Disneyland on Thursday, Universal Studios on Friday, and the Knott's Berry Farm for several hours today. I had a great time and it was nice to spend a little bit of my personal time away from video games for a couple of days. I did bring the Nintendo DS along for the ride but I only used it at the airport and to test the Wi-Fi strength at the hotel where I was staying. I have never been to Universal Studios before and let me just tell you this: Even if you are not a fan of thrill-rides, you just have to ride the new The Simpsons attraction there. It is the most fun "roller-coaster" ride I have ever been on. Though it's a virtual coaster, the illusion of vertigo created by the ride is quite intense and it gives you a lot of ride scenarios that are just not possible anywhere else. I don't get excited over anything else but video games and movies so the act of me writing a recommendation about this ride should tell you that it is indeed really, really special. Here are a couple of pictures I took during my short little vacation. More snippets can be found on here.

A Star Wars skit at Disneyland. I love that Darth Vader costume!

If you ever get to visit Disneyland, make sure you stay until closing.
You don't want to miss the park's breath-taking fireworks show.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

X-Box 360 11/17/2009 Feature Update

As I have commented soon after its E3 announcement, the so-called major update that introduce Twitter, Facebook, Zune, and integration with the X-Box 360 dashboard is as dull as it sounds. Out of all of these four, only is worth something but even that feature has its share of disappointment.

Let's first talk about Facebook - I didn't even bother downloading it to my dashboard. Why do I want my gaming experience cluttered by the nonsensical scribblings of attention whores that I mostly get when I was using Facebook? Facebook is a complete waste of time and I only used it very briefly at the beginning of this year after the constant nudging from a good friend of mine. It's intrusive, sterile, and corporate. I rather use MySpace but then I would not inter-mingle it with my real-time gaming activities. [Update Note: It also doesn't help that the PlayStation 3 had rolled out their own Facebook implementation with the firmware 3.10 update on 11/18/2009 and the fact that the PS3 can always access Facebook via the web browser to begin with.] Then, we have Twitter.

This is supposed to be exciting?

That was the first and the last time that I would actually visit the Twitter page on the dashboard. I hardly tweet - I rather blog - and the only reason why I have a Twitter account is again because of a friend who wanted me to sign up so I can read his tweets. The funny thing is, he doesn't even tweet after I signed up. If I turn on my 360, I want to do some gaming and not type quick one liners to describe to everyone what I am doing presently. Doesn't our Live profiles already show people of our current console activities? Why do we have to write about them? Utter waste of time and space.

Having the ability watch 1080p movies via Zune is great but it's just another marketplace for you to spend money buying or renting digital movies. Dull. This one, like Facebook, requires an installation too and as soon as I noticed that there was no free 1080p movie to be found, I deleted the feature immediately.

Now is the only worthwhile thing that the recent update brought to us. After installing the software, you can browse a large number of artists and start listening to any particular genre of music you please. Here's where things go wrong: Unlike the website version that you can access for free via your Personal Computer, here you are only limited to the random play list presented after you have selected a certain "artist channel". On the PC, you can actually select specific tracks to listen to. On the 360, everything is streamed to you at random. Granted, you can skip a song if you happen to not like it to get to the songs and artists that you do want to listen to but it's a really tedious process.

The artist information page is a nice touch.

You get to see a picture slide show of the artist while the music is playing.
Poe is incredible and very underrated. This service is the polar opposite.

There you have it. An anti-climactic "overhaul" of the dashboard. It was dull when I first heard of the plan and it is certainly dull now. With the money they are generating from all of these partnerships, Microsoft should really be looking into making the Live service free. But we all know better - that's never going to happen.

Club Nintendo's Zelda Posters

Now that was quick! When I ordered this super cool Club Nintendo reward on Friday of last week, I received a disclaimer that it may take up to 6 weeks for me to receive them. But hey, I am not complaining! I am very satisfied with these posters and they are just too pretty to even post on the walls - but I'll probably do that anyway. My favorite is the extravagant Twilight Princess poster. I love how they have the Club Nintendo logo at the bottom of two of these posters.

A mysterious cardboard tube filled with goodness.

