The Playlist #3

It's been a hell of a week for me. Both life and work were pretty busy. Holidays just sets people into a mad rush, I guess, and I'm not excluded. That's why I'm so thankful that I'm off for 5 days (I still have 2 more days left). So it's been a week of uninterrupted gaming, good food, sweet shopping deals and music.

I also ditched imeem -because they don't allow full streaming sometimes- and decided to host my own mp3 files using the money I earn from this blog. So you guys do me a favor and enjoy them.

"Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear

I probably had Grizzly Bear's latest album, Vecaktimest, for months now. But I haven't listened to it as much as I should. So I didn't realize that the album is that good until last Sunday. The folk-pop songs here are very relaxing and sunny, an excellent album to listen to while resting on a Sunday afternoon. "Two Weeks", which I think is their first single, is a perfect example of how bright this album is.

"Graze" by Animal Collective

Animal Collective became one of my favorite artists this year when they dazzled me with their electro-pop on Meriweather Post Pavilion. So when they released an EP, entitled Fall Be Kind, last Monday, I just have to get it. At first, I was disappointed with it. I didn't had the hook and catch that Meriweather had. But after listening to it a few times, I fell in love with it. The music here is just so full of texture -results of experimentation, I guess. The first song, "Graze", is so floaty and dreamy with swirling synths on the background, then it ends up with a jumpy, joyous tune of a flutist on heroine.

"Ten Speed (of God's Blood & Burial)" by Coheed and Cambria

Not being able to attend Lollapalooza -for finanical reasons- is one of my biggest regrets this year. So I missed seeing my favorite bands, like Tool and Coheed & Cambria, play live. Fortunately, Coheed & Cambria released Neverender, a DVD featuring their four-night concert, and I was able to rent it from Netflix. I have to say that the DVD is quite impressive, and I'm planning to get the boxed set (which also included the live CD). All songs from all their albums are included in here, played live by the band. It's worth 5 hours of kick-assery.

"Shake It Out" by Manchester Orchestra

I thought I'm too old for bands like Manchester Orchestra. But when my clock radio played "Shake It Out" to wake me up at five in the morning, I found myself nodding my head on my pillow. It's an awesome song, with a nice progression to it. I also love the guitar riffs and the vocal style.

"Love Letter to Japan" by The Bird and the Bee

Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future is one of my few favorite pop albums. But I've never heard anybody, even amongst my peers, who like this album. So when I found out that Amazon named it as their #1 pop album for 2009, topping even Kelly Clarkson, I was so ecstatic. I was also relieved to know about it, of course. Because I thought that my taste in music was deteriorating, along with my memory and hair.

"People Got a Lotta Nerve" by Neko Case

I'm not really a big fan of Neko Case. Her music is good but it's not my cup of tea. Although her new album, Middle Cyclone, is Amazon's #1 album of 2009. Honestly, I don't agree. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix would've a been better choice, in my opinion. But Amazon was kind enough to offer Middle Cyclone for $2 -I guess to give non-believers the chance to listen to it- as part of their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. Fan or not, the deal is just too good to pass up. Surprisingly, I'm enjoying some of the songs on the album. But I still couldn't see it as an "album of the year" kind of material.

"Like O, Like H" by Tegan and Sara

I've been listening to Tegan and Sara's Sainthood, all day yesterday, while I was writing a review for it. While it's a good album, it actually made me sick -due to repeated listens- and miss The Con even more. Hence, I listened to The Con all day long to purge the Sainthood's power pop out of my system. "Like O, Like H" is definitely my favorite song from the Quin twins.

Well, that's the playlist for this week. I hope you guys enjoyed it. If you don't see the player, you probably need to install flash plug-in for your browser.

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Music Review: Sainthood

Sainthood by Tegan and Sara
8.8 of 10

Buy album from Amazon
Download album from Amazon

Tegan and Sara's spot on the soundtrack of that famous medical drama series earned them a bit of mainstream exposure. This, of course, is how I discovered them. It's hard not to take notice when they've invaded the iPhones of young doctors and nurses (fans of the TV show) at my workplace. At first, I didn't like the act. It was too cutesy for me. But when the twins released their 5th album, The Con, back in 2007, I was hooked. The album's catchy lyrics, folky/poppy tunes and -the best of all- folk guitar riffs being assaulted by electronic synths was an aural treat.

