Lighting a Fuse: Analysing Insomniac’s new Third Person Shooter

Title: FuseFuse-Box-Art
Developer: Insomnia
Distributor: EA
Platforms: PS3 and XBOX 360
Genre: Team oriented third person action

Pros:
-Relentless action sequences
-Powerful upgrades
-Captivating action oriented storyline
-Awesome take down moves
-Incredibly fun

Cons:
-Graphics seem a little outdated
-Been there, done that

Rating (out of ten): 8

Synopsis: A solid, entertaining action shooter that ought to have been released a year ago.

If some of the best ideas from games the likes of Gears of War, Vanquish, Enslaved: Odyssey of the West and Brute Force were all meshed up into one title, that game might very well end up being this new creation from the developers of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance.

Fuse is a futuristic third person team oriented shooter in a time when the governments of the world are attempting to discover a new form of renewable energy. An energy source, capable of unquantifiable levels of destruction is unfortunately discovered in the process, but its consequential power is not exactly energy, as it is so much militarian, with limitless potential for building an unstoppable army to bring an end to any other force on the planet.

Raven, an antagonistic military group that have gone beyond rogue have seized control of this unimaginably powerful energy source and God only knows what they intend to do with it. Burgess, a man contacted to help apprehend Raven and destroy the Fuse energy, rallies his team, consisting of four unique operatives from around the globe, each with different backgrounds and skills that can advantageously take care of this diabolical situation that is slowly but surely spiraling hopelessly out of control.  

Taking down choppers is not quite as easy as one might imagine...

Taking down choppers is not quite as easy as one might imagine…

Over the course of the campaign, each member of the team who the player has the option of playing as during the game, hold three weapons, originally beginning with just an ordinary pistol (if you acquire the Fusion Pack DLC you can upgrade your pistol to immediately use Fuse based technology) and additionally having the ability to carry another weapon of their choosing, whether that be an assault rifle, a sniper class weapon or a shotgun. The third weapon each character is able to wield are their unique Fuse empowered devices which they acquire not long into the campaign. When this occurs, each team member begins to address a certain function that the team needs to survive and complete their objectives.

Dalton, the team’s leader, who has a past with Raven and is now doing his best to shut down their rogue operation, acquires a Magsheild, which allows him to generate a well, a shield (obviously?) that will halter any firepower from injuring him or any team member standing behind it. Additionally, enemy rounds will be plucked out from the air by the device and launched back at the one who fired them. Simply put, Dalton becomes the conventional shock trooper.

FUSE_Dalton_Solo-1024x576

Jacob, the voice of reason and quite possibly the heart of the team acquires himself a crossbow of sorts, which is capable of launching Fuse empowered rounds that can burn through enemy combatants. These can be fired from a hefty distance which allows him to become the team’s stereotypical sniper.

Fuse_Jacob_2

Izzy, who is seen as the brains of the outfit, being both cold and lethal at the same time, acquires herself a weapon that will crystallise the environment and her opponents and cause them to explode. The opposite affect will happen to her team, as she is able to launch crystals with a healing serum in the direction of her fellow comrades which will advantageously benefit their progress and keep them alive longer and heal them over time, thus making her the team’s medic.

Fuse_Izzy_2

Lastly, Naya, the team member I played as, an assassin with a foxy British accent (meow!) whose father has become caught up in the exploits of Raven, found herself carrying a singularity shock weapon that allowed black holes to appear and suck enemies into oblivion. The more enemies hit by the rounds meant that the implosion would become more devastating, a chain reaction taking place which sucked in everyone within the vicinity and blew the others around like rag dolls. This adjunctively came equipped with the phantom cloak, allowing Naya to become invisible for a short duration, enabling her to become the team’s scout, and further empower her lethal assassination skills.

WOW!

WOW!

Unlike in Brute Force, where during the single player campaign the player had to physically activate each particular squad member’s capabilities, the AI will naturally do this during the game, which sufficiently aids progress and makes the action even more fun to fight through.

This was not all though. Larger enemies found throughout the game who are basically the champions of Raven; often being large hulking mechs with extraordinary weapons can have their firepower ripped away from them once they have been relegated to a cadaver. Although these weapons impede movement, they are incredibly powerful and only come equipped with a limited amount of firepower so ought to be utilised whilst available.

Moreover, the weapons the characters were equipped with, along with their health and abilities could be upgraded over the course of the story. Every so often, the player went up a level which presented them with not one skill point, but four; one for each member of the team. Unfortunately the team members do not naturally assign their own skill points and so this is up to the prerogative of the player. Since this is the case, the player is then able to choose what to upgrade and what special abilities the characters will use. The more abilities the characters have at their disposal, the more the AI will be able to use over the course of the game. For instance, in the case of Izzy, she does not automatically begin the game with her healing ability, and this subsequently needs to be unlocked. Once it has been, she was use it when applicable.

Additionally, there are team perks; beneficial upgrades which unanimously assist each of the squad members. Unlike the points acquired by leveling up, these particular ones are acquired from Fuse credits found throughout the game. Fuse credits are small stacks of gold worth 500 each, however, when each upgrade costs 10,000 credits, well, safe to say one needs to scour the maps up and down in an attempt to find them. These abilities are often similar to the traits assigned to each player, however they often, as the title suggests, come with their unique perks. For instance, the marksman ability allows the player to acquire ammunition each time they pull off a successful head shot. Other perks increase damage resistance, or simply resistance to one particular offensive attack; the ability to level up at a faster pace; or even the chance to not consume so much Fuse energy when using special player capabilities.

