Monday, November 29, 2010

Irvin Kershner 1923-2010

For those of you who don't know, Irvin Kershner was a director. He helmed the best of the Star Wars series, The Empire Strikes Back and after battling a long illness he passed away on Saturday at the age of 84.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bryant shouldn’t be held to higher standard

Call of Duty: Black Ops might be getting some positive press, but Kobe Bryant is getting some heat because of his involvement in a television commercial for the game.

Before the game’s release, a promo starting airing showing various people, including Bryant and talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, using guns to fight off other people. Basically doing what you do in the game.

“Does Kobe Bryant really need this money, this badly?” said Skip Bayless, an ESPN commentator. “Doesn’t he have a couple of daughters, last time I checked? He is smiling while wielding an assault rifle in combat, while we have troops overseas at this moment, doing the same thing for real.”
Many share that opinion, especially since Bryant is smiling while firing off an assault rifle.

“I was shocked to see Kobe Bryant in the ads, and shooting the grenades off,” said Bomani Jones, another ESPN commentator.

Bryant hasn’t talked about the controversy.
In my view, when I first saw the commercial I didn’t really find anything wrong with it. It’s simply a commercial and I do believe there are worse things going on in the world than this. With that said, when I analyzed it, the commercial does makes combat look fun, which is bad. Combat should always be taken seriously and never taken lightly. Yet, we have to also remember that this is a commercial for a video game and shouldn’t be taken seriously. They are not fighting in a real battle they are at home playing the game and the commercial wanted to show that they are having fun playing and that people from all walks of life enjoy the game.

Yeah, maybe Bryant shouldn’t have been in it, because he might be a role model. But then again, he was accused of rape several years ago, so I don’t know how much weight can be put into the role model label.
Now the other person that appeared in the ad was Kimmel, but he isn’t getting any backlash from this. Why is that? Yes, Kimmel is partially blocked from the camera’s view, but he should be held up to the same standard as Bryant.
The whole thing doesn’t make any sense to me and quite possibly you would have to play the race card as well. Bryant is black, while Kimmel is white.
The whole thing is overblown. I keep reading things like “think about the children.” For the most part, children are smart enough to separate real from fantasy. I don’t think this ad is harming children, it’s just another thing for people to complain about for a week and then next week it will be something new. It isn’t real and people need to realize that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Does Black Ops Answer the Call?

NOTE: This review is for the Xbox 360 version.

From the jungles of Vietnam to JFK fighting off hordes of zombies; Call of Duty: Black Ops is out but does it answer the call?

After a year of playing Modern Warfare 2 we are now given a whole new Call of Duty game that is different in some ways and similar and others. There has been a lot of talk against Black Ops so let’s really get into it as I discuss the pros and cons.

Let’s start with the campaign. I read a lot of other reviews who felt that the story fell short but I have to disagree. I thought that the story was fine, even if I did see the twist coming a mile away.

The story wasn’t perfect by any means but I thought it was better than Modern Warfare 2. I liked how they really kept you with one main character for the majority of the campaign, allowing you to get to know him, which is also a plus. In Modern Warfare 2 I felt you moved around from protagonist to protagonist not allowing you to get to know them enough which led me not to really care what happened in the story. Yet, it was still fun to play through.

One of the few problems I had with the campaign were some of the levels. They weren’t bad in terms of design, just annoying. The first one was when you were breaking the siege in the battle of Khe Sanh and the other is when you were in a hazmat suit. I thought they were overly difficult if you are playing above normal difficulty.

The other problem I had was the AI on the enemy soldiers. In some areas they are effective and then in others they are just dumb. It doesn’t really damper the game to the point where you won’t want to play but it is definitely something they should change in future releases.

The length of the campaign is also very short; you could probably finish it in six to eight hours. I wish it was a little longer and we could have spent more time in Vietnam but I’m happy what I got out of it.

Those are my only cons when it comes to the campaign. Yeah the graphics could be better but its all about gameplay for me and Black Ops has some great gameplay.

Now, let’s face it, everyone really picked up this game for its multiplayer. Yes, the multiplayer takes some great ideas from Modern Warfare and then adds its own twists on things, which either you’ll love or hate.

COD credits are new and weren’t necessarily my favorite thing when I first started playing but now I’m loving it. These credits are gained by playing multiplayer matches and then can be used to purchase new weapons, attachments and so on. Unlocking weapons is no longer tied to leveling up, which causes you to level up quicker in Black Ops.

The great thing about these credits is that it really forces you to find out what weapons work for you and then customize that weapon. My suggestion is that you play campaign first so you can test out all the weapons for free, so you don’t end up spending all your points on stuff you’ll never use.

