Tuesday, May19th 2009 Edition

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Summer Game Radar: A Selection of Video Games to Look Forward to over Summer Break

Jesse Tucker
Staff Writer


The summer break is finally upon us, and many students are wondering how to fill those empty hours once used for studying and attending classes. Luckily, there is a pretty decent selection of games to keep you busy this summer, at least on the rainy days.
Please note that this article is based on currently available information, and all information (especially that pertaining to release dates) is subject to change in the future. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is in just two weeks (June 2-4), so more solid release dates and oodles of information on this year’s new games will likely be released at that time.
“inFAMOUS” (PS3)
Release: May 26
Think a post-apocalyptic “Grand Theft Auto” with super powers. “infamous” is an open-world action adventure game in which you play a character who unwittingly delivers a bomb that destroys the entire city he lives in. Many people become violent and horribly mutated, but our hero--or anti-hero, depending on how you play--gains electrical super powers instead. The game offers a huge amount of interaction with the city. NPCs remember all the choices you make throughout the game and react to you accordingly. Every decision affects the development of your character and how the story will ultimately play out. This game has already gotten very high scores from both Game Informer magazine and IGN.com. It’s definitely a game all PS3 owners should check out this season.
“Battlefield 1943” (X360, PS3, PC)
Release: June
This follow-up to “Battlefield 1942” will be a download-exclusive multiplayer game for Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and PC. Utilizing the “Battlefield: Bad Company” engine, and maintaining features that made “1942” so enjoyable such as heavy vehicular-based combat, 24-man battles, and classic maps, “1943” promises to be a riveting title with tons of replay value. With pick-up-and-play action with a $15 price tag and 350MB download, do you have a reason not to grab this game?
“The Sims 3” (PC)
Release: June 2nd
One of the best-selling video games of all time is back with yet another sequel. “Sims 3” will feature much deeper customization of your sims’ appearances and personalities, enhanced graphics, wondrous benefits for meetings a sim’s lifetime goals, and all sorts of other new features. For anyone who’s gotten hooked on “The Sims” before and wants another go, or anyone who has still never played this fun and addictive series, here’s your chance.
“Prototype” (X360, PS3, PC)
Release: June 9
Another open-world action adventure game, but this time it’s in New York City and the main character has shape-shifting powers, and it’s not PS3 exclusive. You play as a man who wakes up in a morgue, quickly realizing he has no memories and no idea how he got there, but also realizing he has amazing powers: Your character is able to absorb the memories, abilities, and physical appearance of anyone he meets, all throughout NYC. You will be forced to use this power to find out who he is and what he is in a city-wide quest for revenge.
“Rock Band Unplugged” (PSP)
Release: June 9
It’s portable Rock Band, only without the instruments... and the band. How can I be recommending this? Well, when you strip off all the gimmicks, “Rock Band” is, at its core, a fairly simple rhythm game. “Unplugged” embraces the true nature of the franchise and replaces the plastic instruments with the buttons on your PSP. You’ll be switching back and forth between the beats of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals mid song, making for a fun and addictive rhythm game that plays to awesome rock tracks. Trust me, this is much better than singing into the PSP microphone.
“Guitar Hero: Smash Hits” (X360, PS3, PS2, Wii)
Release: June 16
If you feel you have no need for your rock rhythm action to be portable, then you’re in luck; “Guitar Hero: Smash Hits” comes out just one week later. Ever gotten the urge to sing “Free Bird”? Or want try “Through the Fire and Flames” on drums? “Smash Hits” combines master tracks of the best songs from all previous GH games, including the original “GH,” “GH2,” “GH3,” “GH: Rocks the 80’s,” and even “GH: Aerosmith”. The set list is guaranteed gold, and you can use all four instruments this time.
“Ghostbusters: The Video Game” (X360, PS3, PS2, Wii, DS, PC)
Release: June 16
My personal favorite pick of the whole summer lineup. If this game doesn’t get you excited, then you clearly had no childhood (or at least a deprived one). “Ghostbusters” is an action game in which you play as a newly recruited fifth “Ghostbuster” in the single-player story mode, or battle ghosts cooperatively as one of the four original Ghostbusters with friends online. Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (the writers of the Ghostbusters films), the story of this game has been officially confirmed to essentially be “Ghostbusters 3,” tying up all loose ends from “Ghostbusters 2.” If the original writers weren’t enough for you, most of the original movie cast has returned to reprise their roles, including, but not limited to, Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Raymond Stantz), Harold Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler), Bill Murray (Dr. Peter Venkman), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore), and William Atherton (Walter Peck). It’s the third Ghostbusters movie, and you get to play it. What more could you ask for?
“Overlord II” (X360, PS3, PC)
Release: June 23
The big fad in games these days is to give players a choice between developing an evil character and a good character. The “Overlord” games essentially say, “screw all that” and make your character pure evil. In this fantasy action-adventure game, you play an overlord: you raise demon armies, pillage towns, enslave innocent people, acquire a harem of women, and kill whatever looks at you the wrong way (or the right way-- you’re pure evil, after all). The original “Overlord” was a fun game and the developers have promised that the sequel will be bigger, better, more epic, and even more evil.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 2” (X360, PS3)
Release: June 29
The classic fast-paced, action-packed fighting game returns, this time on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. For those who don’t know, “MvC2” has you assemble a team of three characters from a roster of over fifty from the Marvel and Capcom universes, and go head to head against a friend’s team. We’re talking characters from Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Megaman, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, and much more. This newest port of the game features higher resolution graphics and an online versus mode.
“BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger” (X360, PS3)
Release: June 30
This particular week is certainly a treat for fans of fighting games. “BlazBlue” is the newest fighter from the makers of “Guilty Gear.” It features a very similar, fast-paced gameplay system that emphasizes large and flashy combos. The characters are all hand-drawn and high-def, and the animation looks amazing. With a crazy cast of twelve unique characters that all look incredibly fun to play, and an online versus mode, this promises to be one of the most entertaining fighters of the year. But the fighting game goodness doesn’t stop just yet...

