Friday, February 2, 2007

VIDEO GAMES: Microsoft Lays Down Achievement Law

Microsoft releases new guidelines in an attempt to tighten up achievements.

Recently Realtime Worlds, the developer behind the upcoming Xbox 360 game Crackdown, announced that their free-roam game will ship with only 900 possible achievement points. Some gamers were upset, speculating that the additional 100 Gamerscore would only be available through a priced content download from the Xbox Live Marketplace and that they'd be milked for more cash if they wished to earn the game's complete Gamerscore.

Microsoft decided to take action and release a new set of guidelines in an attempt to bring order back their beloved achievements. Here they are:

1. All retail disc-based games must have a total of 1,000 possible Gamerscore points to be earned. Anyone who purchases the game will be able to earn all 1,000 points without any additional purchases. Although, publishers may release a portion of this gamerscore on the Xbox Live Marketplace but it must be a free download.

2. Publishers may release an additional 250 Gamerscore on top of the standard 1,000 via download from Xbox Live Marketplace. Gamers may be charged for this download, or it may be free, it's up to the game's publisher.

3. Xbox Live Arcade games are very similar but work with lower Gamerscore totals. For example, XBLA games will release with a maximum of 200 Gamerscore points. A possible 50 points can then be downloaded from the Marketplace if the publisher chooses to offer them.

I'm glad that Microsoft is tightening up their Gamerscore policy. With achievement unlocking being as popular as it is, it needed some more moderating. I also hear that they might be planning to reward gamers with higher Gamerscores, this could be a step in that direction.


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Ultimate Spider-Man 100 Covers

100 unique covers, all proceeds go to charity.

A few months back Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man 100 hit the shelves of comic book stores all over, celebrating 100 continuous issues with the same creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. To celebrate, Marvel sent out 100 blank Ultimate Spider-Man covers to a vast array of comic book artists, each one given the task of creating their own unique cover to complete the milestone.

Well, Marvel is now planning to auction off all 100 covers at some upcoming comic conventions, and on eBay, with all proceeds going towards The Hero Initiative, a charity that helps comic book creators in need.

Some of these covers are simply amazing and will most likely sell for prices I can't even compute. My favourites have to be Clayton Crain's, Ron Garney's, Todd McFarlane's, and Humberto Ramos'. I also find it quite amusing that Guillermo Del Toro (director of Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) did a cover.

Check out all 100 covers HERE.


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Thursday, February 1, 2007

FILM: Knocked Up International Trailer is Hilarious!

Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan strike again!

I was browsing my usual sites today when I stumbled upon the international trailer for Judd Apatow's new movie, Knocked Up. Apatow, who's last film was the hilarious 40 Year Old Virgin, looks like he has another similar hit on his hands here.

The film focuses on Ben, played by Seth Rogan (40 Year Old Virgin), a guy who has impregnated his one night stand (Katherine Heigl). It seems pretty straight forward, and normally I wouldn't care much for this movie, but I really loved 40 Year Old Virgin and have no doubt this will be worth a second look.

Check out the trailer:

Paul Rudd will also act alongside Rogan and Heigl, that should be good.


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Spawn #164 Review (Spoilers)

The end of Spawn? My opinion on arguably the most important Spawn comic thus far.

Billed as the "end of Spawn mythology as you know it", Spawn 164 shatters barriers that have been constant throughout Todd Mcfarlane's comic's life on the shelves.

The issue opens up with Al Simmons, in a ghost state, walking towards his old home with intentions of being with Wanda once again. He enters the home to find Wanda in a feud with her current husband Terry who feels as if Wanda hasn't gotten over Al and loves the now-Hellspawn more than her current husband. Wanda admits she still loves Al but reveals the previously unknown truth about their relationship; Al Simmons was a wife beater (and baby killer) yet chose to subconsciously smother his memories of hurting Wanda, instead remembering love and compassion.

Now, I was completely shocked reading this after following Spawn since issue one back in the early 90's. I found Spawn to be such a great comic (at times) because you felt for Al Simmons, a man fighting an impossible battle because of the love for his wife and the desire to one day be with her again. Labelling him a wife beater throws that completely out of the window, creating a much darker character and one that will essentially have to work harder to earn my pity.

The art in the issue, as fans have become accustomed to over the past year, is phenomenal. Philip Tan does an excellent job and the interiors, as well as Brian Haberlin's colours, take on a darker quality than normal to accommodate with the dark twist in the storyline. There is one amazing pin-up towards the end of the issue with Spawn sitting back in his throne, it's pretty sweet and sums up the end of the issue completely.

Some fans of the series have been stating that this twist opens up a huge plot hole in Todd McFarlane's Spawn universe and that it completely destroys the character. I agree, to a point. Sure, it's hard to believe that no one would have used this against Spawn earlier or warned him, saving him a ton of grief but at the same time I think that this will benefit the character. Hopefully we will see a darker and more merciless Spawn in the future.


