Halo 4 Trailer!

A new series of trailers have been making the rounds lately, designed purely to get gamers salivating! After many years, it seems that Halo will be releasing a fourth installment in its ongoing series, one which promises some changes and new challenges. The first trailer premiered at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (aka. E3) back in June of this year and previewed the new game’s storyline. The second trailer, titled “Scanner” was released just this month and offers some additional clues as to what the game will be about.

Basically, it is four years since the Earth-Covenant War ended, and the UNSC has once again began colonizing new worlds. However, the maiden voyage of the “Infinity” is interrupted when some mysterious force teleports it to a distant world. Once again, the Master Sergeant is called in to investigate and kick some ass, but get’s captured along the way. The new enemy, some “Ancient Evil” as the trailer suggests, appears to be Forerunner in nature. They have awakened from several thousand years of sleep and are out to protect the Galaxy from the scourge that is humanity. Bummer…

Official release date is Nov. 6th, 2012, for those gamers who don’t already know. Enjoy the trailers!

*Sidenote: I also managed to find a third trailer over at the IGN website, but unfortanately, it won’t let me embed it here. However, some additional clues were provided there – particularly the identity of the new enemy – and I have included them here. You’re welcome 😉


More Cool Guns!

This post is a follow-up to one I did awhile back, one which featured weapons from the sci-fi universe. At the time, I really wasn’t planning on doing a follow-up. However, since I began writing about existing weapons that just happen to look like something out of sci-fi, I happened to find some more that really were. So here they are, in alphabetical order!

Auto 9:
Robocop_gunOtherwise known as the Robocop gun, the Auto 9 was fashioned out of attaching a frontal assembly to a standard Berretta 93R. This variant of the 9mm pistol is famous for being the automatic version which can fire full auto or in three round bursts. Special vents at the front made for a cooler dispersal of the flames coming out of the barrel.

One look at the handle will also tell you that this model was fitted with an extra-long magazine to ensure that Peter Weller/Robocop had plenty of ammo to take down his enemies. Rarely, if ever, was he to be seen reloading this cannon in the course of his movies!

C-14 Impaler:
C14Hello Starcraft universe! Here we have the Terran rifle that comes standard with marines serving in the Confederate and Dominion forces. As a Gauss rifle, this weapon is not a gun in the traditional sense, but an electromagnetic gun that hurls 8mm projectiles (known as “spikes”) at hypersonic speeds.

Though it is capable of firing up to 30 rounds a minute, the Impaler comes with a built-in capacitor system which restricts fire to short bursts to conserve ammo and power. It also comes with a variety of ammo, giving the average marine the ability to kick all kinds of ass.

Lasgun (Warhammer 40k):
Warhammer_LasgunsNot to be confused with the Lasguns of the Dune universe, even though the principle is the same. A directed energy weapon, it is used by all the military forces within the Imperium of Man, making it the most common energy weapon in the galaxy.

Though comparatively simple next to many Warhammer weapons, this weapon is still extremely effective. In addition to being capable of severing limbs, it is even able to penetrate the Power Armour of a Space Marine.

M6 Nonlinear Rifle:
Halo_Reach_-_Model_8_SP_LaserAlso known as the Spartan Laser, this portable and vehicle-mounted rifle is the only directed energy weapon in service with the USNC. As part of Project GUNGNIR, a program designed to provide supplemental material to the Spartans, this weapon was designed to be part of the MJOLNIR powered assault armor.

Making its first appearance in Halo: Reach, this weapon is devastating to infantry and most vehicles at any range. Unfortunately, the expense of building and maintaining them makes them somewhat impractical compared to other UNSC weapons.

RBS-80 Pulse Gun
RBS-80This baby comes highly recommended by both sides of the Terminator franchise! Designed by General Dynamics in the 21st century, the RBS-20 is a phased plasma pulse gun used by both Skynet’s Terminators and the Resistance. In the former case, it was used as a portable weapon, usually by infiltration units to take out Resistance bases. However, given the weapon’s size and weight, the Resistance preferred to mount them on their vehicles.

Making its debut appearance in Terminator when a T-800 broke into a Resistance safe house and began using its RBS-80 to kill everyone in sight. These events were recounted by Kyle Reese, who narrowly survived the encounter. It was also mentioned by name when Arny, making a gaffe, asked for one at a gunstore. “Just what you see here, pal,” replied the owner. Little wonder then why Arny chose to blow him away afterwards…

Type 25 Directed Energy Rifle:
PlasmarifleBack to the Halo universe, but this time for a more widely known Covenant weapon. More commonly known as the Plasma Rifle, this directed energy weapon, is the weapon of choice for the Elites and the Brutes, though other member races have been seen using it as well. Like much of the Covenant’s weapons, it was reverse-engineered from Forerunner technology.

Powered by a high-capacity energy cell, the Plasma Rifle is capable of semi-automatic fire at a rate of 360~540 rounds per minute. In the hands of the Elites, both the casing and plasma are colored a light shade of blue, whereas the Brutes prefer their weapons look and fire at the red end of the spectrum.