Buy some Nintendo games, gain coins, and order these posters ASAP!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rock Band Love... Like Winter

I am not one who follow closely to the added song selections on sale for Rock Band 2 that I own for the X-Box 360 - I mostly check the new releases for SingStar on the PlayStation 3 instead. I purchased Rock Band 2 because of the "guitar-playing" more than the singing because I am not that rock and roll vocally. There are a number of songs that are actually fun to sing in RB2, like the stuff by Panic! At the Disco and some of the more melodic classic rock tunes. I turned on my 360 to check out the new features released for the console - which I will discuss tomorrow - and I was very surprised to see the announcement of a new RB2 song pack featuring the works of AFI. I love some of their songs and one of my favorites - Love Like Winter - was available for download. The pack contains 5 songs but I decided to just get that one track because the other four (from the band's recently released album) were quite mediocre. I had been dying to see the release of this song on any of my karaoke games so I just can't help but share the happiness that I am feeling at the moment. Maybe Silver and Cold next? Pretty please?

Now that's my kind of love.

SingStar - Now with Video Editor

If you are a SingStar fan, you are going to love the free Video Editor that can now be downloaded from the game's online store. With this application installed, your PlayStation Eye Camera will record videos for the full length of the song that you can then choose to save to your hard drive - be careful with this option though because you may regret it at a later time: you may accidentally play it during a karaoke party. Though you cannot upload this complete video to your online profile, you can choose the standard 30-second snippet from that video to be uploaded. This is great because now, everyone can choose their own unique 30-second clip from anywhere within the song instead of the predetermined part of that song. Better still, you can add special effects to the video to add more cheese to the whole occasion. The SingStar experience is getting better and better - all we need now are just some good songs being available for us to purchase from the online store. The current selections leave a lot to be desired.

Deeper Shade of Blue is a really catchy song.

Purchase Regret: Resident Evil 5

Would it hurt me to wait 6 months for the Personal Computer release of Resident Evil 5 to come out after it was released for the consoles in March of this year? It would have been slightly painful but it wouldn't have killed me. The PC version has been out for a couple of months now but the ever curious person that I am, I just had to run the benchmark demo to check out the difference between it and the console versions even though I have pretty much played this game to death already on the X-Box 360. The good news is that the console version is very close to the PC version when it comes to the overall visual impact. The real difference here is in the clarity of the image - on the PC, the game can run at native 1920 x 1080 instead of the upscale junk on the 360 or the stingy 720p on the PlayStation 3. Not a revelation overall but certainly the best looking version of the game. Also, this is the first PC game that can run circles around my PC setup at 1080p with everything set to max. The game can never quite get a steady 60 frames per second, even with anti-aliasing off. With the best anti-aliasing on, the game runs slightly below 30 frames per second. Still, I would have preferred to purchase this version - it's even Live-enabled! This is the second time this has happened to me with a game from Capcom so I now have a plan in place: I am not buying any more big console releases from Capcom when they first hit the market. I will give it about 3 months for the PC version announcement before making a move - they are greedy enough to know that the hype generated from those games doesn't last too long. Yes, I am looking at you, Bayonetta.

As pretty as the console version but way, WAY sharper.

Finally, a game that gives my PC a nice workout.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Games Played 11/09/2009 - 11/15/2009

- 11/09/2009 to 11/12/2009 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

- 11/13/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Heroes of Newerth Closed Beta - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/14/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure! Demo - X-Box 360*
SingStar - PlayStation 3
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

*Fun update to the classic platformer.

- 11/15/2006 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
League of Legends: Clash of Fates - PC
Final Fantasy XII - PlayStation 2*
Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection - PlayStation 3
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

*All that time I spent playing Dragon Age: Origins inspired me to replay this game.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: The Children

The Children (2008)
Genre: Horror
Format: Blu-ray
Director: Tom Shankland

I thought that I had found the ultimate in modern killer-children movie in the recently reviewed Orphan... but then I watched The Children: a powerful, extremely horrific film from our friends in the United Kingdom. A film that no U.S. distributors had the guts to support with a theatrical release that it surely deserved. We are only getting the home release of the movie after a year of waiting and now, it is clear why this movie was never shown in our favorite local theaters even though the utter shock from its viewings would only result in a good form of notoriety for the film.

