Month: June 2012

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CGPodcast June 29 2012

It is the week of June 29th, 2012 and the C?&G crew sit down for another fun and exciting podcast. This week Tim, Wayne and Brendan look at the news of the 3DS XL, the new ending for Mass Effect 3, The concept of a Need for Speed Movie and the delay of FarCry 3. Wayne looks at what makes Gravity Rush possibly the best game on the vita to date and they all look at the news that there is a new chapter for The Walking Dead. All this and more on the CGPodcast.

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Spider-men #2 Review

Spider-men #2 Review

Spider-Men brings together Peter Parker and Miles Morales for the first time, but this story feels much more important in the grand scheme of things for Miles, compared to Peter Parker.  This is likely because Bendis writes Miles Morales’ adventures and not Peter Parkers, and thus far this storyline is taking place in the Ultimate Universe, with Peter interacting with Ultimate characters, such as Nick Fury.  Having recently read the Death of Spider-Man arc, as well as the Ultimate Spider-Man series frontlined by Miles Morales, it gave me a perspective on this book that many readers that might pick up this series might not have coming in.  From the perspective of a fan of the mainstream Spider-Man, this might not be the most accessible story going in, because it`s thus far deeply connected to the Ultimate Marvel Universe, and having at least a passing knowledge of recent events is important to understanding the status quo and not feeling left behind (as Spider-Man feels in this issue).  Thankfully, Bendis is able to use Peter Parker as a proxy for readers unaware of this continuity, which helps somewhat when reading through the book.

Considering Bendis` reputation for being a  fairly wordy writer, this issue showed considerable restraint on his part (well, except for one particular panel), as he dialled back the dialogue and instead let his artist, Sara Pichelli, dazzle readers with her breathtaking visuals.  I’m a relative latecomer to the ranks of Sara Pichelli’s fans, and hopefully after this high-profile book she’ll get a lot of new fans who can’t wait to see what she does next.  Her artwork is absolutely gorgeous, but more than that she excels in actually telling a story, and her fluid artwork makes the obligatory fight sequence between Miles and Peter fun and engaging, as the two have a great throwdown . There’s a good amount of humour in their skirmish, and Pichelli is able to show the humour in the script through her pencils . She has a light tone, which keepst he action moving seamlessly, but at the same time isn’t too light, as the issue remains grounded.

In terms of actual plot progression this issue is relatively light on that front, although we do get to see more of the villain of the piece, Mysterio, as he realizes what happened during the last issue, and Peter and Miles have a classic misunderstanding, leading to a fight which manages to showcase just what makes Peter and Miles similar and also drastically different from one another.  Miles takes Peter to the only person on Earth he could trust to know what to do with him, and afterwards Miles prepares to show Peter Parker the world, and bring him up to date on just who Peter Parker was in this universe, and what ultimately happened to him.  Just because the plot might not move ahead at breakneck speed, it isn’t a bad thing, in fact I thought the pacing on this issue was spot-on.

There’s tremendous potential in this mini-series, and with this issue we finally get to see a bit of that potential unwrapped as Peter and Miles officially meet.  The coming issues promise to be quite exciting, not just on a visceral level, with a throwdown coming between both Spider-Men and Mysterio, but also on an emotional one, as Peter will (hopefully) come face to face with the Ultimate Universe versions of Gwen Stacy and Aunt May.  Bendis has a terrific collaborator in Sara Pichelli, and I can’t wait to see how these two deliver with the next issue.  Recommended!

The Manhattan Projects #4 Review

The Manhattan Projects #4 Review

Manhattan Projects is only four issues old, but it might just be one of my favourite comic books on the stands today, if not my favourite.  Every issue by Hickman and Pitarra is an absolute delight, as Hickman tells some truly amazing stories, and Pitarra manages to totally nail the artwork with strong, visceral storytelling.  This book is a fantastic science fiction story, as Hickman utilizes the loose framework of the premise to focus on different characters and concepts freely, while keeping within the lines set out by his premise.  Each issue thus far has been a standalone, and yet each issue builds off of the events of the previous issues, without the previous issues actually needing to have been read to understand what is unfolding in the issue.  It’s hard to explain, but that’s the simplest way of putting it.

