You’ve Been Thunderstruck

Infamous

Since GTAIII came out, sandbox games have been the shit. Since Spider-Man 2, putting super heroes into sandbox games has been the shit. Infamous is the shit.

At first, I was a little put-off by this PS3-exclusive. Why just lightning powers, I asked. What about the other elements? Do I really want a Static Shock-style video game hero? But as time went on the game started looking pretty damn cool, like it had taken some of the best elements from great games like Crackdown and Assassin’s Creed.

You play as Cole, some poor schmuck with a Batman-growl voice who wakes up in the aftermath of a massive explosion. He soon discovers that he has sweet electricity powers, and that the city has been quarantined, with his only hope for escape being finding the mysterious device that caused the explosion. In the days immediately following the blast, the city fell into ruins, with drug dealers and other unsavory characters taking over. If you want, Cole can try to save the city too.

Yes, Infamous has a karma system. It’s ultimately not that great a system, you basically choose between becoming an acrobatic Emperor Palpatine or electric Jesus. You know, either a total dick or crazy selfless, without a real middle ground. Be sure to pick a side quick, because the game’s upgrade system is dependent on your karma, giving more precise attacks to goody twoshoes and area of effect powers to assholes. It’s not that interesting, but the mechanic works well enough that I want to play the game again evil.

The story as a whole is pretty intense, which I really appreciated. Shit goes down, suckers die. Cinematics play out in a decidedly comic booky way, and it nails that kind of super hero drama. There are roughly 40 missions, along with tons of side quests to keep you busy. The variety of those optional missions is enough that most of them did not get old, and I actually wanted to complete all of them, so that I could fully upgrade my character and liberate the city. There are also colletable battery shards scattered around the city that thankfully appear on your radar. There’s more than enough here to keep you busy for quite a while.

But the single thing that this game nails is the controls. Cole has a ton of powers available to him, and all of them are easy to pull off. Infamous is a shooter. It might not look like it at first, but it totally is. You get grenades, rockets, and other thrid person shooter equivalent weapons, which will be your main way of dispatching enemies. The only control trouble I ever had was trying to shield myself whilst hovering in the air, an admittedly complex maneuver. There’s a strange magnetism in the air that pulls Cole to the nearest ledge, wire, or whatever he can grab onto. This lets you pull off some crazy cool acrobatic moves, although occasionally it gets a little annoying, like when you are trying to climb down a building and he takes every stop he can grab.

It also should be addressed that Cole’s electronic blasts cannot travel through chainlink fences, which would not be so annoying if he could actually climb over them. Anything else in the world, from massive skyscrapers to bizarre piles of rubble, is no problem for Cole to summit. But fences, something pretty much everyone can climb over, those are just too much for him. This is the most common complaint I’ve heard of the game, and I think that shows you just how great the rest of it is.

If you ever had fun with a game like Spider-Man 2, this is the game for you. Hell, it might just be the best super hero game yet. But I’m not that far in Prototype yet, so the jury’s still out on that.

Wak is an All Star

Wakawaka Mojo was selected by Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays manager and manager of the upcoming AL All Star team, to be a coach on the AL staff. It’ll be nice to have more than just Ichiro representing us in St. Louis.

In my first post back in a while I shouldn’t write too much, don’t want to pull anything. But here’s a sweet video I found of Wak doin’ his thing.

DonWakamatsu

C.A.T: This Is Spinal Tap


Spinal Tap – This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

In celebration of mock rockers Spinal Tap’s latest release Back from the Dead, here’s a post of one of my favorite film soundtracks of all time. Featuring all the greats from the classic mock-rockumentary and donning identical cover art to that of the fictional Smell the Glove album, these songs are not only witty and spot on rock and roll satire but as well enjoyable from a pure musical standpoint.

Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer or should I say David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls are surprisingly apt musicians and there isn’t a disappointing tune in the whole bunch. Written by the trio alongside This is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner, this soundtrack is raunchy, heavy and infectiously catchy. You got to love the shredding Metalesque musicianship on songs like “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You”, “Sex Farm” and the Bass dominated classic “Big Bottom” but I think it’s the lyrics that have really helped this mostly fictitious rock band live on. For they’re truly dirty, cheesy and overflowing with sexual innuendo that’s hardly subtle and always amusing.

But This Is Spinal Tap isn’t all sweaty metal mania, as we are treated to a few of Tap’s earlier compositions as well. I mean the Tap soundtrack wouldn’t be complete without such 60s classics as “Gimme Some Money” or “(Listen to the) Flower People”, which are both excellent parodies of the various sounds of the 60s. Overall this collection covers essentially everything you hear in the movie and still has that hilarious 80s charm to it. I’m not sure why Tap feels they had to rerecord most of these songs on their latest work, as they nailed it right on the head the first time round. Of course I’ll still check it out and maybe do some feature here though probably just a review, until than Tap on… Oh no I forgot to make an “Up to eleven joke!”