The Children is a monster movie of sort, with the monsters being well, the children themselves! A couple and their three kids are spending the holidays at a relative's house, located at a rather secluded countryside. Things are normal enough at first, even though it is apparent that there are some odd things going on relationship-wise between the two families. The increasing discomfort that is brewing becomes the least of their worries though when their own children start to turn on them with murderous passion. The movie is a bit slow at the beginning but once the mayhem begins, the thrill ride never stops until the end credits roll.

Though writer/director Tom Shankland loves his jump scares - there are many unfair shocks to be had - it is easy to forgive him for those missteps because of the unapologetic, relentless intensity of the proceedings. The film's build-up is incredible and the children's ability to completely manipulate the situation to their advantage is as realistic as it is shocking. Perhaps the most ingenious part of the movie is that it only offers a brief glimpse into what could possibility made the children act they way they do, so the focus of the audience's attention is just the really messy carnage that strikes both the victims and as well their perpetrators. The violent acts displayed here will hit you fast and they will hit you hard. The movie is bloody in many unexpected ways and they are guaranteed to have you groaning in disgust.

Let's just make one thing clear: conservative parents would probably hate this movie because of the sheer amount of family brutality found within. If this movie was shown in theaters here, it would probably resulted in a week-long banter at Fox News Channel. If you are ready for something truly unexpected but also endlessly disturbing, watch this movie. The Children is mean-spirited, terribly bleak, and downright nasty - Translation: the perfect example of how horror movies should be made.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Heroes of Newerth Closed Beta Keys!

Heroes of Newerth is getting closer and closer to open beta but are you sick and tired of waiting to play this awesome game? If so, I have 3 more closed beta keys to give away! Don't you just love the L.G.? It's first come, first served as always but I want to do this a bit differently this time because of the flood of emails I got from the previous HoN beta key giveaway - this game is insanely popular! First, post a comment requesting the key here and then end the request with your email address. Example, my email is - so my comment would be somehing like, "I so desperately need HoN beta key pretty plzzzzzzz! -". Then, follow up with an actual email sent to my email address mentioned earlier. If you already have a Blogger profile and your email address is in the profile, you only have to drop a comment here without the naming convention in the first step and you can skip the second step entirely. I will update this article as the keys are given away.

Update Note: 11/14/2009, 5:54am - 1 gone, 2 left!
Update Note: 11/14/2009, 9:10am - 2nd key has been given away. Second Anon is missing step #2 - do it quick if you're reading this! 1 more key to go.
Update Note: 11/14/2009, 1:35pm - I thought that the instruction I left in this article was clear enough - the final key is still available.
Update Note: 11/15/2009, 7:20am - The last key has been claimed.

I have 3 more! Are you one of the fortunate 3?
This Friday the 13th may be your luckiest day ever!

Sweet New Club Nintendo Reward

I visited the Club Nintendo's reward page this morning and was very surprised to see that a new reward has been added to the list of other ho-hum offerings. It's The Legend of Zelda 3-Poster Series. Oh. My. Galaxy.

Pure Nintendo Love.

Of course, I ordered it immediately because I have about a thousand coins and this utter bliss of a reward only costs 350 coins - much cheaper than most of the other things listed there! All of the posters look incredible and I cannot wait to have them posted on the wall of my game room! Just when I thought that we would never get any new items in the reward center... If Nintendo can keep this up, I am more than willing to give more priority to the purchase of Nintendo games - assuming that they would release more good games that is...

Review: 2012

2012 (2009)
Genre: Adventure
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Roland Emmerich

When it comes to modern disaster movies of recent past, none has been able to be as powerful as Mimi Leder's 1998 sci-fi drama Deep Impact. That movie follows a very simple formula that should be easily copied by similar movies that wanted a taste of its success: intriguing build up + utter sense of peril + realistic characters + great special effects + big climax = good disaster movie. It was the same formula that was also used in the first half of the movie Independence Day that preceded it. Roland Emmerich's fascination with only the "great special effects" portion of that formula ensures that his disaster movies always end up in a disaster and now he has a new one that he can proudly add to that list of shameful film-making.

