But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Superman never looked this good

So Steam was having a sale last week. Just Cause and Batman: Arkham Asylum were 22 bucks for both. Everybody’s been saying how great Arkham Asylum is, and Just Cause looked like fun. So I bought them.

I had “played” the demo of B:AA a few months ago, but couldn’t make it work with my gamepad. I recognized this as a design flaw and decided (at the time) against buying the game. But now I remembered that .ini files are easy to hack and I should be able to make the controls do what I want.


Remember in Conan the Barbarian, when the adult Conan first meets up with Thulsa Doom (played by the illustrious James Earl Jones) and gets into a discussion about “the riddle of steel?” The last thing Doom says to Conan is “contemplate this on the tree of woe.” I just kept hearing that line over and over in my head as I was hacking away at the config files for this game.

I have a gamepad that looks like this:

It’s just like a playstation 2 controller. In fact, that’s why I initially bought it: so I could run a PS2 emulator on my PC. Every once in a while, a game doesn’t like it. Invariably, it’s a game that was first released on the XBox 360 and works perfectly if you just buy an xbox for windows controller, which looks like it’s exactly the same thing (but pointedly is not):

Xbox 360 controller (wireless, white).

So it is with Batman: Arkham Asylum. So, after much googling and searching of forums and sitting through the game’s splash screens to play it for two seconds at a time, I finally came upon the solution.


Batman has never looked this good. I’m a little bit upset (as I always am) that the game utilizes proprietary NVidia technology, so I can’t really crank up the graphics because I have an ATI video card. But I can’t imagine how it could look any better. Here’s what I’m talking about (all screenshots taken by me):

Batman never looked so good

Batman sits in the Batcave

Batman surveys gotham from Arkham Batcave

The Dark Knight surveys the city

Batman chats with Oracle

The Caped Crusader communicates with Oracle

Beautiful. And the game is good. It’s really damn good. The controls (once fixed) are tight, the voice-acting borders on awesome, the story is interesting, the sound effects are good and the combat is fun and simple without feeling repetitive (although it really is). Also, the game manages to be beautiful without eating up all my more than adequate system resources (it’s a family thing. My dad had a lot of system resources too). And of course it wouldn’t be Batman without gadgets. Batarangs, grappling hooks, forensic detection vision mode, spray-adhesive explosive, parachute-cape. What else does a Batman need?

I’ll tell you what else a Batman needs. He needs prey, and Arkham has plenty. The story centers on the Joker’s escape from captivity. While chasing the clown through the asylum, Batman encounters all of his favorite nemises (nemisises?). Bane, Killer Croc and Harley Quinn are the three that I’ve encountered in the first couple hours of the game.

Not only is the game fun and cool in itself, there are also references to Arkham’s origins in the HP Lovecraft mythology. To put it simply, the place is spooky. But then, so is the Batman.

I have only two complaints about the game, and they are minor. First and most aggravating is the fact that I have a gamepad with two analog joysticks. That being said, I need to push a button to make Batman run. If I push the stick a little bit, he walks lazily to the bathroom. If I push the stick to its extreme, he walks briskly down the street. I need to push the stick and push a button to make him run.

Second: when Batman is walking or standing around (so basically when there’s nothing going on), the view looks like the last two images up above. Batman is all the way to the left side of the screen. Cinematically, awesome. Control-ishly, nightmare. You can, however, swing the camera around to whatever angle you like, making this game vastly superior to many console ports to PC.

All in all, a pretty great game. Play it. Two thumbs up. Eight out of ten (only Blizzard gets ten out of ten). If you like Batman, or you like beating up the criminally insane, or you like creeping around sanitariums at night, this game is for you.

PS Zemanta just recommended images from my own Flikr stream. Win.IMG00119-20090930-2006

halloween in the magic kingdom

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Movies you “need” to “see”

You need to see Avatar. You do. It’s a beautiful film. It’s exciting and fun to watch. But that’s all. The more classic sci-fi I read, the less original Avatar is. Now I’m reading A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Oh. My. God. Some of the critters in Avatar were pulled right out of this book. As was a good chunk of the story.

You need (I guess) to see Surrogates. Again, a visually good movie with some interesting ideas. Unfortunately, none of them are new ideas and the story is pretty much ripped right from Asimov. At one point I leaned over to Kerry and said “this is Caves of Steel.” It wasn’t, but what was going on in the movie at the time made me believe it was going to be. Ving Rhames: awesome. Bruce Willis: not bad. James Cromwell: always a pleasure, but he was better in part one: I, Robot. And that had a fully-developed story.