Between Halo and Halo 2, the weapon evolved somewhat, losing power and range in favor of rate of fire and the ability to duel wield. Personally, I like combining this baby with a submachine gun or a magum pistol. Plasma and bullets baby! Whooooo!

Tesla Rifle:
tesla_gunBy definition, a Tesla Rifle is a weapon that fires of electricity with a limited range and high spread. This particular version comes from District 9 and was a weapon of alien manufacture. Built by the race prejoratively known as the “Prawns”, it was confiscated by the South African government, and then fell into the hands of Wilkus (the film’s protoganist).

Since all “Prawn” weapons are attuned to their DNA, no human was able to use one. However, due to the transformation Wilkus was undergoing, he was able to use one, and did so! Surrounded by mercenaries who were in charge of clearing District 9 and taking him down, he had little choice but to blow them to gory pieces with this thing. And since the whole movie was shot in faux-documentary style, you could bet that chunks of bad guy got splattered on the camera!

The Sol:
Sol1Holy crap! I definitely saved the biggest and baddest for last today! Here is The Sol (yes THE Sol) an attack satellite which comes from the anime movie Akira. Featured towards the end of the film, The Sole was called in when Testuo Matsuo – the psychically altered teenager – began going on a rampage and threatened to destroy Neo-Tokyo.

Built around a central directed-energy weapon, The Sol gave new meaning to the term “Death from above!” Though not much is said about her, The Sol was clearly inspired by the Strategic Defense Initiative, aka. Star Wars Defense, and therefore designed to shoot down ICBM’s from orbit. Given that the story revolves around WWIII, this seems like a pretty safe assumption.

Sol2In the course of the story, she was called in by the Neo-Tokyo authorities and tried to blow the psychotic and psionic Tesuo up. It didn’t take, but the kid was psychic man! What can you do? If nothing else, it did demonstrate just how powerful it was by removing one of his arms. Tetsuo was obviously impressed too, because he commandeered the thing and began using it to wreak even more havoc. Seriously, we’re talking death from above man!

And that is all. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more. Thinking I need to get off this whole guns and robots kick. Everything I write lately seems to revolve around one or the other…

Cool Ships (volume X)

Aerospace Fighter:
Here’s one I found while sifting through info for another post (see Giant Robots). Like the mechas from that list, this too comes from the Battletech universe. And the name pretty much says it all. This futuristic fighter, which is found in the air forces of every Clan, is capable of flight in both air and space.

Typically, these fighters serve in a supporting role for the assault mechs in the Battlemech universe. Once the mechs are deployed in their drop pods, these fighters follow, flying from space directly into atmosphere and engaging enemy forces in the field of battle.

Using much the same technology as assault mechs, aerospace fighters are powered by fusion engines and are constructed from lighter ferro-fibrous materials. They also come equipped with cannons, lasers, missiles and guided munitions. Control is carried out through either touchpads, hands-on controls, and in some cases, machinery which can read the pilots thoughts.

Akira-class:
I’ve been waiting to include this one. Years back when I saw it on DS9, I thought of just how cool it looked. After looking into it some more, the cool factor has been magnified considerably. Known as the Akira-class, this starship was meant for war and designed accordingly.

Akira-class ships first made their appearance in First Contact, where several were used to engage the Borg Cube that was trying to assimilate Earth. This was no coincidence, as these ships were apparently part of Star Fleet’s larger effort to create warships that could deal with the Borg threat. It would also go on to play an important role in the Dominion War.

Much like the Defiant, it was built for speed and firepower. But unlike other ships, it has virtually no secondary hull, placing the majority of its functions up front in the saucer array. It also has multiple phaser banks and torpedo launchers, as well as a powerful shield array. But its greatest asset comes in its shape. Resembling a catamaran with a thin profile, the Akira presents a very difficult target. Combined with its speed, it is able to descend on enemies and deliver an ass-whooping without much fear of retaliation.

Covenant Assault Carrier:
Hello Halo! I was just thinking of how I’ve spent a good deal of page time on ships that belong to the UNSC Navy, but none that belong to the Covenant. That seem fair to you? And since they’ve got some really cool customers, I think it only fair that I throw some in here.

To start, here is the Covenant AC-class, the biggest ship in the Covenant armada and the Halo universe itself (aside from High Charity, of course). These ships serve as the flagships for Covenant assault fleets and boast a wide array of weapons and support craft.

Their massive hulls can not only accommodate multiple wings of Seraph’s, Phantoms, Ghosts, Wraiths, and one or two Scarab walkers. As events in the later series will attest, they can also hold two UNSC Frigates (the Forward Unto Dawn and Aegis Fate). Though designed primarily for planetary combat, their defenses also make them highly effective in ship-to-ship firefights. These include multiple point-defense pulse laser batteries, plasma torpedo launchers and at least two energy beam projectors.

At least two such carriers led the Covenant Fleet of Sacred Consecration to Earth where they engaged the UNSC fleet and Earth’s home defenses in Halo 2. After the Master Chief destroyed one with a commandeered Covenant bomb, the other led an assault on New Mombasa, and then jumped into slipsteam space once its forces were overrun. Interestingly enough, this was the only incidence of such a Carrier being destroyed by UNSC forces. They are just that powerful!

