Monday, December 31, 2007


I thankfully missed the first one when it balled theatres, and when I eventually did get around to seeing the thing it was like being whipped raw with a Nintendo controller; something you love most dearly being used to cause severe pain against your person. I was at work a few months ago when someone barked out: "Holy shit, have you guys seen the preview for the new Alien Versus Predator?" to which he was harrangued with a hurricane chorus of boos and fuck thats. He pressed, and we eventually caved and summoned Youtube and to the entire test team's mutual surprise it looked pretty good. It was basically 2 minutes of people dying, and it seemed that they finally figured out that the humanity's struggle in the midst of the opposing alien forces was not interesting in the least, and that humans should pretty much just get murdered for 90 minutes. Make the fans happy. Well, they didn't quite get there, but it was a hell of a lot closer than the first movie...


When I heard that Richard Matheson's short story was being chopped, blended, and vomited into a movie spiced with a big budget, my immediate reaction was absolute euphoria. I'll save the details for later, but simply put I Am Legend is hands down the best vampire story ever committed to paper. It doesn't have the legacy of the uber vampire champions like Nosferatu and Dracula, but at face value it is brutal and chilling, and the concept it presents at the story's conclusion is completely original to the genre. Fucking read it, you will hail me with praise. When I found out that none other than the Fresh Prince, Will Smith, would be cast as Robert Neville, my skepticism swelled but I held fast and waited patiently beneath the information spout, my mouth open, ready to digest whatever bullshit they were about to pour out. "Welcome 'uh' urf, bitch!" True anger seeped freely once I found out it was not going be a vampire movie, but that the enemies were actually going to be rabid, infected, plague victims that turn into angry, screeching, soccer hooligans. I unleashed angry jerk and condemned the movie to Hollywood self stimulation. I actually had every intention of boycotting the movie all together, until Maria said "I feel like watching I am Legend" and I said ".....Ok." So, while they pretty much swatted away potential perfection by ignoring everything that made the book a monumental chapter in vampire lore, the movie was actually pretty painless. Actually, it was awesome...

  • AVP wastes no time whatsoever in stacking the body count highly in it's favor, farting out a paper thin plot of a crashed Predator ship that happened to be experimenting on aliens and face huggers, creating an alien/predator hybrid thing and then unleashing them on earth to the collective shagrin of mankind. Predator arrives to investigate his comrade's distress call, sees that the aliens are loose and eating whinos in the sewer, and therefore with some mysterious sense of cosmic justice decides that they need to be hunted and killed. We are not privy to why this predator feels the need to throw man-kind a bone, and it's pretty inconsistent for his character considering Predator and Predator 2 were both spent annihilating the human race for sport. I mean, dude is called Predator, not Gracious Savior. But his actual 'saving grace' is that in his efforts to knock out the invading aliens, he invariably destroys any people that get in his way like shooing flies. The aliens maintain quality kill numbers by doing their thing and pretty much eating and/or impregnating every person they come across. Combine this with the fact that Predator is also killing aliens in addition to people, and the body count is enough that just about every scene involves events that include or lead up to the death of something. The amount of on screen deaths definitely earned AVP honors and helped keep the shit fest of actors squashed into the back of your mind while relishing their merciless doom. Extra points for killing little kids, infants, and pregnant women, and they almost went over the top with an "everybody dies" ending, but they allowed a mother and daughter to escape last minute and so lost that particular medal, but more details on that later. (WINNER for blowing up the entire city!)
  • The actual body count in I Am Legend is hard to ascertain. The drive for the entire story is that the whole world is dead, so technically that's a pretty astronomical kill count, but all it is is a technicality and I prefer to judge a film's body count by the number of tangible deaths on screen. Implied kills will not suffice, they must be presented to the viewer so that we may rejoice. Following this guideline, IAL falls drastically behind AVP in the body count. Neville relies mainly on firearms as defense and most kill scenes involve one or two infected creatures that go down in a flash of quick editing and shakey cam. (Can we be done with shakey cam soon? Please?) The death rate rises towards the end of the film when Robert Neville has a brief road rage scene, offing a good amount of infect-oids with his SUV, and then again bumps when they invade his house and he sets off an arsenal of explosives to keep them out, but the slower pacing and actual suspense never really lets the movie come close to the carnage depicted in AVP.

