29 April 2011

William's Ladies of Sci-Fi

1. Max Guevara from Dark Angel. Okay, it's Jessica Alba kicking arse, driving a motorcycle in a dystopia America....how could you not love that?!
2. Sheba from the Original Battlestar Galactica. I watched BSG-TOS throughout most of my life, and Sheba was one of my favorites. She was an ace Viper pilot, daughter of living legend Commander Cain, and had this way about her. Despite the new BSG being epic in every way of the word....there is no female character like Sheba....
3. Captain Shane Vansen from Space:Above and Beyond. One of the best female roles in sci-fi, tough, did not need to wear tigh clothing to gain attention, and a skilled commander. The character of Shane Vansen is a simple joy to watch in SAAB, she balances the toughness with a softer side that comes out when needed, plus she had an old-Hollywood beauty to her. Shame about the series ending after one season...crime against humanity if you ask me.

4. Leela from Doctor Who. One again...a tough chick with knife skills and beauty, plus she worn those great outfits. When I watched the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who, the chemistry between them made for even the cheap sets and SFX very watchable. The other element, was her child-like wonder at the worlds that the Doctor showed her, coupled with her savage killer. Oh, and she's hot with a British accent...
5. Cameron from Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles and River from Firefly. Summer Glau made for both of these characters to be unique, child-like and powerful all at the same time. The manic behavior of River made for a character that you wondered about, while Cameron was always a mystery...Summer Glau might be the new first lady of sci-fi....
6. Nova Forrester from Starblazers (AKA Space Cruiser Yamato). Nova was one of the first sci-fi ladies in my heart, and she was heart of the Argo/Yamato, and often helped the crew with homesickness, along with fulfilling many roles onboard ship.
7. Colonel Wilma Deering. Ah....Wilma Deering...wow....another holdout from my early days as a geek watching sci-fi. I watched Buck Rogers, but tough-chick Deering was the heart of the show. Quick with the smart comeback, karate chop, laser pistol, and star-fighter, she was all things. The show should have been about her!

8. Kaylee Frye from Firefly. Kaylee was my favorite character from that wonderful series, and she seemed more real and honest than most women in sci-fi shows.

9. Priss from the Bubblegum Crisis. Punk-techo-rock by night...and one member of the Knight Sabers by even-later night. Priss (named for the Blade Runner character) was a character that loved her machines, and tried to do the right thing, but her temper often got the better of her., and she had a smart mouth. What's not to love?

10. Lisa Hayes-From the Robotech Sega. In 1985-1987, I was obsessed with Robotech, and while Rick Hunter's heart was split between Ms.Hayes and Lynn Minmay, mine was clear-Lisa Hayes was the only choice. Lisa Hayes was one of the more developed female characters in the early anime brought to the USA, and her strong in command style always seemed to save the day. Later, when she was in charge of the REF mission, she really shined.

24 April 2011

"In case of galactic emergency: break glass for SPARTAN"

This is my idea for the storyline for HALO:4...hope you enjoy

0117 Hours August 30th, 2557 (Military Calendar)
Near former location of Installation 04B

There, in the deep darkness of space, it hung like a child’s building block. The sleek organic profile of the Sangheili Imperial warship Blood of our Sons loomed behind it.

“Success, shipmaster! I've have located it!” The young unproven Sangheili male let his voice express the joy when it came on the scanners.

“Pilot,” Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum said from his grand hovering chair, “cut propulsion and halt the vessel.”

“Yes, Shipmaster.” The great vessel stopped and illumined the olive drab hunk of metal with its forward lights.

“Confirm the identity of it, Vash.” The older female doctor said to the young warrior. She thought it strangle custom of their new allies, that male warriors had to prove themselves in battle before being allowed to don the trademark armor of his people.

Good thing, we didn’t do that with the SPARTANS… She thought as Vash ran the scan.

“It is conformed, doctor,” his split mouth spoke to the human, “it is the lower section of the human warship Forward onto Dawn.”

“Is he there, scout?” Thel 'Vadam came over to the bank of screens, the many lights projected onto his ancient armor. The doctor marveled at its design.

“Yes, Arbiter, he is there.” That is just what everyone that had search of the last year had waited to hear…that John was there…and maybe even a certain AI.

“Vitals?” Asked a SPARTAN-II in full grey Mark VI armor.

“Low, Spartan,” Vash did not look at the feared human warrior, “but that is to be expected with a body in status. The doctor moved over to the SPARTAN.

“Ready your boarding team, Jai.” She spoke to the imposing figure before her. “Make sure the techs have their suits ready, the sections doesn’t seem to have any power.” He nodded and moved towards the door.

