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2010: A Look Ahead

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Well, I suppose there's good news. Publishers didn't release so many games in 2009 that I have no hope of playing them all. (I think there's still a few 2008 titles missing from my shelf)

The BAD news is that it's because they were all delayed until 2010.

I have the first few months planned out. I'm firmly in the world of Ferelden until late January, when Mass Effect 2 comes out. Hopefully I'll get my fill of that by March, when the much-anticipated Final Fantasy XIII finally comes out.

The rest of the year is wide-open, though. I'm looking closely at several titles:

Bioshock 2
Dragon Quest IX
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Transformers: War for Cybertron

This will also probably be the year I finally pick up a PS3. I'm very interested in Heavy Rain and White Knight Chronicles.

Of course, I HAVE to bring the Massive back sometime soon. I'll likely be splitting my time between two games this year.

Cataclysm looks to be fixing many of the problems I currently have with WoW. Additionally, I will DEFINITELY be playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. I MAY even sneak into Final Fantasy XIV a bit on the weekends if my girlfriend decides to move on from FFXI.

Are there any big games I missed that you're looking forward to, reader?

2009: Games of the Year

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What were my games of the year?

Keep in mind, these are only the best of the games I played.

3: Dragon Age: Origins

No game of the year list, in ANY year, would be complete without a listing from BioWare. They are the best at what they do, and DA:O is the best of what they've done. Now, this ranking is based upon my playing the Xbox 360 version. With lesser graphics and controls (with tuned-down difficulty to compensate for the less intuitive interface), it only merits #3 on my list. Perhaps I would rank it higher if I played the PC version.

2: Persona 4

Okay, I'm cheating a bit on this one. TECHNICALLY, P4 came out last year. However, it released so late in the year, it was left off most lists for 2008. As such, I'm ranking it this year. I've previously written about the game. Bottom line: I'm still playing it ten months later.

1: Modern Warfare 2

I always catch a lot of crap from the internet when I say this is the best game I played all year. I think some people just naturally hate anything that's popular. Though, don't you think there's a REASON things are popular to begin with? The first Modern Warfare reinvented what is expected from a shooter. Much like, Half Life, Halo and Goldeneye before it, Modern Warfare did things that no other shooter did at the time.

Modern Warfare 2 has the same incredible multiplayer DESIGN as the first. Any popular game is going to be filled with jerks that ruin it, but the gameplay itself is some of the best competitive multiplayer I've ever seen, with a plethora of game modes and an almost endless supply of weapon and equipment combinations. You can play whatever game you want, HOWEVER you want. On top of this, Infinity Ward has added the Special Ops mode. This two-player cooperative mode pits you and a friend against an amazing variety of missions. Stealth, assault, defense, escort, driving, flying, name it and it's here. It's not just run-and-gun, though. Tactics and communication are the keys to victory. This alone makes Modern Warfare 2 the best multiplayer game of the year.

In case you haven't heard, Modern Warfare 2 offers a robust Campaign mode, as well. Plenty of games have a good story. MW2's story may be a bit convoluted, but it's pretty good, especially by shooter standards. Yes, there are shooters with better stories, but not many. I will say two things about the story. First, it moves at a very quick pace, advancing the missions structure perfectly. Each mission is just long enough to be fulfilling, without becoming boring. Second, I cared. The way the story is told, the way it interjected me into the story, the events it forced me to live through, it all combined to make me care. I didn't just want to SEE what happened next, I wanted to DO it. By the end of the game, I HATED the villain so much that I actually CHEERED at the end.

So yes, for offering some of the best gameplay I've ever experienced, and one of the most emotionally engrossing stories, Modern Warfare 2 is my game of the year.

2009: Wins and Losses

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With the year dwindling away, I thought I'd take a look at what went well and what... didn't.


3: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Name the last good Batman game. Go on, I dare you. Anyone? Bueller? Right. Arkham is the first Batman game in, let's just say, ever to even be playable. Not content to just make a FUNCTIONAL game, Rocksteady Studios went and made a GOOD one. Not only did they make it GOOD, they made it RIGHT. Bringing in Kevin Conroy, Mark Hammill and almost the entire voice cast from Batman: The Animated Series was a brilliant move. This wasn't just a bunch of guys making a game, it was a bunch of fans creating a labor of love. I hope for a similar treatment on Transformers: War for Cybertron. The developers have already said they can't have Optimus Prime without Peter Cullen.

2: Modern Warfare 2

Anyone who listened to my segment on For the Lore knows that I LOVE this game. I applaud Infinity Ward's risk-taking. Story-wise, this is perhaps the most immersive game I've ever played.

