Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did you know? The Playstation Network was down!

The title is sarcastic if you didn't catch it.  If you are a gamer or PS3 owner, by now you have been fully informed and completely aware that the Playstation Network had been down for nearly a month.  The Playstation store, in fact, is still down.  This has caused a lot of strife for customers of Sony.  Sony has also lost millions in the service being down by having to repair and beef up its security, provide identity theft security and offer free games and content to all who were affected that have an account.  Indie developers have lost precious time for their games to be purchased through the store as well.  All in all, the hackers disabling the network has been very detrimental in most aspects.

Interestingly, it hasn't phased me in the slightest.  I am assuming I'm a rare but lucky case.  In fact everything about my PS3 owning career has developed by luck.  Only two months ago, my brothers and I struck a very good deal for a nearly new PS3.  Close to the same time we got deals for 5-6 games which in total price cost us less than just 1 of those games retail.  One night I absentmindedly put together a Playstation Network account, messed around in the simulation thing on it, and stopped just as quickly.  At the time we were all still very busy in school.  As the pace picked up in school, the PS3 network went down, largely unnoticed by us, save the media informing us.  We didn't/haven't really played online games for the PS3 as we normally do multiplayer games on the PC.  Even so, we were still able to watch Netflix on the PS3 even with the Network being down for some reason.

Finally the Network went back up more recently.  2 out of 5 PS3 games will be downloadable for free from the PS3 store when it goes back online.  As well, 2 out of 4 PSP games will be free for a time.  I am thinking for PS3, we will pick Infamous and Wipeout, two games that seemed to have gotten good reviews when they came out, both originally costing $60.00.  We're also entitled, like every PS3 Network user, to free identity theft security for a while, and the additional content users who subscribe to Playstation Plus receive.

If you can see where I am going with this, the Network going down, at least for the busy, has not been so bad.  I do really sympathize with those who have had the time to play lately and haven't been able to.  I especially feel bad for those people who purchased $60.00 games like Portal 2 and SOCOM when they just came out recently, only for the Network to go down and prevent them from trying the multi-player modes in them.  More so it has affected consumers perception of the strength of Sony's word, in regards to how the whole situation has been handled.  As well, if anyone did really lose any money from ID theft, that would definitely suck.  It's unfortunate Sony has to lose so much in rebuilding, but hopefully the network will be more protected now!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Video Game: Max Payne Series

I just recently finished Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.  I had previously finished Max Payne a few months ago.  They tell a dark and gritty crime story in a film noir like fashion.  Max narrates a monologue throughout the graphic novel like cut-scenes, every phrase uttered like it came from a classic crime drama film.  These monologue's really are fantastically written, poetic in a way.  Throughout these two games, albeit different situations, Max Payne, a New York city detective is down on his luck, framed, assaulted and more.  When he develops the feeling of nothing left to lose, he pursues answers to questions that only serve to get him in deeper than one would want to be with the mafia, as well as other gangs.

The music is excellent, minor themed overtures throughout and fitting for the story.  Depending on if you're playing on the PC, the game can look really nice.  Max Payne 2 has noticeable upgrades in graphics from its predecessor.  The gameplay is tight as well.  Most people know the series is famous for its bullet time mode, where everything enters slow motion in your efforts to dodge bullets and shoot the enemies you are face with accurately.

Neither of the two current games lasts very long, but they do leave a long lasting impression.  Each has a sad and symbolic story that you are likely to reflect upon after the game ends.  A movie had been planned since Max Payne had originally been released in 2001, but didn't come out until 2008.  In theory it is a great concept, but Hollywood doesn't always deliver in game to film adaptations.  I have not seen the movie yet, but from what I had heard it isn't very true to the series.  I remember reading that Mark Wahlberg who plays Max Payne in the movie had said he never played the games and didn't intend on it, due to his "addictive personality," he didn't want to open up a gateway to game addiction.

