Goodbye, Lemmy.

Lemmy Kilmister passed away last night. He was 70.

“Legend”, “Icon”, “The embodiment of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. There are a mountainous lot of words to describe Lemmy Kilmister, and all of them righteous in their own way. What can be said that hasn’t been? The man made a legacy that grew in his own lifetime, and during his years, he received recognition for it in the forms of endless adoration and admiration. Without Motörhead, extreme metal would be a very different place, if even a place at all. The band informed and injected heavy metal with a sense of unparalleled speed, propelled by weight and agitation that set the stage alight for raunch and aggression.

I doubt I can come up with anything new to say about the man, but at least I can pay my respects, and say goodbye. Despite having never met him or even having looked at him in the flesh, I feel like I’ve lost a part of me, a hole that grows the more the news of Lemmy’s passing weighs down on me. Like many other metalheads around the globe, his music was a stepping stone into my appreciation of heavy metal, one of the genre’s very first bands I ever heard, and the one that created a ravenous hunger for raw, thrashy, ugly music that grew into a love of Tank, Bulldozer, Warfare, Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory—his pupils, his children. Motörhead has always been and always will be a favorite, and despite the homages and imitators and the band’s own unrelenting output of music, they remained clearly and uniquely themselves, a crystalline image and sound dwelling in my mind, powered by the gritty and grizzled rasp and the thundering bulldozer bass of the weathered pillar himself. We all knew he was going to go, but we didn’t think he would go so suddenly.

It’s always odd to think that something you love is gone forever.

Rest in peace, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister. You old bastard.

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I always knew the only way
Is never live beyond today
They proved me right
They proved me wrong
But they could never last this long
My life, my heart, black night, dark star.



The Death of the Expanded Universe

Just a short moment of silence for one of the grandest and greatest fictional universes ever established. From the Yuuzhan Vong to the Thrawn books, from Jedi Outcast to the Legacy comics. It’s all gone, for better or worse, all turned to relics from a past where this new trilogy existed only in the imagination.

But as I watched Awakens, and I saw Poe Dameron’s blue X-Wing and Kylo Ren’s shuttle land, I felt excited: excited for all the new expansions possible in this new canon, from games to novels and short stories to comics. Perhaps a little removed compared to all the old stuff taking place right after the original trilogy, but closer to good and honest Star Wars than the prequels ever were.

And hey, it might take a little while for the really good stuff to appear. But it’s a whole new world to explore, and I’m strapped in. Here’s to the new EU, with whatever old elements that may return and all of the new ones that may arrive.


In Payne and Suffering



“To Make any kind of sense of it, I need to go back three years. Back to the night the pain started.”

Snacking on unhealthy doses of painkillers and wielding an arsenal of guns for every occasion, Max Payne seamlessly blends neo-noir with visceral third-person shooting for a memorable and highly quotable action game. Set in the grim, ugly streets of New York’s seedy criminal underbelly, the titular undercover cop with nothing to lose dodges police, goons and bullets as he attempts to escape a web of violence and find the truth about the death of his loved ones.

Released in 2001 and developed by Remedy Entertainment, the game has aged remarkably well and remains a gritty and compelling shooter thanks to innovative gameplay and fantastic art direction. While some of the polygonal likenesses plastered onto the jaggy models don’t have quite the charm they did way back when, the photographs-as-textures still look good, along with the brilliant animations and particles that flash and pop throughout the game.

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Like a Monet, it all looks much better from farther away.

Muzzles flash, bolts twitch, hammers slam, bullets sear through the air and tear into walls that chip, wood that bursts, blood that splatters, and glass that shatters. Every weapon has a satisfying kick to it.

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Holes form everywhere, and bullet casings accumulate on the floor.

And, while the graphical prowess of the game has inevitably grown archaic, the real eye-catcher comes in the presentation of cutscenes.

Rather than risk their narrative through in-engine cinematics like Jedi Outcast and Grand Theft Auto III, Remedy saved time, money, and the story’s impact by presenting it in highly stylized graphic novel pages, riddled through with near-poetic and rock-hardboiled narration from the main character himself, as well as lovably grand and lovably bad voice acting provided by supporting cast.

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The abundant cutscenes dish out style and substance, taking cues from many hardboiled films and comics.

Throughout the game, Max is cynical, sarcastic, and all human, his reactions and emotions the product of danger, desperation, and rage, his quips and comments constant and charming as his boon-of-a-voice ponders and meditates through his journey down dingy tenements, brothels, gothic nighclubs and mafia manors, a trait that heavily defines the character and tone of the game even outside exposition.

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“When darkness fell, New York City became something else, any old Sinatra song notwisthstanding. Bad things happened in the night, on the streets of that other city. Noir York City.”

Unlike many other games that attempt a dark story, Max Payne accomplishes its attempt with extreme success, thanks to a mix of humor—like stumbling across mobsters sobbing over period soaps or discussing their favorite movie endings, hearing them hassle a malfunctioning soda machine, or whistling while using the toilet—and grimness. While captured, the man torturing Max introduces himself:

Pleased to meet ya. I’m Frankie ‘the bat’ Niagara.