1: New IPs

2009 is the best year in recent memory for new IPs in games. Brutal Legend, Borderlands, Dragon Age, Shadow Complex and Torchlight are all properties I look forward to spending more time with in the years to come.


3: WoW failing in China

Blizzard can survive without the income from the Chinese market. However, there are LOTS of people in China who want to play games. This is income that many smaller (and I'm using that term relatively) companies rely on to help turn a profit. Not being able to reach a deal in China could cause some borderline-successful games to fail down the road.

2: Aion

Despite what many have said, I STILL think Aion is a fun game, and I would still be playing if I weren't dedicating my time to other pursuits currently. That being said, it looks like the game is on its way to a slow death here in America, joining the ranks of Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Age of Conan and many others as games that just cannon exist in the current WoW-centric MMO market.

1: Console Inequality

Modern Warfare 2 and Borderlands are horribly undersupported on PC. Dragon Age's console versions are inferior to the PC version. Differences in graphics and controls are to be expected. However, removing features, slow content, lack of support and dumbing down features for a "lesser" audience? That's not good business. Release an equal product or hand the ports off to a company that will. In today's market, game companies cannot afford to alienate large portions of their fans.

A Transformer Christmas

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It's been a while since I participated in a blogging-meme-thing.

Tamarind over at Righteous Orbs started it:

I notice that it’s a season for gift-giving, mulled wine, the warm fuzzies and what not … and, putting aside my bah humbug inclinations, I got to thinking, well, how can we can spread a little festive love around here? And, given how connective blogs are and how much we like tagging each other to write things, I came up with a Cunning Plan…

It’s basically a blog-content gift exchange (and it really needs a catchier title), and here’s how it works. If you’d like to play, leave me a comment and in return I’ll give you a subject, or ask you a question … and then you go away and blog about it. It doesn’t have to be a whole blog post, this is meant to be low pressure gift-exchange, but, you know, a comment or a paragraph, or a corner of a post (or a full post, if you want to really indulge me, or feel inspired). And if I suggest something crap or boring in which you have no interest, you can look at it as the equivalent of a pair of novelty socks, say “thank you very much, Tam” and throw it away entirely, and I’ll pretend not to notice and make a mental note not to get you novelty socks next year….

And then, if you feel like it, you can throw it open on your own blog, inviting people to comment if they’re will to blog on a subject of your choosing

Of course, these things spread, so here's my Christmas gift for Syrana.

She asked: "BESIDES Optimus Prime… who is your favorite Transformer and why?"


First of all, he was the coolest toy. A tape deck (remember those?) that held OTHER Transformers shaped like cassettes. Since the cassettes were relatively inexpensive, I had crap-tons of them, but I never got my hands on the big guy himself.

In the show, he was the embodiment of "actions speak louder than words." But when he DOES speak, you better listen. Loyal to the end, he was Megatron's right hand.

Instead of blabbering on, here's a video:

I'll try to give ideas to any willing, but I fear socks may be in your future.

Comics for Noobs: Captain America

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The full listing of Comics for Noobs posts can be found here.

Variant cover to Captain America #600

Captain America. Short of Superman, no comic character is more iconic.

Early Years

Captain America appeared way back in 1941. While rival DC Comics kept their heroes out of world events, Marvel thrust theirs straight into World War II. Captain America and others fought alongside the soldiers in an effort to boost patriotism.

Steve Rogers was your average American youth. Wanting to join the Army, he was sadly rejected because of physical shortcomings. Due to his extreme patriotism, he was given a chance to help his country by volunteering to be a test subject for Project Rebirth. Steve was the only subject to survive being given the Super Soldier Serum and became the pinnacle of human physique.

This is one of Captain America's most endearing qualities. He has no superpowers. While he may possess well-above-average strength, stamina and agility, they are no greater than what any other person could possess. Paired with his brilliant mind, Captain America truly was a Super Soldier.

Unfortunately, Dr. Erskine, the scientist behind Project Rebirth was assassinated shortly after Steve's successful trial. Dr. Erskine never wrote down his research, instead committing everything to memory. His death meant the death of the Super Soldier Serum. Steve Rogers, Captain America, would be the world's ONLY Super Soldier.

While Captain America would fight alongside many other heroes, he is best known for his sidekick, Bucky.

After WWII ended, Cap and Bucky went on one last mission. Attempting to stop a missile heading towards Washinton D.C., Bucky was killed in an explosion, and Captain America was lost at sea.

