The U.S. presidential election is happening next week, and the New York Times concluded a series of short, op-ed documentaries with a browser-based game: The Voter Suppression Trail. …
Major Spoilers for Wolfenstein: The New Order.
It’s been a bad week.
Let's revise: It's been a blindingly bad week, the kind where you fall into a tizzy of rage and want to call up everyone who’s ever done you wrong and hold them accountable for it all because beneath your kind smile you’re actually holding two decades of pettiness and rage hostage.
I do not do this.
Instead, I lay on the floor staring at a little black spot in the ceiling that has been there since I moved in. When I’m angry or upset, I often focus my attention on something so my anxiety doesn’t overtake me.
It’s not working. I reach for my drink when I hear that familiar voice: Again? BJ Blazkowicz, massive as a mountain, says while standing over me, the disappointment in his voice clear and resonant as bell chimes.
"Oh no. Not you, you rent-a-Virgil. Go away. I'm not well."
“What else is new? Get up.”
He drags me over to the console. I turn it on.
“I don’t want to.”
“But you’re going to.” He puts the controller in my hand. “What happened this time anyway?”
“You know what? It doesn’t matter. Just play the game.”
He settles next to me on the floor. I select Wolfenstein: The New Order on the dashboard.
“Well,” he says, looking at me, imaginary eyebrow on an imaginary body cocked.
I press X.
BJ Blazkowicz, impossibly strong and noble, dips beneath the surface of the water as gunfire from Castle Wolfenstein cuts through the waves, tearing his comrades to pieces. He doesn’t care. He’s focused. He is, as he says, here to settle a score with an old friend and end the war.
He infiltrates the castle. He finds his target, but the battle doesn’t go his way. Misfortune and a couple of bad moves leave him at the mercy of his arch-nemesis, Dr. Deathshead, who is essentially every Nazi goon you’ve ever seen chopped up and strung together to create an impossibly evil Frankenstein’s monster of Nazi goons.
BJ manages to escape the castle, but not without sustaining an injury to the head that leaves him out of commission for years. When he wakes up, the Nazis have won the war and rule the planet. Most of the people he loves are dead.
BJ Blazkowicz failed and it cost the world.
“I always forget how good that first level is,” I tell BJ once we hit a loading screen.
“It definitely sets the stage.”
We sit quietly for a minute. “I didn’t deserve it.”
“What happened. I didn’t deserve it. I’m a good person.”
“That's true, but you don’t believe it.”
“Relax. We’re just getting started.”
“I want my drink.”
He pushes the small glass of bourbon away from me. “Just play the game.”
I know every level of Wolfenstein: The New Order as well as I know my childhood home. Every corridor, every secret, how many enemies are in every room, how the key to defeating everyone lies in mastering both sliding and gunning at the same time. Everyone asks me why I love it so much.
I like how the gameplay feels, I say. I like that it tells a great story in a genre that rarely tells a competent one, I explain.
These aren’t lies but they aren’t the whole truth.
I press X again and resume the game.
BJ Blazcowicz wakes up from his coma. The Nazis have invaded the asylum where he’s been kept, killing the family of the woman who’s taken care of him, Anya. He rises up. He slays them all like some modern, bloody Beowulf. He and Anya drive to see her grandparents. They explain the situation to him. He vows to take down the Nazi regime.
He and Anya grow close. They eventually meet up with the resistance base buried in the heart of Berlin. As the group plans to take back the world, BJ Blazcowicz dreams of a patio. There’s a barbecue. There’s Anya, leaning over to kiss him. He dreams of a quiet life with the person he loves.
He dreams of the impossible.
“Why her?” I ask him as I throw a knife into the neck of some guard.
“What do you mean?”
“Anya. Did you really love her or was it one of those deals where the world was a scary place and the two of you just sort of fell into each other?”
“Can’t it be both?”
“You know it’s okay, right?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
I blast a Nazi in the face with a shotgun. The body falls and hits the floor with a satisfying thud.
“Your mouth is doing that twitching thing. It’s okay to be upset.”
“If you’re gonna be that way, be that way then. Also: you missed one.”
He’s right. I’m being sloppy. A Nazi I ran past peeks around the door and fires at me. I slide beneath the hail of bullets and fire a pistol round through his belly. He drops.
I saw my dad cry once. It was at a funeral. It ranks among the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I wonder if that’s why I don’t do it much, the crying. I’m not alone in that, I know. I think of the legions of men born and unborn who won’t cry because their fathers inadvertently teach them that it’s something to be ashamed of.
I walk over to the man writhing on the ground. I put a bullet through his eye. He goes still. I reload the pistol and step into the next room.
At this point, I’m halfway through the game. We’re about to hit the worst part of The New Order: a one hour section that has you navigating sewers and train tracks. I put down the controller.