That’s right, each player ability does run on ammo; the same ammo that each of the player’s Fuse based weapons run on, which is rather annoying, and at the end of the day it comes down to whether or not the player wants to use their ammo to assault the enemy from afar, or for tactical superiority.

Apart from being a babe, Naya's combat abilities and amazing weaponry make her absolutely ruthless in combat.

Apart from being a babe, Naya’s abilities and amazing weaponry make her absolutely ruthless in combat.

Firepower is not the only weapon in each character’s arsenal though, with the team able to pull off special melee moves. Sneaking up behind enemies, players can break the necks of their opponents, drag their bodies over crates, or slit their throats with knives. During combat, the players are able to perform a wild manner of exciting kick ass combat moves which look really extraordinary. Just keep hitting the melee button and the player will automatically continue to perform admirably on the battlefield.

There is of course one addendum to all of this Fuse energy; since Raven has stolen the technology, your team are not the only ones capable of using such amazing technology. Over the course of the game you will run into opponents who are cloaked, who sneak up behind you and take you hostage, using you as a human shield as they assault the rest of your team. Enemies who have Fuse shields covering their person; enemies who are able to heal their comrades if they happen to be in a certain vicinity of them; the list goes on, and thus the player needs to accommodate themselves for any situation and prepare accordingly, adapting to each combat scenario.

Boss battles are especially deranged when it comes to this; not in a bad way, but the limits of the imagination are diabolically stretched, these particular battles often being a time consuming process in which the player needs to adopt a particular strategy as to efficaciously beat their opponent, who of course is never alone, with a number of friends coming to assist them as they wage their private war against you.

Moving on, as with many games today there is no traditional health bar per se, and as soon as your character takes too much damage they are out for the count, temporally at least. Much like in Gears of War, the player is left to crawl across the ground crying out for assistance, a person needing to physically revive you, vice versa, before a timer on your screen runs out. If you or any other member of your team dies, the game officially comes to an end, much unlike Gears of War when your fellow team members could crawl around the floor for days asking for assistance and never require any; in Fuse, you either help your team or help hinder your own progress, which makes your friends far more important to you than in other titles where they are basically invincible.

The AI of your team furthermore is not bad, although like with many games they do on occasion get in your way when you are firing and complain about how terrible a shot you are, even though they clearly ran into your line of fire. In the campaign, as per usual, you need to do almost everything, which is kind of odd since you would think that the others would be able to push a button just as well as you can. There are moments when the team needs to do something in synchronicity or all at once and will automatically perform their tasks, but other times it is left solely up to you. This includes shutting off gun turrets, hacking computers, demolishing walls, et al.

The enemy will additionally more often than not act in a manner that will ensure a challenge. There is no skill level so in the end it really comes down to the sheer number of bad guys thrust upon you and their general skill. Enemies will flank, throw grenades to flush you out and take cover. A number of them come equipped with jump packs and hover devices which allow them to expertly fly from one location to the next, allowing them to acquire a better vantage point or avoid fire. However, as soon as the combined effort of your team is placed onto a number of targets, the single most intelligent bad guy alive would be unable to succeed in surviving such an assault, sometimes making fire fights move by at a steady, quick pace.

As for your own intellect – as previously mentioned, Fuse is a straight forward shooter, and thus the player is normally not required to think too strenuously about what to do. As long as you know where the fire button is and can master the controls in a short duration of time, Fuse will most definitely become your oyster.

As amazing as it might seem, although the game, much like Gears of War Judgment is one great big kill fest, unlike in Epic’s newest shooter, never did the action get old. Environments, from bunkers, to forests compounds and locations in the snow ensure that the scenarios the player fights through are frequently fresh and invigorating.

kicking ass and taking names

kicking ass and taking names

When your team are forced to interact with tasks alongside you, one can clearly see how Insomniac are attempting to showcase the importance of the team, and are embodying a large number of occurrences which real militarian groups strategically do together as to create a strong realistic vibe and to make certain that you never feel alone.

However, don’t let this idea of realism put you off for there is plenty of healthy banter that goes on over the course of the game. Since Dalton has a past with Raven, often he becomes the brunt of some of the jokes made about this terrorist force. On other occasions, the jokes have some sexual reference that is not deliberate as much as it is stereotypical. At one point when climbing, Dalton says to Naya ‘I just love to watch you climb’ and in response to this she says ‘Izzy, if you catch (Dalton) staring at my arse, you have my permission to shoot him.’

As entertaining as the game can be though, sometimes I personally wondered ‘hasn’t this been done before?’ Reviving your team and having to be revived, symbolic of Gears of War, and also reminiscent of the team oriented combat found in Epic’s shooter. The ability to switch players is very much reminiscent of what could happen in Brute Force, and the need to on occasion climb obstacles is representative of Enslaved and other like titles. I did previously mention that Fuse seemed to take many of the great ideas from previous games, and if this be the case, at the end of the day it seems blatantly obvious where much of the inspiration is derived. Of course, if these are original ideas, then I am sorry but it would seem that Insomniac is a little too late, which can also be partially said in relation to their graphics.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the graphics of the game. Levels are often incredibly beautiful and vibrantly bright. The characters and the enemies they face are just as beautifully detailed as the environments, however, in comparison to games the likes of Crysis 3 that have already been released this year, Fuse seems rather outdated by at least a year. Explosions especially often look like a number of lines spiraling in all directions with a bright mixture of colour overlapping them.

