Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Matrix Online: Things to do part 3

Merry Holidays to all

Seeing as it's currently running in-game then I figured it was time to let you know about the MxO Winter Holiday event that's been running for four years now and is a lot of fun for all players. One of three big annual events in the game this one is almost certainly the most popular with special missions, new "winter clothing", and of course tons of snow! So allow me to run you through some of the fun and frolics to be had in Mega City this winter.

Snowfall and Snowballs

A treat devised during the first winter holiday and a continuing feature due to it's popularity is snowball combat available during the winter period. The mass of snow that rains down is pretty, but it doesn't stick so players have to go and hunt to have their fun. Dotted around the city are snowmen from which players can acquire four different types of snowball to add to their arsenal. These can then be traded to a "Holiday Helper" for a 'festive hat.' Once one of these hats is worn then battle can commence with anyone else wearing a hat until the hats become destabilised and unwearable, making 'last hat standing' a fun game - the hats come in red and green so teams can be organized. The helpers also trade shiny 'party hats' that shoot confetti.

Presents and Prizes

The following year new content was added in the form of winter missions. A charitable organization contracts players to give out presents to people in need of cheering up over the winter. On the way they are attacked by giant monsters made of snow who throw deadly snowballs, but when defeated drop 'perfect snowflakes' that are valuable and can be traded for special clothing. This has slowly built to a collection of 'formal' clothing, such as gloves and hats and other winter items such as large coats and snow boots. The missions have stayed the same since, but new items and variations have been added such as 'ruby snowflakes' which can be traded for red and white versions of some items.

I'll leave you with some images of this year's clothing items, which come in a myriad of colour beyond the examples shown - which are yours to acquire this holiday, only in The Matrix Online.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

SF at the Movies - December 08

We've rolled on into December so let's have a quick peek at what's on offer for the geeks.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Released 12/12/08

A remake of a classic Sci-Fi thriller, this modern version, starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly manages to put a 60s shocker into a modern setting without losing any of the thrill or pace of the original. A vast, glowing sphere lands in Central Park, and from it emerges a man named Klaatu, who must get past the nervous U.S. government and military to complete his mission to "save the Earth." But as he does the scientists who help him realise his intentions might not be what they understood them to be and that saving the Earth might come at a terrible cost... Well worth seeing, a good bit of engaging cinema.

And that's it as far as I can see, next year is set to bring some big hitters with Terminator 4 and Star Trek 11 well under way and there's a few Fantasy hits such as popular vamp romance Twilight and classic Jim Carey in comedy Yes Man so we won't be short of entertainment this month.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Power Trip 6 - Empathy/ Ability Acquisition

Woah, it's been a while since I did one of these...again! Well series 3 is trundling along nicely so I think I'll take another peak at some of the characters in the show and the powers they possess. The third series has really stepped up and made things very interesting for our heroes and none more so than Peter Petrelli, who'se ability has made him a closely watched subject by more than just the viewers.

Peter has an ability known simply as empathy, he is able to take on the abilities of others simply by spending time with them and then 'unlocking' that ability in himself. Initially he only had abilities in the presence of others or for a short duration after meeting them, but in the thrilling episodes of series 1 he discovered that he could call up any ability he'd encountered at will, though his control was a problem for much of the early series - especially when he got the power of nuclear explosion! Peter has since learned much greater control over the multitude of powers he has 'absorbed' but things don't get any easier for him!

I'm struggling to find any 'classical' references to empaths of the kind that Peter is, though my searches are admittedly a lot more cursory than the in depth academic exercizes I once envisioned. I guess it's because people with 'powers' weren't as prolific in classical writing as they are in contemporary fiction. People with abilities generally were Gods or blessed by the Gods for something, and someone who could nick their gifts wouldn't fit well into the story I guess. Empaths of another kind have been around for a while, these are generally seen as people who heal by empathising with, and even absorbing, another's pain or sickness. A contemporary example would be Sean Farrell of The 4400.

Now there aren't many empaths in the Bible, but I will slip in a few references if I may. The 'powers' that occur in the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament, such as superhuman strength and speed come through God the Holy Spirit and abilities always come at the direction of God when he appoints it. This might not be particularly relevant, but when we tie it into to Peter's intense sense of destiny it is quite intriguing. Peter feels he is meant for something greater and is satisfied when he gains his abilities, though a great destiny isn't all it's cracked up to be. The Bible teaches that God is in control of man's destiny and it is at His discretion when gifts are given. The gifts He gives and the purpose of our lives might not be as dramatic, but the Bible teaches that all people are of extreme value to God and to those He has saved He gives gifts and blessings that don't involve flight or telikenisis, but are enough for them to depend on and to fulfil His purpose for them. That might not be clear enough, if so let me know.

The most famous character with the same ability is Rogue of the X-Men. She also has the ability to take the powers of others, though it affects her in a different way to Peter. When Rogue touches someone she absorbs their knowledge, skills and, if they are a mutant, special abilities. However when Rogue does this it drains the person she touches to the point of unconsciousness or death, making physical contact or relationships impossible for her. I find Rogue to be one of the most real of the X-Men as her ability does grant her power, but it does have an enormous cost on her life rather than just having something that's handy in a fight.

Well I said that Series 3 was making things interesting for Peter and when longtime villain Sylar has found out that he is in fact Peter's brother things get even more so. When they both confront Peter's father Peter himself loses all his abilities, but Sylar is trying to find redemption and has learned to take abilities through empathy and satisfy his 'hunger' without his usual method of removing the skull, making him much more like Peter, who now has to struggle to find out what his purpose is without any abilities - but then again with the Eclipse in this week's episode, he might not be the only one to ask that!

Any other empaths we should know about Sam?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

SF Masterworks # 13 Martian Time-Slip

It's been a long time since I've read this so to attempt a review would be perhaps a little foolish, buy I've never made it my aim to be a reviewer on this site, but to write about things I enjoy and to share them with you all. One of the things I do enjoy is reading classic Sci-Fi and in particular Philip K Dick, whose gigantic presence in the Masterworks list marks him out much better than my vast appreciation could. Anyway, I do think you are entitled to a review of sorts, and so I'm going to be cheeky and borrow one from www.sfsite.com who have an excellent database of the masterworks series - hope you don't mind guys (I also pinched the image from there!)

"First published in 1964, this is recognized as one of Dick's better novels. Although he was certainly a man of vision with consistently brilliant ideas, his writing style is not at all consistent. Sometimes, it seems to me that Dick's writing reads like a translation from another language. Perhaps this aspect contributes to some of the humour in this novel, for it has some very funny moments.

Jack Bohlen is a repairman on a desolate, dry Mars, inhabited by poor colonists and the remnants of the poorer native population, the Bleekmen. Jack's bored wife is addicted to barbiturates. His father is a ruthless land speculator. His neighbour's young son, Manfred, is an autistic with untapped paranormal abilities. His new boss, Arnie Kott, has a virtual monopoly on the available water on Mars. Arnie wants Jack to devise a contraption to communicate with Manfred in order to capitalize on the boy's theoretical ability to glimpse the future.

