Monday, September 26, 2011

Major Changes

You know, I wrote this thing several times in my head. I even started writing a few times, but really, there's no way around it. I've been emotionally fucked up for a while and it's all because of the major changes that I've been dealing with over the past year. There has been a lot of death, abuse, heartbreak and a plethora of other things that are bad enough when singled out, but combined, they are one hell of an emotional force. As a result, I'm having a lot of trouble moving on.

When my brother moved out, it was only slightly weird at first, but now it's incredibly hard to deal with. We had our disagreements, but he was the one person in the house that I got along with enough to talk to and share laughs with on a daily basis. I still remember the many days when we would yell through the hallway to talk to each other. But those days are no more. I have to text or call my brother to talk to him and even then, it's not often that I get to spend time with him. I suppose I get to spend more time with him than anyone else, aside from his awesome girlfriend and daughter, so that's cool. But even still, it's a big deal. The entire situation here has changed as a result. I'm very happy for all of them and I know they'll have a great life together. I guess it comes down to one fact: I miss my little brother.

Of course, that's not all. Most of you know that I've had plenty of trouble with my ex-girlfriend. That would all be nothing more than a memory, but it's difficult to let go. I know many of you have been in this situation, so you'll understand where I'm coming from. When I wake up, I want to roll over and see her there. When I'm watching a movie, I wish she were cuddled up with me. And as much as I may deny it, plenty of things still remind me of her. Even right down to the video games I play. It's very problematic because she's hurt me quite badly in some very fucked up ways and I realize that things probably wont get any better, yet somehow, in the back of my mind, there's that little voice that keeps telling me to give her another chance. That voice doesn't stop. It's like there's some immense force driving me towards her, even though she's done nothing but hurt me.

Speaking of relationships, lady trouble is not the only issue I've had. While I have plenty of awesome friends, quite a few people that I once considered to be "besties" have come to use me as a last resort. Even some people that I once considered to be my closest friends have simply left me in the dust, like some kind of casual acquaintance. It's rather obnoxious and quite frankly, it's another push in the wrong direction.

And then there's the issue of money. I've been screwed over and as a result, several very good job opportunities have passed me by. No matter how qualified I may be, regardless of how amazing an interview may be and even if I call them several times to inquire about each position, I just can't find work. Not even minimum wage work for 8 hours per week. Not even something decent "under the table." It's starting to really kill me. I have no money to do anything, I can't afford to pay my own bills, I can't afford health insurance and I definitely can't begin to get my life back together until I manage to find some kind of work. And I know, "You'll find one eventually, Steve!" But the point is, I need a job NOW. Not "eventually." It's driving me fucking crazy and is ruining my life in a very literal sense.

Tack on my crazy and often demoralizing and demeaning family. Throw in a dash of insmonia. Finally, add tons of panic attacks for good measure. That's my life.

My life was moving uphill. I was getting everything together, climbing that ladder and really starting to plan out a bit of school to get into some "proof" of what I know, to put it lightly. I was feeling good about myself, despite my lack of time.

Within' a year, I had it and lost it all. Everything has changed.

What happens next?

Personally, I have no idea where to go from here. I'll just keep trying until something positive happens, but I'm a realist. I understand that there's no guarantee. That's exactly what scares me right now.

What happens when serious stuff happens, like the death of parents? I don't want that to happen; no one does. But it's an unavoidable fact of life and you can never truly be prepared for that sort of thing. We don't get along very often, but my life would seemingly not even work without them at this point in time.

There's a lot of terrifying stuff going on in my mind and I honestly wish I could afford a real shrink right now. I don't know if I just need someone to talk to every week or some magic anti-anxiety and anti-depression pills, but whatever the case may be, my brain is in a very bad place right now.

I'm going to stop writing for now and attempt to get some sleep. For now, good night.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dead Island


                       !!!YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!


So, I've been caught in a crossfire lately. Some people say "Dead Island" is amazing, while others completely hate on it. Even the critics have a heavy bias, most of which seems to be based purely on first impressions and isolated issues.

This is where I put my foot down. I'm going to break the entire game down, piece by piece, and shed light on absolutely every aspect of this seemingly "love it or hate it" game because I'm tired of hearing such ridiculous claims based on what appears to be absolutely nothing.

It's time to cut the bullshit. Let's break everything down, bit by bit.


Almost the entire game is spent fighting groups of the undead using various melee weapons, ranging from hammers and wooden planks to machetes and hat stands. There are even katanas, although most of those seem to pop up only near the final portions of the game.

Guns do make an appearance, but there is only a small selection of firearms and ammo is scarce throughout most of the game. You can make your own ammo after a certain point, but you can only hold a small amount of ammo for each type of gun, which limits their overall usage.

