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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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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