District 9 Mothership:
This ship comes to us from the critically acclaimed if somewhat unoriginal District 9 movie. Yes, despite what some people said about this movie being unique and awesome, it was in fact a collage of ideas Peter Jackson got from other people and franchises. But that didn’t make it uncool.

The same goes for this ship. While the concept of the alien Mothership isn’t exactly new, this vehicle managed to do the concept some justice with its artistry, profile and purpose. For starters, this ship was clearly a “generation ship”, meaning that it was designed to hold an entire population of people and provide for them over the course of many generations as it made its way through space.

When the ship appeared above Johannesburg in 1982, it appeared to be carrying thousands of alien beings who had been designed or engineered for work (echoes of Alien Nation there). Though the ship possessed some very advanced technology, including weapons and medical facilities, it appeared as though none of the workers knew how to operate them. As a result, the aliens had to be resettled and much of their technology began to fall into human hands.

The ship also appeared to have a command module in addition to its vast main hull. As long as this module remains detached from the main vessel, it will hold its last position and remain inert. This was rather crucial to the plot of the movie, since one of the aliens was keeping the module hidden until he could affect repairs. This necessitated that the passengers remain in a camp on Earth until he was finished and they could return back home.

GVD Hatshepsut:
I know what you’re thinking. “This guy must be obsessed with Freespace!” You’ve got some attitude buster! Besides, if you’d played this game much, you’d realize I have only begun to do it justice. Thus far, I’ve included Terran and Shivan ships in these lists, but there’s a wealth of Vasudan ones as well that deserve mention.

To keep it short, the Vasudans were a race of desert-dwelling people who loved history and venerated ancient things. As a result, the Terran forces associated them with the ancient Egyptians and designated their ships accordingly. Likewise, their heaviest ship, the Hatshepsut-class, was named in honor of the most powerful queen in Egypt’s history.

As a cruiser-carrier, the Hastshepsut carried a wide array of weapons. This included multiple laser turrets, point-defense turrets, fusion mortars, anti-ship beams and heavy beam emitters. In its massive carrier bay, which has points of entry on either side of the ship, carries over 30 wings of fighters, bombers and support craft. Other improvements over older models include a heavily reinforced hull and more powerful reactors, which give it the ability to maintain beam fire for longer periods of time.

Independence Day Mothership:
I seem to be in a Mothership kind of mood today. And I seem to recall someone suggesting I include this one some time ago, can’t remember who did, sorry. Just raise your hand and I’ll be sure to give you the credit ;).

Though I’ve pretty much mocked and bashed this movie every chance I could get, I have to admit that Independence Day remains a guilty pleasure for me. And when I saw it, I did think the mothership was pretty cool. And there were things beyond its aesthetics which I now see as praiseworthy.

Much like the District 9 and Alien Nation motherships, this vessel was also a generation ship. As stated in the course of the movie, it housed the better part of the alien race’s people and all of its landing forces. These were all kept within its massive internal bays, which appeared more like an internal city than anything else. These forces were apparently being held in reserve until their attack ships were finished leveling humanity’s cities and destroying it’s defenses.

And as was illustrated at the beginning, it also houses all the attack ships on its exterior. Though not much in the way of technical details are offered in the movie, the ship was very clearly massive and most likely incapable of anything more than sublight speeds.

Liberty Class Cruiser:
Wow, I almost got through an entire list without mentioning Star Wars. But I don’t imagine I’ll be making a list anytime soon with a single mention from that universe. And today, it’s the MC80 Liberty-class Mon Calamari Cruiser.

Like all Mon Calamari cruisers, each design was unique, making classification somewhat difficult in the early days of the Rebellion. Though the Liberty-class was technically of the same make as Home One (also classified MC80), the Liberty was smaller, narrower and had a pair of wing-like appendages attached to its hull.

In addition, it also packs a lighter weapons array and compliment of fighters and bombers. Measuring 1200 meters in length, the ship boasts a total of 48 turbolasers and 20 ion cannons while three squadrons of fighters provide this ship with protection. All this, combined with its smaller size, make the Liberty best suited for support as part of larger assault missions.

Several of these ships took part in the assault on the second Death Star during the Battle of Endor. It was also Liberty-class that was the first to fall when the Death Star began firing its massive laser. However, these ships proved instrumental in attaining victory, their sleek profiles and coordinated weapons making them effective in close quarters against larger Star Destroyers.

Retribution-class Battleship:
At last, Warhammer 40k makes it into the Cool Ship series. And I’ll think you’ll all agree, this particular ship is pretty cool! Built to resemble an old-world Dreadnought, the Retribution-class is a massive ship of the line in the Imperial Navy, the human faction in the expanded universe (otherwise known as the Space Marines).

