Comments Off | Posted: December 14th, 2010 | Filed under: Star Trek, Verbal Masturbation, video games | Tags: mass effect 2, miranda lawson, nerding the fuck out, number one, Star Trek
From the Bioware site’s description
of Miranda Lawson, who serves as your second in Mass Effect 2
Born on Earth, Miranda comes from a wealthy background. However, underneath her opulent upbringing lies a woman who is calm, collected and driven to accomplish her mission, at any cost. She is quick to judge and values her assignments and goals over people. Miranda is also a powerful biotic as well as a tech specialist.
From the original Star Trek pitch document:
Never referred to as anything but “Number One”, this officer is female. Almost mysteriously female, in fact —- slim and dark in a Nile Valley way, age uncertain, one of those women who will always look the same between years twenty to fifty. An extraordinarily efficient officer, “Number One” enjoys playing it expressionless, cool -— is probably Robert April’s superior in detailed knowledge of the multiple equipment systems, departments and crew members aboard the vessel. When Captain April leaves the craft, “Number One” moves up to the acting commander.
From the Mass Effect Wiki entry (which is based on the game and licensed material):
Miranda [Lawson] was born in 2150. As she explains to Shepard, Miranda never had a mother, only a father who is extremely influential, wealthy, and ego-maniacal. Using a modified copy of his own genome, Miranda was genetically engineered to be a specimen of human perfection. Everything, from her intelligence, physical constitution, biotic abilities, to her appearance were designed before birth to be excellent
From Vulcan’s Glory, a licensed novel by Star Trek series writer D.C. Fontana:
In the four years she had served [Pike] as first officer, first on the old Yorktown and then on the new Enterprise, she had carried out her duties with a precision and perfection he had never seen in anyone else. In fact, perfect was exactly the adjective he applied to her at all times.
(And yes, I know, but I read it when I was 15 or so and it stuck in my head and it was cheap on the Kindle and hey, I occasionally read junk media tie-ins too.)
I also — and I can’t recall where, and I even went through several of the licensed comics along with DC’s Who’s Who In Star Trek — could swear that genetic engineering was added to Number One’s backstory at some point. It’s fascinating that these similarities seem so blatant to me, considering the efforts that the Mass Effect writing team have made to differentiate themselves from other franchises. Their physical appearance is, at least to me, very close and that’s particularly interesting as Miranda’s appearance is based on her voice actress, Yvonne Strahovski, who some of you might know from Chuck and Number One was, of course, played by Majel Barrett.
I’ll just shut up now. OK?
3 Comments | Posted: May 18th, 2010 | Filed under: Reviews, video games
Sunny, high in the upper 80s, 70% humidity, with a 90% change of collateral damage.
It was somewhere in the middle of my fifth or sixth sortie of the day, wiping out government facilities and terrorizing the populace of the small archipelago nation Panau that it hit me: Just Cause 2 is perhaps the ultimate interactive expression of America’s terrifying older-brother stance towards smaller countries that possess resources we desire. Sure, there are games that throw you into the middle of recent middle eastern conflicts for the sake of shooting people in different ways, but this game was different. In it, players control the actions of Rico Rodriguez, a CIA operative who is given carte blanche to create chaos (something that is literally used as a metric in gameplay,) and sway a small island nation towards a more US-friendly stance. I first attempted to stick to military targets — the mission parameters were vague enough that I thought I could advance by being somewhat honorable in my intentions — while helping various gangs gain more territory and further mire Baby Panay’s administration in woes that could further the American agenda with the country. While it was on a bigger scale, the general idea was close to how I played Grand Theft Auto IV: honorable, even if there was the occasional unnecessary explosion. That didn’t last.
While between missions and assignments, I found myself planting explosives on water towers in small desert villages and randomly destroying oil pipelines that kept the population employed; collecting powerups wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I needed to see more devastation, more destruction. I would drive past soldiers patrolling an area, minding their own business, and hop out of my car just to use a grappling gun to attach one to the bumper and drive down the road. I drove to an airport, stole an ersatz 747, and crashed it into massive fuel tanks at a working harbor just to more spectacularly tick that location off my “places to visit” list. The more I upgraded my weaponry by picking up units scattered across the map, the better I could explode things that offended me. The game’s mechanics aren’t perfect, but there’s enough of a visceral thrill to doing ludicrous amounts of destruction that I soon forgave a lot of the quirks and start to learn how to use the system’s ridiculous (if oddly consistent) interpretations of the laws of physics to my advantage.
This is your character in the process of using his grappling hook to hijack a helicopter while skydiving.This is something you can do without snapping at least four bones in your arm and shoulder.
The game’s mechanics and playability aside, what’s truly fascinating is how Just Cause 2 doesn’t even couch the “America does bad things because it can” message in flowery rhetoric: the CIA operative that you make contact with explicitly states that you are wreaking havoc on the general populace and working with drug dealers and revolutionaries all for the sake of Jed Clampett’s cash crop, and it’d be really great if you kept doing more of that, thanks. While your opponents are overblown cartoons and your character’s Spanish accent is unforgivably close to Triumph The Insult Comic Dog’s, the central truth of the game is actually kind of chilling, even as it’s played with just enough spin to act as a satirical goof on film and video game tropes: America isn’t really a great neighbor to other countries; our government does pretty horrible things in our national interest, particularly when it comes to petroleum.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to base-jump off a skyscraper for points before destroying a propaganda trailer and starting a firefight on an oil rig. Go USA!
3 Comments | Posted: May 18th, 2009 | Filed under: Reviews, video games
The new release The Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena is a stealth-heavy first-person-shooter for the XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows. In a move that I highly approve of, the 360 and PS3 versions come with both the newer game and a remastered version of the 2004 release The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay.
Pro: Vin Diesel, Ron Perman, Michael Rooker Lance Henricksen, Michelle Forbes and…uh…Xzibit provide strong voice talent. (Forbes in Dark Athena as the pirate captain stands out with a wonderfully throaty, no-nonsese intonation that makes me want to hire her to record my voicemail message.)
Con: They say some amazingly ridiculous shit. Being the tough-guy star of the two games means that Diesel is saddled with dialogue that’s a string of clichÃ©s punctuated by plot points. (The man seems to have a downright fetishistic relationship with the dark.)
Pro: Both games feature designs that fit easily in the amalgamated Dune-meets-Star Wars-meets-The Fifth Element look of the film whose license they’re based on.
Con: They also have the same nonsensical approach to story as the movie. For the most part, there’s no real reason for the gamer to care about what they’re doing, a problem I have with most game writing.
Pro: The player is able to kill the enemies in a truly astounding number of ways, with sneakiness playing a key role. Sneaking around, grabbing someone from behind, and snapping their neck is a pleasure each and every time you do it, and the implementation of Riddick’s “eyeshine” is very nicely-handled.
Con: Boy, there’s a lot of “Get this and this and then you can do this,” which is something I’ve never quite cottoned to in first person shooters. These recursive, repetitive calls to action dull some genuinely interesting game mechanics.
Short version: When all of these factors are combined with a heavy dependence on trial and error at some points and AI that’s glitchy, you get a pair of decently-made games that swing wildly between exhilarating and frustrating. If you’re an avid player of FPS games, this is a bundle you’ll likely want in your library, but a more casual gamer may want to look for a more balanced experience.
Please note that I actively avoid playing with the unwashed masses on XBox Live and so I can’t give any impressions about the multiplayer aspects of the game. I presume they involve flailing around in the dark with knives and cursing at other people, sort of like Hell Night at any given industrial club.