BS'ing with Babs - Part 3

   My sitdown with Sara "Babs" Lima continues now with this, the third part of our three part interview. In this part of the interview, we talked about how important it was becoming for comics, movies, and video games to all inter-promote each other and how this triple brand attack was working for different franchises.

Ray Carsillo w/ Sara Lima of Comicvine.com - Pt. 3
        
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BS'ing with Babs - Part 2

My sitdown with Sara "Babs" Lima continues now with this, the second part of our three part interview. In this part of the interview, we discussed out mutual love of the Dark Knight and exchanged thoughts on DC killing off Bruce Wayne and their announcement of his return in April 2010.

We also discussed theories on who will appear in Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 and what we thought of the first of this new video game franchise written by Paul Dini and starring many of the voices from Batman: The Animated Series.

Also, on behalf of my editor, Jared Bodden, and myself, we apologize if there is a drop in quality, but our computers have been on the fritz lately to say the least and it has been an adventure getting them off our harddrives. Excuses aside, without further ado, here is BS'ing with Babs...Part 2!
Ray Carsillo w/ Sara Lima of Comicvine.com - Pt. 2


   
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BS'ing with Babs

It was a meeting of the minds. Two comic book geeks would enter and only one would leave...

Okay so it wasn't that epic, but it was a rare opportunity for me to talk to a hot chick who wouldn't run away (hopefully). This hot chick just so happens to be an editor for the second largest online comic book community and archive.

Sara Lima, geeks everywhere may know her better as "Babs", is an editor for Comicvine.com, a branch of Whiskey Media. Comicvine.com is set up as a community where geeks of all shapes, sizes, and orientations can come to share ideas and thoughts on one of our favorite mediums, comic books, via another one of our favorite mediums, the internet!

Sara, originally from the tri-state area by way of Brazil, was visiting family for the holidays when I lured her to one of our studios to chat about comics.

This video is the first part (of 3) of our near half hour sitdown as we discussed everything from comic book movie adaptations to the state of the comic industry itself. In this first part though, I just wanted to get to know a little more about our favorite first lady of Comicvine.

Ray Carsillo w/ Sara Lima of Comicvine.com - Pt. 1


    
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OLD IRONSIDE

From Top Gun, Total Recall, Starships Troopers, Free Willy, and many more, Michael Ironside always seems to find an audience no matter what role he accepts. Now, he plays Chief Bannen, a police chief with a mobster brother and con artist son, in the new web series The Bannen Way over at Crackle.com from Sony Pictures. Seemingly being on top of the New Media game, I also spoke to him about his decision to reprise his role as Sam Fisher in the popular Splinter Cell video game series, with the 5th installment ready to land in stores in late April 2010, and also got him to divulge about his childhood love of Superman and how it helped lead him to voiceover work as one of the Man of Steel's most nefarious enemies, Darkseid. To listen to my interview with Michael Ironside, CLICK HERE or read the transciption below!

Ray Carsillo: Hey there everybody, this is Ray Carsillo and I have the distinct pleasure now of talking with a man who has hundreds of screen credits over the course of his career. I mean, literally, the list is the length of my arm folks, but for all of us comic book and maybe video game geeks out there we may know him better for his countless voiceover credits including Darkseid from the Superman cartoon and of course a little guy you might not have heard of. I don't know. Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell? Is that pretty popular? Yeah, I think so. I have the pleasure now of talking with Michael Ironsides! Michael how you doing today?

Michael Ironside: I'm doing real well. It's a little cold and wet in Los Angeles at the moment.

RC: Well, it's not much better here in New York. A little bit of weather parallel I guess. But right now, you're working on a web series called The Bannen Way, it's on Crackle.com, it's from Sony Pictures, and the first question I have to ask you about is why do a web series? Somebody with your great list of credits, why would you decide on doing a web series like this?

