Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Halo 4 Review

I’ve decided to take on this special challenge of writing a video game review for an audience that doesn’t generally care about video games or is not as passionate as I am so here it goes. For those of you who don’t care about this game I can’t imagine you’ll understand what I’m talking about, and won’t be offended if you leave this page. With that said, here we go.

My rating for Halo 4:  3 out of 5.

In 2007, Bungie created what is considered one of my favorite games of all time; Halo 3. Halo 3 is one of the few games that I could turn on and lose track of the time and how much I spent playing it. Call of Duty came out a little later, but I still remained stuck on Halo, and when people asked me why I loved Halo so much compared to Call of Duty here were my reasons.

1.       Everyone is the same. In Halo multiplayer, every person was the same Spartan. We all looked the same, we all moved the same, and we all started with the same weapons. You never wasted time making your spartan look like a unicorn or anything like that. You never had to creep around every corner hoping that there wasn’t an enemy who had chosen a sniper rifle or shotgun for his primary weapon, and was just waiting for your body to move into his crosshairs; which brings me to my next point.

2.       Weapon placement on maps. Unlike Call of Duty, Halo’s matchmaking gameplay was all about map control for power weapon spawns. At the start of every game you carefully planned out with your teammates which power weapon you were going to go for whether it was the rocket launcher or sniper rifle. This helped reduce the amount of players that just sat around corners waiting for you to run by (more popularly known as camping).

3.       A trueskill ranking system. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a ranking system that ranks you on your performance, most directly wins and losses. If you or your team wins, your rank goes higher. If you or your team loses your ranking drops. Halo mastered this ranking system by having a scale of 1-50. If you wanted to test your skill and strive to improve you could play the competitive games with your ranking placed next to your name, and then you would face off against players with similar rankings. If you decided you just wanted to screw around with friends you could play a more social type of playlist just for fun.

343 industries took over the Halo franchise from Bungie, and embarked on a risky journey to continue the franchise, but in my opinion they have not lived up to the hype. Before I get into the negatives I just want to explain that at times I still enjoy playing Halo 4. I love all of the new weapons in the game. Besides the overpowered DMR and boltshot, I feel like all of the new weapons bring an innovative and exciting feel to the game. The sounds of the guns are all amazing too, and for that I applaud 343.

 I feel like Halo 4 has a lot of great aspects to it, but it is just shrouded by the amount of crap that continues to happen in this game. Halo 4 took what I loved about Halo and completely destroyed it. 343 introduced loadouts (or classes as referred to by Call of Duty) where players can pick primary and secondary weapons as well as packages (or perks as referred to by Call of Duty) to help differentiate different spartans. Now every time I play I have to worry about the player with a pocket shotgun (boltshot) around a corner and the enemy with the mini sniper rifle (DMR) all the way on the other side of the map. They didn’t earn these weapons, but are able to choose them as part of their loadout.

Not only did 343 make every spartan different, but there are no longer weapons on the map. At the beginning of every game there is a spawn of power weapons, but after the initial fight, the power weapons come at random stages and in random locations. The only way you can get other weapons is by picking them up off of dead bodies, but you must do so within 10 seconds of the spartan dying, otherwise they will disappear. There have been numerous times I’ve had to run around with no ammo hoping that my teammate will die soon so I could pick up his ammo. 343 also decided to institute personal ordnance drops (or killstreaks as referred to by Call of Duty) that delivers power weapons to one’s feet. No longer are you fighting for power weapons with predictable respawns on maps, but instead you’re being hunted down by three or four snipers at once. This has consequently dumbed down the innovative and creative map design. I have yet to fall in love with any of the maps from Halo 4 as I did in Halo 3.
343 also geared their game towards Call of Duty when they introduced instant respawning into Halo. Before you had to wait at least five seconds before you could return to the battle, but now you can respawn instantly and to me it has greatly butchered the flow of the game for numerous reasons. Not to be cheesy, but having the respawn at 5 seconds really made you think about how you died. It made you try harder not to die again whereas Halo 4 there is no penalty for dying other than giving the other team points, and no one really cares about that, because no one plays as a team in Halo 4 anymore. It also gave the game longer to pick a better respawn location. I can't count the number of times that I've been killed, I hit X to respawn, and the guy who just killed me is already in my sights. I stick a couple of pistol shots in his head, and then just laugh at how broken it is. It makes it hard to push or make any sort of movement in objective games, because they're able to respawn right next to the objective after you slay them. This is one of the biggest beefs I have with the game.

