30 September 2008

Star Wars: Force Unleashed

I was really looking forward to Star Wars: Force Unleashed for the Nintendo Wii. What could be better than the Wii's motion sensor controls combined with swinging a lightsaber? Perhaps my expectations were too high but nevertheless Force Unleashed failed to meet them. Don't misunderstand. I'm glad I purchased this game. It's just that Force Unleashed could have been so much more.

Force Unleashed takes place in the period between Episodes III and IV. You play as Darth Vader's apprentice ordered to hunt down Jedi. Faces from the movies show up in parts, which is kind of neat.

When I think of Star Wars I think of epics and inherent in that is time, as in the passing of. My major gripe with Force Unleashed is that it's disappointingly short. Wonderful, engaging story. But too beeping short. I finished it in less than eight hours. Maybe I've been spoiled with the classics, Twilight Princess (72 hours) and Okami (60 hours). Stars and stones, even Lego Star Wars was 25 hours.

Another problem with Force Unleashed is the graphics. I didn't buy a Wii expecting PS3 graphics, but I do expect the absence of jagged straight lines.

Gameplay is fine. There's nothing quite like swinging a lightsaber around or throwing stormtroopers around using the Force. Still, some of the different Force techniques are difficult to execute. I'd wave the remote/nunchuk around and press buttons as instructed but success felt haphazard and random. I ended up using only two Force powers regularly (Force Push and Lightning) because they were the most efficient powers I could use confidently. Perhaps I just need practice with the others techniques.

The Star Wars franchise lends a mystique to any game it places its name on. Star Wars gets bonus points just for being Star Wars. Still, if Force Unleashed instead of occurring in the Star Wars universe was a sword and sorcery deal I'm not so sure I'd have bought the game. Despite the multiple Force powers minion and boss battles are very simplistic. It's pretty much hack'n slash with Force powers thrown in. Bosses have no weaknesses to look for. Rush up to the boss, swing your lightsaber and wait for the finishing sequence (where you wave the remote/nunchuk when prompted to deal significant damage).

Finishing sequences bring up another quibble. In order to get the timing right, it was difficult for me to concentrate on what was happening on the screen. I'd concentrate on looking at the remote/nunchuk prompts and miss out on the actual action on screen.

Another thing that makes battles, especially long ones, a little boring is the way the game designers worked out death. Actually, I'm of two minds of how they implemented it. If Starkiller (your character) dies you simply respawn with no significant consequences, except for a boss regaining only a slight portion of health. Minions you've killed stay dead, areas you've cleared are still completed. Starkiller can die as many times as you want.

Why am I of two minds? First, I'm glad the designers handled death the way they did because as I said fights are hack'n slash. Bosses have no vulnerabilities to look for, so I sometimes needed multiple respawns to get by a boss. If I had had to defeat some bosses with one life, starting completely over if I respawned, then it would have become irritatingly frustrating. Second, I lost my fear of Starkiller dieing. Dead? Who cares? Getting shot from behind? I don't care. Health bar almost empty? Heh, instead of looking for healing I'll just go ahead and charge that platoon of stormtroopers.

Although I've talked about a lot of negatives in Force Unleashed, as I said before I'm glad I bought this game. It's Star Wars. I get to swing a lightsaber. It has a great (albeit short) story. If you're a Star Wars fan, definitely buy it. If not, you might consider giving this one a pass.

27 September 2008

U.S. Presidential Debate

Last night was the first U.S. Presidential Debate between Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.

In the past U.S. politics never interested me beyond who the current president was, and I would have never even thought about watching a debate. The past 7-8 years have changed my mind. Politicians are not all the same. Some are noticeably worse than others. In fact, some are downright scary.

