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A Level A Day – “Red Faction: Guerrilla,” Tutorial Level

A Level A Day – “Red Faction: Guerrilla,” Tutorial Level (photo)

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Truth in title, dear readers: A Level A Day will be my attempt to give my thumbs more exercise every 24 hours. ALAD will be part diary, part analysis and a smidgen of random observation on games that either slipped through the cracks or might deserve reconsideration. I won’t promise to finish every game but I’ll try to track what I think of as honestly as I can, so you’ll at least know why I’m stopping a particular game.

Sunday, December 5, 2010: “Red Faction: Guerrilla, Tutorial Level”

I didn’t play THQ’s sci-fi third-person action title when it first came out. It crept out under my radar and I actually gave my copy away. And, yes, I did smack myself when it wound up being talked up by a bunch of my peers. The reason I’m going back to it is because it’s available as part of the new OnLive service, which lets you stream video games from remote servers directly to your TV. Without an actual disc to play, OnLive gives me the chance to check out this sleeper hit.

“Guerrilla” comes as a soft reboot to previous Red Faction games, which started in 2001 and were well received. The one thing that made the games stand out was their Geo-Mod game engine that allowed for explosive deformation of the game world. With the tech developed by studio Volition, buildings weren’t indestructible and you could blow holes through walls, creating new pathways and thus new strategies to engage the enemy with. So, it’s clear that when THQ decided to go back to “Red Faction,” they decided to focus on extrapolating this technical achievement.

The game’s story focuses on mining engineer Alec Mason, who’s journeyed to Mars looking for honest work alongside his brother Dan. An opening cutscene shows the brothers reuniting and then moves to Dan giving his just-arrived brother the lowdown on status quo of the colonized Red Planet. It’s run by an oppressive military regime called the EDF. “We’re under martial law here. Prison Camps, torture, death squads… people need something to believe in.” As they drive, they watch people being the EDF breach a suspected Red Faction stronghold and then later line people up against a wall. “Forget the propaganda. ‘Free Mars’ is over,” brother Dan says. (This is referring to the aftermath of “Red Faction 1.”)

At Dan’s house-which is basically a trailer on red, dusty terrain-some mysterious visitors pull up. Alec watches from afar and them remarks to his brother that he’s seen the woman before. Dan waves him off, but the woman in question was on a wanted poster displayed at the checkpoint. Think she’s important?

The gameplay basics start getting introduced right away. Alec wields a sledgehammer that can destroy most any structure and you have to bring down a research tower and abandoned lab of deceased scientists. Destroying stuff generates scarp, the economy of the game. I’ve also got explosive charges that stick to stuff. Anything you throw ’em on blows up real good. As I’m going about the ‘sploding and smashing, Alec confronts his brother about the girl, to which Dan says “You know what’s going on. The Red Faction could use a guy like you.” The rest of the exchange goes like this:

Alec: “To do what? What are you people doing out here?”
Dan: “Whatever it takes.”
Alec: “I’m not a terrorist, Dan”
Dan: “You think I am? The EDF are wiping out towns… Alec, we need help!”
Alec: “You got me into enough trouble earthside. I just wanna do honest work here.”
Dan: “That’s what we’re fighting for! If we don’t resist, they’ll take everything.”
Alec: “Enough.”
Dan: “You’ll see I’m right about this.”

An EDF gunship swoops in to arrest Dan and before they even move to run, he gets shot down. This miserable turn of events just incites me to play even further and, even if this intro sequence feels a bit by-the-numbers in terms of how it introduces gameplay mechanics, “RFG” sports one of the best opening levels in recent memories.

It’s funny to be playing “Red Faction Guerrilla” at the tail end of a year where “Medal of Honor” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” have stirred up political controversies. Alec is basically getting caught up in a subversive anti-authoritarian underground and I’m getting the sense that game’s going to great pains to tell you that you’re doing the right thing. In the first “Red Faction” game, main character Parker was fighting against an evil corporation that was exploiting miners. (One of the game’s sectors is actually named after Parker, who’s gone down as a war hero.) At the end of the 2001 “Red Faction,” The Earth Defense Force swept in to save the day. In the fifty years between “Red Faction 1” and “Guerrilla,” it’s EDF who are actually the bad guys. This turn of events suggest a continuity of oppression, if only incidental, between corporate and military entities. Even if it’s accidental, most video games don’t contain this much subtext. It makes the blatantly manipulative brother death almost palatable and incites me to wonder how much the game’s going to appropriate radical-left political jargon.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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