After being seen in a few scenes in the last few issues, this issue it’s finally Albert Einstein’s time to shine, as we get a closer look at the doorway he’s been obsessing about, and learn more about who he is, and his history with the doorway.  Einstein’s story reminded me of Oppenheimer’s, in terms of the duality of the character, albeit in a very different manner, one much more science-fiction based.  In some ways this story is just as much about Richard Feynman, as he’s integral to Einstein’s struggle with the elusive doorway, but although Feynman co-stars in this issue, he gets considerably less of the focus.  Hickman loves using flashbacks in this book, which he then uses as a contrast against the main timeline of the book, and it’s always a treat to see how he uses it to flesh out these characters in a meaningful way.  It’s reminiscent of the Lost approach, as the revelations that often come with the culmination of the flashbacks are totally unknown to the main cast of this book, comprising a secret history that is unlikely to get out.  It makes each successive issue multi-layered, such as with Oppenheimer.  I love seeing scenes with him and his brother, because it’s creepy and keeps the reader mindful of that character’s particularly dark and twisted secret.  Unfortunately, due to the revelatory nature of the stories that are told in this book, there’s not much I can really say about the events of the book without venturing into spoiler territory, but this is a fantastic look into Albert Einstein’s history, which opens up a lot of potentially possibilities going forwards.

Although Hickman is hitting each script right out of the park, I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t take sufficient time and space to laud the efforts of Nick Pitarra, the brilliant artist on this book, as well as Jordie Bellaire, who provides the colours.  This is a book where the colours are extremely important, and play an integral part in shaping the visual look of the book.  This is especially true with this issue, as he plays with colour palettes, having the flashback story feature distinct blue and red shades.  It makes the artwork eye-popping as well as eye-catching, but also plays a distinct role in characterizing the two particular worlds that are at play beneath the surface.  Pitarra’s rendition of Einstein is pitch-perfect, managing to play into the subtleties of Hickman’s script beautifully- sometimes he looks almost adorable, in a friendly grandpa kind of way, and at others he’s awfully sinister looking.  There’s a true elegance to Pitarra’s artwork, not one wasted line, nor wasted panel.  Pitarra and Bellaire are a brilliant art team, and this issue, like the three issues before it, prove it once more.

If you still haven’t jumped onto this book, I must implore you to give it a shot.  It’s well worth being added to your monthly pull list, as Hickman, Pitarra and Bellaire are one of the very best creative teams working in comics today.  This is a young book, but one worthy of your time, attention and hard-earned dollars.  Each issue is a breath of fresh air, as Hickman takes readers on a fantastical, engaging journey.  Highly Recommended!

Avengers versus X-Men #6 Infinite Review

Avengers versus X-Men #6 Infinite Review

Going into this issue, I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, as I found myself fairly let down by the ending to Avengers versus X-Men #5 when it came out a few weeks ago.  The issue had been quite strong up until the ending, building in pace and intensity, and then the issue lost me.  So when I started reading this issue, I already had some reservations about where the story might be going.  Although I did appreciate what Jonathan Hickman did with the scripting here in this issue, it wasn’t quite enough to make the book that enjoyable, entertaining or interesting for me.  It was almost as if I could tell what the writers were trying to do, but at the same time didn’t really like what they were doing or how they were getting there.

Although I credit the writers of this issue for not making this issue as predictable as it could have been, instead taking a moment to change the direction the story was going and its momentum, I found various plot elements to drag a bit, and played out in a fairly predictable fashion.  The story invokes memories of House of M, the last major X-Men/Avengers crossover, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.  The series jumps ahead from where the last issue ended, but then spends a lot of time reacquainting the reader with what has happened since the Phoenix Five descended upon Earth.  From there, there’s predictability in the actions undertaken by the Avengers, as they try to find Hope so that they can figure out how to change what’s happening to the planet now that the Phoenix Five are changing the world.  My biggest gripe is that I don’t like how the Avengers are essentially taking the role of the Secret Avengers during Civil War, a smaller, less powerful band of heroes who disagree with the opposing side, and are working to undermine and stop it at all costs, because the other side doesn’t realize the negative aspects to their actions and decisions.  The Phoenix Five aren’t written all that well either, and there are numerous events which occur that don’t seem to have any real reason or drive behind them, such as Charles Xavier arriving at Utopia at the beginning of the issue.  The ending of the issue is perhaps the biggest call-back to House of M, but one that’s kind of toothless.  What really surprised me about this issue is how after so many issues of posturing and believing in Hope as the Messiah of all mankind, when the Phoenix Five got their powers they still didn’t work at repowering the mutant race.  That took me by surprise, because it would have been the most logical place for the story to go, more so than the Phoenix Five attempting to merely right the world’s evils.