Now the Quin twins are back with their sixth LP, Sainthood, a follow-up to The Con and one of my most anticipated albums this year. Their latest album is, more or less, still the same as their previous. The cutesy and poppy vocals are still present, as well as the catchy lyrics that will entice you to sing-a-long with the twins. Gone, however, are the folk elements from The Con. Instead, it's replaced with 80's power pop and new wave. The track "The Cure", its music and title, is evidently inspired by The Cure (band). Then "Alligator" will simply remind you of earlier Madonna songs.

All in all, in my opinion, The Con is still the better album. It was more complex and had more atmosphere. But Sainthood didn't disappoint me. While the album is much more straight-forward, it is bursting with energy. All the songs in here also have the same infectious hook like with Tegan and Sara's previous works. It may not have many bells and whistles like The Con, But it is still a very enjoyable album. I highly recommend Sainthood.

"Alligator" by Tegan and Sara

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Dark Deals

It's Black Friday, also known as the Day After Thanksgiving. It marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and retailers all over the U.S. offer a lot of sweet deals on just about everything. In fact, their offers are so enticing that a lot of people camped outside their stores since yesterday noon, in the cold, entirely missing Thanksgiving, just so they could snag that door buster/early bird item. Most of them are doing it out of necessity though -like buying a laptop for school or a new vacuum cleaner for the house- so I don't blame them.

I, however, decided not to go to the stores this year. My reason is because, while the early deals are good, it can get pretty scary out there. This is the time of the year when people fight and die over a parking lot or the last PS3 bundle, you know. Then there's also the loud and obnoxious shoppers, who seems to always want to stop and talk in the middle of the aisle, completely halting the flow of the mob, you being stuck between the sea of consumers. In addition, I didn't feel like getting up early and there isn't any good Xbox 360 deals .

But I didn't avoid Black Friday, no. I worked 22 hours of overtime in the past few weeks and to not let that extra money I earned go to waste would be a shame. I toiled hard for it, I have to spend it and help the economy. So I went to shop digitally, and it was awesome. No crowds, no parking lots, no more Christmas songs with subliminal messages that urges consumers to spend more. Just me, with a large supply of assorted caffeinated beverages, leftover food from the day before, and my computer.

I didn't visit a lot of sites, however. I only limited my stay at Amazon, Steam and New Egg. But I found some great deals on these sites. Steam is by far the best. They slashed the prices of their games from 25% off to 75% off. From them, I snagged Majesty 2 ($9), Left 4 Dead 2 ($38) and Plants vs. Zombies ($5). From New Egg, I got my godkids some DS games -Chrono Trigger and Elite Beat Agents- for $10 each. Then I bought 3 books for the price of 2 (as stocking stuffers) at Amazon. I also got the hardcover edition of Beautiful Creatures and Catching Fire (sequel to Hunger Games) for less than $10 from them, sweet deal.

All in all, today is the one of the pleasant Black Friday experiences I had in years. Not because there was no mob to trample me (truth be told, I actually missed them). But because I didn't spend a lot (I still have $80 left on my Black Friday budget), and I mostly bought things for myself. So it's all good. Now I have 2 books and 3 more games to keep me entertained throughout the coming winter.

P.S. On a serious note, people do get killed on Black Friday (check here).

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Difficulty in Gaming

Two articles regarding game difficulty seems to have sprouted up on the net. One is from Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software (developer of indie RPGs such as Avernum and Geneforge), who wants to make games with easier, accesible difficulties. His opinion stems from being a game developer, however, stating that:

"People will happily forgive a game for being too easy, because it makes them feel badass. If a game is too hard, they will get angry, ragequit, hold a grudge, and never buy your games again."
Another article is from IGN, which is retardedly subjective or they're just brewing up some controversy. The article whines about games for not having enough difficulty levels, or are just too easy, today. But it seems to me that the writer is badly missing his older Nintendo games. Especially when he said:
"Forget graphics, forget weapons and puzzles, forget story, forget characters, and forget controls. Difficulty is the single most important element of any game."
So what's my personal opinion about game difficulty? Well, despite what IGN said, it's the story that propels me to finish a game. I don't mind if the game is easy, hard or gives you penalties when you die. If the story is good, I'd find a way to finish it no matter what. For example, I'm not really good at platform games (that's why I can't finish most of my NES games back then). But in Prince of Persia, I have to patiently jump over the same obstacle again and again until I succeeded because I want to see the game's ending.