“Arbiter,” Asked the doctor, “are you coming?”

The shipmaster nodded to the honored warrior of his people, “I own him a great debt, Dr. Halsey.”

A lone Pelican burned out of the Blood of our Sons main shuttle bay, and towards the remaining piece of the frigate. As Dr. Halsey suited up, she was checked off by one of the techs, she turned to task to take her mind off the feelings that welled up over visiting her daughter’s old ship.

“30 seconds, Ma’am.” Said the pilot. She turned to the porthole, to see the remains of the steered off drive section. It was luck, which John had a lot of, that they escaped the explosion, and this one section had some cryo-pods.

“Now, if only Cortana was still functioning.” Catherine said to no one.

The Pelican extended its ramp into the maze of corridors, and the team moved under thruster packs into the zero-gee environment. The power signature of the cryo-pod led them right to the sleeping warrior through the blacked and shattered remains of the warship. As Halsey use the handgrips to guide herself, she thought of Miranda. The techs examined the pod, and gave Halsey thumbs up, while she tried to get the AI back to life.

“What have you found, doctor?” Said Vash over the comm-link.

“Tell your master, that the Chief is alive and we are trying to reboot Cortana.” She tied in her computer terminal and pawed away at the keys, in the code of the familiar AI was hints of rampancy. With a fresh injection of code and some ‘creative’ thinking, she activated Cortana.

The hallway filled with the blue glow of the AI’s female shape, and there she was, formed in a yoga-like pose. She slowly opened her eyes to the boarding party. When gazed upon Dr. Halsey, she smiled.

“Ma’am...”her words were slow and hard.

“Cortana, reset date for August 30th, 2557, confirmed?”

“Confirmed,” Cortana touched her head then turned to the chief still encased in the cold.

“Status?” Catherine tapped on the computer.

“All green, doctor,” she pointed her arm swimming in code, “want me to crack the case?”

“Yes, Cortana, you both are needed again.” With a nod, the female AI began the process of awaking SPARTAN-117 from his extended rest.

Within fifteen minutes, the pod was opened, and the great warrior of humanity shook his head and focused on the group before him.

“Medic,” Dr. Halsey snapped her fingers in the airless corridor “ran the diagnosis on the Chief, while the tech gives the suit a one over.” The newly awakened SPARTAN-II was descended on by two space suited humans. They hooked into the MJOLNIR armor’s data ports and started tapping away.

“The Chief is healed, some electrolyte imbalance, but nothing too serve.”

“Armor is worst off…it’ll need a total overhaul.”

“Skip the overhaul,”Fred-104 said proudly to the Chief. “We’ve brought along the new Mark-VI armor.” Losing time in the cold grip of cryo was nothing new to experienced military personnel, but gulf being his old world and his new reality was measured in years…John-117 didn’t have a personal life or even family, but the sense of disconnection left him shaken for a moment.

His entire SPARTAN-II ‘family’ had paid dearly for the end of the long war, now it looked like there were still members fighting for the future of humanity, and he was needed again. That was enough for the old warrior.. Cortana looked at the featureless visor of the chief, and snapped him back to reality.

“What’s the OP, Doctor?” That was just like with the female AI, duty, and service. Dr. Halsey wished that wild and brash Grey Team was like the Chief. But given the mission that they were about to embark on, the reckless nature of Grey was needed. As another shape emerged from the shadows of the darkened interior of the old UNSC warship, John-117 began to liberate himself from the cryo-chamber.

The shape was familiar to SPARTAN-II, the Arbiter, “Spartan, it is good to see you ready for the task ahead. The foul Jiralhanae are attempting to construct a new Covenant with their savage race at the center of it.” That was a problem, thought S-117, the Brutes were the worst of the Covenant, homicidally and dogmatic.

“Also,” The doctor said to the massive alien, “the brutes have human POW camps on their world, no doubt those lost souls need rescue before they wind up on a dinner menu.” Cortana shook her holo-head.

“Or breeding stock.” Halsey shot an icy glare at Adriana-111. No one liked to talk about the rare, but horrific example of the Jiralhanae’s love for human flesh found on Beta Gabriel.

“The universe never changes, we’re asleep, and the killing goes on.” The Chief ignored Cortana, and looked at the people assembled before him. Two of the SPARTANs in the back, magnetically locked to the hallway were unknown to the SPARTAN-II.

Halsey noticed where his helmet looked and gestured to them. “John, these are the new generation, number four, and they are the defenders of Earth while she gets back on her feet.” He looked at the armor, which was familiar, but alien at the same time.

“Got one in my size, Ma’am?”

