Weenus: WCG Ultimate Gamer Blog #3

BY Andrew Miesner / March 30, 2009

Written by Bobby “Weenus” Hicks

(This is an editorial piece. The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.)

Episode Three: Shut Up and Drive

As you can imagine, the title Shut Up and Drive pretty much explains it all. Then again, we all know that our favorite Ultimate Gamers won’t be shutting up, so lets just hope there is a lot of driving.

After the obligatory recap, we see the competitors waiting patiently for the Elimination Challenge winner of Episode 2 to come strolling through the door. We’re treated to our standard “Geoff <3’s Kelly 4Ever!” stuff, before Amy comes strolling back in the victor. Geoff is super bummed, and Chelsea mutters out “Geoff I’m sorry!” before running to excitedly greet Amy.

It’s a tough situation because when two people go into the Elimination challenge that are just normal people that everyone got along with, you don’t want either person to leave, so you’re bound to be excited either way. Still, I suppose there is a tactful way to greet a friend without making the sad panda realize there isn’t any bamboo left.

With that being said, Amy apologizing to Geoff can’t help. It can’t be any worse than Dante apologizing for sending Amy into the Elimination competition, but it’s still bad, and I hope people stop apologizing for defending themselves or the decisions they make for the rest of the season.

After seeing some more about how big of a lame Dante is and how everyone hates him, we skip ahead to the next day, when the competitors are taken out to a large, open parking lot, only to be greeted by the gorgeous Hannah and then something else… What was it? Damn, I can’t reme-OH! Two cars FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFTing behind Hannah.

I’m getting afraid of these intros in the episodes now. What is going to happen for Halo? Master Chief is going to throw a sticky bomb onto Joel’s back? If they play Gears of War, is Marcus going to run up and chainsaw Dante in half?

Wishful thinking aside, if it wasn’t clear by the title of the episode, this is a racing week, and we’re playing the formerly CGS overlooked title, Project Gotham Racing 4. Somewhere, ch0mpr is gritting his teeth at a television. We find out that a few of the people can’t drive (and who am I to judge, I don’t drive either!) and again, the competitors are teamed up (this time in pairs) so we can instantly expect that some teams are going to be getting screwed.

The gang gets some lessons in drifting, which, as we’ll find out, didn’t work for everyone… and then we see that the teams have to drift around two sets of barrels, creating a cool pattern as seen from an overhead camera, where we’ll see if the teams can create a specific pattern with a nice gap between lights mounted on the hood and the trunk of the car, showing that they had a clean drift around the barrels with the nose inward.

Real Life Challenge: While I wasn’t thrilled about the way this Real Life Challenge turned out, the actual challenge itself was probably my favorite in the show so far. It’s that kind of thing that really compares the two mediums of playing the game and practicing the skills in real life, and it was cars drifting around stuff so we know it will be FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFTingly awesome.

Amy and Jamal went first, and did alright. Amy’s drift didn’t look perfect, but it wasn’t a massive disaster, which becomes the scoring threshold in all reality. Jamal’s run wasn’t bad either, and then we see Mark and Ciji. Ciji goes first, and for the first time in the entire competition, Ciji does something that really impresses me, with a solid run on the track, and finally, she’s earning her spot on the show. She has also yet to cry in the episode, which is a huge plus. Mark gets pumped, heads out, and lets be honest, has a bit of trouble around the first barrel. I want to take this time to note, I finally played some Source with Mark and I have to say, he’s a good dude. Really laid back, chill, funny, and he can frag, so if I start gushing over the guy in the following weeks, you’ll understand why.

My man sWooZie is up next, and I don’t think I’m biased when I say he had one of the best runs that you’ll see in the entire challenge. Chelsea, his teammate, is up next, and she’s buzzing with confidence after sWooZie’s run. Maybe she had a little too much confidence, as she had one of the WORST runs in the entire challenge. At one point, I’m pretty sure she was drifting around sWooZie’s barrels. It was a mess, and poor swooz did NOT look happy.

One thing I learned this summer was, sWooZie will make an effort to make everyone happy and have everyone get along at any chance possible, he will always try to make light of a situation and cheer people up… but there is a very tiny, small, like, .1% chance that he’ll actually get mad about something, and he shows that by staring straight forward, not saying a word. No comments, no jokes, nothing, just a dead stare straight forward, and he does that for pretty much the next ten minutes of the episode. Poor swooz.