There are a few parts of the game that involve slaughtering groups of humans. Most of the humans carry pistols, with a handful of them sporting assault rifles and shotguns. During these scenes, combat boils down to a series of rooms that feel like a dumbed down first-person shooter. Guns are clunky and aside from these scenes, relatively inefficient.

Molotov Cocktails and Grenades are also found here and there, but they can be just as harmful to the player as to the undead. There's also the possibility of completely destroying any survivors you may be escorting, as they tend to run into the still-burning flames.

I'd say the problem with the combat mechanics is a serious case of repetition. While there are new zombie types thrown into the mix from time to time, the game still boils down to spamming the left bumper and the right trigger with little to no actual skill involved. Throw in a weapon swap here and there to avoid broken weapons and you're pretty much done. That's the combat in a nutshell.

To elaborate on the idea of weapon durability, it's pretty much that simple. Weapons have a set number of durability points, which are drained every time a hit connects with an enemy. You can simply go to a workbench to repair weapons, which removes the need to constantly pick up new weapons in a pinch. And yes, it's true that completely broken weapons are far more expensive to repair, but money is such an easy thing to come by that it's almost a completely pointless argument.

On top of that, the death mechanics also take away the thrill of combat and really make this would-be difficult game a walk in the park. As it stands, death is just a minor setback. If you've played BioShock, you have a general idea of how death works in "Dead Island".

When you die, a timer counts down from 5 to 0. After the counter hits 0, you simply respawn at your last checkpoint and continue on your merry way. This would make the game a challenge, but there are checkpoints all over the place and the game leaves all enemies dead after you respawn. You can literally rush into a mob of enemies, kill a few, die, come back, rinse and repeat until they're all dead.

To be fair, you do retain your previous inventory status after respawning. If you used a grenade, it's gone. If you broke a weapon, it will still be broken. If you used all of your health packs, you guess it! They're gone, too! But this is barely a form of balance because the damage done by those lost items sticks. The game world stays persistent even after death.

So, to reiterate the point: This game would be hard as balls if death meant something, but as it stands, death means absolutely nothing. I understand allowing death as it is for players that prefer easy games, but there should be a toggle for players that want a real thrill. It's a shame that such a toggle doesn't exist, but there's always hope for a patch!

Much like "Borderlands", each of the 4 playable characters has a unique "Fury" mode, which allows them to do various things. Sam B., for example, goes into a fit of rage that allows him to punch enemies into the air, as well as regenerate extra health for every kill. His fists also gain a tremendous amount of damage during this mode.

These "Fury" abilities are unlocked using the skill system, but activating them requires the player to build up Rage, which accumulates by simply killing things, getting hurt and all sorts of other unlockable methods. When the Rage meter is filled, you simply hold down the appropriate button and go nuts. This can be a real lifesaver and really makes the game easy if you focus on building up the Fury skills early on.

Moving on, the final piece of combat in "Dead Island" is the stamina system. This is a basic idea that has been used in other games, so there's not a whole lot to explain. A bar pops up on screen every time you swing a weapon, as well as when you're sprinting. When the bar has been emptied, you must wait a few seconds to catch your breath before you can continue about your business. This adds a very small bit of micromanagement, but overall it's not a huge problem, since kicks drain absolutely no stamina and help to keep enemies at bay while you take a few steps back for 3-4 seconds.

[RPG Features]

There are a few basic RPG features tacked on for good measure, but I get the feeling that those things are far from necessary in this particular case. But even still, that's neither here nor there.

There's a level cap of 50, as well as a set of (mostly different) skill trees for each of the 4 playable characters. There's also a very basic loot system. Each of these mechanics comes together to form a system that comes very close to what "Borderlands" turned out to be.

Experience is gained from quests, kills and breaking limbs, just as in "Borderlands". You accept a quest, complete it, come back, turn it in, get your reward, rinse and repeat until the game is complete. Experience points eventually lead to a level up, which grants 1 skill point. Skill points are used to unlock various perks, which ultimately make your chosen character more capable of survival.

The skill trees contain things like health regeneration, increased inventory space, passive damage bonuses and the previously mentioned Fury talents. They're a nice addition, but aside from Fury, nothing is an absolute necessity. None of the Combat or Survival perks really make a huge difference, but they do give characters a slight (and very welcome) edge under pressure.

As for the loot system, it comes in the form of a very basic random stat/prefix design. When a weapon drops, the game generates a random set of stats within' the level range and modifies said attributes based on the prefix. For example, a "Toxic" prefix means lots of poison damage, while a "Heavy" prefix means a whole lot of extra bone-breaking power. This system allows for a bit of loot-whoring, but really there's not a whole lot of potential here because the best weapons are guaranteed quest rewards, which are set to your level. So, for example, if you hit the level cap of 50, then complete the quest for the best katana, it'll be the best version of the weapon in the game, which means you'll never need another weapon after you've upgraded it and tacked on your favorite weapon mod.