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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

FILM: The Dark Knight - Who is Harvey Dent?

Shooting has started on Warner Bros' sequel to Batman Begins. Who will play Harvey Dent?

Earlier this week Warner Bros. announced that Katie Holmes will not be returning for the Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight, instead her character will be re-cast. It was also leaked that the film has begun production. One thing is still uncertain though, who will play Harvey Dent? Here are some actors who have been rumoured for the part along with my opinions on how they'd benefit the character.

Josh Lucas:

Josh Lucas has been pretty vocal about wanting in on The Dark Knight production, stating on talk shows that he's interested in the part and would love to play a character in the upcoming film. While he does resemble the Harvey Dent found in the comics, at least more so than some of the rumoured "Dents", I don't think he'd work. First off, Josh Lucas just doesn't seem to have the grit and power needed for the role in my opinion. He might have worked if he was cast in one of Joel Schumacher's one-liner driven Batman movies, but I don't think he fits in a much darker Batman movie. I've also heard that WB is trying to acquire a household name to play the character, I don't think Josh Lucas is quite there yet.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson:

Rumours have surfaced that the man made famous by the WWF (now WWE) may be in the running for the role of Harvey Dent. Some may consider this possibility to be completely out of left-field but I think it could work, if done right. The Rock has the physical presence to play a powerful Two-Face and could seem to be a menace as District Attorney of Gotham City. He also resembles Harvey Dent as seen in the Batman Animated Series that ran in the early 90's. Personally I'd prefer to see someone else in the role, but Dwayne Johnson could turn out to be a surprise hit in The Dark Knight. Then again, this could all be a complete rumour.

Edward Norton:

Another actor who has been rumoured to appear alongside Christian Bale in The Dark Knight is Edward Norton. Now, I'm a fairly big Ed Norton fan and I've enjoyed a lot of his previous work (Fight Club, American History X) and I'm sure he'd be a great choice. Norton definitely has the acting chops, would be able to show a darker side of Harvey Dent/Two Face, and often disappears into his characters. Ed Norton also often manages to have great chemistry with the other actors on-screen, something that would really benefit the friendship of Dent and Bruce Wayne. I think he'd be perfect.

Jamie Foxx:

Jamie Foxx is another actor being considered for the role who I think would do an excellent job. Foxx has portrayed characters of authority and power in the past and has shown audiences that he has the ability to twist himself into characters that may seem unorthodox. He also has a an emotional quality to him that, as with Edward Norton, would help with show his connection to Bruce Wayne and his assistant, Rachel Dawes. Jamie Foxx has also won an Oscar, something that would benefit the film's sales.

Aaron Eckhart:

Aaron Eckhart has also recently been rumoured to play Dent and I think he'd do a fairly good job. Eckhart has proven he can play both comedic and serious roles and I thoroughly enjoyed Thank You For Smoking. Eckhart has the charm needed to play a charasmatic district attorney but how well would he play the twisted character of Two-Face. I'm not sure if I like this choice when compared to Norton or Foxx, but I do think Eckhart would give the role a run for its money.

I'm sure there are other actors in the running for the role of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight that haven't been announced. I'm sure that in the end Christopher Nolan and WB will make the right choice. Batman Begins was very well cast and I'm sure we'll be able to say the same about it's sequel.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Crackdown Preview

Grand Theft Auto meets Robocop meets Spider-Man

Lately I've been wasting A LOT of time playing the Crackdown demo I downloaded on Xbox Live Marketplace a few days ago. The game, which is set to ship in roughly a month (Feb 20th), may look like a GTA clone at first glance, but the demo is damn addicting and it seems to be a breath of fresh air into the already cliche genre.

The thing that I'm looking forward to the most about this game is just how vertical it is. I'm sure most gamers have played GTA and gone around jacking cars, shooting thugs, and the like. Crackdown isn't much different, except it has much more emphasis on vertical exploration. The buildings are taller, some almost seem TOO TALL, and all of them are accessible (once you're character's stats have progressed and you can jump high enough). Once I reached a high enough agility, which is done by collecting orbs scattered around the city, I was scaling buildings like Spider-Man. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop and dropping down on criminals like it was going out of style.

Initially the demo starts out fairly slow as your character's attributes haven't progressed at all. You can't jump very high, your driving skills are junk-ass, and you could barely hit water shooting out of a boat (lame, I know.). Eventually though, after gaining a few levels, you feel like a supercop and the game gains a huge appeal. Jumping around on rooftops doesn't get old and soon I was wasting precious time just collecting hidden orbs and finding secrets, it's just that fun.

I'm not sure if Crackdown's storyline is going to be worth the price of admission, or if this game is going to be that much different than a GTA clone on crack, but the demo is damn fun. I'll be picking up my copy come February 20th. If it does suck, at least I get admission into the Halo 3 beta.


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