“The King of Fighters XII”
(X360, PS3)
Release: Early July
The KOF series of fighting
games finally gets completely
redrawn character sprites.
Classic KOF gameplay
remains, with 3v3 team battles
and a selection of characters
to please fans from any
generation. There’s not much
to say about this game, except
that if you’re a fan of the KOF
series, or fighting games in
general, you definitely need
to look it up. The game looks
beautiful so far, online versus
play is on board, and more
characters continue to be added
to the roster as the release date
gets closer.

“Wii Sports Resort” (Wii)
Release: July 26
This game comes bundled
with a new Wii controller
accessory, so it’s likely to be
on the top of the sales charts
for months. The accessory is
the Wii Motion Plus, which
enhances the accuracy of the
Wii Remote’s motion-sensing
capability, in addition to
making the controller slightly
more cumbersome. The game
is a sequel to “Wii Sports,”
and this time the action is all
outdoor games with a summer
beach theme. Confirmed
games so far include throwing
a Frisbee to a dog, jet skiing,
and fighting a friend with fake
swords. “WS: Resort” promises
to deliver all the fun of playing
summer sports outside without
actually playing sports or
going outside. Who wants to
go outside around July 26th
anyway? It’ll be way too nice
out. In any case, if this game is
anything like the original “Wii
Sports,” it’s sure to keep you
and a few friends entertained
for, like, two days-- maybe
even three!

