Monday, May 25, 2009

Patch Note Previews (For May 31 – June 6)

This week reminds us of the great games that we still might play to this day with new sequels the best-selling PC game in history and a sprinkle of guerrilla warfare. The first week of June provides second life goodness and warfare? Varied combinations, no?

The Sims 3 (PC) (June 2nd) Electronic Arts

The super successful Sims are finally back after a lengthy anticipated release with EA’s “The Sims 3”. In “Sims 3” a lot of the additions from “Sims 2” expansion packs are already added like restaurants, fishing, jewelry, mobile phones, and many others. The create-a-sim mode is extremely robust with Obama and McCain sims being made earlier in the year. Get your time sinks ready because “Sims 3” looks to suck away all of our time, again, which isn’t bad (just don’t let it vacuum too much time). Order your sim to drive you to the store to pick up this game for $49.99 or $69.99 for the collector’s edition on Tuesday. In the collector’s edition of the game, there will be a free sports car download (in-game), a sticker sheet, and a 2GB Plumbob-shaped USB drive ($20 more? you be the judge).

Red Faction: Guerrilla (360, PS3) (June 2nd) THQ

“Red Faction” is back with its destruction of everything one can see and think of mantra. “Guerrilla” is played in third person perspective this time around. The exploding of anything you want looks amazing with its lush graphics (bases, bad guys, and tons more). Weapons such as an exploding hammer, remote mines, and vehicles being present provide more detonating goodness. “Guerrilla” looks very pretty with well-done explosions and graphics, but the demo will either sell or deter you from it, which is available on XBLA and PSN for test drive goodness, but be forewarned, there is a 15-minute playing time cap. Slowly, use your tactical guerrilla warfare to commandeer this game for the 360/PS3 $59.99 on Tuesday.

Freedom of the Mind (Final Edition)

Talent Show with Beau Sia Stealing the Show
Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage month continued with the final installment of “Freedom of the Mind” with spoken word artist, Beau Sia, headlining the event on Thursday, May 21st from7-10 p.m. at the Belltower.

A delay began the night with the show getting underway at around 7:15 p.m., but the “Bboy Club” provided their moves and they got the crowd involved.

The stage provided an opportune place for UCR students to showcase their respective talents, whether it be spoken word, poetry, musical talent, or just about anything one could imagine. Sia would commend everyone, during his act, for their displays of talent and advised us to nurture these said talents.

The night was littered with about 11-12 acts taking the stage with a few unique performances. The majority of acts refreshed our musical radars with popular cover songs featuring Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Lauryn Hill, Jason Mraz, and others. The unique acts stood out with David Torres’ musical poetry concerning Bio 30 (Dirty 30, anyone?) and poems by Leia concerning a dark past and “2 cheeseburgers and freaken french fries”. They were easily remembered because basically everything else was a cover song with group(s) showcasing their singing range and guitar-playing ability. That’s not to say these acts weren’t good because they were (just not much distinguishing between groups), with the duo of Geminele (singing) and Jaron (guitar) performing “Nothing Even Matters” by Lauryn Hill and DeAngelo to start strong, while the grouping of Joe, Casey, Emily, and Scott finishing strong with a medley including Mraz’s “I’m Yours”.

With the lights still shining and the stage all warmed-up, Sia took center stage with his witty, yet powerful set of performances to end the night. He was seen pacing across the whole stage during some performances to remaining motionless while reciting pieces with his eyes closed. He ended his first piece with “Our heritage is in everyday of the year!” which couldn’t have been a better jumping off point. Other acts included “chasing Bruce Lee!” which was about “self [being] possible”, “A Love of Unicorns” in list form (ridiculously comical), and “memory suck[ing]”, especially concerning heartbreak. Some other topics included him becoming Jesus in an MC battle and a piece written by his mother to end it. He was serious and funny, humorous and articulate, but throughout all of it, he was convicted and passionate. Sia even gave mini-speeches (that he hated because he sounded preachy) about life, why he does what he does, and why we should continue doing what we love (thank you very much, Beau, thank you).

