Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts - Memory and Tank!

When I first saw Cowboy Bebop on lent Chinese bootleg DVDs, this is how every single episode started: a mournful musicbox montage of Spike destroying his old life before segueing wildly into the impossibly funky opening theme. When I tracked down my own Region 1 copies a few years later I was disappointed to discover this attention grabbing contrast only played at the head of a few eps. Shame. It was an ideal summation of the series: rainy lone-man functioning spliced with a hyperactive stray cat clash.

Franchise Installment X: Wet Work

VGChartz is reporting that the next Call of Duty title will be swerving the anticipated Vietnam only installment, and instead focusing on disavowed murder missions up and down the twentieth century. Call of Duty: Black Ops is expected to be best-of assassination compilation, with missions ranging from World War II nastiness right up to roleplaying an SAS operative during the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege.

Black Ops looks to be continuing a loose trend begun with Treyarch's last installment Call of Duty: World at War. That title muddled around with the concept of sanctioned immorality - during the Soviet portion of the campaign prisoner's of war could be shot, and missions prickled with your commanding officer sermonising a gospel of utter extermination. This emphasis on venality made World at War pop in comparison to the whitewashed worthiness of its WWII simulation contemporaries.

If this all info turns out to be kosher, Black Ops might well be the spiritual successor to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's SAS campaign. As good as Modern Warfare 2 was, the single player never quite captured the moral black hole of its predecessor, were shooting helpless sleeping insurgents was top of your to-do list. Disaster Year does hope that Black Ops' developers have had themselves a good read of Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz's Shadowplay: The Secret Team from the Brought to Light anthology. Go the whole hog Treyarch! Have players murder suspected Communist sympathisers - teachers are always a good start! Rig elections! Undermine economies! Funnel drug trafficking profits into arming psychotic militias! Release a title dripping with boozy, imperialist paranoia and you'll have yourselves Disaster Year's ideal military muck-about. Make us feel like monsters Treyarch!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Dick Giordano

Mr Giordano providing figure inks for Neal Adams. From Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.

"Oh, this? Well, obviously one of us went to Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and one of us didn't."

Hope that line makes it. Bryan Lee O'Malley's deathlessly charming Scott Pilgrim series gets a screen leap courtesy of Edgar Wright. Here's your heads-up. Nobody blink! I hear Street Fighter Alpha 3's announcer in the mix. What are you reading this junk for? Go get them comics!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

"There's always a guy on top of the crane."

With no further goodies announced, at least we know where our 1200 MSP is going. That's right, glossy advertising! At least for me, my fork out can convert back into a few bare updates. I'm'a get my money's worth! If you have time, check out the Inside Xbox shill (accessible from the 360 dash menu), it makes Modern Warfare 2 look like a chuggy last-gen no-hoper. Who signed off on that footage? It's got Alpha written all over it. For extra kicks, compare the US and European versions of the vid: both have the exact same script, each purporting to be the previewer's personal experience. Wince at the regulated comedic element! If you've got even more time to kill, the Mapathy site now has a quiz up where you can gauge your indifference to the current crop of maps. Disaster Year is 85% Mapathetic.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Yars' Revenge

Bundled somewhere in Microsoft's interactive hawker Game Room (released today) is Yars' Revenge, an 80s vintage Atari shooter by Howard Scott Warshaw. Players assume the role of a buzzing insect ship tasked with vanquishing a shielded floating face. A thick line of graphical corruption intentionally runs down the length of the screen, and the soundscape seethes with throbbing jeopardy. Divorced of any mechanic explanation, Yars' Revenge is an exercise in the nightmarishly abstract.

Shooting the face's shield only ever seems to make it angry, a state that eventually causes your enemy to fling itself wildly about the screen, hoping for a collision. Chugging bullets are infrequently launched that track and follow your fly, remorselessly zeroing in on your twitchy wandering. Moving into the corruption prompts the white noise soundtrack to sharpen, suggesting decay for anyone caught lingering. Die, and you get a brief readout of context free numbers. Eventually you work out that to damage the face you must cross the screen and begin nibbling at it, this feasting cues up a calamity cannon. Shots must be carefully lined up, firing where you expect the cornered face to be. Hit, and the screen explodes, before instantly dumping you back into an assault. Yars' Revenge wants to induce stress; nothing about the game encourages any sense of comfort or safety. It's all shrill noises, and relentless hysteria tasks.

Monday, 22 March 2010

"Changing mag!"