“You’re not done,” says BJ.
“I just want to go to sleep,” I say, starting to rise and head to the bedroom.
“If you go in there, I can’t help you. You won’t sleep and you’ll just feel like garbage all night long.”
He’s right. I sit back down. I load the level. I swim through sewer water. I hit some switches. I solve bad puzzles. I yearn for something, anything to shoot. I want the familiar, rhythmic action of this game’s gunplay. I want my escape.
“I’m scared,” I say aloud suddenly.
“That I will never be worth anything to the people I love. That I am tiresome and too broken.”
“Everyone feels that way but it’s just your brain screwing with you. And it’s worse for you because you want to believe it because then it gives you a reason not to try.”
“To try what?”
“Being human. Hurting. Understanding. Adapting. Living.”
I don't say anything in reply. What is there to say?
Night's not over yet. Go to Page 2 to finish it.
ReCore, the recently-released third-person action game from Comcept and Armature Studios, is getting a free trial today, along with a bug-fixing patch.
Players can download a free 30-minute trial of ReCore on the Xbox One or PC and continue with their Achievements and progress if they decide to spend the $ 39.99 to purchase the full game.
Those who already own the game on PC or Xbox One can look forward to a patch also hitting today. The ReCore team claims players will experience "decreased loading times, see audio and visual improvements, and notice
improvements to issues you may have experienced with waypoints,
achievement tracking, collision locations, checkpoints, and respawn
points" once they download the update.
While ReCore wasn't generally received well by critics, any sort of demo is appreciated, especially in an age where trials are rare. Squashing bugs and shortening load times is arguably the most important part, since issues like that only deter potential buyers and repel those who already bought the game.
Early on in this console cycle, we were hit with a deluge of remasters. In lieu of a great lineup of original games, companies were content to resell their older games (which could often run poorly on older consoles) give them a minor facelift while they figured out what they wanted to do on the new system. It wasn't the most offensive thing to do, but it certainly was an dark portend that maybe consoles weren't what they used to be. Thankfully, that's proven to not have been the case, and there are more great new games coming out than ever.
That said, there's always those games we end up buying multiple times just because they're that good. So with all the remasters out in the wild, we want to know: what game have you bought the most times? My guiltiest purchase is regularly Resident Evil 4, a game I've bought on every console it's been on except for the PlayStation 2 and 3. I've played through the Gamecube, Wii, Xbox 360, and Steam versions multiple times, and will likely buy it again on PS4 (…and maybe Xbox One too). It's such a good game! I can't help myself!
So what game has the highest batting average when it comes to getting you to open up your wallet? Let us know in the comments.
September is coming to a close which means everything is going to start to get spooky. Ghosts, goblins, and other monsters are gonna be on the prowl, but luckily we have Luke Cage to stop them.
Brian Shea (@BrianPShea) – I just finished my playthrough of The Turing Test (which you should totally play if you're a fan of Portal!), so I'm diving back into my careers in Forza Horizon 3 and NBA 2K17. I'll also probably play a little Madden 17, and of course I'll pour my usual hours into Overwatch and Pokémon Go. I also really want to start a new game of XCOM 2 now that it's on consoles, but I might be getting a little too ambitious at this point.
Jenifer Vinson (@JenMarie_Vinson) – Renaissance Festival, a bonfire, and working on my Lara costume for Halloween.
Jeff Cork (@gijeff) – My parents are in town this weekend, which means I probably won't have a lot of time for gaming. Maybe I'll give them a VR demo if the weather talk gets too intense. I'll probably have to put a tarp on the floor, because they are old people who may or may not throw up.
Ian Boudreau (@iboudreau) – My PC arrived this week and it seems to have survived the journey from upstate New York unscathed. This weekend I'll be trying to clear out some of the massive backlog I've built up this year – I've got the last chunk of Doom to finish off, and I want to check out the Nuka World DLC for Fallout 4. I need to devote some time to Overwatch, too: I haven't gotten around to playing Ana yet and I've been itching to find out what she's like in combat.
Michael Leri (@OrangeFlavored) – This weekend, as per suggestion of Mr. Ben Reeves, I'm going to the heart of Minneapolis with my girlfriend to track down a Juicy Lucy, which is (sadly) not as sexual as it sounds. When I plant my bony butt on the couch, I'll try to watch Luke Cage, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and maybe finish up O.J.: Made in America. That Juice Boy seems like such a nice man! I wonder what happens next! No spoilers! Also pray for me, since I also intend to struggle through more Life is Strange, which is not v lit and cool and bae and hashtag. And, yeah of course I'll be playing more Mortal Kombat X, as I always do.
