Dark Star was John Carpenter’s 1974 riff on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Imagine 2001 without Kubrick’s visionary serenity, where the astronauts are the hippies, stoners, and surfers a USC film school student would have known in 1974. That’s screenwriter Dan O’Bannon in the foreground as Pinback. To release a planet-busting bomb, he twists his arms inward to grasp two dials or levers. It doesn’t look very comfortable. He holds it for the countdown from 10, and then for the release, he sharply rotates his hands outward. It’s the gesture a magician would do to reveal which hand the quarter is in.
Look out, legions! It’s going to be girls night out in Total War: Rome 2’s next DLC. The Desert Kingdoms Culture Pack features the Kush, Saba, Nabatea, and Masaesyli factions, each with new units and cultural traits. Teuta and Cleopatra join the game as new leaders free for everyone’s use. In fact, the free portion of the update enhances women’s roles throughout the game. There are now female generals in some factions, women can wield political influence, and marriage now has wider political ramifications. Shout out gals!
Throughout Barbie’s 59-year existence she’s been in all manner of inspirational careers. Barbie was an astronaut, a member of Congress, a McDonald’s worker, Supergirl, an airline pilot, a soldier, a CEO, riveter, welder, NASCAR driver and now, she can add raider of tombs to her resume. Tomb Raider Barbie is the latest variant of the popular doll from Mattel. She comes with a climbing pickaxe, adventure map, and one of the newer, less unrealistic body proportions that the toy company introduced in 2016. It’s less a tie-in to the game series and more about the March movie release of the Tomb Raider reboot starring Alicia Vikander in the title role. Vikander recently joked to BBC’s Graham Norton that “My breasts are not as pointy as the first Lara” referring to the original video game character.
We didn’t believe the hype. But then we saw it.
Next week: 3×3 of our favorite parades, marches, and protests
Tom Chick, Jason McMaster, and special guest Ian Slutz discuss the pros and cons of the latest “hunting” game from Capcom.
Bethesda and Tango Gameworks have added an official first-person mode to The Evil Within 2. Originally discovered by modders as a limited sequence that was discarded from the published game, the entirety of The Evil Within 2 can now be experienced from behind the eyes of the main character.
The new mode is a free update on all platforms and is even available in the demo.
The Dragon Bones DLC and Update 17 is now live for the PC version of The Elder Scrolls online. Dragon Bones includes a quest story that culminates in a fight with a skeletal dragon along with the usual extras like a couple of dungeons, cosmetic accessories, pets, and mounts for 1500 funny money bits or about $15 in real-world cash. If bony giant lizards are your thing, then this DLC should be pleasing, although I think Zenimax Online really whiffed making an “Elder Bones” pun somewhere in here.
It’s Update 17 that should be of interest to everyone. This free base game update comes with an overhaul of combat, a home storage system, an outfit feature, and a sort of dynamic Skills Advisor to help guide players when leveling up and allocating character points. This could be huge because one of the primary obstacles for new players is the complicated skills system that asks them to choose where to allocate precious points without much in-game information. It’s been a longstanding criticism of the game, in fact, one could say it was an elder bone to pick. (Worth it!)
Dragon Bones and Update 17 will be available for the console versions of The Elder Scrolls Online on February 27th.
The boardgame renaissance began about ten years ago when humankind finally invented good boardgame design. It had taken centuries. Previously, we had a bunch of roll-and-move junk, nerdyman wargames no one cared about, and old chestnuts like chess, Monopoly, and Settlers of Catan. Things like worker placement, deck building, and traitor mechanics hadn’t been invented yet. It was a dark time.
Blanka, everyone’s favorite South American electric-powered combatant, is coming to Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition. Conspicuously absent since Street Fighter IV, Blanka’s return to the series marks the second installment of the Season 3 Character Pass which will also adds five other, lesser characters to the game over the next few months. Blanka is green, barrel rolls into opponents, and has amazing hair. They could rename the game Blanka Fighter and I’d be okay with that.
Blanka launches onto Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition on February 20th.
So that’s why Netflix stealth released it.
Next week: Black Panther. Also, our Make Us Watch Whatever You Want 2018 Fund Drive is officially underway! For every dollar you contribute to our PayPal account at 3×[email protected], you get a vote for the drawing to be held at midnight Pacific on March 11 to determine which movie we’re doing for the March 18 podcast.
There’s only so much you can do with characters lost in the woods stalked by a malicious supernatural presence. At some point, the presence is just going to kill them or drive them mad. Now the story is over. GG.
But Adam Neville’s novel, The Ritual, realizes this. So after subjecting its lost characters to brutality, exhaustion, and terror, it does something different and a little silly. It goes from scarily horrific to absurdly horrific. If you were to turn it into a movie, it would feel like two different movies. Maybe even a bait and switch. Which explains why the adaptation of The Ritual, just released on Netflix, is completely uninterested in the second half of Neville’s novel. What’s left is competent, but mostly unremarkable. There’s only so much you can do with characters lost in the woods stalked by a malicious presense.
The script leans a little too hard into exploring the main character’s psyche, which is problematic when he’s the least interesting character. At least Rafe Spall is pretty good at doing least interesting. And director David Bruckner visually manifests his psyche in some strange set pieces. If you look at The Ritual as a creature feature, it does what it needs to do, despite a forced attempt to live up to the title. But if you’re looking for a lively twist or an unexpected payoff, you’re just going to have to read Neville’s book. The woods in this adaptation are well trodden and entirely familiar.
My favorite videogame of 2017 turned into a boardgame? From a company known for its historical wargames? And launched as a Kickstarter campaign? I’m skeptical, so let’s talk to the guys making it.
Next week: Monster Hunter World.
The latest update to The Sims 4 has improved the game’s creation tools by adding ten darker skin tones and a new curly hairdo. The lack of options for darker sims has been a sore spot for some players since the game’s launch a bit over three years ago. Anything other than a charcoal grey or a slightly darker tan wasn’t really possible without mods. Kotaku points out that there are some annoyances like texture inconsistencies and errors, but more inclusive options for a game built around simulating social interactions is always good.
In other Sim-related news, the franchise is 18 years old! There’s a joke there somewhere, but I don’t think it’s possible to connect the dots without opening a can of sim-worms.
One of the hallmarks of the Metro series of first-person shooter games, besides their distinctive Russian flavor, is the fact that firearm ammunition is money. In the nuclear wasteland of Metro, bullets are buying power as well as monster deterrent. It makes sense for the narrative, and it creates tension in gameplay. Spend too many rounds on mutant spiders and you may not be able to afford to restock or upgrade your kit.
Metro Exodus, coming later this year from 4A Games and Deep Silver, is doing away with this unique mechanic. In Game Informer’s preview, they note that it’s one of many changes to the Metro formula. Instead of hoarding and bartering with ammo, players will need to scavenge junk and craft it into parts at a workstation Fallout 4 style. It can lose the bullet economy, but Exodus better keep the underground brothels.
It was only a matter of time before Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege added a co-op zombie battle mode. Outbreak, a special event running from March 6th to April 3rd, is that addition. Set in new, more linear, maps in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the mode features “infected” (totally not zombies) that have special abilities like exploding, hulking out, and bursting through walls. It’s basically like every other zombie mode you’ve already seen, but with the new school Rainbow Six flavor.
Outbreak is a free addition that will be staged to the game on February 20th, but remember, the fun begins on March 6th.