Did you find Modern Warfare 2 a little too subtle? Did its sheer polish turn you off? Maybe you felt that the sensationalist inroads made by Call of Duty: World at War had been unfairly overlooked - that flailing dismemberment and gonzo weaponry DID have a place in a now set online FPS. Battle Territory Battery Arctic Wind to the rescue! That's right, not a colon in sight! This upcoming Korean mangler has all the blaring rock wails, and dub-troop anti-dialogue a man can stand. An under-scripted, less awesome, English language shill posits a third world war scenario between the USA and Russia as a result of an Arctic land grab. Kill them all!

No Zaka-TV HD for EU?

Japanese Xbox 360 and PS3 fans rejoice! Despite all the delays, you might eventually get to play HD remix No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise! What about the rest of the world? A US release is looking unlikely, with Wii Heroes publisher Ubisoft publicly stating their intention to pass on a publish. What about Europe? The 360 port would seem to suggest worldwide ambitions, wouldn't it? Would Grasshopper Manufacture really plow effort into a port for a system utterly marginalised in the only announced territory? Apparently so. Nosey Disaster Year recently fired off an email to the European publishers of Wii No More Heroes, Rising Star Games, asking when fans could expect the next-gen do-over. A reply was received this morning stating there are no present plans to publish Paradise. How disappointing! New Game + fans better hope the Japanese mint is import friendly.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Sketch Wednesday: Hammerstein (Ro-Busters)

ABC Warrior Hammerstein, as he appeared in Starlord's Ro-Busters series. On decommissioned civie days, Hammerstein rocks a beep-bop sci-fi robot head. Mustard it is too.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Map Packing

March 30th sees the release of the first Modern Warfare 2 DLC, Stimulus Package, on Xbox 360. Details are scarce; all that's been confirmed so far are the inclusion of five multiplayer maps (including two 'classic' areas from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare), and a premium price point of 1200 Microsoft Points - about £10 / $15 in real people money. Despite rumours of three new weapons, more multiplayer challenges, and an extra Special-Ops bracket, developers Infinity Ward seem quite happy to appear as panhandling misers, shilling solely on the playgrounds.

Maybe that is all we're getting? The studio recently lost two senior employees amidst rumours of a possible defection, and a failure to honour contracted bonuses by owners Activision. The sacked studio co-founders have since made clear an intention to secure contractual rights over the Modern Warfare strand of the Call of Duty franchise. With property ownership apparently up the air, until this announcement hit it seemed possible that add-on packs might not emerge at all. Could the effects of this very public beheading be felt by the consumer?

Thrifty conjecture fans need not fear! DLC allows for the strict rationing of new achievements - games are typically buffed with quarterly additions of 250 Gamer Points, raising their abstract earn value from 1000 up to a maximum of 1750. As a studio Infinity Ward are notable for a reluctance to issue any such points on multiplayer experience - all previous IW developed Call of Duty games contain achievements that can be earned solely in offline play. Jump through a few logic hoops and that Special-Ops addition is looking increasingly likely. It's also worth noting that odd-number sequel house Treyarch's last offering, Call of Duty: World at War, enjoyed several substantial downloadable additions. As well as maps, the post-script Nazi Zombies mode was elevated from a poor taste distraction to a full campaign, stuffed with bizarro super-states and sci-fi weaponry. Can IW resist the urge to top that? Here's hoping they can't.


Week late video game news! Capcom reveals its latest world warrior; a Turkish wrestler named Hakan. This supernatural stompah oils up for slidey grab and mangles, and poop-shoot eject Ultras. Look at their faces! They wear a scowl of acute misery! Except Dee Jay, he's enjoying himself. Given Hakan's broad grapple outline, it makes you wonder if the character started off as an appearance for Final Fight politician Mike Haggar? It's all there: prowling monster walk, grab damagers, leather pants, facial hair. It's a different kind of comedy seeing a moustached scowler oil up and manhandle though - maybe a little too leather daddy for Capcom?

Billy Idol - Dancing with Myself

Tobe Hooper's video shill for this Idol hit has its embed disabled by request. EMI rotters! Worth a track and peep to see Idol looming on a calamity ziggurat, repelling garbage rustling dance-zombies with super-conductor impact powers. Nose bleeds! Thanks to Miss Disaster.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Hey kids! Ruin your toys! Then buy them again!

