Sunday, August 31, 2008

This week's video game releases

Click HERE for the list of new video games this week, including such titles as "Infinite Undiscovery," "Mercenaries 2," "FaceBreaker" and, the game I am going home to play tonight, "Viva Pinata 2: Trouble in Paradise."

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Too Human" Review and "Tiger Woods PGA 09"

This has been a great week for me -- if only because I got one full unadulterated day of playing games on Tuesday. No distractions, no work, no trip to see the GF... which I can only type because she's standing right next to me right now... the point is, 13 hours of Xbox 360.

I spent the first half of the game plowing through more of "Too Human," which was released on August 19. Though there is NO GAMING PAGE in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal, I wrote a full review of "Too Human," which is available at THIS LINK. I won't give away what I think of the game, but I will say it was a CHORE to play this game.

On the other hand, I spent the second half of Tuesday, and pretty much every drop of free time since then, playing "Tiger Woods PGA 09." I'll tell you right off, I am a fan of the series, so take everything I say with that biased grain of salt. However, I flat out love this game. While I think I would still prefer the "07" version if it had the extra course choices this new game has, I would venture to say this version of "Tiger Woods" has the second-best gameplay in the franchise's history.

Now, I'm likely not going to write a full review of the game for next week's Gaming page, and I'm not going to say this is a full review yet, since I still have to try out several of the game's features, but I'll tell you about what I do know:

It hasn't taken me too long to build up my created character to the point where he's just as skilled as any professional in the game, which is a good thing. There's nothing more frustrating then hitting good shots and employing good shot selection only to have your sub-par young golfer not be able to execute what you want. In fact, in my first PGA Tournament, playing on the Tour Pro difficulty, I finished the four rounds at something like 40 under par.

That said, navigating the courses is not easy on this game -- it's thankfully realistic. If you manage to keep your ball in the fairways, you'll be able to craft perfect shots every time. However, the affects rough and sand can have on your club are sometimes very unpredictable and can be frustrating, especially when your on screen details claim you should still get 80-90% of your normal power on a shot. Well, guess what? you can NEVER predict rough and sand conditions perfectly when you're on the real links, and yes it can be frustrating, but that's the way golf is.

Also, putting feels tougher in this version of the game. In past incarnations, it felt as if your own motions on the left analog stick had a very high margin of error when putting, making all of your putts go right where you want them. Well, this time around pushing or pulling your putt a shade to the left or a shade to the right is VERY easy, and consequently makes every putt command your concentration. I lost a matchplay match last night on a five-foot straight putt because I wasn't paying enough respect to the straight stroke needed.

That said, the A.I. competition is so far lackluster. I've played through about half of the 'ole Tiger Challenge (I just beat Annika Sorenstam last night), and so far I haven't been challenged -- or at least not as challenged as past games. It seems during every round there are one or two holes where the A.I. hits a ball into the water -- and then proceeds to try the same shot three more times, hitting the water a couple more times before getting it right. Consequently, you end up with gift holes and a major advantage in a nine-hole match play competition.

This time around you also have to complete six or seven mini challenges in order to rack up the points necessary to play a pro in the Tiger Challenge. And while at first it seems a chore to have to do things like "complete three sand saves in under nine stokes" or "finish all par three's at 2-under par," I quickly realized those little drills were sharpening my own shot-making skills when I found myself in trouble in real rounds. other challenges like playing mini-rounds of battle golf or bingo bango bongo got me playing special game modes I otherwise ignore until months into owning the game.

But speaking of sharpening skills, this whole "Tiger's coach teaches you" thing was a waste of time. At first I executed every single drill he suggested to me, thinking the skill points I was acquiring were building up my golfer. Instead, it turns out those skill points are only temporary boosts that wear off after the next round you play.

And speaking of skill points, I'm no fan of the system EA came up with, which grades driving based on distance and fairways in regulation, accuracy on greens in regulation and distance, short game based on how far you stick your ball to the pin and putting based on putts per green average. The problem is, sometimes you don't want to drive the ball as far as possible -- or sometimes you want to drive it as far as possible into the rough because you know you can handle a shot from a particular patch of rough. Sometimes you would rather your second shot land short of the green but in a good putting position, rather than reach the green but be in poor putting position. Sometimes you pick up more than one putt per green because you were able to drive a par-4 green in one and leave yourself a two-putt for birdie.

There are too many different ways to play a course for your skills to be graded like this. I actually lost points in several categories after a round of nine-under at one point. How does that make sense?

My last little nitpick is, the game used to bootup straight to a driving range before a menu. I used to use this driving range every time I played, especially when playing after just waking up, to warm up my stroke. The pros in real life hit a bucket or two before each round, so I always liked doing the same. However, "Tiger 09" does not begin with the driving range right away, and I've yet to find the feature at all.

The last few paragraphs sure sound negative, don't they? Well, don't get the wrong idea. I LOVE this game. As I said, the gameplay is fantastic and realistic.

I also have become a big fan of Battle Golf. Basically, it's match play, but every time you win a hole you can either take away one of your opponent's clubs or take back one of your own if one has already been taken away. It adds another strategic aspect to golf -- if the game needed any more of it!

I've yet to try out the simultaneous online play feature which is new to this year's game, but what I have done is play and upload a good deal of online challenges. You can access the EA Gamernet list of challenges, both for singular shot challenges and whole holes or rounds, and just kill an afternoon trying to pull off trick shots. It's a fantastic diversion from just playing rounds all the time.

Anyway, as I said, I haven't tried everything in the game, and there are definite flaws, but this is the Best Golf Game on the market, and possibly the second best of all time. You want to go pick this up if you have any interest in virtual links.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tiger plays his own game

Read this short story from the AP (I'm a member of the media, kids, don't copy and paste at home!

I'll be back later with my own thoughts on "Tiger Woods PGA 09."

The only golfing Tiger Woods is doing these days is in video games.

“I do play quite a bit,” Woods said. “A heck of a lot more now.”

The world’s top-ranked golfer has been sidelined since winning the U.S. Open in June, recovering from surgery on his left knee to repair a torn ligament.

Woods said in a telephone interview that he plays friends in tournaments on EA Sports’ Tiger Woods PGA Tour game. He plays as self-created characters: “One’s a really buffed-out dude,” another is pudgy.

EA Sports launched the ’09 version of the game this week, and also announced a partnership with Gillette. Woods is one of the “Gillette Champions” in marketing for the shaver maker.

Woods said he actually learns from playing the virtual courses.

“I’ve had certain putts I had in real-life competition break the same way and by the same amount,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

He expects to be out swinging real golf clubs in January, but said it’s too soon to know when he’ll be able to compete again.