  • Of course AVP is the obvious winner here, being that Predator is essentially an ornary intergalactic James Bond combining forces with the indifferent slaughter stylings of the rare-to-disappoint aliens. There is a wealthy color pallet with which to paint the pain picture in this film, from bionic shoulder lazers and crazy blades of all kinds, to acid blood and thrusting mouth-mouths. Predator excelled in kills, tearing the aliens into fillets and rampaging all over the humans. I gladly place the golden kill crown 'pon his dreds and drink to his continued savagery. Notable kills are the double lazer blast with which he simultaneously vaporizes two heads at once in a fountainous splash of wet brain, and the moment in which (to my delicious surprise) he dispaches the promiscuous blonde love interest (I expected her to survive! Eeeee! Delight!) with his boomerang-blade-ninja star thing, catching her mid run and pegging her into the wall. No slumps themselves, the aliens had a few shining moments to their credit, mostly involving the acid blood. One of the first kills in the movie shows a man lose his arm at the elbow to acid blood, and we are also treated to a visually thirst quenching close up of a douche bag teenager's face getting melted to the skull by spilled alien gore. Predator-Alien hybrid rages in an all new way, reproducing not through goopy eggs and facehuggers but via vomiting eggs down pregnant women's throats so that the baby aliens can eat her infant in the womb and then skuttle out of her swollen belly. Yeah that's right, pregnant women hosting multiple litters of chest bursting babies. AVP makes gore history with a sweeping shot of the maternity ward featuring dead mothers in all the beds, their pregnant stomachs torn open with volley ball sized holes. W00T! Chest bursting is not reserved for the preggers either, and amongst many others a 10 year old kid goes down in the first ten minutes of the movie with a baby alien exiting his stomach before he even grew pubes. AVP gets big points for trodding into the taboo territory of little kids, infants, and pregnant women. All they needed was to off a few down syndrome inflicted individuals and they pretty much would have trampled over the trifecto of most offensive demographics available in America. While AVP was the winner by a long shot here, some of the normal alien kills were a bit "stock", with the slow creep of the drooling alien, lips twitching, just to mouth-mouth into someone's face. I don't think we need anymore of that, or the leg-grab-pull-through-the-floor maneuver, and considering their capabilities there could have been much more creativity in each alien moment. (WINNER for face melt and pregnant chest bursts!)
  • In the interest of realism, most of IAL's deaths are not very over the top or "creative". Neville primarily uses firearms to drop the infected dogs and/or people, and since most deaths take place during frantic action sequences they are quick shots of the enemies going down while Neville is running or driving or yelling or something. During the road rage scene there are a few good shots of infected dudes getting slammed and tossed by the car, and a notable scene where he pins one against a lamp post. The best death occurs when the audience finds out that the infected things die in sunlight, when one leaps at Neville and goes out the window only to writhe and sizzle on the pavement. But really, there aren't any "shout an expletive out loud" quality deaths in IAL, but surprisingly it doesn't really detract anything from the film experience.

