Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First Thoughts: Mortal Kombat (2011)

So I got a chance the other day to give this game a whirl. And I think I can sum up my feelings on this game with this image:


Now I liked that last entry into the series (Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe) but it was just missing that extra something that makes MK so magical. Hardcore violence and fatalities of epic proportions, of course! and MK 2011 makes up for this in spades. Netherrealm Studios (formerly Midway) brings MK back to it's roots in some aspects, but keeps the good from previous games later in the series, such as Deception, Armageddon, and MK vs. DC.

First off, this game is a hard M rating, there is no two ways about it. Some people will get up in arms about this and bitch, but really, this is the game franchise responsible for the ESRB, what did you expect? Add to that the fact that the ladies barely wear enough to cover their naughty bits in most cases. So if you have some sort of moral objection, now is the time to quit reading.

For those of you still with me, let's take a quick look at the game. You have a total of 27 playable characters (on the PS3 version there is a bonus "guest" character. No such love for us on the 360) . I would show you a picture of the roster, but I can't seem to find one that doesn't include a massive spoiler that I don't want to give away.
These are the various awesome playable game modes:
1) Story mode with 16 chapters. Similar to MK vs. DC where you play a different character each chapter
2) Tournament ladder with unique endings for each character
3) Training mode
4) Challenge Tower- a 300-mission behemoth where you do various fights and other challenges for Koins and an ultimate reward.
5) Fatality Training mode- to practice your all your favorite finishers
6) Mini-games- Test Your Might, Test Your Sight, Test Your Luck, and Test Your Strike.
7) Online- with a King of the Hill mode where XBox 360 players can actually import their avatars to use while watching matches.
8) The Krypt- where you can spend all those hard earned Koins on various unlockables

Fatalities- each character has two Fatalities in the game, as well as the humorous babalities. There was a rumor Friendships would be included, but it appears that is all it turned out to be. Along with this is the X-ray attack, a kind of supermove that shows the internal damage caused by the various hits of the combo (which does more damage that usual). It is charged on a bar at the bottom of the screen, similar to the way the slamming move charges in the Ghostbusters game (2009). These are rendered with care and brutality, showing bones breaking and organs destroyed.

part of Raiden's X-Ray Attack- a skull- cracking good time!

Gameplay is overall very good, and easy to pick up. The moves list now shows the Fatality combos, which is really nice. The fighting is back on a 2-D plane, so anyone tired of side-stepping and 3-D arenas can breathe easy. Classic stages such as The Pit, the Living Forest, and the Dead Pool all make a comeback (among many others), as do the Stage Fatalities where applicable. The game, for all it's new features and shiny new look, will feel like an old friend to long-time fans of the franchise.

The story- the story is kind of like the new Star Trek movie, in that the timeline of the MK universe is altered. It begins immediately after the events of Armageddon before moving back in time and you essentially replay the first three Mortal Kombat games with a vastly different outcome as Raiden tries to avoid that particular future. A very cool concept, and I am very excited to see how they go forward with this into further games.

My only complaint is some of the character models look goofy in game. Raiden looks awesome, like they just lifted him out of MK vs. DC. Kung Lao and Liu Kang in particular look a bit off, it's something in the facial renders, they don't look good. Some of Kitana's expressions are as well. They're just kind of ugly, to be honest, although when fighting you don't really notice. Favorites like Sub-Zero and Scorpion look really good though, as do all the ladies (minus Kitana's funny faces sometimes). One of my favorite looks for this game is Ermac, who looks badass and menacing, and with a very cool alternate costume that can be unlocked (as you can do for all characters- except for Mileena who has 4 different costumes).

So my final verdict? GO PLAY. NOW. This game is amazing, and for Mortal Kombat fans, a great entry into the franchise. This makes up for every wuss out "Heroic Brutality" we had to put up with in MK vs. DC. It's also an interesting story, can Raiden really change the past and prevent Armageddon? What is the cost of this alteration? Where does the story go from here? There is a ton of content here, and this game truly exemplifies why Mortal Kombat is (in my mind, at least) superior to all other fighting games. Is it brutal? Hells yes! And that's just the way Mortal Kombat should be.

