By Michael Vass | September 21, 2014
After much anticipation and 16 years of waiting, the sequel to the Wasteland video game has arrived. Released on 9/19/14, for $40, the game is an RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. To be exact, the state of Arizona which in the game may, or may not be the only civilized spot left on the planet. You are a rookie para-military enforcer of the law, seeking to avenge a comrade in arms and keep the peace.
Many of the current generation of video game players may not be familiar with the original game. In fact many may not have been born when the original game was released. But in addition to Wasteland 2, purchase on Steam comes with the original game for those interested. Since the original is so old, we won’t review that.
Wasteland 2 is immediately different than most video games in that the CGI graphic story intro that is common in almost every game is in this game actual video of real people and location. A unique change of pace from the norm that gives a more personal touch to the game and helps to involve the player into the setting. From the into the game shifts into modern video game graphics that are detailed and fresh.
While a wee bit towards the cartoonish, the look of characters on screen are detailed enough to suit modern eyes. The landscape in the main screen is bright and not as washed out as one might expect for a desert post-apocalypse game. The map screen is large and adds a scope of immensity to what otherwise might be considered a very small game area. Images in the character inventory for each weapon, ammo, and random junk items are distinct. That allows for immediate understanding of whether you have gotten a Midnight special revolver, a Navy Colt revolver, or a sub-machine gun. Higher quality weapons in the same class also are visually distinct and clear, making it easy to know who has what loaded as a primary or secondary weapon. Monsters, robots, and even a group of bad guys are easily identified from each other.
The sounds and music of the game are equally up to snuff. Without being too overbearing, the ambient sounds of the various towns and cities are around enough to notice. Music while loading different areas is the same track, but not enough to bore or aggravate. Plus load times when entering a city/town local are brief enough to prevent major distraction from the game. Faster load times would have been better though, still with an average of about 15-20 seconds on our system it’s not bad compared to other games.
The thing about the sounds that will really stand out though are the radio broadcasts, which are integral to the game. They will vary from a repetitive message every time you gain levels (so repetitive that after the first 3 or 4 times you will just wind up clicking through the message immediately), to very clear and often horrific screams and pleas for help, to not quite gibberish ranting. But as the radio message are so important, it’s a good thing that the audio comes across as clear and robust.
The game play itself is also interesting. From the start, at character creation, the game gets detailed. For those not familiar with RPG’s it may even be a bit daunting as there is not explanation of how you would want to set up your character and the 3 AI companions you will set out with. This is somewhat balanced by the fact that there are several generally arch-type based pre-set characters available at character creation. As a bonus, even those characters attributes and skills (and look) can be modified if you want to.
Once the video game starts there is some interaction with various NPC available. Plus a quick into to the fighting mechanics if you choose to take that option. Be aware that this came is text heavy. There are voiceovers for much of the interactions and radio messages, but there is also a bit of reading that comes into play – depending on who is the character involved in the conversation. Repeat conversations with NPC’s may also reveal new information at a later time and/or level of skill.
**Hint: Specialization is a benefit to the game. As it progresses, a jack of all trades will not be as useful as a more specialized character in many situations. The pre-generated characters reflect this already.**
The load time to the world travel map is not too bad, as stated previously. The interaction with the travel make is simple and easy to operate. Sadly you can’t review or manipulate character profiles and gear while in the world map. Nor can you review any missions that are on-going, which is a bit annoying, as you may have several potential destination and priority is a factor in the game.
Progress across the world is pretty open-ended, though there are consequences for going to one mission over another, or ignoring a mission. But it is your choice where you go. You can also leave a mission, though not while you are in combat. In addition, the occasional random encounter will occur in the world map – though you may be able to avoid some of them due to team skills or other factors.
Combat is turn based, like the rest of the game. Cover is important, though some cover can be destroyed – by you or the AI. The different skills and weapons of the character come into play especially in these moments. Loot is generally junk with occasional weapon/ammo drops. Sometimes there will even be upgraded weapons. Loot can be left and reclaimed later, as long as you remain in that same city/town without interruption.