It's an odd setup, but the payoff is stunning. The same scene in Arnie Kott's dwelling, the same moment in time, is played over and over again, each time shown from a slightly different perspective. Which interpretation of reality is really real? Are any of them? It's a chilling, haunting, beautiful piece of writing." - by Neil Walsh

A lot of the detail is foggy in my mind, but it was still an excellent read, bringing classic PKD themes such as colonisation and precognition, but giving them a fresh and original context. The Martian setting was entirely believable and I can still catch glimpses of the more memorable scenes in my head as I write this. The autism angle made it particularly interesting for me, but what really captivated me was how engrossing and believable the world and characters were - which is also a typical PKD trait. It is typically mind bending and yet easy to follow and while it isn't my favourite of the authour's works it isn't because it's bad, it's simply that some of his books manage to be even better than this one - quite an achievment considering this is a "Masterwork"

I can highly recommend this one to you, and I'll try and keep up with these posts and I'll do another book soon and...guess what? It's another Philip K Dick!!

OK, that probably says just as much about my reading...but we'll ignore that eh?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Game Review: Halo 3

This one has been out aaages and so I thought I'd better tell you about it before letting you know about some of the newer releases I've been playing. By the way I'm assuming that all people interested in Halo have probably completed it already and if you want a game review then there'll be thousands probably only a short Google search away. But I'm under the immodest assumption that you're interested in my opinion so I will intermittently post up reviews and thoughts on video games as and when I play and complete them. So anyway on to the conclusion of one of the biggest video game trilogies ever.

Rough Plot

Well as the astute amongst you will have noticed Halo 3 follows on from two previous games so there's a lot of story to catch up on. Humanity is at war with a number of alien races who have formed a military and religious union called the Covenant. The beginnings of the war have yet to be fully explored, but there are more Halo games on the way. The first game begins with one ship, Pillar of Autumn making a random jump to escape a Covenant attack and lead them away from Earth, which had not been discovered. They happened on something incredible though, a ring shaped world they came to dub Halo.

They were followed to the planet and the battle continued, but they found an even greater enemy - The Flood, a parasitic race that infected, killed and possessed the bodies of the dead and were considered a threat to all life by the mysterious Forerunner who built this ringed world. The humans did have one weapon though - the Master Chief, one the enhanced super armoured SPARTAN II soldiers commissioned by Earth's military. They found a way to stop both the Covenant and the Flood, with the help of the Chief's AI, Cortana, they found that the Halo was a weapon that could wipe out all life in the galaxy - the only way to stop the flood. They couldn't halt the installation so they rigged their crashed starship to explode before narrowly escaping the installation.

OK, that was a bit longer than I wanted, but I guess I had to stuff a lot of key concepts in there. In Halo 2 we have another side seen, the side of the Covenant. The battle leader who failed to stop the Master Chief is condemned and given one last chance of glory in the suicidal warrior role of the Arbiter. Things are looking bad on the home front when a Covenant fleet arrives at Earth, destroying ships and dropping troops and monstrous scarab tanks on the surface. The fight rages and another installation is discovered and, you guessed it, more Flood who start infecting the Covenant and even form a vastly intelligent Gravemind. The Covenant Prophets want to activate the rings but are stopped by the Arbiter, who has realized that the prophecy is a lie and that activating the rings won't start a spiritual journey, but will kill them all. He and his species leave the Covenant and now fight alongside the humans. They discover an ancient massive starship that goes to Earth with the Chief on board, Cortana is captured by the Gravemind and I'm really bad at being concise!!!

OK onto this game - the Chief returns to Earth and joins the Arbiter, who he grudgingly recognises as an ally. They battle Covenant forces and regroup at a military base, which is also attacked, but they arm a bomb and evacuate, wiping out the pursuing forces. They head to the starship which has landed and is the site of a Covenant excavation. They assault the forces there, but a portal is opened into which the Covenant ships go. All thoughts of pursuing are lost when a covenant ship infested with Flood comes through and crashes on Earth, the Flood spill out and are defeated, but at great cost. Finding a message from Cortana the Chief and the Arbiter's forces go through the portal, with the rest of Earth's fleet staying to defend the little humanity has left. They arrive at The Ark, a massive structure which builds Halos and can control their firing sequence. That's a chunk of the plot, I'll say no more other than WATCH THE CREDITS!!!


OK, enough of that storyline stuff I think and onto the game. The Halo trilogy is FPS, that is first person shooter, where you spend most of the game looking down the barrel of a gun. It is one of the defining games of the medium, particularly in Sci-Fi and the range of weapons and enemies make it exciting, challenging and above all fun to play. I think the fun element is an important one as the game doesn't rely only on it's cool storyline to hook the player, actually just running through the level with plasma rifles blazing is incredibly fun, and this is augmented by a great multiplayer feature, which makes is still the most popular game to play online. There is also a range of vehicles from tanks to the two seater Mongooses introduced in this game, there is also equipment such as a bubble shield which protects from any attack for a short time and features like turrets that you can pick up and carry around with you. It's strength is in being a fairly standard shoot 'em up, but having a number of nifty techniques and tricks you can master and work out for yourself - for example, by trial and error I found a really good way to do jumps while driving that don't bounce your vehicle everywhere and lots of other nifty fun ways that don't just involve trigger pulling or button mashing.

Sci-Fi Stuff

OK, this game is clearly loaded with SF stuff so I'll focus on one or two things that stand out for me, and maybe do a follow up if necessary.

The Halos

I can't discuss Halo 3 without discussing the Halos themselves, the idea of an artificial ringed planet is fascinating and I was in awe when I played the first game and saw the land ahead of me stretch out and reach up to the sky, from then on I was hooked. I will just note that I discovered that this is not their first appearance in Sci-Fi, winged worlds have been a feature of SF for some time it seems, but I still think what the Halo team did with the concept is original and fantastic. These structures were built by a mysterious race called the Forerunners, who may well have been human, or who certainly have a link to humanity. The rings are colossal, have natural vegetation and water as well as housing sophisticated structures built a long time ago. From the outside they are visibly artificial with machines and structures to keep it in place and presumably to maintain atmosphere etc. And just as you start to ask why they were built, you regret asking...

The Flood

The Flood are a great aspect of Halo, as it makes it about more than just a war between aliens and mankind there is also a greater element that threatens all life in the univese which humanity must stop while still barely holding off a vicious enemy. The Flood are very clever as to one extent they are essentially zombies, passing an infection that turns a human or alien into one of them. But they are done so cleverly and differently that you get none of that idea, yet the same creeped out feeling of watching a horror movie. The Flood don't bite you, instead little annoying infection forms come at you, which are easy to destroy but deadly if they contact a person without the shielded armour of the Chief. They also get more intelligent as the infection spreads and can eventually create their own forms without needing to infect another life form. They even grow a super intelligent Gravemind. They make a great element when they first turn up as you go from fighting a war to fighting to survive. The mystery and intrigue surrounding them drives the game on and makes the characters risk everything to stop them. They fantastically animated and presented in this volume, making them seem very real and very scary.

Worth Playing?

Definitely - nuff said!