Though I do agree with both articles about games should have more difficulty options, ranging from very easy to modes that will give you nightmares. I always treat games as a brief getaway from the challenges of reality. So it's not good if I buy a game and can't enjoy it because it's too damn hard. That's just plain cruel. On the other hand, I do love to be challenged occasionally. Especially with strategy games. So I crank up a game's difficulty, from time to time and come up with different tactics to keep the game fresh.

So what about you? What's your say about game difficulty? You like it easy or hard?

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The Playlist #2

It's week two of my "The Playlist" series. I was actually planning to skip this post today since I thought I have nothing to write about. It was quiet week for me, oddly enough. Work was slow, never spent a dime (not even for gas), and never really listened to music that much. The only thing I did was play Dragon Age: Origins. I'm almost done with the game and I'm already itching to play it again from the start.

Nonetheless, last week brought enough music for me to write another playlist.

"Far Behind" by Candlebox

I woke up to this song last Sunday. This was a pretty popular song back in high school and I love it. Especially the song's guitar intro. I don't know anything about the band though, or heard any of their songs beside this one. I wonder if they're still around today.

"Hate Worldwide" by Slayer
I knew there was a Slayer album that just got out. I didn't mind it, however, because I'm not that much into Slayer, and their recent albums weren't that good anyways. But when I heard this song while driving home from work, I was smitten. It's old school and a lot of people (including old fans) are even comparing the new album to Reign of Blood and South of Heaven (two of my favorite Slayer albums). So know I'm thinking of getting the album.

"Lovesick Teenagers" by Bear In Heaven
This is one of my music purchases from weeks ago. I've never heard of the band before but I'm really loving them now. I especially love this song. It's just so dreamy and swirly. Listening to it will leave you lost and lazy.

"Worm Mountain" by The Flaming Lips (featuring MGMT)
I fell in love with The Flaming Lips after I heard At War with the Mystics, back in 2006. Now the band is back again with a new album, Embryonic, and it's crazy awesome. I don't know if they have an official single but "Worm Mountain" is my favorite song from their album. The buzzy bass of this song is just awesome. It's very psychedelic, very stoner metal.

"Wretched World" by Converge
I don't listen to metal or hardcore as much as before, I admit. But if Converge releases any kind of new material, I'm there to buy it. Ever since Jane Doe, this band have been breaking skulls. Their new album, Axe to Fall is no exception. Although this song is kind of slow, very un-Converge. I still like it, however.

"Hell" by Tegan and Sara
I've been a fan of Tegan and Sara since The Con. I'm currently enjoying their latest album, Sainthood, and it's definitely one of my favorite albums this year. Anyways, this song is the first single from their new album. While it's not my favorite track (there are far more better songs in the album) it's still a fun, fast paced song. There's clearly a lot of 80's influence in it.

"This is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars
Actor Jared Leto can sing, I like his voice, I'll give him that. Unfortunately, I don't like his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. They're not my cup of tea. But I stumbled a trailer for Dragon Age: Origins in YouTube (which can be found here) that features the single from their new album. I don't like the song though. The Dragon Age trailer, however, rocks. The Grey Warden and Sten looks pretty kick-ass in the video.

That's it for this week. I hope you guys will enjoy this my playlist as much as I did.

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The Bowl or The Bounty?

During my early days as a gamer, most of the games I've played were cheap indies or imports from Eastern Europe. These games have little to no advertisement. But I didn't had any trouble tracking them down, and even followed their development. But, nowadays, it's been hard for me to find games that fly under the radar. So when the sequel for King's Bounty and an electronic version of Blood Bowl was made available on Steam the other day, I was very surprised. Knowing this also irked me because I only have enough money to get one game. Right now, I'm facing a conundrum. Maybe you can help?

Blood Bowl
This is the electronic version of the turn-based strategy, table-top game, Blood Bowl. I've only played the table-top version once, with my cousins, back in the early 90's, and I don't have a clear idea of how the game is actually played anymore. But I remember we were having tons of fun with it, cheering and shouting in the middle of the night. So I'm hoping to play this game again, relearn it and see if I can recapture the fun I had that night. Plus, I also found out that this game is also from Games Workshop, maker of Warhammer Games.

