Hey folks, we at S&F would like to introduce the newest addition to our merry band of miscreants, The Cheerful Sarcast. He’s a good friend of mine, and will be contributing his video game expertise and reviews to our little slice of the internet. Keep an eye out for his content coming soon!
Some further thoughts had occurred to me since yesterday. Thought’d I’d toss ‘em in while they were still fresh.
-Was I the only person who didn’t have any problem with Tali’s unmasking in ME3? Sure, it was a modified stock photo, and yes, I suppose I can see the disappointment with the relatively minor changes to the existing material. That being said though, I honestly think it was well-done, and a heartwarming touch to the end of an era.
-As I mentioned with a friend back on Facebook, I can’t stand Ashley Williams now. Her propensity toward honor, looking after her family, and fondness for poetry made her stand out initially, but these redeeming qualities were dragged down when she repeatedly made comments about not being too fond of crewmembers like Wrex, Garrus, Tali, and Liara – people who would gladly give their lives to save Ashley, but who herself admitted would do the exact opposite. Add to this her rampant paranoia and distrust in the start of ME3, and she’s lost every redeeming quality she once had. I had a lot more fun with the renegade dialogue options in subsequent campaign runs, it was enjoyable to tell such an irrational mistrusting bigot to go fuck off.
-I suppose I see where Javik is coming from in his harsh “defeat the Reapers at ANY cost” mentality, (and a similar line of thinking can be seen in Garrus’ “ruthless calculus of war” speech), but that doesn’t make him right. I still wish I could’ve spaced him after Thessia.
-Wrex sounds like he could’ve been voiced by John Goodman.
-I still fail to see the appeal of the M-77 Paladin, relative to the M-11 suppressor or even M-6 Carnifex. Smaller magazine capacity, negligible improvement in stopping power over the Carnifex, and unchanged rate of fire. If I’m missing something important here, somebody let me know.
-Also, I found the ME1 M-7 and ME-2 M-8 rifles to be a lot better looking with their built-in scopes. The ME3 one without just looks so . . . hideous. I like its handling better than in ME1 or 2, but god it just looks so damned ugly without that scope.
-Echoing Grunt’s drunken shower wisdom in ME3 Citadel, I always thought turians looked more like cats than birds. Hardassed cats, but still.
-Rannoch is gorgeous. Looks like the American Southwest, but with less sand and more water.
-I felt the rachni queen’s capture/cloning in ME3 was fairly contrived. It felt like the first major decision I made in ME1 that would come to major relevance in ME3. To have her just be captured after I freed her was irritating. I wanted to actually have a conversation with the rachni queen or her troops, learn more of their history (you get some backstory during your exchange in ME1, but it could’ve been expounded on more). Maybe actually have a level where saving the rachni queen gives you backup rachni troops in a ground battle that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.
-Grunt’s “heh-heh-heh” laugh is too goddamned funny.
-Also, Zaeed’s and Garrus’ home-defense planning in ME3 Citadel was among the funniest dialogue of the entire series.
-Cortez was . . . clingy. And weird. Damn good shuttle pilot, but still, ya know, weird.
-EDI’s new body could’ve done away with some of the obvious sex appeal. I felt it took away from the well-developed character she had built up over two games.
-Also, Samara was goddamned irritating. Wish she was never included in either game, at all. Her ill-fitting outfit just felt like EA was trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of gamer, too. Her odd Justicar code and mannerisms didn’t help either. And no, Morinth wasn’t better.
-Resource mining felt POINTLESS in ME1, slightly tedious but mildly entertaining in ME2, and empty and lacking in ME3. Kinda liked littering an unknown planet with probes. Looked like I was destroying continents at a time from space.
-The human-alien tension could’ve been an interesting plot dynamic between Shepard’s crew and the Normandy’s Cerberus employees in ME2. Ya know . . . if it existed. At all.
-The concept of the geth consensus is a fascinating idea – networked intelligence, sharing all thoughts, ideas, and sensory data – communing with millions of other entities at any given time. It’s a shame I have to kill them all in ME3. Hopefully, the limited exposure to the geth aid on Rannoch would encourage the quarians to restore the species in due time – and with responsibility.
