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By “popular” demand (and cuz it makes things look a lot more positive than it really is), I’m just gonna go with the mainstream “professional” scale from now on and be overly simplistic with 0.5 intervals. Previous game review scores will be retconned.

10: The best of its kind. Must play.
9: Superb experience with a few imperfections here and there.
8: Good. Mostly enjoyable, but doesn’t quite separate itself from the rabble.
7.5: Mediocre. Neither impresses nor disappoints in any significant capacity.
7: Sub-par. Decent for fans of genre, but money is better spent elsewhere.
6. Terrible. Many and/or severe flaws. For genre enthusiasts only.
5. Candidate for worst game ever.

4. Worst game ever.
3. I AM ERROR.
2. x/0=
1. gof’nnhupadghshub-niggurath
0. ph’ngluimglw’nafhc’thulhur’lyehwgah’naglfhtagn

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I have nothing to review at the moment, so I’m gonna post a filler that might possibly be useful, since New Vegas is coming out tomorrow and is using the same engine. You’d think they’d fix the issues, but considering it’s made by Obsidian (aka Black Isle)…I wouldn’t count on it. Let’s face it, I mean, I loved all their games, but their QA has always been pretty non-existent, and this engine is picky as hell with the cards it’ll work with.

Anyways, you’re probably here cuz you have a GPU that isn’t from 5 years ago and the game either crashes, or the HDR doesn’t work, or you get a black screen, etc. Mostly, it boils down to the game not recognizing your card and assigning a set of “compatibility” shaders for it (which aren’t actual compatible with ANYTHING apparently), and minimizing most of the hidden graphics options, which you can crank back up at and customize at /documents/my games/(name of game)/(name of game).ini, and I strongly suggest you do so by referring to this site: http://www.tweakguides.com/Oblivion_1.html. Don’t touch that yet though. First, let’s fix your shader problem.

Let me tell you first that I didn’t create this fix. I’m just gonna tell you how to make it better (kinda like what I did with the SH5 one). Fortunately, this time I didn’t be an idiot and lose the link to the fix. So first, go download this d3d9.dll here: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=6LHPT9ZC and put it in the same directory as your game’s main exe (DO NOT replace the one in your system directory, you WILL screw up your system). Video demo is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GN5HbMsMVE. What it basically does is trick your game into thinking you have a GeForce 7900 GS, and give you full access to all graphics options and use a 3.0 shader package, since it seems that’s the most advanced GPU that this engine seems to be fully compatible with.

But of course, that’s an old card. We have better ones now, so why not use an even better set of shaders? Go to your game’s directory and look in /data/shaders. Rename shader package 13 (which the 7900GS uses) to something else, and make a copy of shader 19, then rename that copy to the same filename as what 13 used to be.

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Now go in-game and make sure everything’s working, set the graphics to your liking, and then you can further adjust it with the .ini file, using the tweak guide above to help you.

If New Vegas ends up going horribly wrong, this fix will probably limit your graphics options, being so old. However, you can still try to adjust the .ini settings and try different shader packages. You can check which shader is currently assigned to your card in the renderer info file in the same directory as the .ini.

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If anyone’s still asking, it’s easy to have both AA and HDR in Oblivion nowadays. Turn HDR on in-game, then go to Catalyst Control Center (or whatever graphics manager Nvidia uses, if you have a GeForce), and just set it to force AA. It’s an option that’s actually made especially for Oblivion.

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After the odd controversy on my Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines review, I figured it was worth saying a few words on the matter, seeing as apparently, no one bothers to check my scoring scale page. Simply put, I use a 0-10 scale. Like, an ACTUAL 0-10 scale. If you haven’t caught on, I mean I score between 0 and 10.