2012 mostly follows the perspectives of several larger than life super heroes who are able to survive natural disasters at a global scale. The reason why I describe these characters as such is because every good thing that happens to them feels extremely convenient. Their survival doesn't bring much joy for celebration because they were never in any sort of danger in the first place despite some of the idiotic life-and-death decisions that they made throughout the tale. It is offensive to see much of the movie time spent on these unrealistic characters when you also witness a lot other people perish in the millions. It would be much more entertaining to follow the last days of the people who do not survive the catastrophe so that at least you could honor their memories and feel a much needed sense of urgency in the movie. True that several of these super hero characters did die but their death were just there to invoke a cheap sense of pity that would linger no longer than the final frame of their death scenes.

But one watches a movie like 2012 for the special effects and not the story, yes? Not necessary. Storyline and special effects go hand in hand - if that was not the case, then Transformers 2 would have been the masterpiece of the century instead of being merely a beautiful piece of dirty trash. The reason why the planet is breaking apart in this movie is outlandish but that is expected. The film's story would have worked better if you can actually sense the doom brought upon the film's magnificent vistas. The CG works done on all the destruction scenes are exemplary, though there were a number of awkward "blue screen" moments. Sadly, almost all of them have been shown in the movie trailer, destroying any sense of extreme awe and wonderment that you have already felt watching that over-compensating trailer. The fury of these scenes are so intense that they could have at least make a sort of impact if you haven't seen them before. So, you actually don't miss anything by not watching the movie - just imagine being stuck with characters that you don't care about in between the destruction shown in the trailer. Yeah, not fun at all.

The statement "Watch it for the special effects" doesn't work with this movie. Just go to the iTune Movie Trailers page and look for 2012's 1080p movie trailer because that is pretty much all that you are going to get from Emmerich's latest disappointment. 2012 wants to show you humanity's heroics when the world is coming to an end but all I saw was a fleeting director's desperate attempt to hold his movie together as his career (or at least what's left of his integrity) is going down the drain.

RATING: 1 out of 5

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: Orphan

Orphan (2009)
Genre: Horror
Format: Blu-ray
Director: Jaume Collet-Sera

Orphan may seem to be another entry into the demonic children sub-genre but its heavy emphasis on the reality of complex dynamics of a troubled family really separated it from the rest of the pack. The movie succeeded in assaulting both my expectations and emotions because it dares to dwell inside the dark places where these kind of movies tend to avoid to even remotely visit.

The cheesy tag line says it all: There's something wrong with Esther. When a couple decides to adopt an older child to add to their family of four after a tragic miscarriage, they couldn't help but be drawn to Esther, a seemingly astute 9-year foreign orphan at a local orphanage. It doesn't take long before the innocent, naive little Esther becomes something of an evil abomination that is threatening to destroy everyone in the family. No one is safe from the dangerous Esther, even though she seems to love the attention from a certain member of the household. Not much is known of Esther's past until the film's shocking finale and the movie doesn't take any shortcuts in building enough dread and violence leading up to that point.

Part of the film's success is it's in-depth character building. Even before Esther shows up, you get to learn more about the couple and their children. The clever thing here is that once that evil child becomes a part of their lives, you are not just watching the progression (or regression if you will) of that despicable being but also the unravelling of the entire family. The movie is as much as a heartfelt family drama as it is a viciously unforgiving adult thriller and it works magnificently on both accounts. Many adult themes are explored, unfortunately with Esther as the catalyst. The doom that seems to have easily befallen the family feels real - it is hard to watch some of the scenes involving violence towards children and I can only imagine that difficulty being quadrupled for those who actually have kids of their own. Peter Saarsgard and Vera Farmiga, who play as the couple, did a tremendous job portraying a husband and a wife who are being torn apart by a sudden force that they do not understand. The way they peel off layers upon layers of past disappointments adds to the believability of the movie.

Orphan is a surprise find. It's a focused work that goes beyond your typical horror production. There is definitely something wrong with Esther but fortunately, that only creates a very interesting piece of adult entertainment for us. It is one of the better movies released this year, horror or otherwise.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - War Against the PC

When I want to buy a cross-platform game, I would always do my best to get the best version of the game instead of letting a "favorite" platform makes the decision for me. For the recently released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it could have been an easy decision: I would have picked up the Personal Computer release simply because of the better graphics since all other parts of the game are similar across all platforms - even though I am aware that PC owners get a hard slap in the face because the game doesn't support dedicated servers. I am not a big first person shooter fanatic - Borderlands has completely changed that though - and I am in no rush to get this game. I was checking out the PC version of the game today to find out that it is being sold for $59.99. I was shocked!