In conclusion, Fuse is a fun action oriented shooter where the fighting almost never stops. There is always another mission to accomplish; another enemy to eliminate; and another level to acquire, and you will only be too happy to succeed in each of these objectives.

Image References:

http://gamerant.com/fuse-screenshots-insomniac-games/fuse-naya/

http://www.insomniacgames.com/games/fuse/#/news/detail/fuse-update-3-6-13

http://www.newgamernation.com/fuse-the-dalton-rules-trailer-released/

http://www.psu.com/a019403/

http://www.rocketchainsaw.com.au/interview-brian-allgeier-creative-director-fuse-insomniac-2367/

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Derek Childs parades through the streets, searching for a darn good book

15bzx2Title: Puppet Parade
Author: Zeinab Alayann
(
http://zenscribbles.wordpress.com/)
Genre: Fantasy,
Young Adult/Tween Fiction

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4

Summary: An entertaining magical
adventure that is both satisfyingly
unique and character driven with
moments of emotional greatness,
intellect and excitement.

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but every child believes they can make a wish and have it come to fruition. The sad truth is that such can never be. Author Zeinab Alayan however intelligently uses this as the initial force to cause her text to vibrantly come to life.

Sophie, a young woman who has been locked up inside her own room since she was very young (think Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French), wishes upon a falling star to be released. All her life, Sophie has been told that a sickness which engulfed her body turned her hideously ugly and over the course of the text she is often found wearing a mask to shield the world from looking upon her supposedly wretched face. Ms. Alayan does such an efficacious job at articulating this particular part of Sophie’s character that the readership is unable to imagine Sophie has anything but an internally beautiful young woman. At worse, Sophie does seem to represent characteristics that could make her appear like a prima donna, but she is so genuinely sweet, intelligent, thoughtful, kind and courageous that you cannot help but greatly enjoy her character for the amazing young woman that she is.

Adjunctively, Sophie’s want to not let anyone see her face seems reminiscent of the character Tali Zurah from the Mass Effect Franchise. Tali was a Quarian, a member of a race who were forced to wear suits and masks due to the lacking properties of their immune systems, without which would cause inevitable and almost instant death. Tali was a highly intelligent, resourceful and well trained operative who was also unbelievably sweet, kind and very charming and Sophie’s attitude, not to mention her mask, seem reflective of this completely.

On another note, at the beginning, it is difficult to discern Sophie’s age. For this particular reader, I only realised how old she was not long after she formed a friendship with Oliver, the other protagonist in the story. At this point, before Sophie’s age was unveiled to me, to say that the relationship between Oliver, who had been described as a young man in his early twenties and Sophie, who I believed was younger than she was eventually revealed to be, seemed a little odd.

At the same time, Oliver, a puppet master who creates his own wooden creations wishes for his inanimate objects to be bestowed with life upon noticing the same falling star that Sophie wishes on. One thing I would note however is that Oliver’s voice does not always seem entirely masculine. His character has a very gentle demeanour, along with a formalised attitude that does not always seem to fit the stereotypical male.

Both Sophie and Oliver’s dreams shortly after come true, which inevitably cause them to stumble upon one another that same night after Oliver’s puppets, now very much alive, decide to flee to experience the great wide world. Oliver’s quest to reacquire his escaped puppets is the driving force of the story, with Sophie quickly deciding to join in on the adventure.

The banter between the characters is incredibly entertaining, with Sophie and Oliver’s friendship being reminiscent of ‘will they or won’t they commit to a romanticised relationship’, which is reflective of Bo and Lauren in Lost Girl and Richard Castle and Kate Becket in the self-titled Castle. On top of this, the author additionally articulates feelings the likes of jealousy and attraction which the lead characters do not properly understand as they feel them, yet the readership does. This technique is especially well orchestrated and allows the reader to know things even when the characters do not, emboldening the reader with a great deal of information. This is further exacerbated with the use of the puppets, who, although are wooden creations mind you, provide the text with more humanity, each one embodying a certain character trait, whether that be politeness, religious values, crude humour, violence, et al. Additional emotions the puppets display, from hugging their master, to feeling legitimate fear, loathing, anger or happiness is additionally well executed.

The lead characters, Sophie and Oliver, and the relationship they share, has been very well articulated. Over the course of their adventure, their friendship grows stronger and stronger as they reveal more to one another. Much like in a conversation when a person gasps and giggles in all the right places, the same is done here, Ms. Alayan beautifully conceiving the conversations and revealing hidden truths at all the right moments.

At the same time however, the characters themselves are flawed in their behaviour, which does not seem real at all. On many occasions the characters become shocked by supposedly obscene crude humour and sexual references, which I did not find at all offensive; in fact, they were unbelievably tame and the idea that one could possibly take offense at such sentences is utter folly. This is quite possibly where the text is perhaps at its weakest.

The author appears to have some very loyal views and values and appears unable to be rude or blatantly sexual in her textual nature, instead being considerably polite, sweet and well mannered. This is very admirable; however, in a text where some of the characters are indeed supposed to be sexually rude, this is not furthered with the use of their vocabulary, which maintains a strict PG tone. In a time when texts are more often than not paved with four letter words and often sexual expletives, the fact this one does not require such profanity is indeed a welcome relief, however, at the same time, it is unfortunate that a reader such as myself has become quite accustomed to the indecent swearing found within literature today.