This issue also saw the simultaneous release of Avengers versus X-Men #6: Infinite, the second such Infinite issue, which put the focus squarely on Cyclops.  I have to say, this issue absolutely blew me away.  Waid wrote a brilliant script which really took a close look at Scott Summers and how he’s handling having the power of the Phoenix Force, considering what the Phoenix means to him and his past, and what it’s taken from him before.  The writing on the character was MUCH stronger than it has been in the main series, and it also serves to humanize him in a way that we haven’t seen in a while.  Usually, Scott Summers is more about being the perfect mutant general, or being a devout believer in Hope as the Messiah, but this issue cuts to the core of who and what Cyclops is and has been, and it was a remarkably genuine-feeling issue.  Waid nailed the script, and gave Cyclops some much-needed depth.

The art chores for Act II of Avengers vs. X-Men are done by Olivier Coipel, and he gives the book a very different look than that of John Romita Jr.  The call-backs to House of M are more pronounced here because the artwork is handled by the same artist who illustrated that mini-series, so there are some visual cues to remind the reader of the previous storyline.  The artwork is of extremely high calibre, much more polished than the artwork by Romita Jr. in prior issues. The artwork in the Infinite issue is handled by

Carlo Barberi and is enjoyable, with strong visuals which convey the genuine emotion of the script quite capably.

From an overall perspective, these two stories are enjoyable, although as I’ve said the main story is lacking somewhat, and doesn’t have that great a sense of pacing.  The Infinite issue, on the other hand, is excellent, and well-wroth reading.  The artwork on both the Infinite issue and the regular print issue is of high quality as well.  I’m looking forward to what happens next in this series, but I’m hoping that it picks up the pace a bit, and also is a bit more original and not as predictable.

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PS3) Review 1

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PS3) Review

At this point we all know what to expect from a Lego game. We’re going to see some appealingly goofy Lego designs, a story with reverence to the source material and a welcome sense of humor about itself, and of course endless opportunities to smash the crap out of villains and items until they fall into collectable plastic pieces. Yep, the series sure is consistent aside from whatever franchise they decide to adopt. But before you go jumping to conclusions and writing off Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes just because you’ve grown weary of Traveller’s Tales endless stream of Lego games, give it a chance. The designer weren’t content just to shift out another Lego Star Wars remake. All the touchstones are definitely there, but with just enough new additions to make the series seem fresh again. Even though this thing isn’t going to be winning awards for changing the gaming landscape anytime soon, it proves there’s still a little life left in this pop culture crazed franchise and plenty of childish glee to be had.

The game opens with a Gotham City Man Of The Year awards ceremony where both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are competing for the top prize. You can probably guess who wins and who is pissed off about losing. Suddenly the Joker breaks in deciding he should have nabbed the award himself. A fight with Batman ensues, but not before Luthor decides this Joker character could be a good partner to make up for the whole “Man Of The Year” thing, by running for president. Obviously, Batman and Robin will have to stop them, only this time with the help of a collection of Justice League buddies at their side. It’s the type of irreverent, goofball story we’ve all come to expect from Traveller’s Tales, but now there’s dialogue (though sadly no Mark Hamil Joker, just someone doing an impression of him…sigh). That’s right, the characters don’t just silently mug, they trade quips back and forth. It’s always light and funny. Nothing that will get the writers a gig on a sitcom, but when Robin was geeking out over Superman to the chagrin of a jealous Batman, I can’t pretend I didn’t chuckle.

