Thoughts for Thursday – Flailing, Assassinating, and Overkill.

It’s that time again!

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Thoughts for Thursday” – the blog post that encourages my ADD!

1.) Kinect – so Microsoft’s “Kinect” comes out today.  For those of you who don’t know what “Kinect” is (it used to be called “Project Natal”), it’s motion controls for the Xbox360.  The catch is that there is no controller – you control everything with body movements.  Microsoft analysts are, of course, predicting huge sales, but other tech analysts are stating that this has as much a chance to be a colossal failure as it does a wild success.  Given that Microsoft is pouring $500 million into its marketing of Kinect this holiday season (that’s more than any video game item in history – consoles included), it’s obvious that the company is going all-out in its attempt to revitalize motion gaming.  Interestingly, I see a lot of excitement from gaming websites, but not a lot of excitement from consumers themselves (unless you count Oprah’s audience).  I think there are two primary reasons for this.  First, motion controls are not new.  Wii came out nearly five years ago, and if a company wanted to make a game with motion controls, it did it for Nintendo.  (Even some game developers have stated that they see the Kinect as simply an alternate version of the Wii.)  The appearance may be different, but the end result is the same – you move to achieve results (My Mom saw a commercial for it the other day and thought it was a Wii).  The second big reason is that there is no “killer-app” for Kinect.  Microsoft is spending millions on it this holiday season, but there’s no “must-have” game (Most of them are Wii game knock-offs).  Without this, I think Kinect lacks the real pull that it needs.  Of course, I could go into more detail about the Kinect, but these are just some brief thoughts.  I could be proven entirely wrong this holiday season, but we’ll see.

2.) Assassin’s Creed II – Due to the gentle prodding (aka: friendly pestering) of my girlfriend, I have finally tried out one of her current favorite videogames – “Assassin’s Creed II.”   It’s not a perfect game, but it’s most definitely a pretty fun (and bloody) romp around Renaissance Italy.  I’ll probably write up an actual game review later (as it wouldn’t be fair to reduce it to a single paragraph), but I’ll talk briefly about the game.  Assassin’s Creed II follows two storylines – the first starring a would-be assassin named Ezio in Renaissance Italy and the second starring his present-day descendant Desmond.  The present-day stuff is pretty boring (even with all of the modern-day conspiracy theory stuff that would fit nicely in a “Da Vinci Code” novel), but, fortunately, it plays a backseat to the Renaissance storyline.  This is a very good thing because the Renaissance stuff is incredibly well-realized in this game.  Besides the fact that it just looks awesome, the game has a lot of subtle touches that really sells the time period (such as the characters occasionally breaking out in Italian).  In fact, during the game, you can look up information about people and places that actually existed during this time period.  It’s not necessary for the story or the gameplay, but it shows just how much research the creators put into this game.  From the visual design to the character interaction, this game feels historically accurate, even if it is a work of fiction.  The gameplay itself is pretty fun.  Assassin’s Creed is an open-world type game, meaning you can wander around the entire city, go anywhere you want (including the rooftops), and do basically anything (including killing random strangers).  There are consequences to what you do, however, so you have to be careful about who you tick off (kill too many people and the guards will be hunting for you).  There are a few minor quibbles with controls (most of these issues stem from the camera, actually), but for the most part, it’s a really fun game.

3.) Marvel.  Ok, I enjoy a well-done superhero movie every now and then, but, seriously, Marvel is not only killing the superhero genre, it’s beating it to a bloody pulp.  I was reading an article about the currently in-development “Captain America” the other day, and for the most part, I was only paying mild attention… Until I saw that the actor who plays Captain America had been signed on for six movies.  SIX!  (Nevermind the fact that Marvel wanted to sign him on for nine movies and the actor had the sense to say “no way”).  This is completely ridiculous!  This means that Marvel is now producing a Thor movie, a new Spider-Man, Iron Man 3, three separate Avengers movies, three Captain America movies, a new X-Men movie, a Ghost-Rider reboot, and another Wolverine movie (and these are just the ones I know about).  STOP THE MADNESS!!  A good movie every now and then isn’t a bad strategy, guys.  I love Batman, but I’m willing to wait three years between movies if it means getting a good one.  With this many movies, there’s no way all of them are going to be quality (already, Iron Man 2 was a huge disappointment because it was rushed)  Getting this many movies in a matter of two or three years is complete overkill.

4.) Fringe.  I’ve noticed that a lot of my posts tend to be pretty critical.  I guess that comes with the territory of attempting to be a critic.  However, I do want to use one of these points to speak well about something – Fringe!  Yes, a lot of you know that I have a certain love for the sci-fi drama known as Fringe.  The show took a two week break awhile back, but there’s finally a new episode on tonight, and I’m excited.  This third season has definitely had the strongest run of all the seasons so far.  Quick recap: one of the central ideas in Fringe is the presence of an alternate universe.  This season has done something very unique by telling stories in both universes – alternating locations between episodes.  It’s a risky move, but so far, it’s paid off gloriously.  By only seeing certain characters every other week, it’s really refined the storytelling.  Our time with them is limited, so it has to count.  We still have our “mysterious event of the week” scenario, but all of them have been hugely character-driven – something that’s missing from most dramas today (*cough*TheEvent*cough*).  Another great thing about this season is that, since there’s an alternate universe, a lot of the actors have to portray two separate characters.  I’m sure this must be difficult for the actors, but they’re doing a phenomenal job at it.  You really forget about the fact that it’s the same actor and start to believe that it’s a different person.  John Noble, who plays Walter, has especially done an amazing job portraying the differences.  The more and more I see him on screen, the more I realize that he’s simply a brilliant actor.  I may be raving just a bit, but Fringe really is one of the most creative shows on TV today.

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~ by digitallysmitten on November 4, 2010.

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