Thursday, July 03, 2008

The 4th of JuLive:
This Independence Day celebrate in digital safety!

Ah, Independance Day. Unlike some cultures that sing and dance to celebrate the birth of their nations, we Americans do it right. We blow shit up.

It makes perfect sense, really. Look at our great National Anthem. "By the Rocket’s Red Glare, Bombs Bursting in Air...". While the rest of world celebrates their national holidays like a bunch of skipping pansies, we Americans remember the awesome whoop ass we had to lay out on our cousins from across the sea to gain our independence. We don’t sing Kumbayah or hold hands.

We... Blow... Shit... Up.

Unfortunately, blowing shit up is dangerous. Very dangerous. So how do you feed your demolitionist leanings and stay safe? How about Xbox Live?

Oh, sure, I know what you’re thinking- why stay inside on the Xbox when you could be out blowing shit up for real? I used to think like you. When I was a kid, I loved blowing shit up. Those were the good old days when firecrackers were illegal. My truck driving uncle never disappointed though. He’d smuggle some bricks of pure American firecracker fun back home to the Hoosier State and me and my cousins would celebrate in style. We would blow all kinds of shit up.

When I was a teenager though, I finally learned that blowing shit up could be dangerous. One day, after having run out of hotwheels, Army men, little frogs and everything else fun to blow up, my cuz and I really scraped the bottom of the barrel. The trash barrel. Where my uncle would burn trash. (they lived on a farm). There we found brown treasure- beer bottles blackened but intact. Previous experiments had shown that a firecracker dropped into a 16 oz glass coke bottle (yep, showing my age there) made a really cool noise. So we decided we would determine the tonal range of a Coors bottle.

Boom! The fire-weakened bottle exploded from the little firecracker- quite surprising considering these same firecrackers had done little more than sting our fingers when we didn’t time our throws right earlier in the day (I will, as a public service to parents everywhere, not divulge what we were flinging at or why).

Holy Crap! That was awesome, I thought in that first half-second of manic glee. Then a piece of glass hit me in the leg and my cousin, standing beside me, screamed and held a hand up to his face.

I spun in place, not looking at the incredibly f*cking painful spot on my leg I was sure was gushing blood, and panickedly asked my cousin if he was okay. Chills went up my spine as I envisioned the ass-whooping my dad would undoubtably be giving me when he learned I had put my cousin’s eye out. With a firecracker.

Thank God (thanks again Lord, I know it’s been years since I thanked you, but let me just reiterate my appreciation for your intervention that day) but Dan’s eye was intact. In fact, he wasn’t bleeding at all. He just had this bright red spot on his forehead that was causing him excruciating pain. I chanced a glance to my leg. Eureka! My bluejeans were intact. Even though my leg was stinging like crazy, I had avoided laceration. I was fragment proof! No glass in my leg, no glass in Dan’s forehead or eye!

From that day foreward, my love affair with explosives was tempered with caution. I am kind of accident prone after all, best to be careful and keep all my fingers. Unfortunately, cost of caution is the reduction of fun.

Then, years later, I got an Xbox 360.

Oh, the joy! Rainbow 6 Vegas, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Battlefield Bad Company. Thanks to these wonderful first person shooters, I can get my maximum bomb on, and keep myself, my loved ones, and my home intact.

It started in GRAW, when I discovered that all those cars parked in Mexico would explode in these beautifully rendered fireballs. From that day on, it was not uncommon for me to stop chasing bad guys to take out some rage on a parked car, or use up all my grenades long before reaching my objective.

Rainbow Six Vegas upped the ante. Not only did I have grenades I could fling at doors, blowing them off their hinges, but I could lay traps of C4, remotely detonating my little surprises and then watch the digital bodies go flying. Mwuhahahahaha!

Both GRAW2 and R6V2 upped the ante on their predecessors. GRAW2 features much improved graphics and R6V2 added these great rippling shock waves- compression of the air that radiates out from blasts. With my surround sound turned up, playing in HD, I could swear I feel the blasts in each game. Ubisoft also added more stuff to blow up in R6V2; my favorite is the grand piano from the Villa map- it makes this swell noise, like it’s been dropped by movers when you grenade it.

But the culmination of all your explosive wishes has got to be the destructible environment of Battlefield Bad Company. Not only can you blow up other players, or vehicles- now you can blow up buildings. Trees. Even the frickin’ ground. And not just with grenades and C4. You’ve got rocket launchers. You’ve got GPS-coordinated mortar strikes. You’ve got laser-guided, air dropped bombs! Bodies fly through the air. Craters form in the ground. Walls and roofs explode into debris clouds. Vehicles fly into the air and burst into flames.

Firecrackers? Bottle rockets? Please.

What could be more fun than spotting a bad guy hiding in a building, whipping out your GPS unit, targeting the building, then sitting back to watch mortar rounds fall from Xbox heaven to demolish house and enemy? Oh, sure sometimes the first volley doesn’t get them, but if you hide in a good spot, where you can’t be seen, you can do it again.

Not Boom-o-rific enough for you? Then try the laser-guidance system. You target an area with your super-sized binoculars and then you suddenly see the area from far above. A bomb appears, as though dropped by a plane. Using your controller, you get to steer that sucker in, hitting whatever you want at ground level. It packs such a big boom you can take a tank out with one hit.

This fourth of July I’ll go outside and set off some sparkler cones and roman candles for the kids. Maybe some noise makers. But come midnight I’ll be down in front of the HDTV, unleashing some Rocket’s Red Glare on the Battlefield.

No igniter required.

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