The last thing 343 did to hurt the reputation of Halo 4 is not instituting a trueskill ranking system. Instead you rank higher and higher just by playing the game and completing challenges. There are thousands of players already at the highest level of player, and can no longer advance their ranking. 343 has invoked an “everybody wins” attitude, and it’s upsetting a lot of the competitive Halo players out there. Without any competitive playlists, games become very unbalanced and not fun to play.

I will continue to play this game because of my devout loyalty to it. 343 has announced a title update that will be coming at the end of February where they will hopefully make some modifications to the game. Unfortunately I feel that they won’t make the necessary ones required to bring back the competitive feel of Halo. I’ve kept telling myself not to, but I may soon dust off the old Halo 3 disc, and return to the glory days of my favorite online game.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


On September 19th my brother, Zach, and I had the experience of going to another year of Uproar Tour at the USANA amphitheater in West Valley. It was another awesome experience that had some negatives, but also a lot of positives. I’ve always said that everyone should experience a rock concert before they die, because they definitely are something out of this world. Especially for Mormons it’s an eye-opening experience to the world outside of the gospel bubble. It’s intimidating, because everyone is dressed to the extremes and you have the scent of beer wherever you go, but in all honesty I would say that the people at these concerts are a more courteous than a lot of Mormons I’m associated with. This was both Zach and mine’s 4th concert so we were used to it by now, but here is the story of Uproar 2012.
The lineup consisted of only four bands: Adelitas Way, Staind, Godsmack, and Shinedown. I felt all of them had a good sound to their music, and all of them were enjoyable to listen to. You could tell Adelitas Way was new to the touring atmosphere. They are a new band that just hopped on the radar with their latest album titled Home School Valedictorian. They are an interesting band, because some of their songs are hard and in your face, but then they have other songs that you could play to a girl and they would love them. Their vocals were a little off, but you could not take away from their love of the crowd; the lead singer even crowd surfed! Click here to watch their most heart-warming song!
After Adelitas Way was Staind. Staind is an older band that has been around for a while. The singer almost looked like Larry the Cable Guy from a distance and even smoked a cigarette in between songs. Everyone knows their songs “It’s Been Awhile” and “So Far Away.” I didn’t know any of the other songs that they sang, but they still sounded great.
Godsmack was the band I was most afraid of not liking, but they put on an excellent performance. They’ve been around since the mid 90’s so this definitely wasn’t their first rodeo. I honestly didn’t know any of their songs, but just the way they sounded and the way they acted was awesome. The lead singer was amazing. He sang, played guitar, and even came out with another drum set and had a mini-duel with the band’s drummer.
While the bands selected for Uproar Tour were unique and well-rounded it definitely wasn’t as good as last year’s selection. I think the biggest reason why it lacked in that area was because of the absence of Papa Roach. Papa Roach pulled out of Uproar earlier in the tour due to a nodule found on lead singer, Jacoby Shaddix’s, left vocal cord. I’m not sure what that means except for the fact that he had to have surgery and wouldn’t be able to sing or talk for 2 months. Papa Roach was one of the bands that Zach and I were both really looking forward to, but we weren’t able to. With them being absent it really limited us being able to jam out and sing along, because we didn’t know the lyrics to any of Staind’s or Godsmack’s songs as compared to last year when I knew the lyrics to at least half the songs of all five bands.
What all made it worth it for me though was Shinedown. If you don’t have Shinedown’s newest album, Amaryllis, I would recommend you buy it. It has easily become one of my favorite albums to listen to. Not just because it’s my type of music, but because the message of each song is so unique and likeable. Zach and I had seen Shinedown at our first concert back in 2010, and even then we considered them one of the best performers out of all the bands we saw that night. The the lead singer, Brent Smith, is to compare him to Jack Black in the movie, School of Rock. Just the passion and desire to present rock the way it is to be presented sets this band apart. They don’t have to swear to get the crowd going, and you can really sense the appreciation they have for their fans.

