Dead Space 2 is really dope.

While I was laid up immediately following a nose job, I took some time to go see my folks, relax, and in general just try to get my life under my feet.

It’s October and I’m stressed the fuck out again so I don’t think it worked out all that well.  

Anyway, I had time on my hands and with a busted arm I couldn’t play guitar or work on any of my other things, so I spent more time playing video games.  Right now, games look better than they ever have.  Playing something like Forza Horizon 4, in some parts the lighting and graphical fidelity make it look really close to life.  So it’s fun to go back a few years to the start of the decade and see how far we’ve come.  

Dead Space!  Dead Space!  was everywhere for a few years there, the developers at EA were keen on making this horror game into some sort of multimedia powerhouse.  There were TWO cartoon movies, a bunch of spin-offs, books, the works.  Dead Space, with its striking art style, violence and otherworldly horror seemed like the perfect big blockbuster for a western company.

There’s only one problem; it’s 2010 and the character models look like creepy dolls.

It wouldn’t be til a few years later with titles like The Last Of Us or Tomb Raider that human characters would animate and move around in a very convincing manner, until then we had stuff like this (although I think this is a particularly shabby example; later characters move and talk pretty well).  Where even the emotional beats can kind of look silly as the whole thing starts to buckle where human models are just lame looking.

Alright, this one is pretty cool.

But this one, lol.

Still!  It’s space!  So you don’t see people out of their spacesuit/industrial armor for the most part and the game’s commitment to having no cuts in gameplay and the HUD being a natural part of the space suit is an awesome trick that’s marketed heavily in games today. 

Love how scenes like this transition you to the next level in a game without cutting to black or introducing a time skip.

Issac’s armor is cool and the world he occupies looks great.  The lighting is pretty dope too!

I like Dead Space 2 a lot, I think it’s probably one of the best examples of a great sequel in modern gaming: it’s bigger, it’s better and there’s more confidence in the whole product.  The main character has a voice, and is fairly sympathetic, and the supporting cast is the best the series has had.  Some of the writing is way too on the nose, such as a dementia-induced hallucination taunting the main character to cut his wrists in a hammy and dumb way…mental illness will just never be handled with any sort of subtlety in games I guess.  

The game gives you a good weapon sandbox to fight with as well, enemies move fast; faster than the over-the-shoulder camera really allows you to deal with.  If you ever played RE4 and wondered how the older, swift monsters of the series like the hunters or lickers would be handled; the difficult combat, and some bullshit deaths of this game would show you!

 

But fear not, you’ve got a few tools to help even the score: telekinesis and stasis.  TK is cool especially as it lets you deal with monsters without losing ammo, and a lot of the game is actually built around utilizing this; you can almost always punch a structure down and use the rubble to impale a monster that is running towards you.  You can even use their bodies to set off their own booby traps.

 

Less reliable is stasis, used to blast monsters with a blue smoke that puts them in slow motion…it works but it’s limited and some swift enemies will just sneak up to you out of view for the kill as you prep to fire a bolt at them…

It’s surprising how well the game still players today, things like the game economy, where you buy upgrades and items for money call to mind something like the old Dreamcast game Blue Stinger, and it’s pretty cool to see how the different weapons help you get through situations (my favorite being a close range weapon that just levitates a circular saw in front of you, dicing up anything in your path).  With the graphics, storytelling and multimedia push, I feel like this is a title that was five years too early; this would be a huge hit today compared to *only* pushing like 3 million copies back in the day back when it seemed everyone was pushing for multiplayer games, Dead Space 2 has a mode, but I didn’t play it because it requires paying 10 dollars for an online pass, another practice of that era that I’m not sad to see go.  

See the source image

Ugh.

 

Anyway, this game’s pretty awesome, it’s way better than the other shitty horror game I played in August: The Evil Within, a bland stealth horror game by the man that created the sublime Resident Evil 4…how could he have fucked this up so bad?  It was on new consoles and looks significantly worse than Dead Space 2.

 

 

New York City Comic Con

Hey,

I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but a lot happens in life sometimes.  To sum things up, I tore my rotator cuff in July, right before running in the Tough Mudder race, but still did the race with one arm, we got a pretty respectable time and I even managed to make it through a number of the climbing obstacles, which I really wish I had pictures of…

It was a lot of work and I was pretty beat up.  I had frozen shoulder for about a week and a half after, and it was a miserable experience.  But, hey, at least it had me ripped for a few days despite the sling.

So, even with that I still decided to live up the summer as much as I could, and I went to two concerts the week after, Panorama festival to watch The XX and The Killers headline (which was amazing), and the Smashing Pumpkins a few days later for their reunion tour.  I love the pumpkins and have seen them a few times, but this may be the last time I need to check them out, they played nearly anything you’d want to hear them play.  The Killers were just a fantastic show, and even though it seems the band is having some personnel issues (Dave and Mark weren’t in the line up for this huge tour they’re on), it’s incredible how much better of a performer Brandon has become over the years, the shows I’ve seen them do for this tour blow even their produced live album performance out of the water.  What a professional.

