Friday, March 30, 2012

Mass Effect 3

Four years ago I played Mass Effect.  Two years ago I played Mass Effect 2.  Twenty minutes ago, I beat Mass Effect 3.

The journey has had mostly ups and a few downs.  Each game has a fantastic cast of characters and a rich universe that, dare I say, nears that of the Star Wars galaxy.  The combat of the game has had significant improvements from the first to second, and second to third.  The third introduced a multiplayer co-op survival mode that is a ton of fun to play.

The best part though, was the story.  I will not give one plot point away other than to say you play a hyper-competent soldier named Shepard, who can either be a male or female, depending on your preference, and can be a "good guy" or a "ruthless goodish guy," and you are tasked with nothing less than saving the galaxy a couple hundred years from now.  With a wide variety of guns, biotic powers, and tech abilities, as well as two squadmates at any one time, you cut a swath through any opposition.

Which brings me to Mass Effect 3.  I was late to the party since I'm in law school and I wanted it at as a birthday present (born mid-March), and since ME3 came out in early March I had to wait almost two weeks while everyone else played it, and so I heard how supposedly "horrible" then ending was in almost every online post about the game.

I managed to avoid spoilers on the ending, other than how bad it was.  I ignored it as much as I could, since I thought the endings for the previous Mass Effect games were solid story-wise, even if not spectacular in the way the gameplay wrapped things up.

Not so with Mass Effect 3.  I feel hollow inside; I feel let down by Bioware.  Everything leading up to the last 15-20 minutes was superb.  The combat was amazing.  My Shepard, a Vanguard since Mass Effect, was a force of nature on the battlefield, teleporting and smashing and throwing and shooting his way through thousands of enemy troops of all varieties.  There were so many good characters, little improvements to how you interact with the world outside of the battlefield, and the dialogue at some parts was good enough to get me laughing, giving me goosebumps, or even a lump in my throat (but never tears, no-no, never happened).

But the ending. 

Bioware attempted something so ambitious: create an epic story, taking place over three games, where you create a character and make choices and interact with the world in a way that changes the future games.  And besides the ending, or should I say endings, they succeeded.

I loved running around my ship, catching seemingly random conversations between my crew, getting to know them and marveling at how skillful Bioware integrated  your input with your character, the other characters, and the other characters relationships with other characters.

And the ending takes it all away.  Three games, 4-5 years, countless hours dedicated to our respective Shepards.  What's so surprising about it is that even though their games' combat can sometimes be clunky, or sequels not living up to the original (like Dragon Age 2), no one can really fault Bioware for their characters or stories.  Even Dragon Age 2 featured a rich cast of characters and an intriguing, focused, political story (though the unbalanced combat took away from that).

The entire Mass Effect series was fan-freaking tastic, up to the last fifteen minutes.

Have I lost faith with Bioware?  Some.  I plan on replaying Mass Effect 3 with my female Shepard, a badass soldier who will do anything to achieve victory for her team, and I have enjoyed the co-op multiplayer a lot.  I will probably invest more time, money, but most importantly, my emotions, with a future Mass Effect game.

After hearing about how bad the ending was from other people, I hoped against hope that all the haters were wrong.  After all, gamers are notoriously picky, and freak out on favorite companies for seemingly little things.  But this is one thing they got right.  Going into the final mission, wondering what could be awaiting my character, speaking to my crewmates for perhaps the last time, I remained hopeful.

To be sure, Bioware had an epic task, to continually top themselves with improvements to combat, and wrap up an epic story in a way that satisfied us but also leaving open the possibility of having games in the Mass Effect universe in the future.  And up to the last 15 minutes of Mass Effect 3, they succeeded.

Monday, March 26, 2012

One year anniversary of Pitbull's "Give me everything" being released on Youtube

As a man of faith and a man of pop radio, I often see evidence of the Lord in the context of radio stations.  For instance, there was a weekend in October in which I not only did very well on a mid-term, but I was able to travel back to my undergraduate university for homecoming to have an epic time with my friends I hadn't seen in a while.  As I hopped into the car, I thought, wouldn't it be nice . . and it was nice, as I heard the beginning of Pitbull's infectious "Give me everything" (yeah right picture that with a Kodak).

That song . . . where to begin?  My infatuation with Pitbull began sometime after I first was introduced to his earlier hits like "Calle Ocho (I know you want me)" and "Hotel Room Service."  My initial thoughts were that he had incredibly fun hooks and raps, but that his music videos were a little hyper-sexual for my taste.  I don't mind having beautiful women in music videos, don't get me wrong, but I thought he took it a little too far.

As cool as those songs were, I didn't fall in love with them and listen to them obsessively like I would with "I gotta feeling" or my favorite Ke$ha song "Your love is my drug."  I was kind of "re-introduced" to Pitbull when he was guest-featured simultaneously on mega-hits "I like it" with Enrique Iglesias and "DJ's got us falling in love" with Usher.  He obviously stole the show in both of those songs, and those two songs were some of my favs for that year.  Those songs led to my "liking" him on Facebook.

Soon after Pitbull dropped his first single of his album, "Hey baby" with T-Pain.  Good song, added to my MP3 playlist, but not yet to the level of a hit like, say, "Dynamite" or "Club can't handle me."  Pitbull then stole the show again as a guest on J.Lo's "On the floor." 