  • AVP wins almost too hard, if not by default, in the source material contest. It is pretty much text book alien and predator scenery, homage after homage, whorring itself to the genre fans in a fit of "remember this?"s. Aliens are seen crawling on ceilings, emerging from shadows, drooling right up next to scared women, all the familiar shit that we remember from the other 5 movies. Other than adding a few new gadgets to his arsenal, Predator does all the same moves we know him for as well, including the "turn invisible and flash your eyes before you impale someone" move, the "slow ascension from the water as the invisibility shorts out", "skin the dude and hang him from the branch", the "heal your injured leg in a tree with neon blue acid and then yell real loud because it hurts" scene, and of course the "slowly remove your face mask before the final fist fight against the alien boss". They even tossed in the "What the hell are you?" line into the script, although thank Zeus it's not actually predator who says it. I like my intergalactic sport hunters silent and sans catch phrases, thanks. As I left the theatre, I almost felt a little cheated because looking back on the movie it just seemed like their answer to the wash of anguish the first AVP caused was just to reshoot the classic moments of both films frame for frame in a new medium and tie it together with a sub par plot and call it good. (WINNER for unabashed regurgitation of the classic moments from both series.)
  • IAL strayed long and far from the original story written by Richard Matheson. Essentially, the only thing that remained intact was the concept of the last man on earth sharing the world with monsters. In the book Robert Neville is an alcoholic ex family man living in a non-descript residential suburb who spends his nights drinking out of pure fear as vampires try to break into his house and eat him. The females try to tempt him out by making sex noises because they know he's alone and sans lady, his neighbor he used to be friends with harrasses him endlessly trying to incite anger and get him outside, and he can hear them crawling all around the house while he drinks himself into a stupor. During the day he hunts them out of their hovels and kills them while they sleep, hoping that if he can kill them all then he'll finally be able to rest. The book follows very traditional vampire rules: they won't go near garlic, he kills them with wooden stakes and by dragging them into the sun, they are sentient, etc. The film doesn't incorporate any of this. Neville is a military bio chemist, he lives in New York, he is haunted by scores of savage humans infected by a virus he helped spread, and his source of anguish comes from trying to find a cure during the day and not getting eaten at night. I'm really sick of the "virus that turns people rabid and angry" plots that have been circulating since 28 Days Later, and it seemed a huge cop out when the original story worked so well with just vampires. They're vampires! No need to invent a scientific explanation, to create a plausible theory. Vampires are so engrained in horror culture they don't need plausibility, the audience will accept it and it saves the writer the challenge of making it really real. They suck blood, make new vampires, and eventually they'll run out of people: I am Legend the book! For me, the biggest bummer in this area was the implication of the movie's title. The words "I am legend" are essential to the book in a very clever way, and as it is the core plot twist in the final moments of the story. I won't spoil it here, because it's so good it's worth not spoiling on the off chance someone checks it out after reading this rant (God bless you, you tolerant tolerant soul). In the movie, all it means is that Robert Neville's blood is the cure for the virus, which he doesn't discover until his final moments. So he dies, but his blood contains the anti-body that cures the virus and allows humanity to start over. Yeah, I spoiled it, because when it unveils at the end of the movie, it's what you've been thinking for the last hour.

  • "Not bad, but not great." is what I would say for AVP's special effects. I love that they stayed pretty far away from relying on digital effects for that movie. The costumes in both the Alien and Predator series were pretty groundbreaking and believable for their time. They stay true to it and use digital effects as enhancement rather than a crutch. No complaints here. Party on.
  • While IAL uses digital effects pretty heavily, they are pretty good and do some amazing things for the ambience of the film. As stated throughout, my skepticism for this movie was at the boiling point and I expected to be pawing to the arcade after 25 minutes. However, from the first open shot of Manhattan as a desolate, uninhabited wasteland, I was grateful that I got to the theatre to see it on a big screen. The digital rendition of the infected humans worked pretty well in low lighting scenes, but closeups and brighter scenes betrayed obvious digital effects and pulled me out of the moment. It's not hard to take a good physical actor and paint some rotting skin and scabby mouth sores on them for a realistic antagonist, and I wish they had gone that route as opposed to the digital paint job. Regardless, the overgrown tundra of Manhattan totally won me over. (WINNER for an entirely believable "forgotten" Times Square.)