“Of course. Didn’t think we’d leave you out?” Spoke Kelly from the shadows.

Give the number of SPARTANs and allied Elites, the Chief wondered about the real goal of this OP. “So, this is a rescue mission?”

“We are headed to Doisac , their homeworld,” Spoke Jai-006, “to give them some payback and pick some of the strays along the way.” Like most SPARTANs, John respected the Elites, but the Brutes were only good for target practice. In his time on the frontlines of the war, the Master Chief had seen the horror of those camps that the Brutes setup on human colonies. No one deserved a fate like that.

No one.

“Chief,” Cortana looked up, “I just got the download from the doctor, and the UNSC only has a dozen ships, they’re still rebuilding…this mission is a first strike at another threat.” He stared at the new armor and the new generation. He was suddenly filled with the years of combat and the long cold sleep.. Then he smiled, and the Chief grabbed his outdated MA5B from the rack and checked the ammo counter.

“Let’s go.”

20 April 2011

FWS Movie Review: Soldier (1998)

Soldier is a 1998 Military Sci-fi movie directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), the script was written by BLADE RUNNER scriptwriter David Peoples, and starred Kurt Russel in the main role as Sgt. Todd-3465. Never heard of Soldier? Not surprising. It only made $15 million out of a budget of $75 million, and is difficult to find the DVD or even much information about it online. Soldier is often remembered in BLADE RUNNER circles as the "side-sequel" to that landmark sci-fi movie, and was penned by David Peoples, who co-wrote BLADE RUNNER and the epic western Unforgiven. His idea was to show the off-world combat between the nations of Earth using their combat skinjobs, (which is what the next BLADE RUNNER movie should be about) however, Soldier was rewritten so that it was no longer official tied to the BLADE RUNNER and only a few references still existed in the movie (look for the Spinner in the Arcadia 234 junk piles!). I first heard of Soldier when I was given The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies: From 1897 to the Present by C.J. Henderson for Xmas on year...there i discovered this film and Mr. Henderson gives the movie a three page review and talks about how great it was. I thought it may be worth watching since I was writing a BLADE RUNNER fan-fiction book at the time. It took me two weeks to find on DVD in the DFW metroplex...and I was fairly disappointed with the film once I actually watched it This blogpost was updated on 07/02/2014.   

Soldier is the story of Todd-3465, a victim of the ADAM project, were the US military secretly bred soldiers from birth to be flesh-and-blood emotionless automaton, that speaks only when spoke to, and always obeys orders. The film steers clear of the ADAM project subjects being Replicants and/or super-soldiers (mainly because the filmarkers were not allowed to legally tie Soldier to BLADE RUNNER).
For Todd's 38 years of military service he is shipped around the various wars on Earth and through space. After decades of military service, the next-gen ADAM soldiers show up on Todd's military vessel, and the brass dumps off the last previous model Todd onto a unsettled world that is being uses as a interstellar garage dump. There Todd meets a band of illegal colonists, and is unable to socialize with them...however when the military shows back up to train the next-gen soldiers with a live-fire exercise using the illegal settlers. Todd steps up, defends the colonists from the next-gen ADAM soldiers...his experience over their breeding...and then movie ends with Todd and colonists high jacking the military ship and heading off to another colonial world.

Despite my disappoint, there are elements with this 1998 film that are good. The tale of easily replaceable technology is one that should everyone understand, especially since with the invasion of the iPhone, and it is timely. The audience generally feels for Todd and the rest of the 1st Generation ADAM soldiers when they are just tossed out after the new shiny super soldiers are deployed. Soldier does have some interesting weapon choices, especially the Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot 5.56mm Pistol-Carbines.
The there is planetary assault uniform of the ADAM 2.0 soldiers are very cool and remind of the Sardaukar from the David Lynch DUNE movie. However, the best thing in Soldier is the acting of Kurt Russel. In the film, Sgt. Todd only as about 100 spoken words, 11 of them are "Yes Sir." This means that Mr. Russel, had to develop Todd through body language and actions, and lesser actor would have been unable to pull it off.  The talents of Mr. Russel really shine though when Todd interacts with the colonists on Arcadia 234.

