Friday, July 22

State of Flux

I downloaded and watched a featurette on the upcoming Aeon Flux movie starring Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Yeah, that's the ticket... after winning the Academy Award, go for a cartoon adaptation!). The short piece shows some footage of Miss Theron still in the un-sexy black outfit doing various jumps and stunts. Yeah, she has the hair down but come on... there could have been a way to show off more skin without having to resort to the original cartoon's g-string and little scraps. But then again, stars have always been able to swing non-nudity clauses or alter designs based on their preferences. Take Jessica Alba in Sin City... she should have been nude in her dancing scene. Oh well. Anyway, Aeon Flux is still looking TV movie-ish, but I'll probably check it out, fan that I am of the old Peter Cheung Liquid Television series. Or maybe I'll be better off watching the AVI episodes I got from Buddha Boy. Whatever.
Long Weekend

YAY! Yeah, it's an appeal to our apathy of the current horrible state of affairs in our country, but darn... holidays are great. Now I can look forward to finishing Killer 7 over the break (easily one of the slickest mind-fuck games I've had the pleasure to experience... DARN the story's cool), watch some anime, rest and recharge as well as start work on some comic projects. Thank God it's Friday.
Sex, Lies and Videogames

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from Rockstar Games has had it's share of controversy- of course, you'd expect that from the latest installment of a game series that puts you in control of a gangsta brother out to carve out an empire for himself in any bloody way he can. Well, aside from the ability to gun down civilians and car-jack anything on wheels in the streets, you can apparently woo ladies and have sexual intercourse in a hidden minigame.

The whole hullaballoo (love that word) started with the PC version of GTASA, apparently through a mod called Hot Coffee. In the regular version, all you'd get for hitching up with a girlfriend in the game was an invitation for some coffee, and then having imagination fill in the blanks afterwards. In the Hot Coffee mod, PC players are shown a full-on interactive sex scene, where they interact by pressing buttons in specific rhythm to get your girl into orgasm. Sorta like Dance Dance Revolution, except with no dancing and all sex.

The discovery of this hidden minigame of course caused a big stir among parents and politicians, as GTASA is a commonly-available game on both the PC and PS2. Rockstar then denied having the game in, alleging that the Hot Coffee mod was something put in the game by malicious hackers. But after some research, gaming site Gamespot revealed that the sex minigame was already IN the game even before any hacking- in fact, it even exists in the PS2 version (reachable only by hours of play and the use of special codes and a Gameshark peripheral).

Well, anyway, the game's now been given a new rating of Adults Only, and controversy in gaming rages on. Oh well. Hey... maybe there's a sex minigame in Final Fantasy VII too... I mean... getting close to Aeris has to yield more than just a crummy date on a carnival ride, right? Heh... just kidding.

Wednesday, July 20

Going Mexican

And these are just appetizers.

I am often told by my blogmates and friends to put up a food blog, since I seem to have a knack for posting about good eats. Well, I would love to blog more about the cool restos and meals I experience, but the fact is, I haven’t been able to go to new eateries lately- often, we just go to the tried-and-tested favorite haunts, as opposed to striking out to new territory and trying some new place. Anyway, I’ll try my best to post more about good eating, without having to put up a Starving Raving Mad blog.

Anyway, it was an out-of-the-ordinary event that actually got me and some friends at the office to dine at a new place. A day or two prior, the same group had to go through some torture of the eating kind- we had to endure going without dinner at the proper time while passing through Timog Ave- which is basically overflowing with cool restaurants. I actually saw it as a literal nightmare- seeing great places to eat pass and your starving self not able to do a single thing about it. Sigh.

So it was that earlier this week the group again came from a meeting which flowed into lunch. On our way back to the office, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal. But as we drove through Jupiter Avenue, we couldn’t seem to find any viable place to dine in. So it was perhaps an act of fate that we found ourselves selecting the Three Amigos Mexican restaurant for a meal.

Now, none of us had eaten here before, and really, I shouldn’t actually want to eat there since we did have a Mexican eatery at the office building (the more fast-foody Mexicali). But go in we did, and at first we thought we hit a bad one. The place was empty of any other customers, probably because the place specializes more in dinner or evening business. Anyway, we were welcomed in and got a nice spot near the window. As our eyes got accustomed to the light, I saw that it was a nice place- really well-furnished and actually quite posh, in a cozy Mexican-type way. Whatever that means.

Well, any doubts we had were quashed when the appetizers plate arrived, brimming with quesadillas, mini-tacos, nachos, flautas (cheese-filled rolls) and taco pizzas, with salsa and hot sauces on the side.

For me, how good a Mexican resto is rests on the basics- the nachos and tortillas. In that, Three Amigos simply delivered, and then some. We found our taste buds pleased by the hot salsa, the savoury meat and the crunchy but not too brittle or too hard taco shells and tortillas. When the set meals we ordered individually came, we were even more pleased by large portions and tasty helpings. Yum!

Tacos, cheese, beans, salsa and more. Oh, my!

So if you’ve got a Mexican craving and pass by Jupiter in Makati, don’t hesitate the visit the hombres over at The Three Amigos. Great stuff. And hot!

Sunday, July 17

Seven in One Blow

Killer game for the PS2.