Anywhoo... I watched last night's debate. Random thoughts follow.
  • McCain is much shorter than Obama, though CNN tried to hide it by zooming in on McCain and zooming out on Obama.
  • Had I known the debate was on other channels I would not have watched CNN. CNN had too much junk on the bottom of the screen.
  • McCain performed better than I expected after having watched his disastrous speeches. Ever watch the show Monk? Adrian Monk at his most painfully phobic is how I feel when I see a McCain speech, without the humour.
  • Behind in the polls, I think McCain had to perform noticeably better than Obama. Didn't happen. Ignoring the issues, at the most it was a tie and more likely a small lead for Obama.
  • Obama performed above expectations, given foreign policy is supposed to be McCain's strength. Obama displayed thorough and well versed knowledge on foreign policy.
  • McCain came off as cold.
  • McCain, please don't smile. It scares me. Really. Hallowe'en is next month.
  • They both had a couple good zingers. The best was Obama, paraphrasing, "I won't be lectured on unwise statements by someone who sings about bombing Iran". Another good one was Obama's reference to McCain's statement that he wouldn't meet with the President of Spain, a NATO ally.
  • On some topics I thought Obama provided much more substantive answers.
  • At times I was forced to mute McCain else risk aggravation. One such instance was when McCain started giving an anecdotal story to prove soldiers want to stay in Iraq. Even if true (which it is not if you read polls), anecdotal is anecdotal. It's not proof, and it should not be used as proof. Must be the scientist in me. Another instance was when McCain referred to the fact he was a POW. Yes, McCain, we KNOW. You use 'POW' like Rudy Guiliani uses '9/11': every sentence is a noun, a verb, and POW.

16 September 2008

Bullets and Frozen Meat

I was watching They Eat Horses, Don't They?, a first season episode of the television series Due South, one of my favourite series. Due South aired from 1994 to 1999, starring Paul Gross as RCMP Constable Benton Fraser.

Anywhoo, in this episode frozen steak was used like a bullet proof vest. So... is this mirrored in reality? Can frozen steak really stop bullets?

15 September 2008

Titan Air Jack

I think that as described this Titan Air Jack is pretty nifty, far and beyond -- light years in fact -- better than the wimpy jack that came with my R. On even the slightest incline the stock jack is a tad dangerous. I guess I should really look for another one -- but the jacks I've seen appear to take up a lot of room.

In short, the Titan Air Jack is an air bag inflated by attaching a hose to your exhaust pipe or to an air compressor. You can change two tires in one go.

Anywhoo, my only questions are: cost, warranty, weight and deflated volume.

Music versus Personality

A study reported on bbc.co.uk suggests a link between the type of music
a person enjoys and personality. They looked at 36,000 people

  • BLUES: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease
  • JAZZ: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease
  • CLASSICAL MUSIC: High self-esteem, creative, introvert and at ease
  • RAP: High self-esteem, outgoing
  • OPERA: High self-esteem, creative, gentle
  • COUNTRY AND WESTERN: Hardworking, outgoing
  • REGGAE: High self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease
  • DANCE: Creative, outgoing, not gentle
  • INDIE: Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle
  • BOLLYWOOD: Creative, outgoing
  • ROCK/HEAVY METAL: Low self-esteem, creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, at ease
  • CHART POP: High self-esteem, not creative, hardworking, outgoing,gentle, not at ease
  • SOUL: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease
Source: Heriot-Watt University 

For the most part the above seems fairly accurate when I think of the
music I like. But because I like multiple genres some characteristics
are contradictory eg. if you compare classical and jazz one says
"introvert", the other "outgoing".

As always, take studies like this with a grain of salt. In 36,000 samples there's bound to be many that don't fit the descriptions.

Anywhoo, something to think about while you're listening to your
favourite tunes....

11 September 2008

A Little Levity on this Solemn Day

While written in 2002, it's just as relevant today as it was then. Relevant in the future, too.

Warning: Minor profanity.

