Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cellblock Squadrons: First impressions

What would gaming be without sci-fi starships blowing the everloving snot out of each other? I mean, the whole thing kicked off with SpaceWar, right? And other than the simulation/shump split (Space Invaders or Elite, if you will), it's pretty much been variations on those themes ever since. Cut forward a decade or so. The mainstream gaming biz has forsworn its roots; other than Rogue Squadron and the occasional Gradius remix, starships seem to be the things in the cutscenes of sci-fi FPSs that explain why our hero is in the ass-end of nowhere fighting giant amoeba with a plasma rifle. The germinal genre has been driven underground; the largest-profile release is a Geometry Wars update for XBox Live Arcade (not to say such a thing is unworthy, mind you) and its fans have turned to the dusty frontier of gaming. Startups gun each other down at high noon, and press gangs for EA roam the high desert. In the back of a clapboard farmhouse, an infant, swaddled in whorehouse laundry, realizes it has lungs and makes sure everyone in a half-mile radius knows it. The infant is Cellblock Squadrons.

Alright, so the word is not 'out' per se, other than a celebratory, though demure, entry buried somewhre in Manifesto Games. But it is worth repeating, because, if my first impressions lead me to believe that it's a triumphant celebration of all things Starfighter Simulation.

Mercifully, the good folks at Super Furious software have chosen the fast, minimal, and accessible route. The plot is quite minimal, and is explained in a ten-slide voice-acted introduction. The Earth has united under one government, but is under attack by aliens from without and rebels from within. Much like Mad Cows and Unexploded Ordnance, the powers that be have decided that the best way to solve both problems is to pit them against each other. Naturally, you are a member of the titular penal squadrons. You fly until you die or pay your debt to society (rebellion, apparently, is a $500,000,000 crime, which you pay off by the mission). The between-mission briefing and setup is framed as you in your cell recieving the mission information on a PDA; the missions tick foward a week at a time, giving instantly a feeling of isolation and cabin fever. It's a great setup. And then you get into the mission.

There are less controls to learn than your average first person shooter; in fact, the control scheme *is* the same as your average first-person shooter, but even simpler. Ships have a forward-firing battery fired with the left mouse button. Most ships have a special ability, such as a short duration shield or a ram attack. Most ships have a boost function, which gives heavy thrust for a fixed duration. WS is throttle, AD is roll. Targeting has been simplified to a locked/unlocked toggle; in unlocked, it brackets the target nearest to boresight and gives you damage bar and a lead indicator, while locked mode holds on to the last target until unlocked again. There's a 'kill throttle' button, and a look backwards button. And, really, that's all you have, or need. Every function provided comes in handy at some point, and you never feel you're lacking for something. It's a very nicely executed control scheme, combined with a nice fisheye radar system that seems awkward at first, but then becomes very effective - edge of circle is 180 degrees back; center is forward.

The combat seems very yank-and-bank Descent:Freespace type shit for a while - shoot targets until dead, and so forth, until mission is achieved. After a while, you start noticing things:

1. Whoa, there's a wingman count in the bottom left, and the number is, like, sixty-eight.
2. There sure are a lot of laser blasts flying around. A lot more blue ones than red ones.

Right off the bat, the sheer size of the furballs you get into is staggering. Those used to Freespace-like battle sizes, with thirty a respectable number of ships in play, will find these battles staggering. The sprays of projectiles and the screen-filling energy beam weapons have a patterned, shmuppy quality; combined with the minimalism of the ship design and interface, the game is compellingly abstract, despite having a strong premise backing it up. Instead of fiddling with energy levels, shields vs hull integrity, missiles vs guns, targeting subsystems, etc, it's two hordes of totally AI-controlled starfighters duking it out, and the only thing that matters is dealing more damage before the other guy does the same to you. The simplicity is liberating.

Despite the complete lack of squad commands, the tactical choices available quickly become obvious. The enemies come in three levels: fighters, frigates, and capital ships (well, that's what I'll call them, anyway). Do you focus your attention on clearing the fighters first, or do you straight for the throat and take out the heavy hitters? One you choose an enemy, you have to choose an approach. Your squadmates choose targets in a totally autonomous manner. You can tell very clearly by the patterns of laser blasts in the distance who is engaging who, and where the concentrations of force are. Do you pick off stragglers or go for a popular target and let your buddies soak up the return fire?

