Archive for April, 2012

Dude, I was doing good there for a while. And then, well, school happened again. It’s the end of the semester, and things are getting kind of hectic up in here; finals, homework, and catching up on lost time. Also with the end of the semester though, comes more projects, and that means new stuff to show you guys. I’ve got a couple of things here to display, so strap in, and enjoy.

The first thing I have to share with you is my second spanish song. I don’t remember, did I ever tell y’all that I was working on another spanish song. Well, um, Surprise! Yea, so I had another spanish portfolio for this half of the semester, and it needed the same basic things. So of course, I went and made another song…of course I did.

I actually used one of Eastchase’s existing songs that we haven’t touched in a while as the framework for this song. It made the writing process a lot easier, especially considering that we already had lyrics for it. So yea, some of you may recognize the sound. It was fun. It was stressful, but it was fun. If it wasn’t a challenge, I don’t think I would be able to get into it as much as I do. Anyways…I give you, “Instintos Falsos”.


I also just finished up on a new video project this past weekend. It was a project for the film class I’m currently in, and it all felt very last minute. We weren’t actually given the assignment until last Monday, and were expected to have everything turned in by this morning. I’m kind of proud to say that my team was the only team to have their project turned in on time. It wasn’t that hard, really. It needed to be 3-5 minutes long, contain no dialogue, and have a few certain types of shots. For instance, 2 match-action shots (Quick example: when a person opens a door in one shot and walks part of the way through, the the shot changes to the other side of the door to complete the action).

Our concept was 2 girlfriends are in a fight one morning, Girlfriend 2 pisses off Girlfriend 1 and Girlfriend 1 storms off. Girlfriend 2 spends the rest of the day stalking Girlfriend 1, and Girlfriend 1 eventually loses it. I got Miko to help me with the project as an actress, and my partner also got a friend of hers’ to do the same. So, without further adieu, I give you, “You Can’t See Me”.


I’ve also decided that I’m going to add a new category to my publications here, which I will call “Equipment Misuse”. In these posts, I’ll be calling out a lot of things that I see in media today that I think have been done poorly, or that just generally piss me off. I’ve already got a few things that I want speak on, but I’ll save those for next post.

The school year is just about over now, and I’m not really sure what the summer holds for me. To my recollection, I only have one thing in the books for me this summer, and that’s A-Kon with Miko. If I can get my crap ready for that, it is going to be soooo much fun.
Not really sure where my inspiration will draw from, but I’ll find something, as I always do.

While I’m on the subject of “Upcoming”…Linkin Park’s “Living Things” will be released on June 26th. It is available for pre-order now. Also, if you pre-order now, you can get a discount on a years subscription to the Linkin Park Underground. Well worth it in my opinion. Follow the ^link^ to learn more!

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

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Quick little post right here, just because I’m too excited to contain myself…

It’s going to be a great week for music coming up here. You know that I’ve been creating a lot of hype around the new TFK album, “The End Is Where We Begin” and with good reason. I mean I’ve listened to it, and it has badassitude written all over it. I can’t reiterate enough, this album drops on Tuesday April 17th, and I urge you to go pick it up and join in the enjoyment of the latest TFK chronicles.

I also got another bomb dropped on me today. Mike Shinoda updated his blog with some much awaited information, that I will regurgitate for you here. Linkin Park will be releasing the first single “Burn It Down” off of their brand new album “Living Things“.

This happens tomorrow! Yes, tomorrow! I told you that I had good knowledge that Linkin Park was working on a new album. Am I right, or am I right?

I could continue to regurgitate all the info that I know about LP’s new single, but Mike Shinoda can probably do it better himself. I added Mike Shinoda’s blog to my blogroll over there <–. His post “Monday News: Burn It Down, Release Dates, The Album, and a Toolbox.” has all the details. I urge you to check that out as well.

Big week for the rock world. I’m ready. Are you?

[Edit] Burn It Down has been posted. I won’t be greedy, Linkin Park sure ain’t.

 

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

If you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.
The end, is where we begin.

For some reason, I always think that every Thousand Foot Krutch album is their last album. That hidden song at the end of their 2007 album ,”The Flame In All Of Us” which I called The Last Song, I thought made it very plain that they were done. Lo and behold, 2 years later “Welcome To The Masquerade” drops and blows my mind. Imagine my excitement when late last year TFK announced that they were dropping their label and releasing a new CD.

When I got my hands on this CD a little over a week ago, I was expecting it to be good, but what I listened to was grand. It might be as a result of them dropping their label(Tooth & Nail Records), but I think doing so has allowed them to diversify their style.

While TFK has always been regarded as a Christian band, I’ve always felt that their approach to music has been much more of a secular one. I mean, compare them to David Crowder, and you can see that their message isn’t quite as straight-forward and clear as Crowder. That being said, a more secular approach allows them to be more diverse with their choice of genre. Without Tooth & Nail tying them down, they’ve finally been able make an album the way they always intended it be done.

