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Top 9 Favorite Games for Hardcore Gamer Geeks
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Slayve   |  
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The number of exceptional games released over the past year was simply staggering. It was also overwhelming. Thanks to this glorious glut of games, I have become an impoverished, sleep-deprived shell of a man, alienated from family and friends, shuffling zombie-like through the mundane world, the light gone from my eyes, brightening only when my fingers lovingly wrap around a game controller. Such is the sad fate of a hardcore gamer during the holidays.

I should mention that, for this year’s list, I have given up the notion of rating games in some kind of purportedly objective way. Hence this list is dubbed my favorite games of the past year instead of what I deem the “best” games. Without getting into the ongoing debate of whether games are, or even can be, art, I would rather talk about the games that gave me the most joy this year. This approach also has the welcome fringe benefit of preempting the flame wars that usually accompany “best” lists. I’m not claiming that these are the best games of the year, this is a completely subjective list, so there’s nothing to argue about. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. We’ll see.

On to the list, presented in ascending order:

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DVD Review: The Bourne Ultimatum
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The Bourne Ultimatum DVDThe Bourne Ultimatum
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn
Universal Studios
Available December 11, 2007

Back in 2002, director Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity became the first great action movie of the new millennium. At the time, it was a revelation: a satisfyingly complex story, an enigmatic lead character, documentary-style cinematography, and some of the most brutally realistic fight scenes ever filmed. It felt fresh and original, and many action movie fans hoped that The Bourne Identity was the harbinger of a new direction for action movies.

Well, the action movie renaissance hasn’t quite gotten off the ground just yet. But five years after The Bourne Identity, director Paul Greengrass brings us the third (and reportedly final) installment of the series, The Bourne Ultimatum. In this film, Greengrass has tightened the “Bourne style” of filmmaking by paring down the story to its most essential elements. Some might criticize the film for having too little story in comparison with the other two films in the series, but I disagree. There is plenty of story in Ultimatum, but it is told as much through action as it is through more traditional styles of exposition.

This is still a sophisticated action movie, but even more so it is a visceral tour de force. It’s hard to believe it’s even possible, but Greengrass has ramped-up the intensity of the action scenes beyond the previous two films. By way of an example, there is a scene in the Waterloo train station in London in which Bourne is meeting a journalist. Bourne knows that the CIA is watching the station in search of him. What is remarkable is the level of tension created in a scene that consists almost entirely of Bourne and the journalist walking briskly through the station trying not to be spotted by the CIA agents. An action scene with no real action? Yes, and it’s all in the pacing and remarkable camera work. But if action of a more violent nature is what you’re after, you should be more than satisfied with the frenetic rooftop chase in Tangiers which culminates in one of the most brutal depictions of hand-to-hand combat ever put on film.

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Game Review: Buzz! The Mega Quiz (PS2)
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Buzz! The Mega Quiz for Playstation 2Buzz! The Mega Quiz
PlayStation 2
Available now

Party games have become all the rage since the unexpected success of the Nintendo Wii this year. Now the other console makers are scrambling to release family- and party-oriented games to capture a bit of that now lucrative market. Sony recently released their latest attempt in the genre with Buzz! The Mega Quiz. This latest in the popular European Buzz! series is the first to be released in North America. Buzz! is a trivia game that comes packaged with four special controllers. The controllers are designed to be used with one hand, with a big, red “Buzz!” button on top and a row of four smaller, colored buttons below it. The problem with this design is that thumbs (at least American thumbs, I can’t speak to European digits) don’t generally bend backwards, so you end up having to use both hands anyway in order to quickly access the colored buttons. Also, very few of the gametypes use the “Buzz!” button, so it’s a bit perplexing that it is featured so prominently.

There are only two things a trivia game needs to get right: the questions and the presentation. The questions in Buzz! offer a pretty good balance. However, the game definitely shows its European roots at times with questions that very few Americans would get, like identifying photos of celebrities who are little known in the States. But overall it appears that the developers did a good job of editing out the overtly Euro-centric questions.

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DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica — Razor
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Battlestar Galactica-Razor DVDBattlestar Galactica: Razor
Unrated Extended Edition
Starring Michelle Forbes, Jamie Bamber, Stephanie Jacobsen
Universal Studios
On sale Dec. 4, 2007

Not all ideas born of marketing departments are necessarily bad. This week’s release of Battlestar Galactica: Razor is a case in point. According to series creator and executive producer, Ronald D. Moore, the Universal marketing department approached him earlier this year with the idea of filming two standalone episodes that would be televised before the beginning of the final season, then immediately released on DVD, and simultaneously marketed overseas. Moore and his co-executive producer, David Eick, thought this was an intriguing idea, and asked the show’s writers to take a whack at it. Writer Michael Taylor came up with the idea of a flashback episode based on the other battlestar, Pegasus, and thus was Razor born.

Battlestar Pegasus was introduced in the second season of the Sci-Fi Channel’s reimagining of the classic Battlestar Galactica series. Pegasus appeared in the original series under the command of Commander Cain, played by Lloyd Bridges. Cain was presented as a thinly-veiled General Patton — including Patton’s trademark walking stick, which writer Michael Taylor refers to as a phallic “swagger stick.” He was presented as a bloodthirsty soldier more interested in military glory than protecting Galactica’s civilian fleet. In the new series, Cain becomes Rear Admiral Helena Cain, played by Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Michelle Forbes (Moore was a writer/producer on ST:TNG). Aside from the gender change, the new Cain is very similar to the original. As in the original series, the Pegasus was able to escape the surprise Cylon attack that destroyed the Earth colonies and their fleet. Unlike the Galactica, however, Pegasus is not saddled with a civilian fleet, which gives it the flexibility to engage the Cylons in a guerrilla war.

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Comic Review: The Darkness: Levels TPB
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The Darkness: LevelsThe Darkness: Levels TPB
Written by Paul Jenkins, David Wohl
Pencils by Eric Basaldua, Tyler Kirkham,
Patrick Blaine, & Mike Choi
Art by Mattias Snygg, Stjepan Sejic,
Rick Basaldua, Sal Regla, Eric Basaldua,
Jay Leisten, Joe Weems, & Sean Parsons
Colors by Rob Schwager, Studio F, Blond,
& Sonia Oback
Letters by Troy Peteri
Top Cow Productions
Cover price: $14.99; On-sale now

When I heard that Top Cow was coming out with a comic book based on a video game based on a comic book, I was, to say the least, skeptical. I was never a big fan of The Darkness comics in the first place, but I am a fan of the video game (see my review here), so I figured it was worth a try. With input from the game’s development studio, Starbreeze, Top Cow has come out with a comic that is a bit of a departure for this long-running series, and one that I can easily recommend.

The Darkness: Levels is a compilation of the six-issue miniseries based on the game. Although each issue ties-in to a level of the game, it is not simply a retelling of the game’s story. In fact, the stories are self-contained enough that they are accessible to anyone, even if you have never read The Darkness or played the video game. However, if you have played the game, Levels explains some of the back story and fleshes out the relationships between the various characters.

The whole series is written by Paul Jenkins, who also wrote the script for the game. Issue #0 is drawn by Mattias Snygg, a concept artist at Starbreeze. His artwork looks painted, although it was most likely created digitally. The style works quite well for the first issue, which tells the story of how the Darkness came to curse the Estacado family. It takes place during a hellish battle in World War I, and Snygg’s artwork evokes the horror and disorientation of war.

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