Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Clouds Over California

Just heard the news about John Boecklin and Jeff Kendrick leaving DevilDriver. It's very sad, as that whole band was/is phenomenal,  but Boecklin stood out. The accuracy that he maintains at the speed he plays is unlike any other drummer out there, and for me was one of the biggest draws to DevilDriver. I'm not singling him out as the number one reason, like I said they all are all excellent musicians. Here's a bit of DevilDriver in memoriam of a stellar line up making absolutely killer records, and here's hoping it's not the end of the band...


Sunday, October 26, 2014

20 Miles To Texas, 25 To Hell...

Been wanting to take in a museum, as it's been years since I've done so. After a quick google search, the closest one of any slight interest is 90 miles away, and is a science museum. Bit of a trek for a subject I'm really not that fascinated by. I was hoping to find a good history museum, but all I found for those are the kind specifically for the Old West. Again, not my thing. I'd prefer one with more of an Ancient History motif.

I do remember years ago, maybe around 1994 or '95, going to the Will Rogers Museum here in Oklahoma and being absolutely bored to tears. I had no idea who he was. It was on a trip with my Grandparents and I just remember hating it. And it was all I thought about when I saw the signs for it when I crossed the state line for the first time months ago. I very briefly entertained the idea of a re-visit, but I can't bring myself to it.

My continued search for a bookstore is coming up empty as well. I've found an address for one, but when I tried to go last weekend after work I couldn't find it. But I'm home next week and will need something to do, and it's a good excuse to get out of my apartment and small town and just venture into adventure. I hate the city, and I hate being in constant motion, but I also hate being bored.

Being home after being away for so long is always bizarre. The first two days are usually spent trying to remember what the Hell I used to do before I was always in motion, and the others are spent trying to find a happy co-existence of both mindsets. Right when the "happy medium" is found, it's time to go again. And as far as people go, I have enough time to get caught up on recent events, then have food for the "time moves on without you" thoughts on the drive back. The ones I do not get to see, either myself or they become angry because one of us doesn't have time for the other. You spend a couple of months with barely any contact with a person, and then when you finally have the chance to see them it just doesn't work out for one reason or another. It's never really anyone's fault, but it's frustrating sometimes. But this is the life I must live for now, and there's really nothing else I'm qualified for at the moment. Suck it up, lie to yourself, move on...

I do not have it as bad as those I know who do this as well and have families waiting back home. Most of them have it much worse, and go to extremes to numb themselves of the loneliness/depravity. And they can give me all the shit they want to (and you can as well) for just playing video games in my free time, but I'm not the one blowing all their money on drugs and alcohol, and I'm not steadily becoming a walking train wreck.

Any issues I have now have always been present and have not needed my current lifestyle to grow or evolve. And as fucked up as it sounds, I am very proud of that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Strung Up From The Sky

I've finally earned my "Bait" trophy for 'Alien: Isolation'. If you've done it as well, you must know the joy and moreso relief that comes with it. Well earned, and I'm already ready to have another go at it. I'm not finished with the game, maybe 3/4 of the way, but in a way the experience feels complete. I did it yesterday and today all I could think about was how great of an experience this game has been. Video games rarely get recognized as an art form and it's no one's fault but video game developers and studios. Very few devs and studios are good enough at their craft and put enough thought and TLC into their projects to warrant much respect.

For example: Let's say every year 150 video games are released. Of the 150, only 25 will be considered by critics and consumers as good and worth revisiting upon completion. Of those 25, MAYBE 2 or 3 will be considered art and will become timeless. Again, this is just an example and not to be taken as fact. Art, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And in my mind's eye 'Alien: Isolation' is one of the handful of games that we nerds can throw back at naysayers when they say "Video games can never be art". Yes, there is no moral lesson to be taken from it. You will have no better appreciation for politics or care about the homeless or give to charity anymore than you do now once you've played it, but it will most likely resonate with you on an emotional level or some primordial instinct and make you say: "Wow.".

