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Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 3
Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 3
Price: $39.99
37 used & new from $29.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun game, but it seemed inferior to FC3 where it counts., January 3, 2015
It's a good game, but inferior to Far Cry 3 since it innovates so little. The greatest loss from my point of view is with the story. In FC4 the protagonist is the son of a previous leader, and is carrying his mother’s ashes to fulfill her dying wish, but once you see the war and the killing the natural response is to leave the country since you are not supposed to be a soldier. This guy instead goes into commando missions just because people he just met asked him to. In FC3 the story made sense: you were trapped on an island, wanted to rescue your friends and avenge your brother. The descent towards madness that all the killing provoked made the entire journey of the main character (and his friends) somewhat relatable. On Far Cry 4 at one moment, you are a tourist on a bus, and then you are stabbing people, attacking outposts alone and jumping off cliffs with a winged-suit (you have it practically from the beginning of the game, since it can be bought). It does not fit. The ending (and specially the secret ending) of FC4 are better than the endings of FC3, but the entire story is inferior.
The gameplay seems easier as well, the human opponents are very easily killed with head shots, and you seem to progress more quickly towards becoming a one man lethal machine. The engine seems geared towards creating larger conflicts, which it does well. The flying, due to the PS3 engine I was using was ridiculous since at certain altitudes the graphics turn 2 1/2D and is very noticeable. Since this is a PS4 game and runs very stable on PS3 I won’t hold it against the game, but the graphics here are the same as FC3 (again, since I’m running on the same platform it isn’t a problem).
The animals on this game are just insane and kinda stupid. First they are far more dangerous than human opponents. Second, they come at a ridiculous rate at the higher difficulty setting, at one point I was attacked by 2 bears and a Bengal tiger in less than 20 yards of walking. I believe a man with an AK47 should be a greater threat than a tiger, but that is not the case here. The animals can absorb more damage, and with the trampling and bite and hold attack they killed me more times than humans. Some are just stupid, even the dammed eagles attack you and you get very little warning. It is so frequent that they even have the audio for NPCs “Watch out! Eagles.”… it is not Lord of the Rings where giant eagles attack. Just silly. Even sillier is the speed which the animals appear if you throw a bait. I was imagining it would be maybe 30 seconds, a minute max if the game was patient. If you throw a bait, an animal appears in less than 2 seconds or not at all. Just breaks the illusion to, effectively, conjure animals, and makes the hunting parts just silly.
Overall it feels like FC3 with the flying machine tacked in and the riding elephant gimmick (which is fun). It even added an Arena environment for fun. The co-op multiplayer never attracts me, and the game felt easy with one player, with two it is just cowardice. The added climbing is not game changing as suggested, it is only a few fixed spots where you can throw the rope upwards and climb it. No game changer, which is sad, I had hopes for a new verticality in shooters that aren’t the flying jumps of CoD.
Overall there is very little new. The protagonist and antagonist are both far less interesting, the entire game feels easier, and the characters you meet overall are far less interesting and well written than FC3. The shooting is functional and familiar, and there are tons (and I do mean tons) of collectibles so there is a lot of gameplay. Just mostly the same gameplay you have seen before.
PS: The trophies for PS3 are very easy. If you like obtaining platinum this is a good candidate.


Lock In
Lock In
by John Scalzi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.80
109 used & new from $9.93

3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly misses the mark., December 27, 2014
This review is from: Lock In (Hardcover)
I loved Scalzi's Old Men War series. It was a very interesting futuristic universe with a fascinating view of what an incredibly advanced brain/computer interface could bring. A good concept along with very good dialogue made for one of the best new sci-fi books in a long time. Now, with Lock In, he naturally distances himself from that universe, but brings a very similar human/machine concept with the treeps. In general, everything here is mostly a rehash of a better previous presentation. As a murder mystery, it is a non-starter since the novel only has about 8 to 12 characters, and from the start, it is obvious only one of them could have done something like it. Considering the cost/benefit of the crime, I would say it simply made no sense for the criminal to do it, which is why the novel moves through the resolution at breakneck speed.
Without spoiling anything, it lacks the freshness of dialogue of his previous books, while not creating an interesting plot. The best thing about the novel is the premise of a worldwide new disease and the miraculous technologies it inspired, but even that felt too quick and too neat. Considering the incredible advances portrayed, it seems like magic and not technology. The concept sound interesting though. Overall a mediocre effort by a great author. Maybe the next one will be a hit.