TFK has always had a fundamental darkness to the instrumentals in most of their songs. They’ve had one album that kind of defied this style(The Art Of Breaking), but it was their sophomore album, the 2nd one is always the oddball in a family of albums. They have always tried to be a diverse band in the sense that the’ve wanted to have a couple of styles come together in the same album, sometimes more successfully than others. You know how when a band mixes hard and heavy songs with light acoustic songs? Yea, they do that quite a bit. Their first album(Phenomenon) had all hard and heavy songs on it, with one acoustic song thrown in at Track 4. I really hate it when I get into a good rhythm on a CD, and then it’s broken up by a genre change. Not to say that I don’t enjoy each and every one of their albums, but I frequently find myself skipping over songs so that I can stay in the groove.

“The End Is Where We Begin” isn’t any different in its mixing of light with heavy, but I havent’ yet found myself skipping over anything yet to stay in the moment. In fact, I can easily listen to for hours on end, even though it’s only 49 minutes long. The main theme that I took away from the CD is Empowerment. That single idea felt like a prevalent driving force in just about every track on the album.

The CD opens with an intro track…EPIC. I only assume this is the case, but I get the impression that most people don’t like intro tracks, I love ’em. The next track(We Are) brings us right back to the TFK that we all have come to know and love. Strong, heavy, and with inspirational lyrics. “We are the ones, we are the guns and we will roll. We are the voice off of someones song. We are the change, we are the chains that hold us. We are the choice, we are the strong, we are one.” When I heard that line, I knew…I’m not sure what it is I know, but I knew that I knew it. The next track(Light Up The Sky) had me jumping for joy. The rapping Canadians have made their return.

You may say, “Rapping Canadians…Outlaw, you crazy, what the hell are you talking about?” Well, TFK actually had 3 albums before Phenomenon ever came out. (2 if you count out “Shutterbug”, as it was official with lead singer Trevor McNevan’s first band, Oddball. Some of the songs off this album were remade and later featured on Set It Off.) Trevor with the earliest members of TFK released the independent album, “That’s What People Do” in ’97, and the indie album “Set It Off” 3 years later in 2000. They signed with Tooth & Nail 3 years later, releasing “Phenomenon” under that banner. “Set It Off” was very heavy with its hip-hop inspired nu-metal, and set them apart from a lot of the other secular/Christian bands out at the time. “Phenomenon” marked a departure from the rap heavy lyrics of their previous album, but now that Tooth & Nail is out of the picture…they’re back.

Wanna hear what they sounded like before Phenomenon? Check out this version they did of Unbelievable off of “Set It Off”.

Mad skills, right?

Well, they’re back. And I couldn’t be happier. It’s not all throughout the album, just 3 songs(“Light Up The Sky”, “Down”, and “I Get Wicked” to a degree), but it’s nice to see that they haven’t gotten rusty in their hiatus from the hip-hop game. After several more of those heavy wonders, we get to our first slower song, “Be Somebody”. There is a calm urgency to the chords in this song. It keeps pulling you in until the song comes in full swing in the chorus. At that point, between the guitar lead and the lyrics, I couldn’t skip past it if I wanted to. If it weren’t for another song towards the end of the album, this one would be my favorite.

“Be Somebody” transitions smoothly into the intro song for “Courtesy Call”, the track I felt was the best of all their promotional material. It brings us back into hard and heavy and keeps us rocking there for a few songs before bringing us back to the lighter side. The first of these songs(All I Need To Know) is okay, if there was one song I might skip over, it would be this one. After that though, we get to “Fly On The Wall”. This song just gets into my head. The lyrics are so colorfully descriptive and draw up such a mental image. This one line had my head reeling, “And brick by brick, we built it so thick, that it blacked out the sky, and all the sunlight, and one by one, we all became numb…we were, making the bullets to a broken gun.” The instrumentals are also so fantastical, you feel like you’re listening to something out of a dream sequence. Easily my favorite song on the album. There’s one song after that which feels like a nice little fireside closer. Tack on an outtro song, and the album is finished.

I probably said it maybe one…two…three times before, but I loved this CD. If I had to compare it with the rest of their albums(which I will), it definitely stacks up. It sinks “The Art Of Breaking” and “The Flame In All Of Us” for sure. I think it edges out “Welcome To The Masquerade” too. About Phenomenon…it’s hard to beat Phenomenon…I don’t know. I’m calling it a photo finish. It’s too close for me to call, they’re both outstanding. Anyways, here’s a track list for you.

1) The Introduction
2) We Are
3) Light Up The Sky
4) The End Is Where We Begin
5) Let The Sparks Fly
6) I Get Wicked
7) Be Somebody
8) This Is A Warning (Intro)
9) Courtesy Call
10) War Of Change
11) Down
12) All I Need To Know
13) Fly On The Wall
14) So Far Gone
15) Outroduction

My top 3 favorites off the album: 1) Fly On The Wall, 2) Be Somebody, 3) Let The Sparks Fly.

Thousand Foot Krutch – The End Is Where We Begin: 10 out of 10

Are you noticing a prevalent theme for high ratings? That feels like a chicken and the egg kind of question. Do I like the things I review, or review the things I like?

Anyways, look for this album to hit stores on Tuesday, April 17th. It should be available at Best Buy, Amazon.com, CBD.com, and various family Christian stores. It’s also available for pre-order on iTunes now, and if you do pre-order  from iTunes, you will receive an immediate download of “Let The Sparks Fly”. If this album debuts in the Top 20, TFK will remix 2 of their songs, and make them available to the TFK nation for free. Let’s help them get to the top of the charts!

