Archive for November, 2012

Happy after-Thanksgiving, everybody. Hope you had your fill of fattening birds, parade floats and talking to your very religious grandparents. I was gonna write this on Thanksgiving Day itself, but stuff came up. However, it has been a while since we dabbled into the wonders of Budget Hell, and this one is gonna be a doozy. Consider this the Thanksgiving special.

You’ve probably heard of America’s Army. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the game was a significant hit in its day. Known for being an accurate simulation of Army activities — at least, for a military video game, anyway — as well as the constant “JOIN THE ARMY” overtones, it was a decent little game for its time. At one point, the U.S. Navy sponsored Sony’s SOCOM series of video games. Realizing the “big boys” were getting video game deals, the U.S. National Guard decided to have their own sponsored game. A free, sponsored game, just like the U.S. Army. Problem is, it’s one of the worst free games out there.

This looks totally appealing.

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Happy fifth anniversary, Rock Band. Harmonix’s spiritual successor to Guitar Hero has been a crazy one, going through the memories of having Peter Moore screw up your E3 demo, to having the cast of Today play “Livin’ on a Prayer”, to even releasing games dedicated to amazing bands like The Beatles and Green Day. Okay, the last one hasn’t been an amazing band since 1998, but humor me here.

Sadly, my music game experience was really late, as I didn’t get onto the scene until 2009. It wasn’t even Rock Band that was my virgin experience, it was Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Hey, it was $10 at GameStop and it came with a guitar controller for free, you can’t go wrong! Though, I did pick up Rock Band 2 a few months later and The Beatles Rock Band later that Christmas. I still have fond memories of making myself look like a jackass at parties as I pounded on a busted Rock Band kit at a friend’s house to The Who’s “I Can See For Miles.”  I never did get to play the original Rock Band, as I just bought the game to export the game’s songs into later Rock Band games, but when exported the songs into Rock Band 2, I noticed something that was a trend in a good chunk of the first game’s set list.

In addition to introducing drums and re-introducing vocals into music games, Rock Band introduced the “Big Rock Ending.” (BRE) Towards the end of some songs, it becomes a free-for-all mashing of buttons and drum pads to score some bonus points. After the free-for-all section, you must hit the correct string of notes, otherwise you get no bonus points. This sounds like a novel idea, it makes it easier for Harmonix as they don’t have to chart some crazy guitar wailing on the end of a song, and players don’t fail a challenging song towards the end, forcing them to start over. In Rock Band, the Big Rock Ending appears in songs where it makes sense, like Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” and The Outlaws’ “Green Grass and High Tides.”

But when you have a new feature, the mindset is to add them as much as possible so it doesn’t go unused. This leads to a problem in the first Rock Band where songs will just flail into a Big Rock Ending where it doesn’t really make sense for there to be one. Like in the above for OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again,” the song clearly ends, yet goes into this weird flailing portion for a moment, before going to the proper ending. The cover to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” ends with an awkward Big Rock Ending, which is funny, because the original version released two years later, has an ordinary ending. This is not a freak occurrence, other songs with shoehorned-in BREs include Paranoid, Don’t Fear the Reaper, Detroit Rock City, among several others. Even the bonus songs aren’t immune, “Can’t Let Go” by Death of the Cool is another victim. However, the most awkward one has to be the one featured below:

Yeah. There’s a Big Rock Ending in “Black Hole Sun.” A song that’s pretty slow, and clearly ends. Harmonix deemed this song deserving of flailing on the buttons like an idiot. This should’ve been thought of a little bit more carefully. Thankfully Harmonix realized the overkill of BREs in the first game’s set list and scaled them back considerably since. There’s still a few songs where they put in a BRE when it didn’t really need one, but I digress.

Don’t think that this is me hating on Rock Band, far from it. This is just me poking at a stupid thing in a music video game.  I love the series to bits and have bought more songs in Rock Band than any sane person should. It’s just a funny little thing I realized from the many hours of playing fake plastic rock. Here’s to five more years of Rock Band, Harmonix. Even though music games are mostly dead these days, I will never forget the many moments I had playing these music games.

EDIT 2/2/13: Hey! Do you like videos? So do I! So I made a montage of all the random Big Rock Endings below:

Yeah, you read that right. I’m going to review a soda on this blog. Why, you may ask?

A. Because I can.

2. Halo 4 fever is slowly dying and being replaced by Call of Duty: Black Ops II fever, so I gotta squeeze this in now while it’s still relevant. No one’s gonna care about this in a month’s time.

I like to exaggerate the name of this stuff. Imagine if it was said by some obnoxious 90s announcer. Now you know how I call this stuff.

So, this is the fourth time that Mountain Dew has done the limited “Game Fuel” thing to advertise whatever hot new video game was on the market. The first time Game Fuel was introduced was in 2007 for Halo 3, then re-released in 2009 for a World of Warcraft expansion — I’m guessing Cataclysm but I don’t play those so I’m not certain — and most recently, last year for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I honestly expected them to skip this year, judging by the “every other year” cycle, but since Halo started the unique limited flavor/marketing tie-in for Mountain Dew, they might as well do it again for the newest installment involving a Master Chief and some Halos.

I’ll bite: I was never a big Halo guy. I played a leaked prototype of Gearbox Software’s PC port back in 2003, and eventually bought the game the following year. I thought it was interesting and kinda fun, but hardly the mind-blowing revelation that gamers were making it out to be. Halo 2 was a dull, monotonous corridor shooter I’d rather forget, and all I remember of Halo 3 was me and my friend Tina co-oping it in two long sessions one time. Still, I can’t say I hate Halo, it just never really grabbed me outside of the soundtrack and occasionally its multiplayer. Maybe it’s because I was anti-Xbox ’til about 2006. Forgive me, I was an oblivious teenager.

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