Flat out, the vast majority of Soldier is just plain bad, like B-Movie bad. Stupid bad, not cheesy bad. The majority of the cast is so completely wrong for this film that they become painfully to watch, especially coupled with the bad dialog and undeveloped scenes. The middle of the film, where Todd is struggling to find his place in the community of the settlers is not too bad, but when the next-gen soldiers show up, the action scenes are so heavy handed and overcooked that it destroys the mystery surrounding the ADAM soldiers. These choppy, overboiling action scenes and the actions of the 2.0 ADAM super soldiers are pure 1980's action flick cheesy...and it moldy cheese at that. hem down to 1980's action films. According to the film, Todd-3465 an experienced combat veteran elite soldier, but he often picks odd weaponry that destroys the central realism of the film and betrays his training. All of this makes the action often cartoony in nature. I was often floored how badly the movie fit together and how the actions hammed it up, but then falls flat on its collective ass.

The real disappointment with Soldier is the waste opportunity for military sci-fi movie genre in general. Here was a big budget major-studio backed military sci-fi movie with the actor who crafted Snake fucking Plissken, Kurt Russel, as the star. He would crack out of the best great performances in his career, but it was a waste. Hell, even the title is great, but no one, I mean no one, saw this piece of shit then or even now, and I fully blame Paul W.S. Anderson for that. This movie was a waste of money, talent, and opportunity. It could have been good...even without having direct connection to BLADE RUNNERbut the decisions by the director were the fatal error of this film. Everything was there, but it just wasn't used. Rumors online point to him rewriting the David People's script and putting his own spin on the visuals and the dialog of the film. Examining Mr. Anderson's IMDb profile, I realized that I've hated everyone of his films, from the bullshit Resident Evil flicks to the remake of Death Race, and he simply ruined Soldier.

Should You Watch Soldier?
Soldier should have been good, but the rumored rewrites by director Paul W.S. Anderson, coupled with bad casting choices and completely stupid action scenes, doomed this military sci-fi movie to the forgotten realms of bad movies and the dollar bin at your local Wal-Mart! It is sad, really, to have Kurt Russel, the man who forged Snake Plissken, one of the greatest characters in Sci-fi, to have worked so hard to make Todd-3465 believable, then take his wonderfully acting job, and waste inside of this poorly executed film. Pity.

17 April 2011

Just as Terra Nova enters limbo, another great sci-fi series begins to take shape. Blood & Chrome is currently filming, and below is the press release from Sci-Fi from March 26th:

"Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton (Hellcats) star in Battlestar: Blood & Chrome, which takes place in the 10th year of the first Cylon war. As the battle between humans and their creation, a sentient robotic race, rages across the 12 colonial worlds, a brash rookie viper pilot enters the fray. Ensign William Adama (Pasqualino), barely in his 20’s and a recent Academy graduate, finds himself assigned to one of the most powerful ships in the Colonial fleet...the Galactica.
The talented but hot-headed risk-taker soon finds himself leading a dangerous top secret mission that, if successful, will turn the tide of the decade-long war in favor of the desperate fleet. Executive producers: David Eick and Michael Taylor. Written by Michael Taylor from a story by David Eick, Taylor and Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. A production of Universal Cable Productions."

This first thing that jumps out at me, is that Ronald Moore is not on staff of Blood & Chrome. Then the line about the series picking up at the end of the war borthers me. To be honest, I wish they would not started it off at the end of the war, but my using Adama's character as the main led boxes them into the last year of the war due to flashback scenes from Razor.
I would like to see the apex of the war, not the end. After all, if the series is picked up, then are the writers are boxed into switching the series focus from the war to the aftermath? I don't want a series that looks back at the war, and is more about post-war Colonial society rebuilding than combat. Since the original 1970's BSG series, we, fans have wanted to see the Cylon War.
However, I must learn to trust the forces at work on Blood & Chrome, after all, they created BSG and it was epic...so this should be too, right?

15 April 2011

Terra Nova in limbo?

Recently, two trailers were released for the Spielberg time-traveling, dinosaur, and recolonization epic, Terra Nova...then nothing.
Where is the pilot?
Well, it seems that there is not enough footage to form a good two-hour pilot/movie, and there is debate about how long the pilot should be and its ballooning cost (somewhere in the $20 million range...holy frak!) 
Then there is the storyline after the pilot...rumors say there are NO stories for after the pilot...then there is massive SFX costs and works...after all...making Dinosaurs is not easy.

Reports have the shooting location for the nascent colony is rainy, and this as hampered attempts to film more footage. When I watched the two released trailers, I got a real sense that there was some unevenness to the footage and the overall concept. It was just a feeling that now as been confirmed.
My take? Terra Nova is a cool idea and somewhat original, but flawed...why would the time portal be opened during a time when the Earth was so different than yours today? What is wrong with after the 1st Ice Age, when there are no man-eating monsters? In addition, it seems that Terra Nova would be better as a series of mini-movies, not a series, like a once-a-year television movie or miniseries, or like much of the cable series, like Mad Men, where there are only a few episodes a season. This would allow of the most bang-of-the-buck and time to work out the plot.
This could be a great sci-fi series...however its on FOX...and we know what they do to sci-fi series (cough, Firefly, cough, Space:Above and Beyond, cough)  

12 April 2011

Fifty Years ago...