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Lenny Kravitz
Directed by: Gary Ross

This is one of those movies that I went into with zero expectations. I’d heard a lot of hype via the grapevine, but had no opinion what so ever walking in to the theater. I’ve never read anything by Suzanne Collins (original author), nor have I ever seen anything from Director Gary Ross. Seriously, never saw Big, never saw Pleasantville, and never saw Seabiscuit either. The majority of the main cast wasn’t much to go on either, especially with this being the main character’s, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), first Hollywood performance. It’s a rare opportunity nowadays to walk into a movie theater without any preconceived notions about the flick, so this was a treat for me.

I’ll do my best here to not throw out too many spoilers, but some may be necessary to get my points across. So, you know the deal, beware of SPOILERS.

It’s always interesting to watch a movie about the making of a movie or a show of some kind, because this obstacle makes the viewers painfully aware of the plot devices. There was one instance in this movie where they blatantly came out and said it, “This is the story of two lovers, brought together” or something to that effect. With that exception, I feel like the film handled these obstacles very gracefully. I hate it when a film make an effort to tell you how to experience it, so, bravo for not making that folly.

The growing trend in Hollywood these days seems to be nothing but sequels, remakes, and video game/comic book adaptations. It’s nice to see an original story emerge among the rest of this garbage and moderately okay material. I know that this was adapted from a novel, but I feel like novels are usually pretty decent source material, no I’ve got no problem with that.

I’ve never heard of a story with a premise similar to The Hunger Games before; a televised fight to the death in remembrance of the struggles that brought a country to war in the past. The movie never actually came out and said this, but Panem and the 12 districts that make it up actually lye on the remains of the old United States. The 12 districts seem to be divided at different levels of poverty and social classes. District 1 has the rich bureaucrats, while District 12 has the poor coal miners.

Each district selects 2 combatants to represent it, 1 male and 1 female, between the ages of 12 and 18, in a process called the reaping. The 24 combatants are thrown together in a large but confined area in a fight to the death, with only 1 possible victor.

The casting was done very well, and I feel, for the most part, there weren’t a whole lot of people that didn’t work in their rolls. Their were only 2 characters that I was kind of uncertain about. The first was Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). I got the feeling that by the end of the movie, I was supposed to be on Peeta’s side. I, for whatever reason, never grew to like Peeta, and I’m not sure whether that was a function of the character itself, or the casting choice. Maybe that changes in the upcoming sequels, but I never got behind him this time around, and therefore I never felt like the plot devices involving romance with him were that effective. The other character I was kind of iffy about was Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks).

I’m getting kind of sidetracked with this, but did anyone realize that was actually Elizabeth Banks in the beginning? I sure as hell didn’t. I mean…

…does ^that^ look like Elizabeth Banks? (The correct answer here is no.)

She was just so dang…awkward. Why the heck was she so prim and proper, being a representative from District 12. Maybe that is explained in the book, but it made no since to me here. Her character kind of makes sense if the intent was to use her as comic relief, but she was in far too many deadpan serious situations for that to be the case. Now Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) made a lot of sense in his role. He’s risen to a state of celebrity based on his previous victory so it makes sense for him to LOOK proper. It is obvious though that the competition and the discrepancy between his new life in the higher districts and his previous life in District 12 has jaded him, so his cavalier attitude towards the competition fits well for his character.

It is always a risky maneuver going with an untried and untested actor/actress, but they scored with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). She played the part of the reluctant heroine to a T. I believed here every expression, and I hung on her every word. There’s not much that I can say about her performance aside from bravo.

It was a good flick, but I think that based on my previous rating history, I need to expand my grading scale to get more diverse ratings, so…

The Hunger Games: 8 out of 10

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

On Tuesday, April 3rd, North Texas got hit with one of the worst storm systems in recent history. The National Weather Service is claiming that 16 tornadoes touched down throughout this long afternoon. 3 of the worst hit areas were Forney, Lancaster, and Arlington.

Arlington is the city in which I have been born and raised. The last time that tornadoes hit the DFW area, Arlington was skipped over and spared. For as long as I can remember, nothing to this magnitude has ever hit Arlington. I remember some really bad hail storms back in like ’93 or ’95, but hail won’t demolish a house. Things were so bad that the city had to establish a Tornado Recovery Center for residents impacted by the devastation. All in all, the city reports that 430 homes were damaged. That doesn’t even include the damage sustained to Kennedale. Kennedale had to establish a curfew the first couple of nights after the tornadoes passed through, partially because the looting was getting out of hand.

At approximately 3:30 in the afternoon that day, I got the information that Mayor Robert Cluck had declared Arlington as being in a State of Emergency. Not too long after that, I got the information that either Governor Perry or the Mayor had further declared Arlington as in a State of Disaster.

It’s been almost a week and I still can’t believe that it’s happened, much less that my home town is in a state of disaster, but the pictures say everything.

The area towards the top of this picture is my high school, and the adjoining sports facilities. Look at how close the tornado came to it! This picture is taken facing east, and my parent’s house is only a couple of miles to the east. It’s unbelievable how close it came, unbelievable.

