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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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.
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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.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
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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.
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Valentine’s Day

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