Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11th - 17 years on.

Remembering LtGen Timothy Maude and the 124 military personnel, contractors and employees killed at the Pentagon on September 11th 2001.

The flag is unfurled on the west side of the Pentagon near the 911 Memorial at sunrise today.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

RIP General Newton

RIP General Newton (U.S. Army Ret.), a patron of the arts but was not a traditional art lover. He admitted while he didn't know the difference between a Picasso and a car crash, he just couldn't "stand the idea of a bunch of frenchies owning America's greatest painting".

General Newton was played by Burt Reynolds in Bean (1997) who died today at 82. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

First Play Review: Deus Ex: Invisible War

The 2003 sequel to the sublime Deus Ex is regarded by many PC gamers as a lacklustre shitty console port which shouldn't even be spoken in the same sentence as the original. However as it was a sequel to something I enjoyed, and I only paid €1.74 for it in a March 2016 sale I thought that it might have been worth a few hours.

The first bug I encountered was that my mouse wouldn't work on the menu screen. This would have been okay as one could still [arrow-key] + [Enter] around the main menu, but the problem is that it wasn't just the main menu but ALL in game menus as well and DX2 has several including inventory and a biomods screen that would be beyond frustrating. Among the half dozen fixes or workarounds for this bug, one is apparently reducing the Windows custom scaling resolution from 150% [in my case with a 28" 4K screen] to 149%. Barely noticeable when looking at the screen but apparently redefines the X/Y axis of the mouse enough for the game to detect it(?).

The next major bug was that the game would minimise to the desktop every time you transitioned to a new map. Now this would have been tolerable if it happened in Deus Ex as it's levels were quite large. Sadly the issue is extremely annoying for DX2 as due to the console constraints for the game (2003 consoles were woefully inferior to PCs of the age), the levels were only a fraction of the size and so transitions/loading were much more frequent and so this white screen/minimise to desktop issue would manifest itself every few minutes. The final straw was a crash as I was entering a nightclub and but when it crashed, my desktop resolution was set to the game's resolution (a maximum of 1080p or so) and it wouldn't allow me reset it back to normal until I actually restarted the computer! 

I found this situation untenable but a solution presented itself in the form of this mod created by an industrious individual called snobel who has done similar work for the Thief franchise. The Visible Upgrade mod fixed the resolution, mouse and the level transition issue as well as increased the visual fidelity to more than satisfactory standards. I had a fully working game and in 4K, huzzah!

Once the game could actually run it was grand. DX2 was developed by Ion Storm again but really for the the Xbox as opposed to the PC. It's not just the level size being smaller, it was many things including the whole 'simplification' of the inventory and biomod aspects (console players couldn't handle complex systems like those of Deus Ex), the complete removal of the skill tree making your 'Alex D' character just 'good at everything' paled in comparison to depth one could sculpt DX1's J.C. Denton and it's loss was significant, reducing the character to nothing but a generic protagonist. The control system was awkward and it was obvious that one of the Xbox 'sticks' selected weapons, while the other handled biomod abilities which could not be mapped beck to your DX1 control system but instead use the numeric keypad to activate. What a mess!

I felt combat overall was substandard for what's essentially an FPS. Weapons felt weak in comparison to other games of the time. Whomever had the idea to green-light the notion of using a single type of ammo for all weapons from a pistol to a rocket launcher was a complete moron because when you run out of ammo for one weapon - you run out for all your weapons! This must be the dumbest thing I've ever encountered in a game like this. At one point I had to replay a level using different tactics because in the end I was left fighting an ED209 type mech with a fucking sword! Also, I never got to use the sniper rifle because as I've mentioned before, the levels aren't big enough in length or height to ever require a sniper rifle. The default pistol would kill everything as accurately, it was silenced, and used less of the universal ammo. One could say the sniper rifle was a misfire (chuckle).

Thankfully the plot was more interesting than the gameplay, set 20 years after the Deus Ex, and the world is only beginning to recover from the catastrophic worldwide depression caused by the ending of the previous game. In the chaotic period of recovery, several religious and political factions see an opportunity to re-shape a worldwide government to their agendas, understanding that the right moves now could determine the shape of human society for decades- even centuries- to come. In this techno-nightmare, you play a part in the dark struggle to raise the world from its own ashes. I do think that the branching choices and storylines, while not up to RPG standards, are certainly a better employed device than in DX1 and you feel and see the consequences of your actions before one of four different endings are played out based on those choices. At 10 hours to complete its about a third of the size of it's predecessor, but this length is comparable to games at the time.