I’ve seen estimates that show the tornado that was on the ground in Arlington tracked a path about 4.6 miles long and the damage path was, at max, about 150 yards wide. The picture below is an approximate path that the twister took.

It moved into our area from Kennedale, carving a hook into Southwest Arlington, terminating somewhere around Lake Arlington. During the course that it was on the ground it did damage to several large buildings in the area. One of them was St. Barnabus UMC.

After tearing a hole in the church on Pleasant Ridge, it continued on to the north, carving out a lot of property damage until it hit Little Road and started to curve around towards the west. As it got to Green Oaks, it tore a huge chunk out of the Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. There were people still in there when the storm hit!

After crossing over Green Oaks it continued on to the west. Sometime before getting to Lake Arlington, the cyclonic activity driving the tornado broke up and killed the storm over the immediate area.

I never heard of any other tornado related damage occurring in North Arlington or the Mid-Cities area, so as far as I’m aware, that was the end of this particular tornado. I couldn’t even begin to try and put a dollar amount to all the damage caused in the area, but despite all the damage there were never any fatalities or serious injuries. This is also true for the entire North Texas area that this system of storms broke out in. For this, I feel truly blessed. North Texas is a big place, that’s what I keep telling people anyways. Not 1 death or serious injury when 16 tornadoes decide to wreak havoc on an area bigger than some countries.

I was stuck up in Denton in my Spanish class while all this was going on. I don’t know if my Spanish professor has ever heard of a tornado before. I know she’s never seen anything like this crap in Spain before. I tried as hard as I could to get out of there, because if I was going to die, it wasn’t going to be in a Spanish class at UNT. Unfortunately the stairwells were completely blocked, so I couldn’t even get off the level I was on.

I hate being stuck inside for this kind of thing, though if I was in Arlington this time, I might have been singing a different tune. It was really hard being stuck up in Denton and not down there. I had to rely on texts and Facebook to get the most up to date news on what was going on. It was also frustrating for a while not knowing if my friends and family were safe or not. Texts only move so quickly in emergency situations. I’m just glad everything turned out alright for everyone that I care about.

I made it back to Arlington, finally, on Wednesday afternoon. I got to see for myself just what happened. These are some of the pictures that I took.

It was amazing and horrifying seeing these things. It was a relief though seeing people come together to help each other out, and again it was amazing knowing that no one was seriously injured in all this.

Seeing my hometown in such a tattered state puts a lot of things in perspective. We’re only here on this earth for a short time, and we need to make the most of the little time we have. You never know when something is going to come out of left field and destroy everything you’ve ever known

Make the most of your time, and live your dreams, because there may not be a tomorrow.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

You knew it was coming eventually. I’m actually a little bit surprised it took me so long to get through the game, almost a month here. Considering though that my professors have piled a mountain on top of me, I’m doin’ what I can.

Alright, a little housecleaning first off. You’ve probably noticed that I changed the title of my blog, and drew up a knew header. I felt like having “Outlaw Productions” everywhere was getting a little bit redundant, and also wanted to change the title to reflect the material that actually gets discussed here. I’m not all business or music here, as you know, there’s a lot more to this.
I’m also eventually going to go back and change all the categories and tags on all my posts, so they’ll be easier to search. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I created this, and just started clicking things all willy-nilly. This needs to look more professional-like.

I should mention before this begins, this thing is long…really long. The word count here is 4222. If you really want to get into this, I’d advise getting up and grabbing some popcorn and a juicebox or something.

Okay, with refreshments in hand, let’s start the show.

I’m going to be referencing a lot of Mass Effect specific terms throughout this review. If you find yourself wondering, “What the hell is he talking about?” you might need a glossary to help get on my level. This link will help.

Mass Effect Wiki

This is the Review of Mass Effect 3, the full review. I need to preface this review saying that there are going to be LOADS OF SPOILERS. I don’t wanna hold back here, so if you still haven’t beat the game yet, and don’t wanna know, you might just want to skip this post. I however, en lue of the amount of material that I will cover in the Campaign, I’ll go ahead and review the Multiplayer first.

Mass Effect 3: Multiplayer

The multiplayer that we got in the Demo version of the game was pretty much the same multiplayer that we get in the full version of the game.

You get together in teams of up to 4 players to take on waves of enemy forces. In each engagement there 10 waves of increasing difficultly leading up to a final 11th wave that must be survived in order to be extracted from your location. There are 5 different levels that can be played, and 3 different types of enemies that can be played against. The levels correspond to the 5 different theaters of war that must be maintained in the Galaxy at War System, which will be explained later. Your 3 different enemies include:

Cerberus…

Geth…

…and Reaper.

You are also able to play as all the different classes present in Mass Effect: Adept, Soldier, Sentinel, Engineer, Infiltrator, and Vanguard. Within each class, you can acquire 4 different characters: 2 humans(male and female) and 2 aliens(a combination of Asari, Drell, Krogan, Turian, Salarian, and Quarian).

