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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: 311 – Uplifter

Posted by rapaleeman on July 1, 2009

So I got the album a week ago (yes, I actually bought it).  Is this the ultimate 311 album or is it another “Don’t Tread On Me”.  Let’s find out.

So as you may have guessed, I hated “Don’t Tread On Me”.  Not that great of an album.  Only the title track and “Solar Flare” were worth a crap to me.  The rest was just average to below-average filler.  Not the case here.

To start I just saw them live at a great show at Nissan in the V to the A (Virignia) so this may be a tad skewed.  Same with the fact that they are one of my favorite active bands in existence today.  So as I try to remain objective, well, that may now happen.

This is a great album.  “Hey You” is an awesome starter and radio friendly single that talks about their love of music and how it saved their lives.  I can totally relate.  It doesn’t help that it is catchy as hell.

“It’s Alright” is a great follow-up and then the amazingly catchy “Mix It Up” which brings back memories (good ones) of “Crack The Code” from Evolver. 

“Golden Sunlight” is good, but honestly filler to get you to the awesome and song that will definately be a hit with fans “India Ink”.  It is all about how you want it all, but can’t really commit, or are having trouble actually putting yourself out there and going all the way.  Great track and extremely catchy, yet meaningful chorus.

Same thing can be said about “Daisy Cutter”.  “Too Much Too Fast” is just ok, not great.  The amazing “Never Ending Summer” is a perfect opener for their live show (which it was) and has again, a great chorus.

The next couple of songs are ok, not great.  More filler.  “Jackpot” is what fans have been asking for though.  A new anthem-styled powerhouse track in the name of “Down” or “Hive” from the Blue Album.  Powerful and just gets you moving.  I really want to break stuff while I listen to this track at my desk here at work.  Great song.

“My Heart Sings” is a good closer.  Almost as good as “Sometimes Jacks Rule The Realm” but not quite.  The 2 bonus tracks are really good, but “Get Down” sounds almost exactly like “Daisy Cutter”.  What the hell?

Overall, this is a great album.  It is definately getting a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me and most fans I think will agree.  At least those that realize that Hexum, SA, P-Nut, Tim, and Chad will never be teenagers again and write stuff like “Omaha Sylee” and “All Mixed Up” again.  311 has grown up and fortunately I have too. 

My tastes have matured and along with that, I scream for higher productions and more mature lyrics.   Fortunately “Uplifter” delivers on both accounts and 311 has crafted their best album in years.  Not quite up to “Transister” standards (nothing beats “Beautiful Disaster” or “Starshines”) but it is definately better than the Blue Album.  Yes, I said it.  I like this offering better than album that got me into the 311 craze to begin with. 

Go buy this now.  Even if your not a “true” fan.  Who knows, you might like it.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360)

Posted by rapaleeman on May 5, 2009

Quick preface.  The movie wasn’t the biggest disaster in the world but it pretty much sucked so I was expecting complete garbage for this game.  Damn was I wrong.  This game is fucking awesome!!!  Period.  The little glitches and such that plague the game are disappointing but really the game itself is just great. 

I usually start with the good, but I’ll get the bad out of the way real quick since well, there isn’t much.  The biggest flaws in the game are in presentation.  Some of the textures and graphics look really low-res (epsecially in the indoor environments). 

Also there are several little glitches that cause you to restore a checkpoint.  During a few fights there is a cutscene that plays or what have you, and the game will not move Wolverine to the right mark causing you get stuck in the environment.  I mention this since it happened to me several times (stupid Sabretooth fight).  Also I got stuck behind a few walls and fell through the earth a couple of times forcing a reload.

And the story, while told better than the movie, is weirdly paced.  The beginning is slow as hell and convoluted using flashbacks to Africa to tell the background of Wolvie getting pissed off at Col. Striker and such.  Once you meet the Sentinals it picks up significantly.  Oh yeah there are Sentinals and a couple of really stupid boss fights.

And that’s it for the bad stuff.  Really.  The rest of the game is pure awesome.  First Wolverine is a badass.  Other than a really short stealth section (which isn’t bad actually) you will be clawing the living shit out of everthing.  Yes the game is rated M for Mature and holy crap does it deserve the rating. 

Dismembering,  massive amounts of blood, decapitations,  and slo-mo stabs through the chest are the norm and are plentiful throughout this 10+ hour adventure.  Yes over 10 hours my first playthrough.  Some of the attacks are just brutal and you feel really powerful as the Wolvie.  Just as the character should be portrayed.