Well I've written more than enough on this one, I would reccomend the Halo trilogy to you, especially with three more Halo games in the pipeline. I will maybe do a Bible based follow up like I did with Creed and at those to my reppertoire, but I'll see, maybe a huge war with a race based on a false religion might give me enough to go on!!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Matrix Online: Kill code

It's been a long time since I've done this but I'm going to give you a bit more info on the storyline of the continuous online game The Matrix Online. This is of course an attempt to plug the game as well as a geekish delight in sharing the details with you all. I will just say that at the moment we are living in fairly exciting time in the game with a bit of a redesign in the mission system and storyline progression.

Funding and workload and other issues had lead to a decline in the storyline, but the devlopment team and "Rarebit" in particular used this to revitalise the game. 'Rare' personally drew and animated new cinematics, which were one of the things that had to be cut. These have no sound and aren't necessarily as smooth as the earlier ones, but they've used that to make them longer and more widespread in terms of impact. I have to say I'm pleased to be playing a game where a developer would go to that extend to make the game more interesting and exciting for players.

Anyway, on with the story eh?

System Reboot

The major thing going on at the time, so major I didn't even know the other event was going on, was that Sony Online Entertainment was taking over the game. The game had low sales and high costs and so it could no longer support itself, which meant it was handed over to SOE who run games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies. This meant quite a reduction in events and live content and it meant that things never quite returned to the glory of the original days, something that is still resented to this day. Nonetheless SOE have kept the game afloat and the Matrix story alive for three years so far and the game runs pretty solidly still and I'm still intrigued by what the story turns up.

Neurophyte returns

Back to the story...again! At least on the servers where she had been kept alive Neurophyte made a return to the stage in a drastically changed way. She first appearad at parties in the city, taking orders to rest and relax seriously.

Meanwhile things were sturring in the Merovingian camp as the Frenchman tried to find out more about the red eyed agents and the masked men. He also confirmed what was now widely assumed to be true, that he was indeed responsible for sending the Assassin after Morpheus. This coupled with reports of Zion trying to find a way to kill him, made things ready for a showdown. The Assassin himself even showed up in the Matrix, but evaded attempts to stop and kill him.

Neurophyte showed up again, this time looking weak and shaken, and sometimes speaking words that didn't appear to be her own. She was being followed by the Red Eyed Agents, but she had known they were coming and fought back. She still had a remnant of the "kill code" that had infected her - a powerful remnant. Code lightning struck the impostors, killing them in large numbers. Neurophyte had returned in force!

But then one of their "Super Agents" showed up and fought her. These agents had also been able to summon similar lightning in their initial engagement with the redpills and he seemed fairly immune to Neurophyte's power and quickly seized the upper hand until help came from a very unexpected source.

The Assassin appeared on the scene, easily destroying the agent and evading the attacks of Neurophyte and other redpills. After staying for a short while the Assassin typically slunk back into the dark recesses of the Matrix, leaving Neurophyte weakened and tired. While a powerful force to be reckoned with the events had taken their toll on her and things were not going to go well for her crew as we will see soon. As far as I'm aware this was the last time we saw Neurophyte, and pretty much the last time we saw the Red Eyed Agents, out in force like this anyway, but the power behind them was not far from revealing itself...

Hope you've enjoyed this, the story around the takeover period is pretty sketchy in terms of chapter divisions and ordering so I hope I don't miss too much out or get things in the wrong order, but yeah - this was the kill code event - it happened, lots of other stuff happens too in the never ending story of The Matrix.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

SF at the Movies - November 08

Well we're way past the half way mark of this month so I guess I'd better have a peek at what's out at the movies for this month. We seem to be having a bit of a slow patch SF wise these past few months with few 'proper' Sci-Fi releases at all. There's a few out this month, but all are a little leap to the Sci-Fi world and most are just horrors with a slightly fntastic setting.

Max Payne

Released 14/11/08

Mark Wahlberg stars in the latest video game to make an on screen adaptation. Max Payne and it's sequel have been some of the most popular video game titles released and are still memorable several years after the release of the second game. According to my friends, wh o know more about the titles than I do, the film is actually a pretty accurate representation of the events of the game - which doesn't happen too often. The film is gritty and action packed, though a bit bewlidering at times if you're not familiar with the original source. It is mostly a thriller with a touch of film noir, but there's enough weird companies and body enhancing drugs to keep me happy with putting it here.


Released 21/11/08

This film takes as it's plot the possibility of what might happen if a city's population turned blind. It is highly reminiscent of the plot of day of the triffids, only without the moving plants that killed everyone. This has put me off somewhat, but I've had a look at the trailer and the plot does seem quite convincing and original and is set to be more than just a rip off or piece of Sci-Horror. Not entirely sure if it's for me, but it looks a perfectly valid showing for this month.

Released 21/11/08

This one definitely is a horror, with maybe a bit of SF hidden inside. Some people go to a place, find some weird diseasy type thing that's killed people and stuff. They go in to find out then the place gets quarantined and they're stuck inside. Looks like it's going from a news crew's perspective so it might be a bit Cloverfieldy...probly more Blair Witch. Dunno, could be good - if it is let me know and I might nod or something.

Won't be long till next month - keep an eye on the apple website for trailers, there's some cracking good ones on there, I'm particulsrly looking forward to Push and Monsters vs Aliens.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Star Wars Legacy - The New Jedi Order part 3

Posts on here are getting less frequent and I do have to apologise, but actually having a real work schedule for the first time in my life is starting to take it's toll. It's quite a while since I've done a Legacy post, but I figured I'd get ahead and introduce to you a few of the Jedi who popped up in some recent issues.

As you may or may not remember Cade and his pals arrived at a hidden temple where a large number of Jedi were in hiding, there were too many to introduce in the issue review so I'll post about them now, enjoy.

Hidden Temple Jedi


Species: Zabrak
Sex: Female
Homeworld: Iridonia (?)
Position: Jedi Knight (maybe Master)
First Appearance: Legacy # 25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Mai was one of several Jedi who found refuge in the Hidden Temple set up by Nat Skywalker and others. When the Imperial Knight delegation came to the temple she was tasked with attending Azlyn Rae their agent. Later she approached Jariah Syn who had just identified his father's killer, but mistook his emotions and was surprised an knocked unconscious by Syn.

Tili Qua

Species: Chadra-Fan
Sex: Female
Homeworld: Chad (?)
Position: Council Master
First Appearance: Star Wars Legacy #25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Tili Qua was one of the most senior Jedi to escape the Sith and make her way to the Hidden Temple. As such she was elected to the impromptu Master's Council that guided and lead the Jedi who chose to remain in the temple. She was very skeptical of the Imperial Knights and still harboured regret about the Empire's involvement in the Sith War and take over. She and the other council members also chose to reject Cade's plan of assasination, deciding it wasn't the Jedi path, nor was it time for the Jedi to become involved in war against the Sith.

