Archive for September, 2007

WIC – Addendum

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

So I wrote that review last night thinking there were more levels.  Nope, Whitesnake signaled the end of the game.

That said – wow, that was short.  An attack on Seattle and New York, plus Europe?

All in all, cool game, but short.  Way too short.

World in Conflict…. Bloody Perfection [*****]

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I’m sitting with my buddy on a couple of crates on the outskirts of Seattle, WA. After searching everywhere… I finally find a pair of AA batteries for my brand new portable CD player. As we both lean in to hear the first sweet sound of music in weeks… we break out in song. Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’ blaring out loud as I look over the shattered landscape. Seattle lies in ruin, the Soviets have lost this battle and the Chinese are headed home.

What the hell am I talking about?

World in Conflict – otherwise known as the greatest peace of war time porno for the PC I’ve ever played in my life. Placing you smack in the middle of World War 3, you shift between 3 primary theaters, Europe and both coasts of the USA.

World War III never happened, well, not yet at least. The Cold War ended as the Soviet Empire crumbled under the force of US arsenals and propaganda. WIC brings you to the point of ‘what if?’

The Soviets are on a mission of conquest in Europe, a month after we gain the upper hand with our allies, they invade Seattle. They invade New York. Using just about every weapon of the time possible, we fight. A war only Winston Churchill could understand is plotted out in gigantic, scenic, and highly detailed maps. Each mission consists of waypoints that must be crossed or controlled. When controlling a waypoint, you must strategically place resources at each waypoint to both ‘dig in’ and allow automated fortifications to be built. Don’t relax for a second, as in most cases once you control a set of waypoints you must roll off towards another objective.

Reinforcements and air assaults are provided depending on how successful your attacks are. Fail on artillery or air-strikes, and the air force won’t be so quick to provide massive levels of airborne destruction. Lose tanks and you can add more, but one of the many features this game excels at is balance. You never get more than you need, you always have just enough to get the job done as long as you play smart. Some objectives rely on infantry, others on heavy armor, some require air support or anti-air. You’ll always have what you need – just make sure to use it right and not get dead.

The imagery in the game is downright pornographic. No real blood and guts, but accurate representations of the US under siege. Between missions there are cinematics which put you into the situation at home, where soldiers call home… the confusion, dismay, and hope of war in every conversation. Anyone who doesn’t literally choke at certain points in this game is completely nuts. This game is obscenely violent, and that’s a good thing. There’s nothing pretty about war – bad things happen, people die, loved ones are lost and in the end nobody really wins.

One of my favorite features? Alec Baldwin. That’s right, before engaging in any major mission, there is a voice over by Alec Baldwin. Now his misguided politics and wacky personal life aside, if there was ever imagery that could add weight to the Tom Clancy like universe of this game – it is Baldwin. I’ve always liked him as an actor, and am one of the few people who’d love to see him run along side Fred Thompson in ’08. The Hunt for Red November… hell, make Connery secretary of defense and I’d just about blow my political load before passing out in shock.  Ideology be damned!

The graphics? Absolutely insane. My computer running a 3200+ processor with a 256mb Geforce card and 2gb of RAM absolutely CHOKES at maximum resolution. I had to customize the medium settings to get it to run right. I wouldn’t try this game unless you’ve got a REAL good video card and system, as I think that’s my only saving grace at this point. I’m already pricing out a quad-core Intel system so I can hopefully run this thing one day at full resolution.

Frankly, the graphics could absolutely stink on this game and I’d still love it. The game play is rock solid – I haven’t been this into a real time strategy game since the very first Command & Conquer title hit store shelves nearly 10 years ago. The developers lay out a tapestry of destruction, a work of art (FUCK YOU EBERT) that is unrivaled in this genre, and a story that’d glue any gamer to the screen until the last battle is won.

Worth the $60, this game in my humble opinion – is perfection.

Give me a BREAK

Monday, September 24th, 2007

So I finally get my car back from the dealer last Friday. I didn’t do anything over the weekend, so it just sat there in the driveway minding its own business. Today I get in, start the car, and as I’m going to work a bug hits the windshield.

I hit the windshield washer button, I hear the sound – but nothing comes out of the nozzles. I test the rear washer and it works fine. Then I see washer fluid spitting out of the front of the car. Great. I figure that while working on my car last week, someone bumped something loose.

