The newest GTA Online heist is kind of like the single player DLC you’ve been waiting for

, | News

We’ve already covered the fact that you’re never getting a full-blown single player story expansion for Grand Theft Auto V. The continued popularity and revenue stream in GTA Online is just too lucrative for Rockstar to shift resources away from. The Cayo Perico Heist that launched on December 15th is the closest you’re going to get to a dedicated single player expansion. Unlike most of the content in GTA Online, (including all the other story-heavy heists) the Cayo Perico job can be done by a solo player from start to finish.

Having completed the heist by myself, I can say that it’s an entirely enjoyable escapade that feels like a throwback to the best missions in the base game. There’s a daring infiltration of a private island fortress, a defunct Soviet submarine dive, lots of shooting, and escaping with your loot is an open affair that leaves you to navigate the island’s defenses however you see fit. The only downer might be the stealth bit which is really unforgiving, but every heist in the regular game had a part that wasn’t aces. It’s a neat mission overall. It just needs Trevor messing up your plans to nail the original game’s standard.

You can dive into Creeper World 4 in a way you couldn’t dive into Creeper World 3

, | Game reviews

One of the greatest feats of engineering is holding back oceans.  Also the oldest feat of engineering.  Check out the first page of the Bible if you don’t believe me.  It was the earliest bit of business God had to do before getting around to the stuff in the rest of the pages.  This is also the premise of the Creeper World games.  Divide the land from the waters. Hold back an ocean.  Tame it, in fact.

If this isn’t a God game, I don’t know what is.

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Take a beach holiday in Stardew Valley

, | News

It’s near Christmas, but you’d never know it in Stardew Valley’s newest additions. Eric Barone has updated the charming farming, relationship, and time management sim with what he says is the biggest content drop in the game’s history. The 1.5 update includes a new Ginger Island territory, a cornucopia of new people to meet and things to unlock, and local split-screen co-op multiplayer.

Outside of the multiplayer feature most of this stuff is for advanced players. For example, the new Beach Farm starting option is mostly sand so it’s going to be a rough beginning for anyone not already used to coaxing crops. Hey, maybe you can get your co-op partner to do all the hard work while you get the accolades in the village?

The most palindrome thing you’ll see all week: Tenet

, | Movie reviews

Did no one explain to Christopher Nolan that the premise for Tenet is absurd?  I don’t mean that as a criticism.  I’m just being descriptive.  Plenty of solid sci-fi works from an absurd premise.  And to Nolan’s credit, it’s an exciting premise.  When it’s introduced, the undeniable pull of Tenet is “how the heck is he going to make a movie out of this?”  It almost sustains the two-and-a-half-hour running time.

But as that running time stretches out and contorts, it becomes increasingly clear that Nolan is taking it all very very seriously.  He will not be fooling around.  He will not admit there’s a fundamental but fascinating silliness to what he’s doing.  Even the carefully practical visuals can be silly.  But it’s a silliness in which the guy telling the joke doesn’t know it’s a joke.  He gives it no levity, he has no sense for the cadence of a joke, he leaves off the punchline.  It dawns on you he doesn’t realize the joke is a joke.  He’s telling it as if it were data.  

Tenet belongs with someone who understands absurdity.  Like the Coen brothers, or Charlie Kaufman, or the latest generation of Spanish language writers and directors.  Nolan should have at least let someone explain to him the concept of the absurd, and maybe even humor.  I can’t remember a single light-hearted moment in Tenet.  It is ponderous with the weight of its seriousness.  

Consider the lead actor.  John David Washington is ponderous with the weight of his own seriousness.  But he doesn’t have his father’s gravitas.  Denzel Washington has built a career on the way he holds a gaze.  John David Washington has his father’s gaze, but none of its depth.  He just reads as blank. Nolan’s movies need the drive of a Heath Ledger or a Matthew McConaughey.  They need someone to inject a little passionate chaos into the meticulous plotting.  Tenet barely offers the soothing reassurance of Michael Caine.  It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo that feels like its there out of a sense of obligation (Nolan’s to Caine or Caine’s to Nolan?).