-I’m thinking on my next ME3 run, I might just kill Ash and Samara for the hell of it.
-I also recently discovered that Kal’Reegar, one of the Migrant Fleet Marines sent to backup Tali on Haestrom in ME2, was voiced by Adam Baldwin. For those who don’t know, Adam Baldwin portrayed Lusthog squad’s M60 gunner “Animal Mother” in the Stanley Kubrick Vietnam epic “Full Metal Jacket”. This both makes Kal’Reegar 8x more of a badass than he already was (which he was substantially), and kinda makes me with quarians shouted “fuck” a lot more. Or had expositions on getting killed for the word “poontang”. If that last sentence confused you, go see Full Metal Jacket today. It’s amazing.
That’s all I can think of for now. If I think of substantially more, I’ll post tomorrow night.
Keelah se’lai, folks.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft was doing one of their pathetic attempts at a sale on direct download games on XBL. I took a look at the titles, and was partly pleasantly surprised. Among them was Hitman: Absolution, a title I had been looking to acquire anyway, for $10. Not a bad deal. Among them were a few older titles, but they were going for $5. So I also picked up Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway (which, honestly kinda sucks).
Oh, and a podunk little game called “Mass Effect”.
Years ago, after the first one had come out, I had two of my best friends from high school tell me it had the “best video game plot twist ever.” I found the claim interesting, but largely went on about my CoD-saturated lifestyle. For which I am ever ashamed.
I think I saw an ad for Mass Effect 2 a few years back, and I actually had downloaded and played the Mass Effect 3 demo that came out back in March 2012. Seemed nice enough, but I felt I was missing a lot of context – thus, I decided to let it go until the right time to try out number one came around.
My god. I can’t believe what I missed.
All the hype was right. All the zeal was well-deserved. All the fandom was finally understandable.
I started out with Catienda Shepard (femshep) – Earthborn, sole survivor of the thresher maw experiment on Akuze, and a redhead. Shortly thereafter I was introduced to my first alien species in the universe, a Turian named Nihlus – part of some group called the “Spectres”. Sounded interesting,
I talked to Jenkins about our destination, Eden Prime. The way he described it, I was looking forward to some good looking 2007-era setpieces of paradise in the stars. Theeeeeeeen fucking Sovereign has to screw it all up. I remember when I first saw the video footage from the 212, it looked like a giant biomechanical hand grasping for the burning surface of the colony.
Then followed Jenkins’ inevitable demise and subsequent replacement by Gunnery Chief (and human loyalist in denial) Ashley Williams. I honestly didn’t dislike her much until I started going to the Normandy’s cargo bay to talk to her between missions.
Then the geth. Ahhhhh, the geth. What I thought to be mindless killing machines bred from that violent lamp in the Pixar logo for the longest time. Turns out I would come to rather like them. But more on that later.
After Eden Prime, it was on to the Citadel to meet with the Citadel Council – the cooperative alliance of species working together for the benefit of the galactic community – think the UN, but they don’t suck nearly as much. Plus, they have the Spectres, a group of soldiers granted galactic diplomatic immunity and tasked with doing the work of galactic peacekeepers or enforcers. I can’t imagine the UN having any such task force without the Security Council alone going absolutely apeshit.
From the city-state/space station of the Citadel my journey took me to the frozen corporatocracy of Noveria, the colony of Feros, and the almost-was garden world of Virmire. Saving the rachni queen, salvaging what I could of Zhu’s Hope, and sacrificing one of my Alliance comrades at the krogan cloning facility. Finally, after the Mako drop at Ilos and the subsequent war-ending conflict, you’d think it was over. I had gotten at least $5 of value out of the experience.
My bank statements would indicate this number to be considerably higher.
While it was by no means perfect (the obsessive inventory management system got irritating rather quickly, and my assault rifle couldn’t hit shit), I was VERY much intrigued. I had read reviews stating the maturity of the series and its universe – far greater than it should be for its age – and I could see why. A developed economic system, translation solutions, inter-cluster transportation, an established galactic history, and an honest-to-god attempt to address small arms advances over 200 years. This helped with immersion, but the desire to drive on comes from the interpersonal relationships you develop with your crew over the course of your fights against the geth, the collectors, and the reapers. But more on that later . . .
