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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roku adding a bunch of new channels (none being Hulu)

Roku is adding a slew of 10 new channels to their lineup, notably Pandora, Flickr, Facebook photos and It's this kind of value add that makes me thankful we went ahead with this route rather than wait for Sony to match Microsoft's Netflix offerings. We still use the Netflix channel pretty exclusively - but this new selection looks pretty interesting.

Not that I was expecting it - but Hulu would be such a perfect marriage for the Roku device. Hulu would instantly crank up their viewership and Roku would get a swath of decent material. It would be what The Office would refer to as a win-win-win. We won't get it, of course, because the TV industry doesn't want me watching Hulu on my TV and will go to absurd lengths to stop me from doing just that.

Even though, as previously mentioned, there is absolutely no way they can stop me from doing just that. It's like stupid was raised stupid, had a kid, and that kid was really stupid and then that kid married stupid and had a stupid child. Hulu is like stupid's grandfather.

Anyway, we'll be checking out the new channels when we get a chance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For Sunday: Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

Because nothing really matters...

Game Play: Why Uncharted 2 Is Just So Damn Good

I feel a bit guilty that a lot of my online posts about Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2 have been complaining about matchmaking in an otherwise pretty solid online offering. So let me make a mea culpa and rave about the single player.

Because honestly, this is one of the best games ever made.

Let's start with the mechanics. Already solid in the original Uncharted, Uncharted 2 takes the whole thing up a notch. The platforming aspects are tight and you'll rarely feel out of control with Nathan's movements. Cover is well managed and manages not to feel forced on the player (comparisons to Gears of War could fit a whole other post). You sometimes wish Nathan could do a little more, like crouch, crawl or lean ... but there's a balance of complexity that works quite well.

The weapon design is impressive. As I mentioned in comments about the multiplayer, even the starting AK clone is quite a versatile bullet tosser once you get used to it. There's nothing that feels underpowered and the range of tools at Nathan's disposal keep the gunplay from getting bland. Grenade tossing is far simpler than most games offer (much to the chagrin of many an online player...)

I don't know how much I need to talk about graphics. You've probably seen them. The game is gorgeous. You'll stop and gape. Don't feel bad.

But all of that pieces together create a brilliant framework for what is essentially a working model of strong interactive storytelling. On the surface, this is an elongated action movie plot with some predictable twists and turns and plenty of explosions. If this was a movie, there would be a lot that would be pretty average. As a game, however, works just so damn well.

Remember cut-scenes? Remember when Valve fanatics were declaring them dead? Not worth the time, no real emotional value for the player, a skip button waiting to happen. Naughty Dog writes brilliant scenes with great dialogue and they do it all with the existing engine - making a near seamless experience for the player between watching and interacting. Many developers have forgotten that cut-scenes were once used as rewards, not fillers - but not these guys.

Remember when nearly every game announced had some kind of "open world" or "sandbox" concept? Or at least some kind of "morality choice"? Uncharted 2 is a strict linear path. There's no good path or bad path, there's only Nathan's path. But that is OK, because Nathan's path is fun and littered with bullets.

This is why the game is so damn good - it takes a solid game engine, adds characters with depth, lines them down a plot full of action and packs it with some of the best dialogue ever written for a game. It's completely awesome.

Get it, unless you don't have a PS3. Then get a PS3. Then get it.

Movie Watch: Battlestar Galactica, The Plan

Battlestar isn't necessarily a show which is it a love it or leave it kind of affair - there's plenty of elements to go around, though they might not always create the grand cohesive goodness Battlestar fans had found.

One element was the relatively mysterious backstory. You have a race of robots evolved well past their original specs, seemingly hell-bent on the destruction of humankind, but with a lot of religious overtones and several (including the opening scene) references to "a plan."

You can imagine the desire fans might have to see an entire movie devoted to said plan. Sadly, the movie serves more of side story, weaving various points of the previous plot (in particular the first couple of seasons) with added, more Cylon heavily, perspectives. It serves as one part swan song, another part prologue, to an already decent story.

The problem is that if you aren't a Battlestar fan, there is nothing here for you. You'll be lost as there is a lot of assumed knowledge about the show, you're missing many, many salient points and quite honestly, the production is at its highest when it reuses previously shot material.

If you are a fan, you'll probably find a good deal of entertainment, even if it is short in actual information. The backstories on the Cylons makes for good fodder, especially the machinations of Cavil. It's kind of like one good drive around the block before leaving the house for good.

Very, very slight spoilers ahead.

My only real complaint, as one who watched the whole series, is that "the plan" is really just "genocide" which doesn't do anything to explain the particulars of the Cylons, their relationship with God(s), their true history, or any higher motives to sending many, many, many nuclear warheads humanity's way.

So kinda recommended, but mostly just for fans.