I choose a female Alex D because Laura Bailey is a much more recognisable name and voice to whomever Christopher Sabat is. That said, any voice would have been better to the monotonous drone of Jay Anthony Franke who put in an almost robotic performance as J.C. Denton in both games. I'll add that Alexander Brandon's score was superior here to the score he and Micheal Van Den Bos crafted for DX1, but by this time games were using high quality soundscapes, even if (as here) it was just keyboards and where afforded - orchestral scores.

Pros: Good story. Freedom of choice with regards to how it ends is superior to the original. Impressive soundscape and voice-acting.
Cons: Game is broken and looks shit today without user modification. Weak combat. A console game at heart.

Deus Ex: Invisible War is available from Steam @ €6.99 or GOG @ €8.09, but is frequently on sale for just €0.97!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Second star to the right... and to the left.

On August 25th, Brigadier General "Whopper" Creedon, assumed the duties of SPEARHEAD Deputy Commander for Global Security from Major General "Jäger" Brandt, who vacated the office following his retirement from the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces).

Air Commodore “Eagle Eyes” Carter of the RAF was appointed to replace Creedon as Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Information, a position the marine held for almost five years.

Before leaving SPEARHEAD HQ, Mount Olympus, Greece for the final time on Saturday, the former SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander General "Stomper" Santorno pinned a second star to Brigadier General Creedon promoting him to the United States Marine Corps grade of Major General. 

As a Deputy Commander, three Assistant Commanders, one each for Intelligence and Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and Suppression and Containment will now report to Major General Creedon.

Former SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander General "Stomper" Santorno USA (right) promotes SPEARHEAD Deputy Commander for Global Security Brigadier General "Whopper" Creedon USMC to Major General

Monday, September 03, 2018

SPEARHEAD change of command

Incoming SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander Gen. Sir "Knuckles" McKenzie (left) shakes hands with outgoing SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander Gen. "Stomper" Santorno at the SPEARHEAD Change of command ceremony at Mount Olympus, Greece, Saturday September 1st

After a series of unprecedented events in 2012 decimated UNPASID leadership and left UNETIDA in crisis; then-former U.S. Army Major General "Stomper" Santorno was taken out of retirement by President Obama and chosen to take the reigns of the troubled organisations due to his extensive experience with both. Now after six illustrious years of rebuilding and restructuring them into SPEARHEAD, it's first Supreme Commander is stepping down to make a second attempt at retirement.

British Army General Sir "Knuckles" McKenzie, KCB, CBE, DSO who served as SPEARHEADs Vice Commander since 2014 was tapped by the Security Council in 2017 as Santorno's successor. Gen. McKenzie gave a speech honouring the remarkable achievements of his predecessor.

General McKenzie: "Good morning lads n' lassies, n' those of ye who have nae decided what side of that fence yer on eh? Hah ha! We're 'ere today to mark the departure of a great man indeed. A giant in our field, General "Stomper" Santorno."


General McKenzie: "The general was the perfect choice to lead our former organisations UNPASID and UNETIDA. His experience began in 1982 when then-Captain Santorno's special operations team had an encounter with what was described in his report as "not alive, but nae dead either"."


General McKenzie: "From that moment on, his eyes to the hidden world all around us, that we keep from the general public, were opened. Later as an operations officer with Delta Force, Major Santorno was awarded the Silver Star fer rescuing his unit from what he later discovered were extra-terrestrials. Due to his experience and the fact he had been exposed to both vicious undead and a belligerent extra-terrestrial force, and lived, he was recruited into UNPASID to bolster their special operations group and where he supervised training and survival methods.

After taking part in the invasion of Panama and serving in Operation Desert Storm he returned to UNPASID as the Deputy Special Operations Commander until he was asked to serve as the military advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Paranormal Affairs. Lt. Colonel Santorno lent his considerable expertise, to UNETIDA as he then served as the agency's Deputy Special Operations Commander before serving stints as both UNPASID's and UNETIDA's Special Operations Commander after which he received his first star and assignment as UNETIDA's Deputy Director of Operations in 2000.

