, | News

Dungeon Defenders Eternity launched yesterday on Steam for PCs and Android for the Nvidia Tegra. Surprise! If this isn’t Dungeon Defenders 2, what is this release? It’s a standalone re-release of Dungeon Defenders with a new multiplayer server system. It includes all the map DLC from the first game and an in-game microtransaction store, which requires players to be online at all times. Owners of Dungeon Defenders on Steam get a 40% discount on Eternity.

As you may imagine, the reaction from longtime fans has been less than enthusiastic. Here’s how Trendy Entertainment’s senior producer Brad Logston explained why they needed to make a new version of the game.

Player hacking was the biggest reported problem on the original Dungeon Defenders. To ensure players aren’t cheating in Dungeon Defenders Eternity, and for our future release of Dungeon Defenders II, we needed to create a connected, always online service hosted in a secure environment. This isn’t about DRM. We want to help players have positive experiences in our games where legitimate time and effort is rewarded and cheaters can’t negatively impact everyone else.

Let’s be honest with each other. There aren’t that many players that gave a damn about cheating in Dungeon Defenders. Playing offline or cheating in a co-op action tower defense game isn’t a problem for players. It’s a problem for the developer that wants to sell cosmetic upgrades and consumable boost potions.

, | Movie reviews

Australian director Greg McLean knocked it out of the park with Wolf Creek, an insidiously cruel slasher movie that unfurled like a cross between Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Road Warrior. You could tell from how weirdly paced it was, from its odd structure, that McLean didn’t want to play by the usual movie rules. You might have even been able to tell that he has a background in theater. But then he made a turgid killer alligator movie starring Sam Worthington. Guess how that turned out. So now he’s returned to his previous inspiration with Wolf Creek 2, but I’m afraid we’ve lost whatever creative genius went into Wolf Creek 1.

Like most horror franchises, Wolf Creek 2′s only continuity concern is with its killer, an avuncular but murderous outback redneck meticulously drawled to life by John Jarratt. But this time, the character is played for comedy. He manages to insinuate himself into some absurdly over-the-top situations involving shotguns, meat cleavers, hurtling semis, and kindly old people. It all gets lodged somewhere between funny and gruesome, but it’s not particularly effective as either.

There is, however, one prolonged sequence worth watching. If you’re not paying attention, you might mistake it for torture porn, along the lines of the sickeningly crass Israeli trash Big Bad Wolves (the worst thing you’ll see all month). Jarratt and an actor named Ryan Corr engage in some mental cat-and-mouse, dancing a lovely waltz back and forth across the cultural line between Australia and the U.K. Being an American, I think I only understood about two thirds of it. But I can imagine how well it plays in Perth! McClean’s script comes alive as Jarratt and Corr play off each other, eyeing one another with wonder and horror. Furthermore, McLean demonstrates his theater chops by letting the actors do their dance without a lot of extra business. It would have made a fantastic stage play. Early Stuart Gordon would have been proud!

Wolf Creek 2 is currently available from Netflix instant view and other fine purveyors of trashy horror.

, | Games

Everything you’re about to read is written entirely in earnest. I am 100% sincere and unironic when I say I’m superpsyched for Farming Simulator 15. I haven’t played any of the previous 14 farming simulators. But as a longtime Harvest Moon fan (with the stuffed cow to prove it!) who fondly recalls SimFarm and who has since spent his share of wasted time picking crops in various free-to-play farming boondoggles on Facebook and whatnot, I can appreciate the appeal of laid back agrarian gameplay.

I’ve been indulging this most recently with the curiously sedate but curiously engaging laid back country road gameplay of Euro Truck Simulator 2. Here’s me, hauling 20 tons of sand to Lodz, listening to Led Zeppelin IV on the ingame radio, using my turn signal when I switch lanes just because. I don’t get any points for using the turn signal, but I do it anyway because this is that kind of game. “I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon,” I murmur, “waiting for the eastern glow…” I’m already mentally preparing a playlist for Farming Simulator 15.

Farming Simulator 15 has a bunch of new features, but none of that means anything to me, since even the old features will be new to me. To wit:

…face the daily challenges of a modern farmer as you grow crops, sell produce, rear livestock and manage and develop your own farming complex in two immense open worlds.

But the really prominent bullet point is that Farming Simulator 15 adds logging!