Shinedown first started out with their hard rock songs that will get you pumped and ready for the show. “The Sound of Madness” was their first song followed by “Diamond Eyes.” They finally introduced themselves, and introduced their latest single called, “Enemies.” They told us to get pumped and excited for this song. “I want everyone of you to look to your left," Smith said. "Now, look to your right. We do this because the person standing next to you may be someone you've never met before, but we're going to change that. So I want you to shake the hand or high five the person next to you and tell them your happy to see them. Now I want to see everyone lose their mind. If you don’t like the seats in your way just pick them up and get them out of here." (Note: the chairs in the amphitheater are bolted to the cement) "And when I count to three I want you to jump as high as you can from side to side" This song really set the tone for the rest of their performance. Here you can see a similar example of what we experienced at our concert, and here is where you can go to here this kick-butt song better.
After a couple more of their other well-known songs they introduced a song on their newest album that is not a single. Before he started singing he asked everyone to raise their hand if they had come to this concert with their best friend. “Whether it be a friend, girlfriend, husband, wife, sister, or brother you know that you would do anything for them, and there is no possible way that we could not be up here without all of your support,” he said. He then went into a ballad titled “I’ll Follow You”
If I could find assurance
To leave you behind
I know my better half would fade
And all my doubts is a staircase to you
Opened out of this space
The first step is the one you believe in
And the second one might be profound

I'll follow you down
Through the eye of the storm
Don't worry I'll keep you warm
I'll follow you down
While we're passing through space
I don't care if we fall from grace
I'll follow you down  
After that song they sang another one of their newer singles titled “Unity.” Before the song they played an old speech by somebody I don’t remember. I tried to find it, but with no luck. It was a motivation speech that basically talked about how to make the world a better place. Then they went into their song. If you need more proof that you have to see Shinedown live, here it is.

The last song of note that they played was “Simple Man” one of their very first singles. Before they played the lights on the stage went off and everyone left the stage. With as many concerts I’ve been to I could tell this wasn’t the end, but I had no idea what they were doing. All of the sudden I saw body guards running about 15 feet in front of me and behind them was one of the guitarists along with the lead singer. There was a podium in the middle of the audience that they were escorted onto where they started singing the song. They ended up being about 50 feet from me which seems like a lot, but it was awesome to see them come out into the crowd. This short clip was what they said before they sang the song. I should have gotten all of it, but my battery was almost dead.

They closed with a few of their older songs, and I left with a great satisfaction and happy that I was able to see them again. Every time I hear this band I like them more and more. Some of their songs do swear, but the majority of them are clean, well-written songs that I think the majority of the population can enjoy. Rock concerts in general are just awesome and I urge all of you to go to one someday.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Thoughts from Week 1

Week 1 of college football is in the books, and we definitely had a little bit of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was kind of a down week for me. My interest in college football is starting to take a decline which is a sad thing since I used to be so passionate about it. There are a lot of things that have contributed to it. One being the rise of the 49ers has finally made me more interested in the NFL again, but there are other reasons that have contributed to it. My disinterest in college football is the theme of week 1.

Preseason Rankings are a joke:

I have not been more against preseason rankings than I have in the past two years. I have come to realize how bogus and inaccurate they are. The most frustrating part is that these rankings (which are based off of last year’s performance and the amount of returning starters) shape the college football landscape for the remaining year.  They are so inaccurate sometimes that it overhypes certain games as well. There were several teams this week that did not play up to their ranking: South Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford, Georgia, and Michigan are just a few schools that relate. The Michigan vs. Alabama game was so overhyped that it made me grateful I didn’t waste my time watching it when I heard that Alabama completely dismantled the Wolverines. Every year, whether it’s Michigan or Notre Dame, there are a handful of teams that are overrated based on their status as a once-powerhouse, and it’s just hilarious to see them get destroyed at the beginning of the season.

Another problem with preseason rankings is that it either makes or breaks a non-BCS school’s chance of busting the BCS. Take Boise State for example. First off, Boise State at times did not play like they were the 24th best team in the nation. But what if Michigan State ends up going undefeated and goes to the national championship, and Boise State also runs the table the rest of the way? Boise State could still get left out of the BCS (even though their one loss was to an undefeated national championship contender.) The reason why is because Boise State will have started and fell too far down the polls after the first week that they couldn’t get back into the top 12.

I guess I just don’t see why we can’t just wait to rank teams until the BCS formulas come out. When we rank them beforehand it causes a lot of pollsters to stick with those rankings and only adjust teams if one team loses or wins a close one against a crappy opponent. This way it would give everyone six solid weeks to analyze each team and then rank them on how they’ve performed thus far.

