Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Matrix Online: Double Cross

I'm sad to report that there's a distinct decline in the Matrix Online storyline with the departure of one of the key developers, Rarebit, who was the driving force behind the game's story and development. It was he who revamped the mission system and personally undertook the creation of new cinematics. It looked like a new era for the game, but apparently it was not to be and for personal reasons he has left the game and our last update boasted new items and quests but no continuation of the story.

It's too soon to say what will happen to the future of the Matrix, but for now I'll carry on passing on the history of the game to you and hope that more content is on the way.

Double Cross was an interesting event as most of it took place on the forums and it wasn't a global event like many of the previous ones, this was largely due to having to scale down the ambition and scope of the game, but it was still action packed and full of intrigue.

A Tangled Web

There was still a lot of chaos left over from the Kill Code event, a few remaining Red Eyed Agents were prowling looking for something only they knew of. Morpheus was gone, but someone looking a lot like him was continuing the code bombings and the mysterious masked men, now identifying themselves as "Cypherites" were coming into the open and recruiting operatives from each side. If this wasn't enough, the Assassin was still about, indiscriminately attacking redpills. Times were hard, and about to get harder, especially for the crew of a certain Novalis 2.

Along Came a Spider

It came as a shock to all: Vashuo, engineer of the Novalis II, was dead. Not killed in action, murdered by someone from within. This surprise murder shocked all organisations into action, all eager to solve this mystery and explore its implications. Transcripts were found as well as code fragments, apparently from a phone signal meant to kill the entire crew, and would have, but for the intervention of the Operator. These fragments were tracked down in the Matrix to reveal a horde of information.

This code was deciphered and details came out: Toorima, a crew member of the Novalis 2 is responsible for the murder, confirmations come in to Zion and the other organizations. A new rumour spreads: the mysterious "Veil", a high ranking Cypherite, is involved in the deed. Shortly afterwards Zion confirms their findings: Toorima is none other than Veil and is now in Zion custody.

Zion have no time to mourn Vashuo or celebrate their victory as Enmascarado, another high ranking Cypherite involved in previous atrocities, comes out into the open taunting everyone, especially the Assassin. Niobe investigates and the Assassin shows up, launching a huge brawl in the city. Niobe takes the offensive against the Assassin, but the killer is a powerful enemy. He gets the upper hand and as he does he puts a bullet into his taunter: Enmascarado, downing the Cypherite once and for all. However, the aggressor didn't plan on going down quietly and rigged his body with the deadly Flame Virus which perpetually burns and spreads like an infection - the fighters had to disperse to stop the spread of the code, leaving the Assassin to escape once again.

This was not an easy day for Zion, but they could at least rest knowing they had done their jobs and the two Cypherite killers were down, one dead and another in a cell. They had earned a reprieve - but there was still a job to finish.

(I refer you again to MXOStory, where I got a lot of the details and images from)

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Halo 3: Holy War

I've had this post brewing in my mind for a while, but I haven't had time to post it properly so I'm just going to go for it. Basically, since I did a post discussing the issues that Assassin's Creed brought up I thought it might be an idea to do so with my other game reviews. This type of rambling won't be too present in most posts, with the exception of Power Trips, but since I'll only do game reviews every now and again it might be a good place to slot in my thoughts on SF, culture and how it affects us.

Video games are on the rise as a media and are developing as a means for storytelling. They are far more mainstream than they used to be, game ads are much more common on TV and the cinema than a few years ago. They are also big business now and some high profile games can even rival Hollywood productions - you need only look as far as the cast of Red Alert 3 or the sound and music directors of games like Mirror's Edge to see the crowd games can draw. So in a medium that is on the rise and reaching a lot of people- it might be good to look at what they say.

This is of course, nothing more than my humble opinion, and I would emphasise that these are musings, not researched conclusions.

Master Chief/Spartan/Reclaimer/Demon

I don't have an awful lot to say on this one, but something I find very interesting is the notion of the hero and what they mean to us. They days of champions and heroes who would fight on behalf of the army are long gone, yet we still cling to the idea of a hero figure who will lead and fight for his people. John-117 is the clear hero of the Halo franchise and has become a rather popular figure because of his exploits, but what is it that makes him resonate with the audience.

He is quite a detached figure, never taking off his mask and speaking little, which is often true of heroes, what they see and go through detaches them from the humanity they are trying to save. Yet we are drawn to that because we know he can go beyond a common person and, as he famously said, "finish the fight." He is also sacrificing, he goes beyond the call of duty pushing himself beyond the impossible to save Earth and recieves little in return, his only memorial when lost in duty is 117 scraped onto a crashed Pelican along with other fallen heroes. He is also feircly loyal and despite his detachment he sticks by his friends Cortana and Sgt. Johnson, though sadly he cannot save them all and a lot of his companions die along the way - the sad fate of the warrior.

I think that says a lot about us and the hero we need. Someone who can go beyond what we can do, yet who can relate to us fully. Someone who can go the whole way and sacrifice all to accomplish the task and yet save everyone he came to save, losing no one on the way. Thankfully that hero did come, and his true story is recorded in a book so that you can see how he can save you to.

I don't know a lot about the concept, but it might be interesting to look at the heroes you like and what they say about you or the person who created them.