T'ra Saa

Species: Neti
Sex: Female
Homeworld: Myrkr (?)
Position: Council Master
First Appearance: Star Wars Republic: Darkness

T'ra Saa was a surviving Jedi from the Old Republic era who was also a treelike Neti, one of the oldest and most mysterious species in the galaxy. She had been part of the Jedi Order for centuries before the clone wars broke out, helping train such Jedi as Mace Windu and Quinlan Vos. Despite misgivings of some Jedi she felt able to uphold her Jedi principles and yet have a loving relationship with fellow Jedi Tholme. She and Tholme were part of the galaxy wide Clone Wars and both survived Order 66. But sometime after, perhaps merely from old age, Tholme died and Saa rooted herself at his graveside and became treelike as her species can. The details of what happened next are unclear but it appears she did not join the New Jedi Order for some time as Cade was unaware of her existence, but sometime during or after the way she rejoined the Jedi and sat on their council in hiding, later joined by another Old Republic master K'Kruhk.

Tobias Sun

Species: Human
Sex: Male
Homeworld: Unknown
Position: Jedi Knight (possibly Master)
First Appearance: Star Wars Legacy # 25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Tobias Sun was one of the Jedi Knights who found refuge at the Jedi temple, while young and energetic he resigned himself to the quiet contemplative hiding the Jedi Order needed to escape destruction. Tobias was tasked with looking after Cade's crewmates while he met with the council. Deliah was eager to find some excitement and Tobias went along with her and was delighted to see she could fix a speeder bike that had been broken for months, the two took it for a test drive, Tobias clearly enjoying the break in routine.

Rasi Tuum

Species: Cathar
Sex: Male
Homeworld: Cathar (?)
Position: Jedi Master, Jedi Master
First Appearance: Star Wars Legacy #25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Those of you with extremely good memories may remember this face and name as having popped up before. It turns out Rasi Tuum was a family name for a group of Cathar Jedi. The one previously seen was named Ahn, who died at the hands of the Sith, and there was another named Zho, who was out searching for Jedi to bring to the temple. The other featured here was once the master of Azlyn Rae before they were seperated in the Sith assault. He tried to convince her to return to the Jedi, but Azlyn wasn't sure. Soon after he was confronted by Jariah Syn, whose father he had killed on a mission years earlier. Rasi got Syn to face up to the truth of what his father was and Syn begrudgingly left the Jedi alone.

Well that's it, other than to catch up on an issue or two - enjoy this content while it lasts folks!!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Doctor Who - New series, new species part 16

I'm glad to be able to continue what is possibly my longest running and certainly most numerous series of posts. As I posted not too long ago the Doctor Who children's spin off has returned, I've quite enjoyed the show as I did last series. As ever my remit is to discuss the brand new species created by the writers and production staff. I do this partly because it saves space and gives structure and also because I'm interested in how the television crews of today go about designing and making new ideas for alien species. Anyway, with classic series aliens the Sontarans taking up the first two-parter so just one alien for you this time, but it's a good start and an interesting creature.

Jeggorabax Energy Entity

I'm always quite interested in how they do these minimum prop aliens, all they needed was a man in a clown suit for this one and it worked pretty well. I wasn't blown away by this one as it seemed to be an amalgamation of several previous Dr Who villains, it existed because of people's emotions, which made it very similar to Adam in Torchwood who lived by people's memories. The climax scene where all the children walk off in zombie state was something of a Who cliche and has been done a few times (e.g. 1st christmas special) and wasn't that scary. But the angle of Sarah Jane exploring her own fear was very potent and the fear of the loss of a child as being the most powerful were extremely interesting and made good watching.

This creature originates in the Jeggorabax Cluster, known to be home to creatures that feed on emotion. The creature seemed to have inhabited a meteor that came to Earth sometime in the 13th century. It's first guise was the now legendary figure of the pied piper who gained fear by stealing the town's children. Realising this was an efficient way of producing fear he took on a number of guises down through the ages, generally of an entertainer and frightened and stole children to keep itself alive. It was not until it encountered Srah Jane Smith that the fatal flaw was revealed, if it was not feared, if people were happy and bold in it's presence it simply could not exist, the creature was destroyed.

Well that's it only to mention the slightly intriguing fact that the new girl's called Rani...hmmm.

Monday, 27 October 2008

The Forever War

Not sure if this warrants a post, but Ridley Scott has officially announced that he is to begin work on a film adaptation of The Forever War.
Get Googling.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

SF on TV

I only do this intermittently but as there's a fe decent Sci-Fi shows on TV I thought I'd quickly share with you what's on, especially as one show is premiering tonight! Not that these are shows that are in the UK and I only have freeview so it doesn't reflect what may be on other networks, but there's no point me teling you what I don't know is there?!!

OK on with the show(s)...

The Sarah Jane Adventures - Series 2 (BBC 1, Mon 4:30)

The better of the two Doctor Who spinoffs in my opinion, this series follows former Doctor's companion Sarah Jane Smith and her Earthbound friends as they combat alien menaces drawn to their part of the world. This series starts off with Sarah being much closer to her adopted son Luke and that is a definite settled state now that series 1 has been resolved, but Maria has moved away leaving Luke distraught and possible a space on the young team. Episode five airs monday, but you should be able to catch up on iPlayer - expect a "new species" post soon.

Heroes - Series 3 (BBC2, Wed 9pm)

Heroes quietly snuck back onto the BBC, I found out only hours before the broadcast! While series 2 floundered a little, due in no small part to the writer's strike, it was still one of the best things on television. The third series is already far better with new villains, great actions and more questions about what it means to have powers, specifically examining where powers come from and what would happen if everyone had them. I'm pleased to see that they are including characters from the comics too, which makes reading them a more exciting experience. There have already been several shockers and twists so I'd reccomend you get iPlayer, catch up quick and get on board while you can.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Series 2 (Virgin1, Thurs 9pm)

PREMIERING TONIGHT!!! The exciting show that delves into the world of the iconic films is back and on freeview screens in just under two hours from this post. The show was clever in that it took a slower pace than the films, allowing you more time to grasp the character's emotions (or lack of the in terminator Cameron's case) and see the backstory that leads them to where they are. The story caused some confusion as it seems to jar with T3, but it's still very compelling and with a fourth film on the horizon there's a lot of potential, and apparently it references them both so we'll have to see what's coming, but it's sure to be a heck of a ride!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Series 1 (Sky Movies coming soon)

The new CG series set in the battles between episodes 2 and 3 of the prequel trilogy. Kicked off with the film that was released a few months back this film explores the effects of prolonged war on the Jedi and their clone allies. A common theme seems to be that the Jedi teach the clones that their lives are of value to them, even though they are grown life forms. I caught a few episodes dealing with a trap for Yoda and a Seperatist superweapon. Unfortunately the Cartoon Network site seems to have decided to block UK viewers so you can no longer watch episodes on the site, but I've included it as a link just in case. The series comes to the UK soon for people willing to pay for Sky Movies.

Well that's it, I've got stuff to do - I might add pictures if I've got time, but for now enjoy!!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Star Wars Vector, Chapter 3: Rebellion

Well Vector has moved forward in time once again, just a decade or two this time, from the Dark Times after the creation of the Empire to the time when those who hate the Emperor have amassed their forces and declared open rebellion against the Empire. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and a few lesser known series regulars face up to the terrifying Rakghoul plague in the third chapter of Vector.