On that note, although the decency of the text works really well, at times I could not properly assimilate into such a world because I had been corrupted by prior texts where that particular author was, on occasion, unable to write a single paragraph without coating every line with vulgarities. Now, I may sometimes argue that a number of these words in texts are unnecessary. Growing up in a country the likes of Australia, where on average, at age three you already know every foul word in the English vernacular and from that moment onwards frequently use such expletives in everyday speech, I have unfortunately become accustomed to having my pieces paved with profanity.

Perhaps in the author’s part of the world swear words do not play such a mandatory role in conversational ideologies and if that be the case, then that is quite honourable and respectful. At the same time, the reason why this text may be self published and not published by a major publishing house is because many an audience outside of the author’s home country may not have been able to thoroughly enjoy the text as much as they should due to its overall genuinely nice nature. If that’s the case, then such is a rather sad conclusion for a text deserving of attention.

The puppet characters too are just as effective in their lines, but at the same time just as courteous. Harold the Hare and Boris the Brutal Bear for instance don’t quite sound the way one might typically believe. I imagined both of their characters having these thick, almost unintelligible accents and yet after conceding this view, the characters began to show other traits; like grinning and smiling, which seemed ill-apparent in the original postulation of such characters.

Adjunctively, on occasion the narrative becomes rather stereotypical of other texts generated today. There often seems to be this implied stigma in texts where women require men to protect them, which seems rather misogynistic as it degrades the female characters and prevents them from becoming the individuals they ultimately should. A number of times the character Oliver unnecessarily reasserts his masculinity by saying how he will protect Sophie’s character, when in fact it is revealed on many an occasion that she can take care of herself. This is reminiscent of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, where the character Katniss is shown to be an incredibly strong willed and capable young woman. Peeta however is seen to hold her back with his borderline chauvinistic attitude when he later emphasises his need to protect her, or, as it so often seems, dominate her. Heroes very rarely need another individual to rescue them, so why is it in texts that often a heroine needs a man to come to her rescue? Women are just as capable as being heroic as men and ought to be able to express their powers of strength and intellect without being overshadowed by dominating men, and at times I thought it would be great for Sophie to venture out from the protective shell that Oliver unnecessarily casts upon her.

Moreover, there are a number of incredibly powerful moments in the text that Ms. Alayan wondrously orchestrates. The few action scenes are well paced and keep your interest from beginning to end, preventing you from stopping even for a fraction of a second. The violence that takes place during these particular scenes is often incredibly blood thirsty and, if anything over-exaggerated to the extent that younger readers should probably be barred from experiencing such content until a more suitable adolescent age. This seems almost ironically contradictory. It feels at times as though the author can barely bring herself to write the word ‘crap’ in her text, but Ms. Alayan has no problem with articulating blood thirsty scenes with rampant violent fighting. This is adjunctively heightened, for instance, in a region dedicated solely to violence, when she meticulously articulates the weaponry used in one particularly gruesome scene, adjunctively using accurate terminology to describe what takes place, all of which is very effectively promulgated.

Moving on, the story begins in the town of Silver Lakeshore, a fictitious community which could be internationally unanimous across a wide number of countries for it is universally symbolic of the stereotypical residential environment. This is a great tactic by the author for anyone in the world can read the text and immediately feel at one with the original textual location before the adventure begins. The story sees the two central characters move from one fantastical realm to another, each land comprised of a central community, dedicated either to religion, scholarly intellect, magic, violence, et al, each one coming equipped with their own unique laws and regulations. These particular lands seem reminiscent of the worlds in Enid Blyton’s the Far Away Tree franchise, each filled with suspense and magical mystery.

Of course, all of this is shrouded by a menacing force located in a desolate region of the fantastical lands. To avoid giving away any plot twists, this reviewer will simply state that the antagonistic force is represented as having powers of persuasive indoctrination, reminiscent of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatches.’ The author does such a great job at developing this evil realm over the course of the storyline with a significant build up of suspense, that Ms. Alayan becomes a victim of her own success, because from this moment on I was hooked, wanting to know more and more about this evil dimension, the information about such a land often being relatively slow coming from its original unveiling.

The ending of the text is something that the reader will in all likelihood not see coming, with a number of very convincing twists that continuously keep one’s attention. At the same time though, there was at least one answer I was longing to acquire that did not seem to be adequately provided.

However, even with this said, by the end of the text I was very satisfied to have had the opportunity to read this unique fantasy novel and to share in the many adventures with the characters. Clearly Ms. Alayan is an author worth looking out for in the future.

Descend into the Darkness in the new Star Trek feature

Title: Star Trek: Into Darkness
Distributor: Paramount
Producers: Sky Dance/Bad Robot
Director: J.J. Abrams

Rating (out of 5): 3

Synopsis: Terrific special effects and a few action sequences are not enough to save Star Trek: Into Darkness from itself.

Review: For those of you aware of the idea that a sequel is never able to live up to the expectations of the original, or the stereotypical notion that there is in fact no such thing as a bad trailer, then you will completely understand when I say that Star Trek: Into Darkness represents both of these ideologies.

For those of you, like me, who saw the trailer for the new Star Trek film and thought how riveting it looked; do not be fooled. Luckily for me I was able to see the film free due to my new membership with the cinema that I frequent, because if I had paid money to see this film, I may be even more disappointed.