To end this I'll leave you with two things. First is the most kick-ass use of a techno beat ever:

The second is a bit of my own personal geekdom. I got this done about three years ago. This is what it looked like brand new (it's the best pic of it I have lol):

Well that's all for now folks! See you next time!

*EDIT*- Forgot to throw this on too. Mortal Kombat: Legacy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Top 10 Most Metal Songs

Hey everyone, to make up for my absence for the past week or so, I've compiled a bit of a Top 10 list for your enjoyment. So here are my Top 10 songs (and 2 honorable mentions) that embody the spirit of metal. As a note, I have a fairly picky description of what counts as metal and that had a bit of an effect on the list. But with so many great metal acts out there, it wasn't hard to fill a top 10. I chose songs that I thought embodied the idea of heavy metal. I'm sure we won't necessarily agree, this is just my opinion. So enjoy the list for what it is, a celebration of great music. :D

Honorable Mention 1: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse- Dimmu Borgir

I first heard this song playing the game Brutal Legend. And I was blown away, it was so huge and operatic, I wasn't expecting it. What kills it for me is the vocals. I'm not a fan of the death-metal guttural snarl vocal-style. I have nothing against any of those elements, but I guess I'm just picky I like to be able to understand what the hell a vocalist is saying. But then at about the 2 minute mark, something amazing happens. Beautiful, soaring vocals from guest singer Abbath from the band Immortal. Why couldn't the whole song be sung like that?

Honorable Mention 2: For Whom the Bell Tolls- Metallica

For some reason, I tend to rag on Metallica. I really don't know why, it's not like I don't like them. But I suppose that's neither here nor there. Maybe I'm a bad metalhead for putting them in the honorable mentions, but that's just how things turned out. I really liked the album Ride the Lightning, and this song is probably my favorite Metallica song. I mean, it was inspired by an Ernest Hemingway novel, which I think is really cool. I love it when songs are about something, especially when it's a little more profound than booze, sex, and partying (I'm looking at you pop music), not that I don't like those kind of songs as well, but something a little deeper is always nice.

10: Back At the Funny Farm- Motorhead

This is another song featured in Brutal Legend (this game's soundtrack is phenomenal!). This is a very fun song, a tongue-in-cheek kind of song about an insane asylum. I included this song, not just because of how awesome it is, but to show how not all metal is all doom, scary things, and evil. A lot of new bands (especially in the doom/death/black genre) have gone this way in regards to look, style, and lyrics, but metal can be a lot of fun too. Ace of Spades may be more well-known, but by all means, look into this song too!

9. Beautiful Mourning- Machine Head

I'll admit, the first time I heard people talking about listening to Machine Head, I thought they meant the Deep Purple album. Then I heard some of their stuff. This is a great song because it mixes the shouting-screaming type of metal with the more soaring lyrics I mentioned earlier. And you can understand what he's talking about throughout. I don't listen to a lot of newer bands, especially in metal, but this is one group I will gladly make exception for. This song is on the album The Blackening, which also contains the song Aesthetics of Hate, which I am going to make a post about later, so it doesn't crowd out this article.

8. When Darkness Falls- Killswitch Engage

Killswitch Engage is a band that the Cynic and I got each other into. When we first started dating, I don't recall who started it, but someone sent the other a song, and a few others followed. Then I went out and bought an album. The rest is history. This is the newest band on this list, and incorporates the screaming-and-singing style much like Machine Head. They also do a pretty nifty cover of Dio's Holy Diver. And Killswitch is great driving music, too!

7. The Trooper- Iron Maiden

Ah, The Trooper. The song is about the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, and inspired by Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson. And it's by Iron Maiden. So naturally it found it's way onto this list. I'm not sure what else needs to be said. This one is stood out to me for this list over personal favorites like Fear of the Dark, I can't really explain it. So just enjoy the song :D

6. Dawn of Battle- Manowar

I'll admit it, I'm a big fantasy, swords-and-sorcery geek. Enter Manowar, a band whose discography is rife with mythology, battle, fantasy, and Norse themes. And you can call me sold. If this song doesn't get your blood pumping, you should probably go check and make sure you still have a pulse. Epic and with a touch of thrash, you can't go wrong with Manowar.