Ben Hanson (@yozetty) – This weekend I have to play an unhealthy amount of BioShock to finish the game off in time for our Game Club discussion next week, it should be a fun one. Also, I'm hoping to spend plenty of time with Forza Horizon 3. I love that game so much, and I love you for reading this. Have a good weekend!
Kyle Hilliard (@KyleMHilliard) – I'll probably be seeing Tim Burton's gothic X-Men children movie tonight and eating Mexican food. The rest of the weekend is dishes, laundry, video games, and reminding my daughter how late it is and that she should go to sleep. Might watch Warcraft and/or Civil War at some point. I haven't seen either.
Kevin Slackie (@KSlackie) – My weekend is gonna start off with some Street Fighter V and binge-watching Luke Cage. I'll try to explore Minneapolis a bit before staying away from the cold to finally get through Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse and Pokemon Red before Sun/Moon come out.
What about you, readers? Tell us what you've got planned!
A post on the official ReCore site states that an update coming this week will tackle one of the oft-cited issues with the title, excessive load times.This update will pertain to both Xbox One and Xbox One S.
[Source: ReCore Official Site]
I haven't played ReCore, but I've certainly heard about the load times. I have a lot of patience when it comes to this sort of thing, but on some titles (ReCore, Bloodborne at launch) they become impossible to ignore and detract significantly from the gameplay experience. I'm glad that this is being looked at and addressed. We'll see how much the load times can be cut down.
It’s a tough time for Chinese art outsourcers. But there are some ways to weather the tough times, says Junxue Li, CEO of a game art outsourcing company. …
One of virtual reality's biggest challenges is getting people to try and enjoy the technology. While early adopters are eagerly bringing head-mounted displays home, that group represents a fraction of the potential audience. However, getting people to try an amusement park-style experience as part of a visit to a popular venue has huge potential to make believers out of average consumers.
On July 1, Madam Tussauds at Times Square in New York City will be opening its Ghostbusters Dimension experience to the general public. Visitors will be able to strap on a proton pack, hoist a particle thrower, and bust some ghosts. Sort of.
The Void, a company specializing in fully immersive, mobile VR experiences, has crafted a "hyper reality" attraction that uses custom hardware, including the Rapture backpack computer, haptic vest, head-mounted display, and gun to simulate busting ghosts. Once the visor on the HMD was lowered, I was transported into a virtual recreation of the prep room.
The experience had my team of three walking from room to room, as doors opened and walls blasted to pieces. To be clear, I don't mean we pushed a thumb stick on a game pad. The self-contained Rapture system allowed us to walk around an apartment, through doors, out onto a roof, and more.
Everything is rendered one-to-one. Every wall is perfectly mirrored in the real world, and we were encouraged to reach out and touch them. One of my teammates even sat in a chair placed in the apartment.
The first steps I took were disconcerting, but largely because we've been trained not to trust virtual environments lest we bump into our furniture. Once I touched the first door and another wall, I was able to give myself over to the illusion.
Ghostbusters Dimension makes use of some "4D" elements. Stepping onto a roof triggers fans that make it feel like wind is whipping past, an elevator rumbles and shakes as it carries passengers upward, and getting hit with ectoplasm from an angry ghost triggers directional haptics in the vest.
The Void's Rapture head-mounted display, vest, and gun.
The tracking on the Rapture gun was good for most of the experience. At the edges of the room, it tended to start acting erratically, but slightly moving fixed the problem.
There was a bit of stuttering when looking at the other people, and I’d love to see it improved, but it’s forgivable for how much fun the whole package is. The resolution and field of view don't seem quite as good as the home VR headsets (Rift, Vive, PSVR) available this year.
“Those are all kind of in the works,“ says The Void chief visionary officer James Jensen of the specific output specifications. “What we’ve noticed in what we’ve created with walking virtual reality and one-to-one matching is that you kind of look past that these things that you’re critical of when sitting in a seat. The screen-door stuff kind of disappears because you’re so immersed in the experience.”
My time as a Ghostbuster was a thrilling 15 minutes that I'd love to do again. But I'm more excited about what The Void has in store for the future.
The company has larger experiences planned that offer visitors a chance to choose their paths through the environment. These are still a blend of scripted content and interactive moments, not quite a game as many of our readers think of them, but certainly not a virtual film.
“We have other stages called Dimension stages that are four times as big,” says The Void chief visionary officer James Jensen. “They allow you to have pathing options. You can go right, you can go left, you can break off from your team, you can go back to your team. The story method is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure. That’s where you’ll really see the power of what we put together.”
As for Sony, the company sees virtual reality as a multi-channel technology. Sony’s newly appointed senior vice president of virtual reality Jake Zim says that there are different purposes for hardware like PlayStation VR and experiences like the company's team-up with the Void.