I wanted to touch upon a couple of random thoughts I had on various aspects of the trilogy. No rhyme or reason to most, just things that stood out to me.
-ME3: The damned Cerberus ninjas. They move just fast enough for you to be slow on the draw, but just slow enough for you to lead your next shot too much. If you’re running a shotgun (ESPECIALLY with the Graal Spike Thrower), it might as well be a death sentence.
-ME3 Citadel DLC: The M-11 Suppressor pistol is so beautifully, insanely overpowered. I keep it loaded with inferno rounds just in case a stray Atlas mech or a Banshee shows up. Comes in serious handy during the last fight in London.
-Garrus is such a badass, and a damn good friend. He and Tali never question your motives, they trust you with their lives, and they never hold a grudge against you. Unlike goddamned Alenko and Williams. Whiny bastards.
-When I first played Mass Effect, I had *NO* idea that Seth Green voiced Joker, the Normandy’s pilot. I was SOOOOOO excited to hear him at first, and very glad to hear him come back in every subsequent game.
-Thermal Clips: I get that it was necessary for game mechanics to introduce limited ammunition stockpiles in ME2 and 3. Unlike most everyone else, it seems, I actually like that system better. It forces you to actually control your shots, but it doesn’t prohibit heavier weapons from putting extra slugs downrange in an emergency. That said, it was nice to see the M-7 Lancer return for the last ME3 DLC.
-Also on the subject of weapons, the M-96 Mattock dominates all others. Kneel before it’s semi-automatic fury. I take it to every corner of the galaxy.
-My ME3 standard weapons setup:
-M-96 Mattock w/ magazine upgrade and thermal scope
-M-9 Tempest w/ stability upgrade and scope OR the M-12 Locust w/ lightweight materials and magazine upgrade
-Graal Spike Thrower w/ smart choke and heavy barrel (only added it recently – I gave it to Tali as it was the best shotgun in the game, then wanted to have it around when you solo Omega. It grew on me afterwards :D)
-M-11 Suppressor with heavy barrel (Omega DLC add-on) and magazine upgrade
-Also, for ME3, I felt they screwed up the ordering of the rifle heavy barrel models. L5 (think the A-280 blaster rifle barrel from Star Wars) should’ve been L3, L4 (looked like a modified Barrett M107A1 muzzle brake) was fine as is, but L3 (derived from an arrowhead-style muzzle brake for the Russian KSVK 12.7mm sniper rifle) should’ve been L5. Just looks better in payoff. I used to run my Mattock with a thermal scope and the heavy barrel until I got the L5 upgrade. It just didn’t look the same :( I decided the expanded magazine and the black finish looked much better, and didn’t sacrifice tactical capability.
-The geth in ME1 and 2 were nothing to shake a stick at – but with the Reaper upgrades in ME3, they actually became pretty fierce:
-Rocket troopers used homing missiles to cover their cover-to-cover advances. Mixed with kinetic barriers, this made even quick pop-up adrenaline-rush headshots sprees with the Mattock damn difficult to achieve.
-Hunters actually USED their cloaking abilities to flank – or even worse, corner – me in combat, and I died more than a few times at their hand.
-The Primes are now the rightful badasses they were supposed to be. Nearly unkillable, they require even more effort than Atlas mechs to neutralize. In a group of three, like just above the Reaper silo on Rannoch, they made a VERY formidable challenge.
-Javik the Prothean is a DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK. “These crew members are not your friends, they are merely resources.” Only his drunk talk around the Citadel party made him slightly redeemable – that and SOME of his dialogue on Thessia.
-Other than the heavy barrel pistol upgrade, I largely regret my purchase of the ME3 Omega DLC. Not a lot of story, lackluster weapons, bland environments, and as far as character development: what begrudging criminal respect I had for Aria T’Loak was largely destroyed by her dialogue and habits in the DLC. Further, the one interesting character I wanted to see more of, Nyreen (the badass female turian biotic), goes and gets herself killed because of Aria’s judgmentalism. I really wish I could have shot Aria at the end.