“It’s frustrating. I really have no idea,” he said.

EA Sports partnering with Gillette

Follow THIS LINK to the AP story talking about the agreement between EA Sports and Gillette. Apparently EA wanted the best a man can get.

Personally, I just find it funny that when I am playing EA Sports' products for a long time (i.e. "Tiger Woods PGA 09" this week) I emerge three days later badly needing to shave.

I guess this is where the companies got the idea. By watching bums like me fail to shave but finish 36 under par in a four day tournament (which I just did today).

Buy Pile Report

I expected a whole lot out of this week. I'm not quite sure it delivered. While nothing was flat out bad, most issues I picked up had small problems keeping me from that jaw-dropped happiness.

The only issue that 100% delivered, though, was Justice Society of America #18. If any of you had dropped the book amidst the Kingdom Come-induced lull (a lull I bet is going to feel a lot less boring when re-reading the story as a complete collection), you really should have jumped back on board once 50-foot tall Gog began roaming the Earth with his miracles. And, the best part about this issue was that the JSA seems to have finally reached their decision on how to handle the big guy, based on a couple of choices Gog made along the way.

As the cover of this issue gave away, yes, Gog creates Magog here. But, that isn't even the most interesting part of the character work done here by Geoff Johns. Subtly (if you haven't already learned this from solicitations) Johns begins showing which heroes will be standing against their teammates in the name of Gog, based on different personal reactions to the giant's actions. Quickly, the story is becoming a fantastic tale of "be careful what you wish for" mixed with questions of commitments and loyalty. The only question mark left from me regarding this arc isn't will it deliver, but rather, how the heck is the JSA going to get rid of Gog?

After JSA, though, there are slight flaws with every other issue I read this week. And, since there were a good deal of issues in my Buy Pile, we're going to do this lightning round style.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1: While the story was cryptic and confusing, it's clear Morrison is trying to tell us something about the nature of the Monitors here, as well as clues for who the biggest baddie in "Final Crisis" will be. However, the 3D glasses got old very fast, and the story was a little too cryptic and hokey for my tastes.

Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge #2: If you like the Rogues, this was a fantastic character tale. If not, you can skip this issue and go right to the third issue without missing out on any key story elements. There is a slight clue to Libra's identity here (I think) but it's really not worth picking up the book for if you don't love Rogues.

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament: I wanted to love this book, I really did. And a good portion of it (the small Batman family section, Rocky's job on Challenger Mountain, Donna Troy and Wonder Woman, Hal's closing line) was fantastic. But, the better portion of the story is based around Geo-Force hunting down Deathstroke over Terra's death... who cares about that storyline with "Final Crisis" going on? What a waste of an otherwise great character issue.

Superman #679: James Robinson's "Superman" is not getting any better. Once again this month, we get little more than a few punches exchanged between Atlas and Superman. Three issues of this now! This all could have been an issue and a half at best. What a waste of time.

X-Force #6: The issue certainly delivered on the bodycount, but the entire book featured art that was much too dark (yes even darker than previous issues) to really tell what is going on. On top of that, Every wraps up a little too cleanly for my tastes. It's like writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost decided at the very last minute they needed to take their feet off the gas in order to save some bullets in the chamber for future issues. How's that for mixing metaphors?

X-Men Legacy #215: I really love this series. HOWEVER, once again here, Scott Summers is written like a spoiled prick. I really don't know what is wrong with these guys, but come on now Mike Carey -- there is no way in the world that Scott truly thinks Professor X and Mr. Sinister are on the same level in terms of manipulation. Not after all the stuff Sinister has put Scott through, between the childhood experiments to the cloning of Jean and fixing his marraige to the whole turning Maddie evil thing -- Sinister is Cyclops' archvillain 1B to Apocalypse's 1A. I would have liked a whole lot less anger from Scott here and a whole lot more level-headedness... you know, like he should be acting.

Ultimate X-Men #97: The conclusion of a great arc featuring a mutant-boosting drug called Banshee. Unfortunately, it seems writer Aron Coleite was really hamstrung by the impending "Ultimatum," because this story wrapped up much too cleanly for my tastes. What could have been a great ongoing theme with the drug addiction and Wolverine's past was squandered.

That's it. As I said, disappointment all around. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grant Morrison on 'Final Crisis' and 'R.I.P.'

Follow THIS LINK to for a fantastic interview with Grant Morrison, featuring his thoughts on "Batman R.I.P.," "Final Crisis," his previous work, the comic industry in general and where he's going from here.

Especially interesting is the final page of the interview, dealing with Batman's identity in "Final Crisis," which occurs AFTER "Batman R.I.P."

This week's comic book expectations

For over a year now I've had two seperate posts a week for the same topic, one with the link to the comic book release list, and another with my thoughts on the upcoming releases. Am I the only one who realizes this is inefficient and dumb?

From here on out, ONE post a week!

(The peasants rejoice)

HERE IS YOUR LINK and Here are my thoughts:

(I'm mad with power right now)

This week can be summed up in one little hyphenated word: Tie-in.

NINE count them NINE "Secret Invasion" tie-ins are coming from Marvel (with three pretty big ones), and three "Final Crisis" tie-ins from DC (which is a lot for a series with such few tie-in material so far).

So we'll start with quantity and the "House of Ideas." The cream of the "Secret Invasion" crop this week will doubtlessly be New Avengers #44, which promises to tell a hidden tale of the Illuminati, the ramifications of which helped spark the invasion in the first place. Already in the five months of "Secret Invasion" we've seen "New Avengers" to be just as important a read as the mothership, and this issue should be no exception. Personally, I love reading Bendis bury this group of heroes deeper and deeper. Honestly, with all these tales of dark secrets and behind the scenes deals, how can they rightfully be considered "Heroes" anymore? Superboy Prime would throw a fit!

From there, the "Secret Invasion" tie-ins fall in line based on which characters you are interested in, and none of the other eight seem all THAT important to the story as a whole:

Mighty Avengers #17 tells the tale of Skrull Captain Mar-vell. Thunderbolts #123 sees our villanous heroes take on the Skrulls in D.C. (Washington, not the other comic company). She-Hulk #32 features Jazinda, daughter of Super-Skrull and friend to She-Hulk... or will they be enemies after this issue?!? Secret Invasion: Amazing Spider-man #1 will not feature the Webhead at all, but rather the supporting characters in his world (way to milk the franchise, Marvel. Nova #16 is the most ancillary of tie-ins, featuring a conversation with Super-Skrull, who isn't even part of the Invasion! New Warriors #15 shows Night Thrasher fighting everyone (SHIELD and Skrull alike) in order to find the truth about his dead brother (the second most ancillary tie in, I suppose). Black Panther #40 may be a quietly cool issue, as T'Challa continues defending Wakanda from the Skrull Invasion. And finally, what may be the most fun "Secret Invasion" title of the week, Avengers: The Initiative #16, featuring the SKRULL KILL KREW! KA-KOW!

