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homefront

These three games want to dominate the first-person shooter market and they’re coming for your dollars. All three games had beta access periods over the weekend and bouncing between them has taught me one thing: May is going to be rough for shooter fans. There’s only so many hours in the day, and Doom, Overwatch, and Battleborn all want your attention. If you want a mix of old-school arena multiplayer mixed with newer Call of Duty sensibilities, then Doom from id Software and Bethesda will have you covered starting on May 13th. If you want Blizzard’s take on Team Fortress 2 before it went hat crazy, Overwatch will give you all the hero class shooting you can handle on May 24th. If you’re craving a mix of Borderlands with a beefy helping of MOBA gameplay, Gearbox’s Battleborn gets an early jump out of the gate on May 3rd. Basically, May is going to be crowded with grinding for levels while shooting at other players.

Buried in that release calendar is poor Homefront: The Revolution. On the 17th of May, Dambuster Studios’ open-world co-op sequel to Homefront squeezes out between these three juggernauts. While the other three games are focused on cartoon story setups, Homefront: The Revolution tries to hit the gritty with North Korea’s future-tech military occupying the United States. The player works to free Philadelphia from the oppressors through the judicious use of guns, a motocross bike, and exploding RC cars. Strike that. It’s just as much of a cartoon as the others.

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Red_Dead_Redemption_maps

Ever since an alleged development map for Read Dead Redemption was posted and then hastily pulled from gaming forum NeoGAF, fans of the series — which is just another way to say “people who play videogames” — have been atwitter with excitement about the possibility of a sequel in development at Rockstar. The map was a bit blurry, but it seems the lower left corner overlaps with the upper right corner of the original map, a place called West Elizabeth. The implication is that a sequel will implore us to go northeast, young man.

One of the members of our forum (you can call him Mr. Tibbs) has peered at the leaked map, deciphered the text as best as he can, peered some more, and put some hard work and borderline obsessive fandom into assembling a map brimming with detail, neatly fitting the leaked map alongside the previous game’s map. So for a lovingly intricate overview of the world of the two most recent Red Dead games, have a look at Mr. Tibbs spectacular cartography after the jump.

After the jump, charting uncharted terrain Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews
Green_Room_review

Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin was a slow burn about the conflict between ruthless people and people who haven’t yet learned to be ruthless, but they’re getting there. His latest movie, Green Room, is the same thing, but without the slow. Green Room gets right to the burn and sustains it with the intensity of white phosphorous. This might sting a little. As Saulnier lets loose with bullets, fangs, and blades, Green Room isn’t shy about painting the walls red. Startlingly good effects remind us of the unpleasant fact that we’re all just flesh.

The basic story isn’t unusual. Events A, then B, then C roll out almost like clockwork (although the strangely poignant Y followed by the absurd Z are sure signs of Saulnier’s talent). You’ve seen this set-up before. What you haven’t seen is these people rolling out these events in this place. Saulnier has described Green Room as punk war horror, which has a “you got peanut butter in my chocolate” feel. It’s a bit like Bone Tomahawk, another recent horror hybrid. And like Bone Tomahawk, it’s not afraid to unleash brutality on characters you’ve come to care about.

These character are a group of likable young slackers. Yeah, they’re in a punk band, but don’t hold that against them. They seem like the kind of kids who are smart and well-intentioned enough to eventually grow out of it. You already know Anton Yelchin from Star Trek and Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development. Imogen Poots might be hard to recognize under that bad haircut. You’ll meet an actor named Joe Cole, who I’d seen trapped underwater with Danny Huston and Matthew Goode in a movie called Pressure. I hope to see more of Cole. A handful of really good character actors — including Macon Blair from Blue Ruin — fill in the blanks admirably. Patrick Stewart makes a chillingly effective ringleader presiding over the hardcore grand guignol.

Saulnier’s concept of what evil lurks in Oregon’s forests is like a nightmare version of Kelly Reichardt’s movies, which suggest Oregon as place populated by conflicted but mostly decent people, a little too smart for their own good. You don’t expect Green Room to happen in this laid back wet chill. You’d expect it in the open desert where the heat drives people mad or in remote jungles far from the taming influence of civilization. This must be what it was like when people went to theaters in 1972 to see an adventure movie about some guys going canoeing for a weekend. Little did they know they were about to watch Deliverance.

Green Room is currently in limited release. It opens wide on April 29.

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Gears of War 4 will have a revenue scheme that apes other popular multiplayer games. In an interview with Gamespot, Rod Fergusson, of The Coalition, revealed that the game will have item crates as well as a rotating set of multiplayer maps. The item crates can be purchased or earned through play, and will offer a random assortment of cosmetic items like weapon skins. New multiplayer maps will be released one per month for a year post-launch and will be free for everyone. Like MOBA heroes, the free maps will rotate into and out of the official play list on a regular schedule. Players will only need to purchase the maps if they want them available permanently in their custom games.