-People who play krogan in ME3 multiplayer are strong combatants, but I swear to god, their giant asses always block my shots when I’m about to neutralize a high-value target. They seem obsessed with meleeing EVERYTHING in sight.
-The Illusive Man is one of my favorite characters of the entire series. The moral shades of gray thing is used so goddamn well with his personality. I despise the man by ME3, but I do respect him. Plus, having Martin Sheen as his voice actor was beyond badass.
-Also, Jennifer Hale did an AMAZING job as FemShep.
-The galaxy map and Normandy themes – I could listen to them on loops for hours on end.
-The Illusive Man’s theme is also fairly awesome.
-I find it curious that Vigil’s theme became the default “feels” soundtrack of the series. It’s a good fit, though. After Mordin’s death after curing the genophage in ME3, it makes it eerily more…poignant.
-My favorite combat music has to be the first third of “Rannoch.” Makes for great chase music, but for the advancing cover-to-cover, dodging geth rockets in the level its featured in, it’s….just perfect.
-As for the three endings . . . can’t say I was thrilled with ‘em, but the emotional connections I had built up over the past three games made me more concerned for my squadmates’ futures than the crappy writing and last-minute antagonist. As such, I can only bring myself to do the Destroy ending with my male Shepard . . . and I’m religious about keeping galactic readiness at maximum. Those who know how that turns out can probably figure out why.
That being said, these are my musings (for now) on the epic space opera that is the Mass Effect universe. I can honestly say that it has actually replaced Star Wars as my absolute favorite sci-fi saga of all time. Yeah. That amazing.
The only thing I would have left to comment on would be how awesome Tali is. But I’m keeping those memories for myself.
Keelah se’lai, folks.
I know there hasn’t been a clear direction for S&F thus far – the topic selection has been a bit haphazard. I’ll have a lot more time to blog in the coming weeks, so I’m going to try some more topic styles and see what comes naturally and which ones pose more of a problem. As such, I’ve still got post topics ranging from political theory to current events to food planned in the coming days and weeks. Bear with us as we climb from the primordial soup of the blogosphere.
In the late 60s, after graduating from Bard College and kicking out their then-drummer, Chevy Chase, guitarist Walter Becker and keyboardist and vocalist Donald Fagen (both also songwriters) formed a semi-popular band known as Steely Dan, one that continues to this day. Releasing their first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, in 1972, Fagen and Becker (the only two consistent members of the group) rode a wave of moderately-successful singles (though they only charted as high as #4 on the Billboad Charts with “Ricki Don’t Lose That Number”) until the plague-ridden production of their 1980 album Gaucho led them to part ways for almost two decades. Coming back on scene in 1999 with Two Against Nature, the album and it’s single “Cousin Dupree” both won Grammy Awards, notably beating out Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP. They released their last joint album, Everything Must Go, in 2003, and have toured on and off for the last 9 years. They just recently announced their latest tour, and this author is proud to announce that he’ll be attending their August 1st show at Ravinia in a few weeks.
Over the past few years, I’d been exposed to “Do It Again” and “Bodhisattva” through Guitar Hero, and “Reelin’ in the Years” from 97.9 FM (The Loop!!!!!). I was never really “hooked” until I found a greatest hits album lodged in my dad’s CD collection early this year. I threw it on my Xbox, and queued a few tracks up as I’d play Call of Duty or Mercenaries 2. The classic rock image I had of them was quickly changed when I noticed the hints of R&B, jazz, and funk throughout the album. I went back to my iPhone (which already had the first two mentioned tracks) after catching “Josie” on Slacker Radio one day, downloaded the track, and within a week, the rest of A Decade of Steely Dan became digital neighbors with the lonely track from Aja.
Why does it all appeal to me so much? There’s hardly a track of theirs (save “The Fez”, at least) that doesn’t have some seriously well-done lyrical writing – I can’t think of another band known for “triple- and quadruple-entendres”. You can lose yourself in the complexity of the arrangements – you follow one instrument one time, another one the next time, it feels like a slightly new experience every time. They’ve got a track for just about every taste and mood I can think of – if I’m feeling down or dejected, “Do It Again” can do the trick; if I need some serious drum beats and guitar solos, “Time Out of Mind” perks me up; if I feel up for some harder, more rock-oriented music, “Don’t Take Me Alive” always leaves me with an evil smirk.