Ugh, is that enough tie-ins for you? Good, because there are a couple of other good Marvel titles to remember this week too, Daredevil #110 (which closes the "Cruel and Unusual" story arc), Runaways #1 (the debut of creative team Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos), X-Men Legacy #215 (finally Professor X and Cyclops meet again, here's hoping they don't write Scott like a dick again), and X-Force #6 (the conclusion of the first story arc, which promises to be a bloodbath, based on Angel's assult on the choir alone).

Now that Marvel's quantity is out of the way, we can focus on DC's best titles of the week, all of which promise a high level of quality.

Of the "Final Crisis" stories this week, I think I'm most eager for DC Universe: Last Will and Testament, a book promoted as showing DC's heroes on the night before the final battle, preparing for the likely end. At first, I was looking forward to the story simply because I trust Brad Meltzer when it comes to this close-up character writing, so I am looking for him to hit this out of the park. However, recently I realzied a new reason why this is so curious an issue... did what transpired in "Final Crisis #3" (Evil "winning") come with any warning? These heroes didn't know there would be some fight, they didn't even know the Gods of Apocolypse were on Earth. So.... how do they know they should be saying goodbye to their loved ones? I am really hoping DC isn't pulling another editorial blunder here.

Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #2 will continue the entirely-Rogue story we got in the first issue, with the team in hiding because of what they did to the Flash (see, while they were on the prison planet, nobody could avenge Bart's death. I know, it was a while ago, they are still scared they are in trouble. Anywho...) As the first issue ended, they had found the target of their penance, and since this is only a three issue story, this second issue should see more than it's fair share of Inertia vs. Rogue action.

Finally, we have the first of the two issue story Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. Apparently, in order to save Lois' life, Superman has to round up Supermen from universes everywhere and fight some badguy. Make sense to you? Me neither. Frankly I would be avoiding this book like the plague, except that Grant Morrison himself is writing the story, and he's really the only one who knows what's going on in his head for "Final Crisis" as a whole. Soooo, if Grant says this story is important, it probably is. Oh, and parts of it are in 3-D, and that's just always fun.

Well, I've saved the best for last, I hope. Judging by the cover, there should be a HUGE moment in Justice Society of America #18. That's right, Magog is being born. Unfortunately, DC's advance solicitations already spoiled who is becoming Magog, but if you haven't heard, I'm not going to spoil it for you. Finally, after months and months on build-up (including a couple of stellar issues the last two months with Gog, so don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all bad), you would think that the action is about to hit the fan with Magog hitting the scene. Of course, we also still have Mr. Gog running around making dreams come true, and the JSA still doesn't know how to deal with it. Oh, and if that all isn't enough, I have a feeling that the biggest problem may just be coming from Superman 22 himself... to use a phrase my boy Phil Strum loves to throw around, I can see a heel-turn in his future...

So, enjoy the week, we don't get too many of this quality per year.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

This week's video game release list

Plenty of good games to pick up this week, headlined by "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09" and "Infinite Discovery," the JRPG for the Xbox 360.

Follow THIS LINK to the full list.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hodge Podge

There are a bunch of topics I wanted to chime in on and I only have a little time, so here's a hodge podge of updates:

- Even non-Star Wars fans are going to love "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed." Do yourself a favor and download the 1-level demo. I played through it a couple of times on Thursday night and between the lightsaber melee attacks and the different uses of the force (you can lift and throw things and people, as well as just shoot a blast of force), it's going to be one of the most satisfying action RPGs in a long long while.

Although, all of the uses of the force in action simply remind me of using characters like Jean Grey or Sue Storm-Richards (that's right, I'm such a geek I remembered to hyphenate her name) in games like "X-Men Legends" and "Marvel Ultimate Alliance."

- The little sister and I went to see "The Dark Knight" in IMAX last night, and the experience was amazing. We did the same thing for "Spider-man 2" back in the day, and that movie was better on the big screen just because of all the web-slinging, but the wide overhead shots of Gotham and the scenes in which Batman is gliding are pretty awesome. If you were already planning to shell out another $9 to see the movie again, do yourself a favor and go the extra mile by watching it on IMAX.

On top of that, the theater yesterday was giving out Batman mini baseball bats, which are just always fun.

On top of that, it turns out my impression of Heath Ledger's Joker is good enough to creep out the little sister. Who knew? Would you like to know how I got these scars?

- Remember that 24-hour boss in "Final Fantasy XI?" Well, it seems Squarenix decided it was too much of a challenge and are going to make it easier in an upcoming update. Now, I'm not an MMO guy, but if I was, the prospect of fighting a 24-hour villain would be just about the coolest idea this side of ice cream. It's something to aspire to. Heck, for some of you it's something to call in sick for.

Isn't the point of these MMOs to prove that your little character is the best little character in all the land? For the wimpy characters, they can fight easier villains. For the true heroes of the land, they deserve a 24-hour villain! Superman doesn't just get to make Lex Luthor dumber. Batman doesn't get to make the Joker less insane. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles don't get to fix Shredder's face, thus quelling his anger. So why now, Squarenix?

- The idea that Warner Bros. is going to give all of their superhero films a darker tone just because of "The Dark Knight's" success is one of the dumbest notions I've heard since Fox killed Cyclops in X-Men 3. But that's a post for another time... in the near future.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Force is (partially) Unleashed

Hey kids, guess what I did this morning right before coming to work? I downloaded the demo for "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" off Xbox Live. You can also get the demo off the PlayStation Network.

I haven't had the time to play it yet, thanks to my Xbox's unwieldy download time this morning, but as soon as I get home at 9 p.m. tonight, the Force will be strong with this Paduwon. Or however you spell that word.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buy Pile Report

I have to go off on a tangent right off the bat, which is unfortunate since this was such a dense week, but this is a subject near and dear to my heart:

Suckas best stop writing Cyclops so crappily.

Honestly, I don't know where Marvel's writers got the idea in the first place that Cyclops needed to become this free-wheeling badass, but it's got to stop. Scott Summers has NEVER been a boring character. OK, he was a little boring back in the earliest of the early days, but that's about it. Even in the late 90's, he was taking the bull by the horns and taking down (or merging, however you want to put it) Apocalypse nearly by himself. Hell, years before that he was flat-out taking Apocalypse down by himself.