That sounds like an odd specification to you normal people who read this, but it really isn’t if you’re the type that reads gaming reviews. Your typical gaming site effectively uses a 5-10 scale. 0-3 doesn’t exist, 3-5 means candidate for worst game ever made, 5-6.5 means it’s about as fun as shooting yourself in the foot. 7.5 means average, 8.5 means good, and so on. It’s a stupid scale and I refuse to follow it. IGN spent the whole review on DoA:P talking about how he spent the entire game being frustrated, and then gave it a 5/10. Why? Why is it between 0 and 10. What constitutes a 0? Where did those 5 points come from if all the game does is piss you off and provide 0 enjoyment. Or even better, Superman 64. It consistently makes it on just about every “10 worst games of all time” lists, and it has a 3.4/10 on IGN, who agrees that it deserves to be on those lists. And here’s a comment I got on my AC:B review: “This is not the best game and is not a bad game either I give it 8/10 and I know about gaming.” The rest of it had even worse grammar but that’s besides the point. Basically, he just said that he feels the game is average, so it deserves an 8. What’s more intuitive, having 5 mean average because it’s in the middle of 0 and 10, or 8 being average because that’s what the education system and metacritic says?

It’s certainly open to debate, but so is metric vs English system. Stick to a retarded system that makes no sense but we’ve grown up with it, or a perfectly rational system that we just didn’t learn before because our elders were too stupid to come up with it. The scientific community and 193 of 195 countries chose to adhere to logic for the utilitarian applications of it. Obviously, I side with them.

Or better yet, axe the tree because that’s how people used to do it, or chainsaw them because it’s faster? Not a hard choice for me.

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So really, my AC:B score translated to the mainstream scale would be around a 6.2, which is about the same as the metacritic score for it anyways, which is why the controversy over it is so strange. Just thought I’d point that out. I dream of the day that gaming sites will stop catering their scores so pre-teens that are barely literate anyways can understand them, and just follow the same scale as every other product review ever made.

For the record, my Dante’s Inferno 7.5 actually translates to about a low-mid 8 on the mainstream scale.

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Alright, most people know the PC port for this game is very glitchy, especially on ATI’s cards. After some digging and tinkering around with settings, I believe I’ve found a solution for the graphical glitches at least, and figured I should share as I haven’t been able to find any decent solutions through google.

Go into the “bin” folder of your game (where the main .exe is), and look for a file called “enbseries.ini”. Scroll all the way to the bottom, and you’ll see a section named “FIX”, and probably notice that the shader limit is set to a pathetic 500, and vertex texture fetch is off. Increase the shader limit to 4096 and set vertex texture fetch to 1 so that your final settings look like this:

[FIX]
PixelShaderLimit=4096
DisableShaders=0
ForceOldDXVersion=0
UseVertexTextureFetch=1
DelayTime=0
ForceAffinityMask=0

SH5 PC running at 1080p, high graphics quality on Win7 64-bit, ASUS DirectCu/TOP Radeon HD 5850.

I apologize for the crappy cell phone picture, but as you know, this port was handled by morons. There’s no ingame screenshot feature, and the usual FRAPS and print screen just record a black screen.

If I ever fix the audio and cutscene glitches too, I’ll let you guys know.

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6/13/2010 UPDATE: Don’t know how I neglected to mention this before, but this fix was meant for already patched versions of the game. It’s a fan made patch by some russian people that uses modified shaders. It seems to work fine for Nvidia cards and very old Radeons, but takes a bit of tweaking to work right with newer Radeons, which is what this article is for.

Also, apparently they added a screenshot feature, and I’ve apparently pressed the screenshot button at some point and not noticed. Color seems to be off though. Anyways, here it is:

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Right, time for something completely different. Today, I’m gonna give you my banana buying tips. Of course, the most popular bananas are a clean vibrant yellow (5-6 on the chart). As such, I see many people make the mistake of buying them that way, including my parents. Basically, what I’m about to tell you is to always buy them in vibrant green instead (2 or 3).

The thing is this, bananas ripen very fast at room temperature. Often times, it will go from level 6 to 7 in just a few hours. Refridgeration vastly slows down the process, but then you’re left with only the option of cold bananas, which won’t taste nearly as sweet. The solution here is to buy them a bit unripe and leave 2 or 3 bananas out in room temperature and fridge the rest. This way, with a little bit of planning ahead, you give yourself the options of having a warm or cold green or yellow banana. I don’t advise level 1 ripeness since they pretty much won’t be edible for at least a day.

