Nintendo unveils the Switch-killer

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That’s the soon-to-be-released 2DS XL handheld. It’s Nintendo’s simultaneous clamshell upgrade to the 2DS, and 3-D less downgrade to the New 3DS XL. The 2DS XL has the New 3DS XL’s snappier processor and second analogue nub, but drops the seldom used glasses-free 3-D display. It will sell for $150, and will be available starting July 28th.

The 2DS XL is likely the DS hardware’s swan song. Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime told Wired in January that the DS line has a “long life in front of it” but with resources being poured into Switch and no refresh of the 3DS planned, it’s not likely we’ll see anything new in Nintendo’s portable space after the 2DS XL until we get the Switch XL.

Planet Coaster encourages cheaters to cheat their cheating little hearts out

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Remember when cheats were free? A hidden developer mode or Easter Egg that you didn’t have to purchase in a season pass or unlock in a loot chest? The infamous Konami Code, IDKFA, or “cheese steak jimmy’s” come to mind along with “show me the money” and dncornholio. Infinite money, invulnerability, and dog rocket attacks all without buying a 99 cent coin pack. For a good while, (before achievements and always online persistent stat tracking) cheats were an expected part of a game. Making good cheats is almost a lost art.

What kind of cheats could you want in a sandbox theme park game? Money isn’t really much of a concern, and neither is there a need for a God Mode, so you’ll probably value cheats that just make things go nuts. Frontier Developments has declared today as Cheat Day and unleashed a pack of cheats on its Planet Coaster fans. Rename a go-kart ride as “BOLLARD” and you can control a go-kart in first-person view with the WASD keys. Rename a shop to “MCLINTHE” and every guest will start vomiting. There are ten largely pointless cheats in all and they’re free to use from now on.

Best thing you’ll see all week: Better Call Saul (season 3, episode 3)

, | TV reviews

The unique problem for television as a medium is that it has so much space to fill. A typical series is at least 10 hour-long episodes. By my math — I’ve worked it out on the back of this Talking Dead transcript — that’s ten hours of television. Ten hours of me sitting, watching, listening, presumably being entertained. Ten hours of storytelling. But the average script simply doesn’t have ten hours of storytelling. So the average television show fills out those ten hours with padding. I can think of very few TV series that wouldn’t be better off trimmed of their fat and compressed into movie-length features.

But then there’s Better Call Saul. Continue reading →

Forza Horizon 3 finally gives Hot Wheels fans what they’ve always wanted

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Nope. It’s too late for April Fools’ Day. That’s an actual chunk of DLC coming to Forza Horizon 3. The Hot Wheels expansion brings the tiny collectible toys and circuits to life in the photorealistic style of Forza Horizon. Players will go to six new islands off the coast of virtual Australia and race ten Hot Wheels cars on the plastic loop and curve tracks they used as kids to whack each other around. Why did it take this long for something like this to happen, and when will we get the Matchbox competition DLC?

Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels arrives on May 9th on Xbox One and Windows 10. It will be included as part of the Expansion Pass, but it will also be available as separate DLC for $19.99.

Immortal Redneck cartoonishly grinds through Ancient Egyptian ziggurats

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See that screenshot up there? See that big green tree in the middle of Ancient Egypt? Guess what that is. That’s a skill tree. Ha ha, get it? A skill tree. But seriously, here’s what it looks like when you use it (i.e. press the E key).

Don’t be fooled by the dippy name. Immortal Redneck is a surprisingly polished, glossily cartoonish, seriously rogue-like, first person shooter set in a procedurally generated catacomb of handmade rooms. Hmm, it feels awfully familiar. Where have I seen this before? Where have I hurtled weightlessly through this kind of bantamweight Painkiller with a grindy metaprogression? Ah, right, Ziggurat! This is pretty much a Ziggurat clone. Which isn’t a bad game to clone, especially if you bring a distinct voice. Think of this as a Redneck Rampage to Ziggurat’s Hexen. Serious Sam as a rogue-like. Shadow Warrior 2 for casuals, but with even dumber jokes. You’re a redneck mummy who comes anew out of a sarcophagus for each playthrough. And whereas the progression in Ziggurat was a bit too oblique for me, Immortal Redneck has an edge in the longer term metagame. You collect your gold as you play, you die, you put your hard-earned lucre into the skill tree however you want, and you try again. I’m sold. The developer is Crema Games and they’ve certainly done the work it takes for a glossy polished game. Who are these guys? Why haven’t I heard of them before? Oh, right, here’s the answer (bolding mine):

CremaGames is a young indie studio from Madrid (Spain) who has been doing apps for Google Play and App Store since 2010.