But then Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" came along, and all of a sudden Scott wasn't complete without a bad-boy side. And he couldn't be content with his wife because she was becoming more powerful (you know, because he's never been in love with Phoenix before). Suddenly, every Marvel writer and editor felt the need to "fix" the character.

And so, we have this current incarnation of my favorite hero. A hero that has saved the world countless times and faced down Alien invasions, but suddenly he feels the need to kill every bad guy in sight. You know, because Mr. Sinister's actions now are so much worse than when Sinister cloned Jean Grey with the only intention of screwing with Scott and taking his seed. Yeah, now killing is somehow necessary, but not then.

It's all been bad enough -- but the dialog is the worst part. None of these schmucks know how to write in Cyclops' voice (probably because they have never understood what makes the character great), and in Uncanny X-Men #501 the writing of his voice absolutely ruined the issue for me. Here are two quotes from the book:

"I have a thing, Babe."

"Sorry Baby -- Go back to sleep."

Since when does Slim Summers use the phrase "Babe?!?"

I know this sounds like a little fanboy rant, and it probably is, but this is just the latest symptom of a major problem. The doesn't even mention the fact that this issue featured yet another re-tread of the X-Men's past in a desperate effort by these writers to be creative; the "Hellfire Cult," which seems to amount to a mind-controller inciting a group of San Franciscans to hunt mutants. Very Original, boys. I give this issue a MAJOR Thumbs Down.

It's OK, though, because X-Men First Class #15 was just a fun story that would have fit perfectly into the mid-1960's comic book world, with much sharper dialog. Basically, Medusa shows up, fresh out of the pages of one of her earliest confrontations with the Fantastic Four, and the team fights alongside her. It was a short and sweet one-and-done story that improved on this month's issue of "Uncanny" by 500%.

The most anticipated X-book of the week was X-Factor: Layla Miller #1, and while I expected a little bit more from it than what we got, it definitely was the best mutant book on the shelves. I'll tell you upfront, my problem with the book was simply that I've never been too nuts about Layla in general. All of that creepy "I know stuff" moments just seem like cheesy plot devices to me at most times. And, rest assured, there are plenty of "I know stuff" puns in this issue.

But, everything else was great. We saw how Layla managed life in the future (where she apparently still "knows stuff"), and we got to meet more than a few colorful characters in the future we haven't seen before -- all of which would equate to a pretty good mini-series dealing with the "Summers Rebellion" someday, hopefully soon. If you're a fan of the X-Men mythos, this is a must-read.

Lastly from Marvel, Captain America #41 was once again amazing. It should go without saying at this point. And the most incredible part was, at the end of this issue you will see the words "To be CONCLUDED." That's right, that's how close this issue takes us to the end. Of course, Ed Brubaker still holds plenty of cards close to the vest here as well. Believe it or not, we still don't know what the Skull's master plan is, or what Faustus has to gain. We do get several juicy revelations though, one dealing with Skull himself and the other with Sharon...

But if I were to say anymore about this issue, it would be giving too much away. And, frankly, if you're not reading this masterpiece at this point, you sure aren't going to start no matter how glowing a review this is. I'll just say that this may be my most anticipated read of next month.

The centerpiece of DC's week was Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1, which was marvelous in two respects: 1) Even a novice Legion reader like me should be able to get into the story if they want to. 2) It serves as what feels like a complete setup for the big battles to get going already in issue #2.

That second point may make some of you nervous. After all, critics of "Final Crisis" knock the fact that such a high percentage of the issues are just setup for down the road, so why would anyone want to read more setup in this Legion book? The answer is, the setup is so concise and so entertaining that it doesn't feel like setup. Most of the book is devoted to Superboy Prime getting acclimated to his 31st century surroundings, and Geoff Johns' dialog for the little brat really shines here. While I wasn't so nuts about how the character was handled in "Sinestro Corps War," Prime is the perfect balance of self-entitled fanboy gone bad here, and his intentions are very believable.

All in all, this first issue doesn't look at all pertinent to "Final Crisis" whatsoever, but it looks like it may end up being a BETTER series.

Justice League of America #24 was another step down for Dwayne McDuffie, who seemed to have been hitting his stride just a couple of months ago. The ENTIRE ISSUE is devoted to the team fighting Amazo. It wouldn't be so bad, either, except for the fact that McDuffie completely changed Amazo's abilities to make him darned near unbeatable. Well, he did it last month, which didn't help that last month we got so much of this fight too. A villain that seems so cheap and forced is simply not interesting to read.

That doesn't even mention the fact that the cover for this issue was 100% misleading.

Lastly, I said in the preview post last night how interested I was in Robin #177, due to the cover appearance by Red Robin. Well, I am now interested in Robin #178. The identity of Red Robin is not revealed here, but we know it's not Tim Drake and it's not Jason Todd. I also sincerely doubt it to be Dick Grayson. So who is it?

The rest of the issue I can take or leave, as the main plot revolved around Todd's plans to keep Gotham safe -- which were interesting to say the least -- but that plot seems to die in the issue. If you're following "Batman R.I.P.," though, this still looks like required reading, if only for seeing the world of Gotham post-R.I.P.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This week's comic book expectations

Well folks, we have ourselves an average week on our hands. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple of top-flight books coming out, but the deep number average books are about equal for both of the major publishers, making this week an even race.

There are a few intriguing titles though. Let's start with Marvel's:

Of the few dangling plot threads at the end of the X-Men's "Messiah Complex," the one most ignored was the fact that Layla Miller was lost in a desolate alternate future. Frankly, I've been shocked Marvel let the story cool for this long, since Layla was the it-girl of the Marvel Universe following her debut in "House of M." Well, we finally get to see more of Layla's future life in X-Factor Special: Layla Miller. If that isn't enough to grab your interest, it seems this issue features Layla playing a role in "The Summers Rebellion," liberating mutants. As far as I'm concerned, this issue will be a success if we get to see this long-rumored uprising.

Another book that may not be on your radar is Moon Knight #21, an under appreciated book that is beginning a new six-part story titled "The Death of Marc Spector." That's right, move over "Batman R.I.P.!" Well, maybe not. But, the group that is supposedly causing that death is the Thunderbolts, which should make for a very good story.

On a related note, I wonder if this is the last "Initiative vs. Fugitive" story we're going to see. Personally, I think the "Secret Invasion" is going to end this Initiative in a big way quick.

There are, of course, good choices from Marvel that you probably already know about, too. Somehow Ed Brubaker is still moving with a head of steam in Captain America #41, a book that hopefully shows us if Sharon (and baby) is OK after being stabbed by Sin last issue. Uncanny X-Men #501 begins the "Hellfire Cult" storyline (what's with all the re-treads with a twist lately?), and, according to the solicitation, features "Scott and Emma do what Scott and Emma do best" ... they do it? Plus, two books tie-in to "Secret Invasion," Guardians of the Galaxy #4 and Incredible Hercules #120.