The look of forty of your wingmates swarming a capital ship while the latter blows them away one by one with enormous energy beams, the victims erupting into incandescent fireballs, has a surreal beauty of the kind usually seen in, say, Grid Wars. Remember the panoramic view of the final battle in Return of the Jedi? It's like that, only you can fly into the middle of it and affect the outcome. And isn't that what epic gaming is all about.

Did I mention that this is just the demo?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rainbow Six: Vegas

Franchises evolve. This is especially true of venerable franchises like Rainbow Six; while less compelling IPs have come and gone, R6 has remained the standard-bearer for tak-tik-ool shooters since its groundbreaking 1997 debut. The thing is, with R6:Vegas, it's just not Rainbow anymore.

Oh, sure, it's got dudes with a penchant for evil black firearms and magazine pouches raiding buildings and neutralizing tangoes. Sure, you have teammates over whom you exercise some degree of control. But except in name (and occasional trappings) it's not the same Rainbow. Not by a long shot.

See, Rainbow Six was a surgical examination of counter-terrorism ops; in proper vintage Technothriller style, it tried to present the subject matter with as much versimilitude as could be managed. The training was a series of drills executed in shoot-houses, the missions had you shooting it out with thinly-masked versions of, say, the Red Army Faction, and the weapon selection, while sparse compared to modern offerings, was properly representative and convincing in action. Also, since dead assaulters stayed that way between missions, there was a distinct risk of getting attached to Santiago Arnavisca and his homies. The missions were not linear hallways full of tangoes so much as open buildings that you could raid in pretty much whatever way you deemed tahk-ty-cooly prudent.

Cut to nine years later. Two more iterations of the same pre-planned mission structure have come and gone, each with more guns, tack-ti-kull options, and polygons. The franchise has migrated to the console world, which makes financial sense more than it does gameplay sense; console controls and surgical precision rarely come together, and bratty-little-sister franchise Splinter Cell is really more appropriate for the platform, especially given that it's an admittedly very well done Metal Gear Solid knockoff. An unfortunate side-note in the form of R6:Lockdown is likely compellance in the virtual franchise reboot that is R6:Vegas.

The first shock upon loading up a new game is that Red Storm really has it out for Mexico. Wait, no. The first shock upon poking around the opening level is that it's LINEAR. Hell, the GRAW games were still fairly flowing, even if they had a distinct path. The noise that the mosquito-in-our-ear makes about 'multiple paths' breaks immersion in that it points out that, yes, this game is mostly linear. The next thing noticed is that you can loot weapons from your fallen foes. A logical point, of course, in that given the proper impetus, Wouldn't You Do The Same Thing, but given that you're already hauling about multi-thousand-dollar tacctuhkil uberguns, why would a hardened op who probably spends fourteen hours a day training switch to a grimy-looking MAC11? And why does no one complain when you leave your expensive toys behind on a Mexican street corner? On the plus side, it does solve one issue with R6 1-3 - the "I want to try the same thing with different guns" problem; it saves you a restart. So do the conviently located equipment boxes, which the proprietors of an abandoned mining complex have thoughtfully stocked with all your favorite firearms and no less than fifteen magazines for each. Did I mention that this game's verisimilitude is a bit thin?

I probably sound like a Fallout fanboy right now, so let me point out that, yes, I really love this game. Blasting the crap out of painfully generic evil people with various and sundry wundercannons is still one of the most engaging things one can do with a personal computer. The fact that you can fiddle with said guns (or at least their sighting systems and suppressors) until you get the preferred results only improves the experience. And the designers have provided just enough guns to give tantalizing variety without resorting to shameful minutae that would just lead to distracting micromanagement of stats; the 60 or so guns in Raven Shield, while incredibly amusing to my inner gun nut, became pointless when I realized that about fifteen had any worth, and the same five or so get any play at all.

Which leads me to my next point: shooting stuff in this game is fun. The gleeful release from the annoying minutae of 'realism' means that the designers went hog-wild with visceral impact. The pumpkin-sized puffs of blood that balloon from pierced flesh, the showers of coins from exploding slot machines, the simply criminal quantity of glass waiting to be shot/jumped through/blown out with grenade; the particle artists obviously had way too much fun with this game. Vegas was indeed a good choice of setting; not only is the palette an arresting golden-red at all times, but the screen is usually awash in bloom effects from the endless neon lights. The screen-filling muzzle flashes are another good indication that the crew has thrown realism to the wind and focused on making a kick-ass hollywood action flick with tahktokul dudes blowing the shit out of an army of terrorists with the same population as St. Petersburg, Florida.