I’ve got my hands on one of my most-anticipated games here in the golden years of the PS2, the wildly artistic, unusual and mature post-modern action-adventure shooter, Killer 7. I fell in love with this game after seeing the wild character designs, read about the complex, twisted storyline and the mature, artistic presentation. Well, it’s been quite a wait but I have it and I’ve already gotten my hands bloody in the first hour or so. There’s still quite a bit of killing to do but I guess I can write about this unique game.
The first thing you’ll notice about Killer 7 is the graphic presentation- it has a cel-shaded look which may lead you to believe it’s an earlier-generation game, but this visual style goes a long way in giving the game it’s own mood and comic book style-feel (something like a colored Sin City). The second thing will be the control scheme and gameplay.
Basically put, Killer 7 can be considered an ‘on-rails shooter’. This means you don’t have full, unfettered control of your onscreen character. After you start a mission and gain control of your assassin, you either press a button or a directional to make him/her move forward. Pressing down will turn your character around. When you reach places where there are branching paths- to various rooms or to talk to certain characters, you choose the option you want with the left or right directionals.
Combat, which takes more than half of the game, is in first-person mode. Your primary enemies are the weird, walking mutated time bombs known as Heaven Smiles. Invisible at first, their presence can be sensed by their eerie laughter. Once Smiles are known to be in the area, a presson the R trigger puts you in first-person combat mode- a tap on the L trigger scans the area, showing the Smiles before you. From then on, it’s a matter of you bringing down these monsters with your character’s firearm before they reach you and explode.

Variation is attained through your characters’ different weapons, speed, special moves and attacks, and the different types of Heaven Smiles. Like zombies in Resident Evil, Smiles can take quite a few hits before reaching you, so if you want to bring them down instantly you’re going to have to aim for their weak spots (signified by a yellow glow on their bodies). Killing Heaven Smiles gains you blood (ew) which you can use to either cure your injuries or transmute into serum which can be used to ‘level up’ your assassins’ abilities and powers.

And that’s pretty much the gameplay. Oh, and there are the occasional puzzles that come your way, from incredibly simple ‘light the candles in the order of which they are numbered’ to some more esoteric stuff in the vein of Resident Evil (well, they’re both Capcom games anyway). And you’ll need to pick up and use some crucial items every now and then.

If this sounds boring and repetitive, perhaps Killer 7 may not be the game for you. Granted, there’s not much more than what I just wrote but there will be many, including me, who will most probably be driven to finish this odd game to the bitter, bloody end. And that’s because of the story and the eye candy.

Killer 7 is set in a world on the verge of peace- airline travel has been outlawed, nuclear weapons have been disarmed. But in the midst of this flawed utopia-in-the-making comes a new threat. The Heaven Smiles appear and start spreading death and destruction. With the police and armed forces powerless, the governments of the world turn to an unusual source of aid- the seemingly unstoppable, omniscient and implacable force of assassins known as the Smith Syndicate, AKA The Killer 7.

What makes the Killer 7 so odd is that they aren’t a gang of simple mercenaries. From all appearances, the group is actually composed of just one person- Harman Smith, a 60-year old man confined to the use of a wheelchair. The rest of the seven-man (well, six men and one woman) syndicate seem to be the different sides Harman’s psyche. In short, Harman’s a schizo but he also has the ability to materialize his various personalities into physical form.
They’re a varied lot- Garcian is ‘The Cleaner’ and is the group’s front man- the only member of the group who actually meets and interacts with other people, and with Harman himself. His main role is that of body retrieval- should any of the other Killers die, it’s his duty to move in, grab the corpse (which strangely enough appears as a brown paper bag) and resurrect them. Should Garcian die though, it’s game over. Next up is Dan Smith, also known as “The Hellion”. He’s a loose cannon- a truly cold-blooded killer who is pretty well-balanced and deadly with his rapid-fire revolver. Coyote Smith was a former thief and his special ability is unlocking things and super-high leaping ability. Con Smith, a youngster who’s perennially wearing a helmet and headphones, can run at mach speeds. Kevin Smith can’t write comic books, but the silent albino is the fastest attacker with his deadly knives (since he doesn’t reload). Then there’s Mask de Smith, the big bruiser in the luchadore mask who can take out obstacles (and Smiles) with his twin grenade launchers. And last but not least, there’s Kaede, a lovely young woman and the only female playable character. Never mind that she carries around a huge pistol equipped with a sniper scope, wears a blood-spattered white dress or runs around everywhere barefoot. What makes her truly odd is her special barrier-breaking power- activated by slitting her wrists and showering the whole area in her own blood. Ouch.

Kaede loves the smell of blood in the morning.

Since you are able to switch between these seven (once you unlock them) during gameplay, part of the challenge is telling which of the Seven you should need in order to solve a situation, whether it’s finding a way around or through an obstacle, or to defeat a particular enemy or boss.

With all this, the cream on the top of Killer 7 is the twisted, mature plot. From the simple goal of defeating the Heaven Smiles, the player is taken on a truly twisted and twisting tale involving cloning, body-snatching and high-level conspiracy. It which will probably mystify, baffle and confuse. But it’s also sure to intrigue and keep players glued to the screen- thanks to awesome anime cinematics that the game has an abundance of.
Is this all real? Or is it all taking place in Harman’s mind? Who are the Killer 7, really? Why the odd TV interface? What is the link between the Syndicate and the Heaven Smiles? Who is Kun Lan? Is there a way to get Kaede in a bikini?
I don’t have any illusions that I can make heads or tails ot the story, at least the first time- but we’ll see.

Of course, it has to be said that Killer 7 is rated mature, and this is for a reason. There is violence (the bloody headshot kind), sex and mature situations aplenty. Not for kids, really… but perfect for the mature gamer. Well, for the mature, open-minded gamer. Not everyone will like this game, but for those willing to look beyond the odd mechanics and the wild story, this is a gem and perhaps one of the last great games for the ol’ PS2. Sony’s blue box is going out with a bang, ain’t it?