The story slots into issues 15 and 16 of the Rebellion series, following on from 3 successful story arcs. Though a lot of series regulars appear in the book (and it is a direct continuation of the Rebellion storyline, so it doesn't disrupt regular readers) it is still very easy to follow from the previous chapter of Vector and since a lot of the key Star Wars cast are involved it's not too unfamiliar territory.

Well I'll quickly pop up a review for you all, remember this will be very spoilery so if you are keen on getting it yourself you may want to skip the rest of this...ok let's go. Our troubled heroin Celeste has been on an abandoned moon for a little under two decades, the soul keeper of a plague spreading talisman and the ghost of a Sith Lord driving her mad - the only positive effect seems to be that she hasn't aged a day!!

Well she has been abandoned, but she hasn't been forgotten - Vader remembers the powerful Jedi he left behind and the even more powerul weapon around her neck. He sends an expeditionary force, when he hears that the force has crashed and lost contact after sighting an individual on the planet he knows she is still alive and leaks the information to the rebels in the hope that the plague will spread and destroy them.

The plucky team of rebels land on the planet with a full commando force including Able, a clone soldier from the Clone Wars and Deena Shan a young and nervous volunteer who has been a key player in the series so far. The rebels find the crashed Imperial landers and are soon assaulted by the stormtroopers they brought down, now transformed into monstrous Rakghouls. Han and most of the others are pushed back to the Millenium Falcon and forced to leave Luke, Leia and Abel behind. The ship is soon harrassed by a Star Destroyer ordered by Vader to get the rebels to flee back to base, and so cannot return to rescue our heroes.

Luke ends up backed into a cave and is suddenly attacked by Celeste, crazed by her abandonment and the whispers of Karness Muur. Leia and Abel arrive to help Luke, but this further enrages Celeste, who assaults Leia and turns Abel into one of her mindless monsters. Karness however sense an opportunity for galactic conquest and the talisman leaps towards Luke and Leia, but Celeste, regaining her senses retrieves the talisman and once again accepts her burden - to keep Karness prisoner in her body and to halt the plague as much as possible.

She walks off, discarding Luke, who is eager to know more of the Jedi, but she has decided to explore the galaxy and takes of in the rebel assault sguttle to see more of the galaxy. As she leaves she passes the waiting Star Destroyer who are still listening for Vader, who realizes too late what is happening, the ship is overrun by the plague and crashes into the planet. Meanwhile the Falcon has been able to shake it's pursuers and rescue Luke and Leia who return to the fleet to mourn Abel and others lost and to contemplate the future of the Jedi and of the Rebellion.

Well the Legacy portion of Vector is currently being published so I'll share what happens next with you all in a month or two, that portion will be collected in the second volume of Vector along with the Rebellion story - Volume 1 of Vector will be released in January.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

SF at the Movies

Well we've hit October and so it's time to quickly fill the silence with a look at what's going to be showing at the flicks this month. I'm afraid the cupboard's pretty bare, or at least the Sci-Fi shelf is, with the new Bond out it can't be all bad for cinema goers I suppose. Anyway, let's keep to our remit shall we?

City of Ember
Released 10/10/08

As far as I'm concerned the only 'proper' SF release this month. City of Ember is set in a hidden underground city where for 240 years the remnants of mankind have stayed and survived so long they've forgotten where they came from. But there's a bit of a problem with that as the city was only meant to hold humanity for 200 years and now the generator is failing. Two youngsters happen upon an ancient plan, a away to get out of the city and do all they can to escape and save humanity. It's very good, though a little slow in parts and doesn't hold back though it's meant for a younger audience...


Released 17/10/08

...unlike some films! This is a film about mad scientists making stuff and so falls roughly into our chosen field it's about a novice who wants to invents some kind of evil science thing and...ooh it's CG...again, people are still impressed by that...aren't they?


Releases 17/10/08

Some guy wakes up and finds a giant spider and...wait, didn't they do this film already?...like five times...two at least!!


Saturday, 4 October 2008

Matrix Online: Things to do part 2

Curiouser and Curiouser: More things to find and do in Uriah

Well blogging seems to have died down a bit so I'll try and liven things up with another promotion of Matrix Online, the online multiplayer that lets you live out the future of the Matrix storyline. While at some point I'll get on and tell you about that story, for now I'm going to try and tantalize you with some of the things you can do and enjoy in game, and all just in the first neighbourhood!

Mercury's Sixth

OK so if you've gotten started in the Matrix you may have met Mercury who I posted about last session. Merury is one of several "contacts" whi give you mission and are located in most of the city's neighbourhoods. Each gives a set of five missions, but just to make it interesting for new players the developers added a sixth. In this mission you learn more about Mercury, his work and his relationship with Pepper, an exile from Downtown who you won't otherwise meet until you're much further in the game. And you won't go unrewarded for your mission.


Codebase is a recruiter for the Machine organization, who you may want to try joining. He is found adjacent to the first hardline you discover. He is also friends with Mercury, and if you get a note from Mercury for completing his last mission he'll reward you with an exclusive "Industrial" jacket. He is also interested in taking down the Chopper gang in Uriah, and will reward you with both info (money) and experience code for retrieving one of their keys, this can be a great boost to a start up operative. For the more sentimental types he also offers a souvenir version of the chopper keys, to remember your early days by.

Mars Industrial Storage

Mars Industrial Storage is a warehouse, but it is also the first of many "hideouts" in the game, they are marked on your map with an orange arrow symbol. Gangs lurk below ground in these hideouts, often unusual in nature. Operatives often test their strength against these gangs by trying to get through the subterranean chambers, from which there is only one way out - getting past the gang's leader. But defeating the leader usually results in a reward, so many will try it. The gang in Uriah are called the Unclean, old disease spreading programs from an older Matrix. While they are fairly weak, defeating them and their leader Zero is still a challenge. These gangs also carry pills that can alter the look of an individual in the Matrix, from hair to skin tone to body size. These are valued by operatives, but also by Kimree, who stands outside the hideout, and will take a full set of the pills they carry and trade it for an "Industrial" fedora, which will complete your collection nicely.

The Headless

The Unclean are not the only ones to hide below the warehouse, on the fourth sublevel another exile group exist, known as the headless. Generally hidden, but when an operative approaches their leader Barebones, then a headless attacker of similar strength to them will emerge and attack. Defeating Barebones will stop these attacks, but also the reward for fighting them. These strange program drop a unique type of code fragment, collecting a complete set of these and returning them to Kimree, will reward you with the Headless Glasses, a popular Matrix item.

So for those of you with a taste for combat and cool clothes that oughta keep you happy. Well whenever I get round to it next I'll tell you about some of the other adventures you can be having in the Matrix.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Sam's follow up thingy

I couldn't resist.

