Games Meet Metal: December 2010

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The First Great Game Pick-ups of 2011

By Nathan Werp, aka Riff, editor-in-chief

So did you watch the VGA's last week? Yeah, pretty tortuous, huh? It just sees that no matter how much the industry wants an awards show (either metal or video games, in this case), the result is just an eyesore to watch all the way through. The skits were horrible, the production was lousy, and the awards themselves were treated with as equal of dignity as my cat's hairballs. Of course, the only reason we bothered to watch the show in the first place were the great game reveals for the next holiday season.

Now, I'm all ready for Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3, and Elder Scrolls 5, but that's still some major time away. Not to mention that a few of the games mentioned are inevitably gonna get delayed. The biggest deal for me is that so much hype is going into the next holiday, that everyone's forgotten that there's a crapton of great games being released in the next three months. So, to serve as both a reminder and a shopping list, here's my five picks for the good stuff of early 2011. Vids included!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

8-bit Metal Whatever Day of the Week It Is

If you live in the midwest, then I know exactly what you've been doing the past couple days: avoiding slipping all over the place. As for me, avoidance of hitting any black ice has also been combined with a busy work week, thank you tons of fucking snow. And that's why there hasn't been an 8-bit Metal Monday this week. Just work work work. Ever had the joy of two 16-hour days next to each other? I do, and "joy" is a stretch of the term.

My winter listening of Opeth has turned a bit more thrashier and thus I've been medicating with Chimaira. Chimaira just says something winterey to me. Maybe because the mythical chimaira had a goat's head. Maybe it's from the band being from Ohio. Or maybe it's because every time they film a dvd, they just gotta do it in the snow. Either way, I say Chimaira need to do Christmas tree ornaments. Their logo would look awesome on a mini-globe.

And now, time for the bleepy. Here's Ressurection from the Ohio boys.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Tour For The Sick: The Riff Live Review

Saturday, December 4th @ the I-Rock

Well. it's the last show of the year for me and the Michigan crew, and it's surprisingly low key. Not that the bigger venue down the road was hosting a Trapt show and everyone with a pulse decided to go there instead of the superior show here at the stuck-in-the-80's I-Rock. Oh well, some people just have no taste. 

Okay, on to the photo dump!

GAMES THAT ARE METAL: Infinity Blade may make you a Socially Inept Bastard

Infinity Blade was released yesterday for the iphone and has already been certified (by myself) as piece of gaming badassery. Using the Unreal Engine 3 to render its epic fantasy visuals makes for one of the best looking portable games ever. For technophiles the visual novelty alone would be worth the six dollar price tag. But BEHOLD! Infinity blade manages to bring your favorite hardcore gaming tropes like looting, leveling, managing character stats, a huge arsenal of weapons, combine it with a Punch-Out!-like fighting system, and package it all in easily digestible chunks.

Gameplay is streamlined to walking short distances, seeing if you can spot loot and getting into fights. Rather than complicate things with free-roaming sections, you just touch the direction you want to proceed, the enemy you want to engage or the item you want to grab. Once you begin a battle you’ll be swiping and poking your touch screen in every conceivable way to parry, dodge, slice and block. The battle system (as previously mentioned) can be equated to Punch-Out! with swords. Since the action is more based on reading your enemy’s ‘tell’ than pulling off complicated combos, the touch controls are a great fit.

Infinity Blade’s depth is reinforced by a Rogue-like influence. Try as you may, you are not going to take down the big boss, the ‘God King’ (best name ever) on your first journey through his castle. Your inevitable failure means that in 20 years time your son will return to avenge your death. During this second “bloodline” you’ll fight different, more challenging enemies and get new items, but retain the level, gear and money from your previous play-through. To some this design choice may seem cheap, but I’ve been sucked into PSO and Diablo enough times to know that it works for me.

If you have a newer generation iphone, ipod touch or ipad, and six bucks to burn, you may neglect your friends to sneak in little battles with massive adversaries. God King!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembering a Great Musician

Six years ago today, Dimebag Darrell (born Darrell Abbott) was playing a gig with post-Pantera thrash metal band Damageplan. This would be his last performance as he was shot and killed while doing the thing he loved most. At the time of his death, the future of Pantera was unknown and he was currently working on the underrated Damageplan with his brother Vinnie Paul. Being unfazed by the breakup of Pantera, it looked as though Dimebag would continue his reign of the metal world.

It's no mystery that Dimebag was one of the most influential guitar players in metal history. His sound is unmistakable and it ruled the early 90s metal scene. The above image is seen on T-Shirts and guitar magazines to this day as his legacy lives on. Aside from being a great guitarist he was also known to be a very humble and a well respected figure in the music industry. He hardly had any enemies which is why his death was even more shocking. So while others are remembering the death of John Lennon, throw in some Pantera in honour of this Cowboy From Hell!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holy Grail's Crisis In Utopia and Wilthered's Dualitas: Another Disturbying CD Review

Our metal mailbox (that's right) was stuffed last week, so today I bring you a double review. This has to do in part because we received many an album to dissect but also because all of the albums we received are already in stores (one for as long as 9 months!). The albums I am reviewing are from two different sides of the metal spectrum but both on Prosthetic Records. Holy Grail is a Power Metal Band out of Pasadena who have just released their debut album where Withered is an Extreme Death Metal band out of Atlanta and this is their 3rd album. I'm going to try my hardest not to compare one to the other but we'll see what happens.