  • Sadly, AVP's entertainment value comes to a sharp stop beyond the visceral carnage and I found myself bored beyond measure at the parts when someone wasn't dying. I was hoping that the story would involve just aliens and predator with humans getting caught up like sheep grazing at a shooting range, but unfortunately a sad, pathetic human story got wound into the mix and left me gagging for blood. The typical Hollywood love story is present, featuring underdog skinny dude, fawning after hot blonde with low cut v necks, thwarted by her overprotective jerk boyfriend. They also spin in an ex-military mom just back from Iraq, reunited with her family, only to have her husband mash faces with an alien, prompting her to kick ass, drive armored vehicles and fly helicopters to save the day. LAME. This is never, ever, what horror fans want to see, EVER, but for some reason it plagues pretty much every film that comes from a major studio. If you can't afford good actors or screenwriters, don't rely on them! Drop the "story", and show us some brutal shit! It's what we paid for, so deliver. I don't think I'll make any effort to see this movie again, but I would allow it as background noise while writing, playing DS, shitting, or playing triumphant riffs on my Fender. As long as I have something to do when Predator is not on screen or an alien is not eating it's way out of a pregnant stomach, then we're cool. It was good, a marked improvement on the last one, but the Hollywood formula hobbles the momentum and will keep it well out of my DVD collection. While the deaths and gore were great, it was all very rehash and could've used some more inspiration.
  • Maybe it was because I expected to hate it, but IAL pretty much blew me away. Will Smith was a big part of the formula, as he left his "witty bad ass" character from Bad Boys and Independance Day that I was so loathe to watch destroy my favorite vampire story at the door, and really pulled the thing off. His relationship with his dog is downright emotional, and he is extremely believable as a guilt racked dude completely alone in the husk of the biggest city in America. He is not a hero, he is flawed, he fucks up, he gets hurt, and he gets really scared. It wasn't the story I wanted, but it stands alone as a good movie thematically based on the book and the scenery and ambience are tense and compelling. I wish they had incorporated the same message that the title "I am legend" implies at the end of Matheson's book, but at the same time the further they went from it the more sacred and intact it remained in my eyes. It's hard for me to say they ruined it in the movie, when thhey barely even touched it in the first place. I just wished they would've picked a different title for the movie, but if I was involved in production I would probably use it anyways. It's a fucking great title. All said and done, the movie was great and I would absolutely watch it again. (WINNER for making that hurty lump in my throat when the dog dies.)

The winner is I am Legend. If you can stomach some sub par digital closeups on the bad guys, then I recommend it highly over AVP. AVP is a rental. Buy I am Legend the book and read it between the bloody parts. I'm betting your TV will be on mute after 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Orcs & Elves for DS!

Hark! Orcs & Elves is out for Nintendo DS! I almost bought this game whilst internet window shopping for a game to play on my cell phone, but ended up not commiting because my phone is a petrified chunk of rat droppings and I was worried it would crumble to dust if I pushed anything more complex than the Bejeweled demo on it. I could mug you with it and still text Maria to pick up some cat food on the way home. The thing is rock with a talk hole.

But it's out for DS now! I was instantly attracted to it when I first looked it up as it harkened back to my memories of trudging through the tedious step-by-step dungeon crawl gameplay of Shadowgate, Sword & Serpents, Wizardy, and this one awesome game I used to rent for NES as a kid that had these crazy zombies and spiders that would attack a little too often. These games were a tedious mess, and often times not worth the effort of playing to completion, but my 10-12 hood is brimming with memories of tenaciously building parties, crafting the perfect balance of fighters, healers, and spell casters (what good is a thief in a dungeon crawl?) giving them names like "Shitface" and "Assface" and "Buttface", and then cleaving down enemies until level two or three where I was invariably slaughtered by the outrageous difficulty curve.

No doubt, Orcs & Elves has been refined in this matter, in these modern days of user friendly game experiences. It's not the 80's any more, we don't have the "three lives and you're fucked, start over!" wall punching, controller snapping games to tackle these days, and this is why I'm excited. I might actually complete this one.

Good review on, and Scott Sharkey seems to value what I'm looking for in a port like this. Will definietly be picking it up soon.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Blizzard + Activision = end of the world?

It was recently announced that Activision and Vivendi are set to merge in a deal worth 18.9 billion space bucks. If you don't know, Vivendi owns Blizzard, who made World of Warcraft, which is the biggest online videogame ever, and has made Blizzard one of the most profitable game companies in the world. To me this is slightly insane on Vivendi's behalf, and I imagine the offices at Activision have ceased operations for a company wide kegger hosted by Night Elf beer wenches. That's right, your next 'gotta have' shit smeared movie license videogame will be delayed because the devs are beer bonging PBR in Tauren costumes and laugh-vomiting all over their keyboards. I wonder if they're going to get free WoW accounts...

This trumps EA's recent acquisition of BioWare/Pandemic, and actually bumps them down a notch to #2 most hugely unnecessarily profitable game publisher in America, and we all know second place is the first loser. I'm eager to see what kind of shenanigans they pull to get back on top. Maybe they'll try and buy Microsoft. The gods would laugh.