“Batman: Arkham Asylum”
(X360, PS3, PC)
Release: August
Batman gets trapped inside
the infamous Arkham Asylum,
and he’s got a few supervillains
trapped inside with him. You
take control of Batman as he
utilizes his stealth, combat
skills, intelligence, and gadgets
to try and escape the asylum and
presumably accomplish some
ulterior objective. In addition to
playing as Batman, the game
has a few other noteworthy
features that set it apart from
other games this season. So
far, the stealth element seems
to be implemented very well
with the rest of the game.
You’ll be using your head to
eliminate large numbers of
enemies in puzzle-like ways by
combining shadow sneaking,
cape gliding, and straight up
combat, while utilizing a large
number of nifty gadgets, seems
like a thrilling experience. And
the way everything moves
so seamlessly together looks
great. This is the kind of game
you need to watch videos
of to truly understand and
appreciate.
“Madden NFL 10” (X360,
PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP)
Release: August 14
The new Madden is getting
a slight graphical upgrade, but
more importantly, most of the
development time has been
spent improving gameplay.
There are a number of new
gameplay features, like the
ability to team tackle with up
to nine people. Also new is
a frantic mini-game that can
occur during a fumble that
will have players trying to
be the first one to hit certain
buttons that pop up on screen
in order to gain control of the
ball. Other improvements
include enhanced AI, a deeper
franchise mode, and the ability
to sack referees that get in the
way on the field. Bottom line
is it’s a new Madden, so you
already know if you want this
game or not.

“Dissidia: Final Fantasy”
(PSP)
Release: August 25
“Final Fantasy” enters the
world of 3-D fighting games
on your PSP. “Dissidia” allows
you to play as the main hero
or main villain from every
numbered “Final Fantasy”
game up to FFX (FFXI and
FFXII each have one secret
character). To give you an
idea, that includes Garland,
Cecil, Terra, Kefka, Cloud,
Sephiroth, Squall, Ultimecia,
Zidane, Kuja, Tidus, Jecht, and
many more. Characters face
off in head-to-head 3-D battles,
utilizing classic FF abilities
like magic, summons and limit
breaks. The action is very fastpaced
and cinematic. Battles
play out like fight scenes in
“Advent Children.” A singleplayer
mode allows players to
choose a character and level
up in battles, raising stats in
a classic RPG fashion. This
game should be exciting news
for any “Final Fantasy” fanboy
or fangirl. Look forward to it
late in the summer.
The Beatles: Rock Ban
(X360, PS3, Wii)d
Release: September 9
The name says it all.

In Defense of
Vanilla Ice

Erich Schulte
RuthlessReviews.com
Editor and Special to The Echo


Let me lay the ground work for this. When Vanilla Ice broke, I hated the f**ker. As a budding Hessian, mortally terrified of the dance floor and in search of a youthful affiliation,
Vanilla Ice and all rappers
of the day were a legion of mongoloid villains. They served a purpose, however; the more popular they were, the more they proved that everyone
else was beneath me. Rappers didn’t even play their own instruments! I had heard the Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore band, so I guessed that they were OK. On the other
hand, according to multiple sources, Ad-Rock had AIDS, and that didn’t pan out.