King's Bounty: Armored Princess
This game is the sequel to King's Bounty: The Legend (and I really loved this game). King's Bounty is also a turn-based strategy game, like Blood Bowl, and plays a lot like Heroes of Might and Magic (which I'm also a very big fan of). You can control a single hero, who gains level and earn loot by defeating creeps throughout the map, and can recruit followers. The game has this old-school feel which I really like. It's also developed by 1C, a small game developer that made Space Rangers -one of the best games evar!

Anyways, I'm really torn between the two games. I want to play Blood Bowl because its gameplay seems new and looks something different. But I don't know much about it. On the other hand, I know Armored Princess will be a lot of fun and it's also cheaper. But the gameplay is too similar to its predecessors. So should I go with the Bowl, new and untested? Or should take the safer and cheaper route with the Bounty?

This sucks, if I only knew these games were coming out I could've skipped Borderlands. It would've been easier that way.

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Demo Monday: Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2 comes out tomorrow. I enjoyed the first game but I don't really want to spend some money right now. So I decided to try the demo first (which I think is only available on Steam and Xbox Live) to see if it's worth buying.

An entire campaign, entitled "The Parish", is available on the demo. The game is still a run and gun, much like its prequel. Although there are some new zombies here. I haven't seen most of their powers though because they're dead before they can attack me. Melee weapons are also available in the game. I finished one instance armed with nothing but a frying pan, and it was a lot of fun whacking zombies with it.

I'm skipping this game, however. Don't get me wrong, the game is a lot of fun. But there isn't enough changes to make me want to buy it. So, right now, I'll stick with the first game and wait for L4D2's price to drop. But if you haven't played the first L4D then, by all means, grab this game.

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The Playlist #1

I just realized that I don't write a lot about music in this blog. That's bad for a music aficionado, I think. I do feature two new albums/artists and write a review each month. But I don't think that's enough. So I've decided to post a weekly playlist every Sunday. The playlist will consist of 7 songs that are either new releases, songs that I really like, or just inspired by daily events. Each song will also include boring commentaries from me.

So without further ado, this week's playlist (actually, this was inspired by last week's events):

"Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine

Last Sunday, I found an article -entitled "Balls On Parade"- about Tom Morello working as a stripper before becoming the guitar genius behind Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. His revelation shocked me a bit. He's honest, at least, and still one of the best guitarist around. I wonder if he dances to his own tunes?

"Janie's Got a Gun" by Aerosmith
Aerosmith just can't stay away from the news lately. Especially their vocalist, Steven Tyler. Last August, he fell off the stage and landed into a hospital. Then, last Monday, he announced that he's quitting Aerosmith to go solo. I'm not a big fan of the band though. So I don't really care if they disband. Although I do like a couple of their songs, and this is one of them.

"About A Girl" by Nirvana
I bought the 20th Anniversary reissue of Nirvana's Bleach, last Tuesday. I just couldn't believe that the band is that old, that it's been that long already. It felt like I just bought one of their albums yesterday, still wearing my high school uniform and learning how to play the guitar. Time flies, indeed. Anyways, Bleach is the only Nirvana album that I don't have. So it's a good addition to my collection.

"Big Me" by Foo Fighters
I also bought Foo Fighters: Greatest Hits last week. I'm not a big fan of the Foo but I do like a lot of their singles. So I thought I'd get this album. The funny thing is, however, I only listen to "Big Me". It's nostalgia, I suppose. Because, like "About A Girl", this is also one of the first songs I learned how to play on the guitar.

"Born to Raise Hell" by Motorhead
Last Thursday, we had an elderly patient that looks a lot like Lemmy Kilmister, vocalist of Motorhead. He had mutton chops, long graying hair, and around the age of 50's. I wanted to ask him if he knows Motorhead. But the guy was a crab. So I decided against asking him and kept my mouth shut the entire procedure. I didn't wan't to give him the opportunity to raise some hell.

"Have A Drink On Me" by AC/DC
All I've been doing this past 2 weeks is work. I worked 5 days straight, a day off, and another 6 days straight. Some days are 12 hour shifts too. So I was very happy to finally get a 4 days off. So happy, in fact, that I actually went out to drink with my co-workers last Friday.