Oh and uh I got a nose job the week after which took me out of commission for August…

 

With all that out of the way, I went to New York Comic Con for the first time since 2010, I don’t love conventions, but I live on my own now and try to do the drag thing more often cause of it and they give me a good reason to.  The Widowmaker costume from overwatch I ordered back in March was gonna get more use, but it needed work.

When it first arrived it looked like this wide, limp thing with cheap accents and a skirt that was nothing like the one in game; I get that video game physics are a thing, and satin can’t really do what it’s doing above without some clever wiring and tacking, but this wouldn’t do.  We shortened the skirt a bit in March, but it needed to be completely redone for this time around.  After much struggling to make one from stretch and try to plan out how to get it to flare out like her skirt in game, I decided to look to dancewear stores and found a skirt that kind of matches, but it wasn’t in green so I had to sew green ribbons over the pink, and then cut the pink ribbons out.  It was time consuming, but not as bad as you’d think.

I didn’t attach it to the bodice, cause if I do this costume again, honestly I’ll probably redo the bodice from scratch as well.  I didn’t do any make-up trials either cause time was short and with my arm recovered, I wanted to spend the nights sewing, running, or cutting out DIY hip pads, so I put faith in my makeup skills of the past to be summoned up appropriately the day of, which made me super anxious.  Got up at 7 am that day, ate a donut, committed to no food or water until the costume and it’s four layers of tights were removed after the convention so I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom, and got to work.

Honestly felt the makeup was the best I’ve done yet.  The airbrush I got earlier in the year was such a good investment, and with the new shape of my nose I felt confident no going for a nose contour with the bold white color my face paint would already have, which made the design much cleaner.

I decided against using much of the headdress, which is just too unwieldy (another thing to remake from scratch…why did I buy parts for this costume at all?), and kept my natural hair for the outfit, I’m planning on doing a new costume for Halloween which will require a wig, it’ll be my first pro grade one.

I had friends coming that have never seen me in a costume either, they’re a pretty masculine bunch, real UFC watching beer drinking regular dudes (and one of them brought their girlfriend).  But my friends have surprised me a lot this year, and like in March, everyone was actually super cool with helping me out with the costume and its ribbons and shit.  Very cool and unexpectedly no one bitched that I was making them late for the convention.

A queen is only as good as her subjects.

The final costume came out looking great and whattya know I feel like I got a good smile down for the look too.  Really like how the lip stuff came out this time around, when I first did this costume I made the lips too small and the whole look actually suffered a lot for it, little details can make a big difference, especially in drag.

So without further ado, here’s the pics I got with various folks at the convention.

I was swamped with photogs as soon as I got in, which was fucking dope.

The photographer that took this actually introduced herself, so it’s important that I tag her and

Took a bunch of photos with other OW cosplayers…why is Sombra flipping off the photographer though!?  Was glad to find 3 different tracers that all had good costumes.  My leg ribbons fell off after about 3 hours….satin was the wrong choice, works in video game physics…not so well here.

You can’t see it but i have hip pads on which made the whole costume a lot more comfortable to wear out, as it’s not like any piece of me near the nether regions was REALLY showing (and I wore a bottom piece under the skirt anyway ya pervs).

Forza horizon 4 is fuckin’ dope, and Chevy’s booth at NYCC was kind of dumb, but I was glad to get a pic next to an awesome Camaro in this get up.

So, autumn is here and life is in full swing once more.  I’ll be working on another costume after taking a few days off and getting my music together, still want to do something that combines these outfits with shredding on my guitar, but the arm injury during the summer has delayed that a bit.  Also listened to a ton of albums I never listened to before over the summer, will have to put down my impressions.

Hey, here’s some other miscellaneous pics of the con of cool toys or neat costumes.  I didn’t really take many photos so there isn’t much here, sorry!

More albums from my backlog

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me What You Really Think (2018)

This is pretty cool, she plays guitar and is sardonic and sarcastic.  It all feels so common and played out growing up in the 90s, but in the late 2010s it’s a complete relief.  It’s a quiet, stoner rock kind of sounding thing, but part of me would really like to see her put try her hand at putting out a banger.  Wonder if her other albums have anything that fits the bill. 

She’s playing at Prospect Park this summer, I should try to catch it.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

I’m behind on this one.  Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’m an aficionado of hip hop; I’m simply not cool enough.  That said, I’m definitely a fan of this.  The second track, DNA is for sure a highlight.  I’m not a big fan of the slower tracks, kind of falls under ballads where we’re getting to a point where they almost always sound perfunctory.  But when the album picks up, it’s awesome. 