Once you learn the lunge (which is really early) you will be jumping straight into combat all the time.  Wolvie is damn near indestructible and it is really hard to die.  This isn’t a complaint since the game is so fun.  The combat is successful and lunging and attacking NEVER gets old.  EVER.  It is fun as crap just beating the living piss out of everything.

There is a tad too much platforming but then again it is a mild distraction from the killing spree of justice that Wolvie dispenses.  There is an on rails shooting section that is cool and a neat shooting gallery section with a Sentinal hand that was interesting.

Now the boss fights, those are another story.  Most are pretty good.  The Sabretooth fight is good, same with all of the other mutants/baddies.  I liked them.  The only ones that kinda stunk are the weird monsters that pop up in africa.  I know, WTF is what you’ll be saying when you see the fire monster.

The voice acting is good with Hugh Jackman being on point most of the time.  The others aren’t bad, though I can’t tell if they are the actors from the movie.  I don’t think so but I could be wrong.  I think Liev is the Tooth but reall hard to tell overall since this is a Wolvie game.

Finnally we get to the graphics.  The CG cutscenes look really good except for Wolvie who does not look like Jackman in those.  Weird.  The realtime cutscenes and ingame Wolverine look really good though.  The realtime regeneration of Wolvie as he gets shot, beaten, and stabbed is amazing and really cool.  It is awesome to see a hole in the middle of his stomach and then watch it close up in real time. 

Also the blood, while comical (no pun intended) at times is well done overall and the same with the dismembering badguys.  They scream and flail around as they die.  Sometimes with no arms or legs.  Funny as hell.

So should you buy this game?  If you like God of War, X-Men, Wolverine, or kicking the living shit out of people then yes.  The little bugs/glitches don’t mar the experience as much as other reviews would lead you to believe and while the game is contrived and generally rather simple in terms of depth, it is fun as hell and true to the character.  There are a ton of combos and I was never bored.  This is the ultimate Wolverine simulator.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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Review: Eyeshine – Red Lights White Stripes

Posted by rapaleeman on March 9, 2009

Does anybody remember the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?  I do.  Loved that show.  When the crap are they going to release all the originals on DVD?

Oh, what does this have to do with the review you may be wondering?  Well, it just so happens the lead singer is Johnny Young Bosch, Adam, the second Black Ranger.  So how does this stack up with other celebrity rock stars?  Let’s take a listen shall we.

I gotta preface this with saying I expecting garbage.  No offense to JYB, but a celebrity in a band usually is there for some kind of glamour project to stay in the spotlight.  Or to get the band noticed. 

JYB (yeah we tight like that, edit – well not really but I’m typing his name again) is like Keanu Reeves and his band Dogstar.  He is just there.  He wants to rock and seems to really be committed as I’ve seen browsing their forums.  He cares about the fans and himself enough to do what he likes.  Applause for that.  Though I really want to hear them cover the MMPR theme song.  That would be funny as hell.

As for the music, well it is pretty good.  Borderline spectacular in places.  Some of the writing is downright perfect.  The songs are arranged on the album a tad odd and really need to be balanced better. 

For instance, the title track “Red Stripes, White Lights” (my favorite on the album if anyone cares) is the final track on the album.  It clocks in at just over 2 minutes.  Now the length isn’t the problem, it is the fact that the track is their ender.  To me, that should be the intro.  It is the perfect intro to at least 3 of the 4 songs at the beginning of the album.

“Can’t Keep Running Away” the lead off is a perfectly written, catchy track, but a little whiney in terms of vocal delivery.  Same with “Here Comes the End Again” and a few other so on the album. 

That to me is the biggest flaw of the debut album from Eyeshine (the EP doesn’t count).  Some of the vocals are whiny and sound like a really bad Emo singer.  Which is sad because the accompanied lyrics are usually really spot on.  It isn’t a deal breaker, but it is a flaw.

“Let You Down”, my second favorite track is great along with the amazing “Waterfall”.  Perfect songs.  The list goes on “Sunday Flower”, “Come Back Now”, and “Blackout” as well.  Just amazing lyrics and the vocals work on these tracks.  It shows how good this band actually is and can become.

Which I guess is my only real complaint.  The inconsistencies that are shown here will keep Eyeshine off the center stage.  I think the mix of rock and ballads work well to keep the album from getting stale, but JYB needs to get his voice in total control.  Which is really weird since he is a voice actor now (Nero FTW). 

At 15 tracks this is a pretty hefty album.  You definitely get your moneys worth.  If you can forgive the vocal issues and listen to the lyrics/message of each song then you will be in good shape.  This is good stuff.  Unfortunately I can’t go highly here.  I can only go RECOMMENDED.  

