Borderlands spinoff sets high bar

BY SAMUEL GUGLIELMO
Features Editor

Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on a PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.

When “Tales From the Borderlands” was first announced, it was one of those things that most people weren’t sure what to make of. Some people thought it was an early April fool’s joke, others were convinced it would be a misstep for what was one of the most popular developers. “Tales From the Borderlands” manages to be neither, instead being one of the best games Telltale has ever put out.

Story

“Tales From the Borderlands” follows two different characters: Hyperion lackey Rhys, and con artist Fiona. Rhys is trying to get promoted to the head of Hyperion while Fiona is trying to make the biggest heist of her career. The two’s paths collide when a heist goes wrong and they lose $10 million. What starts as a simple job of getting money back from bandits becomes a rather complicated affair involving another vault, vault hunters, and fighting the entirety of Hyperion itself.

Like with most Telltale games, the story is the most important part, and the characters are where it shines the brightest. Each character, from the minor one scene background characters to the major main characters, kept me far more entertained than I thought they would. Characters from previous Borderlands games show up as well, and each of them are fleshed out in more interesting ways. Zer0 showing up during the first chapter was great, and Athena is probably going to be a favorite after this.

Like most Telltale games, “Tales From the Borderlands” suffers from the fourth episode curse, where the fourth episode is the weakest of the bunch. It has some good scenes, the ending is great and the “step three” part is going to be a real surprise to anyone playing, but the rest of the episode falls short. It’s hilarious and entertaining, but it doesn’t really move the plot forward much. It’s not a deal breaker, but it a bit disappointing to see.

Presentation

While the game uses Telltale’s signature engine, “Tales From the Borderlands” does have a “Borderlands” art style backing it up. Everything looks kind of nice, but nothing particularly stands out. Each episode starts with it’s own song, and Telltale seems to have gone out of it’s way to make some particularly great choices: I loved listening to Jungle’s “Busy Earnin'” in the first episode, and James Blake’s “Retrograde” is a particularly amazing song. Of the six songs that played in the game, five of them ended up on my iPod. The other one was already on it.

Accompanying the amazing music is particularly great voice acting. Troy Baker and Laura Baily play Rhys and Fiona with some particularly amazing talent. Nolan North is always fun, and it’s nice seeing him break out of his usual roles as bandit August. Dameon Clarke returns as Handsome Jack and there’s little more that needs to be said about that: he’s still completely perfect for that role.

“Tales From the Borderlands” unfortunately suffers from problems that a lot of Telltale games suffer from. At one point I had Rhys saying two different things at the same time, characters would snap to different animations, audio would cut out, subtitles would break, and the game has framerate issues. Usually I’m forgiving on a lot of these things, but they’ve been problems for so long that I’m wondering when Telltale is going to get around to fixing them.

Gameplay

“Tales From the Borderlands” doesn’t do anything to really change the Telltale formula. Most of the game was spent walking around, having conversations with characters, picking dialogue options, and the occasional quick time event for the combat. Most of it works well enough and I never had a problem with quick time events failing to register like I had with some past Telltale games (I’m looking at you, “Walking Dead: Season 2”).

Conversations with characters often gave four choices and a limited time to make those choices. While the story will eventually follow the same general path no matter what you do, each dialog option can change little things about the story. For example, a decision in episode two determines how the characters escape a situation they’re trapped in. While the same characters will always get out, one decision will leave one paralyzed for a good chunk of the next episode while the other sees you gaining a new, though incredibly stupid, robot buddy.

So despite everyone having a similar plot, your decisions do change little things. The last episode does come around to making all the decisions matter in an interesting way, and also changes up the Telltale fighting formula just a little bit by adding in arcade fighting game styled quick time events. You’ll feel right at home if you’ve ever tried to throw a Hadoken.

Conclusion

“Tales From the Borderlands” doesn’t improve the gameplay of past Telltale games in any significant way other than making sure it works (which, after 3 years, shouldn’t really be seen as an achievement). Yet, it tells such a heartwarming and hilarious story that I’m more than willing to give this a pass. Die hard “Borderlands” fans or just casual acquaintances with the universe should be entertained and impressed with “Tales from the Borderlands.” Anyone looking for the best of what Telltale has to offer should pick this up.

Sony resurrects classics

BY SAMUEL GUGLIELMO
Features Editor

On Oct 26, 2000, Sony launched the PlayStation 2 in the United States. During its nearly 13 year production cycle – Sony didn’t stop making PS2s until 2013 – the PlayStation 2 went on to become the highest selling video game console of all time, with its final total of 155 million consoles sold still not having been surpassed to this date. Besides this, many popular franchises either got their start on, or saw new entries on, the PlayStation 2.