The talent show winners were announced at the conclusion of Sia’s performance with first place receiving a $75 gift card to the campus bookstore, second receiving $50, and third receiving $25. Third place went to Geminele and Jaron, second place went to David Torres, and first place went to the quartet of Joe, Casey, Emily, and Scott. Who were the real winners? All of us for the night filled with various acts from UCR students and Sia providing the concluding explosion of knowledge and laughter.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Patch Note Previews (For May 24 – May 30)

The variety of genres for this week are mind-boggling with a sandbox-type game, five developers combining their genius, and a racing game that could possibly bring up memories of the recent “MotorStorm”. Pick between good and evil, a barrel load of Japanese game characters, and chasing a chopper on a motorbike? It’s your choice, here’s the 4th week of May.

inFAMOUS (PS3) (May 26th) Sony Computer Entertainment

The makers of “Sly Cooper”, “Sucker Punch”, go next-generation with “inFAMOUS”. Every time this game is shown, it gets more and more appreciation and rave. “inFAMOUS” is finally upon us, and it’s about the world being a dark, dark place as the Reapers try to take over, but it’s your chance to save the world. Do you choose to be a demon of evil or a boy scout of righteousness? The karma system keeps track of good/bad tasks completed, and it also provides different powers upon path chosen (more explosion and fear when evil, while you’re viewed as a hero when good). “inFAMOUS” looks to provide one of the triple-A releases of the year with its unique take on sandbox gameplay plus karma affecting a player’s decisions. Align with your side on Tuesday for $59.99 only on the PS3.

Cross Edge (PS3) (May 26th) NIS America

Described as the perfect collection of five developers, with the five being “Gust” (Marie of Atelier Marie), “Capcom” (Morrigan of Darkstalkers), “Nippon Ichi” (Prinny of Disagea), “Namco Bandai” (Aurica of Ar Tonelico), and “Idea Factory” (Zelos of Soul series) as they bring “Cross Edge”. “Cross” is a pick your favorite character turn-based RPG with grid-based strategy elements of movement. The graphics of the main characters are in 2D with some environments and enemies varying from 2D to 3D. This game reminds some of the “Namco X Capcom” game that released sometime ago. Difference is that this one will make it to U.S. shores, and there are more developers on this project. Mix ‘em ups tend to be fun with all the different characters at one’s disposal with the many moves, super combos, and chain links as well. On Tuesday, you can pick your favorite Japanese videogame characters for $49.99.

Fuel (360, PS3, PC) (May 26th) Codemasters

Fuel” is an off-road, racing game with various automobiles at one’s fingertips, including cars, trucks, motorbikes, and others. Picture “MotorStorm: Pacific Rift” (PS3), but this game has some different modes to try to differentiate. It has the traditional timed circuit race and others, but chopper chase and seek and destroy look to be selling points. The graphics are solid, but the slightly different modes don’t offer a purchase first day grade (not many games do) unless one doesn’t have a PS3/”MotorStorm”. Make sure those gas tanks are filled up on Tuesday, so you can pick up this for $59.99 on 360 and PS3 and for $39.99 on PC.

Side by Side

Musical collective display of talent/skill at Belltower
On Thursday, May 14th, Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month continued with “Side by Side”, a “unique collaboration of musical talents” featuring indie singer/songwriter, Jane Lui on the keyboard; pop songwriter/singer, David Choi on the acoustic guitar; acoustic pop singer, Kina Grannis on the acoustic guitar; and hip-hop violinist/singer, Paul Dateh, accompanied by his friend, Ken.

The night began at 5:50 p.m. with sound check as the sun shined intensely on the audience and artists. Technical difficulties would slow down the sound check and linger throughout the performances, but they would die down soon enough.