But, as I said, DC has an equal showing this week:

It all begins for DC this week with Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1, the first part of a five-part mini-series written by Geoff Johns. We've heard a lot about this series already, and if it all comes true, we're looking at some action-packed issues. There have been hints (I guessed it months ago) Bart Allen will return here. George Perez has supposedly drawn EVERY Legion Member ever. Johns claims this is Superboy Prime's story, but it is also the story of the Time Trapper finally succeeding and erasing Superman from history. Oh, and did we mention it all ties in to "Final Crisis?" There are so many great things this mini-series can be, if Johns strikes out here it will be a big disappointment.

Dwayne McDuffie has been doing his job well lately, and it should only continue with Justice League of America #24. McDuffie has two plot threads working right now, with Amazo's attack on the league being front-and-center. Personally, I wasn't a fan of that fight in "JLA #23," simply because I felt McDuffie really bent the rules of Amazo's abilities in order to make him unbeatable, but it was still a well choreographed fight. More than that, though, I am interested in the secondary plot, featuring Vixen's powers. Apparently, some sorcerer has linked Vixen and Animal Man, and the team is hopefully going to confront this wizard here, if the cover of the issue indicates anything.

Finally from DC, the book I am most eager to read, believe it or not ... Robin #177. Robin's two-issue tie-in with "Batman R.I.P." was stellar in my opinion, which only makes me more curious to see why someone is wearing the Red Robin suit on the cover of this week's issue and who it is. We know the first page to "Batman R.I.P." featured a Batman and a Robin yelling something like "Batman and Robin will never die," which I started to believe was Tim and Damien, but now we have this Red Robin character... what does it all mean and how does it impact Tim's future? I guess we'll find out a little here. You know, Nightwing has that reputation as being the darling of the fanboys -- well I got to tell you, I think Tim Drake is one of the best characters in the DC Universe right now. Hopefully they treat him right.

Wednesday's comic release list

I decided if I started playing "Madden" now, I would never get around to these weekly posts, so HERE IS THE LINK to the comic book releases this week.

Monday, August 18, 2008

This week's video game release list

BIG BIG BIG week -- and I am pissed about it!!!

Last week, "Madden NFL 09" dropped. Next week, "Tiger Woods PGA 09" drops, my favorite sports franchise.

And sandwiched in between this week is "Too Human" and "Smashcourt Tennis 3," not to mention downloadable "Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty."

Who has time to play them all??? Not me, that's for sure. At least not this week.

Yes, folks, follow THIS LINK to the full list and see for yourself the truth -- the late summer/fall gaming glut is beginning. Be afraid, wallets.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Buy Pile Report

This was perhaps the most dense week of comic book reading I can remember in a long time, and I don't even know where to start. I guess I'll just do this in a completely random order, so hold on to your hats.

"Batman R.I.P" rumbled on in Batman #679, and the story continues to confuse -- in more ways than one. The story itself is still a jumbled mess of a mystery, and Grant Morrison has yet to show his hand in the least: Is Black Glove who he says he is here (which would be SCREWED UP)? Is Batman who he thinks he is here (which would be insanely sane)? But the story is not the most confusing part. The confusing part is, despite the fact that I can't make heads or tails of what's going on, I am still enthralled in this story and am sure that what I am reading now will rock the foundation of the Batman Universe in an even more severe way than how Morrison rocked the X-Men's bedrock at the end of "New X-Men."

I'm a bit torn on Action Comics #868. On the one hand, Geoff Johns delivers some of the best singular moments you're going to see in a comic book, both humerous and poetic, and firmly establishes a sense of dread Metropolis' future. On the other hand, Brainiac himself is finally revealed here, and he's depicted very much like a generic smart strong guy. I'll give Johns the benefit of the doubt that he's more than that, but the fact remains the creepy-factor Brainy had going for him in the last few issues is all gone. Still a great read.

Astonishing X-Men #26 was the first Marvel book I picked up today, as it was formerly the book I most longed for under the tardy creative team of Joss Whedon and John Cassady (not to mention Laura Martin, how I miss you). Well, in just two issues (really, in just one issue but this month was the second), Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi have stamped this book a definite "Eh."

On the writing side, Ellis established a great idea in this island which serves as a junkyard for spaceships -- but he doesn't use the idea in the least. The whole story (what little of it there is) takes place on a ship, with VERY generic dialog. Bye bye snappy Whedon banter. And don't get me started on the art. For every instance where Bianchi delivers with pretty background art, there are three instances of poor faces and awkward choreography.

Oh, and another thing, Bianchi -- FIX CYCLOPS' VISOR!

Over time, I've come to this opinion of Brian Bendis: He has fantastic ideas and can never fully realize them. I've also decided that Marvel editorial does not do a very good job of helping to develop ideas. In Secret Invasion #5, Bendis had me hook-line-and-sinker buying into the frightening threat the Skrulls pose. Then, he pulled out the big guns... literally, and that's not a good thing. Out comes Reed Richards onto the scene with -- you guessed it -- a big gun. And I won't say what the gun does, but you might as well label it 'Deus ex Machina,' because he might as well win the war for Earth by taking the gun out.

Along the way, though, there are some fun moments in this book, and surprisingly the women shine more than any. Agent Brand is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe (the galactic Nick Fury plays a major role here) and Maria Hill was surprisingly competent. The only problem with the book, though, is I fear I'm going to have to heap this Marvel event into a pile with many others under the category of "What could have been..."

Speaking of the Skrulls, though, check out Secret Invasion Inhumans #1. It doesn't seem the story will impact the main war much at all, but it seems like this four-part mini-series is going to stage its own mini Secret Invasion on the Inhuman side, as well as finally resolve exactly when Black Bolt was taken and how he might come back. If all that doesn't grab you, this might: The Skrulls want to use 'ole Bolty as a weapon. DUN-DUN DUN!

OK, back to DC and Final Crisis: Revelations #1. I loved this book. However, you will NOT love this book unless you fit into a couple of these categories: 1) You like the idea of the Spectre. 2) You enjoy reading the Question. 3) You're up to date on who the new Spectre is. 4) You have a base knowledge of the Crime Bible. This book is painful on new readers, so be warned.

That said, Libra and the Spectre FACE OFF in this first issue, and the result was intriguing. This mini really looks important if you want to learn more about Libra in the grand scheme of "Final Crisis." However, other than that, it likely won't tie-in too much.