Featuring the distinctive armored prow of the Imperial Navy, this ship is able to speed headlong into an enemy fleet and deploy fire from both sides. It is also as fast as the main cruisers of the Imperial fleet, which comes in handy during large-scale fleet engagements where it’s support can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

The main armament of the Retribution class are its rows upon rows of laser batteries lining the sides. For close-quarters fighting, it also carries several torpedo launchers that are capable of delivering devestating, armor-peircing blows. To top it off, the ship is equipped with a series of Lance beam turrets along the dorsal of the ship. They are normally used for finishing off an enemy ship that the main weapons have crippled, or providing return fire when the battleship is closing in on its foes.

Warlock-class Destroyer:
And what would the list be without at least one B5 mention? As a final example, I have decided to include the prototype Warlock-class Destroyer that was making its debut just as the original show was ending. It also made several subsequent appearances in the TV movie Call to Arms and the spinoff series Crusade.

Rushed into production during the last days of the Earth Alliance Civil War, the Warlock featured some of the most advanced technology available. This included advanced weaponry, engines, and most importantly, artificial gravity. This, more than anything else, gave it the advantage over the older Omega-class destroyers which relied on rotating sections.

The Warlock’s engines are a hybrid design featuring the standard ionic thrust modules and a gravitic drive, which like the artificial gravity is borrowed from the Minbari. In terms of weapons, this ship carries two particle beam cannons, multiple heavy cannons and point defense turrets, and 28 large and medium missile arrays. In addition, the original concept also involved a Shadow machine which was buried in the ship’s core. These were promptly removed once Clarke was overthrown, for obvious reasons.

Much like its Omega-class predecessor, it also has a launch bay located at the bow of the ship between its sensor arrays and its cannons. And given it’s larger size, it is able to carry additional squadrons of Starfuries, Thunderbolts and support craft. And of course, its jump capable!

Wow, ten installments of cool ships, totalling close to eighty different vessels. I think some kind of celebration is in order to mark this milestone. Too bad I’m sick as a dog, I’d tilt a glass. Maybe those who read these posts can do that for me. Fill a glass with whatever imbibing liquid you like best and toast your favorite franchises for bringing us these inventive, imaginative designs. Some day, they might just be the basis for something real…

Robots, Androids and AI’s

Let’s talk artificial life forms, shall we? Lord knows they are a common enough feature in science fiction, aren’t they? In many cases, they take the form of cold, calculating machines that chill audiences to the bones with their “kill all humans” kind of vibe. In others, they were the solid-state beings with synthetic parts but hearts of gold and who stole ours in the process. Either way, AI’s are a cornerstone to the world of modern sci-fi. And over the past few decades, they’ve gone through countless renditions and re-imaginings, each with their own point to make about humanity, technology, and the line that separates natural and artificial.

But in the end, its really just the hardware that’s changed. Whether we were talking about Daleks, Terminators, or “Synthetics”, the core principle has remained the same. Based on mathematician and legendary cryptographer Alan Turing’s speculations, an Artificial Intelligence is essentially a being that can fool the judges in a double-blind test. Working extensively with machines that were primarily designed for solving massive mathematical equations, Turing believed that some day, we would be able to construct a machine that would be able to perform higher reasoning, surpassing even humans.

Arny (Da Terminator):
Who knew robots from the future would have Austrian accents? For that matter, who knew they’d all look like bodybuilders? Originally, when Arny was presented with the script for Cameron’s seminal time traveling sci-fi flick, he was being asked to play the role of Kyle Reese, the human hero. But Arny very quickly found himself identifying with the role of the Terminator, and a franchise was born!

Originally, the Terminator was the type of cold, unfeeling and ruthless machine that haunted our nightmares, a cyberpunk commentary on the dangers of run-away technology and human vanity. Much like its creator, the Skynet supercomputer, the T101 was part of a race of machines that decided it could do without humanity and was sent out to exterminate them. As Reese himself said in the original: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

The second Terminator, by contrast, was a game changer. Captured in the future and reprogrammed to protect John Conner, he became the sort of surrogate father that John never had. Sarah reflected on this irony during a moment of internal monologue during movie two: “Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The terminator, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.”

In short, Cameron gave us two visions of technology with these first two installments in the series. In the first, we got the dangers of worshiping high-technology at the expense of humanity. In movie two, we witnessed the reconciliation of humans with technology, showing how an artificial life form could actually be capable of more humanity than a human being. To quote one last line from the franchise: “The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”

Bender:
No list of AI’s and the like would ever be complete without mentioning Futurama’s Bender. That dude put’s the funk in funky robot! Originally designed to be a bending unit, hence his name, he seems more adept at wisecracking, alcoholism, chain-smoking and comedicaly plotting the demise of humanity. But its quickly made clear that he doesn’t really mean it. While he may hold humans in pretty low esteem, laughing at tragedy and failing to empathize with anything that isn’t him, he also loves his best friend Fry whom he refers to affectionately as “meat-bag”.

In addition, he’s got some aspirations that point to a creative soul. Early on in the show, it was revealed that any time he gets around something magnetic, he begins singing folk and country western tunes. This is apparently because he always wanted to be a singer, and after a crippling accident in season 3, he got to do just that – touring the country with Beck and a show called “Bend-aid” which raised awareness about the plight of broken robots.