The Avengers

I've previously discussed Cap's return with The Avengers. There is just one thing I would like to touch on here.

Joining the Avengers is what changed Captain American into Captain FREAKING America. Cap always was the Super Soldier. He was always a great fighter. With the Avengers, he became something more. It takes something special for this collection of heroes to defer to your judgment. Even THOR, the actual Norse God of Thunder, followed Captain America's orders.

This is the draw of the character. Anybody can kick ass. Captain America serves as an inspiration. He truly is a symbol of everything that, not just America, but the entire free world stands for. As a human being reading a fictional character on paper, I was pumped up watching Cap dismantle an entire squad of SHIELD Capekillers during the Civil War.

Modern Day

I don't feel like I'm going to spoil anything here. When a comic book is the lead story on CNN, it ceases to be a "spoiler."

Captain America as a solo hero has always been up and down. In his own books, he goes from Captain FREAKING America back to just Captain America. He's still a great hero, and there's good stories to be told. Just, personally, I've always preferred him in a team setting.

In 2004, Cap's solo series was relaunched with Captain America (Volume 5) #1. This version of the series was notable for the incredible, award-winning writing of Ed Brubaker.

Cap once again finds himself facing off with his oldest enemy, the Red Skull. While the story would require an excessive amount of explanation from me, one major event stands out: the appearance of the Winter Soldier.

Who is the Winter Soldier? He is a super-secret agent of Russia, dating back to the Cold War. He is kept in suspended animation and only thawed out when a missin requires the best of the best.

The Winter Soldier's real name is James Buchanan Barnes, aka Bucky. Yes, THAT Bucky. Turns out he wasn't dead after all. (Comic Noobs, this is what we call a "retcon")

Cap would chase Bucky for several issues, eventually bringing him back to his senses.

The whole Civil war thing went down, and Cap went on trial for his actions afterward. Then and there, on the courthouse steps, Steve Rogers, Captain America, was shot and killed.

The entire country stopped. This move came out of nowhere, proving that even in the age of the internet, some people can still keep a secret. Like I said above, this was actually the lead story on CNN. Everybody remembers what they were doing during historic events. I remember where I was when Captain America died.

So, Comic Noobs, where should you start reading?

Captain America, Volume 1: Winter Soldier, Book 1 is the start of the Brubaker run. This story arc wraps up in Captain America, Volume 2: Winter Soldier, Book 2.
The Death of Captain America, Volume 1: The Death of the Dream starts with Issue #25 and The Shot Heard 'Round the Marvel Universe.
The Death of Captain America, Volume 2: The Burden of Dreams finds Bucky, yes BUCKY, taking up the Shield and becoming the new Captain America.
Captain America: Road to Reborn brings the revelation that Steve Rogers may not be as dead as originally thought.

Basically, I'm recommending almost the entire Brubaker run. There's a reason he's won "Best Writer" awards three years in a row.

Questions? Comics can be very confusing to new readers. Feel free to email me at samodeanhc(at)gmail(dot)com. If I can collect enough questions, I would love to publish them in a Q&A Session post! Please specify if you would like the question answered publicly or privately.

Comics for Noobs: The Marvel Universe and The Avengers

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The full listing of Comics for Noobs posts can be found here.

The world of Marvel comics has always been an interesting one. Marvel was the first to suggest that their different characters existed in the same world. As such, the stories are more cohesive. Characters and plotlines constantly cross over from one title to another.

Unfortunately, this also means the stories can get more complex. Sixty-plus years of intertwining stories builds up quite a bit of lore that can be very difficult to follow.

The Avengers

While there have been countless titles adding to this spiderweb, one has maintained its status as the Marvel Universe's "core" story: The Avengers.

Back in 1963, Marvel decided to put all their most popular characters into one title.

Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Ant Man and The Wasp joined together to combat Thor's evil brother, Loki.

Proving impossible to control, Hulk was quickly removed from the team, later even having his "Founder" status revoked. However, in Issue #4, The Avengers happened upon the frozen body of the long-thought-dead World War II hero, Captain America. Cap soon became an integral member of the team, even being unanimously granted Founder status.

Though the team would go through MANY lineup changes over the years, recruiting the best of the best of the Marvel U, but one or more of Cap, Iron Man or Thor would always be with the team. This consistency would cause fans to name the group "The Big Three," as they formed the central cast of the central title for all of Marvel Comics.

However, I'm not here to provide the entire 40-plus year history of The Avengers. This is "Comics for Noobs," not "The Complete and Total History of the Marvel Universe." Those wishing to learn about the early years may want to pick up Essential Avengers or one of the many other collections available.