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“But why would you want a green banana at all?”, you may ask. Quite simply, they taste different and will work better in some recipes. If you’ve never tried it, green bananas are slightly stiffer, juicier, and have a very subtle citrus-like sourness behind the taste, while riper ones are generally mushy and sweeter. Personally, for regular eating, I prefer green myself (cold or warm). At that point, you really just have to use your culinary imagination to figure out what works well with what.

For example, in a salad, you’d probably want to use warm/green so it doesn’t get smooshed and so the juice can flow out and work with your dressing to flavor the veggies. For pastry, cold or frozen green with any glazing that hardens to keep the juice in (if you have time) makes great banana chip-like decorations, while retaining the fresh sweet flavor.

Banana cupcake with vanilla pastry cream.

For an ice cream boat, I find warm/yellow works best. The texture will be more consistent and the bananas will have a stronger flavor and won’t get overwhelmed by the ice cream’s sweetness. For candy dipped bananas, you pretty much don’t have a choice besides frozen/yellow. Cut off one end of the banana (or in half, for larger bananas) and insert the stick prior to freezing.

Frozen candy dipped bananas.

And of course, if you’re going to make anything that involves cooked bananas in any way, use yellow. That’s all I can think of for my first food article. Thanks for reading and happy banana eating to all!

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Session 9 is a low budget independent American psychological horror movie that’s often times overlooked due to the lack of monsters, action, special effects, or anything necessarily supernatural. In fact, this movie doesn’t even bother to use artificial lighting. It’s about 5 regular people in a fairly normal situation. The result, is exceptional. Easily one of my all time favorites, just for what it manages to accomplish.

PLOT: 8

Gordy is hard working recent father and leader of a small asbestos cleaning crew who’s trying to make ends meet. Out of desperation, he offers his services to clean up the Danver State Insane Asylum (actual building where it was filmed) to the city in just one week, knowing it’s at least a 2 week job.
The stress from burnout, in addition to each individual’s own problems, puts the entire team on edge. Everyone begins to work in their own best interests and become a little bit insane themselves.

I’d go insane working here too.

CHARACTERS: 5.5

One of the weaker points of this movie, lacking in both powerful A-list actors and strong developement for side characters. It follows the story of Gordy, who, fortunately, is well developed and sympathizable. A decent performance on the actor’s part too. Though certainly not Oscar material, he will move you as necessary. Adequate is the best way to describe the acting for all characters actually, perhaps with the exception of Hank, who doesn’t sound nearly as much of an asshole as his character is. Phil is the second most important character, and while he has a bit more backstory and some depth, it doesn’t really show until the final stretch of the film. Until then, he’s kinda just another guy with a forgettable personality, like Mike, who you never find much about besides that he’s surprisingly knowledgable and plans on finishing law school. Jeff is even worse, being the young inexperienced mullethead nephew of Gordy, who’s only defining traits are his relative inexperience and nyctophobia.

The wrong place to work if you have nyctophobia (fear of the dark).

The best developed and well acted character is actually Mary, who never appears onscreen. You only hear her voice on therapy session tapes. As a psychology major, I can tell you that her character and portrayal of a disassociative identity disorder patient is accurate to a tee. There’s this one line during the climax that’s a bit overacted, but that’s about her only flaw.

The room where you’ll be listening to a psycho a lot. Good choice.

SCREENPLAY: 8

Fortunately, the events of the movie and the way it’s told do not suffer from the same problems as the character developement. A lot of little things happen all at once, and the movie only chooses to show us some of them. The result is a compelling mystery, realistic character interactions (with the exception of Phil’s comedic overly dramatic zoomed in “fuck you”), and no shortage of red herrings to keep you guessing. In fact, the events of this movie are told and hinted at in such misleading ways, that it’s almost impossible to understand it fully in just one viewing, yet at the same time, it’s straightforward enough that it won’t leave you too confused to enjoy the movie. This is easily one of the most intelligent and masterfully told mystery stories ever, even if certain bits are a little cliché.