It's not the jump scares that make this game what it is. There is nothing in this game you've not seen in movies or other games. But it's the way everything around the scares is handled that sets it apart. The music, the atmosphere, the anticipation. Much like a great musician knows when to stop showing off and just grove, so do great developers. You find that groove, get people locked into it, then you change the pace without warning and let the people experience.

I'm sure I've said this before, and will probably say it again sometime. And who knows? Maybe 'Isolation' fizzles out in a years time. Maybe Creative Assembly will lose their blessing from the "Gaming God" and never put out an enjoyable or quality game again. But for right now, 'Alien: Isolation' should be on every gamer's Top 5 list, and it should definitely earn a place in the medium's history in the category of "The One's That Broke The Mold".

And it's available for Virtual Reality as well...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Taking another break from 'Alien: Isolation' as it's just too much sometimes. After finally getting nailed by the bastard in the main campaign a couple of days ago, I've not been able to play this game right since. I'm playing well as far as stealth games go, but I'm just not playing right for this game. He's completely random in his movement patterns and spawning points (per game designers choice) and a few levels in he either moves in your favor, or he doesn't. He's not been moving in mine for awhile now.

Save points are scarce, and checkpoints are non-existent, making each save point worth a sigh of relief and a "Thanks for that one, mate." to your higher power. But they can also work against you. Each save point requires inserting a key card and waiting 3 seconds for a computer system to recognize it. An audible countdown begins, one light comes to life, then another, then another, and then you can save. And you are stuck facing this wall mounted device (an emergency telephone) the entire time, standing tall, totally exposed. It's the perfect opportunity for someone or something to catch you from behind. Which happened to me after playing cat and mouse for an hour earlier tonight. I'd done well at hiding under desks, keeping a slow pace behind him when he drops from a vent and walks in the direction I need to go, and really becoming one with my motion tracker (as you have to). I felt confident enough to explore the full level, gathering every map and blueprint and scrap item I could. He never found me once. It was flawless.

Then I got greedy and decided to save my game when I passed the phone on my way out the door. That's when (I think) he dropped out of a vent behind me and got me. I say I think because I didn't actually see it happen. I was stuck facing the phone. Then I was stuck looking at his spear tipped tail protruding through my chest. As frustrating as it was, I still loved it. It's the old "Risk vs. Reward" cliché, and in this game you will constantly weigh the two on a scale. Every reward is worth it though. You need  those items. You need  that blueprint for a new distractive device, and you absolutely NEED to save your game whenever you can.

Back in the old days of gaming, if you had only certain save points and played 3/4 of a level and then died, you had to re-play that 3/4 again. This was a staple for years as there was technologically no other way to do it. Then the X-Box and PlayStation 2 came out, and the technology was there to have save points. Dying no longer meant re-playing 3/4 of a level, now it was just a specific 1/16 of a level you had to do over. And like all technological advancements some people complained about it. Some felt games became too easy and had a diminished value in caring about your character and keeping them alive. "Why bother worrying? It's not like I'll have to start all over again.". To those people I say: "Welcome to your gaming fantasy. May you never complain about checkpoints again"

One thing I really love about this game the most are the Working Joes. Working Joes are androids, but nothing fancy like you've seen in movies (the "Alien" series including) and TV. These are androids for companies who pinch pennies on their "why-pay-a-human-when-the-doll-will-do-it-better-and-not-complain?" labor. They have a basic rubber skin texture, and expressionless face, no hair, and glowing red eyes and a voice that is absolutely chilling. Of the goosebumps this game has given me, it's the first time I encountered the Working Joes that so far stands out most.

                                      ...................SPOILER BELOW......................