It’s even got U2 on it, somehow in a pretty good track.  I know Bono caught a lot of flack for using the word ‘girly’ referring to current rock music; lamenting the fact that young anger seems to only be captured by hip hop now.  Misguided use of gendered langauge aside, listening to an alt-radio station for 20 minutes will prove that he is definitely right that nearly every other genre is currently failing to provide anything visceral. 

Jack White – Boarding House Ranch

I find in general that Jack’s solo stuff all feels like a continuation of everything started on Icky Thump, for better or worse.  I quite liked Icky Thump so that’s okay for me, but I do find myself having a hard time getting all in on this.  That said there’s definitely some interest things on here, it all blends together in a nice package in the end.  Yeah; I get that I’m not speaking with much conviction on this one, but like the etching on the vinyl of this album says “I don’t know what to tell you.”

 

Some simple pleasures

Yeah, the world needs another blog by a white dude talking about video games like I need a fuckin’ hole in my head right?  Indulge me a bit, if you will.

One of my closest friends is enamored with the video game Dr. Mario.  I think it was part of her morning ritual to bang out some rounds on an old Nintendo.  I never really understood how someone could be so enthralled with one game, but I recently stopped playing Overwatch, a title I was hooked on for a little more than two years, so I guess I can’t talk. 

And sure, I’m not hating on playing games daily, I believe people are free to spend their free time however they wish, but I was thankful for the reprieve.  Especially so because it gave me the headspace to go handle some smaller tasks with gaming instead of the nebulous goal of logging in every night solely to compete against other humans.  Case in point; I had a lazy Friday night this week so I decided to spend it playing an old video game like my friend might with her Dr. Mario cartridge.

I really love the old Resident Evil games (the newest one is great too!), they’re like point & click adventure games except there’s dangerous monsters and you’ve got the means to deal with them.  The third entry, Nemesis, is one I never played much.  I remember growing up a classmate had the game and I went to his house and played it but we didn’t stay friends for long; for the best, I was kind of a cunt as a child and was definitely just hanging out with this guy to play this game.  At least he made me play basketball with him so it was a two-way thing.  

But it’s a tough game with some degree of randomness to it and unlike the first two entries, your heroine, Jill actually feels like the elite police task force officer she’s supposed to be (halter top aside): she can dodge attacks, and move around a bit more freely than in other titles in the series, and even the next one.  Look at that ease.  Anyway, a title like this is pretty enjoyable because you get more than a few ways to bite back if you’re in a nasty situation, makes it perfect for me to stream on my Mixer channel.  I even get a bit of an audience when I do it that like to watch how I do.  Unfortunately, the last run I tried ended tragically; I was killed by the final boss encounter.

There’s definitely something comforting about the infantile attempts to be cinematic in these old games, it was a time where CD quality audio was just first becoming possible in a home game, which is to say a time where audio of any decent quality at all was present.  No offense to the people of the prior era.  There’s voice acting, attempts at being dramatic (for an ace cop Jill is a bit too prone to helpless gasps, although her penchant for dopey statements that are way too on the nose falls right in line with the rest of the cops in the series), and the opening cutscene that shows the brunt of the outbreak destroying the city is thrilling, despite the Ken doll looking people.

The full game has a lot of attempts at paying homage to a lot of horror titles and framing the camera in new ways, an improvement over the last game that featured no less than 5 characters unceremoniously just being dumped over a railing like a sack of potatoes to show violence in a cutscene.  A standout are the “tough as nails” mercenaries in the cast that, true to fashion, get picked off one by one til there’s only the virgin girl of the group left. 

Of course I’m referring to the slightly froggish Carlos.

The game was really tough, I was swamped by lethal enemies a lot in places where I’ve never come across them in other playthroughs, and ultimately couldn’t beat it.  I love when an old game can still surprise me.  Overall though, I was pretty happy to spend what was looking to be a dull Friday night in with it.  It was chill and I enjoyed not feeling like I was wasting time, which is just

 

Hey, I collected some more gifs of the gameplay below, it shows off the dodge mechanics against some of the more dangerous creatures of the game and a pretty funny scene where Nemesis just runs me down immediately upon entering a room where I have no hope of trying to react.  Hope you enjoy em!

And for good measure for some of my friends into that sort of thing (they’re usually MMA junkies too, I see you), I had to make sure I grabbed this gif of one of the bad guy’s kicky feet as he was getting got by the evil creature.

 

 

Quickie Listen: Panic! At The Disco – Pray For The Wicked

I’ll be short, sweet and positive with music impressions.  I don’t call them reviews, as I find music an impossible thing to judge, and everyone’s ears give them their own experience.  I’m also a musician and creative, so it’s dangerous to spend too much time critiquing versus studying something you enjoy.  Typically, if I write about it, I enjoy it, unless I come across something that offends my sensibilities so much that I gotta dunk on it.