The Covenant War

While I did express critiscisms of Assassin's Creed for their final spin on the coverage of the Crusades it is not my intention to do so here, though I may write critically. The background to Halo is a war between humanity and the Covenant an alien group united by religion. While I don't think the Halo team were trying to convey any particular message by this, and it is in fact a fairly common theme in Sci-Fi - look at the New Jedi Order books in Star Wars for example. But even though I don't think they set out to debunk or anathemise religion I still think the topic is worth looking at.

The war is lead by the Prophets, themselves a species, who call forth a horde of Elites, Brutes, Jackals, Grunts and Hunters as well as other races into an unrelenting war against humans. The war is misguided and the 'relics' they seek to complete their religious journey will actually end all life in the galaxy, but they press on, blind to the truth. Ironically they are lead by the Prophet of Truth who drives his army on, blindly ignoring the facts in his own quest for power until he is defeated by a formerly loyal soldier who sees beyond his lies.

Whilst I am slightly critical of the religious leader being 'blind to the facts' I don't think this, if anything, is what Halo3 is saying. It does provide an interesting comment on how religious beliefs are manipulated for political and military power and how that can lead to fanatiscism and how grave and deadly the consequences of that are - which is a present day reality that cannot be ignored. That is not to say that religion and politics can't mix, but people who manipulate religion for their own ends are very real and very dangerous.

I won't go beyond that as I'm hesitant to provide more than thoughts and ideas on this and certainly on a Sci-Fi based blog - but us geeks are thinkers and it cannot be denied. I hope this has been more thought provoking than boring and if there are any queries or objections please drop a comment and I'll be happy to take them into account.

Back to geeking out soon I promise!!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

SF at the Movies - February 09

A bit late again with this month's movie watch and we haven't had much in terms of content, which I again apologise for. I've been meaning to write some kind of follow up to the Halo 3 review like I did with Assassin's Creed but I haven't been sure of how to go about it so for now i'll fob you off with a quick look at what Sci-Fi goodness is out on big screen this month.

Released 20/02/09

Again, only one main line Sci-Fi release this month in the form of Push a modern, gritty superpower flick. Now superpowers aren't exactly uncommon on screen's with comic book adaptations and shows like Heroes frequently high up in the viewings. But this movie manages to hold it's head up and manage, just about, to be original. It's had mixed reviews but I personally really enjoyed it. It's strenght is the film style, it's an action thriller about a Government plot, that features superpowered humans, and is much more akin to one of the Bourne films than Spiderman. They've also carved out a niche by having only mental powers such as telikenisis, mind-altering and future reading as part of their world and not throwing laser eyes or flameballs in just for better effects. It's a bit of a head-bender as the impropmtu team have to work against an organisation that can predict the future of any of their actions and the different characters and abilities come at you hard and fast, but it's definitely worth watching I'd say.

And that's it - there's also the new Street Fighter movie, which may qualify, but I'm not familiar enough with the games to comment, even with SF4 out this month also so I'll leave it out of the Sci-Fi content for now. Happy watching folks - keep your eyes peeled for March, it's gonne be good!!!

Friday, 20 February 2009

T2ROTF - Yeah! Acronyms...

Thought I Might as well post this...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Doctor Who - New series, new species, part 18

Well I may as well round off this old Doctor Who thing before it becomes a distant memory. I'll cover the end of The Sarah Jane Adventures' second series and also the Doctor Who Christmas special in the one post if I may. Both species discussed are technicalities in my book but I'll include them for completeness' sake and to fill the air while I think of something else to write.


The final two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures were rife with returning characters and species. The Trickster made another appearance, along with his Graske friend and the Sontaran Kaagh reappeared along with 1st episode villain Mrs Wormwood of the Bane. Slotted in amongst all this was Horath, some kind of ancient computery monster thing with the power to destroy the world. I'd got my hopes up with this one, but the show didn't deliver, I was hoping for some kind of epic monster similar to the Torchwood finale, but all we got was a clack hole and a typical "regain my honour" ending to wrap it all up.

Horath was an ancient menace lost to time, but found by the Bane renegade Mrs Wormwood. She coerced Sarah Jane Smith and her band into finding the scroll of Horath, hidden deep with in UNIT's Black Archive. The scroll held the key to reuniting Horath's consciousness with his physical form, but this failed to take place when Wormwood's plan was sabotaged by her former mercenary Kaagh, who she betrayed. The gateway to Horath's power was sealed and he remained captive.


As I said this technically can be argued as not a new species, but simply a variation on the old Cybermen and in principle the same thing. However I do think that they are quirky enough to be discussed separately here. I did quite like the way the beast came out of nowhere, was distinctly Cybermen and distinctly new at the same time. I do wonder how they managed to create such large feathery monsters with already low technology, but I think the Cybershades are cool enough to have their place without being shot down by me.

Cybershades were an experiment of desperation, used by the Cybermen after they arrived in Victorian London. Needing to enlist new soldiers and scouts they resorted top the easier task of converting simple mids such as those of stray cats and dogs and using them to create a more basic Cyberman that could be given tasks to do, though not very complicated ones. These creatures were dubbed Cybershades and used their enhanced strength and agility to further the Cybermen's cause and to track and disrupt the Doctor as he hunted them. The Cybershades were eventually defeated when the Doctor stopped the CyberKing attack craft and caused all Cybermen to overload and die.

Thanks for reading.