"Way of the Fist" by Five Finger Death Punch
Honestly, I don't like this song. But it serendipitously came up while I was listening on my iTunes yesterday. Then I remembered that Manny Pacquiao had a match against Miguel Cotto that night. So I called some of my friends to see who's hosting a party, who has the biggest TV and who's getting the Pay-Per-View. Unfortunately, most of them were. So I had a hard time deciding which party to go to. In the end, I stayed home and played Dragon Age: Origins.

Well, that's it for The Playlist #1. I do hope you guys enjoy my picks. But I really need a better way to post audio streams. Because imeem doesn't allow full streaming sometimes. You guys have a better idea?


First Impressions: Dragon Age

Finally, after five long years of waiting, Dragon Age: Origins is installed on my PC. I've been playing it for more than a week now. But, since the game is really good, I had a hard time pulling myself away from it to write this. The main thing I love about the game is that your choices and actions doesn't dictate if you're going to be a good or an evil character, there's no moral compass in here, unlike in other BioWare RPGs. What you do in the game -your actions and choices- are mostly on the gray lines, which makes it really gritty, like The Witcher. The combat is pretty nice as well, and it reminds me a lot of Baldur's Gate. As of now, I'm really enjoying the game. Although I have yet to see the endgame before I decide it's better than Batman: Arkham Asylum.

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Muses and Mothers

I didn't think that a new iPod Touch could actually intensify my love for music. But, with it, I've been listening to music with renewed vigor, rediscovering old songs and discovering new ones with great fervor, everywhere and anytime I could. The sad part about this "intensified love" and "renewed vigor" is that I've been spending too much money downloading music from iTunes and Amazon MP3. I bought 9 albums just last week alone, which costed me almost $100. That's not good, especially since it's the holidays and I still have to pay my iPod.

Nonetheless, I'm immensely enjoying all the recent music that I bought. The Flaming Lips, Tegan and Sara, Bear In Heaven, Russian Circles, Lightning Bolt...all new material from these artists are really good. If I ever get the chance -which means if I'm not too lazy- I'll write something about them. For now, however, I'll just feature the Wolfmother and Muse.


I'm a big fan of Muse and love all of their work. From Showbiz to Black Holes and Revelations, each of their albums can only be described as "epic", and there are no signs that indicate they're going to stop making them anytime soon. Their fifth studio LP, The Resistance, is evidence of that. Their latest work is just phenomenal, sublime. The music -filled with multi-layered melodies, spacey guitar riffs and synths, and classical piano- is very highly orchestrated. Couple that with lyrics taken from science fiction novels and you'll experience the grandest rock opera ever recorded since Queen.


Honestly, I didn't really like Wolfmother's debut album even though it was good. It was just too familiar, I guess, sounding too much like Led Zepellin. There was just no originality at all. So I wasn't really stoked about their follow up album, Cosmic Egg. Luckily, I got curious and streamed their first single, "New Moon Rising", and enjoyed it. I love the low, gut-ripping riffs here. It's very Black Sabbath-esque, very stoner rock (and I love stoner rock). Andrew Stockdale's vocal stylings, specficially his wails, is another highlight of the album. While they're influences still stick out a lot, this one is much much better than their debut.

I won't say that Muse and Wolfmother are the best in music this year has to offer. There are clearly more aritsts out there that have released better music than them. But if you like rock music, especially classic rock, I'd recommend both albums since you'll definitely enjoy them.

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Comics Bundle: 11.04.09 Pt. 2

2nd installment of my bundle. Part 1 and all Marvel books can be found here.

Fables #89
9.3 of 10
One thing I really love about Fables is that the series doesn't have any shortage of heroes and interesting characters. The writer, Bill Willingham, can take out any character from any folk or fairy tale -even the most boring ones- and revise them to become heroes. First there was Bigby Wolf, then Boy Blue and as well as others. Now Willingham turns his attention to Bufkin (a flying monkey taken from the Oz tales) as he comes up with a plan to defeat a malevolent witch, Baba Yaga, and a very powerful genie. Bufkin is only a support character in the series. So he was the least person I've expected to go toe-to-toe with Baba Yaga, and I guess that made all his efforts to defeat the two villains even more entertaining.