I feel like that paradigm of cards is really clear to understand for collectibles. We had weapon skins and character skins [in Gears of War 3], so that idea of collecting cards is just easily understood. It felt like it adds some engagement, it’s not “Oh, I like Tiger Stripe. I bought Tiger Stripe. I’m done.” I like the idea of why you buy Magic: The Gathering booster packs. If I could just buy the one card I want then I’m out, then you lose it, right?

There’s some excitement around that. I think Hearthstone is brilliant at it. That idea of the glow, and the voice, and the excitement about being like, “I want to open packs, and I want to be a part of that engagement.” That’s the same thing we’re trying to do here. The notion that everything is earnable just through play means the only reason you would ever use real money is you want to accelerate it. We’re going to be balanced to where you’re going to be constantly getting crates, or enough credits to get crates through the game, so it really is just about your choice.

Gears of War 4 will launch on October 11th.

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Aliens_vs_Pinball_announcement

Zen Studios’ latest pinball tables have been mostly bright colorful affairs full of fluttering cheerfulness, swashbuckling, derring-do, adventure, and other qualities befitting a company enjoying lots of success with Disney properties like Star Wars and Marvel. I shouldn’t complain given the embarrassment of riches we’ve enjoyed, but even a set of Force Awakened tables couldn’t hold my interest for long. Given that Force Awakened is itself an homage to original Star Wars, the Force Awakened tables aren’t that far removed from what we’ve already got. If I’m going to pull a plunger and Star Wars it, I’d just as soon work on my scores for the Empire Strikes Back, Starfighter Assault, or Boba Fett tables.

But now Zen is working with a whole new studio and a whole new tone. Aliens vs Pinball — cute title, that — will include three tables. From the announcement:

* Join Ellen Ripley as she confronts her nightmares and help the Colonial Marines rid LV-426 of its Alien infestation in Aliens Pinball
* Watch out for the merciless Alien stalking you on the Alien: Isolation pinball table
* Defeat Xenomorphs and rise in Yautja society on the Alien vs. Predator table

Considering what a fantastic job Creative Assembly did with Alien: Isolation in every area but gameplay, I’m even looking forward to that table. You can get a good long look at the Aliens Pinball table in this trailer. More importantly, you can listen to it. Those aren’t voice actors trying to sound like characters from the movie. Those are actual lines from the actual actors from the actual movie.

Aliens vs Pinball will be available on April 26th, which is Alien Day, of course. You knew that, right? Alien Day? Because April 26th is 4/26. 426, you know. As in LV-426. Don’t worry, I had to look that up myself. It will be released on all non-Nintendo platforms. Until Zen lets me rebind the flippers to anything other than the Playstation controller’s mushy shoulder buttons, you’ll find my high scores on the Vita.

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azhag_total_wagh

Look, you’re not getting the Chaos faction for free in Creative Assembly’s Total War: Warhammer. That’s not happening. The Chaos Warriors race pack is a separate thing that you have to purchase either as a pre-order bonus or as post-launch DLC. It’s an unpopular decision for fans of the Warhammer property, but publisher SEGA knows that you’re going to end up getting it anyway. It’s Chaos! You’re not going to play a Warhammer game without them. Here’s what they will do for you to make you feel a bit better: They’re going to give you some other new race for free. According to the official Future Content Blog, Creative Assembly promises to give you “free-LC” (yuck) for this game like they’ve done for past Warhammer titles.

Last but not least, towards the end of the year we will add a new playable race to the game, including new Legendary Lords, magic items, quest chains, and units.

With only four (five if you count Chaos) playable races announced, there’s a lot of options for another faction in the game. You could have Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen, those other humans with slightly different weapons, or any of a dozen other fantasy races. Not the Skaven. They have their own game.

Total War: Warhammer will launch on Steam on May 24th.

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, | Movie reviews
The_Invitation_review

Given the strength of Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay’s script for The Invitation, I hesitate to mention their previous credits. Suffice it to say they wrote Karyn Kusama’s Aeon Flux adaptation, a flawed but overlooked gem of characterization, stylish action tableaus, and sci-fi gobbledygook. Kusama’s movie credits have mostly been genre stories with strong female characters, from Girlfight to Aeon Flux to Jennifer’s Body, also a flawed gem that has the distinction of being Diablo Cody’s least Diablo Cody script.

You might think Kusama is outside her comfort zone with The Invitation, in which an ensemble cast has a dialogue-heavy dinner party. Think The Man from Earth or Coherence, but with a director who really knows what she’s doing. Would I scare you off if I said The Invitation could easily be a play? What if I stipulated that it would be a really good play?