He also wanted to be a cook, which was difficult considering he had no sense of taste or seemed to care about lethally poisoning humans! However, after learning at the feet of legendary Helmut Spargle, he learned the secret of “Ultimate Flavor”, which he then used to challenge and humiliate his idol chef Elzar on the Iron Chef. Apparently the secret was confidence, and a vial of water laced with LSD!

Other than that, there’s really not that much going on with Bender. Up front, he’s a chain smoking, alcoholic robot with loose morals or a total lack thereof. When one gets to know him better, they pretty much conclude that what you see is what you get! An endless source of sardonic humor, weird fashion sense, and dry one-liners. Of them all “Bite my shiny metal ass”, “Pimpmobile”, “We’re boned!” and “Up yours chump” seems to rank the highest.

Ash/Bishop:
Here we have yet another case of robots giving us mixed messages, and comes to us direct from the Alien franchise. In the original movie, we were confronted with Ash, an obedient corporate mole who did the company’s bidding at the expense of human life. His cold, misguided priorities were only heightened when he revealed that he admired the xenomorph because of its “purity”. “A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”

After going nuts and trying to kill Ripley, he was even kind enough to smile and say in that disembodied tinny voice of his, “I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.” What an asshole! And the perfect representation for an inhuman, calculating robot. The result of unimpeded aspirations, no doubt the same thing which was motivating his corporate masters to get their hands on a hostile alien, even if it meant sacrificing a crew or two.

But, as with Terminator, Cameron pulled a switch-up in movie two with the Synthetic known as Bishop (or “artificial human” as he preferred to be called). In the beginning, Ripley was hostile towards him, rebuffing his attempts to assure her that he was incapable of killing people thanks to the addition of his behavioral inhibitors. Because of these, he could not harm, or through inaction allow to be harmed, a human being (otherwise known as an “Asimov”). But in the end, Bishop’s constant concern for the crew and the way he was willing to sacrifice himself to save Newt won her over.

Too bad he had to get ripped in half to earn her trust. But I guess when a earlier model tries to shove a magazine down your throat, you kind of have to go above and beyond to make someone put their life in your hands again. Now if only all synthetics were willing to get themselves ripped in half for Ripley’s sake, she’d be set!

C3P0/R2D2:
For that matter, who knew robots from the future would be fay, effeminate and possibly homosexual? Not that there’s anything wrong with that last one… But as audiences are sure to agree, the other characteristics could get quite annoying after awhile. C3P0’s constant complaining, griping, moaning and citing of statistical probabilities were at once too human and too robotic! Kind of brilliant really… You could say he was the Sheldon of the Star Wars universe!

Still, C3P0 if nothing if not useful when characters found themselves in diplomatic situations, or facing a species of aliens who’s language they couldn’t possibly fathom. He could even interface with machinery, which was helpful when the hyperdrive was out or the moisture condensers weren’t working. Gotta bring in that “Blue Harvest” after all! And given that R2D2 could do nothing but bleep and blurp, someone had to be around to translate for him.

Speaking of which, R2D2 was the perfect counterpart to C3P0. As the astromech droid of the pair, he was the engineer and a real nuts and bolts kind of guy, whereas C3P0 was the diplomat and expert in protocol.  Whereas 3P0 was sure to give up at the first sign of trouble, R2 would always soldier on and put himself in harm’s way to get things done. This difference in personality was also made evident in their differences in height and structure. Whereas C3P0 was tall, lanky and looked quite fragile, R2D2 was short, stocky, and looked like he could take a licking and keep on ticking!

Naturally, it was this combination of talents that made them comically entertaining during their many adventures and hijinks together. The one would always complain and be negative, the other would be positive and stubborn. And in the end, despite their differences, they couldn’t possibly imagine a life without the other. This became especially evident whenever they were separated or one of them was injured.

Hmmm, all of this is starting to sound familiar to me somehow. I’m reminded of another, mismatched, and possibly homosexual duo. One with a possible fetish for rubber… Not that there’s anything wrong with that! 😉

Cameron:
Some might accuse me of smuggling her in here just to get some eye-candy in the mix. Some might say that this list already has an example from the Terminator franchise and doesn’t need another. They would probably be right…

But you know what, screw that, it’s Summer Glau! And the fact of the matter is, she did a way better job than Kristanna Loken at showing that these killing/protective machines can be played by women. Making her appearance in the series Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, she worked alongside acting great Lena Headey of 300 and Game of Thrones fame.

And in all fairness, she and Lokken did bring some variety to the franchise. For instance, in the show, she portrayed yet another reprogrammed machine from the future, but represented a model different from the T101’s. The purpose of these latter models appeared to be versatility, the smaller chassis and articulate appendages now able to fit inside a smaller frame, making a woman’s body available as a potential disguise. Quite smart really. If you think about it, people are a lot more likely to trust a smaller woman than a bulked-out Arny bot any day (especially men!) It also opened up the series to more female characters other than Sarah.