There is also a lot of cool new stuff that can be used on the battlefield, like the camera spike, which is a camera you can setup on the battlefield. Once you set it up it will replace your radar with footage the camera is recording so you can watch certain areas of the map when you need to. I found this to be very effective in game types like Capture the Flag or any battles where you’re holding down a room or defending something.

Another cool gadget is the RC-XD, which is a small remote control car you unlock after you kill three enemies in a row. This car has explosives strapped onto it and you drive it near an enemy and detonate it to collect the kill.

Speaking of killstreaks, there is a lot of cool ones, like the napalm strike, Valkyrie Rockets, attack dogs, a gunship and the list goes on. All the killstreaks are great and fun to use.

The game launched with 14 maps on disc, which is a great number of maps. Most of them are great, like Nuketown, but some I can’t stand. The ones that I don’t like are Launch, Villa, WMD and Havana is on the fence for me. The maps that I really enjoy are Nuketown, Radiation, Summit, Hanoi and Array. All the other maps are good, but just not my favorite. I will say this though, I like some of these maps a lot better than some of Modern Warfare 2’s maps but I still believe that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had the best maps.

The multiplayer has been designed to be played forever and it’s definitely a fun experience but there are some problems I have with it.

The first con when it comes to multiplayer is the matchmaking; it’s slow and sometimes can take forever to get into a match. I heard that they are going to fix this and hopefully they do it soon.

Next up is being dropped from games. I had this happened only a handful of times but it’s still something that should be looked at. Also lag happens.

Then we get to the menus. I’m not a big fan of Black Ops multiplayer menu system. It took me awhile to find the things I was looking for and I just don’t think it’s as organized as it could be. Especially after playing with Halo: Reach’s well designed menus for over a month.

This next thing kind of ties into every mode in the game, but you might notice it more in multiplayer, since that’s the mode most people play on a regular basis. The problem is the sound effects I have to say I think Modern Warfare 2 had the better sound effects, but I also believe that both these games are trumped by the sound effects in Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Those were the biggest flaws for me when it came to multiplayer, but I still enjoy it. Actually I like it a lot and let’s face it people were complaining a lot about Modern Warfare 2 and I think Modern Warfare 2 had a lot more frustrating and annoying moments during multiplayer.

Moving on, it’s time to talk about the zombie mode. Call of Duty: World at War started the Nazi zombies and this game brings it back with some famous political leaders fighting off the horde.

You’ll have JFK and even Castro as playable characters as you fight your way through round after round of flesh eating zombies. This is a great and fun mode that really should be included in every Call of Duty game.

Summing it up Black Ops is a good game with some problems, but it’s still a very good game. I feel that the multiplayer is not a step back but well balanced and the maps are well designed. The campaign is fun and the story is decent, even if it is short. I recommend it to everyone but if you’re on the fence about it just rent it and see if you like it.

8 out of 10

Friday, November 12, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops Breaks Records

Call of Duty: Black Ops is now the biggest entertainment release of all-time. The game, which is available across gaming platforms, made $360 million in it's first day of release. Most Hollywood movies don't see that figure in their entire run.
The old highest record was held by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which came out last year at this time and was able to bring in $310 million.
I did pick up a copy of the game and so far I have to say I like it a lot better than Modern Warfare 2. I think the time period its set in is great and I also like the new multiplayer wager matches. I don't want to do a full review yet, because i haven't finished the story, but I will say that I've had a lot of fun with it so far.

Monday, November 1, 2010

'The Walking Dead' is Original and Interesting

The Walking Dead was one of the very few Fall shows I was looking forward to. I love horror movies and having a TV show based around a zombie apocalypse, well that sounds like a pretty good idea.
Going into the show the first thing you'll notice that there is a lot of similarities to other zombie stories, which isn't a bad thing.
The series is based on Robert Kirkman's comic books by the same name and now has the task of making running away from zombies deep and interesting each week.
The show opens with Rick Grimes, a sheriff deputy and our protagonist, looking for gas. He then encounters a small girl who is a zombie and he of course is forced to kill her. We then cut back to a few days earlier and we see Grimes get shot while on Duty. He is then put into a hospital and wakes up to a zombie apocalypse (just like 28 Days Later). The show evolves from there, I wont say much more because I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it.
My honest opinion is that I think it's great. It's original and refreshing and it's not a cop or doctor show. I really give amc a lot of credit for taking a risk and bringing something to TV that is extremely different then anything that has graced our television sets before.
Yet, like I said above, they really need to keep it interesting and fresh, which can be a challenge. If they invest even more time with its characters, developing them, then it will all be fine. They just need to make this a character driven show, characters that happen to be living in a zombie apocalypse.
The show has already been picked up for a second season and I can't wait to see where this first season brings us.