A third game in the series had been announced that is to take place 8-10 years after Max Payne 2 seeing Max as older and more downtrodden than ever.  It was supposed to come out in 2009.  It had since been pushed back to 2010, and now 2011-2012 at some point unverified.  Although it apparently isn't going to be written by the same person as the first two, Sam Lake, nor will it be made by the same developers at Remedy, it will be handled by Rockstar Vancouver.  I am anticipating it.  If they handle it with the same passion and meticulous effort that was put into the past games, it is sure to be Amazing.  If you have not tried these first two games yet and their description and artistic atmosphere peaks your interest, I highly recommend you give them a try.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Television: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Since my last two posts, as well as this one, revolve around the concept of synopsis and review, I figured I should start out this one by mentioning that I do have more planned for this blog, as it melds into what it will be. For all intensive purposes, my intent has been to post about my thoughts, the things that I have made, such as movies, music, papers that I feel relevant to share and the like, as well as any other topical going's on. However, I think that incorporating reviews and recommendations for things that I like also serves its purpose in this blog.

Because so much has been created overtime, I personally am generally selective of what I spend my time viewing or doing. In other words, I like to be efficient with the world's most precious commodity. I normally (but not always), will look into something first and come to a consensus in regards to whether I will like it or not and then proceed. I also tend to try and stay optimistic and positive about things. For these reasons, you'll more than likely often see more recommendations than me ranting about something. I say it's not worth wasting the breath to complain when you can endorse things that are actually worth one's time. With that said, lets discuss something great.

I recently watched all of the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles tv show. Terminator is a series I hold near and dear to my heart, like many other Americans. I was a little skeptical at first when I heard of the shows concept years ago, but after hearing so many positive responses, I knew I'd want to check the show out. I didn't realize I would like it as much as I did so quickly though.

Right from the first episode, the feeling Terminator 2 captured returns. The suspenseful and overwhelming feeling that the savior of the future, John Connor, is going to be caught and die, ending the worlds hope for revolution against the machines. The show takes place in between Terminator 2 and 3, creating an alternate situation where Terminator 3 is bypassed. This was a really good way to deal with this. As Terminator Salvation showed us, a lot of the charm of the original Terminator's dealt with machines coming back to fight unprepared and underwhelmingly armed Sarah and John Connor. The cat and mouse feeling is excellently recreated and it has that distinct Terminator feel. Right down to the "BWWWOOOOOOHHHHMMM" sound effect that is made when a Terminator walks by all confident and ready to kill. Several original people from the Terminator movies worked on the special effects which gives the look and behavior of the machines a certain consistent and polished shine.

The actors and actresses I thought actually did a really good job consistently throughout the show. The first season was short and sweet that told an overarching story, setting the stage, and creating a conclusion that begged for another season. The second season was much longer, and also really well done. At times, certain episodes seemed made as filler, while the core story took a back seat. There were certain characters in the second season that I felt were unnecessary, but overall the ended up tying them together with the main story well enough. That sense of danger was always present. Sarah Connor was an excellent overprotective and concerned mother, and a gloomy John Connor who can never really let his guard down and be a kid never falters in performance. There are a few gushy and corny moments in the series, but those are few and far between. All of the main characters were superb for their positions, from John, Sarah, and the defending Terminator.

I can only assume the loss of steam in the second season that made the story seem stretched out was responsible for the decision to cancel the show. From the sound of it, a season three was planned and some great ideas were being formulated for it. I would have really liked to see this show continue. They didn't do anything really to damage the Terminator story. They enhanced and fleshed out the story, making for a very complimentary alternate universe.

If you enjoy the Terminator franchise in any capacity, I highly recommend you check out this show. It is currently available on Netflix streaming over the internet. If you appreciated James Cameron's directorial approach in the originals, you may find yourself hooked from the start until the finish, leaving you wanting more of a show that was sadly cut off too early. If only the one who made the decision to end it was not a Terminator themselves, maybe things would have been different.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Video Game: Psychonauts

I recently finished the game Psychonauts, upon recommendation from a friend that I should play it. That game was released in 2005, which may give an indication as to how backlogged I have become with single player games due to just being too busy or entertaining. This doesn't mean that I haven't or don't play more recent games, because I do, but often times they are multiplayer games with friends which doesn't leave a lot of time for solo gameplay.