Shooting shit is enhanced by a very smooth cover mechanic. Essentially, you hold down right mouse to enter cover and the arrow keys to pop out and shoot people. If you don't want to pop out, you can burn ammo with 'blindfire;' the utility of this is of course questionable, but it's a nice touch nonetheless. What makes it so worthwhile is that it transitions are seamless; if you want to hit cover, hold down rightmouse, move up to said wall, move pretty much as you normally would, release rightmouse to leave cover. There are no awkward snaps anywhere in the procedure. As I said, butter smooth. No wonder everyone's ripping it off; this is the example to beat.

A sore point in an otherwise blissful bacchanal of death and destruction is the collection of boneheaded gun-modelling errors. Not from an art standpoint, but functionally-speaking. The good folks at Red Storm seem to have forgotten all their real-world research. In R6:Vegas, shotguns recoil like elephant rifles and take about three times as long as necessary to pump. The XM-26 LSS is depicted as a semi-auto rather than a straight-pull bolt action; if a real gun manufacturer could make a self-loading shotgun that small and still be useful, they'd pee their pants in glee and/or government contracts. Oddly, the guns that actually *are* semis (Benelli M3, SPAS-12) are depicted in pump-action mode, which strikes me as pointless, as the pump is meant to be more of an emergency measure for low-powered cartridges, and all Rainbow throws through these things is good ol' 00 Buck. After the fantastic modelling in Raven Shield, the shotguns here are a letdown. The G3KA4 and SCAR-H are modelled with standard 20-round magazines, but are designed as 30-rounders (them 7.62s have gotten awfully skinny since I left them). And the stat choices are decidedly mixed-up (A G36c with an 8" barrel has better accuracy potential than a 16" M8 Carbine?). Incidentally, the same M8 Carbine seems to be canon in Red Storm world, perhaps because of GRAW. On the plus side, the AR-15 variants are conspicuously absent, so we're left with a collection of mostly rarified European designs, which fits the larger-than-life persona of R6 quite nicely. It does seem odd that there was no conspicuous asset-sharing between GRAW and R6; while the setting is different, the Mexico props and firearms could carry over just fine, or are they really the same ones with uglier skins?

As is in vogue these days, getting shot is no big deal, as long as you have some nice cover to cower behind while you revive yourself with a few manly grunts. Needless to say, the perma-death elements of R6 1-3 are completely gone; you die, you restart, and if your buddies go down you stick them with the magic adrenaline needle from The Rock and they get up like nothing happened. As fitting the Hollywood feel of the game, it's a good choice; first aid kits would be painfully out of place, and permanent injury would be endlessly frustating (I'll admit it certainly was in previous iterations...limp limp limp).

The few taktikil elements that remain are certainly fast enough. Spacebar is a combination use key and order key. Pointing at ground or cover will send your two buddies there; point it at something usable, like a ladder or fast-rope point, will make them use it. When there are options (say, do I breach the door with C4 or frag-and-clear), three icons appear at the bottom of the screen, which correlate to three keys. It's all very fast and furious, and while you'll probably spend 65% or more of the game simply having your buddies follow you, there are times when you actually want to use strategy, and it works well. The sudden-death hostage zones of R6 1-3 are still in, but feature multiple entry points; since the 'playbook' icons also function as a go-code, you can coordinate running in one door while your team flashes and clears through another door. These scenes are not nearly as brutally hair-trigger as in the previous games (and the game mercifully checkpoints right before each time), but do provide a different sort of challenge from the endless blasting of bad guys.