Yet this was years ago, and the current console is the PlayStation 4. You can’t just pop a PlayStation 2 game in, as it won’t work. It seems we’re being met half-way though, as Sony surprises us with the new PlayStation 2 classic section.

Not originally announced by Sony, the feature originally only became available to a select group of people on Nov 17, 2015. To celebrate the launch of “Star Wars: Battlefront,” Sony released a special PlayStation 4 bundled with that game and a “Star Wars” classic game collection. Three of the classic games were PlayStation 2 games, including “Star Wars: Bounty Hunter,” “Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter,” and “Star Wars: Racer Revenge.” While Sony said nothing about it, independent tests were strongly suspicious that the games were being emulated rather than remastered. Sure enough, a few days later Sony quietly confirmed that the games were indeed being emulated, and that more information would come soon.

Soon turned out to be Dec 4, 2015, when Sony finally announced that PlayStation 2 emulation would be coming to the PlayStation 4. The games aren’t altered significantly from their original form. The resolution is bumped up to 1080p, trophies have been added, and the games can make use of PlayStation 4 features like Remote Play and streaming. Most importantly they were coming soon. Really soon. As in now.

Launching with eight games, Sony picked a rather interesting bunch to lead the pack. All three PlayStation 2 “Grand Theft Auto” games were included, along with popular car combat game “Twisted Metal: Black.” For the other four games, Sony went with some more obscure choices. Role playing games “Dark Cloud” and “Rogue Galaxy” were very well received when they came out, even if they didn’t quite sell well. Action-adventure game “The Mark of Kri” was in the same boat. Finally, the fighting game “War of the Monsters” wasn’t quite as well received as the other games but does have its cult following.

Since the program has launched, a total of 15 games have been re-released. Besides the eight launched games and the three “Star Wars” games, Sony has mostly dug into more obscure games since. The most popular was probably rhythm/rapping game “PaRappa the Rapper 2.” Also included was “Dark Cloud 2,” “Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits,” and “FantaVision.” Only two more games are currently confirmed to be coming to the program, these being cult classic platformer “Psychonauts” and fighting game “The King of Fighters 2000.”

There is a bit of controversy around the program. With only 17 games total, the program isn’t even close to getting some of the biggest classics from the PlayStation 2 era. This also isn’t the first time Sony has launched a PlayStation 2 classics program, with the PlayStation 3 having something similar only without the bump up in resolution and trophies provided by the PlayStation 4. For some reason if you bought one of the games on the PlayStation 3 then you’ll have to rebuy it on the PlayStation 4, something that is one of the biggest critiques of the program. Speaking of rebuying, some people feel the prices of the games are a little too high. With the games hovering around the $10-$15 mark, it may seem a little strange to sell a piece of software nearly 16 years old for that price.

Yet there can definitely be some positives from this program as well. Companies can use these games to judge how much interest there is in a classic series and determine how much people want a potential sequel. Games that may not have been successful their first run around now have a cheap and easy way to get one more shot. Plus, there’s just a lot of good games on the PlayStation 2, and a chance to replay them or experience them for the first time is well worth it.

There’s still thousands of games on the PlayStation 2 that could use another shot at life. With the recent surprise announcement of “Ace Combat 7”, I personally would love to see “Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War” show up. Got a PlayStation 2 classic you’d want to replay? Let us know at Youngtownedition@gmail.com

Legacy Project takes trip to prison

BY DEREK ALLEN
Editor-in-Chief

For the past three academic years, the Legacy Project has showcased a multitude of perspectives through various guest speakers.

From civil rights issue to the exiled King of Tibet the speakers were meant to be as engaging as they are diverse. Last semester’s topic was genocide, and this year the Legacy Project is spending some time behind bars.

This event’s keynote speaker will be Glenn E. Martin, founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), an advocacy group aiming to cut the United States’ incarcerated  population in half by 2030.

“We are eager for Glenn Martin to bring his expertise and passion for this Legacy

Project topic to campus,” said Professor Emily Birx, co-chair of the Legacy Project. “The state of

this country’s correctional system is a highly debated subject.”

Professor John Soltes, co-chair of the Legacy Project, said Martin will most likely talk about the future of his advocacy goals with a personal perspective. Martin, himself, has spent six years in prison.

According to a statement from justleadershipusa.org, “Americans across the political spectrum are coming to terms with the reality that our current rates of incarceration are too costly, ineffective, and unsustainable… Problems like mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness are better addressed through comprehensive community based social services and interventions that cost less and yield greater results.”