You can now manage forested areas in the game environment using a range of new vehicles and machines designed specifically for this activity: harvesters, chain saws, chippers and even trailers.

Farming Simulator 15 is out in October on the PC. This-gen and next-gen consoles get their turn sometime in 2015.

, | News

Mode Seven’s tactical cyber-sports game has a new name. Instead of Frozen Endzone, it shall henceforth be known as Forzen Cortex. Along with the title change, Mode Seven has updated the look of the game’s user interface and some in-game assets. You can watch a video here, showing some of the new stuff. Why the changes? According to what the developers told Rock Paper Shotgun, they wanted to get out in front of a misconception that some prospective players had.

We wanted to address the fact that some people think the game is an American Football simulation when it’s a turn-based strategy game with entirely different rules from football that are much easier to understand. The word “endzone” probably wasn’t helping, so we thought we’d take care of that and get rid of a massively silly name at the same time.

Mode Seven expects to add the beta of the single player campaign in September. Frozen Cortex is available on Steam early access.

, | News

The International is over. Valve’s Dota 2 tournament has crowned a new grand champion team. Newbee, a five-man team from China, will take home a $5 million grand prize and the satisfaction of knowing they are the best at protecting lanes, killing creeps, and destroying towers. Newbee defeated fellow Chinese team ViCi Gaming by winning three straight games in the final set.

Besides inspiring kids everywhere to take up professional gaming as a legitimate path to riches, Dota 2 can claim the record for the largest eSports prize pool in history. The $10 million pool was raised mostly from players via Compendium purchases.

, | News

Unlike Pinball FX 2, Harmonix’s Dance Central Spotlight has no problem with the transfer of licenses for DLC tracks from the previous console. The Kinect-enabled Xbox One dance game will launch at the bargain price of $9.99 on September 2nd and come with 10 tracks to shake your money maker. Future DLC tracks will be offered at about $1.99 a pop. The important thing to note is that the DLC tracks for the previous Dance Central games on Xbox 360 will be transferrable to the new game. Getting crunk-style with Snow’s Informer is going to look so next-gen!

, | News

Even though Activision is spending a lot of money on Destiny’s server technology, the shooter with MMO roots won’t have cross-platform play because Bungie doesn’t want players to think one platform has a competitive advantage over the others. Bungie engineer Roger Wolfson spoke to Digital Trends and explained that even though Destiny is coming to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, none of them will share their worlds because the developers didn’t want a perception of unfairness.

“I’ll speak for the hypothetical player. I have a disadvantage sniping across the map because [my opponent with a next-gen console] is only two pixels on my screen and I’m four pixels on his. You see that in the world of PC gaming, where people are always racing to the best video card to give themselves the advantage.”

“Regardless of where the reality is, there’s definitely a perception among gamers that better hardware means you have an advantage. We don’t want to have to enter that fray, so to create the best, most level playing field, both actually and perceptually, we separated it by platform.”

Bungie claims the gameplay on all four platforms is nearly the same, despite the obvious power differences between last-gen and current consoles. Destiny is meant to be a multi-year franchise, so whichever hardware players use to start, Bungie wants them to have a good technical experience.

, | Movie podcasts

What if one night a year, you had to listen to three guys talk about The Purge: Anarchy? That’s the premise of this podcast, except for the bit about one night a year. At the 52-minute mark, we direct you to our discussion of directors playing actors.

Next week: Hercules

, | Movie reviews

The trick with Jason Statham is mixing him into a movie in the appropriate amount. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was his first movie, but Guy Ritchie can turn anything English into an energetic powerhouse (he could make Prince Charles light up the screen). In the Transporter movies with their goofy European excess and the Crank movies with their goofy American excess, Statham could just tense up his abs and clench his jaw while the movies happened around him. I think Statham is one of the guys in those aptly named Expendables movies, but really, who can keep track of those casts?

