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November 2021 Retrospective

November was a relatively quiet month so let's just dive right into what went down.

The Good

2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Max SoC

After nearly five years I finally upgraded my MacBook Pro to one with Apple Silicon and the difference is truly staggering. This is one of those watershed technologies that you didn't realize was possible and now cannot live without. It is not just how fast this laptop is although the performance is mind boggling. It is the battery and heat production that just don't make sense. Even when I am compiling code or playing back a 4K video, not only do the fans never seem to spin up but the battery is barely affected. Based on my experiences with computers over the last decade this just isn't something that I thought was possible. To get this kind of performance the common sentiment that was you had to sacrifice portability for a giant black brick with a massive power adapter. But now my laptop can even give my current gaming PC a run for its money.

It's hard to believe that this is Apple's first shot at a laptop SoC. I can't even begin to imagine what their replacement for the Mac Pro is going to be let alone what the M5 Max will perform like in 2030. We may be at the beginning of another major revolution in how computers are built and I am super excited at the possibilities.

Egg Club

If you find yourself in Toronto you absolutely must try an Egg Club Sandwich. Scrambled eggs, topped with thick cut bacon, sandwiched between slices of Japanese milk bread. Until this month I did not realize how much bread could impact an egg sandwich and now I don't think I can go back to anything else.

Pokémon Shining Pearl

Pokémon Shining Pearl finds itself in the "good" category this month because there really isn't anything bad about it. Sure it feels like a pretty basic remastering of the original game but that isn't a bad thing. The core of an old school Pokémon game is here, combined with a lot of quality of life improvements that have come as the series evolved.

The absolute worst thing I could say about this game so far is that it is too easy because all of your Pokémon gain experience when you win a battle. I've routinely found myself overleveled for every gym leader or Team Galactic encounter. But the flip side of this is that because the battles are so easy I am able to casually cruise through the game and still enjoy every moment of it.

This is a really low calorie remaster of a decent Pokémon game. It's the perfect snack to tide me over until Pokémon Legends: Arceus in 2022.

The Bad

I have been gaining weight

It seems that when I stop writing about something then I stop thinking about it, and when that thing is my weight it results in some pretty significant gains. Over the last four months I have thrown away all of the progress I have made during the pandemic, and if this trend continues I'll be right back to where I was in October 2019 before I started fasting for the first time.

So for December I am going to set some very aggressive goals to curtail my weight. The plan is to engage in OMAD (One Meal a Day) as often as I can, and fast for at least 18 hours between meals. Those hour long walks every day don't matter when the amount of calories and sugar I ingest is through the roof. I'm going to rely on Soylent drinks for a lot of my calories and cut back on as much sugar as possible. The hope is that by doing this I can be back down below 150 pounds and 18% body fat by the end of 2021.

Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop

I really wanted to like Netflix's live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. The opening credits pushed all the right nostalgia buttons and made me cautiously optimistic. Shockingly, the first four episodes weren't half bad. The music was fantastic. John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda did a solid job at personifying Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine. Even visually the vibe of the original Cowboy Bebop was shining through.

But there was something underneath it all that just didn't feel right. The writing was pretty weak and paced strangely. The fight scenes were sub-par and felt like the actors barely had any time to rehearse. The most egregious thing though was the decision to create complex backstories for Vicious and Julia, two characters from the anime who were basically used only to colour in Spike Spiegel's backstory. The Netflix writers chose to put them front and centre which wouldn't be a bad thing if done correctly unfortunately it was anything but.

The final six episodes of Cowboy Bebop went down a similar path to Foundation which I complained about last month. Everything that made the Cowboy Bebop anime special was thrown out the window and the writers tried to create their own story. That is fine but then you shouldn't need to put the words Cowboy Bebop on it. Trying to cash in on our nostalgia for the anime while spitting on what made it great is only going to push those fans away. So now you're relying on catching the eyes of newcomers who have never seen the anime and at that point you need to be damn sure you've created a compelling story, which I think they failed at. In my opinion the TV show Firefly is a better live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop than Netflix's version.

Halo Infinite

Before I shit all over Halo Infinite I want to say that the bones of this game are great. Basically every second from when I get into a Slayer match until the final kill is nearly vintage Halo. 343 Industries made some controversial decisions regarding the gameplay but I understand how those decisions can be defended. They are simply trying to freshen up the Halo gameplay and I can't really fault them.

However, everything leading up to a match and everything afterwards is absolute dog shit and completely indefensible. You would think that 343 Industries hasn't played a competitive FPS from the last decade.

When you boot up Halo Infinite and select multiplayer you are presented with three choices.

