Slashdot is No Longer Relevant

Slashdot isn't relevant anymore. For those who have never visited the site, Slashdot is a news aggregation site that follows the tag line, "News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters". For years it was a dependable source of news on a wide variety of interesting topics ranging from space exploration, to computing, to patent law and copyright freedoms. Most stories that appear on Slashdot focus on the computing and technology industry. Each story includes a comment listing where readers can respond to the story and to the comments of other readers. Ever since college I have faithfully read Slashdot for the latest technology news.

One of Slashdot's favorite whipping posts is Microsoft. Microsoft is the big bad ugly that represents everything evil in the world. When the Netscape vs. Microsoft battle was taking place, Slashdot was a great site to catch up on the latest proceedings and each punch in the boxing match between the companies. Slashdot was also a fantastic promoter of open source software and specifically the variet of flavors of the Linux operating system.

Lately, however, I've noticed that the stories on Slashdot are becoming less newsworthy. Other sites are doing a better job of covering the news that Slashdot was once reliable for. Now I visit Engadget to get updates on the latest cool toys coming out, or for information about space exploration. Joystiq is my favorite site for gaming news. When I occassionally check back on Slashdot, i see that most of the stories are simply links to the ones carried last week by these other sources. What's worse is that the submissions on Slashdot aren't even trying to be objective anymore. Every story takes a very one-sided slant. Even when there isn't a story to be made, submissions will take weak chip shots at their old favorite baddies. Just today one headline read "Buy Vista or Else" and was followed with a rueful scorning of Microsoft for advertising their new operating system (Vista) as more secure. It is really sad that a once great source of community discussion and relevant news has devolved into petty name calling and sniveling. Slashdot, oh how you have fallen. I'm afraid that the time has come to finally delete you from my news sources.

Video Game Review - Beyond Good & Evil

I admit it. I've been a major slacker on both of our blogs over the last six months. My latest excuse has been video games. I received so many great video games over Christmas that I spend all of my free time in the basement playing. I finished up Beyond Good & Evil, which was a fantastic game. If you have never played it, it is definitely worth a try. The game bombed with the public, and many retailers were left with lots of copies on hand that they had trouble unloading. They got marked down to discount bin prices (I got mine for $10.50 at Fry's), and when the inventory was sold out, retailers didn't order any more. The game is available for Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, and PC, but you will be lucky to find a copy for any system anywhere. It's really a shame too, because it was a fun game. You play as Jade, caretaker of children who have been orphaned by the residents of planet Hillys' fight against an alien enemy known as the Domz. The Domz attack at regular intervals, and kidnap residents. A special forces unit known as the Alpha Sections has been sanctioned to take care of the threat, but they seem to be more of a media stunt than an effective defense. You quickly become involved with a subversive group known as the IRIS Network. The IRIS Network believes that the Alpha Sections are actually assisting the Domz, and charge you with finding evidence to support their claims.

Beyond Good & Evil plays like a modified Zelda type adventure. In addition to the features of any game in the Zelda series, you ake your living as a photographer in BG&E. You get paid for each photo of a different species of animal on the planet, and you can use these funds to purchase items throughout the game. Your quest requires you to get clandestine information from the enemy, and the only way to get it is through stealthy infiltration of the Alpha Sections headquarters. The stealth element of the game is extraordinarily well done. I found myself actually holding my breath as I waited for a guard to pass by my hiding spot. The game also sports some interesting battles that sometimes act more like puzzles than action sequences. The game is very accessible to those who aren't avid gamers, so you don't need to be a button mashing pro to pick this one up and enjoy it.

Beyond Good & Evil is a great game, and if you can find a copy, get it. It runs a little short (I completed the game with under 20 hours of play time), but the story, characters, and clever twists on the standard action / adventure genre are well worth it.

Video Game Review - X-Men Legends

One game I've been playing a lot on my XBox is X-Men Legends. This game has been out for a while, and there is a sequel now as well. I received it as a Christmas gift, and I've been having a lot of fun with it.

The game is sort of a cross of multiple game types. It has character building elements like a role playing game, it has twitchy finger fighting like an action game, and it has a bit of a strategy twist as well. You start the game playing as Wolverine. Blob and Mystique attempted to kidnap a girl who recently discovered her mutant powers (Magma), and you are trying to figure out why. The game is played from a third person perspective as you guide Wolvie through an inner-city landscape looking for Blob. You have light punch, heavy punch, throw, and jump as your immediate action commands, and if you hold the R-trigger you can access his mutant super-powers. A bit of traditional fighting game play enters here in that, different combinations of light and strong attacks will have different effects on your opponents. One combination will trip, another toss, and another will stun. This game dips into so many different game types without ever really committing to one. To call it an action adventure game really doesn't give a full description of all of the nuances of the game.

As the game progresses, more mutants are at your disposal. You can play with up to four mutants on your team at a time, and can swap team members at X-traction points (as well as save the game, shop for power ups, and enter the Danger Room to practice maneuvers and level up). Choosing the right X-Men for a particular challenge can make the level either very easy, or very difficult, and the character building element has a lot of impact on how each character plays.

The graphics in this game are pretty good, but I they aren't the best I've seen on the XBox. From the top down perspective, the characters appear like any other 3D rendered X-Men game. Upon closer inspection, it appears that some form of cel-shading was used to render each character. This would be great if close up shots allowed to show the detail of each model, but at the distance the camera is at, the entire effect is lost. The camera can be a pain at times as well, as it does not follow the action intuitively. One minor quibble I have with the camera control is that, to swivel the camera to look left, you push left. I prefer an inverted control scheme, but there isn't an option to change this (that I've found). It is a minor annoyance, but I've come to terms with it.

So far, this game has been great fun. I like a dive in, hack and slash gameplay style, so I've been using Wolverine quite a bit and powering up his combat skills. Players who like more of a tactical battle could choose to focus on Cyclops and Jean Grey, whose ranged attacks allow for more of a "thinking-man's" approach.

I have to admit here that I'm a big comic books fan. I'm not a collector or expert by any means, but I really enjoy movie translations of comic book heroes, and video game translations to some extent as well. I've enjoyed the X-Men movies, and the games have been a fun extension of that universe for me. One nice extra is that Patrick Stewart provides the voice acting for Professor X, keeping with his portrayal of the same character in feature films.

This is definitely a very unique and fun game. It touches on a lot of different gaming genres, and it manages to do a good if not great job of emulating them all. If you are at all a fan of the X-Men universe and what to get your fix until the third movie arrives, this will certainly do the trick.

Jade Mason