Star Trek: Into Darkness begins, how do I put this, almost pointlessly. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Enterprise are on an alien planet where the local fauna are comprised of primitive humanoids yet to acquire the mantel of technology. Kirk decides to intervene with the course of the history the planet is to take by sending Spock (Zachary Quinto) into a volcano on the verge of erupting, the goal being to cease this event immediately, and for some odd reason this requires stealing a scroll from the local primitives and running through the woods.

After this scene the film does pick up the pace by informing you why this  was applicable; this shows that Kirk is yet to take the role of being a Captain seriously. He has no respect for authority or the rules and is incapable of conforming to Star-fleet’s way of handling missions. This inevitably leads to Kirk being removed as Captain and re-instated as first officer, whilst Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is recommissioned as the ships’ captain.

Whilst this occurs, in London, Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), the primary antagionist of the movie approaches a Star-fleet officer and his wife, whose daughter is gravely ill, and says that he will help save her, at a cost, this being only the start of his major plan which results in the deaths of many members of Star-fleet’s highest ranking officers. After this onslaught of violence takes place, Kirk, thirsty for vengeance requests that Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), the highest ranking officer in humanity’s fleet give him permission to pursue Khan to where he is hiding on the Klingon world of Kronos. Marcus agrees to the savagery of the operation, despite it going against the general code of the fleet for this is a mission of destruction, rather than what Star-fleet stereotypically handles. Kirk is provided with no less than 72 missiles to be dropped onto Khan’s head to bring retribution to all he has harmed with his plots. The Enterprise however is to do its best not to alert the Klingon’s to their presence for they have been itching for a reason to go to war against them for so long now that it is basically inevitable.

Of course, not everything goes according to the plan…The movie is not as plain and simple as one might initially imagine, with a very intriguing storyline filled with a fair amount of depth, telling a tale of betrayal, redemption, vengeance, family and love. Not everyone is as good as they seem, just as the bad guys are not so terrible as they may originally appear. There are many twists and turns that ought to keep anyone entertained, but it is there that the film begins to lose points in my opinion.

Although yes, there are a number of action scenes, these often go by so fast that you only begin to enjoy them when they suddenly come to a conclusion. On top of that, Khan is built up to be this incredibly impressive one man killing machine and yet the amount of screen time he has where he is indeed kicking ass and taking names is not quite as much as I would have liked. True, he does a fair bit of damage by the end, but if you are going to have a powerhouse of an enemy, you might as well show off all of his skills. He throws some guys around and breaks some skulls (literally) but apart from that I really wanted to be impressed, after all, he is later hailed as the greatest threat that they ever faced, and yet his reign of terror is eventually halted so darn easily. Mr. Cumberbatch, the actor who portrays Khan did an admirable portrayal of the enemy which only further increased my frustration. The actor was such a fantastic bad guy, I only wished that the film makers had further milked what could have been generated.

On top of this, although the crew do descend to the planet Kronos, the amount of Klingons that are seen could be counted on yours hands (and maybe one of your toes). The War Birds look impressive, but, in my opinion, if you are going to place the crew of the Enterprise on one of the single most inhospitable planets in the known universe, the least you could do is have some extra fighting. There is one particularly engrossing fight scene, and after this the film moves on. All this talk of war with the Klingons and yet, where is it?

The music provides very little new content to the genre, most of the themes been rehashed from the original feature. The cameo role by Leonard Nimoy will no doubt cause your eyes to roll to the side as this was perhaps unnecessary, and although he provides invaluable information, this could have been acquired via alternate methods. On top of this, the cameo by Nazneen Contractor additionally seems odd – I mean, why hire a known actress to play an unbelievably small role?

Moreover, Zoe Saldana’s role as Uhura is not quite as large as many fans of such a character may enjoy. In fact, the amount of screen time that she and Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) receive in the film does not begin to even contrast with the amount of screen time the blocks receive, this movie being basically a guy’s night out, with the intellectually powerful women being limited in their roles.

Towards the end, a scene that age old Star Trek fans will be familiar with is reflected in the film, and although it is orchestrated very powerfully by the actors involved, it seems cliche when in regards to the scene it is based upon (you’ll know what I mean when you see it!).

In conclusion, Star Trek: Into Darkness will entertain you – but it will leave you hungry for so much more. Let’s just hope that in the future, the next Star Trek villain who claims to be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with really lives up to the title.

News for back pain sufferers

In the last twenty four hours, reports on the news have stipulated that a new medical breakthrough could advantageously assist sufferers of back pain and provide an indefinite solution to the problem. The article I am currently acquiring my online information on to base this particular post of mine comes from this site here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/may/07/back-pain-breakthrough-major-operations

Now, before I continue I would like to add that I am not a medical professional. I have no doctorate in medicine or anything of like comparison, so I guess one could ask, why continue reading? I, like many people who would find this particular studying incredibly interesting suffer from back pain, so, like many of you, I am unfortunate enough to understand how it feels to be in constant pain.

According to Hanne Albert at the university of Sourthern Denmark, one reason behind some cases of back pain could very well be microbes known as ‘Propionibacterium acnes’ that stereotypically reside in one’s hair follicles, traces of oxygen, or even in the spaces between one’s teeth. My question would be, how can something from any of these three areas arrive at one’s back? The answer is, apparently, via the blood stream. This particular bacteria is supposedly harmless, unless someone has a slipped disc. These bacteria do not cause a disc to become dislodged from its location in one’s spine or any other like occurrence, but do aggravate the pain. Due to this, antibiotics can be used to bring a sense of realism back into one’s existence by reducing, or even removing the pain entirely with the continued use of prescribed medication.

