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this_ma_crew

We can thank Assassin’s Creed Unity for introducing weaponized review embargoes to gamers’ vocabulary. With its myriad technical issues, one could be forgiven for suspecting Ubisoft of having an ulterior motive when it asked sites to hold their reviews of the game until noon of launch day. Well, fear not gamers! Ubisoft wants to make it very clear that there will be no embargo on reviews of their open world racer, The Crew. Unfortunately, we may be waiting anyway.

The Crew will be available to media to begin their reviews when the game launches on December 2. There will be absolutely no embargo on any type of coverage once the game is available for sale. While we fully anticipate that you might see some reviews immediately at launch – largely built around the preview sessions we facilitated during the past months or the limited content of the closed and open betas – they won’t be based on optimal conditions or reflect the finished game.

So there you go in clear language. There’s no formal embargo. No one can review the game until launch day because no one will be able to really play the game until then.

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gamestop_hell

GameStop wants to make sure that you know what videogames are really worth. Citing recent hardware bundles from Sony and Microsoft, GameStop president Tony Bartel told investors that the videogame industry must work together to maintain profitability with its products. Bartel’s concern is that software giveaways devalue games across the industry by driving down price expectations in customers.

“We want to help ensure that our industry does not make the same mistake as other entertainment categories by driving the perceived value of digital goods significantly below that of a physical game.”

According to GameStop’s research, over $100 million in software has been given away for free to gamers in 2014 as part of hardware bundles, incentives, and membership programs such as Xbox Games for Gold and PlayStation Plus. In that same research, GameStop revealed that surveyed gamers now expect to pay no more than $35 for a newly released triple-A digital title.

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, | Movie podcasts
Birdman_podcast

This week we consider Michael Keaton’s comeback performance in a comedy by Alejandro Innaritu, a director not exactly known for his comedies.

Next week: The Babadook

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, | Games

Ken Block’s latest gymkhana video — this series features his drifting prowess in various souped up cars — follows him and a custom-build four-wheel-drive ’65 Mustang through several Los Angeles locations. What’s striking about this one is how much it reminds me of the basic thrust of Grand Theft Auto V’s action, which taps into man’s primal need to drive wrecklessly through all those familiar streets of Los Angeles, as seen in countless movies and television shows. But unlock Mr. Block, who races through streets closed off by the police, we get to do it with traffic and pedestrians turned on.

Thanks, Charles!

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Shadow_of_Mordor_Lithariel

The wizards at Monolith and Warner Bros. Interactive have done what no one else could do. They’ve released a free DLC pack for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor that allows players to change their character’s gender from male to female. The Power of Defiance pack comes with a skin that lets you go from the strapping manly ranger Talion to svelte elven Lithariel, the warrior commander of the tribes of Nurn. That’s impossible! You can’t just make a player character’s gender optional.

The free Power of Defiance DLC also comes with a new Challenge Mode and an epic rune that will give players another chance to return to combat after death. The pack is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam.

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jimquisition

This week Brandon sits down with Jim Sterling to talk about his recent decision to forego traditional outlets for the wild woods of Patreon. Along the way we talk about the evolution of The Jimquisition, the cycle of apology from big publishers, the consumer’s responsibility for publishers’ crappy behavior and how much Jim is like Stephen Colbert (hint: not much).

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minidayz

Bohemia Interactive has released MiniDayZ. It’s a simple top-down 2D zombie apocalypse survival game based on DayZ. Scavenging for canned goods, dodging zombies, and stockpiling ammo. It’s all here. The only thing missing is the constant paranoia of bumping into another randomly homicidal player that will force-feed you detergent, or steal all your clothing. MiniDayZ is a single player affair, you see. You can just wander around safe in the knowledge that xXxKILLINnDRILLIN420xXx won’t show up to point a gun at your face and make you dance to dubstep Katy Perry.

MiniDayZ can be claimed for free from the Bohemia Interactive store.

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, | Games
grass_gtav

Apparently, some people’s decision on whether to get Grand Theft Auto V for the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 hinged on the amount of grass on the ground. No, really. This is what we’ve become. It was enough of a dust-up that Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry took the time to compare the two versions’ grass and the impact of that on gameplay. (Spoiler: It doesn’t matter.) Not one to be outdone, we wanted to take a look at how other games render those wispy blades of green.