Assassin's Creed Rogue- PlayStation 3
Assassin's Creed Rogue- PlayStation 3
Price: $29.99
87 used & new from $24.55

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A recycled game that in many ways is better than some of its originals, November 25, 2014
There is very little original about AC Rogue. They basically try to mesh the larger naval combat of AC Black Flag (with restrictions), with the colonial aesthetics of colonial America from AC III.

The great gimmick is that the Assassin you play this time around turns over to the Templars and (effectively) destroys the Assassins in North America (leading to the situation faced by Connor in AC III). The high point of the game is the protagonist from the Animus, Shay Cormac. His transition from the Assassins to the Templars is actually a bit slow on the plot, about a quarter of the way in the game, and very well done. It is incredibly credible, and the Templars are successfully shown as people, with a different philosophy than the assassins, as opposed to cartoonish mustache twirling villains.

Unfortunately, the present day events destroy most of that, and the present day Templars basically are villains from a cartoon. The present day events are fast becoming a drag in the overall quality of the story for the series, mostly because Ubisoft is profoundly dedicated to in not advancing the plot. We learn a few bits of information, as we did in Black Flag, but while there is an advanced story inside the Animus, mostly nothing happens outside the Animus.

The fighting is still being improved and works really well, they introduce the air rifle for multiple darts which is very neat, and also a grenade laucher which basically is a cheat if you are having trouble with a segment.

The very neat part is that since you are basically fighting against assassins, you frequently face opponents with similar characteristics than yours. It introduces elements which were mostly from the multiplayer games into the single player storyline and it was very well done.
The story is effective, but a bit brief, so we in effect learn nothing more from the Templars than we knew before. They apparently have no “powers” like the assassins do, but still seem to be more effective through the ages; and so far their most effective operatives seem to be assassins who turned sides. It doesn’t seem a viable strategy.

It is funny that now the sides are backwards and you basically play for the British. Ubisoft had promised by AC III that there were no “right” sides on the war, but there was the Assassins supported the Rebels against the British and while the Rebels weren’t perfect it was basically the Assassins siding with the Rebels and the Templars with the British. Bringing this back to the Seven Year War, now it is still the Templars with the British and the Assassins with the French.

The game suffers from way too many elements. They preserved the hunting element, preserved the fishing game moving it to more frozen waters; but several gameplay elements are clearly leftovers with no purpose. Why preserve renovations? They served something of a purpose in AC Brotherhood, but now they are such a pointless legacy that many times the “renovated” building is unchanged graphically from the previous one. There is very little purpose to the naval missions as well and they should have been dropped in Black Flag already.

The game knows the story is short so it adds an incredible amount of collectibles. Unfortunately, they lead nowhere. Collect all the pieces of the Viking Sword, the Sword you bought for money is twice as good. Found all the markings for the native armour… congratulations you look ridiculous. It was somewhat better introduced in Black Flag, and had much better graphics, here it is a powered down and recycled concept (it was pretty powerful in Black Flag, here the efficiency is much smaller). Then there is the Templar armor, and a bunch of other stuff. So while you may finish the story quickly, the treasure hunt later will take a long time.
In effect, it preserves the best elements of naval combat of Black Flag. The rivers are very narrow making for very tough fights, there is little open sea for the normal battles, but just enough. It abandoned the useless elements of AC III.

