Gaming

The Biggest Game Ever Made


They did it. They’ve done the impossible. And not just in a medium everyone loves. Video games, the art form some despise for what they claim as planting the seeds of aggressive behavior in people, was the medium used to create an entire universe that might as well be described as the same size as ours.

Eighteen quintillion planets, to be exact; each potentially populated with wildlife, each composed of different environments and weather systems, all containing materials from the game’s own periodic table. All those I just mentioned? The planets, and everything inside of them, are all created by the computer. Not a single member of the small team of about ten developing the game knows what’s out there outside of the ones they’ve discovered.

No Man’s Sky proves to the world that gaming can inspire awe in ways no other medium can imitate. A person can now explore an entire digital universe, naming planets, solar systems and creatures to their liking. And it would take five billion years to see everything.

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Music

The Hunting Party Album Review

THe Hunting Party Album Cover

Linkin Park is as likeable a band as they come. They’re not afraid of going the opposite direction of where they’re expected to go, as proven by the experimental A Thousand Suns and this album, The Hunting Party, where they go back to basics. Not to the sound they originated from, but the ones that inspired them to make music, music that has captivated a global fanbase of 60 million. They are pioneers and innovators in the presentation of their work, collaborating with video game studios for music videos and even their own games. The interactive part of music is a forte of Linkin Park it seems, and I expect that maybe, just maybe, they’ll make a Virtual Reality project someday. Not everyone likes their music, but if this is a sign of things to come, then what a positive step forward it is, even though as an album it fails to soar to the same heights of their previous ones.

The problem lies with the back to basics philosophy in that it veers from the established and honestly superior cinematic, effects-laden sound that makes up the majority of their album lineup. What you’ll get is less innovation and more revisiting a much-loved but dated-feeling sound. If you like the first third of The Hunting Party, then it’s likely that you’ll love the rest of the album. But if you’re used to Linkin Park’s usual epic feel, then everything will feel like a step back, a failure to iterate on the tried and true formula.

Setting aside how good the overall album is reveals the delightful progress Brad Delson has made in his craft. He is no longer just part of the background, doing the expected things from his guitar. He and bandmate Rob make for half the face of The Hunting Party, the other consisting the ever-effective duo of Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda. Mike and Chester haven’t changed a bit compared to their recent albums, which isn’t a bad thing. But the most noteworthy aspect of this album’s production must be the prominent use of guitars and drums. Things feel heavy and condensed as a result, the drum part already expected from Rob. Brad is the surprise here, really showing off that he has what it takes to lead an album. Again, he’s used to fading to the background, so more time in the limelight will improve his craft. There’s nothing particularly superior to the crowd of similar guitarists to note.

The negative aspect of refusing to innovate is it tends to not stand out as much. Linkin Park thankfully enlisted the help of several noteworthy figures in present-day rock, although I’m having a hard time seeing what help Tom Morello gave for “Drawbar”. Iconic rapper Rakim lent his hand to the debut single “Guilty All the Same”. The best collaboration and without a doubt the best track of them all is the scintillating “Rebellion” featuring Daron Malakian. There, Mike Shinoda also raps with wisdom even beyond his current level of experience, refusing to go over the top while being steady in his delivery. It’s moments like this that the album soars back to the heights of Hybrid Theory or Meteora. But they don’t happen that often, unfortunately, even when sections of tracks are counted. “All for Nothing” recalls the earlier days of Mike’s rapping, until the bland chorus ruins it all, while “Guilty All the Same” would have been closer to average if it didn’t have the magic of Rakim.

It is the one-step-back mentality that might entice fans weary of the band’s recently softening sound back to the game. This is in fact their heaviest album since the Hybrid Theory/Meteora days and while there is nothing unique about it, The Hunting Party represents a quantum leap in ability for the underappreciated Brad Delson and another welcome showcase for powerhouse drummer Rob Bourdon. From the unrelenting majority of the songs to the little breaks in between and the setting of the sun at the end with softer tracks like “Final Masquerade” and “Until It’s Gone”, Linkin Park only treads territory other bands have for ages, and in a much superior manner.

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Social Issues

The Light at the Other Side of the World


The Philippines is an irony. We prioritize family over our own selfishness yet when the time has come to split the inheritance, those that remain fight over it with such ferocity as if they’ve been waiting for it their whole lives. Our economy is in a huge upswing yet the number of the poor hasn’t budged a bit. But the most significant of all might be our tolerance of the LGBT community. You might not be surprised as much if I didn’t tell you over 80% of the population is completely, utterly, go-to-mass-every-Sunday Roman Catholic. Well, maybe not all of them go to mass regularly or pray before every meal, but most of us were raised and taught to live by these teachings and to this day we practice them.