Two middle fingers included.

Activision and Infinity Ward are playing a dangerous game with PC gamers here who are probably their biggest fans and supporters - well, maybe everything changed ever since the X-Box 360 came into existence. First, the whole no dedicated-server issue. Then, a price increase. Why do they even bother releasing this game for the PC because I don't see any reason why anyone would support paying this amount of money for a neutered experience when compared to the PC standards of gaming. I can only hope that this bold move from both the publisher and developer will not produce a ripple effect in the PC gaming market. Can you imagine $59.99 for all future PC games? Well, the game is getting a lot of backlash from the PC gaming community and many PC owners are staying away from the PC version of the game. So if other developers are thinking of following the footsteps left by Activision and Infinity Ward, they need to think carefully before making the same mistake. As for me, I am not buying this game anytime soon. Their selfish act clearly shows that they don't deserve my hard-earned cash - I'll pick up the console version once it is on sale.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Games Played 11/02/2009 - 11/08/2009

- 11/02/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Elven Legacy - PC
Mount & Blade - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/03/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Fallout 3 - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/04/2009 -
Battlestations: Pacific - PC
Borderlands - PC

- 11/05/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
League of Legends: Clash of Fates - PC

- 11/06/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Ion Assault Demo - X-Box 360*
League of Legends: Clash of Fates - PC
Raiden IV - X-Box 360
Trine Demo - PlayStation 3**

*Fun space shooter with weird space physics mechanics and particles-heavy graphics.
**What a disappointment - the PS3 version is stuck at 720p. Going to buy the PC version.

- 11/07/2009 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Heroes of Newerth Closed Beta - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 11/08/2009 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins Performance Report

I am currently a couple of hours into Dragon Age: Origins, a game that is surely shaping up to be BioWare's best role playing game to date, and it's nice to discover that the game is running very smoothly on my Personal Computer. I am running it at 1920 x 1080 with all of the graphical settings set to maximum - with full anti-aliasing nonetheless - and the frame rate is high and rock solid. The quickbar-heavy gameplay is so polished that it really reminds me of playing a good modern day massively-multiplayer rpg: namely, World of Warcraft. If this is a sign of things to come, BioWare's upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, will certainly be a force to be reckoned with. I still say that they should abandon the MMO-thing and just release that game as a single player experience. Dragon Age: Origins is going to own my soul for a long while and I love BioWare's new Social Network community where you can create an online gamer profile similar to the ones found on the X-Box 360 and the PlayStation 3. The game keeps track of pertinent gameplay information and updates them to the site for all to see. You can post your favorite screenshots there as well! I am loving this game a lot.

BioWare's rich storytelling is still the most engrossing part of the game.

The A.I. customization reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy XII.

Yes, the PC version has "Achievements" too for those who are crazy about them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Game Alert!

I am thoroughly enjoying a "crashless" Borderlands for sure but I just can't resist getting Dragon Age: Origins for the Personal Computer. The "Collector's Edition" for the game comes with a nice metal case but I just can't justify paying $20 more for the cloth map, disposable in-game items, making-of featurette, and a soundtrack CD. I would have gladly paid an extra $10 for them though... because the case looks super slick. But let's not forget that the more expensive edition also comes with a strategy video of sort - lame! So I decided to just get the standard release that in itself comes with a downloadable quest, armor, and character.

First Borderlands and now this? Role playing game overload.

Friday, November 6, 2009

PS3 Netflix Service

My Instant Streaming Disc from Netflix for my PlayStation 3 has finally arrived! I am very excited about this because as I have posted previously, I rather not use my X-Box 360 for anything but gaming. Sadly, the streaming service - which is provided free if you have a qualifying subscription account with Netflix - is noticeably inferior than what is provided via X-Box Live... At least for now.

Disappointment 1: The disc must be inserted per use.