The naked capitalism on display here is simply astounding! Kids are poked to want a bare plastic frame, supporting what looks like a Tyrannosaur skull, that vomits a slick oozing gunk all over their Masters of the Universe figures. Evil Horde Slime Pit! If you know any ex-spoilt kids in the late twenties / early thirties age range, ask them about this. They'll tell you horror stories about toys that end up with bleached, discoloured detailing, and mechanisms locked with hardened, scabby slime. Evil Mattel even managed to insert this undesirable end-state into series fiction: Slime Pit was packaged with a mini-comic that stated than victims of the slime pit become mindless zombies, loyal to Horde leader Hordak. Legend also tells of an on-box message pleading with children not to gunk toxic-felt atrocity Moss Man. Stop giving them ideas! Who knows what kind of sludge stink that combination would have produced. Kinda makes you want to scour eBay for ingredients though doesn't it?

Monday, 8 March 2010

"If you can make God bleed, people will cease to believe in him."

You people like awesome, right? Behold, the latest shill for Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2! Mickey Rourke's Whiplash looks to be operating on a WWF rush-in mentality: hit them while they're posing, make 'em look weak. Didn't count on that whizz-o briefcase though did he? No matter how many F1 rockets you trash, you ain't upstaging that. No sir.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Ray Charles - I Got a Woman

Gotta love the way he chuckles over the line about how his woman knows her place is at home.

Gong. Gong. Gong.

Oscars! It's that time of year, again! So many questions! Who's going to be lifting those gongs tonight? Are any of these films even out here yet? I have to stay up how late?! The main juice for Disaster Year is Best Director, and, as always, I haven't seen half the nominees' films. So, ignoring the unloved, let vague noodling commence!

In the spirit of progressive patronising, it seems unlikely the Academy will be able to resist giving Kathryn Bigelow a nod for The Hurt Locker; she's the first female nominee since Sofia Coppola was scuppered by Peter Jackson's least awesome Lord of the Rings entry in 2003. Not that she doesn't deserve it mind you, Hurt Locker had lots of interesting things to say about men so driven their home life becomes an abstraction. Speaking of which, the Academy might even gift Bigelow's former squeeze James Cameron another statue.

Avatar has turned over a couple of billion, and, in 3D, pioneered an experience that threatens to make piracy irrelevant. Emphasis on threatens. Regardless, Cameron's gotta be King Dick in industry boardrooms, he's given them another CinemaScope, and a premium price tag on tickets to match. Will that factor into ballot casting? Or will Cameron be side-lined in favour of his feature getting a Best Picture gong, or, failing that, a rash of technical Oscars? The Academy could do much worse than Avatar. On a pure movie maths level, Cameron works hard to wring the maximum amount of pay-off out of every piece of ruin tech that graces the screen.

Disaster Year's vote? Hopefully Tarantino will get it. The man's easily one of the world's most exciting directors. Inglourious Basterds juggles clashing tones effortlessly, ratcheting up a tension that wouldn't embarrass mighty Hitchcock. Plus, who doesn't want to hear a quick-fire coke rant masquerading as an acceptance speech? In conclusion: I don't know!

Plastic Pursuit

New Gorillaz Monday! Here's a chomping, stomping Jamie Hewlett eye-catch.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Some Assembly Required

In a vain attempt to unlock an owed vintage rifle in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Disaster Year was directed towards EA's rolling micro-shill Battlefield Heroes, and instructed to assemble a bare-bones National Socialist. Fair enough. Freebie customisation rolls minimum; you get to specify class, ethnicity, and facial hair. You spoil us! Here's Disaster Year's official cartoon Nazi:

Shoulda made a Black Gestapo really. Missed a trick there.

Sketch Saturday: Killer Carp

Vicious fish! Killer Carp was a face player in Hasbro and Takara's Battle Beasts toy line. Based around a rock-paper-scissors rumble between rubsign elements, Battle Beasts were a slew of tradable, pocket-sized uglies designed to be easily lost. Having acquired these tiny monstrosities, I doubt any boy was daft enough to risk losing them in a game of chance. These were keepers! In Japan, the figures were called Beastformers, lived on the planet Beest (natch), and enjoyed brief roles in the Headmasters season of Transformers.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Big Dipper Shit Kicker

How do you reinvigorate a long-winded brawler franchise? Branded off-shots! Following on from Koei's Gundam flavoured Muso shuffles, is this interact adapt of Buronson and Tetsuo Hara's martial arts apocalypse Fist of the North Star, due out in Japan at the end of the month. Koei has dared to dream, making Raoh, also known as The Conqueror of the Century's End, a fully playable character. For the uninitiated, that's him with the white hair, blasting away armies with evil red beams. Look at him riding his mega-horse, casually colliding with tonne weight antiquity. Now that's a villain! Tentative word puts a European release date sometime in the Summer.