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Dirty First Impressions — Ghost Recon Wildlands (Open Beta, 2017)

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands (PS4, XB1, PC)
Genre: Open World, 3rd Person Shooter, FPS, RPG
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Version Played: PC
Time Played: 4-5 hours

Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest entry in the Ghost Recon franchise, the previous entry (Future Soldier) coming out in 2012. It’s another Ubisoft game, meaning: a huge open world with various collectibles, missions, enemy patrols, skill points, and the like. Despite having such a massive world, it felt incredibly hollow. Granted, I mostly played in one of the two areas available in the beta, so the full game will likely showcase the range of different landscapes, and what you can do in them.

However, the gripes I had with one area may extend to the full game. For instance, the kilometers between missions, side quests, and collecting skill points is excruciating and tedious. The time and distance is sometimes worse when you’re cutting through the mountains. It doesn’t help that the controls for most of the vehicles border on cartoony. The car’s handling is incredibly loose, and the camera is so sensitive it may induce vomiting. The numerous (and quite frankly, too many) helicopters are practically useless in the state they’re in — the handling is way too stiff, and toggling the helicopter forward doesn’t actually move you forward. You have to play this game of altitude and jostling the helicopter back and forth to get anywhere. The boats worked okay. Thankfully, motorcycles were the saving grace. Being on those was fun as hell given all the off-roading you’re practically forced to do.

The combat was both refreshing and frustrating. Going from 3rd person in exploration to 1st person as you aim was a very jarring experience to say the least. If this bothers you, you can change the settings so that you’re mostly in 3rd person unless you go into sniping. At first, the change in perspective was frustrating, but ultimately serves a purpose: tactical precision. Combat in general feels very much like a militaristic operation — scouting enemy positions with drones, tagging enemies to coordinate kills, looking for the best entry point to get in and get out undetected, finding weaknesses in an enemy base (killing the power, for instance), calling for support from the local militia, etc. If you’re caught out of position, or the enemy spots you, you’re likely to die and quick. If you’re hidden, are caught, and run the enemy will not stop chasing you because you hid in some bush for 30 seconds, no they will chase you for 10-15 mins no matter if you’re in a car or boat making combat more exciting/nerve wracking if you’re the only person alive in your squad. The game’s RPG elements come in leveling up, allocating skill points, and the extensive attachments/modifications you can make to your weapons, changing their damage, recoil, accuracy, etc.

Your team’s AI can be great, or can be incredibly stupid. Walking outside a church to 6 enemies with no cover and dying instantly is moronic. Defending your flank efficiently, and lining up headshots for coordinated takedowns is awesome. Personally, to have the best experience you have to play with a group of friends. Nothing like strapping a car with C4, driving into an enemy base and blowing your friend up in the process. But seriously, squad up because it makes the game so much more tactical in its approach, and really has you plan for the various random encounters you’ll have throughout the world.

Being a beta, I encountered a few bugs, like a friendly player looping in an animation when getting on a helicopter, vehicles popping in front of you and killing you, things like that but nothing game breaking. However, it did crash on me twice for seemingly no reason. I’ll give it this though: the game is absolutely beautiful. Lush, vibrant jungles, dirt mountainous roads, snowy landscapes, etc. However, do I think it’s worth your time and money? I can’t say it is. Maybe buy it as a Game of the Year edition fully loaded with DLCs and fixes?

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Micro-review: Starve Better

STARVE BETTER by Nick Mamatas
Published by: Apex Books
Release date: March 19, 2013

Really interesting book about writing. Here you’ll find various tidbits, anecdotes, and advice ranging from: the act of submitting work, what separates “good writers” & “great writers”, the pros/cons of MFA programs, the difference in market value between non-fiction and fiction submissions, teaching, genre, etc. It’s a plethora of information all told through Mamatas’ unique style. He won’t be holding your hand and making sure you’re extra special, but he will teach you to separate yourself from the flock. Most importantly, he makes sure you’re given a realistic view of writing. It’s not all glitz and glamour, schmoozing, and major book deals. You’ll learn to Starve Better.

Nick Mamatas’ website
He blogs here
Tweets here
Buy his latest books—I AM PROVIDENCE and THE LAST WEEKEND

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Plug in Thanksgiving Album – 11/24/2016

Hello!

I hope that everybody is having a great thanksgiving. There’s many things I’m thankful for: family, friends, having a job, etc. There is one that I want to go into detail about, because I feel that it will be well received by you guys.