Choices in combat will make a difference. The AI will, depending on the setting, go to higher ground, flank, and seek cover. While not perfect, the AI reacts well and provides a suitable challenge on most levels.
So is Wasteland 2 worth the money? For fans of RPG solo team video games, yes. The game may be a bit daunting on the very first character set-up, but it becomes clear how to do, and what you want to do, in the game. Without overly dense visuals, the cities and towns are dense in interactions and NPC’s. Most of all you are drawn into this game world via the urgency of calls over the radio, the missions you undertake, and the improvement of skills to do all the above.
Little things like object interactions clash preventing clicking on this or that are easily remedied by moving the screen a bit. It would be nice if trying to run out of a combat that was accidentally started was possible (if you start a combat you will be in it until resolved). Improving the world map, as stated prior, also would be a help. The same could be said about being able to see the gear of all your characters at once, but these are minor issues that generally don’t take away from the quiet but persistent feeling you are under the gun and the clock is against you always.
So overall Wasteland 2 is well worth the money and will provide more than a few different play throughs, that will differ enough to make it worth doing again. It’s also likely that DLC content and follow-up games will not take another 16 years of waiting.
By Michael Vass | July 27, 2014
It’s been a while since I have been in action on the entertainment side of things, due to the hiatus for my run for Congress, but I thought the reboot of Mad Max would be a great place to jump back into the action.
Action is the name of the game in the trailer for this movie. There is lots of it. But before I say more, take a look at what George Miller has done.
Lots of post-apocalypse cars, speeding and crashing down roads. Tons of CGI effects. More than a few references to several core elements of the prior Mad Max films. So this should be a great film, right?
Probably not. How could I say this? Am I not seeing the same thing as everyone else? Yes and no.
Taking the trailer from the start, this is obviously a reboot of The Road Warrior. The world as we know it has ended and the 2 things everyone wants is water and gasoline. Degenerate gangs roam the roads and countryside seeking both and killing those they meet. Most of the time.
Our hero, in the trailer, is chased down and caught by the film’s bad guy gang. A pretty small gang compared to Road Warrior, but more than enough to take down Max. The gang is an odd mix of characters that do not convey the feeling of intimidation that Humongous immediately provided in the original film. Instead we get, apparently, a painted albino witch doctor – or at least that’s how it cam across to me.
These terrors of the road then proceed to tattoo Max, for reasons that must have occurred prior in the film. They then tie Max to a massively scaled down (compared to original film) lead vehicle, again for unknown reasons. The question that came to mind through all this is while it was interesting action to watch, why were they keeping Max alive? It they are such horrors, or so angry with him to chase him down (apparently for fuel the trailer seems to imply) what is the point? The film should answer this, but it stands out as a potential weak plot point of the movie – especially as the trailer implies that Max is in this state for an extended period of time.
There is a bluster of CGI effects and road chases, none of which seems very connected to anything. There is the tanker truck from the original, though Max is not driving. It seems unconnected to the original films purpose. It is also filled with several women – no men – most of whom look like they belong in a Greek sword and sandals film, at least at first glance.
In fact, the apparent main female lead – Charlize Theron – looks more like the original Mel Gibson Mad Max than Tom Hardy does. I caught myself wondering if this was another Hollywood pro-feminism revisioning that has been popular in reboots since the 70′s. Usually films that do that fall flat (the reboot of The Hitcher comes to mind but there are other examples).
Tom Hardy’s Max looks weak throughout the trailer. Other than the opening seconds, he is relegated to an unimpressive side character status and displays none of the foreboding or intimidating qualities of Gibson’s portrayal. Which makes me fear that this will be another revisioned film that wants to fix the originals lack of explanation on the motivations of the bad guy and a host of characters that no one remembers the name of (like Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot). If so, that is another negative, as why the bad guys are bad really doesn’t matter. The world and its rules have ended, and these are bad people doing bad things – what more do the audience need? How does knowing they miss their childhood teddy bear matter or affect the fact that they are dismembering strangers for gasoline?