Finally, Green Lantern Corps #27 just keeps on proving that Peter Tomasi has made this book, bereft of star power, into an important read leading on into the big "Blackest Night" event next year. In addition to just a fun story here involving the opening of Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner's new bar, we're introduced to Saarek, the Green Lantern who can talk to the dead. And, aside from the character kicking off the next storyline hunting for an assailant we're introduced to near the end of the book, Saarek speaks one of the greatest lines ever written in a comic book: After talking with the dead, he tells someone else he was just told something he's never heard in all his previous post-humanous conversations -- "The Dead are Cold."

I say again -- DUN-DUN DUN!!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

'Batman: Arkham Asylum' game announced

Follow THIS LINK to a press release announcing a new action-adventure Batman game, "Batman: Arkham Asylum," a title that self-explains the greatness this game promises to deliver.

The basic premise: Bats is delivering the Joker to Arkham, only when he arrives he finds the crazies have set a trap for him, and he must solve the puzzles and put them in their place.

With the possible exception of the "Assassin's Creed" style Batman game I hoped for months ago, this is just about the most promising hardcore Batman game I've ever heard of.

2009 can't get here fast enough.

This week's comic book expectations

They call it "Secret Invasion." But with the amount of issues out this week, the invasion is no secret.

OK, I'm sorry for writing that, it was too cheeseball, I know. Honestly, I'm so tired from staying up watching Olympic basketball that that lede actually sounded good for just long enough to type it. Let's just get to it, shall we?

Here's the list of "Secret Invasion" books out this week: Secret Invasion #5, Secret Invasion Inhumans #1, Secret Invasion Thor #1, Secret Invasion X-Men #1, Secret Invasion Young Avengers Runaways #1.

Obviously, if you're buying any of these you're definitely also buying the main book, so I shouldn't have to remind you of how Nick Fury just made his first appearance, Tony Stark is still somewhat confused of his identity, and the classic avengers of Captain America and Thor are making a move. Not to mention Maria Hill's sort-of surrender or Agent Brand's eavesdropping.

The rest of the tie-ins will fall in line, and whether or not you buy most of these depends on how much you like the characters. The only one of these tie-ins that I am really interested in is the "Inhumans" book, and only because we have no clue of where Blackbolt is or how the Inhuman population is reaction to his absence. On top of all that, how does this skrull stuff sync with the "Silent War" book of last year? Expect the rest of the tie-ins to be fairly generic "villain comes to _____'s neck of the woods" stories.

The biggest book of the month for Marvel, though, may be Punisher #60. While this story is far from child friendly, Garth Enis has put together a character-defining epic during his time on this book, and his time concludes with this finale to "Valley Forge, Valley Forge," which is solicited as possibly the bloodiest book yet.

And don't forget Astonishing X-Men #26, either. Though the jury is still out on this book since Joss Whedon and John Cassady left two issues ago, Warren Ellis and Simon Bianchi have firmly established their own tone for the book -- for better or worse. And the one positive you can definitely give Ellis is that his first storyline, featuring this spaceship trash heap of a country, is an interesting idea.

DC has an equally big week from some of its heaviest hitters:

Action Comics #868 continues the current brilliant "Brainiac" story, and Kal-El is going right at the alien in this one.

Batman #679 continues the current brilliant "Batman R.I.P." story, and hopefully we get two things out of it: 1) some answers, or at least a clue of what's going on, 2) more of purple and yellow Batman!

Green Lantern Corps. #27 begins an all-new story arc featuring not only the opening of guy Gardner's new bar but also a new GL who can hear the dead.... "Blackest Night," anyone?

Booster Gold #11 is the first part of Chuck Dixon's Batman-centric two-part story, and after the Barbara Gordon moments in issue #4, I am curious to see where Dixon goes here.

Finally, the lone "Final Crisis" tie-in of the week is Final Crisis: Revelations #1. Greg Rucka is, of course, known for his ability to write street-level characters, so it will be interesting to see what he does with the Spectre here, a cosmic being who feels more comfortable street-level... see similarities there? This story will also star The Question and Batwoman, two characters that really shined in "52," as well as more on the Crime Bible. If you're thinking of buying only one of the two main "Final Crisis" tie-in series (the other being 'Legion of Three Worlds") it seems this book will be more pertinent to "Final Crisis" itself, while Geoff Johns' Legion story will be more pertinent to the DCU in the long run, so take your pick.

I apologize for the HORRIBLE grammar and structure through this whole thing, I'm tired, leave me alone. But, on a side note, as I said, the reason why I am tired is from watching Spain play China last night... and it was worth it, if only to get my first good look at Spain point guard Ricky Rubio! I am a believer in the 17-year-old mop top, and you will too after Spain plays the USA on Saturday morning.

Wednesday's comic release list

Here's your list of new releases at THIS LINK. If you like "Secret Invasion," you'll love this week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New 'Madden' Jets Favre cover available

Go to THIS EA SPORTS LINK to download your new Brett Favre as a Jet "Madden NFL 09" cover.

Personally, last night I was making fun of the downloadable cover idea, thinking about how much effort you would have to go to to print out the cover on nice paper and cut it nicely and make it look professional... then I remembered the GF has most of those tools at her workplace, so she's printing it out as we speak.

Speaking of last night, I picked up my copy for the Xbox 360 at Fishkill's Wal-Mart last night, and at 12:16 a.m. I found myself at the end of a line of 16 people — meaning that you can estimate that there were anywhere from 30-40 people who bought the game before me right after midnight.

And Wal-Mart was ready for it, setting up the line in the very back of the store at the customer service area. It was a great deal more organized than a few months ago, when I had to pester three different clerks to get me a copy of "Mario Kart Wii" minutes after midnight. With a group of nine all standing there wondering where "Kart" was, the store was clueless as to what was happening at midnight. Of course, it all worked out, and I'm pretty sure I bought the first copy of "Kart" in Dutchess County... but I digress.

The point is, download your new cover, download your rosters, and I'll see YOU on the online gridiron.

(p.s. — in the brief time I played the game last night before watching Spain play China in men's basketball at 4:45 a.m., my current record is 4-1. Not too shabby)

Monday, August 11, 2008

This week's video game release list

Cough - Cough Madden Cough - Cough, follow THIS LINK for the rest of the releases Cough - Cough...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

'Fable II' release date announced

BAM, go to this GameSpot LINK to see that "Fable II" will be released on October 21, a perfect release date filling the post-September, pre-November hole we had.

Get ready to let your best friend kill your wife!

... read more about the game for that to make sense.

Buy Pile Report

I've always subscribed to the theory that comic book storytelling is better when you're not told that something is heroic or something is scary, you see what's on the page and come to those conclusions on your own.