MI: I don't think the end product really kind of figures into it for it. It's the writing and when I was introduced to this property, I just found the writing to be exceptional. It's very witty, very cleverly written, and very solid definable characters. Jesse Warren, the writer/director and Mark Gantt, a friend of theirs sent it to me, I looked at it and went "wow" and it's kind of rare. For every hundred scripts I get, there's probably one that hits me like this. I met with them and they were as pleasant and as talented as their script and we did it. As far as it being a webisode, how you cook the pie, it's still a pie. How you cut it up and deliver it is a different deal. It doesn't really affect the way something is shot or how something is handled on set.

RC: Very cool. You're starting to see a lot of web series really start to gain some traction online and in the media, and obviously at the forefront of the New Media surge. Do you think that's the future? Do you think that television and radio and these other, more traditional, mediums will see this cut into their viewership, especially when producing such high quality content like The Bannen Way?

MI: I've been around long enough to watch this happen. I've been around to watch television and movies sort of fight it out and find a balance between themselves and I think it's the nature of our times and money and you can't just make a pilot or shoot something and if it doesn't work throw it away. It has to have more than one life to it. For example, this project, The Bannen Way, as far as I know, it starts as a webisode, then it'll go to a DVD or MOW, movie of the week, sort of format, and then it is also being used as a pilot as a network series. For a project to be, I think, financially responsible and fiscally responsible, it has to have more than one revenue scheme and I hope these guys do well with it.

RC: You mentioned Mark Gantt, and of course, he is not only one of the writers, but also the star playing Neal Bannan.

MI: Yeah, he plays my son.

RC: I was going to say, talk a little bit about your character. Your son's a con artist and you're the chief of police. How does that dynamic work and talk about the character some.

MI: Well, Mark is a mercurial guy as it is, very clever, a very likable guy. His character is a kind of flash about town con man who likes women and cars and gambling. I play his father who is kind of a stone-age chief of police and my brother, who is played by Robert Forrester, is the local mafia kingpin or crime boss. We're the yin and yang of Mark's life and the story is basically revolving around him owing his uncle $150,000 on a gambling debt and how he is trying to contort and run around town to get that money. And at the same time, I'm trying to get him to turn over evidence on his uncle, my brother, so I can put him away. It's a very clever story, very enjoyable.

RC: You always seem to play these, like you said a stone-age police chief, a general, or a high position of authority. Do you sometimes get typecast into that and how hard is it to sometimes branch out away from that?

MI: Well, I don't think it's difficult if you're willing to do different things at different economic levels. I mean, most people know the mainstream stuff I've done from like Top Gun, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Free Willy, T4, those sort of things, but for every large film I get to do about four or five small ones that are really my choice. Like last year, I did something called The Jazzman, where I'm playing a saxophone player who is dying of cancer. It was loosely based on Mo Kaufman's life. I get to take that opportunity based upon the fact that I can affect distribution from doing larger pictures. I've been around a long time. I'm never going to be the lead actor guy. I'm real quiet and real happy and real fortunate to keep working. It's what I do. It's like the circus. I ran away and joined it a long time ago.

RC: As long as you're happy, that's all that matters, right?

MI: Heh, and paying the bills. That's what matters.

RC: I mentioned Darkseid before from the Superman cartoons and Justice League cartoons and you were also in a couple of episodes of Smallville. Are you a closet comic book geek or really big Superman fan?

MI: No. Well, growing up yeah I did. I was enamored with Superman because I thought, being Canadian and from Toronto, that the original series was based around Toronto. I remember as a kid being told that. That the Daily Planet was the Star Newspaper and the whole idea was based around that kind of small cosmopolitan city so that caught my attention. I don't know. I just like trying things. The voice work with cartoons and stuff has worked, but I'm not interested in doing that stuff at all for commercials and stuff, but it is kind of fun to get in a room with a bunch of other actors and have the freedom of not being watched so you can sort of take risks with a character like Darkseid or the Sam Fisher character in those Splinter Cell things. It's fun to work. It really is. It's not all just hit your mark, take your money, and go home. It's fun. It's creative. It's challenging. You get to meet great people.

RC: That's great. Not a lot of people out there get to really love what they do and you really seem to enjoy it. That's a great thing in life.