Deadpool, the "Merc with a Mouth" Pretty much the same powers as Wolverine (See Aled's Post, only a little faster and sans the Admantium skeleton. He does make up for the lack of claws with a huge arsenal of weapons.
Another upside to Deadpool is the comedy. Unlike the dark stories of Wolverine and Hulk, Deadpool's tales set out to make you get the giggles.
Pour Example,

Anyhoo, the product of Weapon X (Responsible for Wolverine, Sabretooth etc.) he recieved his healing powers from DNA meddling, based on wolverine's powers.
There's a couple of Marvel characters with the "Healing factor", notably Sabretooth, Maverick, Omega Red, Kestral and Silver Fox, most of which were in Team X (Weapon X's Black Ops Team, Led by Wolverine. Even Professor X and Iron Man have Healing Factors now.
Well, thats all i can be bothered to write. If you want to know more, just wait till the Wolverine movie. Pretty much all of the above are in it.
(Note, these are NOT from the Ultimate Universe. I cannot be bothered and it would complicate things if i went through each of the above's counterparts. That's what Wiki is for)
PS. Wolverine's Origin has been revealed. It's in a graphic novel cleverly named "Wolverine : Origin"

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Power Trip 5 - Rapid Cellular Regeneration

One of the key Heroes in the show is Claire Bennet. From early on in season one her magnificent and gross stunts made her popular as well as the catchphrase "save the cheerleader, save the world" which became synonymous with the show. Even after she was saved she is still a key character and her relationship with her "normal" family and the friends around her have been of much interest. But Claire's ability, while a protection, also makes her a target for those who want to possess such a great gift.

Claire's ability is rapid cellular regeneration, that is the ability to rapidly regrow and repair any part of her body when injured. This extraordinary gift means she can survive even the most grievous injury. She has been seen surviving falls, burns, bone breakages and even a car crash. Claire has had some of the most gripping scenes in the show, such as when she wakes up with her chest cut open for surgery, recovers from a nuclear fire or in series 2 when she successfully cuts off and regrows her toe. She has pushed her ability to the limits, and yet she may be capable of much more...

Part of the genius of series 2 was to introduce some character who had the same abilities as others as well as new powers. This gave the series a more grounded feel, like it wasn't just a crazy diversifying bunch of wild traits, but that there was some kind of regularity to the so called "evolution" of humanity. The introduction of Adam Monroe, alias Takezo Kensei, ads a new dimension to the ability. He is centuries old, meaning that 'powers' aren't necessarily a new phase in humanity and also that his ability (and quite possibly Claire's) means that he doesn't age and can live healthily for a long time. Another development showed that his and Claire's blood could be used to heal the injuries of others, which has much potential for the future. But then Adam carried out his cliched plan to end the world and got himself locked in a box forever (which totally doesn't work - he'd just suffocate, you can't "regenerate" air!!!) and Claire has recovered her father, but at a price.

Well let's have a look at where this power comes from. It almost undoubtedly has it's roots in nature where animals such as certain lizards, starfish and other creatures are able to regrow limbs when needed. However the creatures are usually limited to limb regrowth and don't have the complete death defying self-repair ability that most regenerators in comics do. While mythological character may have been able to access healing, it has always been through some form of magic, and often with a cost. Creatures such as the hydra has rapis regenearation, probably inspired by the aforementioned creatures.

I like to quickly make a bible reference here, but off the top of my head I can't think of anyone who healed themselves, there are certainly many healings, but they all come from God, demonstrating that we cannot fix our own sickness, the great sickness of sin, but we need to rely on God for he alone can heal us. The only character who definitely could have healed himself, Jesus, was the one person who actively chose to suffer as one of us, identifying with the human race in all it's aspects. And when the ultimate suffering came on the cross, even though he sweat blood with fear at the prospect, he still chose to face it to save undeserving sinners. There's been a lot of talk about the maturity and development of heroes recenlty - if you want to find the ultimate hero you need look no further than the heroic sacrifice on the cross. This is something I want to develop more, but I'll leave it for now and move on to popular fiction.

The power of regeneration or self healing is by no means new, though it is explored well in the show. There are a number of character whop posess the same ability to come back healed from the most dangerous as it is quite a useful gift when fighting other superpowered enemies. The most popular and dynamic of these is undoubtedly Wolverine a popularity renforced by dramatic demonstrations of his abilities in the X-Men movie trilogy. Wolverine's longevity and origins are also a mystery and his metallic claws (only convievable with a healer) make him an iconic figure. Wolverine was part of a Weapon X program which features other healer such as Sabretooth, Deadpool and Lady Deathstrike. There are also characters who can heal in adition to other powers such as the Hulk. I trust Sam to bring more of these to light - I know he's a Deadpool fan so surely he can't resist!

So there's a rooted tradition behind Claire's ability, coming from nature, comic books and a desire to be invincible hidden within us all. We know how fragile the human body is how potentially weak it can be and how the slightest accident can cause injury or death to any one of us. Is it any wondee then that we create characters who can bounce back from all this and fight another day, is it any wonder we want to be like these heroes?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

SF at the Movies - September 08

Well let's see what September has in store for us eh? Oh also apologies for missing out Babylon A.D. last month, it's still out, but I'm undecided as to whether to go and see it. Anyway, moving on to September, what's out then...

And basically nothing is the answer! September seems to be a surprisingly slow month movie wise, especially in the Science Fiction department, about the only thing I could find was slightly dystopian "Death Race" where convicts have to race armoured cars to gain the prize of freedom - basically Running Man with cars by the looks of it - haven't seen the trailer, not sure if I will.

Well that was rubbish, I'll have to think of something else to say now!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Star Wars Legacy #25-26: Updates and Review

Star Wars Legacy 25-26 (The Hidden Temple)

It's been a while, but I'll bring you briefly back to the world of Legacy where in this two-parter Cade Skywalker takes a trip to the ultra secret Hidden Temple of the Jedi. Cadw wants the help of the Jedi so that he can stop running from Krayt and the Empire, but when he arrives he naturally finds more than he bargained for.

The Sith don't really feature in these issues so I'll move on to the Jedi, naturally there are a stack of new Jedi what with it being a Jedi temple and all so I'll update that in a follow-on post soon, but for now I'll just update the Jedi already featured in the series.

Jedi Updates


Severely injured in Darth Stryfe's decimation of the Jedi temple he was nonetheless able to keep his friends alive. In need of healing he revealed the location of the hidden temple to his companions. Still recovering from his injuries, the Whiphid had been appointed to the temporary Jedi Council at the temple when Cade arrived.

Shado Vao and Wolf Sazen

These two travelled with master K'kruhk to the hidden temple after the Ossus temple was destroyed. Both were glad to see Cade, but were troubled by his plan to assassinate Krayt - Shado confronted Cade, intending to show him his own darkness, but Cade refused to be goaded.

Nat Skywalker

Nat agreed to take Cade to the temple and was welcomed by the Jedi council despite having left the order many years previous. He discussed Cade's plan with the Jedi, reluctantly accepting that his drastic plan might be right.

Imperial Knight Updates

Marasiah Fel and Company

Sia, Antares and Ganner act together in this one so I may as well update their story in one go - actually, these updates might be getting old, I'll have to think about it. Sia and her crew tail Cade's ship to the hidden temple and land near them in their cloaked shuttle. This displeased Cade who along with Shado, attacked the Knights for their intrusion until the Masters arrived and halted the dispute. They then proposed an alliance between the Jedi and the Imperial Knights, which had a mixed reception

Azlyn Rae

She succesfully led the Imperial Knight team to the base, earning the respect of her fellow Knights, but angering Cade and concerning the Jedi, who wanted to reconsider joining the order. She questioned this, but Marasiah mentioned that the only Knight to leave the Imperial order died shortly after.