As for Charlize Theron, in the trailer, she looks live a savior of the film. Definitely going for the Ellen Ripley image, she seems in charge and attuned to the savage nature of the world – as opposed to the other women surrounding her. The clash of the female character presentations is stark and jarring. But overall the trailer makes me wonder if the Mad Max of this film is in fact Mad Maxine. Which still might be good, but not what is being sold to audiences and therefore will result in disappointment and a bad movie.
The big sell in the Mad Max films has always been the cars and chases. This film definitely looks like it will fill the screen with a chase or several of them, but the scale is massively diminished and thus the impressiveness with it. 5 cars with one or 2 people chasing one person is a bad day, but the originals 20 cars filled to overstuffing with bad guys is a race for your life.
Worse, The cars in the trailer are bland. They lack the monsterous and vicious feel of the originals cars. In the trailer the cars feel like beaters with a really bad custom job, belonging more in a circus or demolition derby than killing machines driven by fanatics that are well past the edge of desperation and functionality.
Lastly, there is the look of the film. Oversaturated so much it kind of reminds me of Pitch Black. Washed out and devoid of details, and sadly the details really matter. Seeing the wind-burned faces and savage land weary faces that are wrinkled and scarred matters in this type of film. Given that the major bad guy leads looked ultra-clean in the original, still the generic masses made up for that. The original had a feeling, just from the look of it, that everyone was tired, beaten down, and stretched thin – from their clothes to the vehicles. The trailer make me feel like everyone just needs some sun-tan lotion and those UV glasses you see on infomercials. It doesn’t doesn’t make me feel like the world is bleak, just that the photographer picked the wrong lens for the film – which means I’m not connected to the film, another negative.
OK, I have to mention it. CGI. The go to effect of modern films that are hiding a lack of substance in the film itself. Yes the sandstorm and cave look cool. So does the lightning effect. But it also doesn’t look real. Not quite cartoonish, but definitely over the top. I don’t feel like I am in that world (though I am sure there will be 3-D versions of the film that will try to give that impression in these scenes) but watching someone’s bad description of a world that I have no connection with.
All of this may be fixed in the film itself. Maybe other trailers will add the things I feel are lacking, or questionable. But with the anticipation of this film, the first trailer was supposed to be the knock-out punch that sells the film. It doesn’t. But it does make me predict that this film will live up to none of the things that fans love about the original series.
For a different take on what the trailer means, I invite you to check out the thoughts of friends of mine, Epic Film Guys. They should have their comments soon, and they have interesting views on many films – I know because we have had long debates often.
By Michael Vass | April 24, 2013
The following is video of the full speech, as well as Q&A, for Michael “Vass” Vasquez. Mr. Vasquez has stated he will be launching an exploratory committee to evaluate a run for the 22nd Congressional District – currently held by fellow Republican Rep. Richard Hanna.
Mr. Vasquez is the president of M V Consulting Inc. and a writer to this blog. Due to the conflict of interest, Mr. Vasquez will no longer be providing his political commentary or reporting while pursuing a path to elected office. In addition, Mr. Vasquez will be ceasing his work for the Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com.
Speech given outside of the Broome County Courthouse
Q & A with Peter Quinn of WBGH
Q & A with YNN
Further information about the exploratory committee and the efforts of Mr. Vasquez to pursue elected office can be found at http://exploratory.electmichaelvasquez.com
By Michael Vass | April 24, 2013
Hello and thank you all for joining me today.
Many of you may know me as Michael Vass, my business name found on the thousands of articles and political commentary I have written over the past 7 years, found in virtually all search engines. But today I want to introduce myself with my actual name of Michael Vasquez. Because now is the time for full disclosure and forthright answers. Because now we must expect more, and deserve to get more.
Back when I was a stockbroker in the 1990′s, I registered Michael Vass as my business name with the SEC. Since that time I have continued to used it in all my business ventures, including my political commentary. Writing about politics can often stir many emotions, and the internet is a vast place where some react in less than savory ways. Sometimes these negative reactions can even lead to real world extremes and danger. But as of today I am giving up this layer of protection, because voters in the NY 22nd District deserve to know who is speaking to them.