So I come to the defense of Vanilla Ice in much the same way a renegade cop who plays by his own rules might team up with the mafia to defeat terrorists. My argument isn’t that he was good, just that he wasn’t particularly bad. Just as importantly, the same flock of zombies who bought 40 million
copies of that album, are the ones who now name “‘Ice Ice Baby’” to “worst songs of all time” lists as they swap Josh Groban cuts and struggle to grasp the unprecedented genius
of Coldplay.
These people are now, just as they were then, desperate to be cool. Part of their disdain for the song stems from the fact that white people who are desperate to be cool always attempt
to align themselves with blacks, the OG’s of coolness. The hope is that by agreeing that they as whites can’t be cool, they might somehow become
cool anyway. So blacks single handedly invented Jazz and Rock and Roll with no white influence whatsoever. Elvis was no different from Pat Boone. Egyptians were black, “Def Poetry” isn’t utterly terrible
and white guys can’t rap. Now in a dazzling triple reverse, Vanilla Ice has come out to publicly apologize for recording simple pop songs to the very people who bought and enjoyed them, hoping to follow them back into coolness.
All of which is quadruple-
y pathetic because if you are old enough to remember Vanilla Ice in his ‘prime,’ you are way too old for this kind of thing.
So was “Ice Ice Baby” a bad song? Well, yeah. It wasn’t horrible though. Vanilla Ice certainly looked stupid trying
to deny that the sample of “Under Pressure” was a sample. Though in fairness, he was probably just trying to save himself from paying royalties
during a time when the legal issues surrounding sampling
were still being hammered
out. Furthermore, it was a good sample. If you like the hook when those gay guys did it, why would you suddenly
find it mortally offensive when Ice’s DJ revolves it? On top of that, in “Ice Ice Baby,” the sample is recontextualized with a more energetic beat and some original melodies, creating
a distinct song. Contrast that to the other definitive, mainstream rap hit of the era, “U Can’t Touch This,” which is basically just “Superfreak” with Hammer saying “U Can’t Touch This” instead of saying “Superfreak.”
There are plenty of hit rap songs that are clearly worse than “Ice Ice Baby.” Are you going to sit there with a straight face and tell me that MC Hammer’s “Pray” is not substantially worse than “Ice Ice Baby?” Really? “Pray, Pray, You’ve got to pray just to make it today?” Because, if that is your position, I will kill you and destroy everything that you love. “Who Let the Dogs Out?” “Rico Suave?” Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West?” Almost anything by Will Smith? Absolutely anything
by Ma$e? What about Puff Daddy digitally remastering
“Kashmir” and shouting
“yeah, yeah,” over it? All of these songs and many more are less original and all around worse than “Ice Ice Baby.”
Finally, you might point out that Vanilla Ice himself was and remains a tool shed. After all, when they weren’t booking talented, authentic rappers like Kriss Kross, arbiters
of cool, “In Living Color” did the sketch, “White White, Baby,” which they then parlayed
into an “I’m Asian!” rap sketch, foreshadowing the unlimited creativity that the Wayan’s family would entertain
us with for years to come. Countless other hacks took shots at Vanilla Ice, though mostly just for being a white rapper and, even more oddly than that, a poorly dressed rapper. Of course Vanilla Ice is a ridiculous buffoon –unlike Puff Daddy, Flava Flav, Nelly or DMX. But Vanilla Ice’s handlers fabricated part of his bio!