Well that's most of the story, Cade and co get to the hidden temple, a collection of old starships embedded in a swamp hidden in an asteroid. The Imperial Knights follow, but are cautiously welcomed by the Jedi council. Cade then brings up his plan to assassinate Lord Krayt, which disturbs the council, but intrigues others. Jariah Syn, cade's crewmate sees the Jedi who killed his father and confronts him, but is defeated and forced to see the truth about his father, that he was a criminal with no honour who killed and pillaged for fun. The council eventually decided not to pursue Cade's path, but the Imperial Knights agreed and Antares, Ganner and Azlyn joined Cade's crew, along with Shado to go and cut off the head of the Sith.

I think I'm gonna have to rethink how I do these, with more categories being added the "updates take up most of the space now, I might just leave it for new characters or if one of them dies or something. We'll see - I'll update the new Jedi from the temple soon.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Assasin's Creed: Treasure in Heaven?

If I may I'd like to briefly detour from my usual pure geekiness to explore some of the moral, and religious complications and issues raised by the game, and in particular the high ground it claims by this mysterious "templar's treasure" that it introduces in the latter phases of the game.

My stance

I've made vague mention of this already, but I feel I should probably clarify that I'm a Christian. Now Christian means a lot of things these days, and terms I would use, such as "born-again" or "evangelical" to describe myself are sometimes aquainted with "nut job" today (though they are good terms to use) so I will try to briefly explain my position.
I believe that God exists first of all and that there is enough evidence from the bible, from nature and my personal experience for me to be confident in saying that. I believe that He has described Himself in the Bible and that it is a trustworthy account when it says he is good, loving, creator of the universe, judge, eternal, holy and the saviour of mankind. I believe that in sending Jesus (who is fully God) to die on the cross is the only way I can call myself a Christian and it is only because of His great love, which I in no way deserve, that I have hope and a future.
I've no doubt been vague or unclear here, but I thought it important to give some idea of my worldview - if you want to know more drop a comment, otherwise I'll get back to the game.

The Crusades

Ok, my research on the Crusades is somewhat cursory, but it needs be be addressed nonetheless, I will first deal with the crusades in general, then move of the the game's portrayal. The Crusades can be depicted as a war against Islam by Christianity - I beg to differ. The wars were made by political forces, such as the British Crown and the Papacy to expand territory and power and inspired by as well as using religious fervour to promote the cause. The wars began when the Byzantine Empire called for help against attacking Turks - The Pope got in on the game and called for all Christians to invade Turkish lands, promising immediate forgivness for sins if they died in battle (this is something a Christian already has through Jesus Christ and so it was a disgusting and putrid thing to offer to the poor followers who went out and got massacred) and the Dutch Kingdom set out and were soon followed by others. These wars expanded and went on for centuries, incorporating all sorts of political rivalries and factions along the way, which is where the game takes it's focus.
The game picks up in the time of the Third Crusade, about a century into the fighting, where the battle is fought between two legendary leaders: Richard the Lionheart, of England and Saladin of the Saracen forces. With Saladin succesfully retaking key locations and being surprisingly chivalrous to those defeated the time was very much one of confusion, perfect for creatures such as the Assassins and Templars to operate. The game makes a very fair portrayal of the times, with neither side as the monsters, but with most people simply seeking to get on with life and the darker figures on both sides being rooted out by the Assassins. The game also accuratly portrays the fact that individual leaders were often the cause of darkness in the lands. With the protagonist being a Muslim, the game does slightly favour the Islamic forces, but with their lands being invaded I guess it's kinda fair, but it doesn't take a chance for a cheap shot at Christianity or to pander to contemporary pro-Islamic media either.

So with this fairly well-balanced presentation (though I guess it might be more honest to present more of the horrors commited by both sides) I wonder why they chucked in what happens next.

A piece of Eden

The game deviates from plausibility somewhat by introducing the supernatural Piece of Eden, treasured by the Templars and Assassins alike. I felt this was a let down as it stretched the game beyond believable limits. I was happy with the futuristic gimmickry of the Animus, but an ancient superpowered object detracted from the magnificent middle-ages gameplay that makes Creed so great.
The object is recaptured by the Assassins early on in the game and left in mystery till the end. It is given the name "Piece of Eden" and attributed to it are such events as the parting of the Red Sea, the success of the Trojan Horse and "let a simple carpenter turn water into wine." It is revealed as a powerful illusion caster, but it's greater power is in the obvious debunking of all religion, the true goal of both Assassins and Templars, though they have different motivations and means.
I felt this was an anti-climactic and somewhat arrogant end to a game that had dealt so well with one of the most complex subject matters available. To have a weird orb that just disproves both Christianity and Islam as mere illusion is far to simplistic as well as a bit offensive as well as just plain boring. I admire it's guts in not just saying all religions are ok and all that PC garbage, but "all religions are lies" isn't a tremendous amount better.
The Crusades are an immensly difficult subject, and so many attrocities were commited in the name of Christ and through the political power of "The Church" that I expected a comelling and distrubing tale to be unravelled, but instead I got a piece of (alien?) technology seemingly thrown in just for the sake of it, and the game could have managed just fine without it - though sequels may redeem it's use somehow.
I'm rapidly running out of things to say so I'll end by saying that Assassins Creed had a great opportunity to deal with some very heavy issues through the video game media, but it seems to me that they wussed out of the big stuff and decided to smooth over it all with a nice simple "we know it all" answer - and that, for me, was a let down.

I'll just quickly reiterate that I am by no means an expert on the game or it's subject matter and if you think I'm in error please discuss and I'll endeavour to look more closely

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Dark Knight Has A Bad Throat

Hey, guys. I assume you've seen the Dark Knight. Prepare to laugh your socks off. And by the way, this video proves that another (very good) actor could become the joker if enough effort was put into it. Enjoy.

http://view.break.com/554666 - Watch more free videos

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Game Review - Assasin's Creed

Again I have the opportunity to tell you about a Video Game I've recently completed. Assassin's Creed was one of the big releases of early 2008 with an intriguing plot and a bold setting of the Crusades. I'd warn you about the spoilers, but the fact that a game set in medieval history is on this blog pretty much gives it away huh? It has had a mixed reception following release, but it remains a popular game with a sequel planned and a prequel released on DS.

Rough Plot

For most of the game you play as Altair, a top member of the game's interpretation of the Hashashin clan, from whom we derive the word "assasin". At the beginning of the game your are show to be arrogant and get one of your fellow assassins killed. For this you are demoted and given the bottom rank and equipment of the secret clan, and to earn your way back into the favour of Al Mualim, leader of the clan, you must carry out several key assassinations to take away the enemies of your leader. But as you travel to different cities and take down different leaders you discover there is more linking these men than violence and corruption and a bigger plot than the one you seek to take down.
You also see the story of Desmond Miles, descendant of Altair, who has been captured by a mysterious corporation who want his anscestor's memories and have a very unusual way of getting at them - but I'll come to that in a bit.