I will keep an ear out for their next album.  They seem to be really good guys that can take constructive criticism.  Please don’t get discouraged from the lack of recognition or the minor complaints.  I think  you have all the parts, just a little more refinement and all will be amazing.  I am really looking forward to some new tracks.

RECOMMENDED

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Look, in the sky! Explosions!

Posted by rapaleeman on February 6, 2009

As I said, I was going to be doing things a little different and for the first in that I figure what better way than to share one of the greatest bands I have ever heard.  No I don’t mean Journey, though they are still the greatest.

I’m talking about Explosions in the Sky or EITS.  This post-rock band that I first heard in the movie Friday Night Lights (and the subsequent TV show) has some of the most heart-felt and emotional songs I have ever heard.  Oh, did I forget to mention, the songs have no lyrics.

That’s right, they have three guitarists and a drummer.  That’s it.  With that arsenal of weaponry they have created a truly unique sound that is unlike anything I have every heard before.  The songs all tell stories in and of themselves, but combine these individual tracks with their parent albums and you get a story that is unlike any other.  Highs and lows abound.  This is truly the type of music that pushes the limits of the mind.

Like I said, I first heared EITS in the movie Friday Night Lights.  The background to 95% of the movie had this weird instrumental music that fit the scenes perfectly.  I bought the soundtrack and found that the tracks, while good, were only bits and pieces of full songs from their second and third albums, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever and The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Space respectively.

So I picked those albums up and to my surprise there were only 6 or 5 tracks that lasted anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes.  Despite the length, I didn’t feel any song was too long since they were expertly crafted and beautiful stories.  If anything a few tracks were too short in my opinion.

I want to touch on a few highlights.  “A Poor Man’s Memory” is my favorite from Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever.  It was used in the Friday Night Lights movie trailer and in a few key scenes from the movie.  Not sure if it is the relationship with the amazing movie or not, but the almost military style cadence in the song is phenomenal.  Just an amazing build up and peak that the song just sticks with you.

The entirety of The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Space is amazing.  Every track is great but “Your Hand In Mine” is a standout.  Just amazing.

Their newest album All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone is more of the same, but in a good way.  Never once does monotony set in or you wish the album/song is over.  I have never heard a band crank out 5 albums and there isn’t a stinker in sight. 

Thank you Explosions In The Sky for opening up my eyes to what music can and should be.  Never in a million years did I think that music could affect me in such a way without heart-felt lyrics, but yours has. 

Every one of their albums is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and the soundtrack as well.  Perfect introduction for such a great band.

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Review: skate.2 (Xbox 360)

Posted by rapaleeman on January 30, 2009

Here it is.  The biggest skateboarding game surprise has finally received a sequel.  How is it?

So I’ve had the original game since launch.  I love it.  The Flick-It control scheme, the realistic physics, the ideology behind the game, everything.  How do you improve upon perfection?  You add more shit.  You leave the perfect things alone and you fix the bugs, glitches, and little design flaws.  Unfortunately EA and Black Box only got part of the memo.

Let’s start with the bad.  The 60 frames per second that was promised functions sometimes, but stutters quite a bit.  Noticeable frame rate hits occur (especially downtown or when other skaters are online) that usually eff up your line/trick/overall flow.  With that the graphics are just weird.  They are overly bright and in certain sections of the city get really annoying (as well as the noticeable pop-in).  The city has this surreal feeling that wasn’t present in the original game.  Kinda like how Need For Speed Underground was a little off, so is this in terms of feel.  Plus there are some pretty low-resolution textures in places that should be.

Next Black Box decided to slow down the skaters and tweak the physics.  This means you need to hold a trick longer on the stick, move faster yourself, and overall change up your game.  Not a hard thing to get used to, but it seems to me they just crammed as much shit into the control scheme as they could.  I still prefer this to the archaic press “X” to kickflip, but there will hopefully be a compromise for the next game.  Pressing X or A to one-foot air tricks, is a little weird and very awkward.

Next is the Career mode.  In order to make things easier they made the film challenges mostly optional and you only really have to play the game of s.k.a.t.e. twice in the career.  First the actual career challenges.  They come in two varieties.  Easy as hell or hard as shit.  No in between.  The game of s.k.a.t.e. against Eric Koston and Mike Carroll is fucking broken and some of the other challenges require such specific timing that the control scheme is not made for that it is just unfair at times (looking at you basketball court).