We've come a long way baby. From a clinical dissection of a fictional SAS-style CT unit to an interactive movie about superheroes with shiny gats blowing up Las Vegas, it's hard to believe it's the same franchise. But it's not unwelcome.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


It's taking me a few days to write a review of this movie. It's quite unlike anything else I've seen; as a depiction of solitude in a wasted world, it's similar to Luc Besson's Le Dernier Combat; I've heard its use of Sepia for the 'real world' and color for the Zone compared to the Wizard of Oz; its themes of spirituality, emptiness and despair, and martyrdom are all universal, but I've never seen them tackled in quite this way before. Tarkovsky is obviously a master of technical film. His compositions are more profoundly deep than most film, using depth of field in such a way to keep most of a scene in focus and give it an almost surreal, enveloping quality. The sound design is lush; the Zone crackles with life, from babbling streams to the ceaseless chatter of wildlife to the bizarre acoustics of bunkers and pipelines. Tarkovsky fills his landscapes with the rusted detritus of civilization; between buses, tanks, sub-machine guns, images of the Christ, chinaware, and telephones that are still hooked up to the network, Tarkovsky elicits a degree of futility that both echoes the feelings of the main characters and forces us to consider our society in a broader context. In the proper Russian tradition, the main characters are deeply conflicted, wracked with spiritual crises (well, except one); the depth of field echoes the great depth that Tarkovsky explores the themes, in man-vs-self, man-vs-man, and man-vs-nature, frequently all at once.

There are so many unanswered questions here - what do the changes in color mean? What is the significance of the telephone, the bird, the repeated juxtaposition of desert and water (life)? You know what? I'm going to break open the Netflix envelope and watch it again.

Range Report vz.52, 9x19mm

The last two Saturdays, I've attempted (with varying degrees of success) to hammer away at a panoply of steel targets, in full view of people who have invested more into their gun than I have into my entire firearms collection and reloading setup. I'm fully convinced that my setup's cost is approximately 2/5 of the next most expensive firearm on the range, namely my range buddy's SIGPro SP2340. The weapon I've been running with is the cult-classic CZ vz.52 handgun, equipped with a drop-in Czech 9x19mm barrel and resting in a the criminally ghetto military-style full-flap holster that came with it.

The barrel in question comes with a few disclaimers, mostly pertaining to feeding and ejection reliability. For those not in the know, a vz.52 in passable condition is a *flawless* performer with the native 7.62x25mm caliber. Due to the near-identical case heads, the only thing required to shoot 9x19mm is a barrel change. This is all well and good, except that due to the OAL being a good 5mm shorter, the rounds don't exactly get along with the magazines. Every third round or so pops up a good 75 degrees, jamming the slide 2/3ds back and being a pain in the ass to clear. This is in addition to the fact that the bottlenecked Tokarev cartridge has a nice conical quality to it, which slides into the chamber quite nicely, whereas the Parabellum is a stubby cylinder nowhere near as aerodynamic or elegant. Given the length disparity, those 9x23mm Largo barrels that were up on suddenly make a lot of sense. Whoops, only a few years too late. So the feeding problem's a fixture if I want to run 9mm; if I'm shooting plates and IPSC-style stuff, I'm stuck; they don't much like me shooting semi-armor-piercing FMJs at 1500+fps at their nice targets for some reason.

See, the magazines I got with the CZ have a problem. They go "sproing" when loaded and held by anyone that isn't me. More specifically, the floorplate wiggles its way loose and the magazine spring bounces gaily into an inaccessible corner, right after I have told the person then holding the gun that it's really sweet once it gets running. After an awful experience with Triple-K magazines (the follower actually jumps the slide catch, which requires the user to remove the left grip and poke at the lockwork with a paperclip for a while to actually get the magazine out of the gun) I got some original Czech magazines from J&G. These look identical to the original magazines, but don't go "sproing."

The icing on the cake is this: they solve the feeding problem. It turns out that the feed lips on the original mags, after thousands upon thousands of rounds, have been nicely radiused; the corners on the lips are instead graceful curves. This is bad. The new magazines have rail-straight feed lips that fully restrain a 9x19mm cartridge. This is most definitely good. They also don't jam in the slide catch, because the follower isn't a bent piece of 10-gauge sheet steel.

So now I have a 98% steel-shooting gun. 98%, because it does still jam from time to time, but with 8-round mags, everyone probably just figures I'm executing a tactical reload for some reason.