Cinderella: From Fabletown With love #1
8.6 of 10

Like I said on my review of Fables #89 (above this one), the series have tons of interesting characters. A lot, in fact, that they hardly fit in one series. That's why they have to kick Jack (of "and the Beanstalk") out and start his own spin-off. I'm also glad that they've decided to start a Cinderella mini-series, which she deserves. The story is pretty well done -think James Bond with magic involved- and interacts well with the main series, even though it wasn't written by Bill Willingham. Overall, I really enjoyed this issue.

Chew #5
8.9 of 10

I've probably mentioned this one to many times, but Chew is really one of the best comic book title that came out this year. The alternate reality setting -avian flu epidemic, the outlaw of chicken, FDA as a gun-totting authority, detectives with weird powers- is way humorous and, in our current circumstances, terrifying. Beyond the disgusting gimmicks of eating human flesh and decomposing body parts, there's an underlying conspiracy theory going on. But that didn't really surface up until this issue. I guess they want to sell the comics first by introducing the fun characters with gross powers. Now that the title has finally established itself as fun and gross, the real story finally begins. I'm looking forward to next issue.

The Walking Dead #66
9.0 of 10
This issue concludes the "Fear The Hunters" storyline, which is probably one of the best story arcs. There's also a major leap in character development here, mainly in Rick and Carl. If you've read the earlier issues, you'll definitely see the change in Rick. He's become more determined and single-minded, stopping at nothing and doing what's necessary when it comes to protecting his "herd". As for Carl, well let's just say that, with all the horrors he had witnessed during his stay in Zombie land, he'd finally lost his marbles. Now I'm really dying to see what happens on the next issue.

DMZ #46
8.8 of 10
I remember Brian Wood wishing -on an interview- to see DMZ reach at least its 60th issue. Well, the series is almost getting to 50, and the current storyline seems to be building up something really big. Older characters are coming out from the woodwork and getting into the frame, taking sides and questioning Parco's "endgame". Matty Roth too, who has become a really strong character, seems to have made up his mind and adamantly supports whatever Parco is planning. But really, there's a lot tension in this story arc and the title has become really really exciting because of it. If you stopped reading DMZ, I suggest you get back to it because you're missing out.

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Comics Bundle: 11.04.09 Pt. 1

It's been a while since I've picked up my bundle of comics again. But, hey, what's new? It was busy month of October -both at work and as well as gaming- and I don't see any respite in the near future since it's the holidays. Holidays = Crazy Shopping + Crazy Parties + Crazy Overtime. So I'll do what I can to spend time with my comics.

Psylocke #1
8.2 of 10
I'm a big fan of Psylocke. But, for many years now, I haven't been happy with the direction of her character. Constant changes in her personality, mutant powers and life had left her damaged. So when they finally brought her back into the main X-book, she had so much excess baggage. It's a good thing that her new mini-series takes her back to her roots: Japan and The Hand. The book is filled with Kill Bill-like action and, hopefully, this might bring Betsy back to her old self as a royal, ass-kicking ninja. The only problem is that you need to know Psylocke intimately since there are a lot of reference from the character's old lore that aren't explained in this book.

Deadpool #900
8.4 of 10
The number 900 pretty much sums up how crazy this issue is. I honestly don't have the foggiest idea of why it's #900, when Deadpool only started out in the 90's. I assume -due to the thickness of the book- it's an annual issue. But since it's Deadpool, it's best if we don't ponder about it. The book contains a lot of short stories with Pool involved in an alien abduction, a fight with pantomimes, a ping-pong against Doctor Octopus during a cruise vacation and other wacky stuff. Some stories are good, some are mediocre and some are just insane. Overall, however, this book is pretty hilarious.

Thor #603
9.0 of 10
With writer J.M. Straczynski at its helm, Thor has become my favorite book from Marvel. That's why I'm a little bit anxious now that I know he'll be departing from the book. I'm not so sure if anyone is capable to continue his excellent work in Thor. But JMS did went out with a bang in this issue and left us great moments like the reunion of Thor and Sif and the Warriors Three running Bill's diner. He also set up the stage nicely for his successor by revealing the insidious plan of Dr. Doom and Loki for the Asgardians living in Latveria. I just hope that whoever takes over Thor will be able use the foundation that Straczynski's has built for the title.

