We at Quarter to Three wish you and your loved ones a happy Thanksgiving! Eat well, be merry, and don’t stress out if you’re going shopping this weekend. In fact, as one of your entertainment sites of choice, we recommend staying home to play a videogame about discovering New Worlds, get a favorite boardgame to the table, or watch an entirely frivolous movie. You can shop next week after all the fuss has died down.
It seems the wizards at Creative Assembly have been busy. Even with development on Total War: Warhammer continuing steadily, they’ve been working on an expansion for Total War: Attila that’s set to release on December 10th. The Age of Charlemagne moves the game forward in time from the end of the Roman Empire to the dawn of the Middle Ages. The campaign pack puts the player on an all-new strategic map in the Europe of 768 AD with eight playable factions. New technologies, new buildings, and a new snazzy Middle Ages user interface come with the expansion.
Friends, enemies and opportunity populate a continent tired of conflict, the people eager for peace. Charlemagne finds himself at the head of a new age of education, religion and warfare, and sees all as tools to unite, stabilize… and expand. The Saxons, the Saracens and the Vikings will all have something to say to a man of such ambition. It will take guile, charm, intelligence and ruthlessness to succeed above all others. Charles the Great, King of the Franks, the Father of Europe.
Age of Charlemagne for Total War: Attila is available for pre-order on Steam.
The newest free update for Broforce features characters portrayed by Christopher Lambert. Broden, the lightning-shooting God of Thunder (Raiden from Mortal Kombat) and Brolander, the sword-wielding immortal (from the Highlander movies) are now available to dynamically destroy the pixelated battlefields of Broforce. The Lightning Strikes Twice update also adds random supply drops for players that can give characters ammo, temporary performance boosters, and limited-use weapons for the current level. Developer Free Lives has air-lifted a dose of freedom to the game by adding a Tactical Ops mode that lets players use one Bro character for the duration of a level, instead of changing randomly with every unlock.
Broforce is available on Steam.
We’re a year and some change from the 20 year anniversary of Lucasarts’ Outlaws. It’s been over five years since Red Dead Redemption. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was two years ago. Are videogame Westerns a thing of the past? Or are there any Western games we’ll look back at fondly in the years to come?
After the jump, saddle up! Continue reading →
Experimenter is at first about the Milgram experiments, in which subjects were tested for their willingness to electrically shock another person at the behest of an authority figure. The finding was basically that people will totally be dicks if they’re absolved of responsibility for their actions. Psychologist Stanley Milgram implied a connection to the Holocaust. The movie exaggerates Milgram’s findings, implying that almost everyone (“the vast majority,” the character says at one point) was willing to escalate the shocks to a life-threatening voltage. In reality, a third of the subjects refused to continue, and Experimenter eventually admits as much. Furthermore, to ratchet up dramatic tension, the movie implies the authority figure was unrelenting as the test subjects protested. But in reaction to protests during the actual tests, the authority figure escalated through four scripted responses. If the subject protested a fifth time, the experiment was halted.
As you might guess from the title, Experimenter is more concerned with Stanley Milgram himself, coolly portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard (Sarsgaard is so often the king of cool, which is why it’s so much fun seeing him lose his cool in Black Mass). Director Michael Almereyda can’t resist gimmicks like breaking the fourth wall, shooting scenes against obvious backdrops, montages detailing Milgram’s other experiments, and one of the most ridiculous beards ever captured on film. There is even a literal elephant in the room when Milgram draws parallels to fascism. “Perhaps our awareness is the first step in liberation,” Almereyda’s movie concludes ponderously.