Lastly, this may be invoking my inner hipster (assuming I haven’t already killed the bastard), but the lack of serious mainstream success/popularity (a la the Rolling Stones, Journey, or even Dire Straits) gives it a certain appeal all in itself. You know these tracks weren’t made for the masses (generally speaking; “Cousin Dupree” does have a bit of a pop vibe about it), they were made to be quirky, inventive, unusual, and all-around, whatever the fuck Becker and Fagen wanted them to be. It’s a quality rapidly vanishing from today’s musical spectrum.
The general public may never give a shit about Steely Dan again, but hey, leaves more tickets for the people who really appreciate ‘em.
(Geez Schwarm could you have given the post a longer name?)
So the SPAS-12 this is one of the more popular shotguns in forms of media nowadays. Generally speaking only beaten out in number of depictions by the Remington 870 from what I’ve seen (and I have seen A LOT). Now first let me give a brief list of movies and games the SPAS-12 has appeared in
At The Theater
The first movie appearance of the gun is in the classic The Terminator. I cant remember if Arnold is ever shown using the weapon during the film but then its hard to keep track of since he buys and uses almost a dozen guns in the film. According to the Internet Movie Firearms Database then next is in a film called Blastfighter. I wouldn’t mention this except the entry on that says the gun has a sniper scope and a night vision device. I cannot even begin to talk about how hilariously impractical a sniper scope is on a shotgun. Its next appearance was as the weapon of choice for the soldiers of an oppresive regime in the cult hit Brazil. It has several token appearances (including one where it had LEDs on a heat shield, bahahaha) until its next notable appearance in Robocop where it shows up a couple of times (once with SWAT officers and once with a criminal at the final shootout). It is the shotgun of choice in all Jurassic park movies (but lets face it only the first movie was any good). Next showing up as one of the many, many weapons in the Matrix’s gun room and lobby shootout scenes. Its next appearance was in the Japanese cult film Battle Royale (think Hunger Games but with different background justification for the contest) where it is wielded by one of the main characters, Shogo. It has also had appearances in films such as the so-bad-its-good Ghosts of Mars, the first Underworld movie, I-robot, The Departed as well as numerous other background apperances. In which it is usually used by the cannon-fodder……er…..I mean…..villains henchmen.
In The Digital World
This section I have to summarize a lot. Because that SPAS is in almost. every. single. game with guns. ever.
Let me just list the games series that it appears in (qualifies if its been in three or more game in the series):
007, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Rainbow six, Splinter cell, Resident Evil, Uncharted. That isnt even close to the full list, I also feel I should mention the game Black since that game is really all about guns.
As far as I can tell the SPAS-12 is generally pretty accurately with a few exceptions. I’ll start with the small stuff. First of all the weapon is rarely shown as being anything other than a pump-action. The only example of it being used as a semi that comes to mind is in Call of Duty: Black Ops(though I don’t know if this carries into the sequel). However in the campaign of that game it is capable of firing incendiary or “Dragon’s breath” rounds which I’m fairly sure it shouldn’t be able to do. However the biggest thing that everything gets wrong is the stock. Almost universally the gun is shown stock folded up over the sight. Even the media that shows it unfolded at some point will show it folded again at some points. The only possible explanation is that the people in props think it looks cool.
Yes the butt hook is the same thing as a sight. Good luck hitting anything, jackass
A fantastic May to our handsome followers! Continuing our blog restart campaign, the next two posts will be the first new collaborative work between Mr. Shane and myself. Here’s hoping these ones actually get finished!
As we were batting around ideas, a thought came up: public edumacation! No, not the taxpayer-funded variety – more like an elaborate (but arguable useless) public service announcement, though its length seems to put it a bit outside the realm of “announcement.” Either way, considering this blog’s emphasis on popular culture, media, and things that go bang (giggity), we thought it appropriate to shed some light on a cornerstone of action cinema and shooter games – namely, the ubiquitous SPAS-12 shotgun. This first post will go into the real-world weapon’s history and operation, while my esteemed co-conspirator will follow up with an analysis of the weapon’s depiction in film, television, and video games. So, let’s get started!