Even the spectacle in Tenet feels too tightly controlled and dispassionate.  The airplane doesn’t break, none of the trucks flip ass-over-teakettle, the battle scene declines to bother with enemy soldiers.  Honestly, I have no idea who we were fighting during the big battle scene.  It’s as if someone started the Call of Duty match before anyone joined the other team.  Sure, it’s all spectacular, cinematic, and characteristically bombastic.  No one makes me long for an Imax screen like Nolan.  I love how cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema captures Nolan’s precise art production, burnished colors, and clean lines.  Can cinematography be brutalist?  But beyond the usual Nolan spectacle, the only thing on offer in Tenet is a premise that folds in on its own lack of self-awareness.

Looking for the cyberpunk in Cyberpunk 2077

, | Game reviews

The two pillars of cyberpunk in popular culture (i.e. you don’t have to read a book or watch anime) are Blade Runner and The Matrix.  These hold up and inform everything else.  For instance, cyberpunk in recent popular media like Westworld and Altered Carbon.  Aside from being set in dystopian futures, what do these all have in common?  What makes them cyberpunk?  Setting aside the genre’s roots in William Gibson’s spot-on Chandler-esque sci-fi prose, what is cyberpunk all about?  I would say identity in the face of advanced technology.  What sets apart the human and the virtual.  Blade Runner (both the original and the superlative sequel), The Matrix, Westworld, and Altered Carbon all explore the themes of who we are in a world where reality is so readily manipulated, where the digital and the incarnate intersect, where neural implants infiltrate human consciousness and human consciousness infiltrates cyberspace.  “What is my consciousness?” cyberpunk asks.  “Where is my mind?” it wonders.  Ontology and even epistemology.  In a secular world, they are the high-tech takes on what used to be theological issues.

Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t interested in any of this.

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If you can put down Cyberpunk 2077 for a bit, check out the other games coming

, | News

We know you’re probably busy in Night City, choosing between penis options and cataloging all the glitches, but every game company that isn’t CD Projekt RED went to The Game Awards 2020 show to watch The Last of Us II win a bunch of categories . Okay, Hades and Among Us nabbed a few awards, but Naughty Dog will probably need to get a new trophy case in their lobby.

Along with the pomp and advertising for Doritos, a lot of upcoming games were previewed. There was a CG teaser to let everyone know that someone is still working on the next Mass Effect game. Perfect Dark is coming back to Xbox in some form or another. Vin Diesel’s digital likeness will star in Ark II. There are robots and monsters in The Callisto Protocol. Crimson Desert, first announced last year, is still in the works. Streaming hit Among Us is getting a new airship map. You will need to shut the Gates of Oblivion in The Elder Scrolls Online. Finally, it wouldn’t be a new year without another Warhammer game, so Warhammer 40K Darktide is coming from Fatshark.

And the winner of 2020’s final review request is…

, | Features

Here are the latest review requests from my Patreon supporters, followed by my counter-recommendations. Think of it as a broad overview of what my Patreon supporters are doing, along with a look at what I’ve been doing as well. Stay tuned for the drawing of the actual winner tomorrow, to be followed by the review within 30 days.

As you’ve gotten used to be told so often in 2020, buckle up!

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Batman gets new duds in Arkham Knight

, | News

Rocksteady Games has released two in-game costume skins for Batman: Arkham Knight. Yes, the 2015 game has just been updated for free. The update adds Zur-En-Arrh Batman and Anime Batman for all players. The latter is self-explanatory, but the garish Zur-En-Arrh skin is a deep cut from a 1958 issue of DC Comics’ Batman #113 in which Bruce Wayne is transported to an alien planet and given actual superpowers because that’s the kind of thing that happened in the Silver Age of funny books.

Both Batman skins were previously available only to players that linked their WB Games forum accounts to the game, but the latest version of these costumes come with no such restrictions. They’re just in Batman’s Bat-wardrobe for the Bat-wearing. The free update also removes Denuvo from the Steam version of the game. The Batmobile remains unchanged for better or worse.