And dammit, it’s Summer Glau! If she didn’t earn her keep from portraying River Tam in Firefly and Serenity, then what hope is there for the rest of us!

Cortana:
Here we have another female AI, and one who is pretty attractive despite her lack of a body. In this case, she comes to us from the Halo universe. In addition to being hailed by critics for her believability, depth of character, and attractive appearance, she was ranked as one of the most disturbingly sexual game characters by Games.net. No surprises there, really. Originally, the designers of her character used Egyptian Queen Nefertiti as a model, and her half-naked appearance throughout the game has been known to get the average gamer to stand up and salute!

Though she serves ostensibly as the ship’s AI for the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, Cortana ends up having a role that far exceeds her original programming. Constructed from the cloned brain of Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, creator of the SPARTAN project, she has an evolving matrix, and hence is capable of learning and adapting as time goes on. Due to this and their shared experiences as the series goes on, she and the Master Chief form a bond and even become something akin to friends.

Although she has no physical appearance, Cortana’ program is mobile and makes several appearances throughout the series, and always in different spots. She is able to travel around with the Master Chief, commandeer Covenant vessels, and interface with a variety of machines. And aside from her feminine appearance, he soft, melodic voice is a soothing change of pace from the Chief’s gruff tone and the racket of gunfire and dead aliens!

Data:
The stoic, stalwart and socially awkward android of Star Trek: TNG. Built to resemble his maker, Dr. Noonian Soong, Data is a first-generation positronic android – a concept borrowed from Asimov’s I, Robot. He later enlisted in Star Fleet in order to be of service to humanity and explore the universe. In addition to his unsurpassed computational abilities, he also possesses incredible strength, reflexes, and even knows how to pleasure the ladies. No joke, he’s apparently got all kind of files on how to do… stuff, and he even got to use them! 😉

Unfortunately, Data’s programming does not include emotions. Initially, this seemed to serve the obvious purpose of making his character a foil for humanity, much like Spock was in the original series. However, as the show progressed, it was revealed that Soong had created an android very much like Data who also possessed the capacity for emotions. But of course, things went terribly wrong when this model, named Lor, became terribly ambitious and misanthropic. There were some deaths…

Throughout the original series, Data finds himself seeking to understand humanity, frequently coming up short, but always learning from the experience. His attempts at humor and failure to grasp social cues and innuendo are also a constant source of comic relief, as are his attempts to mimic these very things. And though he eventually was able to procure an “emotion chip” from his brother, Data remains the straight man of the TNG universe, responding to every situation with a blank look or a confused and fascinated expression.

More coming in installment two. Just give me some time to do all the write ups and find some pics :)…

Cool Guns!

I’m getting hooked on writing conceptual posts, mainly because it gives me the chance to explore a lot different franchises of sci-fi without being too constrained. Not only that, I really like digging into subject matter of finding the common elements; in this case, the stuff that makes cool stuff cool! So far, I’ve covered the concepts of Galactic Empires, Planetkillers and Ancient Aliens. But today, I thought I’d tackle something a little simpler that’s been known to make sci-fi geeks experience collective nerdgasms! Today the topic is: COOL GUNS!

BFG 9000:
Starting off this review right is the BFG (Big F***ing Gun) that comes to us from the Doom universe. Fans of that old franchise know this one by heart, and I’m sure they remember with some nostalgia what it was like firing this thing. Given that Doom was like most first-person shooters, this weapon would turn up late in the game as a way of dealing with the more tenacious evil critters. And it worked! One shot released a big cloud of green plasma which killed everything in the vicinity. Unless it was a boss, in which case, it might take two or three… Apparently, Quake II and Quake III Arena pay homage by including their own version, known as the BFG10K.

“Blow Dryer”:
Also known as a “burner” or plasma caster, this weapon was the mainstay of the Predator aliens and is featured in the many movies, comics, video games, and novels of the franchise. Mounted on the shoulder, this weapon would discharge a ball of red-hot plasma into objects, causing damage akin to an explosive device, but with none of the messy shrapnel. Though the standard model is shoulder mounted and aimed using a heads-up-display and laser sight, the Predators in later movies were also known to carry wrist-mounted versions of this weapon as well. Like their claws and wrist bombs, they were embedded in the cuffs and served as a backup. One of these makes an appearance in Predator 2 during the meat locker shoot-out.

BR55 Battle Rifle:
This baby is a Halo universe invention, and is the mainstay of the UNSC infantry. Aesthetically, this rifle is based on several bull-pup assault rifles designs from the modern era, a design which is clearly growing in popularity. Some potential sources for inspiration include the Austrian-made Steyr AUG, the French FAMAS, the British L85, the Belgian F2000, and the experimental PAPOP design. Like all bull-pup rifles, this gun loads from the rear and can cut through Covenant opposition with ease! Even when I’m playing as the Covenant, this was my second favorite weapon to be carrying (the first was either two submachine guns or two pistols, or a combinati0n thereof!)