Lego-Batman-Hush-1Of course, while the semi-parody stories and jokes always add a great deal of charm to the game, these aren’t exactly deep narrative experiences. It’s all about gameplay and this sucker delivers the goods with a couple of pleasant surprises. The basis is of course smashy smashy action and jumpy jumpy platforming. Batman and Robin are your main men on the fight and once again they get special suits to help them with the task. The old suits from the last game return along with some new ones like Batman’s Power Suit which gives him super strength and rockets or his Sensor Suit, which throws in X-ray vision and invisibility. Robin on the other hand gets special new outfits like his Acrobat Suit that allows him to swing to higher points in environment and create bubble to zip around in and a Snow Suit packing an ice cannon along with an invulnerability to cold. The other DC characters throw down their own powers like The Flash’s superspeed, Green Lantern’s ability to construct things with his ring and of course, Superman’s you know…superpowers. Once again, you’ll be going back into old levels to find previously inaccessible areas with the new suits and characters. This game could go on for weeks if not months if you decide to collect everything.

Collecting has always been a big part of adding replay value to Lego games and Batman 2 guarantees a whole new level of addictive reply by making their Gotham City an open world adventure. That’s right, between levels you have Gotham as your personal playground and can shuttle around to famous landmarks like Arkham Asylum, Wayne Manor, the Wayne Enterprises Tower, or the Ace Chemicals plant. To make travel a little less painful you’ll have access to the Batmobile. Or if your Superman, you can always fly (which in a fantastic touch comes accompanied by John Williams’ iconic theme from the Superman movies. It’s enough to encourage you to fly around for hours for no apparent reason). The open world is filled with collectables and achievements, which combined with all the hidden goodies in the levels means that you could quite easily find yourself dropping a few dozen hours into this thing if you desperately need to reach that sweet, sweet 100% completion level. Traveller’s Tales did an incredible job designing the city, which is gorgeously detailed even within the limitations of the Lego block aesthetic. It’s not perfect (the map n’ marker system is a little harder to use than it should be), but for the designers’ first crack at an open world, they did a damn good job.

For the most part the folks behind Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes didn’t do much to mess with their established formula. Fair enough, why should they? This franchise has lasted far longer than anyone could have expected because it is a hell of a lot of fun and simply tossing a new pop culture icon at the formula is enough to make it interesting (I think we can assume a Lego Avengers or even better, a full Lego Marvel Universe game isn’t far away). The new additions to this game like the new superheroes, the open world, and a few new gamplay modes (such as being able to aim Superman’s laser eyes from over his shoulder in flight) are all welcome additions and prove that Traveler’s Tales even have a few fresh ideas left to keep this series from getting stale. Over all, it’s probably the best Lego game to come along since the Star Wars games invented the genre and should not be missed by anyone who enjoys these things. If you always thought the Lego games were a bit dull, simply throwing in an open world and dialogue is not going to be enough to convert you. However, if you were long ago (in a galaxy far, far away?) seduced by the cutesy Lego charms, get ready for many hours of your life to disappear.

Protagonist Rant - 2012-06-26 19:30:03

Protagonist Rant

I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to notice this. While hop, skipping and jumping around with glee in anticipation of the Okami HD remastered edition, my thoughts wandered over to other characters that Japanese developers have created over the generations;

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Who Needs Sunshine?

Hello everyone and welcome once again to Patch Notes. A few housekeeping chores are in order this week. First off I, want to apologize to those loyal readers who wait with bated breath every other Friday for a new edition of Patch Notes. Unfortunately due to a prior commitment I wasn’t able to get v1.1 out to you until now. If you missed me, I’m sorry.

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CGPodcast June 22, 2012

It is the week of June 22 and the CGPodcast is back with a full show for everyone. The crew look at MMO’s and talks about how The Old Republic may be going free to play, They look into the concept of a Splinter Cell movie. Pay Day: The Heist No Mercy gets discussed and they talk about the new 18+ rating in Australia. In what they have been playing we learn why Wayne would rather do the dishes then play Inversion, how Max Payne 3 is a flawed but fun game and how Dirt Showdown is a great game with a horrible soundtrack. All this and more!

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