Experimenter also considers the ethical implications of the stress inflicted on the test subjects. They weren’t actually shocking anyone. It was a ruse to test their willingness. The “victim” was unseen in another room, faking cries of pain. The subjects felt guilt, remorse, duress, and anguish to varying degrees before they were told it was all a ruse. Psych! Psych, indeed. Should a research psychologist concern himself with the well-being of his test subjects? Or do the findings justify the means? If you want to test whether someone will totally be a dick, do you have to be a dick yourself? Fair questions, all of which the audience will probably wonder without Experimenter’s explicit dialogue to that effect. The most compelling parts of the movie are the scenes of the experiment itself, watching the subjects grow increasingly uneasy. Thanks to Anthony Edwards, John Leguizamo, Anton Yelchin, and Jim Gaffigan for the effectiveness of these scenes. They’re far better than the biopic in which they’re wrapped.
All of these things are expressed more viscerally and less intellectually in The Stanford Prison Experiment, so this is a review of that movie instead. It’s a more effective story about the same topics. As you might guess from the title, it’s about the experiment itself, another study of the willingness of people to be dicks. It similarly called into question the ethics of inflicting stress on test subjects. With confident direction from rookie director Kyle Patrick Alvarez and a pared down script by a former South Park writer named Tim Talbott, Stanford Prison Experiment takes a “just the facts, ma’am” approach. It presents what happened, how it happened, and even why it happened (Billy Cruddup plays research psychologist Philip Zimbardo as a hapless victim of his own hubris). It doesn’t need to preach. It doesn’t need to embellish. It doesn’t need to conjure up lurid thriller tropes like the 2010 movie based on the same experiments, called The Experiment, in which Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker bring a knife to a psychology fight. This Stanford Prison Experiment is true to its roots, basking in the hardware, the costumes, and the hairstyles of its 1971 setting. It trusts the experiment itself to sustain the movie. It trusts the actors’ light-hearted laughs to convey the absurdity of the early set-up and their performances to see it through to its conclusion.
The cast is an it-list of young male actors. Tye Sheridan, Keir Gilchrist, Ki Hong Lee, Johnny Simmons, Thomas Mann, and Michael Angarano all demonstrate they’re not just pretty young faces. Put these kids in an ensemble, give them good material, and enjoy a tantalizing look at their careers to come. The real standout is Ezra Miller, previously seen as the eponymous Kevin who needs to be talked about in the wretched We Need To Talk About Kevin.
For two movies that use actual studies to make the same point — What did we learn from this and was it worth it? — The Stanford Prison Experiment is a far better movie than Experimenter. The only thing Experimenter has in its favor is the inspired casting of Kellan Lutz as William Shatner. Will someone please spin that into a full blown biopic?
Support Qt3 and watch The Stanford Prison Experiment on Amazon.com. You can also watch Experimenter if you feel like it.
Microtransactions and loot drops are coming to Killing Floor 2. The Zed-conomy update adds cosmetic weapon and player skins to Killing Floor 2 that appear in randomly dropped Horazine supply crates. These in-game crates can be unlocked with keys that players may purchase with real-world money. Like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s system, many of the loot items can be traded or bought and sold in the Steam Marketplace. As outlined in the feature’s FAQ, developer Tripwire promises that the loot will be cosmetic only. As for whether or not the game will be going free-to-play as a result of these changes, the developers say it won’t.
We don’t have any current plans to take Killing Floor 2 free to play. As with KF1 our plan is for the Trading Floor to fund future free content and seasonal events available for all players for years to come.
Killing Floor 2 is available on Steam in early access.
There’s a secret harpoon gun in Fallout 4. The weapon is baked in the files of the game and is not enabled, but modder xxdeathknight72xx found it and has brought it out for PC players to use. Using the mod replaces the Railway Rifle that shoots railroad spikes, but it allows you to fire harpoons at enemies – at least until the ammo runs out. It’s unclear why Bethesda discontinued work on the gun, or if the developers plan on officially adding it to the game at a later date. Is it for underwater combat gameplay that was never quite realized?
This is only one of many mods that have already appeared for Fallout 4 despite the official editing tools not being released yet. Some of the most popular mods are a revamped dialogue interface that shows the full responses the player will give, ammunition crafting, and a tool that lets you mess around with some hidden settings.