Over nearly a decade I have been actively reporting and following issues from the local to the international level. I have written literally tens of thousands of words, conveying both the problems facing the nation as well as the efforts of our elected officials to resolve these issues. Often, like many of us all, I have felt the frustration as political gridlock stalled efforts and legislation after legislation either went unread or was altered such that it became ineffective. For more than a decade Congress has garnered ever lower approval ratings. The net result is a Government that is failing the populace.
Like others in the news media and over the internet, I have made great effort to convert the polispeak that is common in Government, and delved into more than just the 30 second soundbites that pass for explanations of what is being done on behalf of constituents. I have interviewed elected officials and candidates of both Parties, and presented unedited video so a complete record is available to the public.
The hope was that this added attention could help to promote a renewed accountability among elected officials – but even with the full weight of the internet and news media, Government continues to act without connection to the average American.
It’s because of this lack of connection, this inaction, this ineptitude if we want to be really honest, that I first considered running for elected office. The fact that 47% of Congress, which includes members of both Parties, are millionaires, and more than a 1/3 are career politicians, added to my thoughts. The fact that some 59% of the public (according to recent polls) feel the nation is on the wrong path, solidified my conviction and confirmed my feelings. As this day approached, I drew inspiration from the past.
103 years ago today, President Theodore Roosevelt made a historic speech. That speech conveyed an important message – the man in the arena. He said,
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I take from that speech the need for average Americans to be directly involved with how Government is run. To ensure that Government, at all levels, is accountable and responsive to the needs of the public. Because career politicians and millionaires, good people that they are, are not the average American living day-to-day with the concerns of the masses. They do not feel the impact of their decisions in the same way that your family and friends and children feel it. That does not make them bad people as some insist, but it does make them out of touch and unconnected to the needs of the voters they represent.
Congress needs to reconnect to the public it serves. Government must be reminded that its purpose is to provide only what the public cannot. Those in elected office, and those that would seek it, must raise the bar on what is to be expected, strived for, and achieved.
Thus it is in the spirit of one of the great American Presidents, on the anniversary of his speech praising the sweat and labor of the average American, that I am launching my exploratory committee for the 2014 NY 22nd Congressional seat.
In the coming weeks and months I look forward to meeting with the constituents of the NY 22nd District. I look forward to sharing my views and making sure that the 2014 election is about the concerns of voters and their needs. That the election will be about getting these things done, improving the quality of life for this generation and those to come.
For those interested in learning more about me, I suggest my website http://exploratory.electmichaelvasquez.com or come see me speaking across the 22nd District.
As voters we expect more, and in 2014 let’s get it.
By LSquire | March 5, 2013
I am excited about Spring and all the lovely things that comes with it! Like…more and more fresh produce. Get ready for strawberries, green onions, leeks. peas, beets, asparagus and a whole other array of wonderful, fresh items from the Earth!! In this issue, I’m sharing my recipe for sausage and peppers. Tasty, healthy and quick and easy to prepare. Also, not hard on your wallet. Where you can, choose fresh herbs and spices over dried (if it’s within your budget). You will often find the taste is beyond compare! Enjoy! – Chef Li
FOOD OF THE MONTH
While bell peppers are a very popular vegetable, they have not always shared the health research spotlight with other members of the pepper family due to their very small amount of capsaicin, the compound that gives hot peppers their “heat.” Once active in the body, capsaicin can bind onto nerve cell receptors and change pain sensation, and it may also have important anti-cancer and blood-sugar balancing properties. However, the lack of “heat” does not mean that they lack health benefits.
Bell peppers contain very high amounts of vitamin C and Vitamin A. Bell peppers also contain significant amounts of vitamin B 6 and dietary fiber. Bell peppers are a great, low calorie snack. One red pepper contains only 30-40 calories.
Bell peppers are a great source of antioxidants.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH -
SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS
- 6 (4 ounce) links sweet (or Spicy, or Turkey) Italian sausage
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, and slice.