MI: My dad referred to it that I ran away at a very early age and joined the circus and I think it is quite apt. It's a great way to live. You get to move from family unit to family unit, from set to set, from project to project where you're thrust into a very intimate, very honest relationship with people and you have to either tell the truth and step up or it can be a really horrific situation if you try and manipulate it every time and over 40 years I've met a lot of great people.

RC: Is it hard then, you describe it as a family unit, when the project wraps up and you have to kind of move onto the next project? Is it a sad moment there?

MI: Yeah, absolutely, but I would like refer to it as postpartum. I've gotten to the point over the years that I actually get it before the film is over and I start getting a little bit of melancholy over the last few days of a project when I look at people. But, you get to see those people again, just not in that family unit or configuration, but man it is a great way to live.

RC: We mentioned Sam Fisher earlier and it is one of the most successful and beloved shooters of all time and you really breath a unique life into that character. Did you ever get into games? Are you a gamer? Do you have an Xbox 360 or PS3? Ever pick up the controller after the game is finished?

MI: Yeah my daughters are into that and the gaming, but I'm not a gamer. I don't physically translate to that way of doing things. I'd rather get out there and do it myself. I don't mean kill somebody though, haha.

RC: Yeah strap on the night vision goggles and go crawl in the shadows, haha.

MI: No, it's like people go online golf, not to take a shot at the game, I just would rather be out there doing it. But no, Splinter Cell was interesting because I actually passed after the fourth game. I didn't think we could take it any farther and wasn't really interested in doing such and they came back at me with a fresh look at the character and a new way of doing things and the new artwork and we just finished the fifth one. It'll be out I believe in about two months.

RC: Yes, actually Ubisoft just announced that it got pushed from a late February release to a late April release.

MI: And ya know, I think that is to their credit. They were actually going to, there were parts of the company anyway, that were going to try to force the game out for Christmas and they opted for the quality rather than quantity and I think that speaks for Ubisoft to give up a huge payday or a rushed payday on an old title like that and force it through on Christmas. And I'm not kissing their a** here. It's just rare that you find something in a corporate level that makes organically sound decisions and they did that. And they pushed it again to make sure they get it right. Yeah I was supposed to go out and do the release and stuff like that, but I just got the call the other day saying they're going to push it back another month and a half, which is cool. Get it right!

RC: Definitely, as a gamer, we would rather you take the extra month and a half and get it right, especially for such a beloved series.

MI: Yeah and there is a lot of money involved here. People put a lot of money on these games. I remember I was on a plane somewhere and somebody stepped up and said "Sam Fisher?!" I had ordered some bloody drink or something and I then started talking to them and they were talking about how it keeps them as a family unit these online games, where they sit and play with family members from different places in the world and stuff like that or have conversations with different people in different places around the world and I never thought that a game, an internet game, would be the kind of meeting place where people could exchange ideas and real truths about each other and stuff like that. It's kind of a strange world when you can trust a game format or platform more than the network news.

RC: Yeah, it's insane how far games have come in the past couple of decades. Would you say Sam Fisher is the character you're most recognized for or most approached about?

MI: Not really. I think it goes generationally. I've been around a long time. If someone walks up and says "Jester's dead" then I know it's from Top Gun, and they're probably in their 30s-40s. If they walk up and say something like "I hate that whale!" then they're probably in their late 20s, that of course from Free Willy. Or "See you at the party, Richter!" or something like that. It depends on where these people are coming from. It seems like every six or seven years I hit on a big box office film and people get to regurgitate specific lines from the film. As for Sam Fisher, I'm totally anonymous until I open my bloody mouth and people recognize the voice.

RC: Do you ever get to chill with Tom Clancy? Do you ever get to say "Hey Tom, maybe Sam would do this in this situation?" Since the character is really you, do you ever get to influence what he does a little bit or go to Tom Clancy?