I am talking about music, new music to be exact. The topic at hand is the new album by the Electronic Music duo named Justice. Justice is a band formed by 2 Frenchmen that like electronic music and disco. Their new album just came out and it’s called Woman. If you’re tired of hearing the same old stuff, give this a try. These guys managed to bring back disco and made it work for 2016, that is freaking remarkable. Here is the single from they new album, but make sure you give the whole thing a try, I believe it won’t disappoint. Thank you everybody and Happy Thanksgiving.

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Without Boundaries (essay)

There’s been a growing sentiment within the fiction writing community that has been bothering me for some time now, and that’s the idea that you should only write within your own sandbox of experience. It’s uncouth to write other races, cultures, gender, sex, religions, etc without someone, somewhere shouting a combination of the following: “cultural appropriation!, sexist!, racist!, etc.” Unsurprisingly the next thing that spews out is the notion that you, X writer, shouldn’t write about those things because you can never portray these things with 100% accuracy, and frankly, that’s horseshit. People fear writing the other (whatever it is) because of this, and it stagnates creativity.

Writing outside of your experience is possibly the healthiest thing you can do as a writer. It forces you to confront something not your own, empathize with it, and cultivate a relationship with it. You want to write characters, not caricatures. You want them to be as real as flesh and blood. As a writer who wants to accomplish this, you look for those people, you cultivate a relationship with them, you research their culture, with its norms, customs, and nuances. You find understanding. You will never, truly portray another’s experience with 100% accuracy (or close to it), and that’s okay. No one ever can, not even the people immersed in it themselves. It’s largely an impossible task, just by a numbers game. No one person has the say-so to what is a true experience, and what isn’t. There are generalities, certainly, and you can absolutely write those things, whatever they may be.

Another sentiment that has bothered me within the writing community is that a writer can’t present ugly ideas in their work without someone immediately attributing it to them. You’re a white writer and you want to write a white supremacist character in your story/novella/novel? You must have those sentiments lodged somewhere in your brain, you must be a racist asshole, you must be a sexist, etc. I’ve never seen a more reductive, and frankly, moronic idea, ever. Do we live in a world of absolutes? It seems like we do, the more I see this come across as fact without any context to the person, the authors intention, etc.

No, you are not beholden to ugly ideas, and sentiments presented in your work of fiction. It isn’t a political pamphlet, an essay on gender politics, a decree against a certain race, etc. There’s a fundamental difference between having ugly, inflammatory ideas in your work of fiction, creating characters or plots to showcase those things and presenting them intelligently, to having those ideas and sentiments being the core values a person carries, and it’s dangerous to confuse the two.

I can understand when it’s someone like Orson Scott Card who is an open homophobe, racist, lobbies against same sex marriage, etc. His hatred is out in the open, and if I’m assuming correctly is now directly tied into his recent works of fiction. And who can ever forget this piece of shit? You want OVERT racism with no way to slice it? That’s a prime example right there, even the promotional videos for that slop was actors in black face. Was it truly the authors intention? Maybe, or maybe not, but it was presented in such a way that a thinking person can’t argue that it wasn’t done sloppily, and without any real thought.

I want to say this: as a writer I want to create fearlessly, without boundaries, guidelines, or divides to my imagination. Should I stifle my creativity because I might fail, or somehow offend someone? Absolutely not. Writing fiction is coming to terms with yourself, using your experience and the vast world around you at your disposal. Its ugliness, beauty, culture, race, violence, sexism, homophobia, and everything in between is a tool for the story you want to express. Don’t ever get stuck in a sandbox. Create cities, worlds, planets. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do this or that. Show them, even if you fail. Don’t regret the stories you felt like you couldn’t tell.

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Book Review: A Collapse of Horses (2016)

by Christopher Novas

A COLLAPSE OF HORSES by Brian Evenson
Published by: Coffee House Press
Release date: February 9, 2016

Have you ever seen a shadow on the highway pass by your car faster than your eye could follow? Have you ever seen shapes you thought were human, but on a closer look weren’t? The perception of reality, the exploration of consciousness rendering the world accurately (to whom, no one is sure), the choices we make or choose not to make, amongst many other questions and concerns are found in A COLLAPSE OF HORSES.

The opening story “Black Bark” follows two men, Sugg and Rawley, out in the expansive west escaping some sort of conflict earlier in the narrative. Sugg has been shot in the leg, has been bleeding for some time and is waiting for refuge at a cabin just around the bend. It continues on and on, bend after bend this supposed cabin never comes into view. They stop at a cave, a “good luck charm” goes missing, and Sugg starts to tell the story of Black Bark—a piece of wood that is found in some man’s pocket with no reason as to how it got there. From there, the flickering fire, the man bleeding half to death, and story of Black Bark brings the reader to a sense of dread and terror. An outstanding opener for this collection.