Welcome to the PC, Crema. Glad to have you here. Immortal Redneck is available on Steam for $20.

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Night Trap is back!

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Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition is coming to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You’re not dreaming. It’s been close to 25 years since Night Trap dropped onto the Sega CD system with all the flourish that full motion video could muster. Dana Plato! Grainy video! Screaming Villains, the latest in a long line of studios that have ported the game from system to system, says a PC release is not out of the question.

The race to register Jenny’s number in Dota 2 begins now

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Ranked match eligibility in Dota 2 will require a valid phone number beginning in May. Valve has pushed out a matchmaking update for Dota 2 that will soon require an unique phone number registered to the Steam account if the player wants to be included in ranked match queues. According to Valve, the change is being made to cut down on people using multiple Dota 2 accounts and cheating. A similar policy was instituted in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive last year, however the Prime Matchmaking rules there still allow players without a phone number to play in ranked matches. CS:GO Prime players are given priority in queues, while non-Prime players are stuck with longer wait times.

The phone number registration for Dota 2 ranked matchmaking will be mandatory starting on May 4th.

When will we investigate StarCraft for influencing a presidential election?

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Imagine you’re a candidate campaigning to be the next president of South Korea. You’d know that eSports is kind of a big deal there, and you might think getting your name out in front of gamers is a good way to scoop up the coveted youth vote. The kids love StarCraft, and everyone likes free stuff, so why not use that to your advantage? Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea has published two free multiplayer maps for Blizzard’s 1998 real-time strategy game. The maps are meant to remind South Korean gamers to cast their votes for Moon Jae-in on May 9th for the presidential election.

Nice timing, Moon Jae-in! StarCraft just became completely free-to-own with the latest patch. It’s political synergy!

GTA Online steps ever closer to becoming a gravitational singularity

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That trailer is for the latest game mode coming to Rockstar’s GTA Online. Tiny Racers takes the stunt racing gameplay and moves the camera to a top-down view, turning Grand Theft Auto V’s online circuits into a throwback facsimile of Death Rally or Micro Machines. At this point, why not? GTA Online has changed so much from its initial 2013 incarnation that adding retro arcade racing modes makes sense. It has a Tron mode. There’s werewolf hunting. It won’t be long before GTA Online adds passable Choplifter or Hello Kitty Island Adventure games.

Someone is going to bring home a gold medal for FIFA in 2022

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The 2022 Asian Games will officially feature eSports competition. The Olympic Council of Asia is partnering with Alisports, the competitive subsidiary of online retailer Alibaba, to bring FIFA, MOBA games, and other videogames to the 2022 Asian Games hosted in Hangzhou, China. The Asian Games are recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and it’s largely believed this is a test run for Alibaba’s desire to bring professional gaming to the Olympics. This means we are one step closer to seeing YouTube and Twitch streaming gamers on the front of a Wheaties box.

Best thing you’ll read all week: The Three-Body Problem

, | Book reviews

Republican Congressman Mike Bost invoked something called “struggle sessions” last month. While talking to journalists, he explained why he wasn’t holding any town hall meetings, which have provided angry constituents a forum to make themselves heard by their Republican representatives. Bost felt holding such a meeting wasn’t a good use of his time. He compared it to “the cleansing that the Orientals used to do where youd put one person out in front and 900 people yell at them.” That’s how I learned about “struggle sessions”, a form of public humiliation used in Communist Russia and China. Bost later apologized for using the word “Oriental”, but not for shirking his duty as a representative.

The Three-Body Problem, an award-winning “Oriental” science fiction novel, begins with a struggle session during China’s Cultural Revolution. It is the catalyst for everything that happens in the book, which might include the end of the world. It is also an example of the novel’s uniquely Chinese cultural identity.

You’d never know from its beginnings that despite this identity, The Three-Body Problem is literally universal. Continue reading →

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition comes to Steam as the last hurrah for Ensemble Studios

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Halo Wars: Definitive Edition is coming to Steam on April 20th. It’s been available for Xbox One and Windows 10 players as a bundled incentive for Halo Wars 2, but Ensemble Studios’ swan song will finally be playable on the platform of choice for the vast majority of PC gamers. The Steam version will not have cross-platform multiplayer with the other builds, but this likely doesn’t matter since real-time strategy fans seem to prefer Steam to consoles or the Windows 10 Store.

If you really want Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on Xbox One or Windows 10, but don’t want to buy Halo Wars 2, then Microsoft has good news for you too. They will begin selling a standalone version of Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on April 20th as well.