Blade Runner Gun:
In the classic move Blade Runner, Detective Rick Deckard was responsible for locating and “retiring” replicants. And the weapon he used to do just that is featured here. This is the model of a Blade Runner service revolver, for which little information exists, but whose appearance and performance pretty much speaks for itself. Based on a standard service revolver with several extra bits added on for effect, this gun pretty much screams cyberpunk.

In addition, there are several scenes in the movie where Deckard’s gun turned flesh (artificial though it was) into mush! Recall the scene where Deckard uses this gun to punch several holes in Zhora? Or how about the scene immediately thereafter where Leon is beating the crap out of him, and Rachael manages to save him by using his own weapon? Yeah, whenever this gun was brought out of his holster, some big holes resulted!

Blasters:
When asked about his idea for a “Galactic Empire”, George Lucas said that he wanted to create something that was as aesthetically similar to Nazi Germany as possible. This was reflected in the weapons as well. Numerous guns that were modified and used as props in the movie were based on WWII vintage weapons. The first and most recognizable is Han’s blaster, aka. the DL-44. Based on the German C96 Mauser pistol, this weapon was apparently a popular item amongst smugglers and traders, being very powerful and compact. It was also quick on the draw, which comes in handy when in a bar and looking down the barrel of a bounty hunter’s gun (Han shot first!)

The next was the standard issue blaster used by both the Stormtroopers and the heroes, especially in the first movie during their daring breakout from the Death Star. This blaster, known as the E-11, was based on the Sterling submachine gun of WWII. Simple, consisting of little more than a barel, a handle, and a side-mounted magazine, the gun was easily altered with a few pieces of molded plastic and a scope that made it look suitably futuristic.

The heavier T-21 Blaster Rifle was yet another WWII adaptation. Built around a Lewis machine gun, it was featured in the first movie during the Mos Eisley scene where Stormtroopers were seen walking through the streets searching for Luke and Obi Wan.

Last, there was the DLT-19 Heavy Blaster, the heaviest infantry weapon in the Star Wars franchise. In keeping with his love of WWII kit, Lucas’ set designers used a German MG42 to fashion this one. This blaster appeared aboard the Death Star in the hand of the search party that went over the Millenium Falcon, and again when Chewy commandeered one to take out the remote blasters and cameras in the cell block.

GE M134 Minigun Handheld:
How could I have forgotten this one? I mean really, is there a better visual representation of sheer badassery than the handheld minigun from Predator? Sure, the mere idea of a man carrying a minigun around by hand is so unbelievable its makes me want to laugh out loud. Considering the weight of the weapon, even before you factor in all the ammo, coupled with the killer recoil that no human could withstand – all of this makes the physics totally implausible! But what the heck? It was fun to watch! I can’t imagine anyone not feeling the hair on the back of their neck stand on end as those barrels started whirling and the bullets streamed out, so fast it sounded like a turbine! And I know from talking to actual pilots who’ve seen this baby in action that if you add tracers to the mix, its like watching a laser show. WHURRRRRRRRRRRR! Total carnage!

Grammaton Cleric Pistol:
Though it was not my favorite movie, there were undeniably cool aspects to the movie Equilibrium. One of which was all the cool Gun Kata moves pulled by Christain Bale, Angus Macfadyen, and the other Grammaton Clerics with their special pistols. These guns were clearly souped-up versions of the Beretta 92FS. They clearly fire in both semi-automatic and automatic bursts, and were retrofitted in one scene with impact hammers on the handles.

In addition, some rather curious reloading tricks were devised. One involved arm-rails that would deliver fresh magazines from inside the cleric’s sleeve. Another included magazines that could be balanced upright, which gave the cleric the ability to simply slam his gun down on the fresh magazine once the empty ones had been ejected and go right on shooting. It’s all about rate of fire in this movie, making sure the bullets (and dust) keep flying!

The Lawgiver II:
Also known as the Judge Dredd gun, this pistol is also a modified version of the Beretta 92FS, with molded plastic and LED lights giving it a future-city look. In addition to a rapid-fire setting, the gun also boasts a grenade launcher, signal flare launcher, and a special dual round known as the “double-whammy”. It also has a taser device built into the handle so that only a Judge can operate it, and a DNA tagging system that ensures that every slug fired can be traced back to the person operating it.

M41A Pulse Rifle:

The franchise Alien gave so much to the world of sci-fi geeks, not the least of which came in the form of cool guns. And the Pulse Rifle was arguably the mainstay of that contribution. In fact, it was this gun that inspired entire generations of futuristic weapons, and the name itself has been used many times over to refer to energy and slug-thrower weapons in sci-fi franchises.

This is an important disctintion seeing as how “pulse”, to most sci-fi acolytes, refers to weapons that fire out pulsing beams of energy (most likely plasma). But in this case, it referred to pulses of caseless ammo, big bursts of projectiles that would tear through acid-spewing aliens by the dozen. And let’s no forget the grenade launcher that was attached to the underside, how cool was that? The signature, click-click, BOOM! combination was as pleasing to the ears as it was to the eyes.