Apart from the JLUSA, Martin has been involved in the Fortune Society, a re-entry organization devoted to helping former prisoners as well as the Inside Out Coalition, a group working to remove barriers to higher education prisoners face both in and out of prison.

“He speaks to all types of audiences,” said Soltes. “He’s an activist but he also talks to law enforcement as well. I think he’s very realistic in what he’s trying to accomplish.”

The event takes place at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb 11 in the Student Community Center, Davidson Rooms.

Martin speaking will mark the eighth Legacy Project event. The Legacy Project was started at CCM to provide scholastic opportunities for students outside of the traditional classroom setting. The goal of the project is to highlight a particular movement, time period or influential person during each semester’s event. The group hopes that the project will draw outside speakers to the campus who can bring their talents and perspectives to students and faculty.

“Our thought is to simply be engaging, and we always talk about context,” said Soltes. “So students can see that these big issues, some of them historical and some of them not so much, have a context in their life.”

The future of the Legacy Project is looking towards the presidential race. For the fall 2016 semester, the project is looking to feature representatives of nominee beliefs, as well as a speaker on disengaged voters to talk about voter apathy.

Another topic that may be chosen for future Legacy Projects is the issue of drugs in America.

“The topic would be chosen for the war on drugs, which a lot of people say is failing in many ways. And also the ongoing debate about legalization of some drugs for medicinal or recreational use,” Soltes said.  “It’s a big issue.”

Soltes said the topic of prison reform and the war on drugs were popular when student surveys were done last year.

Grease lightning only strikes some

BY VICTORIA PIGNATELLI AND LAURA CALDERON
Entertainment Editors

On Sunday, Jan 31, nationwide audiences tuned into Fox Network’s live adaptation of the renowned film and Broadway production, “Grease.”

For the past three years, NBC has provided the general public with live televised musicals, beginning with 2013’s “Sound of Music.”

For those that did tune in, many were confounded when the Fox adaptation omitted some unforgettable moments that the 1978 cinema classic made audiences love.

The scope of the production was wide and ambitious, covering several detailed sets and incorporating a live audience. Although the production was large and flashy with style and finesse, it seemed to collapse under its own weight, having taken on such a legendary stage and screen play like “Grease.”

“I felt like they didn’t have the right attitude to play those legendary characters, like the original film cast did,” said Sarah Bumiller, a history education major at the County College of Morris. “I liked Aaron Tveit a lot, but he just wasn’t Danny Zuko.”

The production fell short of expectations held by viewers who had seen “Grease” previously. Some felt it was misleading and confusing due to the changes in story order and continuity within the new production. Songs and scenes were readjusted due to stage adaptation, and concerns over the length of the production as a whole.

“TV musicals are an abomination of the small screen,” said Gerald Neely, a history major at CCM. “Fox shouldn’t have their hands on anything; it usually ends up terrible.”

Between the singing, shoddy sound editing and shaky live camera, “Grease: Live!” suffered many pitfalls of its large cast and crew.

Several cast members playing the main characters (like Danny, Sandy and Rizzo) did have prior singing and acting experience, but because of the live element of the telecast, these experienced players seemed to have fallen short of expectations. Julianne Hough, a well known professional dancer, known from her “Dancing with the Stars” fame, actually fell during one of the most important dance numbers of the musical. Whether it was nerves or miscommunication with her partner, it certainly had an impact on that scene in particular.

Aside from mistakes, the ensemble as a whole seemed to be mismatched and lacking a certain charisma that other ensembles of “Grease” casts have had in the past. The live audience aspect was troubling to the setting, as many members of the audience were dressed in modern attire, throwing off the believability of the 1950’s setting.

“I love ‘Grease,’ and personally I feel that the modernization of the movie ruined the plot as a whole,” said Valerie Evans, a hospitality major at CCM. “Mario Lopez and Joe Jonas were great to see, but I thought their appearances took away from the show as a whole.”

Despite several disappointing moments in the live telecast, the event did have some redeeming parts. Didi Conn, the actress that originated the role of Frenchie in the 1978 film made a cameo role, which thrilled many viewers that knew her from the original film. Also, the inclusion of a few songs from the Broadway adaptation was a delight to some older audiences, as those songs have been largely forgotten about when “Grease” is thought of.

“I loved ‘Grease,’ I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I would,” said Kristen Urban, communications major at CCM. “I hope the networks make more musicals for television in years to come. They’ve been really great and only get better.”