Science may figure out why weirdos play with inverted controls

, | News

Scientists are studying gamers that play with inverted controls. Back in February, The Guardian published an article about the phenomenon and the debate was hot enough to attract the attention of Dr. Jennifer Corbett and Dr. Jaap Munneke of Brunel University’s Visual Perception and Attention Lab. In the follow-up article, the researchers say that their study will measure the speed and accuracy of gamers with inverted and normal controls to better understand how the two kinds of people work differently and how best to cater to the wrong and right folks with their controller needs.

“In a broader context, understanding these sorts of individual differences can help us better predict where to place important information and where to double-check for easily missed information in everything from VR gaming to safety-critical tasks like detecting weapons in baggage scans or tumours in X-rays.”

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 35, (sorry old-timers) and play videogames, the researchers could use you to help with their study. Nothing will help you dirty claw-grippers though.

What kind of game is Dirt 5? Glad you asked!

, | Game reviews

Dirt 5 is the kind of game where your award after a race is paid in Dirt Dollars.  Not US dollars, not Euros, not krugerrands, not bearer bonds, but Dirt Dollars.  It’s the sort of game where you unlock stickers you can buy with your Dirt Dollars and then stick them on your car.  Do you like stickers?  Dirt 5 thinks you like stickers.

It’s the kind of game where voice actors adopt a forced casual mien to pretend to do a podcast that you have to listen to between races.  Yes, a podcast.  Idle chatter and bad jokes.  They’re worse than DJ Atomica, and there are multiple of them.  I’m trying to pick a race or buy a car and they won’t shut up with their podcast chatter.  It’s worse than bad music, which I already turned off.

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Sherman Leader kicks back and lets the dice drive

, | Game reviews

One of my favorite solitaire boardgames is Dan Verssen’s Hornet Leader, which is the original game in the Leader series when it was published by GMT in 1991, and also the pinnacle of the Leader series when it was revised and reprinted by Dan Verssen Games in 2010.  The Leader series has gone in various directions during its 30-year history, and it’s mostly gone off the rails in the last ten years.  Speaking of, I recently broke out Sherman Leader, which takes the action from jets to tanks.  It’s an iteration of Tiger Leader from 2015, but as you might infer from the title of Sherman Leader, you play as the good guys.  As near as I can tell, the two games are identical aside from the changed names and artwork.  Basically, Sherman Leader is a de-Godwinned reskin of Tiger Leader.

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Despite Odyssey’s long shadow, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla holds its own

, | Game reviews

In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, you have to play as a Viking named Eivor, which is pronounced “AY-vore”.  Eivor is a flaccidly drawn Mary Sue of badassery whose flimsy characterization consists of machismo and shit poetry.  The male voice sounds uninterested.  The female voice is hoarse and forced.  Take your pick.  You can even swap freely as you play.  It matters that little.

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Join the Fortnite Crew to give Epic recurring revenue

, | News

Epic Games has announced a subscription service for Fortnite. For $12 a month, the Fortnite Crew offer will give players access to each new battle pass for as long as they keep their subscription going. Along with that pass, members will net 1,000 units of in-game funny money and an exclusive outfit so everyone knows you’re one of the cool (rich) kids.

Epic had previously surveyed players a few weeks ago about whether or not they wanted such an offer, and it seems the responses were positive. At the very least, the survey results must not have put Epic off their track. Although the battle pass model is sometimes seen as a “soft” version of a subscription, an actual recurring credit charge is more coveted by most businesses.

The Fortnite Crew begins on December 2nd.

The Pro Bowl will be a Madden NFL 21 event

, | News

The NFL announced that the annual Pro Bowl will not take place in an empty stadium like every other official football game this season. Instead, the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl will take place in the gaming world. Taking a page from NASCAR’s recent foray into the gaming space to maintain an audience during Covid-19 crowd bans, the gridiron showdown will be hosted in a video game. In this case, Madden NFL 21. Thanks to a partnership with EA Sports and Verizon, a gaggle of real life football players, celebrities, popular streamers, and anyone else the NFL believes will hook the kids will play in matchups during a week-long series on ABC and ESPN.

“Even amidst unparalleled change across the sports industry, we are excited to transition many of the signature components of the Pro Bowl.”

Fans can go now to the official site to vote for their favorite players.