Yeah, we’re talking about a genre in which 50 Cent is in a position to mock Rick Ross for padding his resume. The more you look at the case of Vanilla Ice, the more you will see that, far from being an embarrassing aberration and a white man ripping off the brother man, Vanilla Ice was a pioneer, mapping the territories
that would lead phonies with limited abilities to vast fortunes with dogshit music for decades to come. It should be Vanilla Ice’s turn to collect royalties.

Beef up Your Library for Summer

John Coleman
News Editor


Finals are still on the horizon, but admit it: you are dreaming of the day when your reading energies will no longer need to be spent perusing overpriced textbooks into the early hours of the morning. So get your blanket and towels ready, pack a lunch and some sunscreen. The Echo has some beach reading to prepare you for!
With that consideration, yours truly heads off to the bookstore, summer in mind.
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
By Stephen King
Signet
Following in the footsteps of Night Shift (1978) and Skeleton
Crew (1985), Stephen King published Nightmares and Dreamscapes, a collection of short horror stories, in the fall of 1993. This is not King’s latest collection of short stories
however. That credit goes to last year’s Just After Sunset.
Yet for those of us born in the late 1980s (which I hazard to guess are the majority of people reading this review) who wish to somehow catch up to King’s most recent writings
only after reading his earlier
writings, Nightmares and Dreamscapes provides an enjoyable
stepping stone on that prodigious journey.
Like any work of short stories,
or for that matter, any collection
of larger works, some of King’s tales are better than others. The story titled Suffer the Little Children could have used a better ending, for instance.
Of course this diversity
of quality is to be expected. That being said, of especially scary and thrilling vintage are tales such as Dolan’s Cadillac
(a modernized, mixed adaption of Poe’s Telltale Heart and Cask of Amontillado),
and Crouch End (which tells of a dimension-blurring evening for a young American
couple in London). Both stories conjure no shortage of eerie feelings, as does the greater part of Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes. With two dozen of these tales, spanning almost 700 pages, Nightmares and Dreamscapes is well worth the $8.00 price tag. Best read at night, preferably
during thunder storms.
Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through His Private
Letters
By Elizabeth Brown Pryor
Penguin Books
There are a number of men in American history who appear to be untouchable. Impersonal and distant, these individuals have approached in our day an almost mythological status. The example of this phenomenon
par excellence is George Washington. Close behind him though, is one of Washington’s
relatives by marriage, Robert Edward Lee.
Elizabeth Pryor’s Reading
the Man does a fine job of painting Lee’s personality. Through documentation of Lee’s writings and a subsequent
analysis of his personal correspondence, Pryor’s work – quite groundbreaking and original - is able to show the reader some of the many ins and outs of the famous general.
From Lee’s more triumphant
and successful moments,
to his more mellow and depressed times, Reading the Man chronicles the Virginian’s
life from his early days at West Point, through the Civil War, and to his final years as President of Washington College
(now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia.
Elizabeth Pryor’s treatment of Lee in Reading the Man, ironically the winner of the Lincoln Prize from Gettysburg
College, is a solid study for those interested in learning more about one of the most prominent figures in American history.
Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
By Pope Benedict XVI
(Joseph Ratzinger)
Ignatius Press
Jesus Christ has not ceased to provide an inexhaustible
amount of interest for countless writers down through the ages. Starting
with men like Luke, who was tripping over himself to tell his friend Theophanous
about Christ (“I myself have carefully investigated everything
from the beginning, it seemed good also for me to write,” cf. Lk 1:3), down through the ages, the year 2007 saw Pope Benedict XVI add to this countless corpus of study by releasing Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.
The work deals with roughly the first 18 months of Christ’s ministry.
There are a number of competent
treatments of the life of Christ already out there in English. Frank Sheed’s To Know Christ Jesus comes to mind, as does Fulton J. Sheen’s Life of Christ. What makes Benedict’s work different
from the general biographies
of Christ is that Jesus of Nazareth was written with a particular foe to tackle. The problem Benedict dispatches in his book are the excesses which have come about from the higher-critical school of biblical analysis. The pontiff
does not totally write-off higher-criticism, calling said method “an indispensible dimension
of exegetical work.” What Benedict argues though is that viewing the Scripture solely through the lenses of higher-criticism has produced a schizophrenic dichotomy between
the “Christ of faith” and that of the “Christ of history.” In other words, an understanding
of Christ removed from his humanity, or – more often than not – his divinity. A practical
example of the higher-criticism which Benedict talks of are the studies on Christ which usually pop-up around Christmastime and Easter in the popular media. Publications
such as Newsweek
and outlets like the History Channel are notorious
historical-
critical junkies.
At any length, beyond the criticism
of particular exegetical
methods, it was the then-80 year old pope’s greater motive for writing Jesus of Nazareth, “because it struck me as the most urgent priority to present the figure and message of Jesus in his public ministry.” In this goal, Benedict is successful. The pope spent a large portion of his career as a professor in various German institutions. Like any good teacher, Benedict
has presented in Jesus of Nazareth a scholarly though highly lucid and readable study of Christ’s life.
The Minute Men: The First Fight and Realities of the American
Revolution
By John R. Galvin
Potomac Books
John Galvin’s Minute Men is a fascinating study of the early citizen-soldiers of the American
Revolution.
Highly readable, The Minute
Men describes the development
of the “Minute Man concept” in the early history of the colonies. Long before that spring day in 1775, colonial
settlements in New England
were fine-tuning a system whereby men would be ready to defend their settlements from Indians attacks whenever such events arose (which was, by the way, quite a bit).
Gavin’s work is especially useful in dispelling a number
of popular myths relating
to the Minute Men. One such idea which is dealt with in some detail is the romantic notion that the events of Lexington
and Concord in April of 1775 just materialized out of nowhere with local farmers rising up, taking their muskets off the wall and running out to their town squares to drive the British from their goal of seizing local arms stores. In reality, the American Minute Man of the 1770s was a highly drilled, well-equipped and, as Gavin posits, the equal in many respects to the skilled British regulars under General Thomas Gage.
Well cited, John Gavin’s Minute Men provides a useful, analytic look into the culture, history and society which produced these early American revolutionaries.

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