Monthly Archives: April 2008

My Aim Is Truer

Never been the biggest fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. At bottom, despite the open-world sandbox element that everyone always goes on and on about, the games to me have been marred by a completely retarded targeting system. And this problem never seemed to improve with the sequels. What’s the point of game where you can massacre civilians and whatnot if it’s impossible to aim at any one person on the screen? Call me a stickler, but I like to try for the occasional proper headshot and not stagger about like a spastic sociopath during gunfights.

Looks like GTA IV has finally — finally! — fixed this crippling bug. According to IGN’s review, which awarded the game a rare 10.0 score:

A great deal of that pleasure is due to the refined combat system. Though Grand Theft Auto has always been about action, it has never provided a great targeting system. That has finally, truly changed with GTA IV. Hold down the trigger and you can lock on to an enemy (or civilian). You’ll see an indicator of their health. You can adjust your aim slightly with the thumbstick so that nudging up a little can help you earn some headshots. Partially depress the trigger and you have free aim, which is great for targeting tires or specific body parts. With skill, you can take down enemies faster in free mode.

In another helpful change, the newest game in the franchise takes a fictionalized and somewhat compressed New York City as its setting — and I happen to know my way around New York! As a result, I’ll get to avoid the debilitating sense of being lost all the time when playing a freaking videogame, which has never been a formula for fun in my book. This is the downside of the open-world concept that’s clearly become the ne plus ultra of modern game design: I’m not 14 any more and I don’t have endless consecutive hours in which to internalize fictional game maps. When trying to get into a GTA game, I inevitably find myself feeling like a tourist in a foreign city. Maybe a week has passed since I last played, but I shouldn’t be made to feel like an imbecile because I can’t remember where my safehouses are in relation to the latest crime caper.

On a side note, not matter how incredible the GTA version of the Big Apple proves to be, it seems like the folks at Rock Star Game have nothing on these guys. Man, Prototype looks amazing, eh?


Goodnight Turned Out to Be a Lie

It doesn’t seem that anyone much cared for my archival research on Randy Newman from last week. At least, no one clicked on the links to the BBC documentary. But I think you, hypothetical reader, deserve a second chance. Here’s one of the best video series I’ve found to date: Roy Orbison in concert, Holland 1960.

This sequence has a few big factors going for it. Clearly, Roy is in top voice and at the peak of his otherworldy powers. The band, it should also be said, is fantastic. But we’ve also got some non-canonical songs that are real gems. “It’s Over,” which the Danish host describes as Roy’s first success (in Denmark?), is mini-operatic pop with bombast that’s worlds apart from the sounds of today. Sweeping melodrama in under three minutes. “Goodnight,” another slightly lesser known song, has that same structure and has become a fixation of mine lately.

  • Opening: Only the Lonely
  • It’s Over
  • Oh, Pretty Woman
  • Goodnight

Roy Orbison is the musician I listen to the most frequently. By far. Not sure how or when he superseded other iPod mainstays, but it’s been quite some time. If anyone out there has found any sources of Orbison online, please share.

In Circulation Ten Months

I received an email forward tonight, one of those well-circulated political outrages with many generations of sidelines and footers embedded around the message. I don’t get many of these, which might be a generational thing (I get most of mine from Baby Boomers) or it might be something about my particular email peers (thank you, peers). These emails always make me curious to find the source. When did it enter the digital bloodstream? In this case, the answer was June 27, 2007. Prompted by a very short New York Times review of an HBO documentary film about Palestinian prisoners. That link traveled for ten months (!) to get to me, which is intriguing in so many ways.

Is America Ready for a Cylon President?

At work tonight, I suggested funnyman Steve Martin to play the Republican presidential nominee in any film version of the 2008 election. But I was wrong, and co-worker JW soon corrected my error. The only choice for the role is TV actor Michael Hogan. Why? Because. . . Colonel Saul Tigh is John McCain.

Turns out my co-worker was not the first person to arrive at this conclusion, which is as it should be. The similarities are just so striking, and not just the uncanny physical resemblance between the actor and the Arizona senator. Could Battlestar Galactica character Saul Tigh possibly be based on the life of John McCain?

  • Naval aviator? Check.
  • Member of a military family? Check.
  • Held in captivity by the enemy? Check.
  • Tortured? Physically disfigured by the ordeal? Double check.
  • Favors hawkish military policies? Check.
  • Reputation as a carouser, rabble rouser and ladies’ man? Check.
  • Married to a blonde? Check.
  • Married to a blonde with ties to alcohol? Check.

Also — this is the clincher — Tigh has a secretary named Kennedy, and McCain has a secretary named Lincoln.

Seriously, though, this is pretty amazing all around. I’ll try not to write about the election in this space again — but only if the election tries harder to not freak me out with its staggering likeness to Battlestar Galactica.

War With the Hutt Clan

A leaked trailer — with Polish subtitles — for the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. And here’s another non-leaked trailer from the official site. Looks… sorta promising, I think.

Deo Vindice

I couldn’t agree more. My limited experience covering the workings of Albany, as refracted through Queens, made it very clear that the political dysfunction in New York’s fair state capital is well beyond irredeemable. NYC, by contrast, has been a model of effective governance for years now (although it remains to be seen if the city’s good-government sense can survive a real recession led by the financial sector). But even so, I’m partly motivated by sheer spite. The completely daft faux-populism of the anti-congestion political hacks burns me up, and the era of the $4 MTA ride is nigh as a result of Albany’s bullshit antics.


Japanese Chain Reaction Game

Ok, in order to push the fever-dream Mickeys down screen, I’ll share with you my favorite browser-based game of all time. It’s one of the very few games, in fact, that I’ve returned to time and time again over several years. Others come, stay for a time, and recede. Not this game.

Simple: You get one explosion, which you deploy by clicking within the game field, that sets off a chain reaction. Try to get all 50 blue balls in one shot. The game is played in three rounds. A total score of 100 is mediocre. 140 is amazing. You get rising Japanese affirmations, I assume, as you approach 150. I’ve never had a perfect game (but I’ve been damn close).

And this is the best part: I never remember the actual name of this perfect primitive game. A total block. I just type “japanese chain reaction game” into the Google searchbox, however, and my favorite game is the top result. In some ways, you can argue, Japanese Chain Reaction Game is more properly the “real” title than the one chosen by the creator. Also, it’s somehow pleasing to me that Internet users everywhere agree: this is, indeed, a Japanese Chain Reaction Game.