MI: No, but what I did do was that I turned it down at the beginning. I wasn't interested in doing it because structurally the way the character was built was that I thought "I don't want to do this." And they asked what was wrong and I said "Well, he is too monochromatic. There isn't enough humanity in the character. There is no conflict underneath his decisions." It was interesting, when we first went in to do the first game, I actually did it up in Montreal at the Ubisoft labs and I had them bring in other actors since these things are usually done singular evidently where you bring in one actor at a time and it was my first big game. So I had them hire some actors so I would have somebody to work with as we worked the character up in the dialogue. And it really worked. It is the nature of communication that if you want to play tennis or play a game with somebody, you need to talk and have a conversation.

RC: Of course, of course. You've had such a long career as you had mentioned and you've been around for so long that you did a series in the 80s called "V" and of course they have kind of come back with that, a new iteration of it that is based on the series you were in. Do you ever think that you might ever want to get back into the series, maybe as a guest cameo to link the two?

MI: There was that talk, but I really wasn't interested. The original character of Ham Tyler that we built in the mid-80s for that original format and that original show, to revisit that and revisit that character would do that whole show a disservice. It is really a different animal now. They have computer generated graphics now while we were using puppets and everything in those days. We were sort of making it up as we go, to the best of our abilities. And no I think Ham Tyler that they sent him to Chicago in that original series, where I wanted him to go. I got out of the show so I could go do Top Gun and the Richard Pryor film. No, I don't think I'd want to go back and do it. It's like going back and driving an old car. It had its place in time. I had a '55 Chevy that I had for a lot of years and it was a cool car, but if I had to use it every day, no, it had its time and place.

RC: I hear you. That's a great analogy. Aside from The Bannen Way, which is of course at Crackle.com right now from Sony Pictures, and Splinter Cell: Conviction, which is coming out in April from Ubisoft, what else can we see from you in the future?

MI: That film I did last year, the film called The Jazzman, based on Mo Kaufman's life, the horn player who died of cancer and was written by his grandson. I think it is coming out, or is out now, or will be out soon. I don't really follow the things. And a thing I did in Romania called Eva, which is a historical piece.

RC: Alright, very cool. Thank you very much Michael. Of course, the web series is The Bannen Way which is available now at Crackle.com from Sony Pictures, the video game is Splinter Cell: Conviction which will be out for Xbox 360 and the PC later in April, and of course the man is Michael Ironside! Michael thanks for the time. -Ray Carsillo
  
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Join the Dark Side

i just want to say something before continuing with my article. I have been accused of plagiarism on my own work on this site. Every thing I post anywhere on the internet is my own work and I have all the rights to it. In this case, I posted a video where I spoke with Joe "Mad" Madureira about his upcoming video game, Darksiders.  I have been given permission by THQ/Vigil Games to use the footage in this piece, and all the words leading up to the video are my own.  I joined this site in the hopes of being able to add my opinion to a group of like-minded people and provide some unique perspectives, as well as some unique content, to the topics of discussion on the numerous boards in this community. If I ever take material from another source, you can guarantee I will cite it. I hope this never comes up again, but let it be known I will not tolerate false accusations of any kind. My name is Ray Carsillo (Raymond Carsillo Jr. if you want to be specific), I am a web producer/reporter/columnist for 1050 AM ESPN Radio in NYC, a columnist for Collider.com, Examiner.com, and ESPNvideogames.com, and a Internet TV host for UBATV.com. I know comic books and video games and love talking about them and with others who like them. And all material posted to this and other sites is completely my own. Now, with that being said, here is my interview with Joe Mad.  
 
     

Joe "Mad" Madureira is known for his legendary artwork with his run on Uncanny X-Men. What many people may not know is that when Joe left comics, he founded his own video game company and it looks to be producing one of the hottest looking games of 2010.

Darksiders follows the story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse and how War has been blamed for bringing about the Apocolypse early. Charged with clearing his name and finding the true culprits, you take over as War and use your awesome powers to fight your way through the ruins of the world on your quest for vengeance.

I had a chance to talk to Joe Mad at this year's Big Apple ComicCon as well as get a hands on with the game's early demo. Check out the interview below for more details on the January 5, 2010 release and some sweet footage of this sure to be action/adventure smash-hit.