The nice thing about re-barrelling a handgun like this is that it retains the same operating mechanism; namely, a form of roller-retarded blowback. It's not techincally roller-delayed blowback like on an H&K, but it's got rollers, and I can say it's got the same mechanism as an MG42, so whatever. Anyway, it's got the advantages: it's smooth, accurate, and controllable. The bore axis is a bit on the high side, but with a small caliber like 9mm combined with Hogue hand-alls, recoil's a non-issue; accuracy is extremely good at least in part because the barrel movement is minmal (3mm straight back) and never changes angle; and the slide movement is not at all violent. So it's great for repeatable hits on small targets. Guess what a plate rack is.

There is, of course, the matter of the grip angle, and the other, possibly related issue of the sights.

The CZ52 has a fairly straight grip angle, at least compared to, say, a 1911. To it points funky until you get used to it. An incorrect grip can be a bit too easy to get, especially if it's not your preferred gun; with a slightly low strong-hand grip and a high, competition-style weak-hand grip with high thumb, it points quite nicely. This takes practice (some would say too much practice).

Once you've nailed down the grip, the sight picture comes into play. People gevetch about military-style sights, and not necessarily without merit. They're small, they're hard to focus on in the right conditions, they don't have any bells or whistles like micrometer click adjustment or tritium night sights. But in this case, they work. The parkerizing has a great deal to do with it, actually. A 60% gray target picture is more receptive to value differences in the target. Let's put it this way. A click-adjustable Bo-Mar style target sight is fantastic if you want an adjustable aimpoint, a wide, clear sight picture, and good relief between the front and rear sights. However, they come in black. 99% of bullseyes are black. Trying to focuse on a black front sight against a black target in anything but blistering midday sunlight is, to put it mildly, difficult. One might prefer 'downright impossible' if one has computer eyes. After a while, a can of day-glo spray paint is a vital addition to your range bag if you want groups and not patterns. Three-dot sights, on the other hand, solve the focusing problem beautifully. There is a nice white dot floating in front of you that your eye focuses on to the exclusion of everything else in the current scene. However, the dot is not necessarily the aimpoint, or covers up the point of aim. For combat shooting, this is fine - the human head is rather larger than the 3" difference or so. In plate shooting, this is the difference between hitting the plate, hitting the hinge, and hitting the railroad tie the hinge is bolted to. So the CZ52's 60% gray parkerized sights are a surprisingly good compromise. It helps that the point of impact is perfectly zeroed to the sight in both calibers, probably another result of the lack of barrel movement.

The sights are very usable until the guy at the front of the range hits the wrong switch and powers down the halogen target floods, which (of course) take a good 5 minutes to spool back up from off. When the guy next to you is a cop with a Springfield XD and nice tritium three-dots, the results are kind of embarassing.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Range Report - Webley MK.1

There's no firearm quite like a Webley.

Well, OK, so there's the Enfield revolvers, but the hinged-frame breech-loading revolver is a distinctly British innovation, and the Webley revolvers are the archetypal example.

I procured mine on something of a whim, thinking it nifty and knowing a small amount about Webleys. If I had only known at the time that this weapon was approximately 120 years old...and, predictably, mine looks about that old, lacking almost completely in finish and resplendent in nicks and scratches. Miraculously, the bore is nearly factory-new, for reasons I can only speculate on. Its previous owners certainly took good care of the functional bits.

Being of 1880s vintage, it is chambered in the thoroughly manly .455 MK1 powder-of-color cartridge, which throws a slug the size of a bowling ball at a velocity slightly less than that of a good fastball. OK, so that may be a slight exagerration. Nonetheless, it is most proper cartridge for stopping a charging assailant at speedrock distances (and possibly setting him on fire with a flurry of slow-burning propellant, which was according to one historian was a not-uncommon occurence). Within 15 meters, the US Army determined it a superior manstopper to .45 Colt in the Thompson-LaGarde tests that resulted in the adoption of .45 ACP. Soft lead is bad enough, but performance could be improved with the MKIII "Manstopper" bullet, which is essentially a wadcutter with a hollowpoint. Declared unsporting by the powers that be, it didn't last too long but could no doubt be re-created by an enterprising chap with a properly-shaped bullet mould.

