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Saturday, May 27, 2023

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun: Carnage-filled fun for gamers of a certain age (and other people too!)

This coming December will mark thirty years since the original computer game Doom was released by id Software.  Gadzooks!!  Where did all that time go to?!?  Well, Doom sucked me in hard and refused to release its grip.  There had been a few first-person shooters before, notably id's own Wolfenstein 3-D.  But it was Doom that showed off the REAL potential of the genre.  And it broke the ground for other high-drama atmospheric entries in the category, like Star Wars: Dark Forces, Duke Nukem 3-D, and Quake.  Those in turn showed the way for more advanced games in the forthcoming generations, such as Halo and Call of Duty.

But no matter how advanced home computers and gaming consoles have become, my heart belongs to 1993's Doom and its contemporaries.  Especially for how editable it was, and it seemed like everyone and their brother was creating WAD files containing new graphics (my favorite is still the one that turned the Baron of Hell into Barney the Dinosaur), or sounds and music, right on up to new maps to play in.  Yes, the music was MIDI and the graphics were REALLY pixelated when you got up close to an element like scenery or an attacking monster... but that was just part of the charm.  Part of why I and many others came to love those games.

Well, a few weeks ago I heard about Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, from Auroch Digital.  And what grabbed my attention was that it was created in the very same style of the Nineties-era first person shooters like Doom.  The game came out a few days ago and lo and behold a friend gifted it to me on Steam (where it's currently priced around twenty bucks).  So I installed Boltgun and played around with it.

Friends, that evening I felt what it was like to have played Doom for the very first time all those decades ago.  Auroch took the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and gave it a game it didn't know it needed.  If you're a "gamer of a certain age" who was among the first to play classic shooters, you will LOVE Boltgun.

The game has you playing a member of the Ultramarines chapter of the Adeptus Astartes (faux Imperial lingua franca for Space Marines).  If you ever played the Space Marine third-person game, you'll be especially delighted to learn that Boltgun takes place following that tale (and before the upcoming Space Marine II).  Your well-enhanced warrior, Malum Caedo, finds himself on the forge world of Graia.  Just like those Union Aerospace scientists did in Doom, it seems that the local techpriests got to messin' around with stuff they shouldn't have and opened a portal to Hel... I mean, the Warp.  Demons and mutant heretics and traitor marines have come through and are threatening the planet and all around it.  So as Caedo, you set out to make things right... by shootin', explodin', and chainsawin' every thing that's in your way.

Boltgun is an intense game, and the blocky pixelated blood and gore that splatters across your screen is all the more like enjoying a classic again.  Befitting a Warhammer 40,000 product, it is unfettered chaos and wreckage that will have you attacking anything and everything that moves.  I've gotten pretty good at taking aim with the selected firearm (mostly the boltgun) at relatively far targets, then rushing in to chainsword the baddie and any surrounding renegades.  It was like when I was playing Doom for the first time and came upon the chainsaw: Dad was walking past my room and had to see what I was giggling about.  I got the sense that he thought it was pretty gruesome (but also kind of funny).  Lord only knows what he would think of modern gaming.

I'm only three levels into the game, but felt it was already worth recommending to all two of this blog's readers.  I've been pretty well entertained by Boltgun so far.  What I would VERY much like to see however is for Auroch (provided that Games Workshop approves the concept) to open the game up for editing, just like we could do with many of the more popular first-person shooters of that epoch.  At the very least the studio could produce some add-on campaigns.  I would DEFINITELY pay to have Boltgun pitting the player against the Orks, or Tyranids (which reminds me of that legendary megaWAD that transformed Doom into the movie Aliens).

If you have fond memories of the gaming of thirty-some years ago, I think you'll like Boltgun.  It may also entice younger gamers to look around at the titles we had back then and give them a try also.

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun can be found for purchase on Steam, again for about twenty bucks.  Not a bad deal if you're looking for something to vent a little angst and tension without having to shoot at the wall like Sherlock did.

Monday, May 08, 2023

The Visitors came forty years ago this month

I was reminded of something earlier today, and I can't believe that this somehow slipped past the radar screen...

Last week, May 1st, was the fortieth anniversary of the premiere of the NBC television miniseries V.

That doesn't seem possible.  It's like it was only yesterday that creator Kenneth Johnson unleashed his nightmarish vision of fascism on a global scale.  The Visitors came to major cities across the planet, in fifty ships each three miles in diameter.  They looked like us.  They came from a dying planet and they needed humanity's help.  They came in peace.

And it was all a damnable lie.  Their intent was to rape the Earth, seizing every precious natural resource.  And the fate of mankind?  Something truly horrifying.  Four decades later and the scene of all those humans in cold storage still sends a shiver up my spine.