Darksiders Preview with Joe "Mad" Madureira and Ray Carsillo


-Ray Carsillo
    
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GHOSTS AND HEROES

With numerous TV, big screen, and broadway credits to his name, Ernie Hudson is easily one of Hollywood's most recognizable personalities. His ability to portray a gamut of emotions has earned him the chance to play a wide range of characters over his career.

His most recent character is Captain Lubbock on NBC's Heroes, every Monday night at 8pm, as he tries to chase down Sylar and attempt to wrap his head around the concept of a world full of super powered beings at the same time.

Possibly his most famous character though is as Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters I, II, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

I had a chance to talk with the veteran actor about everything ranging from his favorite type of role to play to possibly nailing down some solid details about a third Ghostbuster movie.

CLICK HERE - to listen to my conversation with veteran actor Ernie Hudson.

-Ray Carsillo
  
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JUST CALL ME J. JONAH JAMESON


   

There are a bevy of articles that I owe the geek community right now. I should be writing about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 or Batman/Superman: Public Enemies (both are on their way, I promise!), but this last Wednesday, like every Wednesday, I headed to my local comic retailer (Time Warp Comics and Games, 555 Pompton Ave. in Cedar Grove, NJ, 07009. Give a shout out to everyone there) and saw something that needed to be addressed. As I thumbed through the regulars from my pull list, I saw something on the shelf that renewed a fire in my belly I had long since let die down. 

After the One More Day Spider-Man story arc, my frustration with Marvel and their treatment of the web head had reached an all-time high. One of the sloppiest re-launches in history had just occurred with Spidey (more like a lobotomy) and almost everything my generation had known and loved about Spider-Man was flushed down the drain along with the fact that Marvel had painted themselves into a corner...again.

Instead of letting the old crone that is Aunt May just die, especially after a séance with Madame Web confirming that Aunt May was at peace, and having Spider-Man take Mary Jane into hiding just like Luke Cage did with Jessica Jones, they have Spidey sell his marriage to Mephisto in order to push the reset button. Every "mistake" that Peter Parker ever made was changed and about 400 issues of continuity were erased. 

It was at this instance that I boycotted everything having to do with Spider-Man (except New Avengers, but if Jessica Jones mentions one more time she had a crush on Peter Parker in high school, that is being added to my boycott list as well). I wouldn't even play as him in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 except in the beginning when you have to. I accepted that my favorite Marvel character was dead to me and that maybe it was time I grew up a little and cut down my weekly comics list. 

Now, since I've boycotted everything past the first couple of issues of the re-launch (they made Mary Jane a superhero for cryin' out loud!) I don't know if anything has been resolved because I haven't read anything, but a small part of me died, much like the small part of Peter Parker that forever knows his greatest mistake was giving up his love for MJ. 

My two favorite super-heroes during my early years, like many people in my generation, were Batman and Spider-Man. I believe many people love these characters because of their humanity. Batman in more literal terms, Spider-Man in more figurative terms because even though he had super powers, the gamut of emotions and struggles he had to deal with hit close to home for many of us.

I like to believe they also gave us the most hope. Batman helped us believe there was always a way out of every bad situation as long as you properly prepared yourself. Spider-Man gave us hope because even through all his pain and torment, he still found true love and also found ways to persevere. 

This re-launch destroyed Spider-Man in such a way that I can't look at him anymore without feeling hate in my heart because I can't relate to a reset button no matter how hard I try.

With that rant out of the way, I go back to why this seething anger and hatred resurfaced months after the initial offense and ensuing boycott. While at the comic store, I noticed on the shelf the first issue of a six issue miniseries. It was the start of how Spider-Man's infamous Clone Saga SHOULD have played out and it opened with a one page, heartfelt apology from the folks behind it. 

I nearly ripped the issue to shreds on the spot, but, for once, a cooler head prevailed and I placed it back on the shelf with no incident. 

In my life, the Clone Saga was the first destruction of Spider-Man. At the time though, it was a more forgivable sin for me because I was a small lad and my knowledge of Spider-Man comics was limited to what had inspired me to read Spidey's comics, the Maximum Carnage arc (which is still the best Spider-Man arc I ever read).