On today's date, fifty years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human into the blackness of space in his Vostok One capsule. It is hard to believe that we, as a collective race, have been in space that long, and it seems how little we have achieved...as a science-fiction writer and lover, it is heartbreaking to see the lack of progress and the weak wills that people seem to have for the Space Program.
However, the bravery of people like Gagarin and the people that came after him into space, should never be questioned...
It is my hope that day, we think about the Space Program, and how we must continue to push out as our numbers grow on Earth. I wanted so badly as a kid to walk on Mars, drive the sands of Mars, and see the stars from the windows of a starship...sigh...I guess I can win the lottery and pay the Russians for a trip up to orbit. It seems that we have just dipped our toes into the pool of space, and we are still standing there, in our bathing suits and water wings, seeing if the water is right...waiting.... 
I leave with a quote from Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation:
"If You can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid..."

10 April 2011

The Motorpool: The Future of Armored Vehicles

In the continuing series about various topics withing the world of MSF, we consider the future of armored vehicles. When our wars spread off-world, how will this changed the classic tank/armored vehicle? What is the future of the great iron beasts that first limbered across the hellish battlefields of World War One?  Here are some factors concerting the future of armored vehicles in off-world combat, and how they arrive at the combat zone. 

One of the important factors in the design and deployment of the future armored vehicle is the ability for the futuristic military to transport armor and supplies from their base-of-operations to the battlefield that could be separated by many Light-Years. If one looks at Gulf War part One and Two, the US had to transport their tanks, field artillery, APCs, from their bases in the states to the port via trucks and rail. Once at the port, they had to be moved onto cargo vessels, sailed to the next port, off-loaded, put back on a truck, driving to the desert location, then dropped off. Then the military technicals had to exam the machine, and readied it for combat. This is no different than today as it will be in hundreds of years.
The future military will have to transport their machines for a base to a spaceport, then on a heavy-launch vehicle or mass driver, then picked up onto a FTL transport, manned or automated, then burn to the star system, shoot-down the gravity well dirt-side, then checked or even reassembled, then deployed. Fun, huh?
If we look to sci-fi for council on this subject, the best source is the movie ALIENS and the ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manuel. Most sci-fi works mention nothing about starlift capabilities, or even how an armored vehicle got to the front. I have seen only a few video games, like HALO and the Battletech universe mention the pain-in-the-ass getting armor from ship-to-shore and back again.
However, ALIENS, actually shows us how the future of warfare could be down. The UD-4L Cheyenne dropship is able to lift and drop a full-loaded M557 APC from the Sulaco in GSO, to the colony, then be on hot-standby for dust-off and/or airborne fire support. The small team of Colonial Marines have both aerial support and ground armored support with the M557's array of offensive/defensive weapon systems. Including inside the APC is heavier infantry weapons if needed, along with sentry cannons to allow for securing the perimeter. Adding to all of this firepower, is food, water, and medical supplies for several days without resupply drop from the GSO armed transport. Barring the enemy force is not rolling in with gunships or main-battle tanks, the M557's weapons should be able to repeal hostile forces.     

Getting the armored vehicle to the planetary combat zone is not an easy thing, sending down a vehicle that weights as much as 40 to 50 tons down a gravity well, possibly under fire, and then off-load the armor. The options for space-drop are a capsule/ drop module that is filled with a foam that prevents any damage to the tank. and these capsules could find LZs on land and water. Another option is a heavy-lift shuttle that as VTOL to delivery the tank down dirtside. Tanks could be fitted with anti-gravity sleds and dropped in high atmosphere, and eased down to the surface. It should be said, that space-drop would be needed for all armored vehicles of the future, and this would change their designs, and the craft that bring them planetside. Future tanks would not be an M1 Abrams, simply due to the size and weight.  

The Omini-Vehicle:
With the limitations of heavy starlift vehicles, the most will have be made of the vehicles that are dropped into a war zone. This could led to the future armored vehicles that are deployed off-world will be Omini-Vehicles. An omini-vehicle would have a base platform that could easily be modified for various combat roles, the base vehicle would have to serve as infantry carrier with some sort of medium-sized auto-cannon, like the Bushmaster 25mm. This would allow commanders to make the most of the vehicles they have on-hand, and storehouses of the weapon package upgrades, like turrets, could be on every colonial world, much like we had in Saudi Arabia prior to the 1st Gulf War. The best example of an omini-vehicle, is the M113 APC, that served from Vietnam onwards, and the new US Army eight wheeled Stryker vehicle. As seen in the imagine, the Stryker is about be retrofitted to meet many battlefield roles unitizing one base armored vehicle...from APC, command vehicle, band-aide transport, mortar platform, and even a mobile gun system with a 105mm anti-tank cannon!   