“The way we see virtual reality reaching the consumer is through a couple of different channels,” Zim says. “Location-based channels are a destination. You buy a ticket, you come to the city, you go through the experience. It’s limiting in one sense, but like those early arcades were, the first instance where people will get a chance to play game or do a VR experience until the technology gets to a point where people can bring it into the home. We see VR right now as deliverable on channels that exist in locations, at home (PlayStation VR is a great product), and mobile.”
Ultimately, what’s going to make VR compelling for creators is the ability to tell stories. There are challenges inherent in that, but storytellers have long adapted to new mediums.
Ken Bretschneider, CEO of The Void (L) and original Ghostbusters director Ivan Retiman (R)
Famed director and producer Ivan Reitman, who was behind the camera for the original Ghostbusters films and is involved in the Ghostbusters Dimension experience sees both opportunity and challenge in virtual reality.
“It’s a little bit scary, because you have to really change the vocabulary,” Reitman says. “People will say it’s not meant for film or long-form or that it’s just a gimmick. I think that’s a very short-sighted approach. Just like there were many people who thought the advent of sound in film was hurting film, and for a minute it did. The sound techs said, ‘You can’t move the camera, and we have to have these huge blimp boxes all over the place.’ Movies started slowing down, and some of the worst movies ever made were in that first year.”
Despite the challenges, Reitman sees the potential for impactful storytelling that places the audience in the scene. He believes that filmmakers will need to adapt themselves to the intimacy of placing someone in private, emotional moments.
“What the storytellers have to learn is that there is a remarkable storytelling opportunity,” Reitman explains. “Storytelling started around a campfire, when a guy went off and hunted a buffalo. He told his friends all about it. With the advent of film, you could cut away to him fighting the buffalo and see what he experienced, but it’s still a proscenium event. With virtual reality, you’re experiencing the buffalo hunt. It’s way more complicated. Frankly, if it’s going to be done right, your character – and I don’t mean you’re actually a character with a name that people refer to – but somehow the fact that you’re at the center of it and are experiencing it in such a really tumultuous way, the opportunity is remarkable. It made me want to do it right away.”
As for Sony, the Ghostbusters Dimension attraction is just the beginning. The company expects to evaluate future projects to receive similar treatment in parallel with the efforts of the PlayStation VR team working to bring content into the home.
“The first question we ask when consider green lighting a VR project is ‘What is going to make this VR worthy?’” Zim says. “We ask why the story has to be in VR. It’s a high barrier to entry to do VR. It’s a pain in the butt to put the goggles on or come to a location like this. The value of VR is that you are in the story. I think the opportunity in a narrative VR space is to bridge and collaborate with game design people who understand moving people through a story based on triggers, throttles, achievements, wins, and losses. Take all of that, distill it, and then get the creative minds of narrative people to come together and figure out how to make the character the audience, the gamer, the user. Let’s give them a story that really creates empathy with them and a level of activity that doesn’t overwhelm them. We’re not trying to create triple-A games. There are a ton of people doing that. We’re trying to create a storyline that changes somehow because you’re in it.”
The Ghostbusters Dimension “hyper reality” attraction opens alongside the Ghostbusters Experience only at Madam Tussauds in Times Square. The images above are a small glimpse of what you’ll find walking through different scenes from the upcoming Ghostbusters film, which opens on July 15.
Nintendo has previously said its next Legend of Zelda would be big, but we didn’t know how big until getting our hands on it at E3. During our 40-minute play session we wandered a long way across Hyrule, but we barely scratched the surface.
While creating Breath of the Wild’s giant open world, Nintendo was inspired by Japanese animation and gouache art in particular, which is a kind of opaque watercolor used in animation cells.
“As you progress in the game, the scale will get even bigger. So there’ll be mountains, really, really high mountains,” says producer Eiji Aonuma. “I think for people, especially the Zelda fans, they have a curiosity to find out what happens in those places where you can’t go, where you’re not supposed to go. So we wanted to create a world where you can further that investigation, you can go further and further and continue to search for places where you can’t go.
Breath of the Wild looks to recapture the same sense of open exploration players first experienced in the original NES Legend of Zelda. For more on how the game has shaken up the Zelda formula, be sure to read our hands on impression.
Xbox One players showed up in force with yesterday’s Fallout 4 mod rollout. The clamoring for this kind of support on console wasn’t just talk, with huge data demands crushing Bethesda’s servers for a while.
According to Bethesda Game Studios, the mod support launch on Xbox One generated 50 times the amount of traffic as the PC rollout. This gives the developer some metrics to learn from as it heads toward PlayStation 4 support in June.
Mods have long been a large dividing line between consoles and PC. Creating this kind of infrastructure on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is a big step for living room gaming. The launch shows that there is certainly a market for this feature.