The thing that fueled the anger was the fact that 20 years after the disastrously drawn out plotline, Marvel admitted, in print, to one of their greatest mistakes. As a fan, it was like a slap in the face. An apology will not fix the two years of wasted paper and ink that the Clone Saga caused nor will it bring back any of the characters who were bumped off after the fan base started warming up to them (unless this most recent re-launch decides to do it all over again so this way Marvel can really stomp on our hearts). 

I don't understand why Marvel feels it necessary to try to vindicate their mistakes by pressing the panic button whenever there is some negative backlash for their risk taking. I REALLY don't understand why they keep bringing these mistakes back up years after they have been forgiven in the collective consciousness only to re-open long since healed scars. All I know is I miss Spider-Man. I miss the REAL Spider-Man. The Spider-Man that I grew up with, that was married to Mary Jane, had to team-up with Venom every now and then to take on Carnage, and could still make some sweet wise-cracks. Get me Tom DeFalco RIGHT NOW! 

-Ray Carsillo

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GEEK MOVIE ICON

Since he exploded into the limelight as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I, Ray Park has been a staple in geek movies. Also being cast as Toad in X-Men and Snake-Eyes in G.I. Joe, this martial arts master and admitted comic book geek is living the dream playing some of the more iconic roles in geek lore.

He has now increased his geek repetoire by being cast on NBC's Heroes as Edgar, a speedster with a dark side (no Star Wars pun intended).

Robin Lundberg and I had a chance to catch up with the geek icon to talk about his role on Heroes, his past roles, and if he could confirm some rumors for us about the progress of a possible Iron Fist movie.  

CLICK HERE - to listen to Robin Lundberg and I interview one of the great geek movie icons of our time, Ray Park.

  
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HEROES IN A HALF SHELL


 

With this being the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mirage Studios and Ubisoft, who hold the video game licenses to the franchise, have been going all out with the shell-ebration. This includes a reissuing of some of the old 1980s action figures (which they were very kind to send me a Master Splinter figure; sweet!), a remake of Turtles in Time for the current generation of consoles, and the highly anticipated TMNT: Smash Up for the Nintendo Wii. 

Now that TMNT: Smash Up is officially available; I want to take this time to analyze the first original TMNT game for this current generation of consoles. The basic plot of the game is that Master Splinter wants to hold a special ninjitsu tournament to see how far the turtles have progressed in their training. The prize would be any of the items of Splinter's trophy room. Of course, there is a catch. Splinter, Casey Jones, and April O' Neill are all going to be participating as well. 

As the tournament progresses and a winner is about to crowned, the Turtles receive an emergency call from their old friend the Fugitoid saying he has been captured by Shredder. This is where you take over and progress through various fights before facing down Shredder and some Foot Soldiers. 

The plot is simple, as it should be for a fighting game. No one besides Shredder should be the final boss and the fighting mechanics are great. Ubisoft took the same fighting engine that was used in the Super Smash Bros. series so you can have four-player grudge matches and the game flows very smoothly. The game looks beautiful with some awesome settings and great interactivity in the levels. 

There are still a few things nagging at me though being a die-hard TMNT fan. First, the generic background music irritates me to no end. Can we PLEASE bring back the 80s theme? There wasn't even the new cartoon theme. I'll even take the "Go Ninja Go" rap from Vanilla Ice at this point. 

That isn't my biggest gripe though. My biggest gripe is that after being promised tons of characters, the list was suddenly shortened just before the release and instead of having hidden TMNT characters Ubisoft thought it would be a good idea to have three Raving Rabbids based on TMNT as hidden playable characters. WHAT?! 

No Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang (although they might try to pull off the Utrominator as an upgraded Krang without calling him that), Leatherhead, Baxter Stockman, Rat King, General Kragg, Wingnut, Ace Duck, Usagi Yojimbo, Tokka, Rahzar, Slash, OR ANY OTHER BIG CHARACTERS WE CARE ABOUT! Instead, we got the Turtles, Shredder, Splinter, Karai, April, Casey and...that's pretty much it. There were more stages than there were playable characters.