A few movie makers have had the idea that Statham can carry a movie. He can’t. He has two expressions. The first is “I’m about to kick your ass”. The second is “I just kicked your ass”. They’re mostly the same expression, but the first one pretends to be a bit more relaxed. So to make a Jason Statham movie, you have to surround him with a solid cast to handle the acting part of the movie. This is where Homefront is probably the best Statham movie in a string of forgettable and easily confused titles like Redemption, Safe, and Parker (Parker is actually pretty good, but it leans way too heavily on Statham). Homefront mostly works because nearly every scene has someone else doing the acting. Rachel Lefevre and her glorious red ringlets. Clancy Brown as a sheriff with his hand perched on his gunbelt. Frank Grillo in an all-too-brief appearance as a biker assassin. A wonderfully hardened Winona Ryder as our Lady MacBeth. An appropriately gaunt and effectively shrill Kate Bosworth. A really good child actor named Izabela Vidovic who performs circles around Statham. And, of course, James Franco and that weird gleam in his eye. The Franco/Statham showdown is great for how Franco prevails so completely that when it comes time for Statham to kick his ass at the end of the movie, he uses Franco’s own zingers against him. Every single one of them. He remembered each insult because they obviously stung. Franco may be getting his ass kicked, but you can tell Statham knows he totally got pwned.

Statham’s best performance is in a movie called London, in which he and Chris Evans spend most of the movie locked in the bathroom at a party, snorting coke and venting their respective insecurities. Statham has the monologue of his career. He confesses — nay, proclaims! — that he suffers from erectile dysfunction. He commits to the monologue like he has never committed before or since, combining both of his expressions in new ways because he knows there aren’t going to be any fight scenes.

Homefront is a bog-standard (literally!) thriller of one good man vs a bunch of bad buys, but its concept of America is lovingly lit Norman Rockwell settings inhabited by meth-addled white trash. “Rednecks,” the movie’s noble black character mutters at one point. It’s based on a novel, but you can clearly see its development as a Sylvester Stallone project that he personally adapted (at one point as another chapter in the Rambo saga), but was unable to get going until he was too old to play the lead. So in steps Statham, trying not to keep his jaw clenched too tightly while everyone acts around him. He knows there’s a fight scene coming up.

Homefront is available on Netflix’s instant watch service, as well as plenty of other places.

, | News

Kerbal Space Program, the quirky but cunningly disarming rocketry sim, has gained a substantial upgrade to its career mode. The First Contract update adds consequences for failure besides spectacular high-altitude explosions. Players can take contracts from various in-game sources that will give them tasks like conducting tests of new technologies, rescuing stranded Kerbals, and getting to target locations via cobbled-together spacecraft. Success will net more funding, while failure can impact your reputation, making future contracts less lucrative. Squad’s Felipe Falanghe explained the progression.

“First Contract is a massive step forward for Career Mode. Finally, we’re starting to paint a clear picture of our original vision for the complete thing. Although there is still a lot to add on future updates, the new Career features should help new players pick up the game in a much more structured manner.”

Kerbal Space Program is available via the official site, as well as through Steam’s early access.

, | Features

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by Pod, is Blood.]

Blood. Blood! BLOOD! I quite like the short, snappy, literal-minded names given to the early FPS games: Doom, Quake, Blood, etc. It’s nice that they let you know what you’re in for before you begin playing, and in this game you’re in for lots and lots of blood.

This 2.5D first person shooter is based on the Build engine most popularly seen in Duke Nukem 3D. It has the characteristic 3D-walls-and-sprites look that accompanied other Build games, and much like Duke Nukem and Doom, it features fast gameplay, lots of guns, lots of explosions, and irreverent humour focused on references to B-movies. I think it’s meant to be the cutting edge of 2.5 shooters. Interestingly it came out in 1997, which is after the dawn of non-shit 3D games like Quake and Tomb Raider (in fact, one of the cheat codes proclaims that “LARA RULES”), but yet it stuck to the sprites and fake-height walls of the Build engine. I don’t know why Monolith chose that engine. Easy to use? Well proven? Good business deal? They wanted lots of enemies on-screen, which was difficult with early 3D? Whatever the reason, I’m quite glad they did, as I think that Blood still looks very nice. There’s something about sprite based enemies in a 3D world that I find charming, something not present in its successor. Blood 2 strayed a bit too far enough into that early-3D, uncanny valley that these days looks less like an arcadey videogame and more of a big blurry 3D mess. I think you can definitely see the attention to detail in these 2.5D environments, enemies, and sounds that you don’t really find in the early 3D games as they were more technically constrained.

I have fond memories of playing the game, which is interesting given that I only played the shareware version, and therefore only played a fourth of it. But what I do remember is vivid enough to make me want to go back. For instance, the way the game starts. You wake up in a grave with a pitchfork and proceed to sprint at and stab zombies in the face. These days zombies are a cliche, but somehow I don’t think my enjoyment of this beginning will fade.