I’m so sick of cupcake games:

The biggest reason why I didn’t care to watch too much football this weekend was because the majority of the games were blowouts. At least some of the powerful conferences are scheduling other FBS opponents, but how can you really determine how good a team is when they beat up on the bottom dwellers of the FBS or an FCS school. Even the games that were relatively close were boring to watch, because I just became disgusted with how overrated a certain team was. Even though Bowling Green came close to beating Florida you knew that Florida was eventually going to wake up and decide to play football. I am glad that we are going to a playoff soon, because that “should” help reward those teams who take the initiative and play outside of their comfort zone. Until then the games won’t be interesting until the middle of the regular season.

The miracle season for Boise State was ended soon this year:

It’s been kind of a weird feeling for me the past week or so. The past couple of years have stressed me out, because of the high expectations I had for this team. Every game got me nervous, and every play I was on the edge of my seat. It was almost unhealthy. Then when they would lose it was as if all happiness had evaporated from me for a couple days, because they were not able to live up to their potential.

That changed this year. This season I feel like I had reasonable expectations for this team. I was wishing and hoping that they would be able to upset Michigan State, but for some reason I had already accepted the fact that there was a good chance they were going to lose that game. It kind of sucks, because they had numerous times to win the game, but couldn’t close it out. There are still many positives that can be taken from the game. The defense played a lot better than I expected them to, and forced numerous turnovers. With as many returning starters (or lack thereof) they had I would have to say I think it’s pretty awesome that this team can lose so much talent and still only lose by 4 points to the “13th” best team in the nation at their place. (I put 13 in quotations because of my argument about preseason rankings) The spread projected Boise to lose by 7 so the fact that they beat the spread also says something.

Boise State will lose some bandwagon fans after this loss, but it’s almost kind of relieving, because now I can just sit back and watch this team grow. If they lose another game along the way that’s completely fine. We’ve been quite spoiled as fans to have as much success as this team has had the past four years so I think we can all just be patient and let this team grow and improve.

The reason I’m starting to like the NFL more than college is its solid structure in standings and the playoff system that is put in. While we all love the drama of college football, I feel there is a lot of unnecessary controversy that encircles it that causes me to lose interest in it. Hopefully one day these issues will no longer bug me, but it probably won’t matter anyway. Football is in my blood, and although there are several things that frustrate me, I won’t be able to stay away for too long.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Becoming Disappointed in MW3

Video games are created for the enjoyment and entertainment of its players. What I’ve been told hundreds of times, and am still struggling to overcome, is that it is just a game. If you’re not having fun then you shouldn’t be playing it.

Modern Warfare 3 is starting to puch me over that edge. There has only been one other thing in this world that I have boycotted doing and that was watching the BCS football games, but I'm seriously considering adding playing MW3 to that list.

When MW3 first came out there weren’t nearly as many noobes playing. I’ve played the game enough to where I’ve reached the rank of 12th prestige which doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re any good, but that you’ve at least not lost your mind enough to continue playing it. This last prestige has been unbearable to play which has caused me to hate playing the game. There are many reasons I could list, but here are the biggest ones.

Overpowered Weapons

If I started a game up today and played a match right now I could guarantee you that I would be killed at least once by these weapons in every single match I played: ACR, Type 95, MSR, Striker, MP7, PP90M. If you want to get a high Kill/Death ratio these weapons are your bread and butter. In fact I’ll go as far as to say I am killed by these guns more than the other 50+ weapons combined. Me, I’m a challenge nut who likes to earn titles and emblems for getting so many kills with certain weapons. Once I get my 1,000 kills and receive the emblem, I move on to a different one. Right now I’m stuck with the PKP Pecheneg light machine gun, and I’m having the hardest time getting to 1,000, because I’m getting killed by these overpowered weapons. I get picked off from a distance by the Type 95 or ACR, or I just get blasted for being too close by the Striker. It’s so frustrating, because everyone uses them. There’s only a small group of games that venture outside of these overpowered guns.