To me it's just pretty crazy. As long as the games remain untainted (actually, Activision could probably use some Blizzard-ness to help gloss up some of their IPs) I suppose it doesn't really matter unless you work at one of the two companies, but the monopoly mayhem going on is a little unsettling. Am I the only one who's a bit nervous at the umbrella shadow that is being cast over today's prominent developer houses? If they can be bought this easily, can they be shut down and/or pawned just as easily? Well, if it means we get "Call of Warcraft", pitting the Horde in a vicious ground skirmish against the nazis in northern France then I guess I can't be too skeptical, right? Heil Grom Hellscream!

Monday, December 03, 2007


I plunged and took the supreme risk of going to see Beowulf this weekend. I wanted to see it, had to scratch the itch, to gaze into the depths of Pandora's box and see if it was worth it, worth my time, my money, my love. It was good. Way good.

Not good for everyone though. I would say that experience with Dungeons & Dragons and/or familiarity with at least two fantasy authors or series by name is a prerequisite, and no, Beowulf the book doesn't count. I would not recommend this movie
to those of you who are expecting a "realistic" CGI film, in the literal sense, regardless of how it has been advertised by it's makers. The movie is "realistic" in zero ways, both in visuals and story. For those who will nit pick, the fields are ripe with swollen fruit, bursting from the vine and begging to be plucked and hurled. I'll get you started: The human faces are at times laughably faux, the physics are too controlled and lack weight (seen Shrek?), and a running horse looks like two dudes in a pantomime horse costume... running.

But shut up. Shut up all you guys like me, who are plucking at all the flaws with the relish of a bored 10 year old mauling a daisy. All the post film banter of what didn't work, who looked like shit, what dialogue made you barf in your mouth, it all dissolves in the overly epic action sequences that are spread perfectly throughout the course of the film. Just like the Lord of the Rings films, where Pippin's emotional crooning and Frodo's tortured pretty boy grimace were dashed like sand on the rock of rampaging Oliphaunts and thousand Orc sieges, so do Beowulf's flaws melt into putty beneath the shadow of Grendel and possibly the most bad ass dragon a film has ever seen.

Crispin Glover continues his legacy of the tortured, psychotic weirdo that invokes equal portions sympathy and disgust as the voice of Grendel, hardly speaking any words and relying more on screams of anguish and alarm. Yeah, Grendel isn't
the T-1000 unstoppable monsterific force that is eluded to in the orginal epic, he's actually a deformed retard CHUD baby sans genitals that happens to be huge and capable of causing extreme damage in his infantile rage. He evoked strong sympathy with me. His motivation for coming down the mountain and grinding Hrothgar's people into pulp is because they party too loud and he can't sleep, something we've all craved and pondered during those summer nights when the neighbors are having deck parties and raging barbeques. Surprisingly, Angelina Jolie looked a little less hideous than in real life portrayed as the water demon with a pointy tail. Bitch can walk on water... in heels! Anthony Hopkins, as the digital King Hrothgar, is one of the more believable characters portrayed as a toga clad, drunk, party animal.

Anyways, if you're a fan of the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings, have ever enjoyed table top role playing, or just like dudes with swords fighting monsters, be sure to catch Beowulf in the theatre (in 3D) before it goes. Both Grendel and the final fight against the dragon is pretty mind blowing, and well worth the ticket price and boring talky parts between the blood and chopping.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Jeff Gerstmann debacle

I recently read about a bummer of a situation that went down over at videogame internet hub, Gamespot dot com. One of the major videogame websites out there, Gamespot is like Wolf Man in the monster world. Not up there like Dracula (, but pretty well known. A staple. The site sees thousands of visitors, has a billion annoying pop up ads, and every page takes about a minute to load on your average high speed connection because they throw so much bullshit in your face at every possible moment that it turns your computer into an 80 year old man in a sack race. I usually go there rather than IGN for game information, because IGN always felt very corporate, like trying to find an article that says "Stop it with the disco drums!" in Rolling Stone, pandering to the big players and high profiles. Sadly, that has changed.