This theory I do suppose sounds as though it has merit, but it has adjunctively being theorised that approximately only a small percentage of people may indeed have symptoms that can be related back to this research.

Now, why is it that I seem so skeptical about this? I don’t doubt that in some cases it could work, but this is not the first time that theories have been postulated about back pain.

In my case, although, as previously mentioned, I am no professional, I am almost certain I know why I suffer from back pain; I have a moderate protrusion of my T8/9, L2/3, L3/4 AND L4/5 and these press upon the nerves which cause pain to run from across my back and down my right leg. I do not believe that microscopic bugs could be responsible in my case.

For me, this sounds like an ideal that is too good to be true. I realise that I may seem incredibly negative and could very well be looking  a gift horse in the mouth, but I would rather not get my hopes up over a study that seems to be very much in the initial phases of testing.

As a sufferer of pain I understand that I am always hoping that some study will help relieve  me of this burden, as I am certain all of you are. I am aware that I need to be careful with what I lift and how I go about such an exercise. I can no longer lift dumbbells or any other weight sets and so can only do push ups and on occasion sit ups when the pain isn’t quite so bad.

I am also aware that the pain extends to more than just the one that you personally suffer through. I know how this makes acquiring a professional role to be difficult. When applying for jobs I used to note in the section where they queried whether or not I had back pain that I did and I never received any employment from those places, for reasons that were unrelated to back pain. I know that a profession cannot not hire a person based on back problems, but it is obvious they would rather hire a person who appears more physically capable, which is why I no longer bother mentioning that in  my applications. You know what? Since then, I have acquired job positions. Amazing!

I additionally know the familial pain that comes from this. I acquired my back pain two weeks before my eighteenth birthday. The doctor assured me that it was nothing; perhaps muscular in nature and that I was perfectly fine and assured me of this on two further occasions when I visited him in the future. I should have realised he was incapable. He was after all the doctor who told me after I had pneumonia fro the second time that I should take up smoking because if my lungs were going to become irreparably damaged from illness, I might as well acquire some enjoyment from it – by setting them on fire?
A year later I discovered a doctor who was willing to provide me with an x-ray and later an MRI and I discovered that I had always been right in assuming that I suffered from a protruding disc and that I would inevitably live with this. When I went to receive my results my father in his wisdom decided to escort me, which is something he had never done previously during my past inquiries about my back. The relationship between me and my father could never have been described as ‘great’, but the day I found out that I would be living with this pain permanently; the way he looked at me; it was like I was no longer his son, as though all of my past failures were nothing compared to this. He seemed to realise that obviously much of what he had always wanted me to achieve might very well be unattainable and so officially gave up on me then and there.

Moreover, my mother additionally to this day suffers from back pain and has done so since she was nineteen. She has had no less than eight operations since she was twenty eight, none of which have ever assisted her and have in fact made her condition worse to the point that she can barely move. The second and third operations she had were to fix what the original operation failed to successfully achieve, which was, what one might call, a colossal failure that inevitably ruined her life. Because of this I have always been skeptical of back surgery. I realise that a lot has changed, but I would rather not do something so major as this, and at the same time potentially risk losing the ability to walk in the process. There are risks with any operation but I feel there are considerably more with back surgery.

After having surgery to remove a pilonidal sinus back in 2010, I have since been left me with coccydynia. This is one such ramification of having surgery and this is further reason why I personally will never go under the knife to assist myself in relieving back pain unless it becomes fundamentally necessary or is thus my last/only remaining option.

Relating this piece back to a topic I was discussing a couple paragraphs prior, I am additionally aware that back pain causes pain for the future of families and since my mother had major problems with her back that have since been genetically transferred onto me, the chance that I could transfer the same condition onto any potential children that I may in the future have is a grave concern of mine. I would love my children no matter what, but do I wish to make the choice of having them knowing that they too may very well suffer as I am?

A couple years back I told a woman that I liked that I suffered from back pain and it immediately changed our relationship. Safe to say we haven’t talked since. Some people cannot deal with the idea of living with back pain just as some people cannot deal with the idea of living with someone who endures it. I am now skeptical of telling anyone close to me about my condition from fear of what might happen, but when the day comes that I do find myself with a romantic interest that I love more than life itself, I would like to think that she would stand by me rather than leave.

Perhaps in the future I won’t have to worry about such things, and if I be even luckier, perhaps in the future if I happen to have children who suffer from back pain, medical treatment would have advanced to such an extent that it will not in the slightest hinder them.

I wish the team in Denmark all the best with their research, although, as previously mentioned, I am uncertain how promising this could very well be.

Become the ultimate Dragon slayer in the new Far Cry 3 Mod

 

Title: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragonblood dragon
Developer:
Ubisoft Montreal
Distributor: Ubisoft
Cost: 1200 Microsoft points
Size: 1.35 Gigabytes
Length:  4.5+ hours (dependant on how
many side quests etc one takes)

More Entertaining Than:
Duke Nukem Forever

Less Entertaining Than:
Rage

Pros:
-plenty of humour
-relentless action sequences
-entertaining missions
-nice graphics
-chock full of explosions
-reasonably challenging

Cons:
-occasionally slow and unmanageable controls
-game doesn’t save during missions

Rating (out of ten): 9.5

Synopsis: This is quite possibly one of the single most stupidest games I have ever played; I loved every minute of it.