To make things worse, the descriptions of the challenges and what to do next is so cryptic that I didn’t realize I had to find pools and drain them in order to continue the Thrasher magazine goals, or even understand how to get sponsors.  It just happens.  Plus some of the other challenges have you doing tricks in places that are not set up for them.  I understand the idea is make you feel like a real skater and deal with what you got, but when you have to land in a specific spot just to make an ollie and there is a ledge there, things can get really frustrating.

Finally, my last thing in this ongoing bitchfest (yes the good points are coming and there are plenty) is the city.  It is supposed to be a greatest hits of sorts from the first game, but overall it sucks.  The city feels like a corridor shooter in a city with a fake sky.  Like Doom or Duke Nukem.  There just are not a lot of open areas as before (probably to keep the frame rate up).

This leads to my first in the long list of good points, the skate parks.  Where the city itself really does suck, the skate parks are fucking amazing.  The Mega Compound has been revamped and is just perfect.  The Plan B warehouse has done some steroids and became the amazing Training Facility (with your board sponsors flags all over the place which is a nice touch).  Goofy Versus Regular (GVR) is a nice addition and sweet little area.  My new favorite is the Monster Clubhouse.  Despite the obvious branding (but their energy drinks rock so it is ok) the area is like an outdoor arena that is setup for competition (like the Dew Cup).  It has just enough crazy halfpipes added in the realism that it makes amazing.  The only place that is a letdown is the San Van Arena.  Gone is the X-Games of the past (which was awesome) and in is a weird amalgam of the mega ramp and a roller coaster.  Can’t describe it any other way.

Next is the ability to walk.  Yes it looks like shit and is a little awkward but thank you EA and Black Box.  Now I can walk up the effin stairs.  With this comes ability to use the force to retrieve the board which I am not that upset with as a lot of others are.  I think it looks cool.

Here is a good place to talk about the controls.  Once you get accustomed to the timing, the controls work quite well.  This is not a button masher or a game you can just flail away at the stick and hope for happiness.  In order to pull off good looking one foot/no foot grabs you need to plan out your runs.  Most require a combination of the right stick and shoulder buttons along with the A, X, or buttons after you have flicked the right stick to ollie.  Got that?  Check the trick book.  It is more intuitive than you may believe and you will be doing my favorite, Airwalks, in no time.  You can also hippie jump, caveman, foot plant,  no Comply, boneless, and use the grab the world button to do other tricks.

WTF?  Grab the world?  Yeah the RB button is now the grab the world button.  You can skitch cars with it, invert on QPs, and even move stuff.  Once off the board you can move realistic things (picnic tables, rails, ramps, those sorts of things) to set up new lines and even set up your own little Own the Spot challenge.  Once done you can then upload that shit online and challenge your friends.

Had enough?  Need more? Ok.

Once you finish the admittedly short and really frustrating career mode you can venture online.  The normal freeskate is back as well as online own the spots, but now you have freeskate activities.  Like Burnout Paradise (speaking of which, why the fuck are there Paradise City billboards all over this game?) you can initiate a ton of events wherever and whenever you want.  Some are easy fun, others a pain in the ass as well (having 6 people do one grind at the same time is fun.  Yeah right). 

Let us not forget the death races (which are a lot easier in the career mode this time around) or the new Hall of Meat challenges.  The HoM challenges are kinda annoying since they pop up EVERY time you bail.

Oh and the create-a-skater doesn’t suck anymore.  You can be a chick for one and the hair actually looks like hair.  Plus the hats look good (headphone options and different ways to wear them FTW) as well as the way everything just fits on the skater.  No longer do you feel like a set of clothes with a head. 

This also translates to the fact that the skater now takes battle damage as you wreck yourself on spots.  Same with the clothes and the board.  This along with the awesome new bails (which look pretty convincing for the most part) and the excellent animation system make for a pretty game to use the replay system with.

For that you get 90 seconds total.  Infinite clips that add up to 90 seconds.  Replay options are stinted (Filmer Pack is available, I got it and will touch on it next week afte rI mess with it over the weekend)  but for the most part editing is easy and checking out replays of your conquests and failures is a definite win.

So what is the final verdict.  Well if you read the cons they were all pretty big.  With that said the good definitely outweighs the bad here.  I am more pissed off that the little bugs were not fixed than I am about anything else, but since the skate parks are so great and the new tricks are actually awesome (though not necessary) I gotta give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Not to mention my new obsession in the replay mechanic and I can see myself playing this game until skate.3 comes out.  So while this may be just skate. 1.5, it is a definite must buy for any skate fan.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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