Although Kusama doesn’t shoot it like a play (you can’t pan across a sumptuous feast on a dinner table if the audience is looking up at a stage), she films her actors with the intimacy of someone directing a play. She focuses intensely on lead actor Logan Marshall-Green, a Tom Hardy doppelganger who effortlessly manages Hardy’s bottled up intensity. She works wonders playing against Michiel Huisman’s easy charm, not so evident in Game of Thrones, but used to great effect opposite Blake Lively’s lively performance in Age of Adeline. And oh, how she rolls out the great John Carroll Lynch, whose notable credits are too numerous to list, so I’ll just mention Frances McDormand’s husband in Fargo and Lennie James’ mentor in that one episode of Walking Dead.

Kusama also demonstrates a Polanski-esque talent for blurring the line between the mundane and the menacing. She wrings from simple social cues a sense of something slightly off. She catches you off guard and then reassures you that you just imagined it. “Yeah, they’re a little weird,” says one of the characters, “but this is LA. They’re harmless.” The Invitation smiles coyly as it slithers along the line between social paranoia and malice. Are you watching a psychological thriller? An indie drama? A horror movie?

Whatever you call it, The Invitation is partly about the anxiety of catching up with friends who have changed over the years. Who are these people you once knew so well? What have they become? What have you become? It’s also about the impossibility of coming to terms with a malevolent universe. Anyone who can, anyone who does, anyone who manages Tammy Blanchard’s sad desperate smile, must be mad. Something must be wrong with those people. Right? Or is something wrong with you? When The Invitation eventually decides, it sure does decide.

The Invitation is currently in theatrical release and available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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Publisher Electronic Arts and developer Respawn Entertainment are teasing Titanfall 2. It’s a jungle, robot legs, a drop pod, and a gloriously large robot-sword. Is there anything less practical in futuristic warfare than hand-to-hand weapons being used by giant mechs? Not if decades of science fiction movies have taught me right!

Titanfall 2 will be shown during Electronic Arts’ EA Play event that will happen on June 12th.

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Pandemic_review

This shouldn’t bother me, but it does because there’s little else to keep me interested in Pandemic, a no-budget, half-assed, found-footage, zombie apocalypse hack job. The characters wear cameras mounted on their hazmat suits. The lens is situated above the clear face plate, about four inches over their heads. Pandemic is shot almost exclusively from the perspective of these cameras (occasional iPhone and security camera footage is edited in because why not?). Yet whenever a character looks at another character, the other character looks directly into the lens. Not at the person’s face, which would be well below the lens. But directly into the lens because it didn’t occur to the people making Pandemic that where an actor looks is an important part of making a movie. Hey, Pandemic filmmakers, it’s called an eyeline. Look into it.

While you’re looking into it, also look into casting (poor Alfie “Theon Greyjoy” Allen, whose tough but heroic convict belongs in a better movie), screenwriting (zombie apocalypses don’t get to magically ignore plausibility), CG (sticking a couple of half-hearted smoke effect overlays onto shots of Los Angeles doesn’t quite cut it), and especially production design. Pandemic features a garden-variety bright yellow school bus when the script obviously intends some sort of Damnation Alley battlewagon driven by an elite team of soldiers and scientists into a post-apocalyptic zombie infested city. It’s hilarious that this school bus has lightly frosted glass windows so the production design team doesn’t have to dress anything in post-apocalypse detritus during the driving scenes, which comprise about half of the movie’s running time. It’s even more hilarious when one of the characters insists he’s indispensable because he’s the only one “trained” to drive the vehicle. I spent many years riding these buses to and from school, and I well remember the kinds of people who were “trained” to drive these vehicles. I wouldn’t dream of having one of them deliver an elite team of soldiers and scientists into a zombie apocalypse.

Support Qt3 and watch Pandemic on Amazon.com. Actually, don’t. Instead, use the link to find something else worth watching. You’d have a hard time doing worse than Pandemic.

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, | Game reviews
TotH1

Everybody gets old — the question is, how do you realize it? I realized I was old when I stopped being surprised by things that would have shocked me in my twenties. Russia ruled by a madman? No longer shocking. US soon to be ruled by a madman? No longer shocking. Game touted as Computer Squad Leader ends up being disappointing? Well…

After the jump, okay, I can still be surprised by some things. Continue reading →

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otc_black_market_attack

Offworld Trading Company, the economic real-time strategy game from Mohawk Games, is launching on April 28th. Not that it should matter to you because you’ve been playing the game since it hit beta status, right? Soren Johnson’s take on Martian stock manipulation and industrial sabotage has been delightfully playable for over a year, but now with a coat of polish and balance, we can expect even greater things. The addition of a story campaign and daily challenges sound like good reasons to get cracking on shorting stock and making buddy-buddy with business mercenaries.

Four big businesses are vying for all of the resources and control on Mars. Learn about what brought them there and how they intend to drive their competition into the ground and come out on top.

Offworld Trading Company is available on Steam for Windows PC.

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