No comments, no jokes, nothing, just a dead stare straight forward, and he does that for pretty much the next ten minutes of the episode. Poor swooz. Geoff and Dante head up next, and we can be pretty sure that Geoff is screwed since he’s Dante’s partner, ESPECIALLY! because Dante apparently brags about drifting. Oh god, here we go. Geoff of course kills it, and then it’s Dante’s turn. I can’t wait. Of course… Dante blows way too far past the first barrel, gets frustrated, and just absolutely guns it towards the second barrel. This is when chaos ensues. We see the huge dramatic build up as Dante goes completely of course and starts driving straight towards the row of camera man. We don’t get a clean shot of it as, as you can imagine, most of the camera men have dropped their cameras and are balancing the fine act of running while holding the brick they were about to crap out in their cheeks.

Mark had said that he was disappointed how little they showed of it, as Dante had really come extremely close to nailing the camera crew. Ok, not only is Dante annoying, out of place, and alienating himself, now he’s a liability for safety. Shouldn’t some network lawyer come in and send his lame ass home?

Robert and Alyson are up, and Robert’s inexperience in driving has completely terrified the cast, who are almost positive if Dante thinks that he’s a race car driver and nearly killed the camera crew, Robert is sure to take out at least a lighting guy. Robert’s only real problem is his fear, and he doesn’t kill anyone… which is somewhat surprising, as I was pretty sure anyone that allowed Hot Topic to influence their life that strongly would have some kind of hidden list or something.

Alyson’s run isn’t much better, but she managed to be adorable the entire time so we just forgive her. We head to the judging ceremony, and things don’t go very well for just about anyone. Somehow, Dante’s path is at least a clean enough oval (even though some of the tracks were made with puddles of cameraman blood) to edge them out over sWooZie and Chelsea… by a mile.

Mark and Ciji came in first, Geoff and Dante SOMEHOW came in second, Amy and Jamal in third, Alyson and Robert in fourth, and Chelsea and sWooZie in last place. Somehow, despite the fact that Dante nearly murdered half of the crew, they got second place. I can understand that Geoff had a good run, but didn’t sWooZie have a good enough run to dig them out of last place by that same standard of judging? Well, Chelsea and sWooZie are on the chopping block!

We head back to the loft, after some dramatic music, and we see that the gang is ready to start playing PGR4… complete with Racing Wheel. The wheel is a really controversial twist for the competition, as most of these players are likely to have controller experience, but not wheel experience. Racing Wheels tend to be slightly expensive, and unless you’re a huge completive racer (and even then, you may use the sticks) or an enthusiast, you probably don’t have a wheel at home.

They sorta gloss over that fact, and just show people going nuts while playing and practicing. Dante bigs to train Chelsea, which is a pretty bad sign for Chelsea, and Jamal is clearly not thrilled about it. Then, Dante sits in the kitchen running his mouth about Jamal, which Jamal hears, crap is tossed, and sWooZie begins to instigate a put up or shut up match in Virtua Fighter 5, something I’ve seen him do before (between Dr. Dogg and BlackMamba) and something I believe the entire audience was ready to see. Dante seems reluctant, but his sad, shattered ego gets the best of him, and he agrees.

Ego Challenge: Dante takes an early lead, which Jamal ties up, exploding with shouts which clearly were rattling Dante. They skip through the actual competition while showing us the drama of trash talking in confessionals, and Jamal wins, making Dante look like a fool.

We skip into Ciji and Mark’s developing feelings which are being edited to be a bit more dramatic than they probably really were, which Mark tells me he had to prep his girlfriend for back home. I don’t envy that aspect of being a competitor on the show. That has to be brutal. I can’t imagine having a conversation with a loved one saying “look, this is what they’re going to make us out to be, but it really wasn’t anything like that!”I can imagine it’s hard enough having the conversation BEFOREHAND about how you’re not going to go to this competition for weeks to a month while being completely isolated and not do something your girlfriend would be mad about. Brutal.

As Ciji and Mark had won the Real Life challenge, they were treated to the training session with Brian Boyle, WCG US Champ of PGR4. He taught them how to wall bounce, something you may recall from some CGS action, and taught them ways to shave their times down. I’m really curious to see how these players who received training sessions would have done without the training, as, and this is a spoiler, none of them have done fantastically yet.

Isolation Challenge: We’re brought to the briefing room where we find that each competitor will have to run the same track with the Lotus and be ranked by lowest lap time, with four laps in the race, basically giving them four chances to really get themselves on the ranking. Everyone seems to be sweating this challenge, as no one really seemed strong at it aside from Dante, and we see a few people truly struggling.

We come back to the briefing room to find out that Alyson is in last place after the combination of the rankings. I imagine the producers were bummed about this, as Alyson hadn’t been flirting with anyone in the house, meaning she didn’t have a storyline with any guys in the house for the editors to play up super dramatically. Well, time to put that weight on Dante’s shoulders again.