The most dramatic FU ever.

As with most movies of this type, the pacing is a little slower than most movies. If, like me, you’re terminally allergic to movies that drag on needlessly, don’t worry, because this one moves slow and steady, but never stands still or goes in circles like Paranormal Activity, Noroi, Begotten, and Hurt Locker do so much. It takes its time just enough to unnerve you and build suspense, and never wastes your time with redundant dialogue or imagery.

This dark sequence only lasts a few seconds, instead of dragging on for 10 minutes while moving 2 inches each step like typical horror movies.

CINEMATOGRAPHY: 8.8

Like I always say, this is the most important part of a horror movie. And it is this that makes it one of my all time favorites. Unlike typical horror movies, nothing supernatural is ever shown. There are no cheap shocks, no grotesque creatures/people, no gore, very little blood, only 1 instance of CG, and 1 onscreen killing. There aren’t even any artificial lights. The only tools of terror used is the natural lighting in a real abandoned insane asylum and a few stories told by the characters or through short camera shots focusing on unsettling imagery. It works wonders and is easily one of the most unnerving movies ever made.

Small wonder why psychological treatment was so ineffective just a few decades back when the asylums looked like this.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that the building isn’t just eerie in the dark basements, but also in the brightly lit decaying seclusion rooms. I often times refer to this movie when I state why the darkness in Paranormal Activity doesn’t work, and this really drives the point home. The movie subtly suggests uneasy feelings and disturbing events through simple stories and uses that to supplement an incomplete image that let’s you fill in the blanks of how that room ended up that way, what’s happened behind the doors, or what’s lurked in the dark. It gives you just enough information so you know it’s not of fairy tale quality, and yet never paints you a complete enough picture that your mind stops wondering.

Excellent artistic camerawork makes the building eerie even in broad daylight.

Increasing the effectiveness even further is the soundtrack, or more accurately, the use of sound. The tracks are littered with inaudible whispers, sounds of structural decay, static, and gradual discordic tones. From the sound of old generators, to the slow distorted voice of Simon, to whizzing of cars driving by, the entire aural experience of this film just exudes dread, death, and evil.

I can keep posting more and more examples of this masterful camera direction all day long.

Perhaps the only flaw in the cinematography is that it never puts an exclamation mark on the atmosphere to drive the viewer from a state of unnerve to sheer terror. Rather, the climax focuses heavily on the mystery aspect of the movie instead. The entire movie peppers you with nearly constant unease and chills, but never hits you with any single unforgettable nightmare-ish sequence like the hospital scene in Jacob’s Ladder, the hospital scene in One Missed Call (J), the final scene in Carrie (1976), the climax of A Tale of Two Sisters, or the final room in [REC]. The final line of the film are words that still stay with you for most of your life, but the lack of a strong horror climax in favor of realism means you probably won’t get any intense nightmares from this.

PLOT: 8
CHARACTERS: 5.5
SCREENPLAY: 8
CINEMATOGRAPHY: 8.8

VERDICT: 8.2/10 (not an average)

Those of you looking for an intriguing mystery fed through an unnerving experience will likely never find a movie that does it better than Session 9. Although it never builds up to a point of sheer terror, few have been able to match its relentless supply of unease through the natural scenery, realistic characters, and unsettling musical score. Action junkies and fans of braindead screamfests will be heavily disappointed, as will people looking for character driven plots. However, as far as pure psychological horror goes, Session 9 is easily one of the greatest of all time. Its achievement is even greater when you consider that there’s nothing necessarily supernatural in this movie. What it is, is the perfect harmony of common real life elements working together to create real fear.

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“Hasta la vista, baby.”

In commemoration of the recent 160 Greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger Quotes video that’s been circulating around, I figured this was a good time to take a quick look back at his best works. Some say that he’s just a real life cartoon character, and I agree with them. While his main rivals, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone, can only do action/comedy and badass/action effectively, respectively, Arnold can be badass, hilarious, overly macho, and is always over the top.

