Past Entertainment Articles.
Article for the week of 6/21/07
Dateline Hollywood, California….
In a shocking move Paris Hilton has declared her intentions to run for President of the United States.
Dressed in the bright, Day-Glo Orange jumpsuit of the Los Angeles County correctional system, Miss Hilton announced. "If Ronald Reagan could get elected President so can I."
When asked why she decided to run for president, Miss Hilton responded. "Given my latest ordeal I've realized that it's time to make a difference. When I'm elected I plan to make laws more lenient for actors and actresses. Because we're public figures we get all the scrutiny," she lamented.
"Take poor Mr. Baldwin. Poor Alec was persecuted by the media for reprimanding his daughter. The girl only embarrassed her father. It's truly a shame the way they deal with us entertainers. We break our backs making movies and records, and what thanks do we get? None! The right wing media paints us as monsters when we try to help those less fortunate than us. It's disgraceful!"
The prison matron interrupted our interview at that point as our thirty minutes was up. Miss Hilton managed to shout the name of her fundraising group as the guards, drug her struggling from the visiting area.
The Stars Over America Group is raising money for Miss Hilton's fine as well as her campaign. They feel that the judge was unfair in his ruling. If you also feel that entertainers are being treated unfairly, you can send aid to the Paris Hilton For President fund. Any donation will be accepted, however a donation of ten thousand dollars or more is preferred.
Their campaign ad can be found at www.parisforpresident.org. When I visited the site a large image of the Eiffel Tower appeared, and was quickly replaced by a video image of Miss Hilton standing in squalid conditions. The video shows several entertainers living in wretched conditions. With barely enough to eat, peeling paint, and ragged clothing. For all intents and purposes it looks as though all entertainers live in third world countries. It would appear from her "Let's save the entertainers" slogan and the video, that Miss Hilton is serious.
We'll have more news as the election year progresses.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl
By, Eric Allen
Take two parts Half Life 2, one part The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and mix in a large bowl with a pinch of Fallout. Bake at 350 for thirty minutes until golden brown or strange mutants start nibbling at your face. This, in brief, is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.
First a little history: at 1:23 A.M. on 26 April 1986, an operating mistake ran headlong into a scheduled test at the V. I. Lenin Memorial Nuclear Power Station (a.k.a. the Chernobyl power plant) in what is now the Ukraine. The result was a worst-case scenario nuclear meltdown of Reactor 4, resulting in an explosion that lifted the roof off the reactor and prompted the immediate evacuation of everyone within a 30 km radius of the power plant (more than 160,000 people, including the entire city of Pripyat). Despite the quick reaction by the Soviet government and the rapid safety measures taken in the disaster’s wake, the political and financial ramifications were immense.
In the game world of STALKER, a second much more mysterious incident, also emanating from Reactor 4 and powerful enough to breach the concrete sarcophagus built following the 1986 disaster, rocked Chernobyl in April of 2006. The result was the Zone, a contaminated area surrounding Chernobyl and filled with areas of high radioactivity, strange “anomalies,” weird mutated life, and the people who explore and inhabit the Zone—the Stalkers.
The game takes place in the near-future, somewhere around 2012, after the Zone has been well-established. You play as the “Marked One,” a Stalker who, conveniently enough, wakes up on the outskirts of the Zone with a bad case of amnesia and a PDA flashing a single mission: “Kill Strelock.” What you do then is up to you.
The area of the Zone in which the game takes place is broken into various “levels.” Each level is relatively self-contained and connected to other levels at certain points. You are free to explore within the levels and can wander freely. The size of the levels and the degree of freedom offered varies, but in general you can go about things in your own way and at your own pace.
