Spider-Man PS4 first impressions

spider-man-ps4-poll.900x

… because, sure, let’s mention Spider-Man in every single post this week.  I’m not a geek or anything, no.

I’m … fifteen percent, I think, into the new Spider-Man game; enough to have a solid early idea of what the game’s about but not far enough that my opinions have to be taken all that seriously just yet.  But what the hell; I don’t really wanna talk about my job or politics, I can’t talk about my current Sekret Projekt other than that I have one and I’m not gabbing about it, and nothing especially funny has happened yesterday so I may as well gabble about video games.

And here’s the thing, so far: this game right now seems to be at its strongest when it’s a webbing around New York simulator; moving anywhere is a simply ridiculous amount of fun, to the point where I’m frequently ignoring crimes and activities in favor of just seeing what the most ridiculous way I can get from point A to point B is.  The combat is okay so far; the balletic, combo-heavy style that these guys pioneered with the wildly overrated Arkham Asylum series works a lot better with Spider-Man than it ever did with Batman, so combat looks really good and fits the character.  That said, the first big boss fight with Kingpin is utterly ridiculous and basically involves endlessly beating on a damage sponge with no health bar over and over until the game decides to trigger a cutscene and move on to the next part where you endlessly do the same two moves on a damage sponge.  I really hope all the boss fights aren’t like this; they’re gonna get tedious really fast, and also Kingpin just isn’t that strong.  Kingpin is not a “throw you through three walls and bash you through the floor” character, guys.  He fights Daredevil.  This version of the character fights like he could go toe-to-toe with the Hulk or Thor, which is just stupid.

Also: I keep accidentally doing terrible, not-Spider-Man sorts of things to people.  Spider-Man is one of those “doesn’t kill” good guys, right?  Which is kind of a problem, because I have a bad habit of doing air combos on bad guys and punching them off the sides of buildings.  Very tall buildings.  Where I can only assume they fall to their deaths, because there’s no “web them and save them” animation happening after I do that.

I once accidentally threw a car door at a civilian, which was, if nothing else, kinda mean.  I didn’t mean to!  I swear!

This game also has a case of Call of Duty syndrome.  And, okay, it’s a stupid thing to complain about, I know, because video game, but New York is not been and never has been quite this crime-ridden.  I mean, holy crap guys, it’s a wonder anyone lives here.

(What’s Call of Duty syndrome?  Play Call of Duty on the highest difficulty level.  You will die.  You will die over and over and over and over and over and over again and you will only eventually be successful by virtue of the fact that you can come back to life after you die.  I am then forced to conclude that Call of Duty is harder to survive than actual war, because no one can survive Call of Duty on Legendary and lots of people survive wars.  Members of my family have!  I’m only alive because my grandfather survived World War II!)

But, again:  webbing around is fun.  And I’m gripey about some other aspects of the game but they keep adding new fun ways for me to beat people up and we’ll see how things go as the game continues.  I also (and this may mitigate my annoyance with the Kingpin fight) am kind of enjoying some of their alterations to the “standard” Marvel canon– Peter is working with Otto Octavius, who isn’t Dr. Octopus yet, and Mary Jane Watson (who is adorable) works for the Daily Planet.  J. Jonah Jameson appears to be some sort of right-wing podcaster or radio host now, which I can work with, I suppose.

The boy loves it, by the way.  It’s the first PS4 game I’ve let him play, so he’s relying a bit too much on handing me the controller, but he’s having a blast with the web-slinging.

More to come later, assuming I don’t get distracted by Dark Souls II and play that instead.

#Review: MJ-12: ENDGAME, by Michael J. Martinez

510yHfinWeL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_The usual set of disclaimers before I review any Michael J. Martinez book:  I’ve reviewed nearly everything he’s written on this blog somewhere, and not only did he thank me by name in the afterword of one of his earlier books, my review of MJ-12: Shadows is actually excerpted inside MJ-12: Endgame.  On top of that, he was nice enough to provide a book blurb for Tales: The Benevolence Archives, Vol. 3which I have featured right on the front cover.  I’ve never met the guy but if I ever do he’s gonna get a hug and there’s nothing he can do about it.

(Well, okay, there probably is.  But I’m hoping the police don’t get involved.)

Now, that said: I bought this book all by myself with my own money on purpose and there is no universe where I’m gonna write a fake positive review just to curry favor.  If I hadn’t liked it, I’d just never mention reading it on the site.

We good?  Okay.

One way or another it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I really liked this book.  MJ-12: ENDGAME is the third and final book in the MJ-12 trilogy, an alternative history book about CIA spies with superhuman powers (called Variants in this series) during the Cold War.  As usual, the premise all by itself earns the book a read for me, and this particular novel begins with the death of Stalin in 1952 and basically covers the CIA’s machinations to make sure that the head of Stalin’s secret police, Lavrentiy Beria (go ahead, click the link, I’d only barely heard of him too,) doesn’t end up in charge of the USSR.

Only, minor twist: Beria is a Variant, and can sorta shoot flames out of his hands, and he’s also in control of the Soviet Union’s still-very-much-a-secret Variant program.  MJ-12: Shadows sent me to Wikipedia to check up on stuff after I read it.  Endgame had me doing research damn near immediately, because I wanted to make sure the minimal stuff I remember from the couple of books about Stalin I’ve read was mostly accurate.