Obviously, you’ll have to watch the Terminators (all 3 of them) and Predator. I don’t think I need to tell you why.

Total Recall: 9/10

“MY NAME IS NOT QUAID.”

Easily one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, most notable for its complete mindfuck plot. It will hit you with twist after twist. Sure, the effects haven’t weathered the test of time that well, but that’s easily made up for by Arnold’s surprisingly good acting performance, and some of his best Arnisms. A must see, whether Arnold fan or not, unless you’re terminally allergic to sci-fi movies.

True Lies: 9/10

“Can you make it quick? Because my horse is getting tired.”

An action/comedy/romance/thriller directed by the renowned James Cameron (The Abyss, Terminator 1, 2, Aliens, Titanic, Avatar, can this guy even make a bad movie anymore?!), starring Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis. Already, you have to know this is going to be superb. Arnold plays a smooth and cool superspy akin to the likes of James Bond. However, his cool goes out the window when he suspects that his wife (Jamie) may be having an affair. He redirects his spy resources to spy on his wife instead in the middle of a mission tracking fanatical terrorists. It’s hilarious, fast paced, and of course, everything explodes. This is the macho guy movie that won’t put off the girlfriend. Another must-see for any movie goer.

Kindergarten Cop: 8/10

“THERE IS NO BATHROOM!”

A comedy/romance/crime movie involving drug dealers, prostitutes, kindergarteners, abusive fathers, birthday sex, and people getting shot. The first impression upon hearing the premise are almost always something along the lines of “only Uwe Boll could’ve thought of something so incredibly stupid.” And yet, somehow, the end result is fantastic. It was so surprisingly fantastic, I probably bumped up the score an entire point out of respect. Anyways, Arnold plays a detective obsessed with busting a certain drug dealer and ends up having to go undercover as a Kindergarten teacher, then hilarity ensues. It’s definitely not for kids, but it’s a great feel good movie for anyone over 13. It starts out like a typical dark Arnold action movie, but he softens up and the ending is just so satisfying. You have to see this for yourself. It also has some of the best Arnisms, which helps a lot.

Last Action Hero: 7.5/10

“Iced that guy, to cone a phrase.”

The best way to look at it is that it’s a toned down version of True Lies, without the romance. It’s an action/comedy where Arnold parodies himself. There’s no shortage of cameos (including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, T1000, and MC Hammer), smoking hot women, and bad puns. Sadly, it’s held back by the terrible special effects. I know it was the director’s choice to make them purposely look bad, but it was a bad choice any way you slice it. The plot isn’t particularly interesting either. A kid gets a magic ticket which gets him trapped inside an Arnold movie and ends up having to help him stop the bad guys, who eventually escape into the real world and the chase continues from there. Easily one of his most underrated movies though. Make no mistake, it’s hilarious. But that’s all it is.

Jingle All The Way: 6.8/10

“Put that cookie down, NOW!!”

Yes, I know this comedy is retarded. It may be a Christmas movie, but I would not advise you show it to children, due to the risk of infectious retardation. This movie may be ridiculous, but it’s surprisingly funny. Arnold will fight kung fu Santas, get owned by Sinbad, turn into a superhero, and give some the best Arnisms in his career. You won’t come away with much, but just look at that screenshot quote. Definitely worth checking out for an Arnold fan.

Commando: 6.7/10

“Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last?…I LIED.”

Lastly, there’s the very best of his old no nonesense macho action movies. Bad guys kidnap his daughter, and he goes and kills them all. It’s over the top, ridiculous, and easily contains his best Arnisms ever. It’s braindead, and the action scenes mostly boil down to a lot of people randomly shooting around and magically all miss Arnold, so sadly, you’ll be watching purely for the Arnisms. Oh, and the scene where he rips a phone booth. Yeah, BOOTH.

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If that’s still not enough Arnold for you, here’s the runner ups, best first:
Eraser, The 6th Day, Red Heat, The Running Man

Actually, Eraser is a better movie than both Commando and Jingle All the Way. It’s just that there isn’t that many good Arnisms in it.

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