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DID YOU READ

Sony Reveals Sci-Fi Western “Starhawk” for PS3

Sony Reveals Sci-Fi Western “Starhawk” for PS3  (photo)

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The two genres may look like they’re lightyears apart but the Western’s actually influenced scienc-fiction from the latter’s earliest days. Star Trek famously began as a embryonic pitch for a “Wagon Train”-style show in space and the whole steampunk subgenre owes itself to anachronistic engineering advances happening before they were supposed to.

So, Sony Computer Entertainment’s just-announced “Starhawk” stands in a long tradition of howdy, partner/warp drive entertainment. The PS3 manufacturer showed off the game to a crew of journalists in Austin last week at the city’s famous Alamo Drafthouse theater. In addition to being home to the Lightbox Interactive development studio that’s making the game, Austin’s a city that celebrates the frontier spirit of the Old West, making it a perfect fit for “Starhawk.”

EmmettGraves.jpgThe game takes place in a far-future reality where humanity’s spread out to the stars. The push into space discovers new elemental resources. One such resource, a transdimensional force called rift energy, also goes by the name “blue gold.” The hunt for blue gold created a frenzied social mania called the Rush, where everyone’s trying to get rich off of the valuable element. But, working with rift energy is dangerous and prolonged exposure can cause human beings to mutate in freakish husks called Outcasts. Outcasts become horribly disfigured and worship the huge dimensional tears where rift energy flows from. Since outcasts hold blue gold as sacred, the human rift miners trying to lay claim to it come in constant conflict with the Outcasts, who scavenge technology and weaponry from their former human lives.

Lead character Emmett Graves is one such prospector, traveling to distant planets in search of blue gold with his tech-savvy partner Sidney Cutter. But a horrible accident exposes Graves to dangerous levels of rift energy, but instead of mutating, he lives in a tenuous state of near-explosion. Cutter builds a regulator that Graves wears to stabilize the blue gold coursing through his body. The game opens as Graves and Cutter take on a contract on a small moon named Dust. In the single-player section of “Starhawk”I played, Graves gets into a running gunfight with the Outcasts. You don’t use cover in “Starhawk,” and have stay constantly on the move in order to stay alive. Lightbox take a slightly different approach to enemy AI in the game, attaching the bad guys’ awareness to an environmental radius. So, the Outcast roam throughout a territory and, if you start to fight on the periphery, they’ll swarm to your location. It’s different than path-based game design enemy movements are more predictable. It’s tougher to prepare for a fight if you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen.

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The other key mechanic of “Starhawk” is the Build-&-Battle system. While players fight off scabs (the derisive name for Outcasts) At the end of the first skirmish of the level I played, I planted a blue gold extractor and secured an area. This gives you points to spend on battlefield assets. Before the next wave of Outcasts came, I got time to drop a tower that would spawn computer-controlled human partner characters who helped me fight off the mutates. You can also build pod bunkers that spawn weapons for you and your AI partners to use or towers that serve as launchpads for Hawks, the giant, tank-like mech suits that you can get in and fly around in. The AI seems pretty clever at this point: they’ll jump into empty vehicles and head to objectives and will base their engagement of enemies on how you play. So, if you stay on the ground to fight the Outcast, they’ll follow suit. Jump into a Hawk to rain death on your oppponents and they’ll do the same. The combo of Build-&-Battle and the AI programming allows for a nice scalability of strategy. You can play at a bit of a remove, building assets to the point where you don’t need to fire a bullet yourself and let your Rift Miner allies do all the work. Or you can get you hands dirty and let the AI follow your lead to provide back-up.

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All these principles follow through to the multiplayer portions of “Starhawk,”too. Groups of players will face off as either Outcast or Miner, with each player able to build assets. But, each side shares a pool of points so that there needs to communication and management. During some of the session, my side had built too many vehicle garages and didn’t have enough points to build a Hawk tower. The humans we were fought against didn’t make the same mistake, building enough Hawk towers to trounce us soundly. The maps we played on seemed big enough to contain lots of action but not so sprawling as to feel desolate.

Lightbox makes no apologies as to their use of Western tropes in the making of “Starhawk.” But, since they’re making a big game full of reckless battles on a lawless frontier, the DNA fits, even if it is flying tanks you ride instead of horses. They’re not talking much about the game’s single-player storyline yet, preferring to leave the mystery of what the larger purpose of Graves’ continued blue gold-infused existence will be. Where “Starhawk” feels most promising, though is in the fusion of styles and ideas it brings together. It’s got the immediate action of a third-person run-and-gun shooter, the strategy of a tactics title and the methodical planning of a tower defense game. It looks gritty and shiny at the same time, too, making the most of the PS3’s processing hardware. I can’t say that “Starhawk” a surefire winner yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far to keep it on my radar moving forward.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.