- Melt butter in the skillet. Stir in the yellow onion, red onion, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in red bell pepper and green bell pepper. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.
- Return sausage slices to skillet with the vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes, or until sausage is heated through.
- Serve with steamed white (or other) rice. (If desired).
AU GRATIN - (pronounced oh-gra-tan) – The term au gratin refers to a dish that is baked with a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese. The au gratin topping should be golden brown, which can usually be achieved by baking.
See you back in the Springtime!!!
By LSquire | February 6, 2013
Hello everyone! I hope this month is finding everyone well! In honor of Black History Month, I just would like to publicly thank all those who set the bar higher, who sacrificed, and who left a visual on the positive traits of our people as a whole! Also, to all those who are doing great and wonderful things that encourage and raise up a better generation! I am blessed to be operating in a time that I am free to become whatever I desire to. With that said, I share one of my Granny’s favorites with you this month. Banana nut bread! Enjoy it, and will see you again in March!
FOOD OF THE MONTH
Safe and pure enough for baby’s first solid foodBananas are a terrific, heart-healthy food when included in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. May reduce the risk of this disease.
Naturally fat, cholesterol and sodium-free
A good source of potassium, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamins B6 & C
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Granny’s Banana Nut Bread
2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 large)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 2/3 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup chopped nuts (your choice. I suggest walnuts or pecans.)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
- Stir bananas, sugar, milk, oil, vanilla, nutmeg and eggs in large bowl. Stir in Bisquick mix and nuts. Pour into pan.
- Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan; remove from pan and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.
AU SEC (pronouned aw-seck) – In culinary arts, the term au sec refers to a liquid that has been reduced until it is nearly dry. Indeed, au sec means “nearly dry” in French. Reducing a liquid to au sec is a process most frequently seen in sauce making. It’s often the acid component, such as wine or vinegar, that is reduced to au sec.
By LSquire | January 3, 2013
Welcome Back all, and Happy 2013! I apologize to the readers…last month I did not post due to a sudden prolonged illness and some personal issues that needed resolving. But, it’s a new year, and all is better now! Thank you for coming back again to read! I am planning some great recipes for this year, and starting next month, I will be adding some “smart shopping tips” to help you with culinary equipment, groceries, food condition, etc. to help you become better consumers. This will also include information about gadgets or other things that can make your life easier where the kitchen is concerned. Once again, thank you for your support, and I wish everyone the very best that 2013 has to offer!- Chef Li
FOOD OF THE MONTH- SPINACH
Spinach has health promotional and disease prevention properties.
- Very low in calories and fats (100g of raw leaves is just about 23 calories)
- Spinach contains about 25% of daily intake of iron, and is one of the richest among green leafy vegetables.
- Fresh leaves are rich source of several vital anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and other powerful antioxidants.
- Spinach leaves are an excellent source of vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a role in strengthening the bone mass by promoting osteotrophic (bone building) activity in the bone.
Recipe of the Week – “The Kids Will Eat it Spinach Dip”
(Picture not available)
Ingredients (All dairy items can be substituted for low-fat or no-fat versions)
1 1/2 lb. fresh spinach or 1 lb. baby spinach leaves
1/2 lb. softened cream cheese (I like Philadelphia brand)
1 container (16 oz) sour cream. (Can be substituted for low fat if desired).
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoonground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions or 1/2 vidalia onion (diced small)
- Crackers or cut-up fresh vegetables or corn chips (I like Tostitos Scoops)
- 1. Cook Spinach until wilted. Drain liquid and cool.
2 Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix all other ingredients. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours to blend flavors. Top with onions around the edge of serving dish. Serve dip with crackers.
AL DENTE (pronounced al-DEN-tay)
The expression “al dent”e refers to the degree of doneness of properly cooked pasta or grains. It comes from an Italian phrase which translates as “to the tooth.” When cooked al dente, pasta should be tender but still firm to the bite.
Tune in next month for the first “consumer tip” and more!!!!
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