Thursday, February 06, 2003

I have a terrible feeling about this. Lord, let this cup pass from us - not to some other nation that we would pass our bloodshed to, but let the necessity pass from mankind. France is wrong. I don't like talking about politics, but France is wrong. "Iraq must answer their questions and cooperate more effectively?" No, Iraq musn't - because there is no compulsion upon them to do so. If they don't, then what? What is the "or else?"

But enough of that. I was going to blog about the great bane of my existence, The Stanford Fund, but my blogs have been very grim lately so let's have something more light-hearted. Such as a discussion of the great and august Alien vs. Predator, which it turns out you can buy in arcade machine format for a mere $240. Some day, I may do that.

In the meantime, Twilight gave me the game as part of my Christmas gift, and I've been working my attack-button-pounding skillz. Looking back on it, I think AvP was remarkable in its day (1994) for the fact that everything felt so kinetic. Older 3D-wannabe sidescrolling games feel kind of slow and wooden. Alien vs. Predator does not: stuff is flying around the screen all over the place, and you slip into this waltz-like state where you're doing stuff but not really thinking about it: just experiencing. Of course in this case you're not experiencing a dance, just the visceral thrill of watching cool stuff happen on screen - and maybe (if you're like me) screaming taunts at your exoskeletal foes without really consciously formulating the words.

AvP is an icon in my memory of all-too-brief, all-too-expensive moments in arcades (this was before arcades ceased to carry anything other than 3D polygonal fighting games, racing games, and DDR: The Really Final Mix, We Mean It This Time), when playing a video game was an emotional thrill ride. And now I own it for my very own, and have at last begun unlocking its mysteries in moments snatched from my work. I have mostly completed my analysis of three of the four characters:

Linn Kurosawa
Linn is your stereotypical cybernetic Asian gravity-defying female martial artist who totes a pistol and a katana and sports a combination of orange tiger striped pants and steel armor. For all that, she's incredibly cool. The way to play Linn is to never stick in one place. If you can get in among a bunch of aliens (placement is one of the things you learn in games like this; by "among" I actually mean on the edge of) you can whoop up pretty well, but what you really want to do is go bounding around the room kicking aliens in the face and jumping off of them to kick other aliens in the face, ad nauseum; and bound around the room stabbing aliens in the head with your katana. The martial arts skillz are really only there for when circumstances are such that you can't jump on people - or when you get behind them. Linn also has the advantage of being the only character capable of laying down sustained fire, since her pistol doesn't overheat but runs out of ammo (of which it has a lot). The downsides to Lt. Kurosawa are that her gravity-defying ways actually make it difficult to hit people sometimes (for this reason, the bigger they are, the more Linn has her way with them) - and she just has no reach whatsoever. Which is why man invented (so to speak)

The Predator Warrior
This predator (who is my favorite predator, on the basis of sheer cool good looks) totes a spear in addition to his cream-colored predator getup. It took me a long time to figure out the difference between the game's two predators, but I finally have it. The warrior is good for getting in amongst (and it really can be amongst, with him) a bunch of aliens and laying about until their acid-spouting bodies are all twitching, headless, on the floor. His melee attacks have both range, power, and speed - and he can lay about him in all directions, which is cool. The trick is that you have to know when to call the alien-bashing quits and bug out (pun intended). His aerial moves really only exist for the purpose of getting him in close with the exoskeletal baddies. This is in contrast to

The Predator Hunter
who is, as his name implies, best in a one-on-one context. The hunter is really a lot like a cross between Linn and the warrior, as evidenced by the fact that he wears orange but is, you know, a predator. He carries a double-ended glaive (except we have a katana and an Asian female in this game, so it's called a naginata) and while he can beat on aliens fairly well, he's really another bouncy character. This is because he has the capability of bowling over immense number of aliens while falling from the sky. Once they've all been properly knocked over of course you can lay into them with your naginata, but that's dangerous because he lacks the ability to cover himself from both sides in a melee as well as his warrior cousin. The hunter, I've found, is much easier to use than Linn while retaining a lot of her aerial nature - and of course he has that cool predator shoulder gun.

I still haven't figured out the fourth character, Dutch Schaefer, who's a big hulking American cyborg with a smart gun for an arm. It may be that I already know all there is to know: being a white man, he can't jump; but having a gun for an arm, he sure can beat on people. Which is all there really is to it: walk up to them and beat on them. He actually does have the most powerful gun in the game, I've noticed, and he has this dragon punch move that lets him shoot while falling in slow motion (Linn and the hunter have the same move, but without the slow-mo part). I think that mastering that move will prove to be a critical part of playing Dutch, since it would let you beat on aliens until you're surrounded, then leap out of the fray and pepper them with gunfire. But let's be honest, he's neither female nor non-human - so how cool can he be in the end?

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