  1. Quick Play
  2. Big Team Battle
  3. Ranked Arena

Yes, you are reading that correctly. The first Halo game in over six years launched with only three playlists. No SWAT. No Infection. No King of the Hill. But it gets even worse. If you're an avid Halo player you're probably wondering where is the Slayer-only playlist? There isn't one. If you want to play Slayer you have to queue into one of these three playlists and just pray that it comes up. One night I played 12 matches and only two of them were Slayer.


How could the higher-ups at 343 Industries not realize what a horrible clusterfuck this would be? But the absolute kicker to all of this is that 343 Industries already solved this problem in the Master Chief Collection. They released something called "Match Composer" where you select all the modes you want to play and you'll get matched up with similar minded players.

But what about after a match? You're presented with a scoreboard that shows your kills/points and all of the medals you received. You'd expect these to all add up and affect the rank of your Spartan right? Wrong! They literally mean nothing. The only thing that matters to progression in Halo Infinite is which random challenges you were assigned before a match. Also, some of these challenges are mode specific so it is not even possible to complete them all in a single match. At the same time you can't pick the mode you want to play so it is entirely possible that you can play a match where you cannot complete a single challenge. Did I mention that you only have four challenges assigned to you unless you pay for the battle pass and then you get a fifth?

It is bonkers to think that in Halo 3 we had detailed stat tracking to the point where I could log on to Bungie.net and literally see a heatmap of where I died on each individual map. In Halo Infinite I currently don't even know how many times I've killed someone with any given weapon. That is how far the Halo series has fallen.

Just in case you forgot, this game was scheduled to launch last year until 343 showed their demo in July of 2020 and everyone lost their god damn mind. What the hell would this multiplayer mode have looked like in November of 2020? Would we have only had a single playlist? Also 343 has come out and said that co-op campaign for Halo Infinite is delayed until May 2022. Let that sink in for a second. A Halo game is launching without co-op campaign. You know, that thing that basically made the first three Halo games the mega popular franchise that it is today. That's launching 7 months from now if we are lucky.

It's really sad that triple A game development has essentially become release v0.1 of the game and work your way up to v1 over a year.

Forza Horizon 5

I don't understand the hype for Forza Horizon 5. It seems to be the answer to the question "what if a simple menu was a driving game instead?"

I played for almost two hours and probably did about five races where I only won a single time. It feels more like an open-world Ubisoft game than a racing game. Literally the first "mission" after the introductory race was to drive out into the woods and find a broken Volkswagon Beetle which I then had to drive back to my headquarters on a flatbed truck. Shortly after that I had to go on an "expedition" where one of the goals was to take a picture of a jade statue. Remember, I'm suppose to be describing a driving game here.

Obviously the Horizon spinoff series is not my cup of tea and I'll just have to keep waiting for Forza Motorsport 8 to get my racing fix.

Read No Country for Old Men

I wanted to watch the No Country for Old Men film this month but I had heard such great things about the novel that I decided I would read it first. What a horrible mistake that was.

I knew Cormac McCarthy was a revered author so I thought that mean his writing would be impeccable. But his complete disdain for punctuation was just something I could not get over. I would routinely lose track of who was talking and have to backtrack to be able to follow along. The story itself was fantastic and still left me wanting to watch the film but I can guarantee that this will be the last Cormac McCarthy novel I ever read.

Red Notice

No one should watch Red Notice. It is an absolutely, uninspired garbage film.

Honourable Mentions

Stay Awhile and Listen: Book 1

If your childhood was dominated by Diablo like mine was then you own it to yourself to give Stay Awhile and Listen: Book 1 a read. It is an excellent deep dive into the development of the first Diablo game. I had absolutely no idea how small and inexperienced Blizzard North was when they made the first Diablo. That ability to be an indie developer and create something that revolutionizes the industry is almost impossible nowadays.

Exit Strategy

I finished Exit Strategy, the fourth book in the The Murderbot Diaries, which concludes the story set out in the first book of the series. It was a fine read but nowhere near as special as that first book. It is basically more of the same which isn't bad but after reading four of these books in less than two months I am officially Murderbotted out.

Age of Empires IV

It has been 14 years since the last Age of Empires game. I was playing it on LAN in my University dorm for god's sake. After all that time I was expecting Age of Empires IV to be a major step forward but for better or for worse it is just more of the same. Sure the graphics are a bit prettier but the core gameplay feels just as at home in 2007 as it does in 2021.

If I had paid for this I would have been upset but since it was on Game Pass it was a nice little distraction for a few weeks.

World Chess Championship 2021

This is more a PSA for anyone who wasn't aware that the World Chess Championship 2021 is going on through the first two weeks of December. Magnus Carlson is attempting to defend his crown from challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi.

I don't expect the majority of my readers to follow these games live but I highly recommend you check out GothamChess or Agamator's recaps of the games.

Review November Goals

December Goals