The New Reality of the Main Battle Tank
As we have seen in the current wars, armies now use fewer armored vehicle classes than in WWII and the Cold War...in Iraq, it seemed that the tank battles were over very quickly, and the majority of fighting later was between infantry, and the soldiers tended to use armored HMMWVs to support and suppress. During the latest wars, tanks have not played as much as a part as once thought. When I was a kid in the 1980's, it was all about how many T-72 and T-80 tanks the dreaded Warsaw Pacts had verse NATO. Since the wars after September 11th, have been mostly waged by air and infantry power...these conditions caused the US Military even cancelled the M8 Armored Gun System, (which would have been a light tank), due to the new Stryker. This shows that the future of armored vehicles will be limited to a highly mobile, highly adaptability, lethal vehicle...I doubt, with the need to get heavy armor quickly deployed via space drop capabilities, that tanks like the M1 Abrams, are going away. They will be tanks similar to the Portuguese Pandur II 8x8, the B1 Centauro Tank Destroyer of Italy, and the French AMX-10.   

Offensive Systems
The role of a tank is to delivery heavy fire down the throat of the enemy, while supporting and protecting the infantry against the enemy's own heavy armor. Tanks are the key in the spearhead into enemy territory. The main tool of the tank is their main gun. Currently, the main battle tank uses a 105mm to 120mm cannon that fire a vast array of munitions, like sabots, HEAT, and canister shot.  The future of main offensive system of the tank is either KEW (Kinetic Energy weapon) or DEW (Directed Energy Weapon). While the main gun would undergo changes, it is likely that tanks of the future would still mount several machine guns to deal with infantry.

Directed Energy Weapons?
-Laser: The use of a laser beam, like Free Electron or Solid State, is unlikely. Lasers need a fuel source, and time for the laser to burn through the armor of another tank. More over, there are a number of counter-measures for lasers, and there is still the issue of DEW trails and thermal booming. The best use of lasers on armored vehicles, would be in a defensive role.

-Particle: These DEW beams have more of a kinetic impact than a laser, however, they are shorter range than a laser. Particle beams require a great deal of technology to work, like circular accelerator, which is similar to the "atom smashers" of current science, they are massive and require a massive amount of energy to work.

-Plasma: In sci-fi works, like Terminator and HALO, plasma is used for the main offensive tool, however, this works require that the ionized gas, normally hydrogen, is converted from slush hydrogen, via a laser, then fired down a barrel with a EM sabot containing the ionized gas until it reaches the target, and explodes in a shower of thermal and kinetic damage. Nice, but lots of steps...and EM sabot are not yet proven science. Plasma would make a nice futuristic flamethrower or short-range mortar. If plasma and the EM sabot were a possibility, then plasma would make a good DEW system for tanks. Plasma as the advantage of being a fire-and-forget system, not need to hold the beam over the target until the armor is penetrated like lasers.

Kinetic Energy Weapons?
-Caseless Ammunition: Depending on the situation with supply-lines on the planetary battlefield, caseless ammunition may be an answer to extend the supply of main gun, due to more caseless ammo can be stored verse the convention shells used today. There are issues with this types of ammunition, cooking-off in a hot barrel, foiling, and fragility of the casing.  Some examples of Caseless ammunition are used in the American M551 Sheridan tank and the German Rheinmetall RMK30 30mm cannon.

-Gauss: One promising technology is the use of magnetic coils to propel ferromagnetic projectile at high speed. This would allow for a smaller shell, like 88mm or 90mm to have more punch than the 105mm used today. More over, if the HV shell was propelled at enough force than it could rip through most armor than could be mounted on a movable platform. One of the major disadvantages is the switching and high power needed to generate the push for a military-grade high-velocity weapon. 

-Railgun: Railguns are a massive undertaking, the US Navy as been testing a Railgun that propels a sabot at 11,500 Feet per Second, verse the 5, 200 FPS of the M1 120mm shell ! At those speeds, the armor of a normal tank would be as useful as tin-foil. However, Railguns are slow firing, massive support, and barrel length, not to mention the need to replace the rails.  

