Tuesday, July 29, 2008


My mother is flying back from England today. She was visiting because of a death in the family. Please keep her (and the rest of my family) in you prayers as she flies back. She dislikes heights. This picture is of her when she sailed over (not so:) long ago...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Civil War 360

Writing about a game that came out well over a year ago might be a kin to writing about my day at work. But alas, here I am and there's no place I'd rather be right now.

Word on the street is that there was a game put out with Civil and War in the title for the Xbox 360. After purchasing many game guides, back issues of EGM and asking around (what we did way back in the '06) I found the Activision Value game "The History Channel Civil War A Nation Divided". Once found this old Virginian's pulse started uh racin'. So many questions to be answered, so much familiar terrain to be discovered in potential HD graphical glory. Would I find a game wrapped in an underdog's developer Stars and Bars or would it be smothered in Union hired gun bunting of industrialization? Well. Sort of more the first then the second. I donno.

Cauldron out of the Czech Republic developed this game and Activision Value Publishing, well, published it. I'm kind of strangely satisfied with both parts of that previous statement. Cauldron isn't exactly one of the big dogs and while Activision is, in it's own right, maybe THE big dog having a smaller division of it pushing this game makes me happy because I can relate to that a bit with what I do at work. Wow. I tied something to that there first sentence.

About the game: Let's jump in.

It is the Civil War and the History Channel name and between battle summaries are economically well done. This alone warrants a average score from me. Just don't look past that. No story in game except what my imagination brings to it. I blame that pesky habit on the Muppet Babies because, I, to a fault, bring that to everything in my life.

Less is more in my book. Effectively done with health, objective radar and ammo shown at all times. I can still tolerate the straight up first person view with hands and weapon clearly shown. Call of Duty type stuff, which must have been what Activision brought to the table. The classic stars as life meter is in full effect here. It gives a hardened video game vet warm fuzzies.

Seeing east coast environments is going to win points with me everytime... to the point where it's like being blinded by love. That said... Strange lighting in the little log huts. Meaning no light source -soldiers look properly malnurished, not a whole lot of variance between all characters but this is war so I get the reason. Seems to only be a few poses for them as well... soldier sitting, standing, guarding (funny), walking. I like the blood on the wrist and still enjoy the re-loading animations. My Southern soldier appears to be properly wearing rags but rest of army isn't. Northern soldiers in nice uniforms. The blinding flash and smoke from a rifle is extremely satisfying, especially at close range with the enemy. I've said a lot of nice things here and I can't overstate the thrill of seeing an area where I grew up in a game and it was well done, but overall, the structures in the game hold this back. Carts, fences, character repetitiveness, tents, odd log 'huts' hold it back.

Plenty of good environmental sounds, but kind or like older medal of honor games if you turn your head it's like the sound disappears. Sometimes the sound of 1,000 soldiers can be heard and if your wearing headphones sounds chilling... but so far i have yet to see those screaming soldiers it is like I'm fighting a guerrilla war a handful of yanks at a time not part of a huge army. Your soldier makes a Simpsons sound when he gets shot. Cannon sounds and rifle effects are very well done. Time was spent with this aspect and that gets a good mark from me. Sounds and voices are repetitive, but the audio levels are done right. Far is far away and close is loud.

Regardless of what could be perceived as slow loading weapons and the lack of any effective cover (you'll get hit regardless of what you are behind) the game play is too fluid and I've got a bad case of super soldier syndrome. Nothing slows you down except injury. You can take quite a bit of damage before you go down. It's irritating when you see a place you want to go, not obstructed, but run into an invisible wall. I get linear, single player game play, but make it rational, or give me a map to follow. In the first Call of Duty or Metal of Honor games, intentional or not, I felt that it added to the confusion, or fog of war, now i just think it's laziness on the developers part, especially now after GTA IV. A.I. really acts rediculous when there is no guns a'blazin', to the point where Berserk on the Atari 2600 comes to mind, graphics good, just limited animations. if the guns are going off then things are a bit different. Finishing a battle sort of feels like a cross country run, there were several moments in the game where i really got excited about sneaking around the enemies camp so it felt real enough for that. The environment aided in this along with the historical context but it seemed like most of the game was like this and, within the context of the Civil War, game play could have been sooooo much more.

Not much other then me pulling it out to show my brother when he comes to visit.

I liked it, I enjoyed it.

Standard stuff here. I don't see why 'A Nation Divided' was added. Standard stuff gets below average.