The set of performances was played in a roundtable jam session style. Around and around we went with each artist taking turns stepping up to the imaginary plate and hitting respective home runs with their songs. It was a music appreciation of sorts when one artist played, the other artists and audience would listen quietly as they bobbed their heads to the rhythm and tapped their feet to the beats. One song in particular, “Delicate” by Grannis, saw Lui and Dateh provide their musical talents to the song. Grannis exclaimed at the end, “Thank you for making that pretty.” It was pretty before, but their help made it a beautiful sight.

Song topics varied from college days and “growing up” (Lui), to falling for a girl and “Always [getting] Hurt” (Choi), to losing someone with “Cambridge” (Grannis), and to life not being fun anymore because of lost passion (Dateh). After Dateh’s song about lost passion, Lui claimed smoke came off of Dateh’s violin. It wouldn’t have been shocking, considering Dateh’s intensity and ferocity when singing and hitting the violin. They each displayed their passion in different ways, but they all share the same passion for music. Lui showed her passion with her little introductions to each of her songs, Choi and Grannis with their beautiful smiles throughout playing/singing, and Dateh’s intensity. Sometimes, passion is all you need. All in all, there was approximately 20+ songs with each having different stories and each artist offering their individual voice and musical prowess.

A random side note: Everyone got rickrolled with Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” during intermission, but no one really noticed. “We’re no strangers to love!” Haha, but moving on..

The ensemble of artists finished off the night with “One Time with You”, where each performer played their particular instruments and sang together as one. The song was happy and upbeat, especially with lyrics advising everyone to “mak[e] the best of everything we do”. It was a fitting end to a great night of performances from four amazing talents. All the performers stayed for the meet and greet with the crowd by signing autographs, taking pictures, and just hanging out.

"Divided by Night" Review

"Divided by Night" by The Crystal Method, Tiny e Records

The Crystal Method’s fourth album “Divided by Night” is said to be of a darker feel than past albums. The music is of the electronic and dance genre, and will conjure up memories of techno, but at the same time, it’s not considered techno/trance (go figure?).

The songs can be quite slow and drawn out, but are extremely well calculated. Other songs are of the upbeat nature and provide a bang, bang, bang feeling. A calming effect is generated with some songs even though there’s distortion, but on the flipside, lots of chaos can be found in the backdrop.
Lyrics are solely present when the song features an artist, but the music alone can easily manipulate our imaginations, especially in songs like “Smile?”. Just when the journey is presumed to be finished, the beat picks up and we’re off again. To where? That’s up to the imagination.

Come Back Clean” features Emily Haines (Broken Social Scene, etc) on the microphone heeding advice pertaining to, well, coming back clean from drugs. Lines like “don’t play with drugs in your bloodstream” are vital to begin the process, and Emily threatens, in a soft voice, to “hold my breath ‘til you come back clean”.

The final song, “Falling Hard” features Meiko singing about not wanting to be by herself and pleading heaven to help her now. Loneliness is a fear that seeps through our minds every once in awhile, so this has hit or miss power.

Other artists featured include the likes of Peter Hook, Justin Warfield (She Wants Revenge), and Warfield’s wife, Stefanie, and Matisyahu. The Crystal Method incorporated a variety of feature artists to sing vocals on their tracks, and these were the most pleasing to the ears. The album as a whole is exceptionally solid with its range in lyrical topics and sluggish, but also hasty music for variety.

Grade: 3.5/5

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A musical journey through history

Rising stars put on a show at UCR Performance Lab
On Wednesday, May 6th, the UCR Department of Music presented a vocal recital performance by Randy Lee, accompanied by pianist, Tina Whitley. Both are very talented in their respective mediums and displayed their skills for an hour filled with solos, melodies, vocal ranges, etc.
The performance lab provides a decent-sized stage with the audience sitting in close proximity. Lights were dimmed with a mix of blue and white colors to provide more intimacy among the audience members and performers. The one hour set of performances flew by rapidly sans the 10-minute intermission, but every single minute was used exceptionally. In total, twelve songs were performed ranging from Baroque to Foster in a musical trip through history with some other standouts being Mozart and Schubert. At the beginning, it was foreshadowed that the songs would be a “challenging repertoire”, and that assessment was spot on, but Randy was amazing stepping up to the test.