From 2002 to 2003, Brigadier General Santorno served as UNETIDA's Chief of Staff and later Deputy Director of UNPASID. Upon promotion to major general, he was made director of UNPASID a post in which he served with distinction until his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2007.

Rather than depopulate the fish of North American rivers or buy a boat, the general spent his "retirement" as the Extra-Terrestrial and Paranormal Activity Advisor to the National Security Council of the Bush administration. From 2009 until 2012 he served as both an Extra-Terrestrial and Paranormal Security Advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon in times of need.

In 2012 a time of even greater need was then upon us; we sadly lost Major General "Skullcrusher" Shaw in tragic circumstances and in light of the fact that all other senior ranking officers assigned to UNPASID died, went missing or were remanded in military custody, and UNETIDA itself was being scrutinised by a UN commission, it was proposed that a new commander be appointed to oversee both organisations simultaneously. There was only one name on the list. Major General "Stomper" Santorno. The general was taken out of retirement, pinned on a third star and given the mandate to oversee the organisations through their difficulties.

At the time, Lt. General Santorno assured us that despite what his appointment represented, it was his mandate that the missions and operations of each unit would be given the same attention that they have always deserved. He offered that while there would be some change, he hoped that the directorates could make those changes work fer the better to ensure the ultimate success of as he said "keeping the world safe from things it's not ready to believe in".

The man was true to his word, and just a year into his appointment, through his deeds he strengthened our position by overseeing the permanent amalgamation of UNPASID, UNETIDA and their forces and missions into SPEARHEAD. He raised the perceptions of the importance of the work we do to the politicians and lawmakers in the UN and around the world and secured massive international support and funding."


General McKenzie: "The importance of SPEARHEAD in the international military stage is evidenced by the elevation of his billet in 2015 to that of the highest military rank."


General McKenzie: "For which I'm personally thankful."


General McKenzie: "And the fact that as of this year I'm delighted to announce that every one of the the 193 countries in the United Nations is for the first time represented by a member of SPEARHEAD either in the military, scientific or in our many support fields somewhere in the world, or above it."


General McKenzie: "It's with great certainty that I can tell you we wouldn't be be where we are today without his guidance and that while honoured to be appointed as the SPEARHEAD Supreme Commander, I can only succeed General Santorno but cannae ever replace 'im."


General Santorno: "Thank you for your kind words General McKenzie, and congratulations on your well deserved appointment. I will try not to keep you folks too long, I know Knuckles is itching to work you to the bone. If there's anyone here who thought I was tough, you're in for a surprise let me tell you."


General Santorno: "When I retired eleven years ago the last thing I assumed I'd be doing would be standing here again, two stars and *ahem* more than two pounds heavier."


General Santorno: "No, I was in my mid-50's and was looking forward to the civilian phenomena of lie-ins in the morning and gardening. But after a week of that I had killed all my wife's beautiful plants and she begged me to go and find something less destructive to do with my time."


General Santorno: "So I did. For the next five years I assisted both President Bush and the Joint Chiefs with their understanding of the constantly evolving threats SPEARHEAD now deals with today. I was aware of the crisis that UNETIDA and UNPASID faced and when the offer was made to me to return to uniform to lend assistance and guidance, they didn't need to ask twice.

I'm grateful for the confidence shown me by my superiors in the U.S. Government and in the UNSC who enabled me to strengthen our organisation for the better and I'm thankful for the support of the many people here who helped me to get the job done. General McKenzie says that we may not be here without my guidance but that is only true because of the support, willingness and drive from each and every one of you. I especially wish to thank Colonel-General "Kóbec" Yurkov of the Russian Federation and his successor, now my own successor General "Knuckles" McKenzie of the British Army for serving as my second in command and representing SPEARHEAD when required.


General Santorno: In closing, I wish only to assure you that you will have extraordinary challenges ahead and I hope I have left you with an adequate base from which to meet those challenges head on, but from what I've seen from you all, that will certainly not be a problem.

Thank you and goodbye.


Saturday, September 01, 2018

McCain's memorial service

I was unable to attend Senator John McCain's memorial service today due to prior commitments but I wish to commend NBC who live streamed the event on Youtube.