We get a glimpse of the rankings from the Isolation chamber, which read:

1: Dante
2: Robert
3: sWooZie
4: Jamal
5: Ciji
6: Amy
7: Chelsea
8: Mark
9: Alyson
10: Geoff

Which become fairly critical as we start to see the Dante drama that lies ahead. The camera cuts to Dante as they explain that he took first place, having to choose the Elimination competitor again. Dante feigns as if he’s super bummed about it, after all, it’s fine for the guy to sit around and lament over everyone else in the house, but having to make a strategic and critical decision is the worst thing Dante could possibly face.

Also, let’s be honest, Dante should have been in second to last place (if not last place) in the real life challenge, which indefinitely would have shaken up the entire course of following series of events. What ever though. Thats not how it worked out.

Alyson seems a bit stressed, but she stays positive and wants to practice, and while she heads off to do that, Dante does something that seems legit at first… he gathers the competitors together explaining that he wants to send whoever was in 9th place into elimination with Alyson. Alright, I can dig that. That’s fair. Problem is, no one wants to admit their lap time. It’s funny because we had just seen a little bit on the show about how everyone comes out of the Isolation Chamber with a poker face on, pretending they did great, now, we can see that they’re all pretty BS, as they won’t share their lap times, all probably thinking they were in 9th place.

Amy of course says she didn’t catch her last time. Geoff makes a joke about Dante not voting him in (which is perfectly fair, and Geoff was the only reason Dante took first place, even if Geoff did horribly in the Isolation Challenge). Mark and Chelsea are both up, and Chelsea heads to talk to Dante, where she finds out that he was thinking of sending her, sWooZie, or Ciji into Elimination. Well, one out of three ain’t bad? Considering how swooz and Ciji were both in the Top 5, you can see even more about how little Dante truly knows.

Chelsea tries to use politics (and a low cut shirt) to influence Dante’s choice, and they mull over their options. We head to the roof, where we get another slow and dramatic reveal on Dante’s choice, who ultimately turned out to be Jamal. Big surprise. At least this choice, while still person, was valid as Jamal has proven that he’s a threat to Dante in their little pissing contest earlier in the episode.

Jamal takes it in stride, grinning like an idiot as he’s selected, and I have to be honest, he’s actually growing on me. I’m beginning to love his arrogance, because it’s really only directed at Dante thus far, and I have to be honest, that’s totally justified.

This time, we’re told what track the two eliminee’s will be racing on, so they have a very fair chance to practice the night before hand. Both hit the game to practice, and Dante heads over as if he’s going to help Alyson with anything, which as we know, is terrible.

The house seems to rally to keep Alyson practicing all night long, which is cool. Jamal handles the situation better than I would have expected, he doesn’t mouth off about it, he just zones in and practices. Jamal and Alyson then make a truce to sleep on the couches facing each other so no one sneaks any extra practice time in, and then, in what I can only consider was done as a lark, they sleep with their controllers. It’s hilarious because Alyson barely seems to really understand why they did it as she’s explaining it to the confessional.

Elimination Challenge: Alyson and Jamal head to the Samsung Stadium and begin the street race on London’s Westminster tour for three laps. Alyson takes the lead, which she holds for nearly half the race. Joel’s commentary over the race is much more reasonable then we’ve seen for the first two episodes, he explained the important info, gives decent insight, and doesn’t come off as obnoxious, overall, I was impressed. Both players look decent on the race, up until the point when Jamal is able to pull off an old PGR faithful, t-boning Alyson and taking the lead. Man, I’m sure there are a few CGS racers who could have whined to them… er, explained to them about collisions.

Jamal holds the lead for the remainder of the race, taking the win. I’ve heard from a few sources (including Alyson on our very own coL.stream show LO3) that they had actually raced twice as she had technical difficulties with her headphones, which Jamal actually was cool with and handled well.

Alyson takes her loss better than we’ve see so far, which is pretty cool. Jamal heads back to the loft with a new target on Dante’s head, and Alyson heads to the exit interview. She holds it together a bit before slowly falling apart, which you can’t really fault her for, as she’s made it fairly far now and has every right to be bummed.

The Afterthoughts: This was without a doubt the most enjoyable episode so far. There was some drama, but it stayed mostly competition related. We didn’t see anyone crying for no reason, which was a huge factor for me. The threats between the players are all starting to become a bit more competition related, which is also good.

I think the judging situation for the real life challenge was a little bit… off, but, I wasn’t there so I’m sure I missed something. Right now, I am just anxious to see what happens when Jamal gets back into the house and faces off with Dante again. Perhaps some more impromptu ego challenges? Be sure to check out www.hulu.com, they have the replays of all three episodes so far, and they upload the episodes late Tuesday night.

Make sure to tune in to the Sci-Fi channel on Tuesday night to see the fourth episode!