 

CCM students wrestle with major decision

BY NATASHA GRIFFITH
Contributor

 

Many students at the County College of Morris are uncertain about what they want to declare as their major. To some, picking a major is the same thing as trying to decide what career they will have for the rest of their lives. Because of this, some people end up having to change their majors multiple times, resulting in an extension on their graduation date and being forced to spend more money. Most students at CCM, and at other colleges, tend to pick their major based on what they’re most passionate about or what they excel at the most. Sometimes, a student can have too many interests which can lead to trouble picking just one concentration.

“I have so many interests that I often find it difficult to pick just one major,” said Megan McCevoy, a liberal arts major at CCM. “I might just have to settle with human resources since I’m really good at customer service.”

On the other hand, with jobs being so plentiful in the math and science fields, some college students tend to pick their majors based on the probability of being hired immediately after graduation.

“I have always been a people person, I do love helping people,” said Heather Sommers, a nursing student at CCM. “But I also decided to get a nursing degree because there will always be a demand for nurses. I want a secure job after college.”

The majority of the student population at CCM tends to be in their early twenties, so this is a common problem on campus because it can be difficult for people that age to decide the trajectory of their lives. This uncertainty can cause people to change their minds constantly, thus increasing the time it takes to graduate with a degree.

“I’m not entirely sure what I want to do after [college], which is why I’m a liberal arts major,” said Spyridoula Fotinis, a liberal arts major at CCM. “But I do know that I want to travel or do something with the United Nations, so I’ll probably end up majoring in international studies.”

Because some of the students are uncertain about what they want to obtain their degree in, it starts to become an exorbitant expense. College is not cheap, and some people end up having to take out loans or apply for financial aid.

“In a way, it’s almost a little risky trying to choose a major,” Fotinis said. “You’re spending so much money in getting an education and you can’t always be sure that you will get a job in your field.” Another fear that many students have is investing a lot of money in their college courses and, after four years, ending up with a large amount of debt and a job that they could have had even without a degree.

“I love drawing and painting and art in general,” Sommers said. “But I don’t want to become a ‘starving artist.’ I’m scared that I will end up in debt and be unable to pay it off if I get a low paying job.”

Clean water hard to come by for undocumented citizens, minorities

BY SANDRA RIANO
Senior Opinion Editor

 

It is highly unlikely anyone would want to bathe in, much less drink water from a river nicknamed “General Motors Sewer.”

It also wouldn’t be surprising a water supply with such a moniker contained high levels of lead.

Unfortunately, this is the fate that residents of Flint, Michigan faced. In 2014, state officials switched Flint’s water supply from the freshwater of Lake Huron to the Flint River in order to save $15 million and balance the budget until its new water pipeline was built. Soon residents began to notice the difference not only in the color and smell of the water but of the effects it was having on their bodies and on their children. Many residents reported hair loss, skin rashes and other ailments often caused by lead poisoning.

 

Up until this point it was a salvageable situation; fix the water source and treat those affected. But that’s not what happened. It took more than a year for any official institution to acknowledge that the ailments Flint residents were reporting were directly tied to the poisoned water. In an attempt to fix an E. coli outbreak, officials added chlorine to the water supply, which only exacerbated the issue. Even the General Motors factory in Flint switched their water source from the Flint River to a nearby township because Flint’s water was corroding their car parts.

 

In a never ending example of bad public administration, the state was caught lying about the use of a corrosion control system which could’ve prevented the escalation of this crisis. The system was not in place and would’ve only cost the city $100 a day. In some instances, there are blatant attempts to cover up the city’s wrongdoing through fabricated water testing results and omission of incriminating results. One home which tested for 397 ppb (parts per billion) of lead. The federal action level of lead in water is 15 ppb. Resident complaints throughout this crisis were ignored at all levels of government. This tragedy of errors is less about the origin of the crisis but the government’s response, or lack thereof.

 

This issue is also a case of environmental racism, which is loosely defined as “the placement of low-income or minority communities in proximity of environmentally hazardous or degraded environments.” Flint is 65 percent non-white and 41 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Often, environmental racism attacks communities of color because they often lack political muscle to fight back. Many have stated that a crisis of this level would have never played out to this degree in an upper middle class, white neighborhood. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a statement, “Because clean air and clean water are basic human rights…our rights shouldn’t change between ZIP codes.”

 

Another, more subtle form of discrimination went on throughout this crisis. It dealt with water stations requiring a valid ID. Undocumented immigrants with no access to valid ID’s were left with significantly less options for finding clean water. Deliveries of water and supplies at doorsteps were ignored by undocumented immigrants due to constant fear of deportation raids. These immigrants did not speak to strangers and many didn’t know about the lead in the water until family members from other parts of the country told them after it became a national story.