VW checks the car – a mouse chewed threw the line… God help me. IT’S IN THE HOOD. Why the hell would the thing squeeze IN TO THE HOOD?

Now before y’all email me and say ‘well antifreeze tastes and smells sweet’ I say to you – NO SHIT. I figure it’s probably the washer fluid / antifreeze I’ve been using on my last 2 cars – orange Rain-X. It’s the de-icer one which likely has more antifreeze in it than other varieties (like the blue stuff). My first car at the current house was a Neon, and it never had any mouse problems – I only used the blue stuff. Now since my car has a front and rear washer nozzle it would make sense that the scent of the fluid could get all over the front and the back of the car – resulting in the mouse nests.

I fixed this problem myself, and when I get the official VW parts I’ll just take them and install them myself as well. I’ll also head over to Gander Mt and pick up some predator urine if they have it… Hopefully it’ll make my car a little less attractive to those mouse bastards.

All that said – it’s not the thing that truly pissed me off today.

What truly pissed me off, is that while I was troubleshooting the car issues, I noticed that someone had keyed my passenger door. Door was fine after I picked it up at the dealer, as I did my traditional walkaround. I figure someone keyed it at the Vernon Inn on Friday. The parking lot had been packed – REALLY packed. So I parked along with someone else I know perpendicular to a row of cars. That row of cars had enough clearance behind them to back out of their spots to leave. I figure some drunken dickweed was upset that they could no longer simply pull straight out due to our parking job and decided to thank me personally.

I don’t get the whole keying a car thing. It makes no sense to me, as I’m neither that petty nor that juvenile. If you piss me off I’m either going to ignore you or just lay you out, not fuck with your car. So that’s that. I’m buying a spare truck that I won’t care if it gets dinged, dented, scratched, or smashed. I doubt I’ll be driving to the Inn any time soon – I sure wish I had seen these assholes do it though…

Give me a BREAK.

Update – apparently peppermint oil or Fox urine will keep the mice at bay.  I’ll try the peppermint oil first.

Mediocreman Doomsday

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Quite possibly my favorite superhero of all time is Superman. My kinship with the Man of Steel did not start with the comics – it began with the Christopher Reeve films, then the comics, then Smallville. As far as plot goes, the bar has been raised pretty high for the Last Son of Krypton.

I liked Superman Returns. That said, I really have little desire to re-watch it. I’ll toss in any of the first quadrilogy (sorry, voted for Bush) or any season disc of Smallville before I’d even rent Superman Returns. Heck, I’ve re-read the death of superman saga from my original copies purchased at the local comic shop during that tumultuous time that I’ll probably be picking up the trade paperback (the original term for a what is now referred to as a graphic novel by people who forgot what the fuck made comics so COOL) as my own copies are wearing out and I’d like to share them some day.

The Death of Superman. I cried reading that comic. I knew what was coming, and at the end – I sobbed. The rise of the imposters enraged me. I knew in my heart none of these were Kal El and I sat in breathless anticipation reading of his return from the other world by the spirit of Johnathon Kent while the impostors laid claim to the mighty S.

I’d seen the previews for Superman:Doomsday many times and last night dropped $14.95 on the DVD at Wal-Mart. Loosely based on the Death of Superman – it doesn’t explore any of the numerous angles offered by the comic series that birthed it – instead they turn it into another scheme by Lex Luthor to bolster LexCorp which goes awry (big surprise there) and results in a purpose built killing machine breaking loose and taking out our beloved Superman. While that plot would be great for a few comics, or even a two part SmallVille – it’s pretty thin for a movie, even animated.

The voice acting is OK. I still can’t picture Adam Baldwin as Superman – we’re not talking Mark Hamill and the Joker here – Baldwin’s performance was sedate to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Baldwin, all the way from when he played a dick head mobster in Ghost to Jayne in the Firefly and Serenity films… I just feel that there were directions he could have taken the voice which might have added to the screen presence. Ann Heche plays Lois Lane. That I can believe if we’re talking comic book / SmallVille Lois and not movie Lois. She pulled it off, but someone forgot to tell her when to switch off the sharp tongued reporter (ie when flatly telling Martha Kent that her son died in Metropolis – before breaking down). Have a freakin heart lady – she just lost her son! If anything I’d say the highlight of the voice acting was James Marster’s Lex Luthor. Cold, calculating, and borderline out of control – I could see Marsters as a better representation of Luthor on-screen than Kevin Spacey or Gene Hackman could ever dream to be. I’m still partial to Rosenbaum’s Luthor from SmallVille – that guy’s got layers of evil he hasn’t even touched yet and the anticipation is intoxicating… but I digress.

