, | Game reviews
D3_PS4_review_1

When I used to regularly play videogames on a LAN, Diablo and Diablo II were cornerstones of our LAN gaming. I’d have a single copy spawned across as many as six computers. We’d each have characters we were leveling, and I often had to shuffle character files around to different computers.

“I’m the level 30 amazon who is on that computer that he’s using, so I need her over here on this computer.”

“Okay, what was the character name and I’ll find the file.”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

It was part of the charm of gathering locally to play videogames, along with maintaining six computers. It was another era. But the Diablo was a big part of what made it worthwhile. These days, we play boardgames when we gather locally. These days, you have to use the adverb “locally” when you talk about physically gathering. These days, get off my lawn.

After the jump, wait, come back! I was about to talk about Diablo III on the PS4! Continue reading →

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, | News

All you really need to know to be excited by Conflicks, an upcoming real time strategy game for the PC, is that it’s from the guys who made the superlative Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves. But if that’s not enough, check out the above video for a brief history lesson on stuff that I don’t remember learning in school. Developer Artifice Studio will reveal information about the gameplay at a later date, but if they manage in the gameplay even a tenth of the humor and originality from that trailer, count me in.

Viva la cluck!

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, | Movie podcasts
DSC_0255.JPG

At least Life after Beth is no Warm Bodies. Join us for a discussion of Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza as two people young and in love, even though they’re not all alive. At the 59-minute mark, we dig into our favorite graveyard scenes in movies.

Next week: A Most Wanted Man

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, | Games podcasts
D3_PS4

Brandon Cackowski-Schnell and Tom Chick consider whether Blizzard has made the definitive version of Diablo III for the latest generation of console systems.

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, | Movie podcasts
Into_the_Storm_podcast

What could possibly go wrong with doing a found footage take on Jan de Bont’s classic tornado chasing romp Twister? Listen to find out. Then, at the 49-minute mark, we report for duty to discuss our favorite movie women in the military.

Next week: Life after Beth

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, | Game reviews
Thunder_Alley_review_1

I can’t say I don’t like NASCAR racing because, frankly, I don’t care enough about it one way or the other. I mean, rednecks, cars turning left, the South, har har, and all that. But I honestly have no idea what the deal is. I wouldn’t know Dale Earnhardt from Mario Andretti. I couldn’t care less about NASCAR. So why am I playing a NASCAR boardgame?

After the jump, days of Thunder Alley. Continue reading →

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, | Games

Adweek, a venerable publication that covers the world of advertising, has put together a cute video of some of Kevin Spacey’s appearances in commercials. The Academy Award winner — I’m just assuming since I can rarely remember who actually has and hasn’t won an Academy Award — has shilled for American Airlines, E*Trade, and some bank I’ve never heard of and can’t even spell.

But among the clips from commercials, Adweek includes cutscenes from the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. How are these ads? Granted, they’re used in ads. But they’re not ads. They are scenes from a work of entertainment in which Spacey performs. They’re no more ads than the scenes used in commercials for House of Cards, American Beauty, or Horrible Bosses, none of which appear in Adweek’s cute video.

It’s really disheartening to see the videogame industry growing up and going so frequently unacknowledged. For instance, it really bothers me that publications so often put videogames in the technology category, alongside stories about mobile phones, Facebook’s latest shenanigans, and the ongoing uninterest in Google Glass. That’s not where videogames belong. They belong squarely in the entertainment section of any publication that cares enough to inform its readers about the current state of entertainment.

But at least most publications don’t mistake videogames for commercials. You’d think Adweek of all folks wouldn’t be the ones to get that so wrong.

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, | Movie podcasts
Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_podcast

Why can’t all summer movies be like Guardians of the Galaxy? If you want to avoid spoilers, we advise you to skip to the 1:15 mark for this week’s 3×3 about our favorite bits of advice given in movies.

Next week: Into the Storm

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, | Game reviews
stoplight

My truck is idling at a stoplight. This isn’t Grand Theft Auto V or Watch Dogs, so I can’t just nose my way between lanes and drive through the red light. In Euro Truck Simulator 2, obeying the rules is part of the gameplay. The fine I’d incur for running a red light isn’t worth the time I’d save. This game is an exercise in structure and restraint. I realize that’s not why a lot of people play games — they have enough structure and restraint in their actual lives — but not all games are power fantasies for your id. So here I am, waiting for the light to change and not minding one whit.

After the jump, Woody Allen would be jealous. Continue reading →

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, | Games podcasts
Predestined_podcast_main

Brandon Cackowski-Schnell and Tom Chick talk about (deep breath) the Destiny beta, Firefall, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Wolfenstein: New Order, Zen Pinball, Rogue Legacy, Muramasa Rebirth, the new Ascension add-on, the Guardians of the Galaxy iPad game, and Desert Fox.

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, | News
Pinball_FX_Xbox_One_backwards_compatible

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.

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, | Movie podcasts
HERCULES

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

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, | Movie reviews
Lucy_review

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.

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, | Game reviews
mud_everywhere

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 →

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