Quick scoping/ Snipers in general

One thing I can’t stand is when I finally decide to watch one of my kill cams. I watch a sniper running around the middle of the map like he’s carrying around a 12-gauge. He pulls the scope up to his eye, but doesn’t even look down the scope before he’s firing a shot. The crosshairs in his scope are aimed a foot to the side of my head when he fires the trigger, and somehow I drop like a deer. This “art” is known as quick scoping. Granted it takes lots of practice to develop this “skill”, but to me it drastically eliminates the realism of “modern warfare.” I hate all snipers in general. Either they’re running around and quick scoping everyone, or they’re camping out in a hallway waiting for you to walk right in front of them even though they’re losing a Domination game by 100 points; which brings me to my next point.

Campers Galore
I cannot stand the amount of campers that have taken over Modern Warfare 3. It is so annoying running around the map only to get killed by someone huddled in a corner. I don’t understand how that is fun for anyone. When I camp I get bored after ten seconds and have to move somewhere else. These guys are willing to wait the entire game to get their five kills. The reason why you see so many campers on Modern Warfare is because people are too easy to kill. Granted, it is “modern warfare” so anybody should die after a few shots to the chest, but the reason why you never see any campers in Halo is because it wouldn’t do you any good. By the time somebody walks in front of you it will take you five or six seconds to successfully dispatch a foe. This gives the enemy plenty of time to turn around and take you on or flee. In Modern Warfare 3 you have no warning before all of the sudden you’re dead. At least in Modern Warfare 2 grenades and grenade launchers actually killed people so you could just noob tube the area where there were campers and pick up a few kills. In MW3 it is way too hard to sneak up on campers and kill them.

Those are just the main reasons why I’m giving up on this game. I feel so bad for leaving Halo, because I thought Modern Warfare would satisfy my needs. I’ve been playing Halo for the past couple of weeks and have enjoyed it tons more than Call of Duty. When I’m done playing Halo I’m not in a bad mood like I am when I’m done playing MW3.

I feel like there are some positives about MW3, but they’re overpowered by the amount of noobes that now play the game which doesn’t require a whole lot of skill to become good at. In a perfect world I would propose the following modes or options to MW3 multiplayer:

·         A “no snipers” playlist that eliminates classes that have sniper rifles as the primary weapon.

·         One or maybe even two extra flags on Domination that would help reduce the amount of camping.

·         A playlist that keeps separate stats for your weapons and attachments. Instead of getting better guns and attachments as you level up imagine starting out with every gun and attachment. Once you’ve earned so many kills with a certain weapon or attachment you are no longer allowed to use it, but instead you get a ton more experience. I think there would be a good amount of solid players that would like that playlist. Something like this would never happen, but it would be fun. It would help spice things up.

Maybe someday I'll finally pull the plug on this dumb game, but for now I just need to go back to having fun. Zach and I are going to make some troll classes and just go around and camp and shoot people in the back with the Type 95. There isn’t much fun left for me in Call of Duty. I might as well waste my time taking it out on the Grunts and Jackals that occupy the Halo universe. That is more fun to me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Penn State Punishments: NCAA Got it Right

"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating,
nurturing and  protecting young people,"  NCAA President
Mark Emmert stated on Monday
NCAA president Mark Emmert handed out one of the harshest penalties in history to Penn State early Monday morning. Emmert is fining Penn State for $60 million, banning them from postseason games for the next four years, reduced ten initial and 20 total scholarships each year for the next years, and vacated all of Joe Paterno's wins the years 1998-2011. (111)

Many people question whether this penalty is too harsh or not harsh enough. It is for that reason alone why I feel that the punishments were just right.

The main reason why people argue that these punishments are too harsh is because the current and future football teams had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky's vicious acts. Many people believe that those involved have gotten off pretty easy besides Sandusky of course. Instead, the current football players will not get to particpate in any bowl games the rest of their college careers while wearing a Nittany Lion uniform. If they want to, they are free to transfer to any other school without penalty. I agree that many of the players and loyal fans of Penn State football are treated a little unfailry in this sense, but for some it may be an excuse to leave an institution full of hypocrisy and lies.

Many people are also upset about the vacated wins of Joe Paterno that have officially removed him from the all time wins leader. One student at Penn State felt that they were unfair, because Jerry Sandusky wasn't even a coach at the time that the wins were vacated. He is clearly missing the point of Joe Paterno's role in all of this scandal. Paterno knew about what was going on and still lied about it. Think about that for a minute. Paterno knew that innocent children were being raped and molested by one of his assistant coaches and did nothing. In fact, he did something worse than nothing; he covered it up. A man who was always known for teaching his players to play with respect and integrity, couldn't do the same when he needed to the most. The Paterno family is understandably upset and are outraged at everything that is taking place, but they really need to come to reality and realize the mistakes that Joe made.
Joe Paterno's statue was removed from Beaver Stadium on
Sunday in response to his role in the cover up of Jerry
Sandusky's crimes.