Defensive System
Tanks use their speed, armor, shealth, and numbers, to protect them from the threats on a modern battlefield. In the 1980's, I remember reading that tanks are under threat from nearly everything on the battlefield, like infantry, mines, and attack choppers. The future will be no different, you also add to the normal bag of threats to a tank's survival, UAVs, UGVs, orbital artillery, and possibly of Armored Power Suits. Tanks of the future will have more speed, better armor that may be lighter using Nanotech fibers, or carbon fiber nanotubes, or some sort of Plastic/Steel mix. The goal for will be for weight to be low, the armor protection factor will be increased and able to counter many threats, and save fuel. One future armor underdevelopment  Electric Reactive Armor, where high-volt energy charges the plates, when the projectile hits the charged armor plate, the energy transfers to the shell, and zaps it, possible breaking the shell before it can transfer its energy to the tank. 
 In addition, armored vehicles of the future battlefield will use countermeasures, like smoke, flares, and chaff, along with ablative armor, and armored that deflects or absorbs LiDAR and RADAR signs. Lasers, most likely Free-Electron, could be used as a countermeasure to incoming threats like incoming artillery shells, missiles, and aircraft/gunships. The control of the defensive FEL projector would be fully automated to counter threats while the human crew members worry about the offensive systems.  

Removing the bulk for the tank-tread and replacing it with some manner of hover technology or anti-gravity pods, would liberate the old-style tank from the limitations of the terrain, and the risk of traditional mine warfare. In the 1989 Renegade Legion RPG, the use of the anti-gravity technology allowed their tanks to fight over water, travel much faster than current tanks, and dismissed roads and certain terrains were no longer important. However, the bottom of the these tanks were the Achilles Heel, along with weapons that destabilizing the field generated by the A/G pods, and the power costs to fuel the pods.

On-Demand Tanks
In the realm of nanomaterials, futuristic material science, and using some of the ideas of Nano-based weaponry from John Scalzi's Old Man's War, we can see the possibility of a on-demand armored vehicle. Using nanomaterials and very advanced computer technology, it could be possible for a colonial world to use hulks of dense nano-metals to form all kinds and classes of armored vehicles. When an enemy force shows up, the commanders of the colonial defenses would not have to wait for the friendly warships to show up with the marines, the commander would flip a switch and press-out an army. Even more advanced would be that to remote pilot the tanks, like Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) from a central C3 location. If this technology existed than there would be no need for heavy starlift vessels...just enough nanomaterials to keep the bad guys away. I read once a quote about the limits of the Replication technology mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manuel: "If you could flip a switch and build a starship, then you wouldn't need to..."

The Engine
Tanks are greedy...they use a great of ammunition, the crews need food and water, and the engines are thirsty. The M1A1 Abrams as a 500 gallon tank and it as a range of 300 miles. Some sources say that the Abrams gets about 0.6 mile per gallon under normal conditions, under combat conditions, with the Abrams running at 40 MPH, its Three gallons to mile...they're no Nissan Leaf! For the armored vehicle of the future, they must likely not run on fossil fuels, but on Hydrogen Fuel Cells. The US Army is currently testing the technology along with other "green tech."


Here is a link to a site devoted to OGRE and GEV RPGs

Link to a site about the hover tanks in Hammer's Slammers

Link to a fansite devoted to Renegade Legions:

Here is a great site to my favorite real-world tank: The IDF Merkava MBT!

06 April 2011

FWS Game Review: MEDAL OF HONOR (2010)

FWS normally does not review video games, even though, I'm a huge FPS/Shooter gamer. But, my recent experience with the new Medal of Honor altered that. If you research the game online, the poorly done reviews on it, compelled me to write my own. EA's Medal of Honor is the 21st century reboot of the original FPS WWII franchise, that got completely dominated by Call of Duty franchise. EA responded with hiring Danger Close Game to ditch the old WWII setting and replace it with current Special Operations in Afghanistan. Much like what Call of Duty did with Modern Warfare. I bought this game after playing both Mass Effect games back-to-back...yeah, I needed some good old military shooting after hours of talking and trying not to hurt anyone's feelings. I picked up the game used at a local Dallas Movie Trade World, and I ran through the campaign on the normal setting over a week with some testing of the online gaming. It is my hope with this review that FWS can shed some light on the unique qualities of this modern day military shooter. 