Marster’s performance and a brief cameo from Kevin Smith (listed as Grumpy Guy in the credits) are the highlights of this film. It’s a solid addition to the archive, but nothing new or groundbreaking. A 3 hour epic is what I expected – instead I got a 75 minute exceedingly dark interpretation which completely eviscerated the comic. I appreciate that they kept it dark – it’s the Death of Superman after all… but it could have used a few more months in the cutting room before it was released.

Lame Fuel

Friday, September 21st, 2007

With Halo 3 nearly at our doorsteps, various companies are cashing in on links to the 3rd in a line of best-selling games (fuck you Ebert).  One of the majors?  Pepsi.  Mountain Dew has followed up their special ‘summer flavor’ over the past few years with what they like to call Game Fuel.

IMHO, it tastes like a mix of LiveWire and  Code Red.  I kinda like Code Red.  I really like LiveWire.  Mix the two and it tastes like unoriginal garbage mixed together without any testing or consideration for Dew fanatics like myself.

The fact they’d pull this crap off just to cash in on a game release really makes me wonder if anyone is awake over at Pepsi.

Advice for the folks at Pepsi, you already had something better suited as game fuel, it was called Josta… quit pawning this garbage on us and get back to innovating.

The VW – Epilogue

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Well I finally have my car back.

In the end, the only repairs I paid for were what was caused by the mouse.

As for the rental, 12 days cost me quite a bit – but VW is paying for the full rental minus the added insurance (which saved my butt because yesterday while driving back from Albany, a rock the size of a softball bounced out of the dump truck ahead of me and clobbered the roof).

So all in all I’m out a few hundred bucks, and my faith in the local dealership has been restored, by a combination of the owner’s personal attention and the followup which covered a majority of my costs over the past 2 weeks.

VW – The Saga Continues…

Friday, September 21st, 2007

It’s officially been 2 weeks now since I last drove my VW.

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a room with a bottomless bowl of soylent green.

Long story short, 3 weeks ago, I started the car, smelled smoke – gas and temp gauges died.  Car ran fine so I went on vacation with it, and returned it to the local VW dealership the following Monday.  That day they find the source of the problem, a mouse nest on the fuel tank – the wires were chewed up coming from the fuel pump.  They have to order the part.

Tuesday… no part.

Wednesday… part arrives, tank is fixed.  Gauge cluster is broken.  BIG SURPRISE.  Part ordered.

Thursday… no part.

Friday… no part.

Monday… part arrives, no tech available to complete repair.

Tuesday… tech repairing… replacement gauge cluster is shot.  Part ordered.

Wednesday… no part.

Thursday… no part.

Friday… ?

As much as I got sick of fixing my Dodges, I could at least FIX THEM.  The car isn’t that old, it’s one of their best selling models, it shouldn’t take 2 f!@#ing weeks to fix a gauge cluster!  The one in my Dodge was great – the thing unplugged like a game cartridge after removing a couple screws.  Putting in a new one with different mileage?  No problem, bring it to the dealer and they sync it up with the mileage in the computer.

Not VW.  No, they don’t trust the dealer.  The dealer has to request a new cluster from the manufacturer, have it programmed for my car with the exact mileage, and shipped via FedEx or UPS.  Obviously the parts aren’t tested at the factory either.

I swear… I see a mouse in my yard it’s headed to the next life with a backside full of buckshot.

Holy Smokin’ Eggs Batman!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Just finished writing a letter to QuickChek’s headquarters. My last one had been praising their new Florida, NY store. This one? Not so much.

The parking lot at the deli across the street was packed, so instead I went to QuickChek and ordered my Taylor ham, egg, & cheese. Now I ordered it at the kiosk, then headed over to buy my coffee. I get back to the deli counter and my sandwich is waiting for me.

I’m pretty hungry, so as I’m driving to work I start eating the sandwich, and about 2 bites in it hits me – the smell and taste of cigarettes. I gagged and spat out the rest of the sandwich – then smelled it again to confirm what just happened. Sure enough – it smelled like stale cigarettes. Someone either spat in my sandwich or wasn’t wearing those spiffy plastic gloves.