Secret Warriors #9
7.9 of 10
I mentioned before that Secret Warriors is an audacious title with an audacious plot during its early issues. It still is, mind you. Except that from issues #1 to #9 there have been speed bumps that slowed the title down a little bit. This issue is one of those speed bumps since its pages are filled with mindless action. The only consolation here is watching Norman Osborn going slap happy by killing Nick Fury's life decoys and the little conversation between Garrett and Seth Waters at the end of the issue.

Necrosha #1
8.2 of 10
Necrosha is the next event to hit the X-Universe. I kinda like the whole idea of the event just because it's pretty "black metal". But Necrosha's idea -of dead heroes rising up to fight the living ones- is a little bit late since DC's Blackest Night have already been running for months now. Nonetheless, I'm considering to get all the books. I just love how they brought back Selene (Black Queen) into the fold again. I also like her new posse who, with the exception of Blink, also possess some sort of death-based and vampiric powers like hers.

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A Comparison Guide: Direct2Drive vs. Steam

I used to reprove of any kind of digital distribution. But when I was forced to buy a digital game through Steam, after being snowed in last winter, my opinions of it have drastically changed. I must admit that getting games this way has made my life a bit easier. I don't have to waste gas, space and time anymore. Now, most of my games are acquired electronically.

There are plenty of digital game distributors online, including the EA store and GameStop. But two of the largest distributors right now are definitely Steam and Direct2Drive (D2D). I have used both services to buy my games online and I'm generally pleased with them. While both services have their own pros and cons, I have a much better experience using one of them. So which one do I think is better? Is it Steam or Direct2Drive? Read on.


User Interface
Steam have a better interface than D2D, hands down. Its downloadable client have a lot of nice features such as gameplay stats, leaderboards and an achievements system that will enhance your gaming experience. A friends list is also available and it allows you to keep track of what your friends are playing or if they're online. The only thing I don't like about the client is that it's a bit of a resource hog (it's eating up 25 Mb of memory while I'm writing this post).

On the other hand, D2D only have a download manager. While it's not a resource hog like the Steam client, it is also featureless and as flat as a board. D2D, however, has a much better organization of their games catalog. Not only you can browse by genre, like Steam, but you can also browse by price -a nice thing for frugal gamers. Games with recently dropped prices are also highlighted on their website.

When it comes to pricing, I think both services are tied. I've used both Steam and Direct2Drive and have bought games from either services. They always have some insane deals going on, cutting the prices of their games up to 50% off or even 75% off. Depending on the deals, sometimes a game would be much cheaper in Steam than D2D and vice versa. They also carry cheap bundle deals, which I really like a lot. So I suggest visiting both sites to compare prices before buying a game.

Having been in the digital distribution gig for 5 years, D2D definitely have a slight advantage over Steam when it comes to a larger catalog. In addition to its huge library of PC games, D2D also carries Mac games, game guides by Prima and the ever popular Girls of Gaming magazine. But that doesn't mean Steam have an unimpressive games library. In fact, some games that I wanted to buy are only exclusive on Steam (Valve games such as Portal, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2). As far as I know, the only games available on D2D that I couldn't find on Steam are World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, Neverwinter Nights 2, pre-order of Champions Online and some rated A (adult) games.

I've never had any problems getting games from Steam and D2D since both services have a speedy and reliable checkout process. As for downloading the games, I have a much better experience with Direct2Drive than Steam. I always have a steady speed that averages at 2 Mb/sec on Direct2Drive. However, my Steam download speed only averages at 1 Mb/sec. I've even seen speeds as slow as 300 Kb/sec. But after downloading, you get to play the game right away on Steam. Using D2D, you have yet to install the game before you can even play it.

With all said and done, I prefer using Steam over Direct2Drive. It maybe a resource hog or even download games slower than D2D. But my experience with its features have been really enjoyable and outweighs its misgivings. While I will continue to use D2D, I will always go to Steam first to check out if the game is available, if it includes a "Steam Achievements" feature (like with Empire: Total War and Defense Grid) or if it's much cheaper. As for the games library, with the continuing support of publishers, I don't doubt that Steam will overtake D2D sometime soon.

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