Before becoming a Hollywood icon, our subject began life in 1979. Envisioned, designed, and manufactured by Franchi S.p.A. (pronounced Frahn-kee) in Italy, it was a cutting-edge weapon for its time. It was chambered in 12 gauge, weighed in at 8.75lbs, sported a 22″ barrel and 41″ overall length with the stock extended, and had an 8+1 magazine tube capacity.
Beating the famous Benelli company by a few years, the SPAS-12 was intended for use as a semi-automatic combat shotgun for use primarily by law enforcement. Semi-automatic shotguns were nothing new by 1979 – the first one, John Browning’s Auto-5, was designed in 1898 and patented in 1900. What set the SPAS-12 apart from basically every other repeating shotgun then-made was its ability to function in both semi-automatic AND pump-action modes. As it stands, it can be safely assumed that every modern police force that utilizes 12 gauge shotguns also uses conventional buckshot ammunition that retains sufficient discharge pressure to reliably and consistently cycle the action of most any modern autoloading shotgun. With that in mind, semi-automatic was to be the assumed default method of operation by users.
That said, however, almost every police force in the world that utilizes 12 gauge shotguns also utilize less-lethal ammunition types for suspect compliance and riot control purposes. The only caveat to less-lethal rounds (in this sense, at least) was their almost universal tendency to discharge at significantly lower pressures than did their lethal counterparts – this meant pump-action shotguns were the only platform capable of employing them. Rather than deal with training officers on two separate types of weapons and deal with the higher cost of maintaining those two platforms, most every agency opted to simply stick with the tried-and-true pump-action Remington 870s, Winchester 1200s, and Ithaca Model 37s, among a few others.
To cut down on training and maintenance costs while maximizing versatility, Franchi designed the SPAS-12 to be capable of operating on semi-automatic or pump-action at the flick of a switch (and ammunition changeover as necessary), enabling the deployment of less-lethal munitions for riot control, as well as semi-automatic fire superiority in regular deadly force engagements, all without the need for two separate guns.
Along with its cornerstone feature, the SPAS-12 was also ahead of the curve in a number of other respects. It featured a pistol-style grip with a mounting point to attach its folding metal stock. The stock was capable of being folded over the top of the weapon for ease of transportation (or close combat, in rare cases), and extended back for conventional employment. It was also capable of attaching an under-arm hook to the shoulder-plate section of the stock, allowing the SPAS-12 to be wielded with one hand (a feature that surprisingly worked fairly well, according to users). The entire folding stock could also be removed if need be, and some later models replaced the folding stock & pistol grip combo with a single-piece fixed stock and pistol grip pairing.
There were a lot of good things to be said for the weapon, but it wasn’t without a drawback or two. Its twin-operation capability came at the cost of the weapon being unable to chamber 3″ magnum ammunition, only accepting standard 2 3/4″ shells. The operation of the gun between operating methods could also prove somewhat of a problem (arguably). To cycle the action of semi-automatic shotguns, the ejection port almost always sports a charging handle built-in to the bolt of the weapon for manual inspection, loading & unloading, and jam clearing. Pump-action shotguns need no such charging handle, as the pump action already serves that exact purpose. To ensure consistency with the manual of arms of each mode of operation, the SPAS-12 is equipped both with an ejection port charging handle and a conventional pump action. The catch to this setup was that once, for instance, semi-auto mode was engaged, the ejection port handle would function normally, but the conventional pump would be locked in place. Likewise, when set to pump-action, the conventional pump would cycle normally, but the ejection-port handle would be locked in place. While the difference in operation should already have been ingrained in users during training, in the heat of the moment, the potential existed for users to actuate the wrong action, and struggle with what they think is a serious malfunction until they come around or someone points it out to them. Again, rarely an issue, but the potential did exist, just as it does with every other dual-function shotgun manufactured since then.
With that, I will turn things over to the care of my associate, who will follow up this post with one on the media depictions of this gun. Heads up – it’s gonna hurt.
The depictions. Not Shane’s writing. Totally not Shane’s writing.
Just read it.