Early in the game you are trying to reach the communications deck of the space station to hail your ship and call for help. On the way to the deck you meet a Working Joe working reception who tells you to "Please take a seat and someone will be with you shortly." in an obviously synthetic emotionless voice that is just threatening enough to throw up a red flag, but also probably just the way these droids on the cheap sound (You get what you pay for, and sometimes we pay for what we get.). You inform him it's an emergency, and you don't have time for this, then storm past reception down a corridor, where you encounter another Working Joe doing... something. He tells you you the coms deck is a restricted area and the ships main computer has shut down all access. Then he asks that you please turn around and go back to reception. "Fine, I'll find my own way there" you say. And as you walk past him down the corridor, the exact instant he's behind you he says: "I wouldn't advise that..." in that now 100% menacing voice. I can't do it justice in text, it's one of those "You have to be there to get it" things. But it's blood chilling. And it's amazing. And I'm sure you can guess what the rest of your encounters with Working Joes will be like...

And it's the things such as that which make 'Alien: Isolation' great. It's not just the Alien, it's the whole package. Every leaking steam vent, every automatic door that takes too damn long to open 'cos it's so old and damnit it's coming up behind me HURRY UP! It's the game that fans of the "Alien" series (and survival horror fans in general) have deserved for years. And what took game developers so long to recognize that?

Friday, October 10, 2014


I like things of a dark and disturbing nature. Arts that are viscerally disturbing fascinate me for some reason, and I'm not quite sure why. When it comes to horror, I'd much rather have something of a psychological scare then a jump-out-of-shadows-"Made you shit yourself haha!" scare. So the 'Silent Hill' series and myself were made for each other. Each trek into Silent Hill brings new disturbing images and experiences that are much more beautifully disturbing then gory, and a sound design that compliments the images 100%. If I were forced to pick my #1 game series of all time, 'Silent Hill' wins.

And then a few months ago I finally got to check out 'Dead Space', and I met my #2 series of all time. It's very much like 'Silent Hill' in terms of mood and atmosphere, and sound design, but admittedly it is more gore the psychological. But it's done brilliantly.

So it was with high hopes that I fired up 'Alien: Isolation' for the first time on my PS3 the other night. I'd been excited for the game for awhile, and was hoping to death it would do Ridley Scott's 'Alien' justice, as well as prove to be a disturbing and dark and (most importantly) fun video game experience. It not only does Ridley's film justice, it could easily be mistaken for being helmed by him. The starting pace is just as much of a slow and sturdy buildup as his film that I was chain smoking maybe 15 minutes into it, and I hadn't even seen anyone or anything yet. I could definitely hear something though.

Many times while walking down an empty corridor crouched low to the ground so as not to attract too much attention to myself, I could hear various bumps in the air duct above me, following my every step. The sound design of this game is great, and my one regret about playing this game is I'm not at home to enjoy it in surround sound. When I say "sound design" I don't just mean the sound effects themselves. They are excellent, no surprise since they are (thankfully) the exact same ones used in Ridley's film, but what I mean in this instance is use. The corridors of Sevastopol Station are long and tight, and the sounds will drift down the corridors towards you. And when the Alien (I've named him Marvin) is moving around in one of those corridors, you know it. If he's angry, that is.

As of this writing, Marvin hasn't got me yet in the main campaign. When I've met him so far, he's angry, but also curious and cautious. Things intrigue him and he doesn't seem to mind having a look around. His footsteps are fairly soft, given his size, and his breathing is somewhat calm. It's easy to sneak around him. The tricky part is knowing where he's at (at the points where you don't have a motion tracker yet) when he's in this "calm" state.

The expansion "Crew Expendable", however, is a much different story. In it, he's very pissed off, very loud, and much more bloodthirsty. You could probably locate him easily without a motion tracker by just listening for him, but it'd be too late for you when you found him. In both settings he moves incredibly fast, and you're a one-hit kill from him. You have weapons, but they're no good on him. I've heard you can scare him away with the flamethrower but it hasn't worked for me yet. The Alien is FINALLY a 100% terrifying, ultra-violent killing machine again. Every time he strolls into the room you're in, or drops out of an air duct right in front of you, I dare you not to hold your breath or actually careen your neck to peek around the desk you're crouched behind onscreen. This is a terrifying creature in a terrifying environment, as it should be. And the androids and human scavengers aren't much better, either. But at least you can actually kill them.