I was not expecting anything resembling practical accuracy from this piece; years of reading pieces regailing tales of a horrendous, lifetime-to-master double-action trigger had me skeptical, despite two solid months of dryfire practice. Fortunately, such fears were unfounded. Perhaps my Webley has seen a lot of action and consequently has nice, rounded corners on all the lockwork (a suspicion furthered by the unusable single-action sear notch); maybe the triggers aren't really so bad. Whatever the case, mine is butter smooth and nowhere near unusably heavy. Everyone who picked it up could easily hit a large pepper-popper at 15 yards; my esteemed SIG-toting compatriot additionally levelled 2 of 3 small poppers at the same distance, on his first time firing the gun. So accuracy is no problem. With practice, a plate rack should be no match.

The Webley was the fastest shooter of its day; the combination of double action and auto-ejecting break action allowed a positively unsporting rate of fire. My experiences confirm this line of reasoning; the DA is a fairly fast reset once one get the hang of it, and mastering the 'break-snap' ejects the empties efficiently and leaves the chambers ready for new cartridges. The only way one could speed up this cycle would be a speedloader, though a pocketful of shells is surprisingly quick. I may look into HKS S&W Model 25-2 speedloaders, since the period-appropriate Prideaux models tend to auction at prices exceeding what I paid for the original gun. I'm not that hardcore of a collector, and practically speaking paying $700 for some pressed and bent metal is a bit silly. Whatever the situation is with loaders, the Webley would function most decisively in a defensive situation; 255 grains of lead sends a strong message. When I get some more experience (read: the pros decide I'm not too much of a rank amateur) I fully intend to speedrock and mozambique with this old chap.

The problem (or charm, if you prefer) is this: the powder-of-color produces great torrential volumes of white smoke. There's no question that you're firing it, even with a functionally-deaf audience. I would no doubt have faced a lynch mob had the wind been blowing towards the firing line, but since it merely afflicted the ammo table it attracted mostly positive attention. However, after five rounds rapid fire, you simply cannot see the target, especially at night. I shoot at night. A work-around drill would be three rounds standing followed by three rounds from a crouch, which is, in a word, silly. Shooters were observed waving their off-hand about above the gun to clear the sight picture (don't sweep those muzzles, kids!).

Cleaning the gun proved that Goex is indeed the filthiest, most vile propellant one can possibly run through their firearm. In addition to some pesky leading from the hard-cast bullets, 45 rounds produced thick cakes of carbon fouling on every surface on or near the muzzle and barrel/cylinder gap. The area right around the blast shield is most problematic in this regard, as it is the confluence of three cylinders, which leave oddly-shaped gaps between each other and are hard to hit with a toothbrush or cloth. The relative imprecision of blackpowder loading, after the tenth-of-a-grain tolerances in centerfire autopistol cartridge loading, seems suicidally brazen (loading cartridges with a scoop? Dear God, my good fellow, do you not want your hands?). The use of MKII cases is both convenient and a safety precaution; even with the long, presumably .45-70 bullets seated on the rear cannelure (if I tried hard enough, I could probably pull the bullets out with my hands alone), there is plenty of chamber space but only enough cartridge capacity for 14 grains of Goex FFFg, which is 2/3ds the originally prescribed quantity and sufficient merely to push the bullet out of the barrel and onto the target. Trajectory seems sufficiently flat within 15 meters, and though one can actually see the bullet arcing downrange accuracy is not affected. There is a most amusing delay between the discharge of the firearm and the dulcet 'ping' of a steel target face.

The hesitancies experienced beforehand were made well worthwhile by the experience of operating a fine late-19th century firearm in its proper context, and I will no doubt revisit the experience in the future, perhaps to a more exacting degree with regards to target choice.

May the sun never set on the British Empire. God save the Queen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Filthy Sellout.

Verily, I admit my weakness in the face of unyielding social pressure and go forth to the internet to speak my piece, whether or not anyone wishes to consume such product.

The trifecta in question is quite simple.

Video Games

The fourth part of the trifecta (which is a concept that probably makes a lot more sense at 5:54 AM after the third re-steeping of some nice Pu-Erh, priming 460 9mm cases, and watching Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45) is cinema and its bastard redheaded step-sibling television, whose dead horse I like to flog via Bittorrent on occasion.

Between which will be devoted most of my entries. Besides, a simple "" was taken by what appears to be a spastic teenager from Macao whose entire knowledge of English was taken from reading the backs of Radiohead albums and, in a fit of angst jumped off a theme casino, despondent after the recent US presidential elections. I'll just assume that somewhere in that cloud of question marks is a suicide note, since Asian language support is not actually activated on this browser.