One point that has arised which is some cause for concern is the NCAA's involvement in criminal cases. Normally the NCAA doesn't hand out sanctions or punishmentss for criminal actions. Instead they leave that up to the courts. Their main responsibility is to monitor each individual team and make sure that everyone is participating on an equal competitive playing field. Many people argue that the NCAA is opening up a can of worms, and is stepping into hot water that will open up many other cases.

While I agree that the NCAA should not be handing out punishments for criminal actions, this was something so horrific and so high-level crime that something had to be done. The reason why the NCAA doesn't act on criminal investigations is because usually the administration or athletic department of each individual school is smart enough to make sure that these criminal acts are taking care of with penalties of their own. What do you do when their are several administrators of the university involved in the cover up of a decade-long child molester? Did you think that Penn State was going to punish themselves for what they did? If they were going to do that they would have done that back in 1998 when all of this began. The NCAA had to step in to remind everyone else that while sports is what drives in the money for the school, no one should be allowed to play under the guile and indecency that Penn State has for the past 15 years.

Everyone knows how much I love sports, but it is extremely sad that we are coming to the day-in-age when there is a "do anything to win" philosophy. In the past few years alone we have seen many sanctions being handed down for improper benefits, cheating, and now covering up a child molester's hainous acts. I feel that's why the NCAA issued these penalties. University presidents are finally realizing the will to win in sports is coming at too high of a price, and it is time for us to remember the importance of higher education.

No penalties will ever bring to justice what happened to the victims of Sandusky's acts. All we can hope for is to return Penn State to what it was before this acts occurred which came at a high price. A price that some innocent players and coaches have to pay, but one that will help us all sleep a little better.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fans of Mass Effect can Finally be at Peace.


As a big-time fan of the Mass Effect series I completely forgot that the Extended Cut was released on June 26th. That’s how fed up with the game’s ending I was. I had completely distanced myself from the game, because of its poor attempt at ending the series that had taken up nearly 100 hours of my life to complete.

I was disappointed that I had no idea how my squad mates got back on the Normandy after trying to make a mad dash towards the beam that led to the Citadel. I was angry that I had three choices that all led to the same outcome. I was frustrated that I saw Joker flying away from a battle when the galaxy needed him to stay and fight. I was infuriated when I saw Joker and EDI step off the ship onto a new planet in an Adam-and-Eve-like rebirth as if to suggest that synthetics are going to start mating with real-life organics. After it was finished I just stared at my TV for 15 minutes with a look of amazement and yelled, “That’s it?”

I wasn’t the only one who had these feelings. In fact millions of Mass Effect 3 fans were furious at the ending. So furious that there were rumors of people trying to file lawsuits with EA games, stating that they falsely advertised that the ending of the Mass Effect series would be fresh and unique for every player.

Bioware answered the call and promised a more thorough ending that would explain all the questions that we’ve been having for the past three months. This new, free Extended Cut would finally be able to put fans at peace.

Like I said before, I had totally spaced that the extended cut was coming out until I was getting ready to watch Netflix with my fiancĂ©. On my dashboard I saw the advertisement stating that the Extended Cut had arrived. I’ve started to tone down my video game playing days so I was able to hold in the anticipation. Not to mention I was still a little skeptical to think that they were able to resurrect a butchered ending and make it better. I was able to continue watching Netflix with the fiancĂ© until it was midnight. After she had gone back to her apartment I went back to my room to play it.

Before I started I needed to find out exactly where I should start in order to get the maximum cut-scenes. I was told that I needed to restart the mission where you take over the Cerberus base and defeat Kai Leng. As I went through my saves I found that the two closest saves to that point in the story was after the invasion of the Cerberus base, right before you head to Earth and way before it when you’re just barely helping the Quarians. It was almost a 9-hour difference between the two saves. I decided to start playing the earlier one where I was helping out the Quarians, and only got about five minutes into it before I realized, “This isn’t worth it. I want to know what happens now.” So I rebooted the save from where I started “taking back Earth.”