“A Report” is a Kafka-esque story of man who has made some sort of report to an authority figure, presents it, and is subsequently thrown into a prison. Why? Well, our protagonist is unsure. Was it a missing detail, a lack of information, was his presentation subpar? All of these questions are swirling in his mind, all the while being systematically tortured both psychologically and physically, with no real explanation to his predicament. The tricks the mind plays in trying to stay sane in an insane environment, the pained and tortured returning that pain twofold, threefold, becoming the instigators of another’s misery.

The titular story “A Collapse of Horses” follows a man who comes upon a stable of horses all lying on the ground, are they dead, sleeping, barely breathing? He has never seen horses lie down. An accident happens at his place of work, and his skull is cracked in the process. He awakes to a home that stretches and bends, is unsure of the number of children he has, and he tries relentlessly to return to the horses that are neither dead nor alive. This is a story of a man’s slow descent into madness.

“A Seaside Town” is an excellent example of what Evenson can do with the Weird. Throughout the story reality transmogrifies, shaping horrors that are seen and unseen in the worst ways imaginable. Without an accurate word count, it’s a novelette or novella that just needs to be read to fully appreciate the quiet terror that unfolds in this story. It’s unsettling.

Possibly my favorite story in the collection is “The Dust” a science fiction story with elements of noir, mystery, horror, and thriller all packed into one novelette/novella. It follows a crew of space miners digging into a meteor for resources to bring back home. A never ending dust slowly accumulates within their mining station, and this is the least of their worries. A depleting reserve of oxygen, and the death of one of their crew members follows. You would think that Evenson would dive right into sci-fi aspects of this story, but he pulls them back and tells a tale of paranoia, betrayal, murder, and survival in the cold, black reaches of space. Evenson took a scalpel and tore into my brain with this one. It haunted me for days.

“Any Corpse” begins with: “When she woke, a shower of raw flesh had fallen in the field.” I don’t need to say any more.

I could continue on about all of the stories in this collection, but this post would go into the thousand of words. To put it simply, Evenson is a writers writer. His shadow is large in the American landscape. He is a genuine master of paranoia and the uncanny. He challenges his readers by disrupting their perception of reality, what tricks the mind plays at any given time, to any given person with the right circumstances (or none at all). He guides to the deepest reaches of your mind, leaving you in the depths of dread.

Buy A COLLAPSE OF HORSES direct from Coffee House Press
Amazon
Indie Bound
Barnes & Noble
Visit Brian’s website

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Song of the Day — August 3, 2016

Nasty Nigel is 1/6 of New York collective World’s Fair, and 1/3 of Children of the Night. He recently debut his first official solo release El Ultimo Playboy: La Vida y Tiempos De Nigel Rubirosa. He’s a unique voice in NY rap, with a very carefree attitude to most things, but underneath it all he’s a sensitive young man with a variety of things to say on his life, NY (specifically Queens), and the common struggles of the everyday New Yorker. In today’s song of the day you’ll see a look into the more critical side of Nasty Nigel, and his excellent feature Cities Aviv with heat provided by producer Black Noi$e. Here’s a cut off El Ultimo Playboy:

A review of the project will be forthcoming.

Nasty Nigel on Twitter
World’s Fair on Twitter
Children of the Night on Twitter

If you enjoyed this, you can download the project HERE

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Movie Review: Batman – The Killing Joke (2016)

by Christopher Novas


Release date: August 2nd, 2016
Run time: 77 minutes
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Animated

The new Batman animated feature film has been marred by controversy to say the least, but I’m not getting into that, and instead want to offer you a proper review for the film. The Killing Joke starts off with a 30-minute Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) filled prologue to the real gritty Killing Joke story. In this half of the film, we have interesting moments with her character—seeing her in college and balancing her crime-fighting alter-ego, trying to deal with romantic feelings for Batman whilst keeping true to her idea of what it means to fight crime, and dealing with a sociopathic criminal created for this film: Paris Franz.

Many fans have stated their distaste, and outrage at the notion of Batgirls’ budding romantic relationship with Batman, and I agree, to a point. You see, comic book fans constantly wish that there were big, monumental changes for a character, series, etc and when writers deliver one and it’s not to its appropriate to its immediate history or “makes sense for his/her/its character”, it’s as if the apocalypse has started. It’s constantly looking back to the future instead of towards the future. Personally, I have no problems with this new development in the Batman/Batgirl dynamic, it was just handled so lazily. Barbara Gordon pines for Bruce’s affection and it’s highlighted in her interactions with her gay best friend (that on it’s own is a huge cliche) while working as a college librarian. Throughout the film she waits on his phone calls, constantly seeks his approval in all things, Bruce is emotionally distant throughout the entire story even to the point of ignoring her phone call in one scene, and all of this frustration and one-sided romantic tension on Barbara’s part ultimately culminates with the two having sex on a rooftop after a nasty encounter with some criminals. Some critics have pointed out that because of her younger portrayals in the comics, and “it doesn’t make sense to her character”, that this is a big no-no.

