05 March 2011

Top Numbered Somethings: Recent Video Game Experiences

With a few things on the back burner that I'm currently in the middle of writing but aren't quite ready for public consumption yet, I figured I could discuss some recent video games I've played. I suspect that once my wife and I have children, the limited time I make for video games will disappear altogether, but, in the meantime, I enjoy pretending that I am a digitally rendered avatar of a popular licensed or real-life figure of which I have total control.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood3) Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - The most surprising aspect of this really fun multiplayer update of the great Assassin's Creed sequel is that the story mode is so deep. While the point of the game is to engage in the multiplayer mode for which it was designed, I haven't done so yet because almost everyone in the world beats me at any kind of multiplayer game except when it comes to UFC Undisputed 2010. Even then, I still have a hefty losing record. I imagine I might have more time for some of the multiplayer experience when summer comes around.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds2) Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds- Once upon a time, I played Street Fighter 2 exclusively on an arcade machine and excelled with Ken, Ryu's blonde-haired red gi-wearing counterpart. Eventually, though, the Capcom world passed me by because it became about the number of combination hits a person could get while juggling their opponent in the air. I thought I might have a seizure because it became so frenetic. However, with the inclusion of Thor, Deadpool, and M.O.D.O.K. (Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), I couldn't resist this game. This is another one that I wouldn't dare ever play online, but it's really fun watching the Hulk smash things up.

EA SPORTS MMA1) EA Sports MMA - Ugh, this game is so frustrating. There was a ton of hype for this game prior to release because EA is considered the standard bearer of sports games, and UFC president Dana White famously denounced EA in the press because before UFC Undisputed 2009's development, EA refused to even meet with the company, calling UFC "not a real sport." Once THQ's first UFC game became a hit, EA changed their tune and started to develop this title.

Here's the thing: I have two go-to games that I always return to once I either beat or grow tired of the latest game. Either I go right back to playing the latest WWE or UFC release because for each one I can play one or two matches, not stink, and then turn it off. My standards for this type of game, then, are going to be fairly high. EA Sports MMA does not come close to measuring up to those standards. Since the reviews were poor and sales from the week of release were in the toilet (and because I am cheap), I waited for a significant price drop before buying it but I wish I had just stuck to a rental.

However, there are a few things that work and I note these in the hopes that THQ will swipe them to use in the next installment of UFC Undisputed. The one aspect of MMA that EA got perfectly right is submissions. The spinning the right control stick debacle that THQ calls "the shine" makes submissions nearly impossible in Undisputed. EA created a system that fits organically with how each submission works in the context of a fight: finding a sweet spot to apply a choke and working to hyperextend a joint for a limb attack. It makes sense because each type of submission requires a different approach by a fighter, unlike the same approach each time that THQ employs. Other things that work: facial damage and the aftermath of such damage looks as devastating as it does in a real MMA fight and the career mode is fun to play instead of a chore.

The good parts end there, though. Everything else about the game feels superficial and one-dimensional. UFC Undisputed does a great job of making each fighter feel independent and unique with striking, takedown and submission animations that are unique to that fighter. None of this exists in EA Sports MMA. The striking, employed by utilizing the right control stick, is basic and difficult to manage, not to mention limiting. Even if the creators had made unique animations for each fighter, they would only have what feels like three strikes per limb compared to the what feels like twelve to fifteen per limb of UFC Undisputed. Considering EA managed to procure every name fighter not under contract to UFC AND Randy Couture, you'd think they would take the time to make the fighters feel unique during gameplay and not interchangeable. Where is Nick Diaz's pitter-patter boxing style or Bas Rutten's liver kicks? Nowhere, that's where. And while it's nice that the creators gave the game and the sport its worldwide appeal by including different rules and arenas, there's no real difference in gameplay between fighting in a ring or a cage, which is the entire point of including the two.

And, yet again, I've written way too much about MMA in my teaching blog.

We have almost two weeks of catching up to do! Yikes! Plus, this entry is getting long, so I'll hide the whole purpose for this blog under a cut.

We read through the pivotal act three, scene one events of Mercutio's death, Tybalt's death and Romeo's subsequent exile on Wednesday and Thursday, February 23 and 24. Once we finished the scene on Thursday, you watched two different versions of the same scene, both wildly different in approach to Shakespeare's original text. To me, Zeffirelli and Luhrman's differing approaches to the same sequence of events represents the best aspects of both Shakespeare and the study of English. It's all about interpretation; neither Franco nor Baz are wrong in how they present Tybalt killing Mercutio and Romeo then killing Tybalt. Both have equal justification for how they view that scene, and the same goes for our class' interpretation of it.

Friday, February 25, through last Wednesday, we completed our reading of act three.

You received your character analysis essay for Romeo & Juliet on Wednesday. Expect some pre-writing for it this coming week as we finish up the play and a draft by the middle of next week. The final draft will be due Friday, March 18, right before spring break.

Thursday, we started to power through act four, which provides some key plot elements but, overall, is the weakest of the acts in the play. We'll be done with it by Monday.

Friday, even though I wasn't there, you moved forward.

We spent Wednesday through Friday, February 23 - 25, watching Roman Polanski's version of Macbeth, discussing the film's interpretation of events, and working on the film interpretation questions. You also signed up for School Loop, and I'm envisioning some kind of bonus assignment to encourage your parents to also sign up for the service if they haven't already. Look out for that next week.

Monday, we started our unit on existentialism and The Stranger (which is only $4.89 over at Amazon if you click that link). As much as I enjoy discussing Shakespeare and the goings-on of everyone's favorite despotic king of Scotland, I get that it's not for everyone and that said folks tend to tune out pretty early. Existentialism provides way more fodder for great discussion, and I especially love the existentialism "pre-test" from last Monday. Consider how well it encapsulates the metaphorical experience of being: there's a pre-determined time limit; you're unaware of when it will end, but know that it will eventually; finally, it's up to you to respond (not solve, mind you) the problem of the blank state presented to you. That's the best part, but it's also the most maddening. Like life, it's up to you to decide what to do with the space and time available to you, whether that be a blank area on a half sheet of paper for eleven minutes or the indeterminate amount of time you receive to exist in this absurd universe. Crazy, right? Connections! That's what English (the class) is all about.

We continued along this line with the Personal Quality Inventory and discussion of it on Tuesday.

Wednesday, we read Ernest Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and you answered questions about the younger waiter with a wife, the older waiter and the deaf old man. The following Thursday, you received someone else's answers and then evaluated said answers based on the criteria I provided.

I was gone Friday, but you received your bookmark for Albert Camus' The Stranger, the reading journal for the same, and some time to read through chapter one. You must finish part one by Thursday, March 10 because we'll have a quiz that day. The reading journal will be due Friday, March 18, the same day you'll need to be finished with the book and take the final on it.

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