I quickly changed the difficult to “Narrative” because there was no way in Tuchanka I was going to fight through Earth on “Insanity” again. I remember how long it took me to get past the part where you’re defending the missile Makos. Those freaking Banshees took me hours to get past. So there I was blasting away the buggers, but nothing dramatic had changed. I was starting to get nervous that either my Extended Cut wasn’t working or this Extended Cut really isn’t going to change anything.

Then finally it happened. I entered the cut-scene where I was running like a bat out of Noveria towards the beam to take me to the Citadel. I was dodging Harbinger like a boss trying not to get vaporized when all of the sudden there was something different. I grabbed my squad mates Garrus and EDI and stuck them behind a crashed Mako. I then called into the Normandy and asked them to pick up my team. I finally knew how my teammates got onto the Normandy!

I won’t go through all the nitty gritty details of everything that was explained, but all I can say is that as I was playing the final minutes of this game it seemed like every question that I had about the ending was being explained to me right then. It’s like Bioware had read all the articles and watched all the Youtube videos of fans raging about why they hated the ending. At first I had hated The Child, because I felt it was some brand new character that was introduced for the sake of telling me that this ending is pathetic, but after listening to him explain my choices more thoroughly and the consequences of those choices more descriptively I was able to empathize more with bringing in a new character.

I ended the game by choosing the “Synthesis” route; where organics and synthetics came together in order to bring about a more peaceful galaxy. Organics became more advanced, and synthetics finally knew what it felt like to be alive. It seemed appropriately just by the way I played my Mass Effect game, but I’m very anxious to see what the other endings would have played out like. The Extended Cut has made Mass Effect worth playing, and who knows, maybe a few months down the road I will open up the trilogy again and play for a different ending just to see what happens. Before the Extended Cut, I had had no inkling to play the game again.

There weren’t many things to dislike about the extended cut, but there were a couple of things that raised my eyebrows. I wasn’t too fond of having every ending end with Shepard dying. Sure, there’s one ending that may give you a little hope that Shepard survived, but for the most part Shepard is revered as the savior of the galaxy, and that it was mandatory that he gave his life up for it. I would have liked to have seen an ending where Shepard survives, and is sitting on a beach with Garrus while a destroyed Reaper is floating in the ocean. I’m not so much disappointed in this, because you can never have a perfect ending. As long as the ending makes sense and is written well, I can’t disagree too much with it.

Another thing I didn’t like was after you had made your decision. While one of your squad mates narrates what happened after Shepard made his choice you have some clips, but the majority is just a slide show. During my synthesis ending I just saw a bunch of slides of Krogans rebuilding their home world. I would have liked to have seen that actually be animated out. I would have loved to hear the sound of machinery as the Krogans were rebuilding their structures. I never got to see the Geth and the Quarians rebuilding Rannoch as well. I don’t know what Bioware was going for during this slideshow, but I was a little sad about it.

The positives of the Extended Cut far outweigh the negatives. I’m glad that Bioware took the time to go back to the drawing board and make this ending better. I was very skeptical when they said that they would keep the same endings, and very surprised that they were able to still make it great without completely changing everything. The thing I was most scared was that no matter what choice you chose, the mass relays were going to be destroyed. Instead they modified it to where the mass relays relayed the synthesis over the galaxy. I’m not sure what happens in the other endings, because I haven’t played it, but I’m sure it wasn’t as bad. The most important part is that it brought back a peace of mind that Bioware really did have a good ending planned out for this game. It was just poorly planned the first time. It’s reintroduced my faith in this game, and just talking about it makes me want to go home and start playing it again. Thank you, Bioware for having the humility to accept criticism and answer the call of your fans. You did not disappoint.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

THE NEW COLLEGE PLAYOFF - A step in the right direction, but still not good enough.

The 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director have finally finished grinding out a 12-year deal to bring a playoff to college football.  A momentous day in college football history has taken place. No more polls or computer rankings to decide who plays for the national championship. It sounds like a great idea, right? All that can be said is that it is a step in the right direction, but it is not good enough. There are still many questions that will need to be answered.

Why not eight teams? Why not 16 teams? How can you guarantee the power conferences will not receive better treatment than the smaller conferences? What will happen if we have a year like we did in 2010 where five teams went undefeated in the regular season? (Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State) Will this cause even more conference realignment? Will the SEC be guaranteed not one, but two teams in the playoff every year?