The combat system plays out very similar to how it does in Campaign, but streamlined. There are only 3 active powers(biotic, tech, or physical) and 2 passive power trees for enhancing health, shields, weapon damage, power damage, etc. You can also carry a maximum of 2 weapons. This layout eliminates the weapon and power wheels, and maps everything to hot keys, streamlining combat. Assigned to the plus pads are equipment that can be brought into battle. In each battle you can bring a maximum 2 each of Medi-Gel, Extra Ammo, Heavy Weapon Ammo, and Stim Packs(which boost your health and shields/barriers to max). Each class also has a unique heavy melee attack that utilizes either the the Omni-Blade, or some form of biotic attack. For instance, Asari characters use a biotic compression wave as their heavy melee.

Each engagement gives you several different mini-missions to accomplish, sometimes with a time limit to complete them in. Most of the time, you are just required to eradicate all the enemy forces in the area. Other times you are given four different items, spread around the map, that must be activated/deactivated in sequence within an allotted amount of time. The player working on the device at the time will be unable to engage enemies, so teammates must provide cover for them. Another mission type is eradicating specific targets. Again, you are given a certain amount of time to achieve this, and the targets are usually the ones with high levels of health or damage protection, but sometimes they can be easier targets. Regardless, when players team up to take the targets down, the process goes a lot faster. Yet another mission is the area upload/download. A short range connection is established to upload or download data, and you only have so much time to complete the operation. The more people in the short range of activity, the faster the process goes. You can fight back against enemies while the process progresses, however the area you can fight from is a small one. The enemy knows this and will make more of an effort to flank you.

As I said about the Multiplayer Demo, I really like the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3 because it really does a lot to encourage teamwork, where many other games let players run around rampant, and disorganized. Not only do the mini-mission types force you to rely on the the rest of your squad, but your restricted amount of usable powers and selection of weapons ensures that no person can be a one-man-army. 1 person can be really good, but even at Bronze level, they will struggle and most likely fail at wave 9 or 10 if not earlier.

New weapons, weapon enhancements, and character customizations can be acquired at random from player packs that can be bought using credits gained from battles or from Xbox Live credits. Improvements have been made to the acquisition system since the Demo so that rarer items can be more easily acquired through purchasing more expensive packs.

The Multiplayer ties into the Galaxy at War System, which evaluates your Galactic Readiness. Multiplayer allows you to improve your readiness in each of the theaters of war. There are 5 of them: the Terminus Systems, the Attican Traverse, Inner Council Space, Outer Council Space, and the Earth Systems Alliance Space. Each successfully completed multiplayer mission adds 4% to the specific region you are playing in, or all regions if the location is set to random. If you make it past Wave 5, you get only 2%. Without playing multiplayer, each of your theaters of war will sit at 50% readiness, and won’t dip any lower. Playing multiplayer adds a significant amount of points to your overall Galactic Readiness, making playing it well worth while.

The improvements made since the Demo have been good and necessary, and have elevated an already good Multiplayer option, to a great one.

Mass Effect 3: Multiplayer5 out of 5

With that out of the way, we can move on to the Campaign section. This is section that contains the massive amount of spoilers.

I’ll say it again…

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS OF THE MASS EFFECT 3 CAMPAIGN

You have been warned.

Mass Effect 3: Campaign

After the events of the Arrival DLC in Mass Effect 2, in which you slam a meteor into a Mass Relay, eradicating it and the Batarian System it resides in, all in an effort to buy the galaxy time to prepare for the Reapers…the Alliance has grounded Commander Shepard and the Normandy. You open in the same spot as the ‘Demo’ did. Shepard reports to Alliance officials that, based on the information they have gathered, the Reapers are coming. As you make your report, the Reapers touch down on Earth and begin their onslaught. After a short training stage introducing you to the combat and gameplay mechanics, you arrive at the Normandy, and are given instructions from Admiral Anderson to report to the Council: tell them what has happened, and get their help.

I’ll tell you at this point the same thing that I said about the Demo. I like the improvements to the combat system, mainly the addition of a heavy melee attack, and the addition of the dodge roll and other evasion techniques. The weapon and power selection wheels were very streamlined in Mass Effect 2, and since they weren’t broken, there was no need to fix them. With the selection wheels and hot keys for certain powers and weapons, combat feels very fluid, and doesn’t distract from the story telling elements of the game. If anything, they add to the elements making the story genuinely feel like it unfolds based on how you play.

That feeling that your choices and your actions determine how the story unfolds has been the cornerstone of the game since its inception. You can play it good or bad (Paragon or Renegade), get all the details or get straight to the point, play only the main missions or do all the side quests as well…whatever you choose, you will wind your own path to the conclusion.

After being sidetracked to Mars to uncover some Prothean technology, you get to the Citadel and petition the Council for help. Even though you’ve been trying to warn the Council and the rest of the galaxy of the Reaper threat for years, only few have ever taken you seriously. As such, everybody tells you that they need to cover their own asses before they can think of helping humanity.