The war in A-Stan has been a passion of mine, and at times, I wished that I had been in a position to be fighting there. This game gave me what I original wanted from the Modern Warfare games, a realistic FPS action in the cities and mountains of Afghanistan with American Special Forces. The missions in MOH are seemly based on actual SOF missions, and being part of those missions was thrilling. This game offered me the experience of riding ATVs in the snowy valleys, using lasers to call in AC-130 gunships on trucks on narrow passes, and watching the nighttime destruction. During the day, the grander of the forbidding terrain is a vista that I enjoyed time-after-time.
Coupled with the impressive visuals, is the audio chatter between your fellow Tier One operators, not only is the chatter genuine, it is also your orders, no pop-up objectives, so I was forced to listen closely to my eam leader while taking incoming. Included in the chatter was your teammates' tearing you down when didn't make a shot and I often felt bad when I felt like I let them down! I would reworked missions to hear positives about my skill-set. I found the night missions in the mud villages the most dyamic, while waiting in the shadows, listening to Taliban speak in Pashtun, then striking and if you fucked up, then the whole mission ends normally ends in your death. Crazy. 
Added to this, I especially enjoyed the weaponry, the standard American SOF M4 is done very well, and I credit Danger Close with adding realism to the mix of the weaponry, unlike other games...when your M4 is fitted with a sound suppressor, the bullet is less effective...and the HUD sights were also very true-to-life. On a side note, I was impressed that three of my favorite weapons are featured in MOH, the Sig-Sauer 226 pistol, the Mark 18 Mod 0, "commando" variant of the M4, and the AKS-74U, my favorite carbine of all time! It should be said that ending of the game is one of the only gaming experiences were I cried. Yes, cried at the end. It is one hell of an emotional journey. 

The worst thing about MOH is that the entire game as an overall lack of polish, the scenic massive environments are just a backdrop, the game funnels you into situation that limits your tactical choices, there were frame issues, and twice I had to reboot due to the game not loading the doors correctly. The allied/enemy AI is uneven, at times, the Taliban and your own SF troops are smart, finishing the fight quick, even pinning me down a few times! Then the next firefight, it feels more like a newbie Paintball game, with both sides pinned down, and you have to flank to get the party started. 
Another issue was that most of the faces of the male characters and enemies in MOH look like the love-child of David Duchovny and Jake Gyllenhaal that just went to a Cure concert (see above)! The melee function of MOH is more than the slash of WM2, but I wanted more, like the context sensitive melee of HALO: Reach. If you are on-line gamer, and who isn't these days, the lack of players online in the lobbies ruins the online pay. There was a night when I was playing online, and there were two of us in a lobby. Two. Never seen that in a COD  or HALO game!

With the popularity of military shooters coupled with on-line games, campaigns have taken a backseat to the multiplayer. This is directly seen in the all-too-short campaign of MOH. This is the only real ugly element of MOH. If you are good at military campaign, you can beat the single player game in about six hours. To be honest, it pissed me off. I wanted more of the campaign. I paid for more, and I wanted to experience more of fighting A-Stan as a TIER-ONE operator. After one play through, I engaged in another, and founded the experience the same...and not in a good way. Unlike with games like HALO, the enemies were in the same spot and acted the same. Disappointing. 

Medal of Honor vs. COD: MW2
Since both of these games switch from killing Nazis to killing evil-doers, and both of these games take place in current reality of the world...they are often compared, but they are very different. The first time you play the campaign of MW2 is a one of those rare experiences in gaming, and the rush is like a drug. But, it doesn't last (it never does), the more you play MW2, the more the rush decreases, and the more the story doesn't make any logically sense. While MOH story is much more realistic and rooted in actually SOF operations in A-Stan. However, MW2 has MOH beat in characters that are memoriable, like Ghost and Soap... Modern Warfare 2 is also a highly polished game with few mistakes, while MOH suffers from some issues that should have been allowed in a game of such caliber. Simply put, MW2 is like pouring gas on a open flame, while MOH is a low strady burn...I personally enjoyed the campaign of MOH more than MW2, seeing Afghanistan, fighting in the brutal terrain, driving an ATV, and flying in an Apache while dealing death to the Taliban is one hell of an experience and I understood the plot.

Who is that Bearded Special Forces Soldier?
It seems that the 'Dusty' character from MOH (see right) is based on an American Special Forces Operator that was seen in A-Stan around August of 2002 (see left), and is most likely a Green Beret. The images of this 'Cowboy' are some of the most of the iconic of the war, and it seems logical that EA and Danger Close would use him as a model, and if the rumors are true, than Mr.Cowboy maybe one of the 'SOF advisors' for the game.
Here is the Link:

Should you buy Medal of Honor?
If you are in the mood for a good solid military shooter based on real events and places, than this a good choice, just don't pay for it new or the online play, because mark my words, the online play will die quickly. Medal of Honor is still one of the best experiences in shooters that should be undertaking...it is a good six hours of fun in the mountains hunting evildoers!