As I stated in the caption above, you have to keep the disc handy if you want to use the service unlike the direct to HDD installation provided on the X-Box 360. More disappointing is the fact that the resolution is stuck at 720p, even for high definition streams - On the X-Box 360, you can upscale the signal to 1080p. Another strange omission I found is the lack of true digital sound. I was able to get a Dolby Digital signal on the X-Box 360 while using the Netflix service there but I am only getting a stereo signal on the PS3. The good news here is that the service is still new for the PS3. Let's hope that future firmware updates will improve upon what is available at the moment.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Game Alert!

Do you like team-based player vs. player combat? Are you familiar with Defense of the Ancients? Do you like free games? If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions and own a Personal Computer, you should head to this website, create your summoner account, download the game, and start playing League of Legends: Clash of Fates immediately. The game is basically a tower defense game with two teams trying to destroy each other's base. The great thing here is the role playing game hero-building elements where your controlled character levels up during the match and you get to build up your hero's skills in real time.

What are you waiting for?

You are probably apprehensive about the whole "free" game thing. Let me explain: This is unlike the many free massively multi-player online RPGs out there. This game is 100% free with no strings attached and no feature accesses blocked. There will eventually be an online shop where you can buy things that will help you in the game using real money but that option is really there for impatient people who don't want to earn those items through hours upon hours of play. You can also buy frivolous things like extra skins for your characters - this of course doesn't have any gameplay impact on the free game itself. The game is even released in a retail box and buying the retail version will give you perks that will help level up your summoner profile as well as other things that you can actually get by just playing the free game. The free download is the way to go though - it's an incredible deal for a very fun and rewarding game. I have played it during its closed beta - this game is deep and mindlessly addicting. It's the free alternative to Heroes of Newerth that will also be released soon. It really doesn't make much of a difference whether you decide to pay for it or not... Just get it already!

Update Note: 11/07/2009 - Recent interactions with League of Legends players revealed the possibility of feature divisions between paying customers and non-paying customers. Riot Games' vague explanation of future plans doesn't help the situation either. Thus, I am removing the game from my library and if there is truly no heavy and necessary micro-transaction elements in the future, I will provide an update here. The game is still fun though - for now!

Update Note: 04/02/2010 - After delving deeper into the game in its current form, it is now clear how the service works. You can read all about it here.

Dragon Age: Origins - A Digital Dilemma

If I didn't have Borderlands fixed yesterday, I would probably have Dragon Age: Origins by now. The thoughts of buying Dragons Age comes with a dilemma though. I am a big supporter of digital download and I just can't wait until all games are distributed that way. All of the digital download games I have purchased in the past have been either games that are only available through digital distribution and games that are on sale for a very cheap price.

Right... I may be game crazy but I am not stupid.

The problem with digital download of readily available retail games is this - pricing similarity. Why is Dragon Age priced at $49.99 through digital distribution when I can pick it up at the store for the same price with something physical in my hands? The game cases is still a point of admiration for me so it is seemingly beneficial for me to pick up the game at retail. With the budget for manufacturing discs, manuals, cover art, and physical distribution taken out of the equation, I don't think the digital download version of Dragon Age should cost us more than $39.99 - the price point should probably be even less. After my recent purchase there, Direct2drive recently sent out a questionnaire about my buying experience and the one thing I hammered them on is the pricing issue on new games. I really hope they get the message. With the upcoming transition from physical to digital ownership, all of us gamers must keep a close eye on the pricing standard of digital download games because remember this - it is way cheaper for them to sell games that way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Borderlands Crash Fix: Bizarro Edition

I don't know if I am just a glutton for punishment or just one persistent gamer but I jumped on the official Borderlands forum again and after reading the many sad stories of crashes similar to the cause of my own headache, I found this curious little post. I have tried everything as I mentioned before but I certainly haven't tried manually locking the speed of my graphics card's fan to a certain percentage. I figured I had nothing to lose and then what the heck it actually works! It's obvious now that whatever bad programming that was done on the game, it had some strange relationship or symbiosis of sort with the fan speed and temperature reading of the user's GPU. It is not a heat issue for the PC and it really doesn't make a lot of sense because my GPU temperature sits around 64-67C while the game is running 1080p with all of its bells and whistles on which shouldn't result in any kind of problem. Other more graphically demanding games, like Crysis, runs fine on my PC even at a higher GPU temperature. The guy who posted the solution mentioned that this fix resulted in no crashing nor freezing for him but I still encounter freezes that lead to graphical corruptions while using this method. I haven't encountered anymore fatal crashes though which is an extraordinary accomplishment. Now, I can actually finish a long quest and turn it in! I'll try to increase the fan speed a bit more and see where that takes me. At least I can now play the game while I dream about that ultimate patch that all of us are waiting for.