This is the point where the main game truly begins. The other races of the galaxy are willing to help you, as soon as you help them solve their own problems. This is also where a new gameplay element comes into play: the Galaxy at War System. This system allows you to view all the different assets you have acquired, and adds them up to calculate your “Galactic Readiness”. It should be said at this point that, just like in Mass Effect 2, the creedo of the Mythbusters holds true here; failure is always an option. It is possible to get all the way to the end of the game and, lacking a sufficient Galactic Readiness rating (from what I keep hearing, 4000 or 5000 is the number to beat), fail utterly and have the game end on you without a completely favorable outcome to the galactic conflict (I’m not sure what the actual number is, but from here on forward I’m just going to continue to say 4000). Getting your ship and crew ready in Mass Effect 2 was a fairly easy and straight forward task to accomplish. Attaining Galactic Readiness in Mass Effect 3 is much less straight forward as a few wrong choices in dialogue options, in some cases, can mean the difference in acquiring new assets or not. A hot topic for debate right now, between gamers, is whether the campaign alone provides enough attainable assets, given that you make the right choices to attain them, to add up to the minimum of a Galactic Readiness of 4000. Whether they’re all there or not, getting to a rating of 4000 is not an easy task without the help of multiplayer mode, as mentioned earlier.

The first asset that ties into your Galactic Readiness is the Prothean technology you acquired on Mars, what comes to be known as the Crucible; an unfinished weapon designed by the Protheans for the purpose of defeating the Reapers. Other assets you can acquire include various Alliance forces, the forces of the various other galactic races, and anti-Cerberus intelligence.

After your meeting with the Council, you’ll spend most of your time running around the galaxy helping out your alien allies to get, in return, their promise to give you all the aid you need when you call on them. You will also spend your time fighting Cerberus, as you seem to tread on each others toes every step along the way.

You find out on Mars that the Illusive Man has a very perverted view on the best way to combat the Reapers. At one point you pull the facemask off of one of the Cerberus troopers to find him loaded up with Reaper technology. You find out that the Illusive Man has fallen under the impression that with the right amount of research and development that the Reapers can be controlled, in much the same way that the Reapers use Indoctrination to control their own agents.

From the point that the Illusive man tells you to stay out of his way, and you essentially tell him to shove it, you end up harassing each other right up until the very end. Literally. You realize about a third or so of the way through the game, when Cerberus launches an assault on the Citadel and outs Councilor Udina as a Cerberus spy, that the Illusive Man and the Cerberus organization are just as big an antagonist in this game as the Reapers are.

It ends up coming down to, once you’ve helped the rest of the galaxy as much as humanly possible (see what I did there ^_^), that you need to direct your resources at the Illusive Man and his home base to retake stolen intelligence on how to complete the Crucible. Since you also are diverting forces away from Earth and the Crucible to do this, this will be Stage 1 of an inevitable final assault on the Earth-based Reaper forces. After ripping his base apart, dispatching his cyberneticly enhanced head-lacky, “Kai Leng” (that dude in the last picture), and taking back the finishing piece of the Crucible, you learn that the Illusive Man has personally tipped off the Reapers that the Citadel is a piece to this whole Crucible puzzle. The Reapers thusly move the Citadel…yes, I said move the Citadel, to Earth where it can be best protected by their own forces and used as a processing center. Not only that, but the Illusive Man has already implanted himself on the Citadel, right in the middle of all the action. With the Illusive Man, the Citadel, and the majority of the Reaper fleets engaged on Earth, it would seem there is only one thing left to do.

Your allied forces are divided into 3 groups for the final assault: Sword (a direct ship based attack on the Reapers themselves), Hammer (a ground assault on the Reaper forces deployed on Earth’s surface), and Shield (a larger fleet of ships assigned to protect the Crucible and escort it in to dock with the Citadel when the time is right). There is nothing at this point that you can do on the Normandy that Joker and EDI can’t do better, so you and your team are covertly escorted down to Earth to participate in Hammer. Depending on your Readiness Rating at this point, Sword and Hammer will either begin to take heavy losses, or they will be able to hold their own for a while. Regardless of your readiness rating, you will wage many time consuming and difficult battles that will ultimately lead you to the Conduit that the Reapers are using to transport humans up to the Citadel for harvesting. After receiving a near direct blast from a Reaper, Commander Shepard limps on and follows the Conduit up into the Citadel.

Okay, fair warning, you are entering a zone of intense spoilers. This is the end, the conclusion of the saga. If you don’t want to know, use this opportunity to…I don’t know, discontinue reading. Again, you have been warned.

You find out farely quickly that you and Anderson were the only members of the surviving Hammer team to make it through. He somehow is well forward of your position, and guides you to the final room. You find 3 things in that final room. Admiral Anderson, a console, and the Illusive Man. I told you he was already there, weren’t you wondering when he was going to show up? Well, you find out pretty dang quick that his whole theory of controlling the Reapers hold some water, as you and Anderson are powerless to resist his control over you. You argue with Illusive Man for a few moments, during which time he forces you to shoot Anderson, as a show of the power he now possesses. Depending on the Paragon/Renegade options you made throughout the game and during the course of this conversation, you either can shoot and kill the Illusive Man, shoot and injure the Illusive Man to leave him lying on the ground talking about the view of Earth, or you force the Illusive Man to realize for himself that he is Indoctrinated, at which time he commits suicide. Either way, the Illusive Man dies on the floor and you are free to use the console to open the Citadel and allow the Crucible to dock. You and Anderson take a seat on the ground, have a short conversation, and Anderson eventually succumbs to his injuries. At the urgings of Admiral Hackett, you limp back over to the console to try and save the galaxy but pass out, and are transported on a platform to a higher level.