It can be awfully unbecoming to watch a couple of adults play at being nervous teenagers. But that’s how Lake Bell and Simon Pegg spend the first third of Man Up. It’s not entirely unsuccessful. You can’t deny Pegg’s deft charm as a nattering dork. Those distinguished crinkles fan out around his eyes when he grins and you know he’s better than this. Lake Bell tempers her comedic confidence with a generous dollop of vulnerability. And who can resist the mega-wattage of that Julia Roberts smile?
The contrived conflict kicks in awfully early. Watch the forced sparks sputter! Then the convenient split before they finally realize The Thing That’s Really Important Is Each Other. To a sappy piano rendition of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, no less. Finally the wacky and frenzied dash to reconnect and the climactic emotional confessions of love in front of a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. “I think you might be the blue bits,” Pegg declares at last! It’s a callback to a metaphor about life being like a jigsaw puzzle. Man Up is nothing if not a clunky formulaic script.
Also notable is Rory Kinnear, who really puts himself out there as the comedic relief. To think this was the actor whose Bolingbroke was such a powerful presence in the BBC’s televised Richard II. I’m sorry, that’s an awfully snooty thing to say in a romcom review, isn’t it? Can you tell this isn’t my preferred genre? But even I know the key to a formulaic romcom is a couple of appealing leads willing to commit even if the script is awful. Man Up has that in spades.
Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.
Fallout 4 is a Fallout about restoring civilization. It is not just a Fallout about a wayward family member, a water purifier, a GECK, a dam, or your favorite faction. Sure, those things might be in here (Fallout 4 directly repeats some of Fallout 3’s plot points). But this Fallout is unique among Fallouts for how it’s about restoring civilization to the wasteland. About worldbuilding. World rebuilding, to be more precise.
You might think you’ve restored civilizations in previous Fallouts. And, yes, depending on choices you made at the end of the game, maybe you did. But it wasn’t gameplay. Restoring civilization was a coda. A postscript. An oh-by-the-way, like those “where are they now?” title cards at the end of movies based on true stories. The new civilization was a slideshow and a block of text immediately preceding the credits.
But Fallout 4 is a game where you’re going to rebuild society as you play. In fact, you don’t have a choice. You’re going to be a hero who make the ruined world a better place, like it or not. This isn’t the kind of choice-and-consequence Fallout that will let you play the villain. You won’t blow up Megaton. Your choices will be a) pet the puppy or b) cuddle the puppy. The worst you can do is pet the puppy sarcastically. Besides, everyone plays a good guy on their first playthrough, right? You’ll find a couple of evil choices at the end. If you want to groove on the rubble, as per reformed hippie Jerry Rubin’s description of what would happen in an aftermath, you’re not going to do it directly. It will be a coda, a postscript, an oh-by-the-way. Up until then, when it really matters, you will work for a better world. Fallout 4 is a game about gameplay about rebuilding.
After the jump, the four things that keep Fallout 4 from being the game it’s trying to be. Continue reading →
Amplitude Studios’ Endless Legend is getting another free update today. The Forges of Creation will add Steam Workshop support and improves the intelligence of the opponents. The development team has made Endless Legend compatible with the free map editor Tiled, so creative types can lay out their own devious lands. Forges of Creation also brings the Sister of Mercy hero, and a Guardian Killer unit.
Along with the Forges of Creation, Amplitude will be releasing two content packs for sale. The Lost Tales features 20 new quests for minor factions, and Echoes of Auriga will add seven new music tracks along with some unique in-game items.
Deep Dark takes a while to get underway. You might not be able to bear its glib low budget take on the angst of its struggling artist. He strings up trash like a mobile and calls it art and hopes to get a gallery showing. We’re in Portland where that kind of thing might happen. Hence this movie. Portland, the Austin of the Pacific Northwest, has it’s own film scene.
But if you give Deep Dark a half hour or so, you’ll find a story about talent, inspiration, and madness that plays out like a low rent Barton Fink, with clumsy gags instead of the Coen Brothers snap and bite. If you give it another half hour or so — if you wait until it really, uh, sinks in — it assumes an identity of its own. It certainly has a unique monster.
Writer/director Michael Medaglia shows admirable restraint and flashes of dark style. He might take too long to get underway, but he knows how to end. Lead actor Sean McGrath gives it his scruffy hangdog all. It’s probably no coincidence McGrath bears a slight resemblance to a young Anthony Hopkins. Say, an Anthony Hopkins about the age he was when he made a movie called Magic, also about talent, inspiration, and madness. Voice actress Denise Poirier brings the monster to life perfectly. And speaking of perfect, Keith Schreiner’s score has the mournful but mischievous quality of Carter Burwell’s best music.
Deep Dark is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.
Turn 10 and Microsoft has added microtransactions to Forza Motorsport 6. Players can buy in-game tokens used to unlock cars or event modifiers for the racing game with real-world money. Cars can still be unlocked through play, but the tokens offer a shortcut to better cars right away. The game did not launch with this feature, and the developer chose to bury the announcement in a community blog news roundup.
On Saturday, we’ll be activating tokens in Forza Motorsport 6, allowing players to purchase tokens which can be used for in-game items like cars and Mod packs. Players who do not wish to see the token feature in Forza Motorsport 6 menus will have the option to disable this feature from appearing by turning Tokens off in the HUD Options menu.
There’s a new twist. Microtransactions that you can block. The feature’s stealth launch and giving players the ability to turn it off in their games may be a result of Turn 10’s past experience with microtransactions. When a similar system was first revealed for Forza Motorsport 5, the community reacted negatively and the developer was forced to retool the in-game economy to make cars less expensive. The Forza Motorsport 6 token packs are available from 100 tokens for 99 cents (good for one car) to 20,000 tokens for $99.99.
This sounds like a children’s book. “And the gun goes bang and the knife goes snickt and the landmine goes click”. Since the premise is someone steps on a landmine and can’t step off, this also sounds like a rip-off of No Man’s Land, a bitterly funny political allegory about the Balkans. Only this movie is about American kids hiking in Georgia. The Georgia that Russia invaded, not the one where peaches and The Walking Dead come from. Maybe you wonder what else the director has done and you come across a movie called 247 Degrees. It’s about four people who get in a sauna, but then a stick falls over and wedges the door shut. Then a whole movie happens about four people sweltering to death because a stick fell over. No joke. I saw it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
So why would you bother with Georgia filmmaker Levan Bakhia’s Landmine Goes Click? Because all of the above fail to express what Landmine Goes Click actually is. Sure, it starts out as dopey as you feared. But just when you’ve resigned yourself to watching three whining American kids standing around in a field because one of them stepped on a landmine, something else happens entirely. Unfortunately, the press materials, any synopsis, or any other review would spoil it. And frankly, I’m not sure the movie is worth watching if you already know the something else. I’m not sure it works unless you’re blindsided.
As the ill-fated mine stepper, Sterling Knight could be described as Leonardo DiCaprio Lite. He has to carry much of the movie, and he’s almost up to the task. But the real star here is the movie’s willingness to get grimly uncomfortable. It almost recalls trashy exploitation movies from the 70s, but with a focus on the trashiness more than the exploitation. I’m also reminded of the Dutch horror movie The Vanishing for how it used a haunting two-act structure to tell the story of the unlikely evil done by a family man.
Director Bakhia sees his premise and twists through to their bitter ends, and without the typical American PG-13 soft-sell. If Bakhia deserves credit for anything, it’s his willingness to coldly commit to a story about people instead of hardware. The landmine was never the problem. The problem all along was the people capable of the same cruelty it takes to lay down landmines.
Landmine Goes Click is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.