The game utlises a number of different skills and tactics to make your way through the game. As an Assassin you are meant to be invisible and so the game relies on stealth rather than outright combat. You use free running to escape pursuers and quickly navigate across rooftops, you character nimbly hopping across poles and doing incredible leaps that are still kept within the realms of what the human body is capable of. You can't just show up and killa guy though you need to investigate and plan your attack - first you have to find view points that shpw you where you need to go, then you can complete investigations such as pickpocketing, interrogation or even assassinations to gain information on your key target and then you plan your attack.
While the controls are innovative, the disadvantage is that after while you become attuned to them and the leaps, feats and combat are eventually just a matte of holding down the right button. With powerful counter moves even combat against large forces becomes easy to the stage that I would run away from a fight because I just didn't believe it was realistic. Thankfully though, running and hiding is just as much fun as combat!

Sci-Fi stuff

I wouldn't be discussing this game here if it wasn't for some Sci-Fi element. Whilst I was perfectly happy with the medieval setting and didn't need any wizardry to help me enjoy it the sci-fi side is quite intriguing and I think it will earn it's place in the sequels, assuming they live up to expectation.

The Animus

A key element in the game is the Animus. This device is a unique creation of a secret supercompany in the nearish future. Once a subject lies down on it's surface the device taps into their DNA code and unlocks what is called "genetic memory." These are the instinctive memories of an anscestor, passed down through their genes. The company attribute this for what we would call "animal instinct" as well as other intuitions. The device lets captive Desmond Miles access the memory of his ancestor as if he were really there. It is also able to "fast forward" or skip certain memories, though jumping too far can damage the subject or the device.

Abstergo and the Templars

OK, real spoiler territory here.

*BIG SPOILERS*The game unfolds a conspiracy between the Assasins and the Templars, known as a group of Knights of King Richard but truthfully, according to the game, a secret order comprised of men on both sides of the conflict seeking to change men and rule over them. Each one denies the claims of Al Mualim, saying that they are doing good, but each shows evidence of evil. They also posess a treasure capable of great power - but I'll come back to that. Their bid for power is halted as Altair slays them one by one, but one leader remains - Al Mualim, head of the Assasins -he reveals himself to be a Templar who wanted the treasure and it's power to himself and uses his student to kill off his rivals. He is eventually defeated by Altair - it is unknown what happens next as Altair comec into contact with the treasure.

*Little Spoilers* The tension between Templars and Assassins has continued to this day. The Templars, under the guise of the Abstergo corporation, are undergoing a quest to gain the treasure and other powers. They abduct Desmond Miles, who belonged to secret clan,of assassins but new nothing of their importance and left. His genes are enough for the Templars though and they use the Animus to get what they want. Some Assassins try to rescue Desmon and fail, but not all in Abstergo are who they seem...

I'm going to address the treasure itself in a seperate post along with the religious issues the game brings up, so I'll post that soon.

Worth Playing?

I've mentioned the game's downside, and I certainly felt them along the way - but I did find it a fun experience, though it was quite bewildering to begin with. I have certainly enjoyed it and would reccommend that you have a go. My friend said that it's not necessarily a game you'd play through twice unless you're an achievement hunter so maybe wait until it drops in price, but when it does, be sure to lay your hands on it.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Star Wars Vector, Chapter 2: Dark Times

Vector has jumped a few thousand years an continues it's tale in the times when the new Galactic Empire is in control of the Galaxy Far Far Away. As in last time this review has some spoilers hidden inside.

The second chapter of the multi-title spanning series "Vector" has concluded it's second chapter, somewhat shorter than the first segment "Dark Times" hold issues 5 and 6 of the series. You're probably a bit late to get in on the action by now, so I'll do you a favour and fill you in.

This story carries on both from the first chapter and also from existing Dark Times stories. In Dark Times so far a Jedi, Dass Jennir and his soldier friend Bomo find themselves sole survivors of an Imperial massacre, they board a ship called the Uhumele and find a friendly crew and go out to seek a way to save Bomo's family, but nothing goes quite right and there aren't too many happy faces in these stories...they are Dark times after all. If you want to catch up on Dark Times the stories so far have been collected in graphic novel format with volume one out and volume two out sometime this month, which will bring you right up to Vector.

The latter part of the story was about a mysterious crate that the crew were trying to sell, in Vector we find that the crate contains none other than Celeste Morne, ancient Jedi with an even older curse. Trapped for four thousand years she is rudely awakened when the crew are betrayed once again and Darth Vader shows up to collect the powerful Sith artifact. Celeste wakes up in disorientation to find that everyone she knew is dead, the Republic is no more and that the Sith, the enemies she swore to destroy are in control of the galaxy.

She launches into an attack against Vader, but there is another power at work - Karness Muur, a Sith Spirit residing in the powerful, plague-inducing talisman wrapped around Celeste's neck. Muur eggs Celeste on, eager to bring out the darkness in her, she refuses, but starts to lose the battle. Muur changes his mind deciding to support Vader and gain a more powerful body and mind to control. Finding herself losing she makes a terrible decision and takes hold of the power of the talisman for herself to the dismay of Muur. As her power spreads so does the Rakghoul plague, infecting all nearby humans. This handily takes care of Vader's clone troopers, causing him to retreat to his shuttle, but tragically also kills Crys Taanzer, crewmember of the Uhumele. As both ships depart Celeste is left alone with her mindless Rakghouls and an ancient Sith ghosts, satisfied that even though she's trapped the evil is trapped with her.

Thus concludes this second chapter of Vector. The story has now moved on to Rebellion, a series set in the early days of the Rebel Alliance where Celeste may meet Vader once again and will most definitely be bumping into a certain son of his - exciting stuff on the way soon. Vector part one, collecting all the stories discussed so far will be out January next year. Dark Times is taking a break to make way for the Clone Wars stuff going on, with the movie and some tie in comics etc.

So that's it from Vector, but with a few more Legacy issues out and the Clone Wars movie coming to cinemas you bet you'll be hearing more from the galaxy far far away before too long.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

SF at the Movies - August 08

OK another month has zipped by and it's time to take a look at what the cinema has to offer us this August.

Space Chimps

Released 01/08/08

Certainly one for the kids in an adventure where a special space probe gets sucked down a wormhole so the bright folks at NASA send the descendant of the first monkey in space after it. They follow it through and find some aliens and stuff - oh and things happen.

X-Files: I want to believe

Released 01/08/08

No longer working for the government, with paranormal investigations closed, Mulder and Scully get sucked back into their dark world when the 'vicions' of a priest solve a number of serious murder cases. I've not seen any X-Files really so I won't be seeing it, but it looks pretty good.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Released 15/08/08

Star Wars makes a surprising reappearance in theatres this August - are the dollar signs still fixed in George Lucas's eyes - I think so!! This movie will be kick-starting a new CGI series of the same name. Set between episodes 2 and 3 this movie involves a risky mission, Anakin's very own padawan and none other than Jabba the Hutt himself. A must see for all Star Wars fans.

That looks like it might be it - but there are also some hit fantasy releases this month with the third Mummy installment out soon as well as Hellboy 2 which I saw on advance preview and can highly recommend.