A Plethora of Pop Culture

As of late, two things have been consuming the majority of my time. First and foremost is work, which I view is a very good thing. The busier I am, the more likely I am to have job security, right? Well, that’s what I keep telling myself. I guess we all have to tell ourselves something!

The second thing that has been keeping me very busy is the online class I am taking though a local junior college. It’s more for gaining professional skills than personal interest but I’m learning, nonetheless!

Aside from that it feels like I did some catching up with pop culture this weekend – started by seeing Watchmen on IMAX (which I’ll argue is the best way to get the ‘full experience’ – whatever that may be). As a new person to comics, I must admit that I have not read the original Watchmen published between 1986-1987 and written by Alan Moore. But after seeing the film, I would like nothing more than to read it for myself. Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that Watchmen is, at the very least, an exercise into the deconstruction of what we consider to be superheroes. Yes, the movie is long – but it is very well filmed. The only thing that told me it was 3 hours were my knees who were totally unaccustomed to sitting that long in a cold theater. While some found the music to be annoying, I thought it was appropriate and it helped to evoke the right emotions in key places. The story line was involved and interesting as it cleverly interwove itself between bits of our own history and the one that Moore created for his characters. For another insight into the movie, please head over to A Game of Me. Caro can give a more well rounded opinion on the movie as she has read the comic. I’ll round this out by saying that I left the theater feeling heavy. Heavy from watching Watchmen. It can only be described as similar to the heavy I felt when I walked out of Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. You may think I’m being dramatic, I promise I’m just being honest.

What blog entry about pop culture would be complete without mentioning the games I played this weekend? Certainly not this one. The hype around Resident Evil 5 (click here if you are unfamiliar with the game) started for me some time last week when I learned that Capcom was having a press event in Union Square the night of the launch – March 12th/13th. Of course I couldn’t go because I was still recovering from two weeks of being sick with a sinus infection. Luckily enough, I have been able to play parts of the co-op mode over the weekend with a real partner – not that idiot Sheva that RE5 sticks you with if you try to play alone. But please keep in mind that this could just be a bias since we’re playing on Veteran. It looks like we might try playing again on an easier difficulty setting to see if that changes anything. If it does, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it. Getting back to the game – even though I haven’t played the previous games in their entirety, I am familiar with the franchise. I know that the Resident Evil series isn’t best known for it’s stellar game play and there couldn’t be a more obvious reminder for me than playing RE5. As someone who gets motion sickness from FPSs, I wasn’t really expecting to encounter that same problem while playing this game. But alas, I did! The separate controls – (we played the 360 version) the left and right thumb sticks – for movement and vision were really bad for me. Move in one direction, spin around to take a good look. That made my head start to throb almost instantaneously. Then came the motion sickness. Run here, turn, run there, turn, look up, look down – barf!-. Okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I think that being forced to use the separate thumb sticks combined with the high level of detail in the game certainly created a very similar FPS atmosphere for me that was nearly unbearable. And although I have read complaints about the limited inventory system, I didn’t encounter too many problems with it. Yes, it was aggravating at times, but not nearly as aggravating as me with a headache hoping I don’t end up heaving near the toilet before I finish the game. The game has 5 or 6 full chapters, each with unique environments. There are plenty of throwbacks to other games in the series for fans and just enough information for new players to get by. I still think the controls need an overhaul (targeting system included) but for what it’s worth, I have enjoyed the parts of it that I have played thus far. I highly recommend finding a friend and playing through RE5 together on a normal difficulty setting. Especially if you like other games in the series or just shooting the living hell out of zombies. For a more detailed review of RE5, check out Giantbomb.com’s review.

On a similar zombie-related note, I also got to play some Dead Space! I have been interested in playing Left 4 Dead, but I gave up that idea when I found out it was an FPS. And since we had a borrowed copy of Dead Space laying around, I thought it would be fun to take a break from RE5 and play! Dead Space came out at the end of 2008 from EA Redwood Shores. It’s a third person shooter that takes place on the ship Ishimura that is docked in outer space. Something has gone horribly awry and the ship is almost completely empty of life – except for this horrid creatures that want to maim you. I have to say that the game looks great. What I have played so far (the first two chapters) has been really promising – the controls are similar to RE5 but much, much better. In fact, the controls for Dead Space are the controls that RE5 should have utilized. Again, forcing the player to use the two thumb sticks to move and look were a problem for me as it makes me very ill (read above). And the highly detailed environments – although very well done – add to my motion sickness. What I liked about Dead Space, and what will keep me playing, is the attention to detail – the writing on the wall in different handwriting, the blood spatter, the crazy monsters, all of the machines. And the same goes for the sound, which is incredible. Dead Space easily had the best sound of any game that I played in 2008. If you crank up the volume enough, you can hear everything. It’s great because the sound provides you with key audio clues as to when your enemies are coming, but part of the genius is that sometimes it tricks you. You can hear the aliens crawling in the vents. You can hear the labored breathing of the dying scientist in the lab. You can even hear the swarm of flies buzzing around the recently disfigured bodies. If it sounds awful and scary, it is. The sound is reminiscent of the brilliant sound work done in the Silent Hill series. It adds an eeriness and that feeling of not wanting to be left playing alone in the dark late at night. But you keep playing anyway because you want to know what’s around the next corner and because you keep trying to tell yourself it’s only a game! What I also liked about Dead Space was that it was more imaginative than your average horror/zombie killer. You can move things kinetically and you enter zero gravity zones, for example. I highly recommend Dead Space – I know that I’ll make a concerted effort to play this one ’till the end. I’ll let you know how it turns out! For a more detailed review, hit up Giantbomb.com.

Keep in mind that my thoughts about the games listed above are just first impressions, no matter how opinionated they are! I hope to play through both of these games and have a better overall understanding of each – even if I end up puking in the process. No wait, I take that back. I think I’ll stop if I end up getting sick! I have definitely had enough of being sick in the last two weeks.



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