Randy started off nervous, as most performers do, but nerves push people through. The jitters were quickly shaken off as more songs went by. The variety of songs toyed with our emotions as cheerfulness, sadness, agony, etc. were experienced as if we were on a rollercoaster.
Not everyone understood the languages being vocalized, but the pamphlets handed out pre-show provided translations to each song, which was quite helpful. Though, the words didn’t need to be understood to know that they were beautiful in magnitude because emotion seeped through the music provided by Tina and expressions shown by Randy.

One performance in particular stood out and held up throughout the night as the finest piece, which was the duet Randy performed with his stepmother, Hyun Mee Lee, as they sang “La Ci Darem La Mano” by Mozart together. The chemistry between the two shined through as they communicated with one another through song, but at the same time, they included the audience. At song’s end, Randy’s stepmother smiled with pride and her eyes lit up with joy because of the amazing duet performance with her son.

The night ended magnificently with “The Prayer”, which was a duet including Abigail Villalta as the other singer and Justin Myers playing the flute, and “Nella Fantasia” minus Abigail. “The Prayer” was the sole song that included English lyrics, so people didn’t have to worry about translations. In “Nella Fantasia”, Randy and Justin took turns with their respective solos as if it were a battle between vocals and flute. The crowd erupted to a standing ovation at the final performance’s end, as the musicians bowed and issued their thanks, because it was truly well-deserved. We were treated with an outstanding ride through history with Randy leading the way accompanied by Tina sitting passenger side and providing the musical selection.

Who’s the best street fighter?

Aspiring fighters participate in a tournament held at Latitude 55
Blood, sweat, and tears were shed. Okay, not real blood (no tears either), but you’re getting the picture, correct? Picture the NCAA tourney, but instead of college basketball teams, it’s a bunch of college students vying for the right to be crowned number one. You feel the intensity, no? The prize was a $25 gift card to the bookstore, but there’s more to it than just prize money (unless you’re Balrog, who only wants ‘fight money’). Respect, pride, glory, and bragging rights were on the line.

Anticipation built up for this event in the week leading up to 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 7th. The organization and execution lacked and could use a little work, but it was to be expected, since it was only the first tournament event. Latitude 55 was swarming with people at 4:30-5 p.m. with players practicing and honing their skills before the event commenced.

Hadoukens, shoryukens, supers, and ultras, oh my! The tournament was played in 64-player, best of three rounds, single elimination style. Most players chose Ryu, Balrog, and Sagat (top tiers) as their respective hero to enter combat with. There were also the occasional rare characters used like Fei-Long, Vega, and El Fuerte (lower to mid-tiers).

As the playing field whittled down fast and furiously, more anxiousness built for the semi-finals and the championship round. Time slowed down as well because the semi-finals and finals were played in a best two out of three format providing players with a fighter switch if need be. In the semis, there were two Ryu players, a Sagat player, and a Blanka player (only one to use him). The Ryu players duked it out in dramatic fashion with only one Ryu progressing to the championship round. On the other side of the bracket, Sagat and Blanka shared great duels, but Sagat prevailed to set up a meeting with his rival, Ryu. It’s fitting that these two characters meet in the finals because of their street fighter history, but Sagat prevailed even when the other player switched from Ryu to Sagat to set up a mirror match. Same result, though. Sagat wins.

It was a sight to see with Latitude 55 bustling with videogame aficionados rather than the regular billiards players or poker players. Hopefully, the next tournament is sooner rather than later and more players come out with different characters (I’m talking to you, Rufus, Gen, and others).

