Civilization IV

Posted: 7th May 2010 by Mister Critic in Random
“Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh, who would ever want to be king?”
-Viva La Vida, Coldplay

To answer your question, Mr. Coldplay, I would want to be king.
And now you too can be king of your very own civilization thanks to the makers of Civilization IV. This video game allows players to pick a famous world leader, ranging from Julius Caesar to Catherine the Great to FDR, and lead your chosen people from a roving band of natives to a great and powerful nation.  You choose the technologies to focus on developing or the trade agreements you want to make.  And because there are multiple ways to win the game, you can choose whether you will be a peaceful, culturally rich society, or a technologically advanced nerd-land winning the space race, or, my preference, a war-mongering dictatorship bent on world domination.

You start off with simple advancements like the wheel, and move towards developing even better modes of transportation, like tanks, ships, and even airplanes. That is, if you can get that far without nuking everyone once you develop your stockpile. Make sure you have built up enough of an army to protect your young cities, and order workers to build improvements around each city, like roads and mines, and within each city, like a granary or an aqueduct, or even better, a world wonder likeStonehenge.  But watch out, you must make sure you people are happy or they could revolt. They will not be able to obtain your head on a platter, but they can defect to the opposing nearby countries.  So make sure you work on increase your cultural influence on the world by creating great works of art or music, and then your boundaries will expand. And you can even send in spies to other countries to gather information or sabotage their developments.

I like that as the game advances, more resources are discovered and the balance of power can flip at any time.  One country that was powerful in the beginning may not have access to oil or uranium, and thus will need to make some sort of alliance with a weaker country that has that resource, or better yet, just wipe them off the map.  But this factor makes for some interesting twists in a game.

Another cool aspect of this game is that you can be the first to discover a certain religion, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, etc., and then spread that religion to nearby cities with “missionaries in a foreign field.”  But watch out because some nations may not like your religion and begin a holy war with you to convert your heathen ways.

My favorite part of this game, aside from the kick-butt song at the start of the game,Baba Yetu, is that you can play against multiple live players rather than just the computer, making every game unpredictable.  So far I have only had the chance to play against my wife, which usually results in one of us quitting just as our rear end is about to be handed to us.  And we don’t get to play as often as we would like.

So I dream of the day where I can play a large, intense game with a number of friends gathered together, each hunched over their respective computer, engaged in a full scale world war. Alliances are broken, remade, then broken again, trade embargos are threatened, rivals are erased from history in only a few turns, elephants are killed, tears shed, and only one is voted the leader of the United Nations to win the game. And that one will be me.

Well, all that’s when I rule the world.

The Xbox 360

Posted: 2nd May 2010 by Mister Critic in Random

This post is less of a review and more of a shout out to the best Brother-in-law ever. Thanks to his hooking a “brotha” (in-law) up with the Xbox 360 gaming system, my family has entered into the world of “next gen” gaming, and I am loving it. I have only had a combined total of 15 minutes of game time, but what I have seen so far, I love. The feature I am most excited about is being able to watch movies from Netflix through with Xbox. It has a wireless internet connection and communicates with my Netflix account to deliver instant movies right to my TV.  How cool is that?

Well, thank you again, bro, for thinking of my family and I hope to have some video game reviews coming soon. Of course, that may require some assistance from game testers in my area. Where, oh where, will I ever find a bunch of guys who like to play video games?

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Posted: 22nd April 2010 by Mister Critic in Random
I am not excited about starting a blog with the review of this movie, but I guess the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  Even if that one step is into a big pile of dog poo.

Now I was not a big fan of this series the first time around.  And now that it is a saga, I don’t think my opinion has changed.  I have not read the books, so maybe they are better.  But I am not happy with the changes made with the rules regarding vampire, and now werewolf, folklore.  Sunlight does not make vampires sparkle…it makes them die. They are creatures of the night.   I’m sorry, those are the rules.  If you don’t like it, don’t write about vampires.  Create some other sparkle monster.  And really the heart of the issue is that I am all for changing rules as long as you don’t make them lame.

Mad Men Seasons 1-3

Posted: 21st April 2010 by Mister Critic in Random
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It is the show that makes you wonder what your grandparents really were doing during the good old days.

Mad Men follows the lives of several individuals working on Madison Avenue (hence the title Mad Men) in New York City at the advertising agency Sterling Cooper starting with season one in the mid-1950 to season 3 ending around the mid-1960s.

I started watching Mad Men on DVD soon after having watched Revolutionary Road, a movie about a similar time period focusing on the lives of a suburban couple in the 1950s. I did not like Revolutionary Road (maybe to be discussed in a different review), so I was concerned Mad Men would end up a cheap knock off in comparison.  I was very happy that I was wrong.

My favorite thing about this show is seeing the inner workings of an advertising agency. You watch as the accounts men scramble to secure a company’s business, taking them out to two-three-four martini lunches, or illicit after hours activities. Once the client is on board, it is up to creative to pitch the great ideas. I love to see what the boss will say about a certain idea, and trying to figure out what would be the best campaign.  The beset answer the main character gives as to why a certain ad works is: “Because men want her and women want to be her.” That slogan works for everything…except for STD public service announcements.

Having watched the show on DVD in three hour blocks, I cannot really say that any one episode stood out to me.  Instead, I take the show as a whole and the thing I like best is its characters. There is the young woman trying to make it in a man’s world.  There is the closeted gay man trying to hide his true self from the prejudiced workplace. The entire cast is filled with superb actors, and although there is no character free from blemish, I dare you not to root for at least one person in this show.

Most fascinating to me is the main character Don Draper, the confident ad man with a secret background.  At times, he is so suave, all knowing and untouchable, and yet at other times so human and hurt. He is a character that gets a chance to remake himself from a poor farm boy into a rich family man and yet he is still unsatisfied for reasons he will never comprehend.  Draper embodies an archetype of the modern American man, one I have actually witnessed in real life, striving to pull himself up by his bootstraps, searching for success and no matter what has been achieved, he cannot be happy.  Or is he just a selfish prick that likes to hurt people?  Watch the show and decide for yourself.  And even though you may not agree with his choices or like his behavior, on some level isn’t it true? Women want him and men want to be him.

Mad Men will return for its fourth season on AMC on July 25