8-bit Metal Mondays (On Tuesday): The Traditional Beginning of the Season

'Tis the season for groping about the snowy weather here in the Wolverine State. Actually, you won't hear any groping from me, as I'm good to go. I just a bunch of pants, I have several warm jackets, and I have a brush/ice scraper combo for my car. Also, I'm quite the fatty lad, so I insulate well. So for winter, I'm READY!! However, with snow in Michigan comes a sense of denial that rivals Bush's second term. People who have lived here for well over 30 years are still surprised that the white stuff still falls on the ground this time of year. Then they bitch and moan about it. Oh, it's cold. Oh, I have to shovel. Oh, it's cold again. Oh, COME ON PEOPLE! Most of y'all have lived in th stat for over 30 years, so you knew this shitty weather was coming! Now grab a shovel and a bag of salt and get to work!
In keeping with the chilly season, I picked up some bone-chilling Opeth. The Royal Albert Hall performance, to be exact. Over three hours of live Opeth consisting of the entire Blackwater Park cd. Truly epic. So, in turn, here's some bleepy progressive metal from Sweden.

Monday, December 6, 2010

GAMES THAT ARE METAL: Looking back at Metroid: Zero Mission

When the September issue of Retro Gamer (an excellent UK mag for the retro-inclined) ran an article on Metroid: Zero Mission, praising it to high heaven, it got me thinking about the title. I first played Zero Mission shortly after its release and I remember that the game went quick. In those days my Metroid skills were primed from multiple play-throughs of Super Metroid, Metroid Prime and the original NES game. Zero Mission struck me as a streamlined, “my first Metroid” kind of experience. The only thing that really threw me for a loop was the stealth section at the end.

The majority of the game is a modernized summation of the original NES Metroid. But the story continues! Samus escapes planet Zebes and after being shot down and losing her gear, she is forced to infiltrate a Space Pirate ship to retrieve her suit. You go from being a powered-up badass, to a speedy, but vulnerable vixen.

My original experience with this addition was pure frustration. In 2004 tacking on a stealth element was a played-out misstep, one that I couldn’t believe a Metroid game was making. The design choices left me dumbfounded. Why would Zero Mission take a series built on exploration, and player expression, and make its conclusion a linear battle of trial and error?

My recent romp through Zero Mission led to a reconsideration of my condemnation. The first chunk of the game didn’t turn Metroid into a ‘baby game,’ it streamlined it in a way that was both faithful to its roots, and forward thinking. The level design was so thought-out that an experienced Metroid player would naturally make speed-run-like decisions. Backtracking for items is an option, not a requirement, and the wall-jump is available from the beginning allowing for sequence breaking. Furthermore, the game requires the amount of player-precision that one would expect from the platforming and battles in a Metroid title.

When I came upon the Zero Suit stealth section I was ready to hate it. I was immediately spotted by space pirates, but rather than resigning to death, I booked it. Flying through the space pirate ship with a crowd of enemies amassing behind me, the section became a thrilling chase rather than a frustrating mess. Samus was vulnerable, but remained a badass. And when her fully-powered-up suit was retrieved the space pirate slaughter was all the sweeter.

My original ‘meh’ reaction toward Zero Mission was influenced by my personal definition of a Metroid game. I had played the series to death, and frankly, I was probably sick of it. Things played out differently this time. What previously seemed like linearity, struck me as clever design, and a tacked-on exercise in frustration became an exciting chase. With my mind in a different place, I found an appreciation for what could be the last great 2D Metroid.

Sony Ericsson to release a PlayStation Cell Phone!?!

Image from

Kotaku has a couple videos of a dude playing with, what may be, a PlayStation Phone prototype. Upon reading the article (and other articles about the device) it looks like they will be basing the phone off of the Android 3.0 platform. The phone would have the ability to download games (I would assume past PSP titles) and possible connect to the PlayStation network. I guess the idea is that this device would primarily be a portable gaming console first, and a smart phone second.

I'm not one for either market; I've never owned a portable gaming system in my life and my phone is pretty basic. I don't find the need to be connected to everything wherever I go and I can't play games while hunched over a tiny screen. So Technofiles, is this device something that you're interested in?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keep your eyes on The Schoenberg Automaton

Here's a well kept secret from Australia's metal underground: The Schoenberg Automation. Not only do these guys get mad props for referencing one of LCTR's favorite 20th century composers, but they offer up some of the most relevant technical metal I've heard this year.

I became internet buddies with these dudes over the past year, so when they completed their three song demo they were cool enough to hook me up. The Schoenberg Automaton immediately bring to mind "Catch 33" era Meshuggah, and Car_Bomb, but round out their sound with a lot of legit death metal riffery. The vocals match the stop-start syncopation and abrasive nature of the band with ease.

I've only heard the three song demo, but the production and material are strong enough to place these guys amongst Australia's best. Definitely a band to keep your eyes peeled for!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blast Beats and Boss Battles with Darkest Hour's Ryan Parrish!

(BB and BB is back yet again, and this time we bug Darkest Hour drummer Ryan Parrish! Hear some news for their new album under the E1 label, nudity, and their new guitarist's nerdy side)

GMM: You guys are in the middle of your Legacy Tour. Have things been running smooth so far?

RP: Oh yeah, it's been good. We're all having a really good time here. All the bands are as cool as shit, so it's been a good time.

GMM:  For this tour, you're doing a greatest hits collection from your entire musical career.
Was it hard picking the final set list, or are you changing up night after night?

RP: It was tough getting the final set list together, but we're more or less playing songs we know people like as well as playing some we like but have never played live, so it's the culmination of the two.

GMM: So, perhaps a lot of earlier stuff?

RP:  Yep, we're pretty much doing two songs from every record.