Patch Note Previews (For May 17 – May 23)

This week is chock full of games that people marked on their calendars for quite some time now. The time is upon us, finally. You ready to punch some people? How about running and squats? If none of those is your thing, there’s claw-grabbing and superman punches! Here’s the 3rd week of May.

Punch-Out!! (Wii) (May 18th) Nintendo

What’s popular nowadays? Reviving old franchises on next-gen systems, right? “Punch-Out!!” is back with prettier cell-shaded graphics and multiplayer action for the first time ever. Mac returns as the main character and we also have our lovable trainer riding (or stealing) the bike as Mac trains. Mac’s rivals return, some old and some new, with fan favorite King Hippo coming back. Multiplayer and motion control are featured in this iteration of “Punch” which should serve friends with countless hours of punching each other in the face (literally and physically, probably). Also, it conjures up nostalgic memories of the great Nintendo days, what’s not to like? Don’t let your trainer steal your bike and steal this before you do on Monday for $49.99.

EA Sports Active Bundle (Wii) (May 19th) Electronic Arts

Is it finally time to dust off those Wiis? Probably not. “EA Sports Active Bundle” looks to capitalize on the jillions of households with purchased Wiis and the people still holding out hope that Wiis can keep people active (“WiiFit” people, you know who you are). In the bundle, EA has provided a leg strap for the nunchuk to be placed while workouts take place. Activities include jogging, squats, softball, and many others (basically activities you could do outside for full effect). The Wii balance board can be used, but is not a necessity. This game will probably sell a lot regardless because of the sheer number of people who own Wiis. This won’t keep people being active because it’ll probably be a casualty to dust ala “WiiFit”. Actively pursue your way to the store to obtain this game on Tuesday for $59.99.

Bionic Commando (360, PS3) (May 19th) Capcom

Capcom released a heavily upgraded and prettier remake of 2D “Bionic Commando” in the form of “Rearmed” earlier this year, but this “Bionic Commando” is an entirely, brand new game and in 3D. Think “Spiderman 2” with main character, Spencer, swinging from building to building, but he has guns and a gigantic claw arm instead of web. Instead of claw-grabbing barrels to throw at enemies, players can grab burning cars and an assortment of other goodies to hurl as weapons. The revival of “Bionic” looks to be heading in the right direction, but time will tell if this one is worth the full 60 bucks. For now, check out the multiplayer demo that is available on XBLA for claw-grabbing mayhem of all sorts. You can claw grab your way to stores on Tuesday to procure your copy for $59.99.

UFC 2009 Undisputed (360, PS3) (May 19th) THQ

With the meteoric rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) comes “UFC 2009 Undisputed”. Complexity is the main them in “UFC” because of the plethora of fighting styles, grapple moves, and takedown abilities. The graphical likenesses of each MMA fighter is something to behold, especially their in-ring mannerisms are captured. “UFC” is an enjoyable beat-em-up that can be played on the fly, but also has complexity attached if searched for.A demo is available online on PSN and XBLA with playable fighters being Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Grapple, takedown, and superman punch your way to stores on Tuesday to purchase this for $59.99.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Patch Note Previews (For May 10 – May 16)

Nintendo dominates this week with compact, but appealing and diverse releases for the Wii and DS. With virus game play compacted with dream jobs galore and an age old debate, the 2nd week of May is shaping up quite nicely.

Puchi Puchi Virus (DS) (May 12th) Jaleco

“Puchi Puchi Virus” brings virus-battling puzzle game play to our fingertips. It’s quite frenetic and fast-paced with all the colorful, vibrant viruses being zapped and eliminated with stylus control. “Puchi” seems to be interesting to you puzzle-savants, but not much is known about this game, since it’s not your typical household title and not much video was found. You can try to save everyone from viruses on Tuesday for $19.99 on the Nintendo DS.