But in addition to being just so freaking cool to look at, the amount of creative energy and ingenuity that went into making it was quite impressive. For example, the people in charge of set design wanted a prop that would actually fire, so they built their rifle concept around the M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, a WWII vintage weapon that was small and sturdy enough to get the job done. To simulate the grenade launcher, they attached a cutdown Remington 870 shotgun beneath it and mounted the foregrip of the SPAS 12 shotgun on top of that. Then, they applied pieces of molded plastic and a little LED display to the side to make it look especially badass! Remember that scene where Ripley used it to level that room full of egg’s with the Alien queen inside? Iconic!

M56 Smart Gun:
I know, I’m shoving two examples from a single franchise into one post. But I think it’s worth it. And for fans of Aliens and sci-fi junk, you just can’t make a list of cool guns and not include the Smart Gun! Much like the Pulse Rifle, this weapon was the perfect marriage of aesthetics and ingenuity.

To fashion it, the set designers for Aliens used another vintage WWII weapon (like Lucas, they used the German MG42 machinegun) some motorcycle handles, and the arms from a Steadicam mount. The result, once again, was pure badassery! And the name, according to the expanded Aliens universe, comes from the fact that these weapons could aim themselves. Marines would simply employ their eyepieces and helm cameras, and the guns would pick up movement and target it. Oh, and that scene where Vasquez opens fire in the Alien lair… classic! “Let’s roooooock!”

PPG’s:
The PPG, or Phased Plasma Gun, is the standard weapon of security officers and soldiers in the Babylon 5 universe. According to franchise sources, the PPG fires a small charge of superheated helium which retains its shape and small volume via a residual magnetic field. Upon impact with an object, the magnetic field is dissipated and the heat discharged. PPG bolts also cause visible distortion as they travel through air, hence the blurred effects when people in the show fire off their weapons.

The PPG comes in several standard models. First, there’s the service pistol which every security officer and member of station personnel. The heavier rifles are busted out during riots and times of war, along with the vests and riot helmets. In two episodes (S01E20 Babylon Squared and S05E19 Wheel of Fire ) Garibaldi has scenes where he busts out the BFG version.

Reason:
This weapon is both deadly and cheekily-named, and is taken from Neal Stephenson’s smash-hit novel Snow Crash. This picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but its a close approximation. In the novel, Reason was a gatling gun that was the property of Uncle Enzo’s Mafia, an organization that ran a series of franchulates along the west coast of the former US. But unlike your conventional gatler, it fired caseless depleted-uranium slugs, bullets that are incredibly dense and very heavy. Hence, the weapon packed a massive punch and a mad recoil.

During one of the later chapters, Enzo’s men use the gun to take out a pirate yacht while firing from a life raft. A single burst demolished the pirate ship, but the recoil sent their boat about fifty meters in the opposite direction! This scene also had a hilarious set up when the mafiosos first broke it out, saying that if they ran afoul of any privateers, they were sure they’d “listen to Reason.”

Phaser Rifle:
Over the years, Star Trek has been a source of many weapons designs. However, some were arguably more cool than others, at least in my opinion. These came largely from the later spinoffs and movies, in particular DS9 and Voyager. Prior to this, phaser designs were either too boxy, too bulbous, or just too… Buck Rogers-y! When you’re repelling boarders, or on an away mission, one thing you want is a kick-ass weapon to bolster your confidence and inspire fear in your enemies.

These requirements were met by a new model of weapon, known as the type 3 Phaser Rifle. This weapon went through many variations throughout the course of the show. The first design was very boxy-looking, whereas later models tended to be more sleek and menacing (as shown above). Then came a whole new design, known as the Compression Rifle (seen below), which was apparently an even more powerful model. These weapons were specifically created for use on starships where heavy combat was expected, or in times of war.

Final Thoughts:
Man, that was a long list! But that’s the thing with cool ideas, they tend to get around. And as usual, I noticed some key patterns in the mix which I think should be pointed out. In all of these cases, there were apparently two classes  that each weapon fell into.

  1. Directed-Energy Weapons: Arguably the more science-fictiony of the two. These weapons first made their appearance in Saturday morning serials like Buck Rogers from the 1950’s. They come in many forms – ray guns, death rays, beam guns, blasters, laser guns, and phasers – but the core concept is the same. Phased or directed energy, usually in the form of plasma, that is focused into a tight beam and then emitted. The ironic thing is, since the 1950’s, sci-fi franchises have moved away from these seemingly farfetched devices and come to rely on ballistic weapons designs more and more. Meanwhile, Directed Energy Weapons have become more and more feasible, with several prototypes being explored by military contractors today.
  2. Ballistic Weapons: In the context of sci-fi, these often take the form of weapons that use caseless ammunition, electromagnetically-propelled ammunition, or just standard bullets. But in each case, the weapons that use them are adapted to look more futuristic. Interestingly enough, the future seems to be coming sooner than we thought. In just about every developed nation, firearm technologies are being explored under the banner of the “Future Soldier” program. Having studied many of these, I can tell you that they put much of what was shown in Aliens to shame, especially where Heads-Up-Displays and portable computers are concerned! Again, the future seems to be coming sooner than we thought!