The next part has many fans up in arms, including myself to a small degree. Despite my own feelings over it, I will be objective, and present you with just the facts.

Shepard awakens to the image of a holographic boy, resembling the boy from a recurring dream of Shepard’s. The boy tells you that he is the final piece to assembling the Crucible (what is referred to throughout most of the game as the Catalyst). He also claims to be the Citadel itself, and a representation of the primordial creators of the Reapers. You learn here that the Reapers were created as the answer to a problem: Chaos. Chaos created between the creation of synthetic life, war with synthetic life, and also infighting between the organic races of the galaxy. Coincidentally all of these things have occurred in the present cycle of life. Many advanced raced have experimented with advanced AI progams, and in the Quarian’s case the Geth overtook them on their home planet leading to a galactic war with them and AIs in general. And just as far as organic infighting is concerned, many major conflicts stand out: the Rachni Wars, the Krogan Rebellion, the Genophage, and the Human’s First Contact War, among others. The Reapers were created as a solution to all this chaos. The Reaper solution is to save organic life, at the pinacle of its existence by harvesting each advanced organic race into a combination of organic and synthetic efficiency and synergy in the form of a new Reaper, per organic race harvested. This also equates to a Reaper reproductive cycle. This harvest of advanced organic life rids the galaxy of chaos, and makes room for lesser organic life to evolve into new advanced species that will venture out into the galaxy, continue to advance, and inevitably repeat the process.

However, each set of races in each cycle have gotten progressively closer to stopping the Reapers, with Commander Shepard, the apparent representative for the current cycle, being the first organic being to make it all the way to the end. The Catalyst informs you that at this point, with Shepard reaching the end, that the Reaper solution to the Chaos problem has finally run its course, and failed. With the Crucible in place, docked with the open Citadel, ready to fire, it is now up to Shepard to make a decision as to what the new solution will be.

Now, if your Readiness rating is below 1750, this is a moot point and the ending will be determined based on your past decisions. If it is between 1750 and 2799, you have the option to choose between 2 options, but only if your score is 2800 or higher do you get to pick between all 3 options.

The first choice, on the left, is Control. The Catalyst tells you that the Illusive Man’s theory on controlling the Reapers was in fact, a viable theory. However, since the Illusive Man was already being controlled by the Reapers, well, you get the point. Shepard however can take control by embracing the blue electrical beams and merging his consciousness with the Reapers, exerting control over them, I guess. Although this option results in Shepard’s death, it works.

The second choice, on the right, is Destruction. The Catalyst tells you that it knows that this has been your intention from the very beginning. This is the option that will destroy the Reapers outright, as well as the Geth, but will also destroy the Mass Relays. The Catalyst also warns you that synthetic life will ultimately rise again, and inevitably go to war. Without the Reapers to ensure the salvation of organic life, the Catalyst warns that this decision will lead to the extinction of all organic life.

The third choice, in the middle, is Combination/Synthesis. The Catalyst tells you that there is one final option, a new true solution to the problem of chaos. Shepard can choose to fling himself into the central beam which, in the process of killing him, will gather his genetic sequence. The resulting blast from the Crucible will serve to change the genetic sequencing of all organic life. Organic genetic sequencing will be resequenced to integrate synthetic sequences. This will change all organic life into an organic/synthetic hybrid. Remember, the Catalyst mentioned earlier that the purpose of the Reapers was to ascend organic life to the pinacle of evolution: the synthesis of organic and synthetic life. The Reapers must be used roughly once every 50,000 years to complete this operation. This new middle option, in one fell swoop, would complete this same operation for all organic life in the galaxy, and allow them to retain their physical form and free will. This option however will also cause the destruction of the Mass Relays.

I’m not sure about this, but I believe if your Readiness rating is not up to a certain level, that the Crucible will not be running at peak efficiency, and the resulting blast, no matter what option is selected, will result in some collateral damage in the form of lost organic lives. Again, I’m not sure about this though, my Readiness Rating is ridiculously high.

It should also be noted that out of all three of these scenarios, one of them has an additional scene attached. If you choose the Destruction ending, there is a short additional scene showing Commander Shepard, lying motionless, covered in wreckage. All of the sudden, Shepard inhales a deep breath. End Scene…I’ll let y’all draw your own conclusions based on this information.

There has been a lot of uproar, from the fan community, based on this conclusion tree. The main complaint is that this was a cop-out answer from the Bioware Team that lacked proper closure or conclusion in connection to the story told so far. Another complaint is that forcing Commander Shepard into any 1 of the 3 decisions is very un-Shepard like, and that Shepard would say something to the point of, “Screw you, [Catalyst], I’m going to find my own solution. There are many more complaints, but the point is that there is an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the ending from the players.

Bioware has announced some upcoming free DLC, to arrive this summer, that will offer extended cuts of the existing endings that will fill in the knowledge gaps, and elaborate on the fate of the galaxy based on your decision. Bioware has also announced that this DLC will NOT include new alternate endings.