It was a grand endeavor.  What if Nazism had conquered the planet?  V was about that.  Every aspect of true-life fascism was portrayed, magnified through the lens of science-fiction.  But it was also about hope, and taking a stand and fighting back.  More than it frightened us, V inspired us.  The film was dedicated to the resistance fighters, wherever they have been found, past present and future.

This franchise deserved better!  Johnson's original plan as he presented it to NBC was that after the original miniseries, there would be three or four television movies each season, depicting the Visitors' occupation of Earth in various places.  But the executives didn't want that.  They wanted a second miniseries and using that to launch a weekly series.  They got that, but the follow-ups lost a lot of the spirit of the original.  V wasn't something like Star Wars, it was about a much deeper notion.  And then around 2009 ABC tried to reboot the franchise, but it failed for various reasons (I thought it was quite an admirable effort though).

It was an awe-some television experience.  So many moments from it that no doubt still stick out in the minds of many.

But here is my favorite moment.  Not just of the miniseries, but one of my most favorite moments in television, ever.  The final scene of Part One of V, the original miniseries.  Abraham, the elderly Holocaust survivor and his friend Ruby, find a group of teenagers who are vandalizing Visitor propaganda posters.  He stops them.

No, I won't say anything else.  Let the scene speak for itself:



And from that moment, humanity has a symbol of resistance.

It's a little dated now, but what do you expect from a television miniseries forty years old?  Don't let that stop you from watching it.  And you'll probably be like the rest of us were at the time: wondering how the HECK did any major broadcast network get away with all the stuff that they showed in this movie?

You'll see what I mean when you watch it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

"Faith manages": Babylon 5 returning with animated movie!

I'm feeling some geeky gears in my gray matter starting to rotate like they haven't in a VERY long time.

Babylon 5 - the single greatest television series that the Nineties ever spawned - is coming back as an animated film.

The show's creator J. Michael Straczynski unloaded the news on Twitter earlier this afternoon.  More details are coming soon, including the movie's title and release date.

I cannot emphasize enough how stoked I am about this.  Babylon 5 was like an extra few years of education on top of what I got in college.  The five-season story about that miles-long space station all alone in the night, the "last best hope for peace" in a galaxy rife with plotting and intrigue, shattered the ceiling both as a broadcast series and for what the medium was capable of giving viewers.  Had it not been for Babylon 5 paving the way, there may have never been a rebooted Battlestar Galactica, or Lost.  Or The Walking Dead for that matter, along with an armful of other shows.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes.  One thing that popped into mind: wouldn't it be really sweet if we saw an animated Garibaldi watching Daffy Duck cartoons?  That would be soooo meta.

If this show has always been just off your radar screen and you want to "get a feel" for it, I wracked my brain trying to think of a clip from the show to put in this post, just a little iota of what it's about.  Someone on Facebook found one and it's perfect.  From the third season episode "Passing Through Gethsemane", Brad Dourif as Brother Edward, telling Delenn (the late Mira Furlan) and Lennier (Bill Mumy) about the last night that Christ spent before His death:


Yes, a science-fiction series that is respectful toward the concept of religion.  Just one of many such moments that Babylon 5 came to be renowned for.

This would be something that would compel me to get HBO Max, just to watch this.  I've always loved this show, its universe and this amazing cast of characters.  Ever since first reading about it in Starlog several months before it premiered in the winter of 1993, I've been enchanted by what this series was attempting.  And it pulled it off beautifully.

And now, more is coming.  Thing I'll celebrate by making some bagna cauda.  Hey, it's easier to find than Zima...


Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Gordon Lightfoot died yesterday

The man is responsible for a lot of well known songs.  One of the local stations played "Sundown" around lunch today.  There are a few others he did too.

But the main subject of this post is about one that's especially dear to me.

I was almost two and a half years old when Gordon Lightfoot released his haunting ballad "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald".  The song came out several months after the loss of the largest ship on the Great Lakes in a fierce November storm.  It was featured on Lightfoot's album Summertime Dream as well as getting a single release.

Dad bought the 8-track of Summertime Dream.  And his favorite song from it must have been "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald".  I know this because I heard it so many times that it got impressed in my young memory.  That song is the earliest one I can recall knowing the sound and words of.  I very clearly and distinctly remember the sound of it, listening to it as I played with my toys in the living room.

The runner-up has to be The Chipmunks Christmas Volume 2.  And there were a few others that come to mind.  But "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" was my first "grown-ups" song.  And Lightfoot himself was the first musical artist that I remember the name of.  I know because I asked Dad what was he listening to and he told me "Gordon Lightfoot".

Don't know much else what to say with this post.  Except that I tweeted this last night, and it seemed right that I put it on my blog too.

So here is "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald".




Thanks for the good memories Mr. Lightfoot.