From The Onion:

Second Birthday In A Row Ruined By Terrorism

HOBOKEN, NJ—In what threatens to be an annual ritual, Rob Bachman, born Sept. 11, 1973, braced himself Tuesday for yet another birthday ruined by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"My birthday's gonna suck for the rest of my life," Bachman said on the eve of his 29th birthday. "Every year, I'm going to want to go out and have fun, but it's always going to be inappropriate in light of the meaning of this most tragic of days."

Added Bachman: "Man, there's nothing quite like hitting the bars on the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism ever perpetrated on U.S. soil."

Though Bachman will try to enjoy his "special day" as best he can, he said he is not looking forward to the muted, somber acknowledgements he will receive from others.

"Last week, there was a lunchtime office party for [coworker] Matt [Quigle], complete with cake and decorations, because, of course, nobody cringes when you say your birthday is Sept. 5," Bachman said. "Already this week, Dina the receptionist, who lost a cousin in the attacks, looks like she's going to cry at any second. If they do recognize my birthday at all, I'm sure it'll be in some tasteful, appropriate way, without music or streamers or anything like that."

"If I try to have a good time, I look like this shallow, selfish asshole who's oblivious to what's going on in the world," Bachman continued. "Still, Sept. 11 is the only birthday I have, and it'd be nice if I were allowed to have fun."

As of press time, Bachman's efforts to gather friends and coworkers for the evening have been unsuccessful. Most of his e-mails and voicemail messages have gone unreturned, while those friends who have responded have politely declined, offering subdued birthday wishes.

"When I invited my friends a few weeks before, I distinctly avoided mentioning the date and just said people were getting together for my birthday on Wednesday," Bachman said. "Of course, once people realized what day it was, they all bowed out. Now that I think of it, I probably would've done the same thing."

If he is unable to assemble a group of friends, Bachman said he may just spend the evening at home alone.

"Maybe I'll just chill out and watch a movie," Bachman said. "But I know that as soon as I turn on the TV, I'm going to get hit with one of the wall-to-wall specials on the attacks, and it's going to make watching Shallow Hal or some other bullshit puff movie seem way too depressing."

Though Bachman's friends are hesitant to engage in any sort of revelry on Sept. 11, they sympathize with his plight.

"I really feel bad for him," said Danielle Eckstrom, Bachman's longtime friend. "Some of his friends don't want to go out because they're afraid of some big follow-up attack. The rest just want to be alone that night. I was going to take it on myself to go out and make sure he has a good time, but I don't particularly want to go out, either."

Given the historical magnitude of the Sept. 11 attacks, Bachman said he doesn't hold out much hope for future birthdays, either.

"It's probably going to be at least 10 years before I can get back to celebrating like a normal person." Bachman said. "Then again, that 10th anniversary of the attacks should be a pretty big deal, too. Fuck."

06 September 2008

Linden's #16 Raised to the Rafters

Wonderful. This post is a couple days late, but... finally! I'd hoped, I'd expected, but not until they officially announced it was I able to perform a mental celebratory dance.

On the night of 17 December this year, prior to the game versus division rivals Edmonton Oilers, former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden's jersey #16 will be lifted to the rafters of GM Place to become only the second jersey (the other being Stan "the Steamer" Smyl's #12) retired by the Canucks and the first to be retired in GM Place.

Here's a link the the official announcement: A Night to Remember.

Here's a previous post partly explaining exactly why Trevor Linden, the most popular player in team history, deserves this ultimate tribute: Forever a Canuck.

No one is more deserving of this singular honour. Congratulations, Linden, and thanks for all the memories.

04 September 2008

2008 US Open

I was watching the Andy Roddick - Novak Djokovic men's quarter-final (2-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6) at the 2008 US Open when I noticed something odd. After Roddick threw his racket to the ground to my astonishment a ball boy waited for the racket to stop bouncing and then promptly rushed to pick it up.

... Eh?

Are ball boys expected to pick up a player's racket after he or she throws it to the ground? I've never noticed this before and I wonder if this is a common or uncommon occurance. If a player is frustrated or angry enough to throw his racket, then the player should pick up his own beepin' racket.