No country is immune to discrimination especially to something as controversial as the LGBT community. Yet despite the safety social media brings to bullies and the loopholes of freedom of speech, nothing could stop the biggest male celebrity from embracing his sexuality as much as the Philippines’ own Vice Ganda. He’s flamboyant to a fault, unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, with a compelling and quite literal rags-to-riches story. But even with humble beginnings ripe for gaining the public’s affection, nothing can guarantee a mightily gay man to surpass an international celebrity, universally loved and praised for his work and ethics. Vice Ganda it seems, has millions of likes more than Manny Pacquiao, a sort of modern national hero of our country.

So the next time you feel like condemning the Roman Catholic church for closing its doors on gays and lesbians, or stare in shock at your computer screen at a headline that resembles, “Transsexual Commits Suicide After Being Bullied By Classmates”, keep a calm demeanor and remember that tiny speck of land at the other side of the world where, despite contradicting the teachings of their beloved faith, people whether straight or bisexual or anything in this colorful spectrum of sexual identities coexist with respect and understanding of each other.

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Current Events

To Elaborate More on Abortion

Fetus

I’ve already stated my opinion on this matter, yet every night it’s been nagging me, this article in which I hadn’t explained my full point. So here I am. Let me start by warning you about making preconceptions towards a deeply religious, pro-life person. Being those two things doesn’t mean I don’t see the Roman Catholic church as hugely flawed. Nor does it mean I am against gay marriage or women’s rights in general. What I am is an advocate of valuing the life of a child (I consider a fetus already one for it is alive with the spirit of being human, which is being loved by others and resembling them) and hope in the midst of likely awful future scenarios.

First of all, how can a “clump of cells” come off as human? Well, there’s an 80% chance you thought of what I said in the previous paragraph as just that. And I’ve come across a lot of people who’ve done the same. I never said anything as simple as something between a zygote and fetus was human. Those things, they are most probably just clumps of cells. What I said previously was the fetus, and fetuses resemble humans greatly, are alive in a manner similar to humans and are loved like they are one. Although the two things can’t really be compared fairly, aren’t animals alive and objects of love and care too? Yet they have rights and fetuses, which are miles closer to humans, are in a dire situation.

Why let them live, then, if a future in the orphanage is almost likely guaranteed? Take notice of that question, it said “almost likely” and not guaranteed. There is an inherent happiness and purity in orphanages, a hope for childless couples who can’t afford or take the risk of experimental procedures. How about poverty? No one kills the guaranteed hopeless people of Africa or any other poor nation, yet they pose a more hopeless scenario than fetuses that are “better off” aborted. You see, I firmly believe in the importance of human rights. We have a responsibility to protect and help each other up whenever possible because that is the essence of humanity. We must stop sinking into this mechanical line of thinking where logic trumps heart and conscience. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule, and those are reserved to “guaranteed” hopeless situations like ISIS.

Yes, you say “but you do know this goes both ways, right?” and I wholeheartedly agree. The hope of a better future when twisted upside down is a cause for such great pity that mercy killing would seem fit. Yet that’s why we don’t kill the poor, hopeless, dying people I’ve mentioned, because people have an equally great capacity to be real “humans” and help. We live in an unpredictable world and anything can happen and I’m sure you’ve watched all the documentaries and “inspirational true story” films and uplifting news articles that prove it. When there is both a probability to live and to die you stick to the hope that you’ll live because that is our nature. We hope and things go bad but things, miracles even, happen everyday. Again, I know that truly hopeless situations abound in today’s world and that’s when the mercy killing thing makes sense for me.

Rape victims, on the other hand, are the most misunderstood. A terrible thing has happened to one, then people unite to give them the right to abort their unwanted child when it didn’t do the smallest of sins. It’s like killing a lion as punishment for attacking its trainer. It’s a painful reality but the mother must live with it. A child is a child, there’s no two ways around it.

Women should have better rights and now is their time, I agree. But prioritizing women over children is like saving the president of the United States in a mass shooting instead of the child in the stroller. It makes the most sense, but is it the right thing to do? Presidents are replacable, but can you live with the memory that you let a child die?

Even more egregious is fetal tissue research. Imagine a world where anything is sacrificed for the sake of science. If children is of utmost importance to you, then that world is now. Progress is good, but ramming over the lives of others for the sake of it is a terrifying reality that needs to be dampened if we are to continue living as real humans.