The goal of Comics for Noobs is to give prospective readers tips for where to start off reading.

New Avengers

In 2004, after breaking the team up in their 500th issue, Brian Michael Bendis relaunched The Avengers in New Avengers. With Thor "dead," the new team consisted of Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, Wolverine, Luke Cage (formerly known as Power Man), Spiderwoman and a new character, The Sentry.

While reading through all sixty current issues is unnecessary, New Avengers, Volume 1: Breakout is a great place for readers new to comics to start. It introduces all the major players and the current status for the Marvel U.

Civil War

Crossover Events, bringing multiple characters from multiple titles together for one big story, have become all the rage in the comics industry the past few years, and Marvel has been paving the way with a sequence of world-changing mini-series. The first, and most successful was Civil War, released in 2006.

Without giving too much away, a disaster leads to the government stepping in to regulate costumed heroes. Some agree, some don't. Sides are chosen, lines are drawn. Anyone who played Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 will be familiar with this storyline.

Once the dust settles, the Marvel U is divided, leading to the founding of a second team of Avengers.

Secret Invasion

The two sides would trade blows for two years before uniting to face a larger threat. The Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien race, had been selectively replacing key members of the Marvel U for years. Seeing an opportunity, they attack in an attempt to claim Earth for their own. This was the Secret Invasion. After being at each others' throats for a while, now the heroes did not even know who they could trust. Anyone could be a Skrull. Setting aside their differences, the heroes, and even VILLAINS, of Earth banded together, bringing the "Big Three" together for the first time in years (kinda), to defeat the Skrull threat.

Something went wrong, though. Despite the new Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and even Nick Fury fighting on the front lines, none of them were the hero of the day.

Dark Reign

The man who fired the final shot, finishing off the Skrulls was none other than Norman Osborn. You may recognize that name from the Spiderman movie. He is none other than the villain formerly known as the Green Goblin, one of the most infamous characters in the entire Marvel Universe. A hero in the public eye, Osborn is a master of publicity and quickly rises to the most powerful person on the planet. He creates his own team of Avengers, dressing supervillains up as famous heroes. Osborn is attempting to recreate the Marvel U in his own image.

The villains are heroes, the heroes are fugitives. This is the Dark Reign. There is no better place to jump in to the current Marvel continuity than Dark Avengers, Volume 1: Assemble. Not only is this title immensely important to the current story, it is also FANTASTIC to read, one of the best-written books currently on the shelves.

So, there you go. Four books that will put you on the right track for stepping in to the Marvel Universe:

New Avengers, Volume 1: Breakout
Civil War
Secret Invasion
Dark Avengers, Volume 1: Assemble

Questions? Comics can be very confusing to new readers. Feel free to email me at samodeanhc(at)gmail(dot)com. If I can collect enough questions, I would love to publish them in a Q&A Session post! Please specify if you would like the question answered publicly or privately.

Comics for Noobs

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I love comic books.

Some people would laugh at that statement. Bottom line, I just love a good story. If that story is accompanied by fantastic art, then so be it. If the story is FUN to read? Even better.

I've posted about comics a bit in the past. However, those posts have drawn very little interest. Additionally, people are always asking me for recommendations.

So, in order to kill two birds with one stone, I present my latest series of posts: Comics for Noobs. Much like my Fiction Index, this post will be updated as future articles are written, to serve as a central resource and will be linked on the main page.

I hope you kids enjoy the ride.


The Marvel Universe and The Avengers
Captain America
Iron Man

Scaling Back

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As many of you know, I work in retail. As such, time and energy are at a premium. I'll try to post as often as possible, but there may be some weeks... well... like this one.

At the very least, I'll try to make up for the quantity with extra quality.

In addition to scaling back on posting, I'm scaling back on playing.

I've deactivated my Aion account. No, I'm not like many out there ragequitting. When last I played (several weeks ago) I was still enjoying the game greatly. No, it's not perfect, and NCSoft still has work to do, and it may be too little too late. That being said, it's a game I wish I had more time for. Unfortunately, it requires an investment I can't give.

I'd rather spend that time playing games like Dragon Age: Origins right now. So, I'm scaling back from all subscription-based games to focus on single-player games for a while.

Once I finish DA:O, Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII, with a chance of Assassin's Creed 2 and others, I'll start looking back at MMOs.

I still really want to give Champions Online a go, and I'm REALLY liking Star Wars: The Old Republic. Oh yeah, there's a little thing called Cataclysm out there, too.

So, I'm not going anywhere, chumps. I'll still be posting, just not playing anything Massive right now.