So you can read Endgame on a bunch of levels.  If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy it because the Cold War is interesting enough on its own and the Soviet Union immediately post-Stalin was, uh, a bit more volatile than most of the time.  If you like spy novels, you’ll get a great old-school spycraft novel, only with people with superhuman abilities instead of James Bond-style fancy gadgets.  And if you like superheroes, well, you won’t exactly get superheroes per se– these folks are spies, with all the moral gray areas that implies, and some of them make some, uh, rather cold decisions over the course of the book– but the range of powers Martinez’ characters have and the various drawbacks and limitations of those powers are fascinating.  There’s a great balancing act going on in this book– there are a lot of characters, and while the book does a decent act of standing on its own I’d strongly recommend reading the first two first, because there are so many moving pieces, such as an entire subplot going on involving the Korean War.  The end result is an elegantly-written, complex novel that still manages to clock in at just barely over 300 pages.  There’s not a wasted page anywhere in this book, guys; it’s that well-done.

My only complaint?  I want more, and while Martinez doesn’t exactly tie the universe up with a bow on it the ending makes it clear that while there is definitely space for future books in this universe they will take place in an entirely different status quo.  That said, this series is radically different in tone and genre from the Daedalus series, Mike’s previous trilogy, and I genuinely can’t wait to see what he’s got coming next.

All available stars; would read again; you should go read now.

In which I shitpost

I don’t actually have anything of substance to say tonight, to the point where I’m not going to bother cross-posting this to Facebook like I usually do.  I’m mostly just posting because I’ve had a nice little run going for the last several weeks and I’m coming out of my September Death Cold (TM) just in time to go back to work.  So… thank unions for three-day weekends, I suppose, because otherwise I’d have had to take off from work and now I don’t have to.  Yay?

temperIt was actually a pretty pleasant weekend despite all the near-death nonsense.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the weekends lately, and this weekend I finished Foundryside, which was amazing, and then read Nicky Drayden’s new book Temper from cover to cover too.  I reviewed her previous book, The Prey of Gods, and it was one of those books where I didn’t necessarily like it all that much but the goddamn thing was oozing potential to the degree where not buying her second book really wasn’t something I even considered.    Here’s the thing about Nicky Drayden: each of her books, so far, have actually been six books.  Temper is just as stuffed full of ideas as TPoG, but it’s a bit more cohesive and less insane and while it still wasn’t quite a five-star read for me I am absolutely still onboard for her next book and think you should check one or both of them out.

This has been a spectacular year for reading, guys.

Hmm.  I guess that counts as a topic for the post?  Sure, why not?

Go read FOUNDRYSIDE right now

81lmKNW7T0L.jpg

Guys I am very tired and very sick and I should have been in bed an hour ago but instead I started this 500-page book like last night or maybe the night before that again I’ve been sick and this weekend is a bit of a blur but holy shit it’s good and I just finished it after reading basically all day and you need to read it now now now now dammit now why are you still here

God I need sleep

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: THE DAY MY BUTT WENT PSYCHO

TheDayMyButtWentPsychoProfile.jpg

So the boy has figured out how to use the Netflix app on his (my) iPad, meaning that he no longer really watches “TV” in the classic sense, ie, on an actual television.  He’s also become a bit less likely to get religion about a show for weeks at a time.  The New Hotness might last only a few days now before he moves onto something else.  Also, because he’s watching on a personal device, what he’s watching requires a bit more direct monitoring than the TV, which gets shoved into my brain if I’m in the room whether I want to or not.

A couple of weeks ago I’m sitting in my recliner, probably reading or something, and he’s on the couch watching some damn thing on the iPad.  After a few minutes, I realize that the word butt has floated into my earballs just a bit more than random chance might otherwise suggest, and I start paying attention.   And the word butt continues to fly from the iPad.

“Boy, what the hell are you watching?”

“The Day my Butt went Psycho,” he says.

“What’s it really called?” I say.

This confuses him.  At any rate, he’s telling the truth, and The Day My Butt Went Psycho is an actual fucking show, made by Canadians and Australians, no less, two peoples who I thought had more sense than this, and based on an actual book.  Although it doesn’t appear to be actually about a particular day, or anyone’s particular butt going psycho.  No, this show’s actually the weirdest post-apocalyptic fantasy in television history:

Butts!  Always one step behind.  Years ago, butts rose up to overthrow humanity.  People fought back!  And now an uneasy peace remains, as the world waits for the next great buttfighter!

Here, there, everywhere, 
Butts are loose but we don’t care
I’m teaming up with my butt
Cheek for cheek, an awesome pair
We’ve got the same DNA
Kicking butt in every waaaaay
Zach and Deuce forever!

I…

I have so many questions.  How many years ago did this happen?  Decades?  Just a couple of years?  Has Zach’s butt Deuce always been detatched, or as the show implies, did it happen when he was a teenager?  Are children born with their butts detatched?  Can butts reproduce on their own without human assistance?  Do butts automatically match their humans in gender?  How the hell does pooping and digestion in general work now? Do butts need to eat?

What the merry fuck is buttfighting?  Why is the world waiting for a buttfighter, and how will a buttfighter help with the “uneasy peace” between people and butts?  Zach and Deuce are best friends; are they unusual in this respect?  Do most people not get along with their butts?  How does that work?  What happens to the people whose butts were killed during the Great Butt Uprising?  What happens to the butts whose people were killed during the Great Butt Uprising?  Have animals also lost their butts?  What about other living things who possess a digestive system and a means of excretion but do not, precisely speaking, have what we would call a “butt”?

What exactly is a butt, anyway?

I need to know the answers to these questions.  But without, like, watching the show or anything, because I just cannot handle this number of butt-related puns, with episodes like Butt I’m a Cheerleader and Jurassic Fart and Game of Porcelain Thrones and My God Just Kill Me and maybe I made up that last one.

This show is not telling the stories I want to hear.  I need worldbuilding here, people!  Exposition!  When are the prequels coming out?  I must know about the uprising.

God help me.

God help us all.