 

Let’s get it out of the way, yes, everyone is listening to the new NIN album today instead.

But honestly did anyone ever expect, when Brandon Urie first showed up in a fucking top hat and circus ringmaster coat with derivative songs named with complete sentences and being a nosy prick at other people’s weddings, that’d he would actually be the last one standing of the 00s scene?  

Sure, Fallout Boy came back, but let’s face it they suck.  During the decade that followed Panic!’s debut album, Brandon has honed his voice to a razor sharp edge, taking fans through the ride of various homages to his favorite acts through sleepy covers of Smashing Pumpkins ballads at festivals, or an entire album that’s a love letter to the Beatles (that I’m quite fond of actually), and complete band reconfigurations until he was the only one left; which well, is pretty common from his era, just look at Paramore.  

Anyway that’s all beside the point; like another 00s rockstar Brandon that’s enjoying some revitalized success, he’s emerged from the other side of it all playing the part of a ladykilling playboy with impeccable hair, a nice suit and a taste for gray goose; it helps that his voice is on point.  The opening track is a tour de force that quickly establishes through a lengthy rant of dirty words that he’s here and he wants you to hear him, goddamnit.  It never gets tawdry, though; his flowerly lyrics about silk tourniquets are delivered in a way that sounds completely alien to the pop punk emo world of a decade ago.  It’s a great marriage of Urie’s knack for purple prose with modern production sensibilities.

Some complaints: the lyrics could be a bit sharper at some points (a few too many songs about meeting up brings to mind Jared Leto’s hobby of sliding into DMs), and some production missteps occur, I’m not a fan of the warbly high pitched voice that’s featured on the album, especially since Urie isn’t afraid to belt out something in the very very upper register himself.  But hey, it wouldn’t be a risk if it didn’t have a chance of not working out.  After all if artists always listened to people like me nitpicking, you wouldn’t have had something like The Reflex bringing Duran Duran (who, for the record are the band I took all this ‘Panic’ nonsense from with their classic banger ‘Girl Panic’) to the US way back when, right?  

At a low-fat 32 minutes long, it’s definitely a worthy listen, maybe with a nice Tom Collins in hand.  You can skip the last track though, an overly long ballad that goes nowhere (ballads appear to be a lost art these days).  Definitely would be interested in catching the tour when it comes by; I wonder why there’s no festival gigs for the band?  

Albums I’ve listened to this month

New:

Ye – Kanye West

A fascinating but ultimately kind of dopey peer into the psyche of Kayne West.  I like the candor, but wonder how much of it is simply part of the act.  Kanye’s a complex artist, when he’s upfront here it’s great.  When he’s coy or indulgent, it’s a slog.

 

 

 

Chvrches – Love is Dead

Is it?  You couldn’t tell it from this sugary sweet album that does little to display such a bold statement.  Lauren’s vocals carry the show and it’s an easy listen, but for my money, Paramore’s After Laughter beat this album to the punch.

 

 

 

Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

A fun album, Screwed and Make Me Feel are standouts and I really really Janelle as a performer and artist.  However, I can’t quite buy in to what’s being sold on tracks that put her vocals above the buttery smooth production; she just doesn’t have the voice being sold here.  But those tracks are merely a short diversion in a great album and let’s face it, Janelle is impossible not to like.

 

 

Old:

Roxy Music – Roxy Muxic (1972)

This is not the band that did More Than This ten years after this debut album.  It’s a messy glam album but you can definitely see the blueprint established here.  Without this album would there ever have been a David Byrne?  Brian Eno would find his home making more atmospheric stuff after a brief stop off with Peter Gabriel’s wacky Genesis finale, but he starts off ably here.  The album is a sensory overload, but enjoyable.

 

 

The Birthday Party – Prayers on Fire (1981)

As a vampire, I know how troublesome it is to keep the act up long, and thus most goth bands fall into parody or irrelevance if they don’t sensibly bow (wow wow) out.  So it is with The Birthday Party, an odd band fronted by graveyard crooner Nick Cave.  Post-punk, whatever you want to call it, it winds up with an interesting sonic profile that challenges like a hardcore band, without having the constant fear of getting your ass kicked that comes with listening to that.  A lot of fun to listen to, if you’re into being sonically assaulted.

 

Machines Of Loving Grace – Concentration (1993)

More awesome vampire music, industrial was really the best thing to happen to goth music wasn’t it?  A lot simpler and digestible than something like Skinny Puppy, these guys are less concerned with being counter culture than just writing cool songs that sound spooky.  Butterfly Wing is an awesome cut no matter what your outlook on the band is.