‘Niagara, as in you cry a lot?’ He had a baseball bat, and I was tied to a chair. Pissing him off was the smart thing to do.”

The following frames have Max receiving a few fierce blows to the head.

The game drips with character, understanding the subtle balance between noir and schlock, leveling in at a wonderful mix of both. It’s highly quotable, obviously cheesy, but also genuine in every way that counts. It’s homage and also bona fide, John Woo and noir’s journey to hell combined, with references galore and dramatic zooms, shots and angles that pepper the action. To punctuate encounters the camera will sometimes zone in on the last enemy killed, allowing the player to keep shooting as the body trickles blood and falls limp, and when using the sniper rifle the camera becomes a POV, following the bullet’s course as it hits.

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“The word was out. A deadly virus released into the city’s corrupt circulatory system. Something wicked this way comes. Max Payne at large.”

Self aware, the game never backs away from being deadly serious, ponderous or funny. As Max puts it in one chapter:

“After Y2K, the end of the world had become a cliché. But who was I to talk, a brooding underdog avenger alone against an empire of evil out to right a grave injustice. Everything was subjective. There were only personal apocalypses. Nothing is a cliché when it’s happening to you.”

Story-wise, it also takes the player on a psychological ride through Max’s mind, an aforementioned personal apocalypse that dips and turns throughout each of the game’s chapters. His nightmares and hallucinations are creepy levels, his thoughts a whirling brew of trauma and depression.

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“Somewhere, the baby was crying.”

His nature unfolds through simple interactions and observations of the environment around him. Amongst flippable switches, flushable toilets and useable soda machines, important news broadcasts, notes and books on tables, computer monitors, photographs, instruments, and corpses, each eliciting a unique reaction, can catch Max’s attention.

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“I had just gotten my fifteen minutes of fame,” as the local news station comments on Max’s involvement in the death of a fellow DEA agent.

The gameplay is comprised of solid shooting—weapons follow some level of realism as bullets’ flight paths can be observed and dodged, prompting mobility during firefights. Max is fragile, but so are his enemies—a direct blast from a shotgun can insta-kill the hero, as well as a thug. Shots have to be led, forming a slight learning curve for players used to hitscan shooters or auto-aim, a curve highlighted by the lack of down-the-sights aiming and a single, pixel-wide white dot serving as a reticule.

However, to aid the player during impossibly hectic gunfights or sudden encounters, the player can slow down the action thanks to the game’s mechanical masterwork: bullet time, which allows the player to aim accurately or plan approaches, a power contained within a small hourglass near the player’s health that drains quickly and only refills with each enemy killed. Bullet time also allows Max to perform a “shoot dodge,” the classic side jump as guns blaze performed in many a classic shoot ‘em up movie.

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“Gognitti bailed. I made like Chow Yun Fat.”

Bullet time has to be saved and used wisely, though, prompting the player to react quickly and strategize, as the squishy Max and his inferiority in numbers makes each new area more dangerous than the last. He can eat some of the painkillers he finds along the way, but Max is in for a difficult quest.

The game’s a hard one; cover is everywhere, and weapons are always available, but enemies hold no punches, positioned anywhere they can and with the same guns you wield. To add to the chaos, the difficulty adjusts to the player’s skill, which can make certain situations unpredictable for the unprepared. Fast reactions, as well as clever use of audio cues and sound effects, are the bread and butter of Max Payne’s style, forcing the player to use everything they possibly can, especially their bullet time, to their advantage.

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“Turn around, walk away, blow town. That would have been the smart thing to do. I guess I wasn’t that smart.”

A few minor gripes do exist. The game’s weapons aren’t quite as balanced as they should be, and eventually the Colt rifle will practically replace every other gun in Max’s impossibly large collection. Occasionally, making jumps will be difficult during the odd platforming section, mostly due to Max’s proximity to the camera and his short, goofy hop. And, in some cases, patience will have to be learned by eager players who rush in blindly without checking corners or edges for sneakily placed enemies. However, the game is never unfair, and the gripes never rage-inducing, as the power of Max Payne is contained within its virtuoso execution of third-person action and its compelling story.

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“From now on I would always find time for her. It was a hollow promise. Too little, too late.”

If you want a game that’s wholly unique, even in today’s market saturated with black and white war simulators and angsty heroes, one that’s also unrelentingly packed with thrills and character, Max Payne is one of the best choices available. It’s a challenging game, and the writing is spectacular, sleek and mean. It stands as a blood-crusted ride alongside an anemic mind on a one-way trip for revenge, one setpiece at a time, through graffiti filled streets in a snowed-in city to burning buildings and metallic skyscrapers. And it’s hilarious, in a morbid sort of way. Play it on PC—the console ports are awfully dark and their controls are obtuse, and the Game Boy Advance version (which does, in fact, exist), while cute, cultures many problems that make it only a light snack to satiate a serious Payne hunger. Look for the dirt-cheap trilogy bundle on Steam during the holidays—the sequels are equally good, if not better, so there’s nothing to regret.

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“Colder than a walk-in fridge. Cold as a gun.”