The most important thing about a fighting game after the fighting system itself is the roster of characters and TMNT: Smash Up sorely disappoints on this front. The majority of TMNT fans are still those of us who grew up on it and not catering to us is always a bad idea. I was really surprised with this considering the great job Ubisoft did when revamping Turtles in Time, but this really depressed me as a hardcore fan. Instead of trying to use this game to promote another franchise, Ubisoft should have concentrated on making this as good a game as possible.

Ratings are based on a score of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. 

Graphics: 8.5: For the most part the game did look beautiful. Some of the settings were a little darker than I liked and when some of the large maps zoomed out to show all the characters on screen, it was hard to tell where everyone was, but for the graphics were mostly crisp.

Audio: 5.0: The generic background music irritated me and made me long for the good old days with the 80s theme song. The SFX were average and the voice acting was solid using the newest cartoon's voice actors, but they didn't record a lot of lines so they repeat themselves frequently. 

Plot/Plot Development: 7.0: The plot is not usually the strongest point for a fighting game. All you need is a reason to bring a lot of people together to duke it out and this game does that.

Gameplay: 8.0: The fighting mechanics are very good and all the characters have unique combos and special moves to fit their styles. Add in special Ninpo items like daggers, smoke bombs, and some mystical items that randomly appear on screen and you'll have a solid fighting game experience.

Replay Value: 5.0: An arcade mode, survival mode, and mission mode all make the game worthy of playing, including a nice amount of unlockables, but with none of those unlockables being characters from the TMNT universe, I have to dock this score a lot.

Overall (not an average): 4.0: This game reminds me of the original Smash Bros. for N64 and if this was two generations ago, this would be a great game. Unfortunately, it's not, so this game is not nearly as good as what we've come to expect from fighting games. A lackluster roster takes a lot away from the game and severely hurts the game's replay value because there are only a few characters to go through the game with. The engine is great and that is the number one aspect for a fighting game, but everything after that falls flat on its face and any TMNT fan will be disappointed at the very least, if not furious, over this game. A more casual fan might want to rent this just to take a look, but probably not. 

TMNT: Smash-Up is available now for the Nintendo Wii.

-Ray Carsillo

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Separation Anxiety

I understand this is a comics site. I love comics. But I also love video games. And it's great when those things get to cross over. So, over the next week I will be doing comprehensive reviews on a video game that inspired several comics and a couple of video games that were inspired by several comics. The first is the video game that inspired some comics and as many of you know, especially since there are a few ad banners floating around the site for it, that game premieres today and is called Halo 3: ODST.  
 

With hundreds of possible stories and battlefronts out there, it wasn't hard for Bungie to continue to expand the already infamous Halo canon. With the exploits of Master Chief well documented in the intergalactic struggle against the Covenant, many people forget that this war is fought on many different fronts and has been ongoing for decades. 


One of the newest battlefronts is Earth, the last great human stronghold, and recently discovered by the Covenant. So while Master Chief is on the other side of the universe, the war is still going on and has finally hit home.

This is where the ODSTs come in. Labeled for their preferred form of being dropped into battle from their space cruisers, the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers are the best of the best (aside from Master Chief, of course). 

Taking place during the time between Halo 2  and 

Halo 3Halo 3: ODST (labeled such due to the game using the Halo 3 engine and the inclusion of the Halo 3 multiplayer as well) follows the story of a squad of ODSTs as they race against the Covenant for an artifact in the city of New Mombasa in the East African province (Kenya in real world terms, I believe).       

Your main character is simply know as "The Rookie" as you are introduced to the rest of your squad in the opening cinema before you drop into battle. When you arrive the Covenant assault is well under way. After launching from your cruiser to counterattack, a Covenant drop ship warps in and the ensuing shockwave scatters your squad throughout the region. After waking up about 6 hours after crash landing in New Mombasa, how you view Halo is forever changed. 