These are all great questions to ask the commissioners who are creating this four-team playoff. I for one am excited to see what will happen, but am also a little skeptical about what will take place. For some reason I believe that there will be just as much controversy over a 4-team playoff than there will be over the current BCS system.

The greatest advocate for the BCS or 4-team playoff is that it keeps the regular season as important as ever. The NFL is still the most popular sport in America. Millions of viewers tune in every week to watch their favorite teams, and twelve out of the 32 NFL teams get to go to a playoff and compete for the Super Bowl. Why does it seem so ludicrous to think that the regular season will be diminished when 16 out of 120+ FBS programs get to compete for a national championship?

I did a little research and on a 16-team playoff where every conference champion gets an automatic berth and five at-large teams are selected. If you went by the BCS rankings at the end of the regular season Alabama, Stanford, Arkansas, Boise State and Kansas State would be your five at-large teams. Not one of those teams lost more than two games throughout the regular season.  A four-team playoff will make the regular season more meaningful, but how could you argue that the BCS made the regular season meaningful when a four-loss Connecticut team was able to make it to a BCS game just a few years ago.

A four-team playoff is a step in the right direction. It will definitely be more exciting to watch then the horrendous 70-35 Orange Bowl or the two non-deserving teams that played in the Sugar Bowl last year. I was so fed up with the BCS that I had boycotted watching any of the BCS games, including the Alabama LSU Part II. The four-team playoff will still have its controversies. Below is what like and what to dislike about the four-team playoff.

What to Like:

It’s a playoff! - College football is the only major sport that does not have some sort of playoff to determine its champions. We will now have the most deserving (sort of) teams duke it out on the field to prove who the number-one team is.

No more polls and computer rankings – No more will we have to here Brad Edwards tell us why Boise State’s strength of schedule weakens their computer rankings. No more will we have corrupt coaches voting their teams ahead of more-deserving teams just so they can play in the big bowl games. It was a hypocritical system and we can now rely on a more reliable selection committee to pick the four teams.

No more conference tie-ins – At least to the playoff games anyways. While some conferences will definitely have more push/pull on getting put into the playoffs, they will not be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.  We won’t have to worry about a Big East or ACC champ being guaranteed big bucks for having a sub-par champion.

The championship game going to the highest bidder – About 50% of all college football fans think of this as a positive thing. I’m one of those people. I hate the bowls and I’m glad to be able to have a more neutral site location for the national championship. I’m sick of seeing all the bowls being played in the southern part of the United States. No more LSU getting virtual home games every five years in the Sugar Bowl. Now any city can host the national championship game. What if we had a national championship game in New York? Indianapolis? Seattle? Those would be some terrific sites that fans of northern teams may now be willing to make the trip to visit.

What not to like:

It’s only four teams – Like I mentioned before, a 16-team playoff seems a lot fairer, and a 16-team playoff would generate millions of more dollars. Hopefully once the commissioners realize how much money is being generated from this four-team playoff they will have to consider going for more teams.

Many deserving teams will be left out – I feel bad for those who will have to be the ones to decide who the first four in are and the last four out are. Look at last year’s teams for example: According to the BCS rankings, it would be LSU, Alabama, Stanford and Oklahoma State. What about Oregon? Oregon was the Pac-12 champ and beat Stanford during the regular season. Who do you take? What about Arkansas? Their only two losses were to LSU and Alabama who had a combined total of one loss before the national championship. Do they deserve to be in more than Oklahoma State, who lost to Kansas State, who had a combined total of two losses before the bowl games? There are many deserving teams that deserve to be in the playoff and four is just not enough to include all of the deserving teams. What will happen to the non-aq’s? Before they were at least guaranteed a spot in a BCS game if they went undefeated, but now non-aq’s may go undefeated and still be left out of the playoffs. The power conferences will continue to get more revenue, while the non-aq’s will still be left in the dark. Revenue sharing is still broken in college football.

The semifinals being played at neutral locations – I know I may raise some question marks according to my stance on the location of the title game, but I think it would be amazing to have the national semifinals at the higher seed’s field. Can you imagine how crazy the fans would be? Or how about the agony of those fans when their team is upset at their home field?

We’ll have to see what the next few years bring. Hopefully it won’t take 12 years to realize the great potential of a 16-team playoff. At least we can raise our glasses for a day and know that we will no longer have to complain about the old BCS system, and that college football is on its way to something big.