I'm trying not to say much about it because this is a game I don't want to spoil for anyone that hasn't played it yet. I'm not reviewing it, these are merely my experiences and opinions of it thus far. I'm sorry if that makes this read a bit "What the fucking HELL is he talking about?!" and nonsensical. It's also very late, and I'm getting tired. But this is one of those games that I think every gamer, and even non-gamer HAS to play at some point. Out on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox 1, check it out.

After a few hours with it each night since it's release, I can officially say that 'Alien: Isolation' is the most intense and frightening game I've ever played. I haven't been afraid of a video game this much ever, not even for 'Silent Hill 2' or 'Dead Space'. And that's saying something.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monolithic, Baby!

In an excited mood tonight, looking forward to spending the next couple of hours with 'Alien: Isolation'. I don't think I've looked forward to a game this much since 'Silent Hill: Downpour'. The thing about 'Alien' for me is the concept. What took a game developer so long to make an 'Alien' game based on the first film, and not one based on Cameron's "Aliens" or "Alien vs. Predator"? This is an entity that's SUPPOSED to be terrifying and dreadful, not simple cannon fodder.

Also excited for the news of Monster Magnet re-releasing 'The Last Patrol' in November (in the same week I get to go home, no less). As much of a "Meh, this might be the last record, it might not" as Dave Wyndorf is, anything from him is cause for excitement. A lot of folks heralded not just 'Last Patrol', but 'Mastermind' as a return to what makes Monster Magnet great, saying they were back and whatnot, but they never really went away. They may have veered a bit into more straight up rock and roll after the success of 'Powertrip', but those were still great records. Admittedly though, 'Mastermind' is my favorite. It IS "classic" Monster Magnet with modern productions, and you can't deny "All Outta Nothing", "Gods & Punks", or the title track.

Also excited about going home in November. I'm ready to be with my dog again, just hanging out on the couch. Got this from my dog sitter earlier today, and it makes me smile...
He doesn't like the cold either.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ice Cream

Been listening to the lovely Sara McLachlan all afternoon today. You can laugh if you like, that's fine I'm used to it. I get asked a lot why I listen to her when she's so "poppy" and "artsy". Musically, yes, she can be extremely poppy, folky, and upbeat. But lyrically she can be darker then most metal bands I've heard. Forget PETA, "Angel" is about sitting in a hotel room, lonely and broken, and shooting heroin. That's straight out of her own mouth (see the 'VH1 Storytellers: Sara McLachlan' dvd), and if anyone ever bothered to actually read the lyrics I'd think it'd be clear. But I'm sure she often thinks that as well. I think it's the juxtaposition of dark lyrics with upbeat music that confuses people. Some peole hear music, others listen to it. There is a difference.

This is off of 'Laws Of Illusion', which is a pretty strong record. There's a couple of tracks for me that I skip, as with all of her records since 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy', but it's a much better album then 'Shine On'. Production quality varies, as there were 3 (possibly 4) different producers on various tracks (including one Mr. Bob Rock, of MetallicA coat-tail riding fame, who produced 3 tracks for the album.), but overall it's a good buy. Just ignore the album cover. This was also first released on her best of record 'Closer', though I don't own that so I'm unaware if there are any variations of versions.

                                                    "U Want Me 2"...

I don't understand why she always puts out these concept videos. They're usually clever, yes, but more times close to pretentious. I'll just be honest and say this is a terrible video for a great song. And the sounds of all the fans used must have been deafening. I think her videos are at their best when they actually show HER at her best: playing with her band. She's lovely to look at, but first and foremost she's a killer musician. I'm pissed off I missed her tour in America this year. But I didn't even know 'Shine On' was out until 6 months later when I saw it in a record store. Nice job of promoting, Arista.