It also bares mentioning that with the immense dissatisfaction with the existing ending, that several theories have emerged that hint that another ending already exists, built-in to the choices made in the final sequence of the game. The only one of these theories gathering any steam is the Indoctrination Theory. I feel like it is worthy of mentioning because it fills in a lot of holes in the storyline, and accounts for a lot of discrepancies and oddities associated with the ending sequence of events. Also, to add some subjectivity into the mix, I for one feel like this theory makes a lot of sense.

Now, I’ve gone on for long enough with this post, and explaining Indoctrination Theory could easily double its length. So, I’ll link to a video I found on YouTube that does a spot on job of explaining Indoctrination Theory. If you’ve made it this far, you are either a fan of the franchise, or you are to be commended. Either way, enjoy.

Despite my reservations about the ending of the game, the overall game was extremely enjoyable, and offers an immense amount of replayability. This game, nay, this franchise is personally one of the best I have ever played. It offers the unique ability to genuinely play the game the way you want to play it, allowing many different play styles, and moralities that can be used. This game, just like the rest of the series, is an innovation to how games are both played and made.

Mass Effect 3: Campaign5 out of 5

Good lord. Longest. Post. EVER. I don’t think I’ll be writing anything this long again any time soon. I will have some more posts up here in a few days though…I’ve got a lot of brain dumping to do. Until then, do as the Eagles say, and take it easy.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

Hot dang, where the hell did March go? I thought it was supposed to be longer. I guess I just lost track of time. It happens a lot. I’ve got a lot of stuff to talk about here, and not a lot of time to say it. I’ll try and space this out a little so it doesn’t all turn into a mess of verbal diarrhea in one post.

I’ll try and tackle the much exalted Spring Break here. I am about 2 weeks behind with that anyways, so it seems as good a place to start as any. So, conjure up some majestic music for yourself, and we’ll begin.

I won’t bore you with tales of packed backage, but I assure you that I arrived at the airport on Friday the 16th with my bags packed up, cowboy up, and ready for an adventure. A few iPad movies and a stop off in Seattle later, I found myself staring at the promised land…

Alaska.

I was met at the airport by my brother, Kevyn. Well, he isn’t exactly my brother. He’s, well…we don’t have the same father, but we have different mothers. Anyways, I wish we could have gotten right down to kicking ass and taking names, but time travel takes a lot out of you. Hell, I traveled back three hours, that crap ain’t easy. I was beat, so we rested the night and vowed to commit kickassery in the morning.

Look it up, kickassery, it’s a word. What, you can’t find it? Your dictionary is out of date.

We awoke the next morning with a powerful hunger and a bloodlust, so we downed a country breakfast and made for the mountains armed to the teeth. What were we looking to do, packing all that heat? We were going to bring into the global war, the one nation that has yet to enter its army into the global theatre…the eskimo nation.

Okay. Okay, you called my bluff. We didn’t go attack the eskimos. We had no bloodlust. But we did want to go up into the mountains and shoot some guns. So we went to the gun range, more or less. It was actually just the side of the road, up in the mountains. Yea, you can shoot your guns on the side of the road up there, just as long as you’re not shooting across the road. What’s not to love about that?

We got our jollies off after a 15 minute shoot off, and left feeling satisfied. We ventured a little bit further up into the mountains before getting shut down by 14 feet of snow on the road. Maybe it was more like 4 or 5, I tend to exaggerate a little bit. Kev has a 4×4 but it ain’t a snow plow, so we turned around and headed back.

At this point in the year we are at Spring Equinox, in fact it was March 20th, so the days weren’t much longer than the nights. In other words, we weren’t having that 30 days of night or 30 days of “Jesus Sun, why don’t you set already!” You might expect us to have more planned in a full length day, but the air is still pretty thin up there, so it doesn’t take much to take the wind out of you. Quantity wasn’t important, but we made the most of quality. Speaking of quality, we ate some really good food that week. We bought some fresh red snapper from a fish market at some point in the week, and SOOO it was good.

We were gonna pick up some king crab, because we are in Alaska, but it was $20 a pound…and we had to buy the whole live crab…and it was like 10 pounds. Yea, $200 for a crab…it better be able to roll over and heel on command before we need it to play dead. We went with the fish.

A lot of the following days were spent exploring Untamed Alaska. Was the name of Sarah Palin’s show? I dunno, doesn’t matter, didn’t watch. We found lots of cool areas out in the woods to navigate, and even went to the beach. I have, for like 10-15 years, wanted to go to a beach, and at the same time look at the mountains. My family has discussed a visit at some point to New Zealand to visit long lost family at which time this could be accomplished. I didn’t expect that I would be able to cross that item off my bucket list on a trip to Alaska, but low and behold…

Standing on the beach, staring at the mountains…check.

There was a plethora of fantastic scenery out there, so I’ll satisfy your palate with a little more of this winter wonderland.

Beautiful, right. I had a solid week of that. But just like this post, it was all over so fast. It felt like no time before I was back on a plane headed for 50 degree warmer temperatures. Ugh, it’s 80’s here and I’m hating it. I think I’m a bad Texan.

Quick question before I go. We love our right to bare arms. If and when the eskimos enter the global conflict, and they will, it’s only a matter of time, will they request the right to arm bears? They’d be like ferocious shock troopers. Awesome right? Anyways…

I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to post, so I can almost guarantee I’ll be back on here in a couple of days. Until then.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw