, | News

When Zen Studios announced that all your tables on the Xbox 360 were going to languish in last-gen obscurity and you’d have to rebuy them for your Xbox One, it was like that moment when you see the ball teetering into the far lane leading to the drain. Play the sad trombone effect. And if you’re like me, you converted all your Zen Pinball habits to the Sony ecosystem while flipping Microsoft the bird. Maybe you even sulked about it online.

And guess what happened:

Microsoft and Zen Studios have taken your feedback to heart, and seeing that many of you were very upset with the news that table transfers between Xbox 360 and Xbox One would not be happening, we have some good news for you! We will be able to implement table transfers on Xbox One starting from Pinball FX2′s launch. Any available table on Xbox One that was previously purchased for Xbox 360 can be imported to the new version free of charge.

Well, there is one small price to pay. The launch of Pinball FX2 on the Xbox One will be delayed until next month.

, | News

Electronic Arts will be offering a membership that gives subscribers access to free games and exclusive deals. EA Access, through the Xbox One, will give subscribers the ability to play FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4 for $4.99 a month or $29.99 per year. More games will be added to “The Vault” for subscribers to enjoy, likely when their full price sales dwindle enough to qualify. Microsoft’s Games for Gold and Sony’s PlayStation Plus programs smirk at the latecomer. If the prospect of subscribing to older games doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps EA can entice you with a whopping 10% discount for select games in the Xbox One marketplace? Even upcoming titles like Dragon Age: Inquisition and NHL15 are included! No? Okay, what if EA gives you five full days of early access to games before they’re released? Sort of like breaking the retail street date on an upcoming game, but the publisher nods approvingly rather getting your account banned.

What if you’re a PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Wii U owner? Sorry! No deal for you. EA Access will be made available soon to all Xbox One players.

, | Games

I gave your studio $20 to Kickstart this game and now you’re telling us that you’re making another game at the same time? And you need to Kickstart that one too? You suck! Stop working on other projects! You have an obligation to finish the game you started! Oh, and why are you selling the alpha on Steam early access? Those people shouldn’t get the same deal the Kickstarter pledges did! I’ll never trust Kickstarter, early access, or your company again! Please send me some free swag.

After the jump, what happens when regular Joes see how game companies actually work? Continue reading →

, | News

Microsoft has released a free beta of Catan Anytime which is an HTML5 multiplayer version of the popular board game Settlers of Catan. The Windows Blog explains that this web-optimized build of Catan was made in partnership with Mayfair Games and Bontom Games. The developers will be releasing the full ruleset, Development cards, Achievements, and Ports at GamesCon in August.

Catan Anytime is part of the Rethink Internet Explorer campaign that promotes Microsoft’s web browser. The beta for Catan Anytime is available now.

, | Movie podcasts

Dwayne Johnson attempts the Herculean task of starring in a Brett Ratner movie. At the 53-minute mark, we put ourselves behind the 8-ball and come up with our favorite pool table scenes in movies.

Next week: Guardians of the Galaxy

, | Movie reviews

Luc Besson loves stories about powerful women. A Luc Besson heroine starts deceptively vulnerable and becomes almost transcendently powerful. Le Femme Leeloo. Lucy is in that same tradition, with all the hallmarks of a Luc Besson movie on display. Flashy, fast, sexy, very international. But unlike Besson’s other movies, there’s a kind of maturity to Lucy. This is a Luc Besson movie made by someone who’s been contemplating his own mortality and has decided that fight choreography will only get you so far. This is a Luc Besson movie that wants to consider the questions you’d expect from Terence Malick and Stanley Kubrick. And, believe it or not, this is a Luc Besson movie that does exactly that in the context of his usual flashy, fast, sexy, very international action. Like Joe Wright’s Hanna, Lucy is a thriller that isn’t content just to thrill. It has something to say.

What it says is profoundly humanistic, down to a cellular level. When Morgan Freeman, once again playing the sum of all Freemans, is offered the power of all-seeing knowledge, he says to Lucy exactly what he said to Bruce Wayne when Bruce Wayne made the same offer. “Look,” Freeman says, his wise eyes twinkling with concern and benevolence, in that order, “humanity can’t handle knowledge and it will just lead to chaos.” Bruce Wayne agreed, so he told Morgan Freeman to just delete everything. But Lucy, who can see further, deeper, and wider than Bruce Wayne or Morgan Freeman, says what anyone with youth and a liberal arts education will also tell you. “No. Ignorance breed chaos. Not knowledge.” Neil Degrasse Tyson would be proud. I know I was, even if I’m more of a Bruce Wayne myself. But this is Luc Besson’s story. This is what he wants to say. This is where he’s ended up after contemplating his own mortality.