The beautiful thing about acknowledging potential good games when they come out, but holding off on them, allows you to be susceptible to drastic cuts in price when you finally get around to having time to try said game. Steam in particular, which I bought Psychonauts on, offers ridiculous deals on games bi-weekly and sometimes in even greater frequency than that. In general, you can stand to benefit a good deal by keeping yourself a few months in the past typically when it comes to buying video game media. For instance, just recently, my brothers and I scored a deal on a Playstation 3 that was very cheap. Within a short time after buying the PS3, we collected 5-6 A lister games for it, for less than the price of one of those games when they were released retail. With the amount of reselling and different business techniques like Steam nowadays, it has radically shifted many consumers perception of utility in regards to what a game is worth vs. the price to pay. Anyway, this has really gotten off on a tangent, so without further adieu, lets discuss Psychonauts.

Most people who have played Psychonauts would probably hold a consensus that it has an extraordinarily imaginative unique and creative style about it. The story sees you as Raz, short for Razputin, a kid who crashes a summer camp for gifted children who have the potential to hone their psychic abilities. At first, the camp counselors who double as psychic agent crime fighters intend to send Raz packing back to home, but soon find out he is more gifted than those who legitimately came to the camp. As Raz, you enter other people's minds in an attempt to fix what could be wrong with them, clearing out mental cobwebs, and emotional baggage (literally). It is an interesting and unique way to imagine the innards of some truly insane people's minds. It's a very wacky story, but works well and doesn't ever take itself too seriously. It could be summed up as a creative and humorous platforming game.

At first it seemed a little daunting, the amount of collectibles that are in this game. You've got fragments, arrowheads, badges, psi cards, and more. Luckily you find that unless you're trying to collect everything for the fun of it, you really can function for the most part by collecting what you see as you cross by it. I mention this, because I normally am not that fond of running around collecting things in order to progress in a game. Fortunately that's not the case, save one part of the game that doesn't take too long to get past. The game takes roughly 9-11 hours to beat depending on how fast you are going.

Overall, this is a really enjoyable game and look into some tongue and cheek fictional ways in which the human mind works (as well as the mind of some creatures too!). This game is just one more example of how the video game medium can be used to fuse art with fun game-play and a story that will have you laughing. The game begs for a sequel and it's promising that there may be one some day. If you get the opportunity and you enjoy decent platformers, I recommend you try this game for yourself. Delve into others inner psyche. Bounce on a psychic orb. Become a Psychonaut!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie: Thor

Well, for the foreseeable future it is supposed to rain here in the great state of Maine, so full scale outdoor summer events are taking a back seat for at least a week. I just recently watched the movie Thor with one of my brothers and a few friends, so I figured I would write a little about it.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good movie. We are fortunately living in an age where comic book character themed movies have become accepted and mainstream as a credible source material. I have never read any Thor comic books, nor am I really a big comic book fan, but superheroes have become linked overtime with many forms of media so I've learned enough about Thor to understand the jest of what the movie would entail.

It is an excellent marketing strategy that has been devised in the past few superhero movies prepping the arrival of the Ultimate Avengers movie that will deal with multiple heroes in one film. As always in all Marvel films, Stan Lee makes an appearance as well, but I won't spoil when and where.

The story made sense, but to me seemed fairly predictable. Not to say that I think a superhero movie always needs to be complex and contrived to the point that I would never know what is coming next, but it is worth noting one wouldn't need to be psychic to see what is coming. The special effects were superb and worth seeing in the theater, and the music was spot on for what seems appropriate.

As the description would tell you, Thor is the son of Odin, the king of Asgard. Through arrogance, Thor is banished to earth to learn a thing or two about what it takes to be a wise king. Interestingly, there is actually a lot that goes on in this movie, making it feel like it has 3 or so stories in one. It wouldn't have made sense for any of the stories to be standalone, but it seemed like in order to flesh out what was needed to be known prior to the main story events, and in order to conclude properly, the main portion of the story felt a lot shorter than it might have been otherwise. Everything was edited together seamlessly and made sense though, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing, catering to those who don't know the history of the Thor character.

In summation, a fairly predictable but noteworthy Marvel movie worth seeing if not only for the special effects and fight scenes, then also for the humor and basic while at the same time archetypical story of a clashing family. Also, Anthony Hopkins is Odin. Need I say more?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The new frontier

Successfully ending my previous blog of the year 2004, (or forgetting the email and password I used seven years ago successfully ending it for me), it is high time I return to the internet scene. This slice of blog heaven's intended use will hopefully be to chronicle my thoughts, opinions, and going on's. It will also serve to organize past and previous entries as well as all new Johnathan related content. Here's to the future my friends!