After the jump, who has the best grass? Continue reading →

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unseen

Endless Legend, Amplitude Studio’s fantasy turn-based strategy game, is getting a second free mini expansion. Visions of the Unseen will add 10 new side quests and snazzy special effects for quest reward weapons. The release date hasn’t been announced yet, but the developers say more information will be forthcoming. The first free DLC, Shades of Alteration added user mod support, a new quest, and patched out some bugs.

In related news, Amplitude also announced Chronicles of the Lost, a free add-on for their 2012 space strategy title, Endless Space.

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ACU_cake

Jean-Luc Melenchon, president of the Left Party in France, wants people to know that Assassin’s Creed Unity presents an inaccurate picture of the French Revolution. According to the lengthy tirade he gave on France Inter Radio, Melenchon is most concerned that Ubisoft’s open world videogame portrays King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as victims of Robbespierre’s monstrous schemes, while heroes of the Revolution are painted as maniacs or co-conspirators of shadowy cabals.

“It is propaganda against the people, the people who are made to be barbarians, bloodthirsty savages. In 1789 there were the poor aristocrats, and they are presented as fine upstanding people.”

Melenchon said the game’s mischaracterization of revolutionary figures is a mode of thought shared with his far-right political opponents. He made no mention of how the modern-day threat from Abstergo, the Assassins, or the plot to collect MacGuffin alien artifacts impacts France’s current political landscape.

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, | Movie podcasts
FOXCATCHER

This week we grapple with the Steve Carell and Channing Tatum wrestling movie, Foxcatcher.

Next week: Birdman

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godus

Steam’s Early Access program is a success! If you’re a developer. You get to collect money while you work on a game’s development, and you benefit from willing tester feedback. It’s enough of win-win that big publishers like EA and Ubisoft have taken notice. Why not get paid while developing a game if people are willing to open their wallets? If you’re a consumer that wants a finished game, Steam’s Early Access program is less of a positive. According to Patrick Walker, EEDAR Head of Insights and Analytics, only 25% of titles launched on Steam Early Access have actually graduated to full releases. Gamers are, on average, paying $1 more for Early Access games than the full release version. Additionally, Walker points out that unlike other industry pre-pay programs, Steam Early Access has a large caveat.

A notable difference between [Kickstarter and Season Passes] and Steam’s Early Access program is the lack of a firm release window; on Early Access, a game could theoretically stay in development and be sold to consumers indefinitely, whereas a Season Pass is rolled out within a specific time frame and all Kickstarter projects are presented with an estimated “delivery date”.

358 games have launched on Steam’s Early Access since the program began in March 2013 and the rate is rising. Thanks for buying DayZ and Rust!

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mmo_goat

Goat Simulator from Coffee Stain Studios is getting another free content patch. This time, they’re making fun of fantasy-themed MMO games. The 1.2 Goat MMO Simulator update adds genre staples like leveling, classes, (including the “rouge”) and a horrendous chat interface. It looks like they’ve got it all covered – so much so that Coffee Stain wanted to make sure a certain MMO giant didn’t take it the wrong way.

“We hope Blizzard doesn’t sue us.”

The free 1.2 Goat MMO Simulator update is coming on November 20th for all owners of Goat Simulator.

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wow_down

Want to play World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Warlords of Draenor? Get in line. No, really. It launched yesterday and eager virtual denizens of Blizzard’s MMO have reported long queues, disconnects, and a befuddling lack of actual playtime. Blizzard has confirmed that they are working on the issues, but that some of the problems originated from people using a distributed denial of service attack on their servers. For shame hackers! There are more than enough legitimate players clogging up the servers to bring them down. Go bother an MMO that needs the attention.

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, | News

Ah, the sunny island of Narapela! Home to pristine beaches, tropical drinks, and ravenous undead. Escape Dead Island may be a bridge between Dead Island and the upcoming Dead Island 2, but a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking it looks more like something out of Borderlands. Not so, says publisher Deep Silver and developer Fatshark. This is a “story-driven survival-mystery adventure”. Swing makeshift melee weapons and get ready for some clumsy puzzles!

Escape Dead Island launches on November 18th for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.

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