Ben Richardson

The new (open) world order

YEAR IN GAMER 2011: Red Dead Redemption dominated, but Elder Scrolls vs. Skyrim dazzled and Mineshaft's open world was wondrous

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YEAR IN GAMER In 2010, year-end awards were dominated by one game: Red Dead Redemption. Published by Rockstar Games, the title was a sweeping, epic Western in the best American tradition. Using a proprietary game engine, Rockstar stitched together a giant swath of imaginary frontier, a teeming open world that seems to leap straight from the imagination of John Ford or Sergio Leone.Read more »

Sequel smackdown

FALL ARTS PREVIEW: Eagerly, and maybe not so eagerly, awaited upcoming video game releases

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GAMER Though video game sequels abound every season, fall 2011 plays host to an unusual profusion. Three is indisputably the magic number, though five and a pair of un-numbered twos make a strong case. Decide for yourself which game deserves your dollars by delving into the details below.Read more »

Doom resurrection

With Last Rites, veteran metal band Pentagram finds a new beginning

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arts@sfbg.com

Pentagram has had more members than many bands have songs. You could see the band three times and see 10 different people, with singer Bobby Liebling and his spooky, howling voice the only constant. But when Liebling takes the stage in San Francisco August 16, guitarist Victor Griffin will be beside him. Over the course of 30 years, their relationship has endured enough hardship and heartbreak to last a dozen lifetimes. When they stand together onstage, however, nothing can stop them.Read more »

Facing the right way

LA Noir impresses with expressions

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It has been roughly two decades since the arrival of 3-D graphics changed video games forever. Visual fidelity and realism have increased geometrically. But though the ability of designers to render convincing buildings and 800-ton interstellar battlecruisers is at a zenith, one aspect of their games falls consistently behind: the people.Read more »

Fantastic fantasy

Dragon Age II is as elaborately polished and stage-managed as its predecessor was rough-hewn and idiosyncratic

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GAMER When they first announced a new game called Dragon Age: Origins, the prizewinning developers at BioWare were enjoying the success of Mass Effect, their wildly popular space opera, which had just introduced the public to the intergalactic potential of the studio's imagination by creating an entire sci-fi universe from scratch. If Mass Effect was all about the future of role-playing games, Origins was all about their past. Read more »

The road, Thorrior

Music journalists are from Mars, Valient Thorr is from Venus

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC There's no easy way to describe Valient Thorr. Hailing from Chapel Hill, N.C., the quintet has labored throughout its career under the strain of countless casual characterizations, each less accurate than the one before it. Reached by phone in Raleigh, N.C., as he prepared for the band's impending tour with Motorhead, singer Valient Himself gives the wry rundown.Read more »

Otherworldly energy

Bound by an unbroken spirit, Neurosis returns to its early days to forecast a future

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Over the course of nine full-length albums, Neurosis has proven its metal mettle, at least on record. To truly appreciate what the band is capable of, however, you'd have to witness one of its legendary live performances, which despite their decreasing frequency are becoming more and more transcendent. Next week, Bay Area headbangers will have two opportunities to do so, both at the Great American Music Hall, where the band plays its first hometown shows since New Year's Eve 2008.Read more »

Game over(load)

YEAR IN VIDEO GAMES, TAKE TWO: Games have gotten better -- and there are many, many more of them.

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GAMER 2010, TAKE TWO For the first time in my life, in 2010, I feel the weight of games yet unplayed. Soon, 2011 will begin, and the ghosts of my gaming fecklessness will lurk, dormant, on my hard drive, pregnant with the possibility of fun.Read more »

Headbanging history

YEAR IN MUSIC: Pentagram, Accept, Stone Vengeance, St. Vitus -- metal went back to the future in 2010

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Joystick to the world

Holiday Guide: Gifts for your favorite gamers

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culture@sfbg.com

You can see it at your local Walgreens: that magical moment, at midnight every Nov. 1, when the Halloween display melts into the ether, replaced by a bevy of festive, possibly toxic, green-and-red confections. Christmas comes similarly early in the game business; unlike holiday movies, year-end software blockbusters have to be sitting on store shelves in time to entice flocks of early-bird shoppers.Read more »