Also, the bombastic weapons were memorable. Flare guns that set fire to people, TNT to throw at people, Tommy guns to rat-a-tat-a-tat at people. You can dual wield flare guns and sawed off shotguns! Who doesn’t love dual wielding things? And the weapons have alternate fire modes. I have no idea if Blood invented this, but it was the first game I played that featured this. I remember being in some grey castle area full of monks, near a courtyard with a fountain in it, and accidentally pressing the ‘X’ key. The Tommy gun did a little dance as it sprayed bullets in the alternate fire mode. I was overjoyed to discover that button.

Of course, one of the trademark features is lots of blood and gibs. Possibly dismemberment? I know that you get to shoot the heads off zombies and then punt them about like footballs. I also remember the acolyte dudes screaming lots as you set them on fire. And I don’t think you can turn it off.

I even remember some of the levels. The initial graveyard. Then there’s a level set entirely on a moving train (that you can fall off!), then there was a circus level, though I remember that sucking. But even then, these levels stick out in my head a lot more than Quake’s, even though I replayed Quake last summer. Black and white tiled Gothic castles full of lightning.

But really, I picked Blood for the Classic Game Club because it’s just come out on Steam, which reminded me how great it is and that I want to play it again. I’m hoping Blood further reinforces my love for Doom-style gameplay, and brings those of you who never really experienced early FPS games over to the dark side.

Blood is available from both Steam and Good Old Games.

, | News

If you hadn’t heard, there are some big changes happening at Microsoft. New CEO Satya Nadella has stated his commitment to refocusing the company on working in a “mobile-first and cloud-first world” which leaves anything not in the core mission a bit superfluous. Part of that restructuring resulted in 18,000 job cuts today, mostly from redundancies in the recent acquisition of Nokia. Unfortunately, for Xbox Entertainment Studios in Santa Monica, those cuts also include their operation. In an internal memo to employees, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that programs already in development like the Atari documentary and Halo series would continue as planned.

The future of Xbox will not be in original TV programming. Since Nadella has stated that Xbox is not a core part of Microsoft’s business, many are wondering just where the console’s future is headed.

, | News

The Xbox One sold twice as many units in June compared to May. Although the full figures haven’t been made public, Microsoft specifically mentions the Kinect-less Xbox One offering as part of the reason for their improved sales. The Xbox One units without Kinect are $399 at retail, putting it on equal price footing with the PlayStation 4. Dropping $100 from the price of the console resonated with consumers, at least for the month of June.

Can Microsoft keep up the momentum into the holidays? The company seems to think that having critically acclaimed previews at E3 is an indicator that the Xbox One will find success during the latter half of 2014.

, | News

It turns out that Tom’s advice for pinball fans going into the next generation was ahead of the curve. Although Zen Studios’ Pinball FX 2 is coming to the Xbox One on July 31st, it will not support cross-platform table purchases. If you purchased a table for the Xbox 360 version, you’ll need to buy it again on the Xbox One. According to the statement in the official forum, Zen said they were unable to offer the feature.

We know this is very important to fans of the Xbox 360 version, but we are very sorry to say that this was not an option made available to us on Xbox One. We always do our best to take advantage of any platform’s features whenever possible, and if a feature like cross-platform entitlement is an option for us, we will make it an option for our players. Unfortunately in this case, it was not.

Zen’s Pinball games on PlayStation do support table cross-platform licensing. Zen’s Mel Kirk promises that if Microsoft gives them the ability to offer cross-platform licensing for Xbox, they will enable it.

, | News

If Lindsay Lohan can sue Rockstar for the alleged use of her likeness in Grand Theft Auto V, then why not let Manuel Noriega file suit against Activision for his likeness in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2? The 80-year-old former dictator of Panama has filed suit based on the character “False Profit” who helps the game’s antagonist Raul Menendez fake his own death. Noriega claims his likeness was used without his consent and that his character’s portrayal damages his reputation.

“Defendants’ use of plaintiff’s image and likeness caused damage to plaintiff. Plaintiff was portrayed as an antagonist and portrayed as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorized to use plaintiff’s image and likeness. This caused plaintiffs to receive profits they would not have otherwise received.”

Manuel Noriega was deposed in 1989 when the United States invaded Panama. He is currently serving a 20-year term in El Renacer prison for human rights violations.