I doubt I’ll be buying any more ‘fresh made’ products from this location ever again. I should have just stuck with the Florida Central Deli – never had a problem there.

Crowded parking lot, be damned.

As a followup, I got a pretty quick response from the district manager for QuickChek and they’re checking the ingredients as well as video for anything out of the ordinary.  They’ve also offered me free breakfast tomorrow made by the manager.  It’s good to know they’ve got procedures in place to make sure everything is on the up and up – as I generally do like the store.

Ninja Revenge

Monday, September 17th, 2007

So I’m back into playing World of Warcraft after a spring/summer hiatus. I’ve moved my main character, currently a level 63 Human Rogue over to the Role Playing server called Argent Dawn. Besides knowing a few of the people who use it, I had hoped joining the RP server would allow me to deal with more mature players. For the most part, I was right – however the Ninja looting is my biggest gripe and is rampant on the server – so I’ve had to find ways to get them back or simply enjoy myself at their expense.

First some vocabulary for those of you who have NO CLUE what I’m talking about here. While playing the game, you’ve got enemies and loots. Enemies are mainly computer controlled bad guys, and loots are rewards that a player gets for defeating the enemy. Loots can also be defined as valuable items that can be picked up without fighting a bad guy. For instance, various herbs can be picked while in the game – they simply sprout up out of the ground and all a player has to do is walk over and grab it. Some of these herbs have one or more enemies near them. If a player runs up and just grabs the herb, the enemy will likely stop them and the player will be unable to grab the herb without first defeating the enemy.

What a Ninja will do is wait to see another player engage the enemy who is near the loot, and then steal the loot without getting injured. Another type of Ninja is the one who will team up with a group of players, then wait for a very valuable loot to drop – steal it and then leave the rest of the group to likely get slaughtered.

Like I said, this server is wrought with ninjas. Most commonly they will wait for me to engage an enemy, and then run up to steal whatever loot I was trying to get. Some times these loots are used to get money in game, other times they are used to complete missions. Either way, the ninja will steal and generally laugh at or ignore the person they just screwed over.

I’ve found 2 ways to get back at these folks, the first and easiest – ninja’ing them right back. Since my character is a Rogue, I have the ability to stealth (walk around completely invisible to players and enemies at or below my experience level). So I simply finish fighting the enemy, stealth, then follow the ninja and wait for them to engage an enemy or ninja again. If the engage an enemy? I just steal the loot. If they’re going to ninja again, I run up, steal the loot, then wait for the victim to finish fighting so I can give them the loot. Go ahead, say ‘awwww.’ Fuck off.

The second way I just discovered last night, and may continue to use if I can reproduce the results, is when I am attacking more than one enemy (in this case, 3) and another player tries to ninja my loot… I simply vanish. Vanish is a skill used by the rogue to immediately vanish from sight in a cloud of smoke. Do it right, and the enemies will forget that you are there, and you can run off, heal, etc… In this case, I vanished as the other player ran up to steal my loot. The 3 enemies then reset to their original positions, and proceeded to attack the other player. I then grabbed the loot I was originally after, and sat back laughing as the player’s character was killed.

I’ll give it a shot again tonight to see if it is repeatable, flash powder is cheap enough that the laughs are worth the expense.

Well that’s a stupid feature…

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

I’ve been driving an ’07 Dodge Magnum SXT for the past few days, and have already run into a very odd and wholly annoying feature…

Now, any car I’ve driven, you push the turn signal stalk up and it lights the right side turn signal – and visa versa.

Not the Dodge!  You push it a little right, and it blinks 3 times and stops – and visa versa.

Push it all the way right, and it functions like a normal turn signal.  Now some times I don’t need to keep the signal on until the steering wheel resets it – several times I found myself activating the  left, then right, then left, then right turn signal just to shut the friggin thing off.  Now I just try to make sure that I push the stalk all the way until it stops so I can use it like any other car.

I can’t imagine how this is useful, or how it won’t result in the multifunction switch in the column from breaking early.

Next on the list?  How much this thing floats.  Driving home yesterday I let my attention shift for a second and when I looked back I was almost into the rear quarter panel of the car ahead of me.  I cut the wheel and chalked it up to drifting when I was distracted.  Nope – driving home several times in this 2-ton station wagon I found the car floating left and right.  Maybe it was wind, but this thing was hopping around like a Neon.

I miss my VW.