Nice little painting. Having the Stars and Bars on there alone gets points, but the rebel getting blow away at point blank range with a cannon? wow. um. That'll haunt your dreams.

I'd like to add, in summary, that I am still having a good time with this game. I'm probably the only person that played through the six Southern battles before I started the Northern ones. I would recommend not doing that because it is clear the developers wanted the gamer to play the North first, meaning he first couple are well done, more soldiers and direct contact. However, that all came crashing down when you start the Gettysburg battle as a Northern sniper(!?)... come on. Find the game and play it for the environment alone. Some landmarks from famous photos are there and a couple times I really got into the historical context. Find it used and let your imagination relax and settle in.


That is an average.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Baseline: Low. Machine Head (Saturn)

Machine Head is a game that came out for the Sega Saturn on May 26, 1997. I am going to low end baseline my review scale with this game.

"See through the eyes of Dr Kimberly Stride as you ride the Vorpal Blade through an insane combination of shoot-em-up action, strategic objectives and B-movie melodrama."

If you look Machine Head up on the web that's pretty much all your find (I think there are about 3 copies available on ebay as well). While it is impossible to know exactly how large the web is (85 trillion megabytes, says Wired), Google searches 1 petabyte of info every 72 minutes. 1 petabyte is 1024 terabytes... which itself is 1024 gigs. Come to find out... there isn't a good scan of the cover art out there. The largest scan of the US version is about a 3k file, the UK version: BLAM! Machinehead was more popular. There are a handful of things on that version. One reason for this could be that Core Designs, Ltd. is a UK based company. Toby Gard and Paul Douglas of Core created Tomb Raider but it's clear that on Machine Head they misfired or didn't fully complete the game just like many others for the Saturn.

There might even be a message from the Core Design team addressing the rushed feel of the game in the Mission Structure description of the game. And I quote: AREA FOUR. The calm before the storm. Not dissimilar to being shown your favorite present ever and then being punched in the face before you can get to it. Repeatedly. Little or no information available.

I feel like I'm picking on the game now... but to it's credit it does have a couple things going for it... (see quote above).

Story: 1
The Story in the Manual is classic Science Fiction stuff... From the Manual; "After much consideration and stealing of food, Callam realized he had accidentally become a God. With a chin full of cake instead of the time honored white beard." Unfortunately it doesn't get translated very well in-game. There are a few moments where I asked myself, "wait... what did I just hear from a Kids to Adults rated title?"

Objectives: 0
The action is fierce, but difficult to know to what gain.

In-Game Design: 0
It wasn't.

In-Game Artwork: 0
Nothing to be found here but an attempt at 3-D on the Saturn and like a few other saturn games, it turns out looking soupy. All the textures are the same. Is that a giant bug? A wall? A key? Wait, that's the door and I need the key? A hill? The main character?!

Audio: 2
It has audio.

Gameplay: 0

Emotional Impact: 2
I'm a sucker for what the story set me up for. Plus, I own it.

Longevity: 0

Historical Significance: 0
None, unless me writing about it gives it one... None.

X Factor: 1
It just seems incomplete. Gameplay is extremely repetitive. Things are hurting me. Targeting is extremely loose.

Package Design: 1
It's hard to look past the gigantic saturn case. The "Machine Head" title looks like it was accidentally moved to far down, the title is in magenta on the side of the box. It is unreadable. I think the press forgot to make the other three passes.

Package Artwork: 3
Gets points for being hand painted and looking almost good enough for me to use it in my blog title... almost.

Summarizing this game comes down to just me just popping this title into the Saturn a couple times and then commenting more on the manual and artwork then the game. I didn't complete it and I don't intend to. Maybe I should apologize for that but my game playing time precious and I intended to keep this blog a de-pressurizing from work creative release and not a job in it's own right. So I am not going to punish myself by playing a game that just isn't that fun and exists in my collection as a game that was bundled with a lot of games I purchased with Nights into Dreams.

Why write about it then? There's always a certain amount of discovery involved. About the game, about the Saturn, about the creative group behind it. I spend a fair amount of time reading about my hobby and it is frustrating to read reviews that are just mailed in. If you didn't play the game, then you didn't play the game. Talk about that... Sorry Gameshark... here's a link to an atrocious review about The History Channel Civil War. (more about this later).

Machine Head is far from being the worst game of all time. It's just the worst game I own... How's that.