Jeff Gerstmann was the Senior Editor at Gamespot, playing games and writing reviews, and considered a top player in the world of game media. As I said earlier, I would go to Gamespot for their game feedback because it was immediately apparent any time reading their material that these guys played the games, cared about them, wanted a good experience, and weren't shy about letting the consumer know which games were not worth their money. Jeff was no exception, and while I don't recall any of his reviews from previous visits, mainly because I don't really give a shit about the name of the dude putting the words down on the webpage, his review of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men by Eidos shows exactly how scrutinizing these guys can be in the face of flashy graphics, lots of violence, and an almost Reservoir Dogs style videogame that should make most gamers shudder in anticipation. So why do I suddenly care about the reviewers name? Because he gave it a 6 out of 10 and was fired the day after his review went live. Not only fired, locked out of his office and asked to leave the premises. That's some bullshit I expect to see in the President's cabinet on a fierce episode of 24, not to hear about from an internet game company. Working in games is supposed to be like being Tom Hanks in Big, and many of us try very hard to keep it that way.

(Kane and Lynch, respectively, I think.)

Apparently Eidos had spent more than a few hundred thousand dollars in advertisements for Kane and Lynch on Gamespot. When the review went live, they supposedly read it, and then pulled more hundreds of thousands of dollars reserved for future titles from the site. As Gamespot's revenue lies entirely in the sale of web ads, I can see how this could cause the bosses to run to the men's room and check their boxers. There's no official word from the Gamespot business crew on the issue, in the typical "no comment" backhanded deflection tactic popular amongst the corporate hounds when they shit on some guy, prompting one of us with morals to say, "Hey, you just shit on that guy." The only reasons given for the termination all seem to revolve around Jeff's "tone" rather than what he specifically wrote, and that he had been "talked to" about his "tone" on previous occasions. This, of course, is as vague as black matter. There's no such thing as "tone" in the written word. The "tone" is created in the reader's head, and regardless, it's not even worth an argument because it anyone can look at the situation and see with the utmost clarity that blaming "tone" is simply a lie. Yeah, a lie. His bad review lost Gamespot a lot of ad money, so they freaked out and fired him. When you read it like that it almost makes sense.

In addition to the finger pointing and vagueries from the corporate side of Gamespot, there has also been no official word on the situation from Jeff's peers at Gamespot, the other editors, who are the ones I really want to hear from and probably have a very biased yet true accounting of what went down. Their silence absolutley makes sense, because if they're now facing life on the chopping block then there's no reason to start coming to work in short shorts and cat-in-the-hat hats. I did track down an unofficial commentary from a supposed Gamespot editor, in which the mysterious blogster pretty much confirms the obvious. Notable quotes from the above link are as follows:

"Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year
there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we've started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up."

"I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were "multiple instances of tone" in the reviews that he hadn't been happy about, but that wasn't Jeff's problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that "AAA" titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site."

Okay. No need to keep going on this trajectory, other than to point out Josh Larson is a douche, but here's what I'm getting at: Where does this leave us, the confused and addled consumer when seeking advice on hot shit xtreme game titles? We are being assaulted constantly via TV, internet, magazines, billboards, soda pop cans, and whatever the fuck else with crazy ads for games. If the marketing department can differenciate from one's ass and one's elbow, they make the game look good. Real good, regardless of the actual experience therein. I'm in a commited relationship and have been for a long time, but at my core I am a bachelor in many ways. One of the manifestationsof said bachelorism is in my quest for desired information. I don't scroll down the list of citysearch reviews on a restaurant if I'm curious about the fare they offer, I go there and fucking eat it. If I want to see a movie, I go straight to the theatre listing of the closest cinema and find the next screening and then I go and watch it. When I want to find out if some crazy looking game I just saw an ad for is worth half a shit, I go to Gamespot and check the review. I can't do that anymore! I now know full well that whether or not the editors like it, their content is now in league with the media machine chomping at our wallets and their integrity as journalists is about as sound as particle board.