The stage was set.  On March 25th, 2011, Pitbull's facebook page dropped a link to the audio-only version of "Give me everything."  It began with bright, E-flat piano chords, and Pitbull using wrong English (me not working hard?) and rhyming the same word with each other (Kodak twice).  Ne-Yo's voice was added to the irresistible chorus.  Nayer, an upcoming star on Pitbull's label (she was previously in music videos with Pit) featured in a too-brief chorus bridge in an almost ethereal-sounding voice.  Pitbull went on to kill it in two separate verses which I faithfully sing along to every chance I get, and his addition in the pre-chorus (Excuse me, and I might drink a little more than I should, tonight, etc.) is just plain addicting.

Those three artists, combined with the production values of Dutch DJ/producer Afrojack, created a perfect brew of pop/dance/club smash hit that I would not, nay, could not, get tired of.  Compare it to your favorite mixed drink, or your favorite combination of pizza toppings.  I just love it.  I can listen to it on the computer while hammering out 50+ footnotes in a law review case comment.  I can listen to it while driving to-from school for five minutes.  I can listen to it for longer drives.  I can listen to it in the gym.  I can listen to it as background noise.  And, of course, I absolutely love hearing it in the club.  Almost every chance I get to a place where the possibility of DnD exists (drinking and dancing, I will elaborate in a later post), I will request it.  If the DJ said they had already played it, I will put on my sad face and offer to by him or her a shot of patron.

"Give me everything" is one of those songs, that, 99.9% of the time, is an instant mood improver when I leave school/work over the summer, turn on my car, and hear it on the radio.  "Rolling in the deep" on?  I would rather listen to commercials.  "Party rock anthem?"  I think it is bland and better suited to a nightclub atmosphere/party.  "We found love?"  I'll listen to it, but it won't put a damn big smile on my face like Pitbull does rhyming "kodak" with "kodak."

I get it, everyone has different tastes in music.  But I don't know how many people can say that a particular song is like a drug for them.  And maybe that's a bad thing, but I think not.  It's not like smoking a cigarette, doing drugs, or needing alcohol to have a good time.

If I am at a boring get-together with a bunch of other guys and a few girls who have boyfriends and I have to listen to a band like "Mumford and sons," I'll sit silently, twirling the 1/4 of drink left in the bottle I hold in my left hand.  However, you flip on "Give me everything" and I'll turn into the life of the party.

Long Friday at law school, where I hate my life, and am bummed about my prospects for a killer weekend?

No fear!

Turn the keys,
my song is on,
the night is young.

Thanks Pit!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First Post: Origins of my taste in music through college

Hey everyone.  Probably an emphasis on one.  Anyhow, I like a variety of entertainment.  Music, movies, books, PC games and hardware, the internet, and a smattering of other things that will come up later on that I can't predict.

Since I have been young I have been in love with music.  When I first started developing a taste in music, it was based on what I played on the piano and what tapes/CD's my dad had, so I liked classical music, rock, and 80's music.  Some of dad's stuff I liked for a while came from Harry Chapin, the Blues Brother's movie, the Hot and Heavy CD (Final Countdown, Godzilla, etc.), and of course, "Bohemian Rhapsody" (one time I spent hours playing Final Fantasy 8 on the PS One while listening to BR on loop, but that's another story).

In middle school/high school I kept with 80's music, mainly new wave, like Wang Chung, A-ha, and Alphaville, and contemporary punk rock and a few radio hits here and there.   Some of my taste was helped along by the MP3 catalog that I inherited from my cousin, who liked some of the same things as well as rock, so for a while I would have a U2 song in there perhaps. In later high school I fell in love with an indie band named Quietdrive which I still kind of follow to this day, and picked up on more popular stuff, which was a foreshadowing of thing to come, as well as electronic or techno music, most of which came from me typing "techno + ______ (something else I liked)" in search engines.

By college I was still in flux, and as youtube gave quick access to any music on the planet at a moment's notice it was easier and easier to experiment.  I stumbled onto a band named Drowning Fish, an indie punk-rock band from California which did most of their music in the early 2000's, and a rock band or two which has been disbanded since then.  My roommate loved techno/dance music and kind of got me into some of that.

Junior year, which was 2009-2010, became the defining year for me up to this point and the forseeable future.  That was when my friends and I started going out to the local bars, which were a good mix of being decent and not having overly expensive drinks.

Anyhow, when we started to go I began to notice songs like Ke$ha's "Tick Tok" and Lady Gaga, but the song which set off the chain reaction for which you will see here was Black Eyed Pea's "I Gotta Feeling," which I learned later was produced by David Guetta, who would be influential later, who actually sampled one of his own tracks on.  I couldn't stop listening to it.  That was the first song that I can remember being obsessed with because of its perfect mix of just being a good fun/party/club song.  It really didn't have anything to do with how popular the song was, spending fourteen straight weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and selling a record amount of digital copies.

After that, I had a Ke$ha phase, with songs like "Tik Tok," "Your love is my drug," "Take it off," and later with songs like "We R who we r" and "Blow," and loved Beyonce's "Single Ladies," and some of Lady Gaga's songs.

The rest is history, and will pick up in my top 10 of 2009, 2011, and 2012 music posts.