The Force Unleashed Instant Review - In a Can! (Just Add Water!) 
2008.09.25 00:44 - Entertainment, Microcode
(Disclaimer: We at Punchdrunkmonkeyman.com can take no responsibility for any damages that may or may not occur as a result of applying water to this review. Additionally, no can or other container is provided.)

(Actual disclaimer: I played this game on an X-Box 360; some or all of my complaints and observations may not apply to some or all of the other platforms the game is one. I have heard that the PS3 version has similar issues, however.)

Here's the short review: a compelling story somewhat compensates for uninspired gameplay and a buggy implementation. Weak recommendation; wait for a patch before buying and/or buy on sale.

And here's a longer one:

The Force Unleashed is not, quite, a good game.

The basic gameplay mechanics run a lot like entries in the Devil May Cry and God of War franchises. The big differences being that those games had additional weapons, and TFU has Force powers. Some especially large enemies and all bosses have quick-time events to finish them off with cinematic flair. Be aware that these don't seem to be skippable against proper bosses.

The story is sandwiched between the end of "Revenge of the Sith" and the beginning of "A New Hope", following a new character, Darth Vader's secret apprentice. And that's all I'm going to say, because I don't want to spoil the interesting bits. Well, except that the most interesting bits happen in the interstitial cinemas that seem to exist in large part to hide the level loading times, so there might be thirty minutes of that in the entire game.

All of this is forgivable, because the story is good, does a nice job of stringing together the levels, the voice acting is surprisingly good, and the gameplay, if a bit pedestrian by now, is still fun (at least for me). But, the game is buggy. I twice managed to throw my character through the floor of the map, and later wound up with a curious bug that's keeping me from getting an Achievement. (I only sort of care about this: I don't really care about Achievements, but the lack of polish annoys me.)

Additionally, frames drop like crazy when you send too many objects flying at once; given the heavily populated and highly reactive environments, this doesn't take much at all. A couple of sequences in the cinematics look suspiciously like a cel being moved across a matte without any other animation (save, perhaps, scaling--no perspective, though). Targeting is often frustrating. Although the pause menu pops up immediately, menus accessed from there have loading times. Things like character customization, the movelist (which isn't in the booklet: what the heck, guys?) ... anything, really, except "Save Game", "Resume", and "Exit Game", I think. And that big sequence with the Star Destroyer? The one that was hyped during the game's development? Not a lot fun, sadly.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Given the prohibitive cost of next-gen titles, I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone at full price. If you like Star Wars, though, you should probably give it a look when it reaches the budget bin or greatest hits catalogs.
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The Force Unleashed 
2008.09.23 13:25 - Entertainment, Movies, Microcode
I picked up a copy of The Force Unleashed for the XBox360 over the weekend, and have been sinking time into it the last few days. I'll have a proper review ready by Friday, I think, but the capsule review is that if don't enjoy Star Wars and/or hated the gameplay in God of War, you may as well skip it. It's a not a bad game, and has a fairly strong story, but a handful of warts in the interface, clunky controls, quick-time events, a somewhat buggy implementation and uninspired gameplay makes it a hard recommendation if the license isn't a factor in your decision.

So far, the biggest disappointment is the Star Destroyer sequence, which ought to awesome, but is only frustrating and tedious, because it takes forever and the QTE indicators are not accurate (seriously!).

Also, game developers? Please stop putting quick-time events everywhere. They're annoying. If you want to give me a really cool cinematic or animation, just roll the clip. Without the button pressing involved, at least I'll be able to watch it. At the very least, let me turn them off for non-boss battles.
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Evil x 3? 
2008.09.15 22:16 - Miscellanea, News and Politics, Toys, Actual Toys
Today's mail includes a missive on energy policy from the Heritage Foundation, and a lapel pin. This should go nicely with the lapel pin the RNC sent me back in 2004, and the Decepticon pin that came with a couple of Transformers0 I bought a while back.

[Update: The Heritage 'pin' isn't a pin at all: it's a metal plate with a magnet! Nifty.]

Footnotes
0. Just wanted to note that guy takes very good pictures of toys. If those two look uninspiring, well ... they're not great figures, really.

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Well, that was boring. 
2008.09.15 13:41 - Miscellanea, Work-related, Zombie Preparedness
What was left of Hurricane Ike knocked out the power to something like half the city yesterday, including my apartment. It was still out when I left for work this morning.

And, now my apartment has power again. So, hot shower, plus internetting for me this evening.

In a couple weeks, I guess, I need to dig up a lantern and other assorted bits just in case this happens again. Probably store that stuff out on the porch, though.

[Work-related Addendum: I'd be working, but I'm waiting on a three-hour-ish process to finish. Should be done soon. Ish.]
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Can I Just Say That I Hate The Apple Store? 
2008.09.10 11:29 - Toys, Gadgets
Specifically, I do not enjoy going to the Apple Store at the local shopping mall. It's always got a million people milling around, blocking access to anything you want to buy, and it's all hard, shiny surfaces and bright, white lights. The first time I visited the one here I got a headache.

When I was last in Chicago, Herb and Karen were sufficiently longsuffering to visit the nearest one to them with me. We ran into some other RHIT grads and had a brief-ish conversation which I mostly missed because of my somewhat questionable hearing and the sheer amount and level of background noise in the place.

It's just not someplace I have any desire to go to browse at this point. If Apple wasn't using their store's presence as an excuse to not sell some items through other places around here, I probably wouldn't bother with it at all.
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