Well, in Final Crisis #3, Grant Morrison doesn't let his pages tell the tale. What's worse is, he doesn't let his writing tell the tale either. Looking back on this third of seven issues, if I didn't read all the hype describing what would be in this issue, I wouldn't really know what was going on.

Here's a brief recap for you: Issue #1 was largely criticized for a slow, confusing story mixed with elements that conflict with DC continuity. Issue #2 was an enormous improvement that improved the pace and even cleared up a little bit of the story. So, as you read these next few graphs, keep in mind I haven't lost hope that Morrison's tale is going somewhere special.

That said, this was billed by Morrison himself as the issue that would crank up the story and lay all the cards on the table. What was got was an ill-executed piece of garbage.

Maybe that's a little harsh. It's not all bad, just ill-executed. The main problem lies in the climax of the book -- a climax that solicitations and hype had already given away -- when the anti-life equation is unleashed on the world via the Internet, we never get to actually see the effect it has on people. Instead, we jump forward in time and see the Flashes finally get out of the timestream, only to find that they are in this post-anti-life world.

Seeing the anti-life equation in action was to be the only truly interesting part of this issue. After all, we've been told plenty of times to just wait until "evil" makes their move. Just wait, it's awesome. Well, evil made its move and it was all completely off-panel, unless Morrison revisits that time in issue #4, which I doubt due to this "natural" one-month break. So we didn't get to read about the effects, we didn't get to see the effects, and if it wasn't for the pre-release hype that ruined the surprise in the first place, we wouldn't have even knew what was going on.

But that wasn't the only big problem, only the biggest. For one, Morrison wastes three pages showing heroes gathering after Wonder Woman and Alan Scott enacted a "draft for superheroes." Whatever happened to the heroes just getting together in one page in a big 'ole room and starting the story already? We needed all the theatrics?

Another three pages is spent showing Shilo Norman and Sunny Sumo getting saved by the Super Young Team, with the only point to these pages being that the duo and the Super Young Team joined forces. First off, I don't give a damn about these kids. Second, Morrison could have saved all this time simply by making Sumo and the team a package deal from the start. Who cares that they didn't know each other to start the story since we didn't know them either?

Mary Marvel's long-anticipated arrival was an equally baffling development. Why Morrison needed her of all characters is beyond me, since all she essentially is in this instance is a female fury. So why didn't he just use a female fury? Instead, he just says that it's Mary, but she decided evil is more fun than good. I would say this is a worse explanation than the one we got in "Countdown," but since she was only in "Countdown" since Morrison said "I want to make her bad," it was Morrison's fault anyway.

That said, Mary's fight with Wonder Woman was the lone intriguing part of the story.

Oh, and would someone please tell me what was up with the junk with Superman? I know we'll all find out together in "Superman: Beyond #1," but come on -- "I won't ever leave your side Lois unless... is that some random sorceress that knows my secret identity? OK, I guess I can trust her and leave you, Lois!"

And, if it weren't for Robin #176, I would still have a bad taste in my mouth from Morrison. Thankfully, Fabian Nicieza wrote the best tie-in to Morrison's "Batman R.I.P." story we've seen yet.

Most of what I would say about the issue would be a spoiler -- no pun intended since Spoiler is a major player in the issue -- but all you really need to know is between this issue and the last issue we've seen Tim show an edgier and darker side than we ever have before. He's really showing that he's Batman's disciple, and with these issues, it sure does seem he is destined for the Cape-and-Cowl. In fact, right now these past two "Robin" issues seem like required accompaniment to Morrison's main "Batman" books.

The only other book of note this week was Cable #6, a double-sided issue that wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, but was still pretty good. Basically, the whole thing is narrated in one way or another by Scott Summers, and we again see that he is willing to step over a certain line that he never did up until six months ago. While not much new is revealed here in terms of story, making is a skipable issue, it was still interesting to read the inner-workings of Cyclops' thoughts, especially since the whole premise of this series -- giving Cable a messiah baby to take care of in the future -- was such a leap of faith on his part.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Trinity's Sales numbers

OK, normally I rarely mention sales and today this is the second post on sales already — so sue me. This is interesting stuff, so don't fall asleep remembering your freshman economics class.

I wondered how "Trinity" would sell out of the gates, seeing as this series has a limited fanbase to draw from (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman fans) and the fact that it followed an admitted disaster "Countdown to Final Crisis."

Well, in it's first month, these were the figures for "Trinity" — Issue #1 sold 70,400 copies. Issue #2 sold 63,565 copies. Issue #3 sold 60,949 copies. Issue #4 sold 58,729 copies.

See a trend forming? That's right, a dropoff of nearly 12,000 copies between issue 1 and 4. That's severe.

But, it gets worse when you consider that in "Countdown to Final Crisis'" final month, the book averaged 65,000 copies, after debuting in its first issue at 91,057 copies and averaging just under 80,000 copies sold for the first couple of months.

That's right, "Countdown," at its very lowest readership, did better than "Trinity's" SECOND ISSUE and far better than the current sales.

"Countdown to Final Crisis" was an inferior product, it's true, but readers vote with their wallets, and right now "Trinity" is getting even less support than its older crappier weekly counterpart ever did.

Proof most of you people have no taste, which is why DC is doomed

I think the title of this post is enough of a setup for this:

Sales Numbers for June:
1) Secret Invasion #3 (175,649)
2) Ultimate Origins #1 (136,351)
3) Final Crisis #2 (126,020)

So, not only did "Final Crisis" lose to "Secret Invasion," but it lost to "Ultimate Origins," a crappilly conceived story conjured by Brian Bendis because he likes to make his own ideas look better in hindsight. This is a story idea so pointless, unnecessary and capitalist on Marvel's part that I flat out boycotted it.

And yet, over 10,000 of you bought this and didn't buy "Final Crisis #2."

No wonder DC had to delay "Final Crisis #3" to a day when Marvel wasn't putting out much. You know, except for "Ultimate Origins #3," which nobody SHOULD BE buying anyway.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

This week's comic expectations

As I just said in the last post, there isn't that much that jumps off the page this week other than Final Crisis #3, and I really shouldn't have to tell you to buy the issue, what with Barry Allen's return and pig-face Wonder Woman and Darkseid supposedly making his move here, so we're not even going to talk about how Batman was just captured or the Daily Planet has blown up.

Instead, I'm going to point out a few issues that may not be on your radar, but should be.