The Bone Collector. Totally unrelated, but a similarly good movie. Interesting story, but zero believability. A couple who live in Manhattan fall asleep in a taxi. A New York cop (a woman, no less) goes to check out a possible crime scene alone. A (supposedly) wrongfully-accused felon convicted of tampering with material evidence at multiple crime scenes is a licensed medical technician. I could be totally wrong, but those three things seem completely unbelievable to me. If I was a uniformed police officer in any major city, there’s no way I’d ever go anywhere alone on purpose. Also, I really like Denzel, but he was entirely the wrong actor for this movie. His performance, more than anything, made me not like this movie as well as I would have if it had been done properly. He wasn’t bad. He just wasn’t the right man for the part. Angelina Jolie: loved her. I think she was right for the part and she played it well. Out of the three movies in this post, this one is the best, but it still doesn’t get the honor of being on my DVD rack.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Man From Mars

Never have I wanted so badly to not finish a book. And Sandworms of Dune doesn’t count. That I don’t want to finish because it’s garbage. I don’t want to finish Stranger In a Strange Land (by Robert A. Heinlein) because I don’t want it to be over. It’s my new favorite book. I’ve been saying that a lot lately. First it was Neuromancer, and I don’t know what it will be next. But right now it’s Stranger.

Before I get started, a word of caution. If you are a Republican, or any other breed of evangelical Christian, don’t read this book. It will seem like an attack on your religion and you people respond with claws to anything you mis-represent as threatening. In short, your religion will not allow you to enjoy this book. That makes me sad (because I want everybody to enjoy this book), but it is nonetheless true. Prove me wrong. I will happily recant (that’s an invitation, not a challenge. No claws, please). If you happen to be that rare case of Human who has both religion and an open mind, read this book. You will like it.

I was reading on the toilet just now when what it is that I love about this book hit me. The theme is interesting, the philosophies discussed are intriguing. But that’s true of any good science fiction. What I love about Stranger In a Strange Land is that it’s charming. It’s full of little human moments (or, at least, there are enough of them for me to find it remarkable). Like Firefly (“you’re nice too, Captain.” “No I’m not. I’m a mean, old man.”). From Jubal’s “secretaries” throwing him into the pool, to Michael’s inevitable initial fascination with and mis-understanding of religion (and Jubal’s natural discomfort at discussing/explaining it), the characters are real, and act like it.

Heinlein (who somehow seems to avoid the common pitfall of modern literature: imbuing each of his characters with the same voice) introduces you to his characters the same way a good movie director does. He doesn’t present you with a dossier and say “This is Michael Bluth.” He throws you into their lives in media res and lets you figure out for yourself what kind of people they are. And you fall in love with them. When you discover something about them that doesn’t quite make sense with your picture of “who they are,” you don’t feel confounded. You feel rewarded, just like you do when you discover something about a real person that deepens your understanding of them.

For me, this was true even of the characters I didn’t like (Ben Caxton and Duke), and the ones you’re not supposed to like (Secretary General Douglas and his wife). I found myself sympathizing with them, because they are all whole persons, with real motivations and shortcomings.

This isn’t like Dune, and it isn’t like Ender’s Game. You’ll think it’s like Brave New World or Fahrenheit 451, but I promise it’s not. While it certainly has themes in common with all of those (mostly) great books, Stranger In a Strange Land is a unique work of classic science fiction. It plays with your mind, and if you can escape your preconceptions of righteousness, you will enjoy it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tron Legacy


Image via WikipeTron Legacydia


Watch the video. Punch it up to 720p and full-screen it. You will thank me.

Now watch this one. Crank this sum-bitch all the way up to 1080p. Do it.

Chills. I really want to go to bed right now, but I can’t. If you’re not pissing your pants after watching those videos, turn in your wings: you are grounded. Towards the end (of the first one) I actually forgot I was watching a trailer and died a little bit when it ended. Whether you’ve seen Tron or not (and you better have), you need to be excited about this movie. This is going to make Avatar look like Clerks. I wanna know why I’m not playing the video game already. Will the movie tie-in with Tron 2.0? Cause that game had thirty-two flavors of ass-kicking (most of them were chocolate). This is something that someone undoubtedly already knows and I will now promise to find out. And I will find out. I just probably won’t re-blog about it.

*sigh* Do I really have to wait until December? Well… I suppose I don’t HAVE to… But I will. And Mom, under no circumstances are you allowed to see this one in a regular theater. I forgive you for Avatar, but seeing Tron Legacy in anything less than a 3D actual IMAX would be like watching Lawrence of Arabia in standard definition in 4:3.

Here’s another video from Comic Con 2009. You don’t have to watch this one. It’s concept footage. Fun stuff, but not as exciting as the trailers. It’s part one. I didn’t watch part two.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]