Move over Jon St. John, Michael Biehn is here to command the screen as one of the most humorous action heroes in video gaming.

Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon has absolutely nothing to do with the game that this mod is crafted from – with the exception that it is set on an island. Based upon the old retro oriented games in the ‘80s where ideas on post-apocalyptic futures commanded by mechanical-cyborg organisms were postulated, Ubisoft uses this connotation and completely takes the piss out of it to create a riveting action experience.

Set in 2007 after a terrifying war between Russia and the U.S has left Canada completely irradiated from nuclear warfare and Australia invaded by enemy troops, the world is attempting to come to terms with the word ‘peace’, which seems to be something that may in fact never come to fruition. To fight these wars, humans, who are brought back to life as war machines, are commanded to annihilate the enemy with extreme prejudice. Kind of gives new meaning to the term ‘no rest for the wicked.’

The character the player takes control over, Rex Power Colt, is a Mac IV soldier. With the hiring of Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, the Abyss, et al) to voice the central protagonist, Ubisoft is apparently attempting to accentuate a futurist type of feel to the game and the use of music that is similar to that of the terminator soundtrack further empowers this ideal. Mr. Biehn does a flawless job at voicing the character, his voice being incredibly husky and coming out in a growl and the sheer patriotism of his character is further empowered by such talented voice acting.

Moving on, Rex has been replaced with the all new Mac V, a tougher, more advanced killing machine. This however does not necessarily mean that he has been disposed of; the U.S does not remove what they can still use. After a threat is discovered on an island, Rex and his fellow Mac IV, T.T (Spider) Brown are sent in to exterminate the enemy.

As a Mac IV, Rex comes attached with many benefits that the human body is yet to master. For one, Rex can survive basically any fall, whether it be from ten meters or ten thousand. Moreover, he can hold his breath under water for an indefinite amount of time and can run impeccably fast without having to take a moment of pause.

The cinematics displayed between levels are reminiscent of a comic book and those familiar with Star Hawk may see some resemblance here. The graphics in these movies have been purposefully designed to have an ‘80s appearance to them, much like the arcade games that this particular title is loosely based upon. Although these cinematics are nothing terribly special, they certainly get the job done in showing the audience what is happening.

The game begins with an amazing aerial battle in which almost every single thing is capable of being blasted into oblivion, before you land and continue the battle on foot. It is now that the tutorial begins, thanks to your good friend Spider who believes you are in need of a basic refresher. Right from the start when the tutorial states ‘running is like walking, only faster’ you genuinely know this is not going to be a serious experience. On top of this, your character is prone to spout some pretty humorous one-liners. Shoot a man in the head and it’s either ‘he’s heading for hell’ or ‘now that’s my kind of head job.’ Wield a shotgun and it’s ‘he called shotgun’, use a grenade and it’s ‘I like the part when they blow up.’ The lines are endless and even after they have been repeated several times they never grow old. Furthermore, Rex will additionally have quite comical conversations on occasion with his HUD, who proves to be quite an annoying specimen over the course of the campaign.

Rex immediately has the ability to assassinate enemies and execute chian kills. Additionally, one is able to assassinate an enemy and then toss a ninja star at their next unsuspecting opponent just to change things up a bit. On top of this, the player begins the game with a pretty impressive arsenal of kick ass weaponry, including a semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, an assault rifle that fires lasers and a sniper rifle. For me, the sniper rifle handled much like a double-decker bus and half the time when I held down the sights I was barely able to hit the target, let alone what happened to be behind it. Then again, maybe this was just my general incompetence. After all, the game did say in the statistics that me general aim was worth a whopping 15%. Not exactly something worth throwing a party over now, is it?

Each weapon in the game can be upgraded at stations found in camps (which shall be discussed later), these upgrades including anything from the ability to carry more ammunition, a larger magazine, silencers, etc. Later during the game, the player will have access to other weapons which are reflective of the fire power found in the game this mod is based upon, including a bow (which is far more impressive than the one in Far Cry 3), a flame thrower and an alternate version of the original assault rifle, just to name a few. Of course, the one weapon that you, much like myself, will probably come to love the most is the minigun, however this weapon is unable to receive upgrades. Then again, why would it need to when it kicks ass just fine without any.

On top of this, the player has access to the usual grenades, Molotov cocktails, mines, etc. These do some impeccable damage, however seem to take an unfathomable amount of time to throw. If you wish to launch a couple, one after another, you will find that the game will not respond at an adequate speed, which proves to be a little annoying. Adjunctively, the weapon wheel takes some time to master and half the time the player may incidentally select something that they never wanted in the first place, from acquiring the wrong weapon, to, more than likely, incidentally exchanging their secondary weapon (grenade) for an alternate explosive ordinance.

Moreover, much like in Far Cry 3, the player is able to level up and become stronger, the game allowing the player to reach the rank of level 30. Unlike in Far Cry 3 where the player had the option of choosing what skills they gained after levelling up, the game does this automatically. Each level provides the character with a new skill, whether that be moving faster whilst crouching; the ability to drop down on unsuspecting prey; the ability to reload whilst moving, etc. Additionally, almost every second level the player reaches will increase the player’s health by one slot. Trust me when I tell you; you are going to need it!