So the next logical step is finding a new source for authentic and honest reports on the regurgitated refuse disguised as cream soda coming from the game publishers. And that's truth, so so many games look like they're going to be fan-fucking-tastic and end up coming out like spoiled turds. Penny Arcade has always been the best source for game reviews, mainly because they don't actually review games for a living. As fans of videogames, they laud the games they are playing and enjoying, and they complain about the ones that are worth the time and effort of complaining about in a public forum such as teh interwebzzor. It's much more genuine than a guy who's job is to play shitty games all day and then try and politely convey that they'd rather eat a plate of hot garbage than spend another minute in the grips of whatever digital nightmare they've had to grapple with. Every time I've acted on a favorable PA recommendation it's been worth it. But, what makes their reviews so good is precisely what makes them unreliable at this particular service I need. You can't go to their site and get a quick run down of the new Conan game, because they didn't bother writing about it. This leaves us in the grip of blogs and less professional sites and publications for authentic game reviews. Will they be honest? Yes. Will they be untouched by the pressures of marketing and corporate hand shakes? Yes. Will they most likely be written by fan boys who are "above message boards" and just want to gorge on a feast of their own jaded views on whether or not cell shaded Link is cool? Fucking yes godammit. So while Gamespot was not the be all end all of game reviews, it served a very important service in my life and I'm sad that I have to put it on the Bullshit Shelf next to Jaws Unleashed and new Star Wars.

And really, this post is also about how horribly Jeff Gerstmann was treated for not giving to marketing pressure and being true to the fans that built gaming into the disc golem it is today. This shit happens all the time, and it's tragic. I put it in the same unjust category of unnecessary rent increases in cheap apartment buildings occupied by low income tenants, and charging $9.75 for an afternoon showing of Norbit. Highway robbery! I hope that he goes on to find employment at a place that values honesty and us old schoolers that are still scrounging and spending to be able to keep up with our favorite form of entertainment, or better yet that he starts his own site or magazine.

I do feel the need to interject on the subject of Kane and Lynch before I wrap up here. I was lucky enough to meet an employee of Eidos Germany while on tour in Europe, and he invited us to the office to hang out, see the digs, shoot the shit, and psyche him the fuck out bragging on my Halo skillz. While there he demo'd the first level of Kane and Lynch for us on the office PS3 and I have to say it looked pretty good. From an observers point of view, I could tell there was a bit of trickery with the aiming (an element that gets a lot of shrapnel in Gerstmann's review) and one thing that would bother me if I had control was the slow speed at which the characters move. I hate that in a game. But it looked fun, and isn't that what we're looking for in a game? The theatrical way in which the encounters unfolded were intriguing and downright progressive. I can't say too much because I didn't have any actual hands on experience with the game which is the only way to properly scrutinize, but I left the building with the game on my "to rent" list. One thing he does say that I sympathize with involved the inconsistency of attaching to cover: " seems like you're always snapping into cover behind something at the most inopportune times, making the game quite frustrating." This was a problem I had with Gears of War during frantic close quarters battles, and it is lost on me if anyone ever went on record saying this in a review for that game. If the proverbial 'they' didn't, the proverbial 'they' should have.

But, in reading Gerstmann's review one can see the wear and tear of a decade of game reviews under the belt, as he seems to slightly nit pick, favoring his editorial space for the crucifixion of the game's flaws and largely ignoring some of the more theatrical feats I witnessed at Eidos. I'm hardly standing up for the decision to fire him based on his review, I'm not even playing devil's advocate. It's just the inverse sharp edge of having honest, experienced reviewers that aren't fan boys or message board spammers. Their job is to play games and judge them on the behalf of the consumer. It's all they do, cast judgement. If you do any job (no matter how sweet it is) for a long time you get burnt out in little ways, it's unavoidable. The burn these men feel is the mediocrity of the sub par game that gets hyped beyond hype and fails to deliver on fundamental mechanics. They lash out and do their best to level the bar, and I respect that with all the floating skittles that comprise my soul, but sometimes I just want to pass by the angst.

All said and done, I think the "User Score" at the header of the review speaks the loudest on the issue. A score of 2.6 out of 10, averaged from 3,410 votes at the time of this writing. Utterly abysmal. Internet backlash from the Gerstmann debacle? Possibly. It also suggests that Gerstmann did indeed comply with his corporate superiors and score the game much higher than he had desired in the face of Eidos's deep pockets. Regardless, I salute Jeff and hope he comes out of this whole mess better off, both financially and spiritually.