I'll redeem myself by posting up a good scan of the cover. Core Design deserves at least that from me.
FINAL SCORE: 0.75 out of 5.0

That is an average.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Beginning of BudEuro

This is a blog with "Beer" in the title, so I feel fully in the right to say something about the InBev purchase of Anheuser Busch. The first question I have is: Will Americans care?

Let's look at at a couple of interesting factoids first. Anheuser cut 1,800 jobs in the past couple months to look like a nicely dressed higher profit whore for InBev. That's right, I said "Whore." It was reported in todays USA Today (don't tell anyone I read it) that some of the higher ups where nervous about the possibility of Barrack Obama becoming president and imposing a larger capital gains tax so the largest holders of shares pushed the sale. InBev says they will keep American breweries open, even entertaining the possibility of putting corporate offices in the US. Ugh. Maybe this stuff is true. Maybe not. Whatever the case our country has lost a little bit of her cheap beer loving soul. I don't particularly like Bud, Bud light or God forbid Natty Light. But damn it all to that hell spawn... next time I order a cheap beer with friends after work it's going to be Miller Lite.

So with that I have a message for InBev... you think the North American Budweiser market is something you can count on. In fact saying "hey, we've got America locked dooowwwn, we can expand on the Asian market, we've cut costs in China just by absorbing competitive breweries into one." Don't overlook this... I know already that in the Heartland of the United States of America (there is even a Anheuser Brewery less then 10 miles from me. A fucking American created the equipment that made this company what it is over at Jeffrey Manufacturing, not a European, not a German, and not a flippin' Belgian) have taken notice of what has just happened... folks that can't even read... it is just as easy for the lowest of the low to the creme de la creme to say Miller Lite instead of Bud Light.

How's that deal looking for August Busch IV a few years down the road? Thank you for selling your soul, you've made everyone's choice easier at every one of the thousands of corner dives that much simpler.

I don't think I'm alone on this... but next time I see a Bud commercial during the Super Bowl (sometimes embarrassingly) touting American culture I think I'm going to puke, nothing like a Belgian/Brazilian corporation shoving that crap down my throat. Good luck in the rest of the world, you just lost America.

Man! I'm worked up.

***writers note: the pic above is a slat conveyor, made by the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Ohio, is moving beer bottles and cases at a brewery, 1908. The conveyor foot shaft and the screw shaft slack take up mechanism are visible.***

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Civilization Fairey

Where do you even begin with a Sid Meier game? The guy is a legend in my book.

Civ Rev is a neat and tidy package to bigger brother PC Civ game(s). After playing my first "board" I was a bit down on it. It was jarringly quick, I ended up warring with just about everyone and I was stuck not really expanding my empire or creating many wonders. I couldn't even fall back on just taking a rival city and burning it to the ground and I couldn't destroy roads to weaken the enemy. I was stuck just pounding away at their city using brute force. Maps are tiny (and you can't choose the size of them or terrain) and about an hour in I was whoring myself out giving away technology and gold just to keep the other nations off my back. Eventually, in the modern age my nation started kicking in to high gear all the sudden (which, to a PC Civ play nothing is "all the sudden") and I started a royal beat down on my enemies. War, war, war... Me verses the rest of the world because no one else warred unless it was against me. That's all it seemed to be and that's all I've read in the reviews as well.


A few boards later I discovered that this isn't the case. You can't avoid bumping into two or three other nations with in the first fifteen minutes and while you will eventually, you don't have to war. You just have to play THIS version of the game not try and make it the PC version. Every round you have to press the flesh and stay on top of the peacemaking. Avoid extending too far but find sweet spots. It'll seem like cities are right on top of each other, but Civ Rev is a different game. Playing the game this way may make it sound like it is tedious but it's not. Menus are lighting fast and the decisions are simple which leaves the game series hallmark of "just one more turn" firmly in place. It's just that that one more turn won't be when the sun is coming up the next morning. Even playing the game this way clocks it in at under three or four hours. And, btw, you can destroy cities late in the game if you so choose.

Soooo... now I'm going to attempt and follow my Review Structure I put together a couple weeks ago. Here goes:

- STORY: 5:
Like Civ games in the past, it is what you make it. I happen to enjoy this take and the spirit is there.

Plenty to do of course, again... Civ game

Good work done here. Nicely done considering it's PC heritage. Menus and pop ins are where they should be (albeit in your face). I've grown to like it. Looks sleek and clean in HD.