In effect, there is very little new here, but it combines several of the best elements of the previous two AC games. I wish we learned more of the Templars from the inside, but learning more about the universe isn’t really the way the series is progressing. The best part is the best protagonist since Enzio.


Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
by Daniel Bolger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.42
80 used & new from $13.61

16 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tries to mix Tom Clancy with analysis, November 17, 2014
I was truly amazed by how incredibly shallow book was everything on this book. The vast majority of the content is detailed descriptions of combat actions (mostly minor), which he covers in the style (and flair) of the descriptions Tom Clancy would give to battle scenes. If we were to remove this action fluff pieces and stick to what little analysis and evidence he actually presents the book would be less than 120 pages long.

If this is an accurate sample of the level of depth of thinking and questioning that the top brass of the military allow themselves to indulge, I begin to understand the past decade of military chaos. Bolger in effect writes a few action pieces from Iraq 91, and the current Afghan and Iraqi imbroglios. He reaches the correct conclusion that since the current outcome is nearly opposite to the strategic aims of the US, the current situation can only be categorized as a “loss”; he has the maturity to use that word and accept that reality. That is mostly where the maturity ends. The sophomoric generalizations of culture and proficiency, and the callousness with which he talks about killing the enemy and the civilian consequences to this, well, no wonder that the resentment of the populace growth so much and so fast.

I didn’t find the book in any way informative (actually I profoundly disagree with his descriptions of the history of WWII in the Pacific, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He brazenly overlooks a serious questioning of why the second war in Iraq was being sought even before the war in Afghanistan began, he quickly breezes over events such as Guantanamo and the prisoner abuses in Iraq. In fact he overlooks basically anything that might actually lead to an analysis of the situation.

As a result the book ends up being a right wing front piece of small actions, a ridiculously incomplete view of history through an almost caricatured American right-wing view, and the awareness of a defeat that was obvious to the world more than six years ago. I can only hope this content was produced for marketing purposes, because if this is the level of “thinking” that the higher echelons are capable after the fact I can only fear for the future.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2014 2:39 PM PST


Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth [Online Game Code]
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth [Online Game Code]
Price: $49.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocrity in what was once such a great series..., November 9, 2014
It feels like a new skin on Civ V with a lot less features.

I could see this as a $20 add on to Civ 5. As a $50 game it is just too shallow. It seems strange that new games in series nowadays have fewer features than the one preceding it (i'm looking at you Sims 4).

Basically Alpha Centauri did this much better over a 15 years ago (and I just felt really old).

The basic civilization bonuses are quite unbalanced. The A.I. is incredibly passive, and since you tend to always start the hostilities on your own terms the "conquest" victory seems like the natural one. The aliens are just a fancy barbarian faction, and not all that different from Alpha Centauri. It is more flavoring (and early game flavoring since later in the game you can defeat them easily) than truly game-changing.

I'm quite surprised by the positive reviews. Even if they felt the graphics and interface were sufficient, an absent A.I. isn't a deal breaker nowadays?


The English Civil Wars: 1640-1660
The English Civil Wars: 1640-1660
by Blair Worden
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.38
58 used & new from $2.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Great first book for anyone on the subject., September 6, 2014
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Brief, and informative. Accessible even for those with very little background on the period. Naturally it won't satisfy those who want greater depth, but for an introduction to the subject it seems a wonderful place to start.


The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity
The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity
by Pedro G. Ferreira
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.97
69 used & new from $14.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! Easy to read, easy to understand, and yet profound., July 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Absolutely a great read. I have been searching for a book like this for years. I have always been curious about the theory of general relativity, knowing it only in the most basic terms. It is at the same time casual read, and perfectly accessible for my (rather limited) scientific knowledge. I was surprised how the author manages to follow both the history of the theory, the personal lives of some of the key participants, and the evolution of the content and ideas connected to the theory.
Incredibly well written and accessible. I will be looking for other works from this author in the future.


Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street
Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street
by Neil M. Barofsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.41
212 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars More books like this should be written, June 7, 2014
We get the rare glimpse of an insider analyzing the decision process inside the government during the bailout. In his case he was reviewing the bailout and TARP money.

Barofsky gets to the point by frequently showing situations were a clear desire to please those who were actually asking for favors was manifest in those dealing with TARP. Therefore, the drive was usually towards accommodating those who should be making all the efforts towards accommodation. Barofsky shows himself as “honest N.Y. D.A.” trust into D.C. politics, while at first it seems a bit cliché the lack of other narratives of this same period with a similar level of candor indicate that this accommodating mood indeed has taken hold over at D.C.

I found especially interesting his views and critiques of the Treasury department decisions and effective stonewalling of information. I’m not surprised by this, since they even stonewalled congress, but it is incredible how powerful this trend is that even today we get very little but brief and uninformative accounts from anyone who leaves the Treasury Dept.

Barofsky is also pretty upfront about his political biases (he is a Democrat), and truly unabashed on his critique of the Obama administration (he was nominated by Bush on the very end of his second term). The book covers his decision to accept the position, assembling a team, obtaining office supplies and even his personal life disrupted by the need to be in D.C. instead of New York. The crucial aspect of the book is his detailed account on how the Treasury actually worked towards blocking any investigation or transparency on a program set to disburse massive amounts of funds.

He is also very clear about his political failings, and how some of his moves didn’t work towards strengthening his investigative capacity. I got the impression that he wasn’t a skilled political operator by his very personality, but then again we have so many skilled political operators that it’s in itself a problem. This book has the a bull-in-china-shop feel that I’m sure was similar to those who dealt with him in D.C., whereas some wanted a quieter and more accommodating oversight they got Barofsky trying to run over them.

In the end he failed, or achieved such a smaller form of success as to be the same as failure. But, the book is in itself a victory, we never get these narratives which indicates to me that people with Barofsky stance on not accommodating and not being a part of the revolving door between D.C.’s law and lobby firms and the government are truly rare in today's government. We need more of this type of book, it would be a sign of having more of this type of person in positions of responsibility on D.C.


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life
by Scott Adams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.17
106 used & new from $4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and a quick read, June 7, 2014
I am a big fan of Scott Adams, and I think this influenced my rating of the book.

While the book is quite funny, the "advice" itself was mostly just ok. It feels like Scott knows he hit the jackpot with Dilbert, and his advice is partly geared towards trying for something like that. It is mostly sensible stuff, specially his idea on having a system instead of a goal. However, this is followed by digressions on capitalism and its reward structure that were by far the weakest segment of the book. Nevertheless, it made me laugh quite a bit it, it is quite well written and a breeze to read as relaxation. Overall a very good experience if you like Scott Adams` style of humor.


The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.50
407 used & new from $1.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely lovely book, June 6, 2014
This review is from: The Fault in Our Stars (Paperback)
I found out about John Green from his work on Youtube. I loved his voice and perspective (and that of his brother), and figured I would like anything that he wrote.

I'm a 33 year old male, so I'm far from the most likely target demographic for this book, and yet I absolutely loved it. It is funny, smart, and while in a synopsis might seem cliché, it never reads remotely that way. Since I have heard John for quite a long time on Youtube, I could hear his voice and frequent mannerisms in many passages, but seemingly John predicted this view and introduced a book author as a character (I will not spoil about his role in the novel).

So it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it was fun to read. What else could I ask of a novel ? I wonder if the movie will capture the feeling of the book, it seems tricky but maybe they made it. If only to make a minor critique I felt the characters were mostly far more mature and witty than their age would suggest. There are several views around this, that their hard experiences matured them early, that I was a bit of an immature dummy at the time, or a bit a both – but they felt to me in their mid-20s and not in their mid teens. But even if my feeling on this is right, there are so many things infantilizing youth today that maybe the right thing is to drive expectations upwards.

I strongly recommend this novel, and I will certainly search of other works from John Green.

Okay. Don't forget to be awesome!


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