5. A New Level- Pantera

Now Pantera is more the Cynic's thing, but this is probably my favorite of their songs. It's so heavy it assails you and beats you into the ground. And you'll love it. With it's raw power and aggression, A New Level is a no-brainer for this list. Really, it speaks for itself better than I can. If you like, also check out this cover done by Five Finger Death Punch for the album Getcha Pull: A Tribute to Dimebag Darrell.

4. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due- Megadeth

As with most of the bands on this list, how do you pick just one song? This was an issue I had with Megadeth. Sometimes it just comes down to listening to a few songs and going "this is the one". That's what happened here. The frenetic pace and solo of this particular song won it out over others. If you need a reason why Megadeth is part of the Big Four of Thrash, look no further than Holy Wars... The Punishment Due. Speaking of which, the Cynic and I both very highly recommend the Big 4 DVD as an excellent investment for any metal fan (my favorite performances: Megadeth and Anthrax).

3. Reise, Reise- Rammstein

This was the second Rammstein song I ever heard, and the one that made me utterly fall in love with the band. Between the epic feel, the heavy as hell guitars, and Till Lindemann's incredible vocals, I knew I must have more. The fact that they sing almost exclusively in German just makes them more awesome. This song found me at just at the right moment, when I had begun to look to metal to build upon my classic rock roots (I didn't really get into metal until I moved out on my own, minus a few bands I would consider more like hard rock now). This song, indeed this whole album, is one I have no qualms about recommending you look into, if not acquire outright. For lyric translations, I found a great site here for that.

2. Iron Man- Black Sabbath

You can't have a list of metal songs and NOT include one from the progenitors of the genre. This song grinds like a train inexorably towards it's finale: a rocking, minute and a half, instrumental outro. Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne have long been synonymous with heavy metal, so this choice is a no-brainer.

And finally....

1. Painkiller- Judas Priest

If you want a song that's metal personified, it's Painkiller. From the pounding bass and drums (see the Cynic attempt to play the drum chart here) to the alternatively screaming and rhythmic guitars, accentuated by Rob Halford's glass-shattering shriek, this song is pure fucking metal. One could argue that other Judas Priest or Halford songs might be heavier, like Judas Rising or The Mower, but there's something in the way Painkiller just grabs you right from the opening drums to the last second without ever letting up that just gives it the edge. You cannot listen to a single second of this song and not know that it is pure, undiluted metal. Only another progenitor of the genre (in look as well as sound) could get past the others and be my number 1.

I hope you've all enjoyed this list. I love music and I love sharing great songs with all of you. Now, if you'll indulge me, I will leave you with one last song. Due to an unforgivable oversight on my part, this list is devoid of the late, great, Ronnie James Dio. Allow me to fix that. So, as a special bonus, Heaven and Hell by Dio-fronted Black Sabbath. I hope you enjoy all the music and we'll see you next time, as I will try to post more regularly again.

And the dates are showing up screwy again. This was actually posted April 16th at 12:41am. Bah.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Of Value Village Hauls and New Family Additions

So this was supposed to be a new P.M.S Cooks! but instead I thought I'd do something a little fluffier. We went to Value Village yesterday, and I think I made out pretty good. I figured while I was at it I could show off some really awesome things I got there a little while ago. Also, the Cynic and I became Aunt and Uncle for the second time yesterday, and I have a little pseudo-craft to go along with that.

Okay, so for the haul. Well, I dunno if you'd call three things a haul, but I will for the purpose of this post. First was this:

I'd like to try and get my hair kind of the way it was when it was cut. So I found this straightener (which even matches my hair dryer! :O ) and I will give it a go.

The second thing is something I've wanted for a while, but could never find in my size. Yay shoes!

These are not quite my dream shoe, but they are damn close. It's ridiculous, no one seems to carry red heels in sizes 9 1/2-10. It sucks. That's why I was so happy to find these.

This next thing is a sweet piece of geekdom if I may say so:

An original Episode IV VHS? Yes please! And in good shape, too. It was just too cool to pass up.

That leads to me the next thing. I actually bought it quite a while ago but put it in a safe pocket in my purse and didn't find it again until yesterday. Oops lol.

Simple and pretty. I've been reading Lord of the Rings lately, and it makes me think of the elven cloak pins from Lothlorien. Yeah, I know, I'm a big dork. But I like it.

Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, the Cynic and I became an Aunt and Uncle for the second time. So I'd like to congratulate the Cynic's brother and sister-in-law on the new arrival. As I did when my sister had her little guy last fall, I put together a little something for our new nephew (lol, it's 3/3 for boys so far). Here's a quick rundown, and it's more or less the same thing as I did last time.

This is what I started with. Clockwise from the top left: a basket, tub toys, ribbon, cute onsie, bib, cute charm with baby's name (I used a soother last time as I couldn't find a name charm), towel, and bear with a "congratulations" cupcake.

Everything got packed in nice and tight, as it will have a bit of a trip ahead of it. But it was arranged to make a nice little nest in the center.

Which was a perfect little spot for the bear to sit nice and comfortably. Also stably, and less likely to fall out.
And then the final touches:

Don't mind my foot in the picture lol. The ribbon is actually gold, but the flash from the camera with the blue basket turned it that funky purple in the picture. I like the little charm, I wish I could have found one for my other nephew (although he got a nice new soother that I think he got more use out of, to be honest). So there it is, a simple gift basket for baby. I know you can buy them pre-made, but I like putting together my own, to make it more personal and less matchy-matchy, mass-produced feeling.

Well I was going to put up some records I got a while ago, but I think that will have to be a separate post. Maybe I'll do a post of my vinyl collection. We'll see. Anyways, I WILL do that P.M.S Cooks! next, I promises. So look out for that very soon. Maybe tomorrow!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm doing science and I'm Still Alive...

Sorry for being MIA this past week or so. Between overhauling the apartment, the last round of baby needles, and trying to finish Dragon Age II, it's been busy here at CWTC headquarters. As it is, I'm behind about two P.M.S Cooks! posts, and at least one LOTD. I will see about getting those up as soon as I can.

So I did finally finish Dragon Age II tonight. Tonight I started right at endgame and finished up the first go through. And damn. There are two words I would use to sum up this game: intense and emotional. This one pulls at your emotions far more than Origins, the choices seem more dire and consequential. It was also a lot darker than Origins, which a lot of people are complaining about. I'm not. Sure, it could use more of the levity that Origins had, but I like that it's different that way. I love how engaging the characters are as well, though I will admit there were a couple of characters I didn't really like. Oddly enough, the ones I wasn't crazy about are two of the more popular ones: Isabela and Fenris. They just didn't jive for me (and truth be honest, Fenris' voice didn't get me as hot and bothered as apparently it should have *hides from fangirl mob). I will firmly put myself in Teams Anders and Varric, however. Anyways, I won't go too far into it as I plan on putting up a video review for the game very soon.

In other gaming news, I was browsing the XBox Live Arcade and downloaded a game I've been meaning to check out: Costume Quest.

This game is brought to us by Double Fine, the team who also brought us the fantastically heavy metal mayhem of Brutal Legend. I began playing this, and did so for quite a while before switching over to DA:II. And what do I think? I think you should go try it! This game is adorable, with great humor and a neat story. The controls are a snap, and the combat is really fun (even though I loathe turn-based combat). It's a really great game, and the full version only runs for 600 MS points! It is the cutest, most unabashedly tongue-in-cheek, fun time of an Arcade RPG that you could ask for. I'm not far in, but I will already recommend it!

In other news, I got my hair cut! Yay! Well, maybe that isn't as exciting to you as it is to me. Maybe this makes me the most pathetic fangirl, but I really liked the default Lady Hawke's hair style. And given that her face is rendered in about the same shape as mine, I figured I could pull it off. Truth be told, I'd been looking for something to do with my hair for a while. So here was the result:

It's slightly modified from the original, but I like it.

Compared to one of the pictures I took in

I like it sooooo much better. Out of the way, washing and brushing is ridiculously easy, and looks good. Can't complain!

Oh, I almost forgot! Did you see my new widget up in the right corner? That's our (mine and the Cynic's) shared Gamertag on XBox Live. Clicking on it will take you to the XBox website where you can check out our games and compare them with yours and generally see what we've played (minus the demos, of course).

So that's the news. I will attempt to get a P.M.S Cooks! up tomorrow. And there will be a new video coming up soon! Till then, I leave you with GLaDOS, because who isn't excited for Portal 2?*

*Although it drops the same week as Mortal Kombat, and so I am torn. But if I had to choose only one, I would go with MK.