Update Note: 10:40pm - I locked the fan speed at 70% and that eliminated the graphical corruptions even though the game did freeze up for a minute a couple of times during my 2 hour play session.

Update Note: 11/05/2009 - Well, this quick fix doesn't work 100% of the time. I got a couple of random crashes again tonight and once, I was just 30 seconds into the game and I was merely perusing the game map! Maybe I've just been lucky ever since I tweaked the fan speed?

Update Note: 11/07/2009 - No occurrence of random crashes with many hours of gameplay yesterday. It probably doesn't make a difference but I stopped using nTune to configure the fan speed (I uninstalled it too) and use RivaTuner instead.

Most of the time, the graphical corruptions look like splashes of crazy looking colors.
Once, it looks like my screen was possessed by something from another plane of existence.

When a game badly needs a patch, you can kiss your logic goodbye.
Click here for my PC specs - and I am using Windows XP 64.

Borderlands Headache II

You just got to love gaming on the Personal Computer. When you have a monster rig that can support the latest and greatest games with ease, you are normally guaranteed a heck of a good time. But unlike games on the consoles though, when these games go bad, they do so with such ferocity and vengeance. Such is the case with Borderlands. Just as I am really getting into the game - it's very, very addictive and it is perhaps one of the best first person shooters ever made - I am now starting to experience numerous, repeated occurrences of fatal crashing while playing the game. You see, at least with the consoles, you don't get this kind of problem. What makes this situation so disappointing is that Borderlands is a darling of my game library - it's my 2000th game. This kind of bad experience should not have happened in a game that marks a moment of great history in my life as a gamer.

That's exactly how I feel at the moment...

When things like this happen, we PC gamers like to always first blame ourselves for the problem. I noticed that there was a new display driver for the Nvidia 9800 GTX so I thought, "Silly me! No wonder it crashes!" After updating the driver, the problem persists. Then I turned to the forums for answers and I have pretty much tried everything from installing old drivers to reducing the game's graphical settings (even though the game runs smoothly at 1080p at max settings). In a way, it's always good news when you see that many others are experiencing the same problem though. It's apparent that the game fails to work for many, many users. I am done trying to fix this game on my own. It's time for Gearbox to step in and do the dirty work - and fast. I still don't regret the decision of buying the PC version over the consoles - I just wished I purchased something else in its place. The graphical perks I get from this version is certainly noteworthy and this will not stop me from buying the very promising Dragon Age: Origins for the PC - I truly pity the poor souls who can only play that game on the consoles... Go buy a capable gaming PC already. I just hope that Gearbox will release the patch for the PC version of this game very, very soon because things are not looking good right now with their reputation just when they got a killer game out. I will not be playing Borderlands again until then. For everyone else - at lease until the PC demo is out so you can test it out on your system - skip the console versions but wait for the patch before you pick up the game.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nintendo's Platinum Reward 2009

I finally received the reward I ordered in July for being last fiscal year's Club Nintendo Platinum member. Took them long enough to send it to me. So who won the fight between Doc Louis and the Mario Hat? If you have been paying attention to the list of games I own on the Nintendo Wii, you probably already know the answer to that.

That's one long box.

It's-a me, Mario Hat!

Strange, there is no epilepsy warning on the "Instruction Manual".

I now know what I'm going to be next Halloween.

The design is quite authentic.

Bad Ultimate Edition: God of War III

In April of this year, I completed a Sony survey that was conducted to determine the fate of the collector's edition packaging of the upcoming God of War III. The one thing that I was urging them to include with the game was access to the first two games on one Blu-ray disc. Well, we all know now that Sony is planning to re-release the first two games for the PlayStation 3 but the unfortunate thing here is that GoW III's "Ultimate" edition will not include those games. It figures - Sony wants money. It was obvious what Sony's intent was when they first announced the re-release so it is no surprise that the "Ultimate" edition will not include them. What do you get instead? A large box, an art book, a couple of soundtrack CDs, a video documentary, and exclusive digital contents. Overall, a disappointing announcement. After seeing how everyone went gaga over the possible inclusion of the first two games with a special version of GoW III from the survey result, Sony turned what could have been the best "Ultimate" edition ever released into a missed opportunity of epic proportions.