As an action movie, Lucy is a glorious videogame in god mode. Fans of Watch Dogs and Saints Row IV will thrill to Besson’s batshit crazy set pieces as he raises the stakes higher and higher, breaking rules and even subverting his own tropes. Besson loves nothing quite so much as squeezing a ton of heavily armed thugs through a narrow corridor, basically spraying them at the protagonist as if from a firehose. He can’t resist doing the same thing in Lucy, but then breaking his own rules. Lucy is a superhero movie without the burden of a license. The IP here is humanity, evolution, the rational miracle of life, all billion years of it. It is Ken Russell’s Altered States meets Joss Whedon’s Avengers.

Like Under the Skin and Her, two other mind-blowing movies anchored by arresting Scarlett Johansson performances, Lucy is smart and sexy science fiction about what it means to be human. Lucy begins in progress and utterly mundane, with Johansson as an overseas student having an argument with her boyfriend. Who are they? Where are they? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Why is the scene playfully intercut with that footage? What’s in the briefcase? What does Morgan Freeman’s character and carefully staged lecture have to do with any of this? It’s a puzzle that comes together neatly, and the final reveal — Lucy has the confidence to provide an Answer — makes this the most sophisticated and satisfying movie Besson has made. Does every filmmaker want to be Stanley Kubrick? If only every filmmaker was this capable of channeling Kubrick while still retaining his own identity.

, | Game reviews

Most driving games are about speed. The idea is that if you’re not going fast, you’re not having fun. Fair enough. That’s a pretty safe approach. So speed is the basic currency in a driving game.

But what Spintires presupposes is, what if it’s not? The foundation for Spintires, literally and figuratively, is mud. The developers at Oovee have built an offroad diving game around the physics of sucking squelching goddamnable tire-drinking mud. At first, I thought the name Spintires was dumb. I kept wanting to write it “Sprintires”, but that makes even less sense in the context of this game. In this game, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself on a patch of paved road. Spintires is about roads that sometimes aren’t even roads. Oh, wait, I’ve been driving along some sort of wash or gully and someplace where there aren’t any trees for whatever reason. Let’s see, on the map, it looks like this leads to, uh, someplace I haven’t explored, so I have no idea. Let’s see what’s up there.

After the jump, where we’re going, we don’t need roads. Continue reading →

, | News

In case you’re playing Wargame: Red Dragon as a slightly upgraded version of Wargame: AirLand Battle, developer Eugen wants to remind you that there are ships in there. So today’s free “Millionth Mile” update, which adds more than 60 new units for the Eastern bloc powers (sorry other side of the Iron Curtain!), also adds very special trucks that will be useful if your opponent is playing with naval units.

…The Millionth Mile also introduces a brand new kind of unit, in the form of an AShM (anti-ship missile!) truck carrier. These units, whose main function is to engage ships over long distances from the land, increase the tactical depth of the game while redefining Wargame’s naval warfare!

Frankly, I find playing on maps composed entirely of land redefines Wargame’s naval warfare just fine.

You can read my anti-ship review here.

, | News

Since its launch last year, Stardock has updated Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes with balance changes, DLC offers, and free content. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this with all the hubbub surrounding Age of Wonders 3 and Triumph’s crowd-funding story. The latest update to Legendary Heroes adds class-specific requirements to hero items, A.I. upgrades that change the way the computer opponents play the game, and banners that can boost armies in the field.

- Added the Banner of the Brave accessory, Army gets +1 Attack And +2 Defense, Commander only
- Added Walderon’s Banner accessory, Army gets +1 Moves and +2 Initiative, Commander only
- Added the Banner of Zad-Zabril accessory, Army gets +25% Fire Resistance, Commander only

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is available through Steam or directly from Stardock.

, | News

The black market is coming to Titanfall. The latest update to Respawn’s mechs vs. parkour pilots shooter will add in-game currency that can be spent on rewards like packs of Burn Cards, and insignias for players’ Titans. The Black Market purchases work with credits that are rewarded at the end of matches for performance. Credits can also be obtained by selling Burn Cards back to the market.

Burn Card packs are just like booster packs for your favorite collectible card games. They contain a random assortment of Burn Cards, but players can purchase them in themes that limit the picks to certain categories. Want an amped-up weapon for a round? Buy an Ordnance pack. Want XP enhancers? Pick a Time Boost pack. Now Titanfall players can feel the same pain that Magic: The Gathering fans have known for years.

Titanfall players have voiced concerns that the new currency system is the beginning of a microstransaction system. Ever since the launch of the game, players have been on the lookout for publisher Electronic Arts to push real-world money purchases into the application. The Burn Card feature seems almost tailor-made for microtransactions, after all. Respawn’s David Shaver reiterated the studio’s stance on the issue, to allay those fears.

With the introduction of an in-game currency, some may worry that the next step is that we will let players spend real-world money to get an edge in the game. We have stated several times that Titanfall will not have micro-transactions. Fear not, for we plan to keep that promise – NO MICROTRANSACTIONS! The only way to get Credits is by playing the game!

Players will be able to access the in-game market once they hit level 11. Access remains open even after they regenerate from level 50 and start over at the beginning of the level system. Alternately, players can choose to remain at level 50 and additional XP gained from matches will be converted into market credits.

, | 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.