Speaking of which, weapons can also be upgraded and customized. Upgrades are simple (permanent) stat bonuses, which come in 4 levels. Most weapons come at level 1 and can be upgraded to level 4, each of which simply costs a random amount of money. The last level is always the most expensive, but also adds the highest amount of damage and the like.

Customization adds a prefix and custom design to the weapon. By finding a blueprint, gathering the materials and spending those materials with a small amount of cash, you can turn any weapon into a destructive powerhouse. The "Short-Circuit" mod, for example, is a very powerful lightning mod that adds heavy shock damage and a chance to completely paralyze (shock) enemies.

The visual changes are sometimes cool, but other times they look extremely "homebrew". That's the entire point, given that this game is supposed to be somewhat realistic, but it's hard to say, "THAT LOOKS AWESOME!" when a machete simply has 2 wires and a battery held up with some tape. In other cases, a spinning circle blade tacked onto a baseball bat, for example, are totally badass and a sight to behold.


This is going to be very brief, but I have to explain this because I've had a lot of questions from interested friends about this.

It's true that most of the game is spent on foot, but a good 10-15% of the game is spent driving around. It's a shame that this wasn't more varied because it's a fun little addition to break up the repetition from time to time.

There are only 3 real usable vehicles in the game: Trucks, Jeeps and an Armored Van. Of them, most of the driving time is spent in the exact same style of truck. Most of the time, the truck is going to be red or blue, but there are a few other colors here and there. For a few missions, there's an Armored Van. And for a specific sequence, there's a Jeep. That's it.

No cars. No exotic things. No helicopters. Not even cool skins or vinyls. It's just a solid color and a single type of truck.

And for the record, driving is simple. It's very unrealistic and the handling is far too good. Granted, this is not a racing sim, so it's to be expected. But I felt it necessary to point this stuff out to answer all of those questions.


I'm going to go ahead and say it, no bullshit: The story sucks. In fact, it's quite literally "Escape The Island" with a very small twist at the end, which anyone that has a brain can see coming from miles away.

But to sum the premise up, a group of people are on an island resort, a crazy zombie outbreak occurs and the 4 main characters meet up. When they meet up, they fight for their lives across 4 acts, 3 of which are very lengthy. They go from an island to a city, then into a forest and finally, a prison, which ultimately leads to their escape.

Not much happens during the major cutscenes, the ending sucks and yes, there's hope for a proper sequel, so long as Techland is up to the task.


There's a decent bit of variation, but due to the length of each area, the change of scenery gets old quickly. Plus, there are a ton of reused textures, buildings and character models. The same goes for weapons; most of them are just the same model, but with a different name. This even applies to vehicles, which was clarified above.

Overall, there's not a whole lot of variation, as the game really does boil down to "Go from point A to point B, killing stuff along the way and possibly accomplish a very basic task". Escort quests, gather quests and simply going from point A to point B are the bread and butter of this game.

As for the enemy variation, there are a handful of zombies and then there are humans. Zombies range from explosive "Suicidal" zombies to very fast "Butcher" zombies, while humans are either wielding a firearm or a melee weapon. And yes, things do start feeling very repetitious after a point due to the lack of variation, but the character models change depending on the area, which keeps things feeling a bit different as you switch between the various areas of the game.


The multiplayer is much like "Borderlands", but without the PVP and without the broken quest system.

There are 2 ways to play: Join another person or have someone join you.

Scenario 1: Someone joins you - You continue playing as normal, but with help. Your progress is saved. They do not gain any progress towards their single player game, but they retain all items, experience and rewards from their time playing with you.

Scenario 2: You join someone else - You drop out of your single player game and join them in their quest. All of their current quests are given to you, including any quests that you've completed. If they have it, you have it. You keep all experience, items, upgrades, rewards and everything else you obtain in these sessions, which are saved directly to your character for use in other single player/multiplayer sessions.

Clearly, the problem is that joining someone else means no progress for you. Even if you progress through quests you've yet to finish on your own, it does not save that progress to your single player game.

One important thing to note, though: If you reach a milestone, you do get your achievements. So if you clear an act, collect 120 objects, kill 250 enemies; whatever -- you still gain your achievements, regardless of whether or not you're online or playing solo.

This multiplayer system is a great way to play with and help out your friends, but if you're trying to progress through your own story mode, it's better to invite people to your game or simply play alone.


I can easily see people replaying this game to make one of each character at level 50, or even just hopping between games to play with friends. Still, after every achievement is collected and friends are done with the game, there will be no reason to come back. It just doesn't have the same fun factor as things like "Dead Rising".