There is still your typical run and gun first-person shooter mayhem and plenty of opportunities for it, but there is also a tremendous new detective and suspense element added to the game. As the Rookie, you befriend an A.I. program called "The Superintendent". Simpler than Cortana for you Halo vets, the Superintendent still is critical in your mission as he helps tell you the story of how New Mombasa fell and point you in the right direction as he uses street signs, car alarms, ATMs, and other civic devices it can control to steer your path. 

After befriending the Superintendent, you put your detective skills (and some sweet night vision goggles) to use as you search New Mombasa for clues to the whereabouts of your squad mates. As you find more items belonging to your mates, from your Captain's helmet to your sniper's rifle, you begin to piece together what happened when you got knocked out, all the while exploring Bungie's largest sandbox environment to date. 

The most exciting new aspect of this game comes when you find each item because you actually get to see through the eyes of your other squad mates to see how the items came to be in the condition they're in and to see the battle unfold. This ensures that you will play as every member of your squad at some point to experience how it feels to be a sniper, a demolitions expert, a heavy gunner, etc. and to see how the full story of the New Mombasa post-invasion unfolds.

With that said, there is also plenty of your old favorite activities returning like hijacking Covenant Banshee or Ghost ships or hopping onto the turret of a UNSC Warthog. There are also randomly generated fights against the whole spectrum of Covenant foes as well as all your favorite weapons being available again from sticky grenades to swiping a downed foe's Needler. 

I will admit to not being obsessed about the Halo series as much as many other people, but I could not put this game down. It only took me about 10 hours to beat the campaign mode, but the time flew by and I was left wanting more. 

The graphics are beyond beautiful and the music helps set up an almost film noir, classic detective story kind of feel that you just don't see nowadays, especially in a futuristic game like Halo.

There isn't a lot to bring you back to the campaign aside from the Superintendent audio logs, but the new Firefight mode, similar to the Gears of War Horde mode, with endless waves of enemies as you try to improve your score and the included Halo 3 multiplayer will keep most Halo fans happy for a long time to come. 

In the end, my only complaint about this game was that it ended too soon for me. Although 10 hours of gameplay is about the norm for most games nowadays, I just didn't want it to end. I wish I had 20 ODSTs in my squad and that I was still searching for more of their items. This is a must have for any Halo or first-person shooter fan.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. 

Graphics: 10.0: I don't know how they could make this game look more gorgeous. The graphics really helped stress the mystery the game was trying to go for and were spectacular.

Audio: 10.0: The music might set the mood even better than the look of post-invasion New Mombasa. When music can help draw emotion from the player, it has succeeded and this soundtrack does that. Add in the typically strong SFX and great voice acting from all those involved and I can't dock any points for this.

Plot/Plot Development: 10.0: The plot fits in perfectly with the Halo canon and the way the game leads you along through the different areas of New Mombasa as you search for your squad mates and try to unravel the sub-plots of the New Mombasa invasion makes this one of the more engrossing games I've played in a while.

Gameplay: 9.0: The game is glitchless. The controls are relatively natural, but I had some difficulty driving several of the vehicles you get to control at separate points throughout the levels and they felt a lot less natural than when you are on foot.

Replay Value: 7.5: Not wanting to take away from the Halo 3 community, ODST doesn't support its own original multiplayer and the Firefight mode is really just Horde mode from Gears with a Halo twist. Add in a minimum of collectibles for campaign mode and you have to figure that Halo fans will still be thrilled about this, but more casual fans will probably see this as a one and done.

Overall (not an average): 9.5: Minor complaints aside, this is one of the best games I've played in recent memory. I'm starting to form my game of the year predictions and this has to be in the conversation. The story was brilliantly done and the peripherals are perfect. I wanted a little more in terms of replay value, but overall this game is top of the line.

Halo 3: ODST is available now for Xbox 360.

-Ray Carsillo  

P.S.: I don't know why some of the text is in italics and some of the spacing is off. I try to edit it and it won't work so I'm just giving up and leaving it at this point. HTML is so much easier when it comes to posting stuff to the web. 
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