Help Wanted (Wii) (May 12th) Konami

Help! Did you hear that? Someone needs us! In “Help Wanted”, the tagline is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and you can play as whoever you imagine in it. Bodybuilder, astronaut, goalkeeper, security guard, and newscaster are just a few of up to 50 jobs the player can assume. Multiplayer action is also available with players being pitted against one another in firefighter showdowns and muscle building fiascos and much more. “Help” looks to provide fun with its variety of jobs and multiplayer action, which means lots of different mini-games. Assume your dream job on Tuesday for $29.99 on the Nintendo Wii.

Pirates v. Ninja Dodgeball (Wii) (May 12th) SouthPeak Interactive

The age old debate of pirates versus ninja might finally be settled in “Pirates v. Ninja Dodgeball”. The teams that can be selected include pirates, ninja, robots, and zombies each complete with team specific special abilities like parrots, stealth, lasers, and burrowing. Game play is very fast with dodge balls not being the only weapon because players can beat up on their opponents with fists and said special abilities. Grab some friends to help you settle the debate either on the same team or against each other. “Pirates” looks to be different, but it’s also already on “XBLA”.Whose side will you align with on Tuesday for $29.99 on the Nintendo Wii?

"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" Review

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” stars Matthew McConaughey (“Failure to Launch”) and Jennifer Garner (“Elektra” and “Alias”) in a modern day, romantic comedy take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

McConaughey plays charismatic playboy/womanizer and scrooge, Connor Mead, who is a professional photographer capturing photos of scantily-clad models, pop divas, and basically whoever he wants for his magazines (dream job, right?). This is all evidenced in the first scene with beautiful ladies in lingerie scampering around Mead’s photo shoot galleria, while pop superstar, Christina Milian, is stripped down to her lingerie for the magazine cover. The magazine cover is achieved as an apple is placed on Milian’s head by Connor for an Olympic archer to shoot off. Ridiculousness ensues when Connor shows his true colors as he’s seducing Christina Milian, when he breaks up with three of his girlfriends via conference call because they had fallen in love with him (jacked up, much?).

The movie mainly takes place at Uncle Wayne Mead’s mansion (Michael Douglas) during Paul (Breckin Meyer), Connor’s brother, and Sandra’s (Lacey Chabert) wedding where Connor is the best man and Jenny Perotti (Garner) is the maid of honor (this is perfect alignment, no?). Connor is completely opposed to love and marriage and thinks it’s “comfort food for the weak”, and he slowly begins to tear everything apart with a little alcohol mixed in. Jenny plays anti-Connor because she’s the wedding coordinator, but she can only do so much.

During Connor’s trip to the restroom, Uncle Wayne, who is no longer with the Mead family, visits Connor as a ghost foreshadowing that three ghosts from Connor’s past, present, and future will visit to show him what went wrong in his life (this is hypocritical, considering Uncle Wayne’s lifestyle). It’s somewhat strange seeing Douglas as a playboy, Hugh Hefner-type with designer shades warning Connor about the playboy lifestyle leading to a lonely, bitter end. Connor is taken aback because of all the alcohol he previously consumed.

What follows is a roller coaster ride through Connor’s past, present, and future with each respective ghost. We discover that Jenny broke Connor’s heart at a middle school dance by dancing with an older boy, so Connor never wants to feel heartbreak again. Uncle Wayne takes him under his wing as he shapes young Connor into a playboy douche bag. The present shows Jenny still loves Connor, but she doesn’t want to fall for him again. Connor begins his turn from douche bag into the good guy he used to be, but what pushes him over the edge is his funeral brought to you by the future (it’s a very lonely site to say the least). At least Connor realizes his fate because it’s never too late to change.

“Ghosts” is a cute, “date” movie with its laughing moments and a character turn, but the ending was predictable at best. It was a happy ending with its ups and downs with Connor ruining the day, and then saving the day and ending with the girl that he always loved (surprise, surprise).

Grade: C-

About Me

My photo
College student trying to live out the Videogame/Sports writer's dream of making IT. It's a work in progress, haha.