First, there are three "Batman R.I.P." tie-ins this week, but only one of them worth the time of a non-hardcore Gotham man. Detective Comics #847 claims to tie-in Hush's current plans to Thomas Wayne, but I don't buy it as being pertinent to Grant Morrison's story. Nightwing #147 also calls itself a tie-in, but will only be dealing with Dick and Two Face. The tie-in to buy is Robin #176. Tim is hot on the trail of finding where Batman has gone, and along the way he's using every tool and trick he's learned in his young detective life. From last issue, it seems Tim Drake is being groomed to take over the cape-and-cowl.

On a lighter note, Hulk #5 may be a fun romp. You know how we have a red Hulk and a green hulk fighting it out right now? Well, it seems Thor is getting his shiny-helmeted ass involved in this scuffle too. I don't think this issue will be pertinent to anything else ever going on in the future -- but when is it not fun to see Thor and Hulk fighting, let alone Thor and two Hulks?

Speaking of Marvel, I implore you all -- don't buy Venom: Dark Origin #1. For some reason, Marvel has felt the need to flood the market with crappy mini-series about characters that we know all we need to know about, and they do this by adding convoluted details to already full origin stories. Do we need any more on Venom's origin? No. So don't encourage them!

However, Cable #6 is one book you should buy, and keep buying. While Nathan Summers himself has jumped farther into the future, leaving Bishop in his dust, back in the present, Cyclops is evaluating the decision to let Cable go it alone with the kid. And frankly, with the writing of Scott Summers lately, historically one of the most sensible characters out there but lately one of the most impetuous, Cyclops could do ANYTHING in this double-sized issue. If you are at all a fan of the X-Men mythos, this book could impact a good deal of the mutant future.

Finally, and I know literally nothing about this book since it stunk in the first few issues, in the interest of letting you in on off the radar books, Infinity Inc. #12 not only wraps up the book's run, but also features a sub-plot with the Dark Side Club. If you enjoyed the Club's brief appearance in "Final Crisis" or the larger appearance in "Teen Titans," then this book may be worth a look.

Now that we've handled the off the radar books, meet me here Wednesday for a deep discussion of the on the radar "Final Crisis."

Wednesday's comic release list

Everyone's been wondering why, exactly, "Final Crisis #3" had to be pushed back a week into August. Obviously, the blame fell on JG Jones' shoulders, since his difficulties penciling the series are now ell documented, even though DC swears it's not.

Well, check out THIS LINK for what's coming out this week and learn the truth.

Remember when "Final Crisis #2" came out and Marvel was prepared for it, waiting with a countless number of "Secret Invasion" tie-ins and X-Men books to deflate DC's sales? Well this week all Marvel has worth buying are a couple of Iron Man books.

Well played, DC, even if it was at the expense of one week of our waiting.

'X-Men,' 'Flash' news

Gotta love Comicbookresources, namely THIS LINK, which has two juicy bits of news:

1) Matt Fraction will soon be the soul writer on "Uncanny X-Men," a move was pretty easy to see coming after Marvel gave Ed Brubaker a co-writer a couple of months ago. While Brubaker's first 12-part space saga was an admitted disaster and the subsequent stories seemed stuck in a pre-"Messiah CompleX" rut, I didn't mind his few issues in between that event and "Uncanny X-Men #500," so I find myself disappointed that he is on the way out.

2) Geoff Johns and artist Francis Manapul were recently heard discussing Bart Allen, a character who's return I called months ago and has since been hinted at returning in Johns' upcoming "Legion of Three Worlds" story. Could this mean that after Johns' "Flash: Rebirth" mini-series, he may be helming the new "Flash" title, which features all four Flashes in action?

Why Brett Favre should be removed from future copies of "Madden 09"

Former and now current Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was honored with the cover to "Madden NFL 09" after his retirement in March.

Now that he is back in the NFL, I move that EA Sports remove his image from future copies of the game, after the batch that has already been created for the August 12 release date. THIS IS WHY.

Are you with me, Yay or Nay?!?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Demo impressions of "Madden" and "Too Human"

So, I downloaded two game demos off Xbox Live last night, the new "Madden NFL 09" demo and I finally got around to playing the "Too Human" demo.

Frankly, I have mixed reactions about both.

First, "Madden": The demo consists of the "Madden IQ Test," followed by a "Madden Moment" in which you need to orchestrate the Giants' Super Bowl-winning drive. The game itself is nothing new, if you've played a recent "Madden" game before it will all feel the same and you'll be able to play right away. Even the playbooks are fairly similar.

It's the "Madden IQ Test" that annoyed me. The test consists of four sections — passing, rushing, pass defense and rush defense. You do all this using purple hologram-looking players on a black field. The passing and rushing aspects are straight forward and I aced them no problem. But then, when it came time to defend, there are three defenders on the field, which you can switch between, but the black field and the blue ring around your player blend together to the point where you won't know which player you're controlling. And, obviously when it comes to "Madden," one slip-up on defense is one too many.

Oh well, I guess it doesn't impact the game overall too much. "Madden NFL 09" looks like another winner.

It's "Too Human" that somewhat concerns me. You play through one level — which contains several cutscenes all hinting toward a very expansive storyline — but the battle mechanics are so simplified that fighting these hordes and hordes of monsters is something of a joke. It degenerates the game into an old-fashioned hack-and-slash, much more dumbed-down than what I was expecting after hearing so much about this game. I'm hoping that the battle mechanics are a little smarter when we get a chance at playing the full game.

What concerned me more than that, though, is the camera. You have no ability to change the camera angles at all times, all you can do is move and hit the "center camera" button. What's worse is, the right analog stick, which many games employ as the camera, is your weapon. So often you'll turn to the stick trying to move the camera, and instead you attack.

A bad camera can completely ruin otherwise great games, so here's hoping that isn't the case with Silicon Knights' new game, which is out on August 19.

But, don't take my word for it, of course — go download them yourself! After all, you can't get any cheaper than free!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Saturday's Gaming in the Journal

Sorry gamers, this week's Gaming page is ENTIRELY devoted to Fantasy sports.

In addition to Part 1 of Gaming's Fantasy Football Preview, featuring rankings for Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers and Kickers, there will also be a story about how CBS Sportsline is using the real names of college football players in its NCAA football fantasy game.

So pick up Saturday's Journal and flip to the Gaming page on page 4C of the Sports section.

'Madden' demo online

So is everyone enjoying "Madden NFL 09" today? What's that you say? The game isn't out until August 12? Well the DEMO is available NOW!

Visit the Xbox Live Marketplace or PlayStation Network store to download the demo, which, I am told, includes some of the virtual trainer program.

Personally, I cannot wait to get home and get a feel for this year's version. To be honest, I am not a sports gamer every year, I tend to buy a sports title, skip a year, and buy the next year's version. BUT, the inclusion of online leagues in this year's "Madden" has me more than interested enough to purchase in 11 days.