 

It is assumed that all residents of Flint, over 100,000 people, have been exposed to this contaminated water. The water was switched back to Lake Huron water last October but the damages caused to residents has been done. Many children were unknowingly exposed to undrinkable water during key development stages and it may lead to severe and irreversible neurological problems. It is unknown to what extent this will affect the resident’s overall health, but it will become clear within the next few years just how many lives have been ruined by this water.

CCM students want more options for play

BY KELLY BROWN
Contributor

Sports are big business, drawing interest and ratings on an international level. Whether it be local little league or a huge NFL game, athletic competition typically stirs up excitement from fans. Many universities build school spirit on the backs of a strong athletic department. But here at the County College of Morris, the athletic program offerings have received mixed reviews from students.  

Ian Dworak, a liberal arts major at CCM, said he feels excluded from the athletic department due to its lack of variety in sports programs that are offered. As a former swimmer for his high school team, Dworak feels that the department needs to establish more programs for students in order to increase athletic engagement on campus.

“They have a pool but not a swim team, and I know so many people that would join a swim team if they made one,” said Dworak. “A swim program would give students another opportunity to join a team and make new friends.”

Currently, CCM offers baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, golf, men’s and women’s basketball, lacrosse, and women’s volleyball. But as Dworak mentioned, no swim team.  

“Being a student athlete is important because it forces students to manage their time and stay in shape by doing something they love,” said Dworak.

Dworak said he feels that schools that are highly engaged in athletics have a more tight-knit community, and that competition and school pride bring people together. And CCM Athletic Director Jack Sullivan agrees with Dworak. But Sullivan is also privy to the logistics of making that happen.

“Swimming We have a pool. Makes sense,” said Sullivan. “There’s nobody to compete against in our region. We’d have to travel to other states to compete.”

Adding programs would be an uphill battle, Sullivan said, as sport programs such as hockey were recently cut. But Sullivan did say there was possibility of a new team if there was a large enough number of students to support it. Any student at CCM has the option to start a club team as well, which would follow the eligibility standards of clubs rather than athletic teams. The first action that one should take in to do this is talking to the Office of Campus Life.

Eder Rivera, a business major, is one student who had the pleasure of making friends and bonding with students like himself through his experience on CCM’s Baseball team. After high school, Rivera was on the radar for multiple NCAA Division I colleges as a first and third baseman, but his GPA didn’t meet NCAA regulations, making him ineligible to play. Playing baseball at CCM brought Rivera to a new level of competition for a sport he had always excelled in, and motivated him to do better both on the field and in the classroom.

“I learned a lot about what it takes to be a college athlete,” said Rivera.“I altered my schedule to all 8 a.m. classes so that I would make practice times. You have to sacrifice a lot of different things to play at the college level.”

Rivera said that players at the junior college level provide stiff competition; he finds that students at two-year schools have to work harder than those at four-year colleges because they are the players that have something to prove. They want to stand out to gain recognition for their abilities. He specifically wanted to prove to recruiters that he was ready to play for a university team.

“You’re the players everyone looked over,” said Rivera. “But even the mediocre teams at this level will beat you if you slack off.”

During the last season, three players in the same junior college division as CCM, Region XIX, were drafted for major league teams. They came from a team that CCM only lost to by three points.

“At one point we were ranked nationally, and that’s a great feeling because you practice for this everyday and spend late nights with your team,” said Rivera.

One member of the girls volleyball team, who requested anonimity said that she felt the school could have done more to promote their matches and provide them with equipment comparable to the teams they played. Sullivan said he doesn’t consider the students concerns criticism.

“I don’t take it as criticism; I take it as recommendations,” said Sullivan. “So I would say, ‘okay we will do more to advertise.’”

Sullivan said that CCM has put up four new panels in the Fitness Center and will install TVs near the gymnasium and in the study lounge. All of these will display upcoming athletic events once hard wired to computers.

Sullivan said that his door is always open to students.

“Come to me, ask me,” said Sullivan when he heard about these complains.

Again, when it comes to the logistics of some of the equipment issues, and the shoes for the volleyball team, Sullivan said it wasn’t as simple as a lack of support.

“We don’t get into shoes; there’s a reason for that. The way the college operates, we had issues when they first got here that if we had to return them, it would make everything difficult. Sizing would be difficult. It just became very cumbersome to get shoes, but no one’s ever come to me and said since we stopped doing shoes that, ‘we want shoes,’” Sullivan said. “No one’s ever said that, because everyone likes to get their own.”

Students at CCM have the option of making change if they choose to do so, but it will require a little leg work. And it could all start by simply opening the lines of communication.  

“Call me, e-mail me, come talk to me,” Sullivan said.