Wandering around does involve an element of risk. The Zone is not a safe place to hang out. Unfriendly Stalkers will shoot first and ask questions never. Bizarre mutants will want to claw your face off. Some areas are made practically impassible by high radioactivity (counteracted by anti-rad medication or vodka—I’m not kidding. And chugging vodka will actually get your character drunk, causing vision to blur and sway). And then there’s the “anomalies,” weird after-effects of the Incident. There are different types of anomalies, which do different things. Some give a huge jolt of electricity, some suck everything around them and crush it like some sort of gravity well, and others lift you up and spin you around like a miniature deadly tornado. Sure they’re unrealistic and kind of cheesy, but they do mean you have to watch where you step. However, a side-effect of the anomalies is the “artifacts,” odd glowing lumps spit out by anomalies. These artifacts are apparently what drew the Stalkers to the Zone in the first place—they fetch a high price, and you can spend a good part of the game searching them out and selling them. Artifacts, when equipped on your person, also will affect your character, generally giving you a little boost while detracting from something else. For example, an artifact may impart a slight resistance to a particular type of damage while simultaneously making you slightly more susceptible to another type, or it may boost your maximum health while making you slightly more susceptible to certain kinds of damage. You can have up to five artifacts equipped at any time, so you can mix and match effects, often counteracting the negative effects of one with the positive effects of another.
As far as gameplay goes, first and foremost, STALKER is a first-person shooter. Combat is frequent and fierce. Even on easy difficulty, the player will die frequently (so remember to save your game often), but it is not overly difficult, and with some patience any enemy, or group of enemies, can be defeated. The game does include some RPG elements as well. Your character needs to eat every so often or risk starving to death. You follow the “main quest” but can go about it at your own pace. You can take on side quests from NPCs to get some extra loot. Most weapons can be “upgraded” with silencers, scopes, or grenade launchers. Scripted events are usually only semi-scripted, and though two different play-throughs may start the event the same way, they can diverge quickly.
Far from feeling tacked-on, the storyline is actually quite engaging. There are even multiple possible endings (exactly how many I’m not sure, but through experimentation, I’ve found three of them).
The A.I., though certainly not flawless and still capable of being exploited, is quite impressive. Enemy Stalkers will run for the nearest cover as soon as they detect your presence and continue to fight using cover and flanking maneuvers. Taking on a band of heavily-armed Monolith grunts without cover of your own and good situational awareness is a recipe to get an assault rifle blast to the side of the head. The animals which inhabit the Zone are active at particular times of day, and their behavior changes based on whether they are feeling territorial, scared, or hungry. Woe be to the careless Stalker who strays into known pseudodog hunting-grounds at night—those glowing eyes may be the last thing you see, but a pack of territorial mutant boar will likely turn and flee if you pump a few bullets into one of them.
The graphics are impressive and delightfully atmospheric. System requirements are heavy. My computer (3.2 Ghz Pentium 4, 1.5 GB RAM, and a GeForce 7800 GS OC video card) can run the game reliably and smoothly at around low-middle graphics settings, and it looks amazing. The weather changes dynamically, with clear skies, rolling clouds, light drizzles, heavy thunderstorms, and winds all coming and going and blending together seamlessly. Night even follows day on an accelerated cycle, bringing with it its own challenges.
There is a multiplayer mode, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, and a capture-the-flag variant where the “flag” is an artifact you need to try and get back to your base. I have not had the opportunity to try out the multiplayer aspect of the game yet, but I suspect it will be sneaky, stealthy, and deadly.
The Good: Excellent graphics. Challenging A.I. Weather and day/night cycles. Wonderful atmosphere.
The Bad: Still a little linear. Needs a beefy computer. The map can be a bit counterintuitive.
The Ugly: Not quite a free-ranging Half Life 2, and not quite Oblivion with guns. Very enjoyable and delightfully creepy at times. What you get out of the game depends on what you put in. You can rush through the main campaign and get to the end as quick as possible, or you can take your time and really explore the Zone. There is an element of replayability, as there are many side quests and a large amount of land to explore. Just doing the main quest line, you will not see all of the Zone. Some areas of the map look like levels which I never got to explore. Maybe I missed them somehow, or maybe it’s expansion pack or future downloadable material.
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