By the end of the first mission, the player discovers the ruthless antagonist who runs the island is none other than Rex’s former leader; a champion Colonel named Ike Sloan; a patriot turned delusional nutcase who believes that bringing death and destruction to the world is the only way to facilitate peace. But we’re not gonna let him go through with this plan, are we? No! I’ll tell you what we are going to do! We are going to blow him! Wait, that didn’t sound right. Let’s try that again; we are going to blow him away! (Better).

After meeting Colonel Sloan, who realises that Rex will not co-operate, he apparently decides that it will be reasonably hilarious to throw him into a Blood Dragon pit. It is here that the game acquires its name. The Blood Dragons are incredibly dangerous monsters that are nearly invulnerable to harm. Although their eyesight is reasonably deteriorated, they can track their enemy efficaciously with their other sensors. Immune to fire and capable of discharging a radioactive beam of energy from their mouths that causes massive trauma upon their victims, the only thing that is capable of temporarily acquiring the attention of these vile brutes are the hearts of fallen cyborgs. Much like in Far Cry 3 where one could loot the bodies of the dead, in this particular title, Rex will rip the hearts out from enemies and use these to distract the Dragons who will more often than not run in the direction of the food and gobble it up quick smart. Such a tactic can additionally be used to lure the dragons towards enemy cyborgs and have the two duke it out. More challenging however are the Dragons that are successfully under Sloan’s command via a device on their heads that identifies his men as friendly units, which such Dragons will not dare attack. These particular monsters are invulnerable to the lure of cyborg hearts; of course, if one were to shoot at the coupling device that keeps them as Sloan’s bitches; yeah, you see what I’m getting at!

However, much like with the weapon wheel, attempting to lure the Dragons is no easy task. On the XBOX controller, the button used to lure the Dragons is on the left of the D-pad. Why is this so much trouble you might ask? Well, the top of the D-pad is reserved for the binoculars. This particular device allows the player to zoom in and see everything in infra-red. Even enemies hiding beneath the water can be efficaciously seen. The button on the right moreover is used to toss dice, that will temporarily distract cyborg opponents. My point here is that although I hit the left side of the D-pad, I more often than not inadvertently activated the binoculars when attempting to toss hearts out at the Dragons, which significantly impaired my ability to survive, and when you are, for instance, going up against two Dragons at once, which later happens during the game (in a rather enclosed space mind you) this can become considerably annoying. Safe to assume a few choice words will no doubt be said during these moments.

Of course, it is not just Blood Dragons that the player will need to look out for, with Ubisoft having a few extra surprises in store for the player…

Furthermore, it is from this moment on that Rex works alongside Dr. Elizabeth V. Darling, a scientist who worked with Sloan who has realised how deranged he is and has turned against him in an attempt to halter his madness. The six major quests that the player undertakes (after the original, bringing the total count to seven) are provided to Rex by the good doctor who assists him in helping to take down Sloan.

Although quintessentially an action experience, it is from now on that the player is given leeway to explore the island. Much like in Far Cry 3 there are enemy encampments which the player can capture and thus make their own. Of course, much like in Far Cry 3 also, enemies at these camps can call in additional strike teams to suppress your attempt to take out the enemy stronghold. Once captured, the player will have access to the weapon station (as mentioned previously). However, not all weapon upgrades will immediately appear and thus need to be unlocked by completing side quests that appear at the camps which have been captured. These come in two flavours; one is the stereotypical hunt down a particular animal quest, which was found in the game this mod is based upon. Unlike Far Cry 3 where the game was blatantly cruel to animals (half the missions involving the killing of animals I never bothered to undertake because they made me feel sick at the thought of hurting sweet, sweet creatures), in this game the animals are all cyborgs, much like your opponents. Cyber sharks, alligators, dogs, tigers; you name it, they are, all of them, either robotic in nature, or in serious disrepair (take a look at the goats and you’ll see what I mean) which means that killing them will probably not cause any great deal of distress. The other mission variation available to the player is to save a nerd. In each quest, a nerd has been captured and needs to be rescued. Although the game recommends the player does this stealthily, you can actually be as raucously loud as you wish. Go in all guns blazing; I certainly did most all the time. The nerd however can only sustain so much damage before they expire so it is recommended that you eliminate the enemy post haste.

As for the main quests on the other hand, these are often random acts of incredible violence, with enough action and explosions for several video games. These include anything from decimating a hydro-electric dam; descending into the depths of a Blood Dragon research facility and even making one’s way into an alternate world (no kidding!) which players may find symbolic of one particular moment from Far Cry 3. Each mission ends with a relatively challenging scenario that is sure to test the player’s genuine skill, but the real test of one’s skill is their patience. Although missions checkpoint, much like in Far Cry 3, they do not save. The game can only be saved when the player is not on any mission. Whilst undertaking a job, Rex must successfully complete it, for if the player quits during a quest, all of their progress will be cancelled, so when the player returns, they will be forced to grudgingly do everything all over again.

Upon reaching the sixth mission moreover, the player will no longer be allowed to explore the island again until successful completion of the main campaign, so be sure to be stocked up before moving forward marine! As for the ending; if I could use one word to describe it, it would be this; SPECTACULAR!

Filled to the brim with action, suspense, sex, humour and more fire power than you could possibly poke a stick at, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is not just the kind of mod that you simply must play; it’s the kind of mod the Far Cry 3 should have been in the first place. A worthy instalment for any action gaming fan!

Image Credits:

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/400322/far-cry-3-blood-dragon-announced-with-bonkers-trailer/