Even with that in mind, assuming you're the type of player to complete the game as every character, it will take a minimum of 10 hours per playthrough, cutting out all sidequests and only rushing through the required things to finish the game each time. A whole lot more if you're intent on re-exploring the game in it's entirety each and every time.

If you're just trying to beat the game, I'd say a good 12-13 hours if you only do the bare minimum. It took me just under 20 hours and I completed every sidequest and did a fair amount of exploring, as well as a few "pause the game for 30 minutes" sessions, so I would assume that a good 6-8 hours could be cut off that time by skipping the extras, since there is quite a lot of that stuff to be experienced.


People have been complaining far too much about the visual quality found all throughout this game. It blows my mind. I think people are expecting more than the current generation of consoles can handle.

The resort is gorgeous, the forest is exactly what you would expect, the city looks exactly like I would imagine a run-down city would and the other areas, such as the prison, are equally well-made.

There are a few minor graphical glitches, but they are very rare. So rare, in fact, that I can only recall 1 particular instance, which only lasted for a few seconds. I could not recreate that glitch, either. And it was not game-breaking. It was just a weird cosmetic blemish in the ground that looked like pixelated grey blocks.

As for the actual texture quality, this game looks about as good as any other high-end console game. It wont match the power of "Crysis 2", "Killzone 3" or "Resident Evil 5", but considering the amount of content being dealt with, the "Chrome Engine 5" handles things very well.

If anyone tells you this game is ugly, punch them in the jeans. They clearly don't understand what "good graphics" are and probably expect everything to look like real life, in which case they should just go take a walk outside for a while.


At the end of the day, "Dead Island" is a great game, but it fails to meet the initial expectations based on the original gameplay footage, the trailers and the immense amount of marketing hype. It's a very fun experience that any zombie fan should delve into head-first, but don't expect the next big thing. This not the next big multiplayer zombie game and there are no groundbreaking features. It is exactly what it is: Dead Island.

Before I stop for the day, I need to say something else...

Do I think my opinion means more than your opinion? Definitely not. But if your opinion is not based on experience, I'll write it off. And if your opinion makes extreme claims that are not based on an actual bit of truth, you can proceed to suck a generous amount of dicks.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Life comes with two guarantees: A beginning and an end. How your life plays out is, for the most part, your choice.

There's also a bit of luck, whether it be good or bad, but otherwise, you call the shots. No matter how you may think or what you may feel, you nearly always have a choice.

You are in control of your own life. There is no driving force choosing your course of actions. You have free will.

Now, all of that may seem pointless and rehashed, but there's a reason that I felt compelled to explain such basic concepts of life: Love.

Most of you know that I was in a relationship that started shortly after I met my ex-girlfriend. Her and I clicked immediately and fell in love. It was pure and innocent. The whole thing was wonderful. We felt like nothing could stop us and it showed. People even thought that we would get married someday, simply based on how happy we were. We never even had serious arguments.

Well, such a good thing had to come to an end. Say what you will, but I truly did not expect an end with her. I loved her deeply and I wanted nothing more than to take her as my bride and settle down. Far off in the future, of course. But even still, it was a nice thought.

Before I go on, please take note that I'm not going to sit here and write up everything that happened yet again, so please go back and check out older posts if you feel the need to catch up.

Anyway, after all was said and done, she kept pressing my buttons. She kept saying, but not doing. She kept barking, but not biting. She kept claiming that she was in control of her life, yet she had not done a single thing of her own free will. Her family owned her and they still do.

Yes, I know that may sound cruel, but it's the truth. She has a great relationship with her family, but it's to the point that she will not do anything without her mother's approval.

And of course, there was also the constant lies. I can not deal with the lies. There's a difference between lying and being a liar. She is a liar. It's the worst case of this I've ever encountered, even compared to good ol' Dan Gibson and a few choice others.

I do love her. Please do not make the mistake of assuming otherwise. However, I must stay away from her until that love has completely faded. I must move on. I cannot allow myself to be lied to, pushed aside and hurt constantly. I cannot allow myself to give in to her begging, only to be pushed down and hurt all over again each and every time.

That said, there comes a time when a relationship is damaged beyond repair. It sucks. It's unfortunate. But you know what? That's life.

I have to move on. I will move on. And while that love is still fading, I'm ready to face the world again while the rest of that leaves my system. It wont take forever, after all.

So, I say to you: I was dead inside, but now I'm alive. I had no desire to fight, but I have been reinvigorated. I was depressed far more than I ever had been, but I'm starting to enjoy life again. I have problems, but they will not pin me down forever. Things are rough, but life will get better eventually.

I was lost, but the fog has been lifted and I'm on my way back.

Fire in heart, heart in hand, fist clenched; I'm ready. Let's rock.