I ask you, did we see the same film, and do we live in the same world? In today’s society many young women enjoy older, more experienced partners for any number of reasons. People constantly argue that they shouldn’t because they’re so young and don’t know anything yet fail to recognize that women are constantly shown to be more mature and handle themselves much better than their male counterparts. In any case, all of the interesting parts of her character development on screen is eradicated and reduced to being a plot device, and portrays her as a jilted young lover as opposed to a fully realized character.

All of this backstory is simply mute because it does NOTHING to the overall story by the start  of the original Killing Joke plot. We all know what happens at this point: the Joker, escaping from jail returns to torture Batman and Detective Jim Gordon to make his point that anyone can have a bad day and be changed forever. He cripples Barbara Gordon in her home, and ends with the vague notion of having raped Barbara (which stays as vague in the film). It’s conclusion is that Batman may or may not have killed the Joker in the story’s finale.

I loved the animation in this film, as it stays true to much of it’s comic book roots. Tara Strong, Mark Hamill, and Kevin Conroy are incredible in their return roles as Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, The Joker, and Batman/Bruce Wayne, respectively.

What could’ve been an incredible animated film hurts an already damaged, iconic comic book, and has absolutely nothing to contribute to the original story. It was great on its own storyline, but feature film it is not.

Buy The Killing Joke on Blu-Ray and DVD on Amazon

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Song of the Day—July 30, 2016

by Christopher Novas

Oathbreaker has been a band since early 2008, and I’ve been loyally following them ever since they released their demo, and subsequent self titled EP in that year. Two albums later, leading into the new 3rd album Rheia (Sept. 30, Deathwish Inc.) and they’re as amazing as they ever were. Along the years they’ve cemented the fact that they are their own beast, never wavering in their attempt to assault your auditory senses. They’ve evolved their sound along the way, but remain undefinable in categorization, which is refreshing to hear in hardcore. They’re crushingly heavy while being melodic and hypnotic all at once. Enough of that though, here’s our latest song of the day, “Needles In Your Skin” off of their latest album Rheia. Enjoy!

To pre-order Rheia, head HERE
Oathbreaker’s Twitter
Apple Music: https://itun.es/us/54D1z
Spotify

 

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James Blake – The Colour in Anything (2016)

by Milton De Aza

You might be asking yourself, James Blake the tennis player? The answer to that is NO!

The James Blake I wish to present you is the musician. James Blake hails from England, what I jokingly call, the land of good music. He has 3 albums which are all worth talking about, yet that is not the point of this post. There is one specific album of his that I wish to present to you — “The Colour in Anything“. It was released on May 6th of this year and it’s been incorporated into my everyday life ever since it came out, and it is absolutely glorious. The Colour in Anything is beautifully produced, every song in this album is relevant all the way through; the songs on this album are all engaging and ever changing, you won’t want to skip any track. This is honestly one of the few albums in my life where I find every song entertaining in different ways, yet I do not have any particular song that I can say blatantly that I dislike. All the tracks in this album feel quite different, despite the slow undertone that envelops the theme of this album. It is a very powerful album in terms of vocals, James Blake really pushes the limit of his voice and makes for some astounding melodies. This is a dark album so don’t expect any jolly pick up songs here, but I can assure you that it will creep into the darkest places of your heart and it will grip you. The themes of this album do lean heavily towards heartbreak and romance, you could say that this is the perfect album to listen if you had your heartbroken recently; yet the songs are not depressing, they carry such power in the beat and vocals that you just fall into a beautiful trance. Here’s the only song from the album with an actual music video, but please, do yourself the favor and listen to it completely.

 


Taken from ‘The Colour In Anything’ – out now:
iTunes: http://blakejam.es/tcia
Apple Music: http://blakejam.es/tciaAppleMusic
Spotify: http://blakejam.es/tciaSpotify

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Tentative Plans

Hello, readers! I know we’ve been gone for quite a while, in large part due to being so busy, and honestly just not having the time or energy to post on both our parts. But all of that will be changing! For now our tentative plans for the future is as follows—we will be posting new content 3 times a week, whether it be a review, song of the day, tech news/review, or pop culture commentary, etc. Our schedule will be Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Our hope is that with this schedule in place we’ll be more disciplined to bring you content on a regular basis and gain more readers along the way. Thank you so much to the people that have taken the time out to check out our little slice of the internet.

—Penboys

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