Favorite Tracks: “(Listen to the) Flower People”, “Big Bottom”, “Stonehenge”,

A Mouthful of Madness


Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Critically it hasn’t been an easy road for Kasabian. They certainly have their fair share of haters, perhaps turned off by their over confident Brit-Rock swagger but things appear to be looking up for album number three. West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, try and say that three times fast, has been described by principle songwriter Sergio Pizzorno as “The soundtrack to an imaginary movie” and although I’m not sure that’s how I’d describe the experience, it’s definitely atmospheric and probably Kasabian’s most innovative album thus far.

Carrying on the electronic/rock sound their best known for, Kasabian doesn’t mind to experiment with some more unique sounds and more abstract arrangements this time round. There’s a gritty almost low-fi flair to songs like “Fast Fuse” while tunes like “Secret Alphabets” have more of a middle eastern flavor to them. Naturally you get your typical straight forward rockers such as the catchy “Fire”, “Underdog” and one of my personal favorites “Where Did All The Love Go?” Influences seem to flow from all over the place and although I enjoy all this dabbling into new musical waters, the album never seems to get into a good rhythm.

Kasabian strikes me as the kind of band that has trouble separating the demos from the truly worthy tracks, resulting in a mish mash of some great compositions and then a handful of so-so tracks. Often I find myself completely absorbed in a song and then suddenly detached with a five minute sleeper. This album certainly doesn’t need to be over 50 minutes long and could benefit from trimming some of the fat.

One thing I do love about these guys is the continuing dynamic between vocalist Tom Meighan and guitarist/vocalist Serge Pizzorno. Switching off on lead vocal duties or playing off each other on songs like electro rocker “Vlad the Impaler” (which has an awesome video by the way) is always an entertaining technique.

So overall it has it’s moments but I probably prefer the first two albums. I think Kasabian benefits from a more organized approach to their music… But hey, what do I know? I write like a 14 year old.

Favorite Tracks: “Fire”, “Vlad the Impaler”, “Where Did All the Love Go?”

C.A.T: Californication

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication (1999)
“Hey guys, I want to do one more C.A.T, for old time’s sake.”

“Oh yeah? What album?”

“It’s the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication, you know, because it just turned ten years old.”

“Have we really not done that album yet, I mean it was on everyone’s 90s lists, don’t you think we’ve heaped enough praise on it?”

“Well, it wasn’t on Nancy’s, he had to make room for The Chronic. Plus, there hasn’t been a RHCP album inducted into the hallowed halls of CAT yet.”

“OK, I guess. But what makes you the man to write that entry?”

“Nothing, really. I’ll probably just look it up on Wikipedia and post some random facts, like I always do. Like, did you know that David Bowie wanted to produce this album?”

“Actually, yeah, I did.”

“I’m sorry. There’s a reason I don’t do these very often.”

“It’s OK, you can do it.”

“Really? That means a lot. I mean, Californication is definitely one of my favorite albums ever, it’s just packed with songs that I love. It totally changed the way I perceived the Chili Peppers, and I can’t praise it enough.”

“Good, because I don’t want you to.”

“Aw…”

“Whatever Sean, just make sure you have it posted before midnight.”

“I’m not making any promises.”

Favorite Tracks: “Around the World,” “Otherside,” “Californication”

Like A Phoenix, Rising From Arizona

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I actually downloaded this album a while ago, about a week before it was released on CD, it just never quite felt like the right time to review it.  Anyway, Phoenix’s last album really left an impact on me, so I was awaiting this one with a certain amount of anticipation.  I think I showed them to John about a year ago when we were driving to Central for a weekend, but I’d be surprised if he remembered that.

These French rockers’ 2006 release, It’s Never Been Like That was somewhat of a breakthrough for them.  It saw them redefining there signature dance-pop sound that likened them to fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk and Air, and creating a more guitar heavy sound with some of their most superbly-crafted pop songs yet.  
This newest outing from Phoenix sees them utilizing the same kind of sound, but this time traces of their electronic influences have reemerged on songs like the groovetastic “Fences”. There’s a very clean and bouncy rhythmic quality to all the guitar and drum work as well as the vocal melodies.  There’s also some nice, crisp layers of synthesizers on songs like “1901” and “Girlfriend” that see Phoenix returning to a bit more of a dance-oriented sound, while sounding more confident than ever.
So basically with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Phoenix continuing to turn out their same catchy brand of pop-rock.  And though it doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground for them, it shows them refining their sound as well as composing some of their most indelibly catchy material to date.
Favorite Tracks: “1901”, “Fences”, “Lasso”