I'm torn here. Animations are cute and fluid. But battles are herky jerky. Cities look ok. Nothing is that impressive nor is does anything look awful. Graphics are not the sort of thing I really get hung up on unless they just suck.

- AUDIO: 4:
Well done. Classy. "Sims" chatter can get old, but you can turn it off. The music choices in the game are top notch and sound great when piped though my stereo. Sometimes, with the sound effects, you get an obscenely loud river flow or an army pounding its shield but it is forgivable. For the most part the audio is subtle but effective.

Again, this is a console version of Civilization. Play it as such and it will be enjoyed.

No looking at the clock and discovering it is 4 AM here. Nor do I get really, really irritated when I loose a city or my first warrior army (sob).

Many challenges to be found. I will be playing this one right up till Fable 2 comes out and I can see myself picking it up here and there down the road. Also, multiplayer is to be found here.

This is an optimistic 4! Because the game works and I think it will send a message to the industry that there is a market for this type of game; hopefully pushing more complex and deeper games to consoles. I could be wrong though.

- X FACTOR: 4:
Damn it. It's fun and I'm extremely happy it exists. Would you rather it not (I'm looking at you IGN and Gamespot; put this game in your first person shooter loving pipe and smoke it for all I care).

Meh. They mailed this in and in the title the word "Revolution" looks like it was done by someone who just discovered text elements in photoshop. Why for the love of the Hanging Gardens did they overlay a texture on Sid's name? ugh. The only saving grace is the Shepard Fairey poster printed on the back of the cover sleeve. Why not put that on the cover?

The artist must have played the game only twice. He drew the world at war, complete with two nukes going off and a giant explosion in the southern part of Greenland(?). Way to go. Anyhow, it falls in line with the game art and design. Cartoonish. Fairey's Poster balances out the mess on the front enough to give it a 3.


That is an average.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The time is nigh! The Civilization release on Xbox 360 is now. Oh, I'll get it... but will this hardened vet of the PC version like it? Or will it force me to buy a new Mac to play Civ IV. Will this game make me adjust my top ten video games? Doubt it. Will it be fun? We shall see.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beautiful Blood There Will Be

Finally got around to scratching an itch I've had for a while. There Will Be Blood was finally consumed. Had this movie been directed by someone else it would have been held in better regard (now that the DVD is out) because the word that the same director did Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love did this one must be out. All those movies where popular but could be polarizing. For me those movies are fine. But to be frankly honest Blood is my favorite out of this bunch. What he shows on film is more then the story of Daniel Plainview; it's a visual slice of what was in this country. It is a beautiful film to look at. I like it on that merit alone. There are lots of people out there who would love to see a time, a place, a story on film... I'm not alone on this. But more often then not, when you finally see it on film it's a big let down because the director didn't do their homework. Case and point here are movies that revolve around the Civil War. The scenery in Virginia and Maryland alone would keep me riveted for hours. Anyway... steering away from that topic and to shorten this... PT Anderson and company got it right and that is an extremely refreshing thing to witness.

Take note all you future Civil War movie making people.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lost BioShock Planet ESB

I'm retiring BioShock from my play list. There, I said it. I've come to terms with this now and can now move on to some other 360 game. I had to do the same thing with Lost Planet. Both these games slowly became a time and energy suck. Both had promising starts then just fizzled and with both the same strange thing happened... my 360 started to collect dust. Almost as if I had to motivate myself in to playing it, always knowing that since it was in the console tray I had to play that game.

With Lost Planet I didn't feel so guilty, but with BioShock I kinda do. It got great reviews, it looks fabulous, decent story, a good single player experience, Todd Brakke over at The Nut and Feisty Weasel finished it (excellent wrap up)... all that. But why, oh why am I avoiding it? Maybe it is longer hours at Art.com? Maybe just not in a current gen mode? Whatever. If I'm squeezing in a game like Wolf of the Battlefield on XBL then it means I just couldn't get into it, period.

I feel like this game was given more credit then it was do based solely on it being an alternative to Halo 3 or even Call of Duty 4 or both. It's comparable to the media giving good reviews to a undeserving band just because it wasn't the band du jour at the time. Not so much that they are bad, just that more often then not they turn out to be a muddled mess.

Maybe this is Great Lakes Brewing Co.'s Moondog ESB talking but... No mas BioShock, No mas. I've piped the Moondog correctly and hacked into my game vault in under 60 seconds to reserve a special place for you next to Lost Planet and Table Tennis on my 360 shelf.

Moondog people, Moondog.