This debate in my opinion shouldn’t have started in the first place. People I guess just became more like machines, placing logic over humanity. No one seems to bring up the point that legalizing abortion in a general sense is also legalizing the killing of children (developing and loved by many, just like newborns). This makes sense, I confess, but only when much stricter provisions are in place.

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Gaming

Hunt the Truth: Season 2 Review

Hunt the Truth season 1 was a refreshing take on the Halo canon, focusing on lowly Benjamin Giraud, a journalist caught in a situation far bigger than he ever thought it would be. Despite being the polar opposite of the flagship game series, the first season’s uniqueness was what catapulted it to success.

If season one was a personal, grounded take on Halo’s story, then two must be the natural evolution of the first given its multimillion viewing tally. Anchored by a new, stronger but less unique protagonist in ONI agent Maya, Hunt the Truth shifts from small-scale detective story to the full-blown, epic setpiece after setpiece tone of the games that inspired it. No longer restricted to one or two planets, Maya sets off, on the run after going rogue. It’s not only the action or the locations, but the characters she interacts with. Safe to say, the scale is expanded to include more humans of different social classes and even aliens.

This larger scale obviously veers away from the uniqueness of Benjamin’s story. Maya is the typical strong-willed woman we’ve come to see in recent films and TV shows and it shows in her occasionally bland dialogue. The supporting cast too is filled with comparatively cookie-cutter agents and women (sensing the theme here?), and while the action brings a welcome sense of urgency, everything feels a bit too close to the games. If the series is to expand its fanbase, then the first season’s tone is a must next season and not this, which tends to exceed the show’s grasp resulting in unintentionally over the top scenes.

The expansions in themes and scale doesn’t mangle the DNA of this series though. This is still a comparatively grounded take on the fiction, focusing for the most part on the nitty gritty happenings in the Halo universe, just more action-packed. The chief highlight for returning listeners must be Maya’s meeting with Benjamin Giraud, as listeners find out what really happened to him and his actions after last season’s ending.

Hunt the Truth’s biggest success is that it isn’t content to repeat what made last season successful. It continues the momentum, building up until the epic, emotionally-involving conclusion. It switches relevant topics previously discussed with new ones. Yet with this eagerness to try something new, they’ve committed the unfortunate act of letting vision take over the execution. What results is an uneven yet ultimately satisfying entry in this hopefully long line of Halo side-stories. With an ending that leaves strands unresolved, I’m optimistic there will be a third one as I’m anxious what more can they explore in the series’ deep lore.

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Gaming

This Console Generation’s Biggest Advantage

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I’ve been a gamer since the PS1 era, and I can tell you for a fact that for every generation since then, the only significant, wide-reaching gameplay evolution involving multiple publishers and platforms has been online play. I find that very surprising considering everyone says gameplay is what truly matters in a game. The focal point in every debate it seems, has been graphics and processing power. This generation though, has the potential to stand out from the rest.

Open world gaming has been here for a longer time than many can imagine, but now there are more games than ever with that mentality, and much much more when you consider those that use it in smaller doses. Rise of the Tomb Raider has playground-like sections where players can tackle objectives if and when they want. Not only that, but the level showcased at Gamescom 2015 indicated that you can also choose which path to take or how to eliminate threats. The concept goes as far as offering a non-lethal option for the hardcore type.

This year had Avalanche Studios’ vision of the Mad Max universe and Hideo Kojima’s last Metal Gear releasing the same day. The surprise hit Dying Light arrived at the beginning of 2015 and the critically-acclaimed finale to The Witcher trilogy hit store shelves last May. The fact is, I could mention twenty more I’ve read about coming this year and the next that have this sandbox mentality, and there could be hundreds more.

I’ve never seen a gameplay trend of this magnitude take over a console generation before, and gamers are right to be excited. First of all, more paths to take and more ways to play equals higher replay value, requiring multiple playthroughs to get the most out of every game. Second, players feel more empowered and immersed when they ARE the protagonist, crafting their own stories in these fantastical universes, unlike in other games where players go along a linear path, experiencing the same situations in every playthrough.

This coupled with the indie games explosion of recent years represents a massive shift in mentality for creators, publishers and gamers alike. And now, with Virtual Reality headsets right around the corner, players are increasingly more empowered and immersed in their games. Games now, more than ever, have the power to inspire and stir emotions and finally win everyone’s approval on whether it’s an art form.

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