Shouldn't the soundtrack be unlockable in-game and not packaged separately?
The Pandora's Box looks nice but I rather have the remastered GoW and GoW II.

Games Played 10/26/2009 - 11/01/2009

- 10/26/2009 -
Critter Crunch Demo - PlayStation 3*
Demon's Souls - PlayStation 3

*Fun little puzzle game where you mix and match animals based on food chain to clear them.

- 10/27/2009 -
Demon's Souls - PlayStation 3

- 10/28/2009 -
Raiden IV - X-Box 360
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

- 10/29/2009 -
Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time - PlayStation 3
Demon's Souls - PlayStation 3

- 10/30/2009 -
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3
Tekken Tag Tournament - PlayStation 2
Torchlight Demo - PC

- 10/31/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Fallout 3 - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3
Torchlight Demo -PC
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - PC

- 11/01/2009 -
Borderlands - PC
Fallout 3 - PC
Tekken 6 - PlayStation 3

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Borderlands Headache

The Personal Computer version of Borderlands may have forsaken the "Games for Windows" branding as well as its Live feature but strangely, this game is fully compatible with the X-Box 360 controller. As a matter of fact, the game's instruction manual readily shows off the 360's controller layouts and the configurations files even mention "Xbox" in there. Why this game didn't fall along Microsoft's effort at streamlining PC games is beyond me. Unfortunately, my X-Box 360 wireless receiver for the PC is dead so I am unable to use my controller to play the game. When it comes to precision, nothing beats a keyboard and a mouse but in terms of overall comfort, I rather just hold a small controller in my hand than have a bulky setup in front of me.

Nothing works!

The cool thing about this game is that it actually works with my Super Joy Box, a USB converter that allows me to hook up my wired Dualshock 2 PlayStation 2 controller to the PC. I really didn't expect it to work at all and I had been playing the game using a keyboard and a mouse until late in the afternoon when I stumbled upon the Super Joy Box that was misplaced in between the move several weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the game recognized the controller but then something was wrong - all of the buttons work perfectly except for the Y-axis on the left analogue stick. For some reason, tilting it up - which should translate to moving forward - moves my character backwards instead! The opposite happened when I tilted the stick backward. I researched the game's forums on the web and unfortunately, I cannot find a remedy to my situation. The problem is definitely not with the controller - the calibration test revealed that everything is fine with it. Perhaps this is a ploy to force people to play the game with only the X-Box 360 controller if they want to play with a gamepad? For around 2-3 hours following my discovery of the problem, I had been experimenting with the game's *.ini files only to find myself being terribly frustrated with the situation and there was no solution in sight. The constant failure was draining the very life out of me. It also doesn't help that the PC gaming community mostly despise the gamepad - a lot. I have already wasted too much time on this when I could just have fun playing the darn game.

Update Note: 11/02/2009 - I found a great solution here. I hate using JoyToKey because it is a big hassle so the solution presented there is definitely the better alternative. After installing the files into the appropriate folder, the left analogue stick is now functioning properly. A new problem will emerge if you are not using Logitech controllers - the input assignments of the face buttons and the triggers were all over the place - but it was easily remedied by going into the extracted xbox360cemu.ini file and reassigning the buttons there. Using a gamepad does result in less accuracy in this game but now I get both the convenience of the console versions plus the better graphics and performance that are just simply not possible on the consoles. It's $10 cheaper too!

And oh, all of a sudden an "achievement" notification popped up on the screen while I was killing enemies last night so the "achievement/trophy" system did make it into the game. It's just that it will not go to any player profile to show it around - It's all about achieving and conquering them anyway and not about showing them off for some illusion of gaming excellence so why would that matter right? Or is it? - When I looked deeper into the in-game menus, I found a long list of things to do there. It's not my cup of tea but I thought I would mention it for those who are really into the achievement/trophy thing.