Minecraft’s Steve is coming to Smash Bros. Ultimate

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That’s blocky default Steve from Minecraft in Nintendo’s Smash Bros. Ultimate. Game director Masahiro Sakurai announced Steve’s addition to the game, along with Alex, zombie, and the enderman. Spooky! All the new Minecraft characters will have special moves like using a pickaxe or stacking blocks to create barriers and to reach higher areas of the game. According to Nintendo, all of the game’s existing levels had to be adjusted to accommodate the new Minecraft moves.

The Minecraft additions are part of Smash Bros. Ultimate’s second $30 fighter pass bundle.

FarmVille buys the farm

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FarmVille, one of the first games to hit it big on Facebook, is done. Zynga posted the bad news to its fans and informed them that although the game will remain playable until the end of the year, no in-app purchases will be allowed past November 17th. It marks an 11-year run for the game, a lifetime for social media web games, but with Adobe ceasing support for Flash, the time had come to sunset the title.

“We are also working on fun in-game activities to be announced soon that are designed to make your remaining time with FarmVille even more enjoyable.”

Farmville 2: Tropic Escape and Farmville 2: Country Escape are still available, and there’s a third installment on the way if you feel the urge to give Zynga more money.

The radio stations you enjoy in Grand Theft Auto almost didn’t happen

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One of the more satisfying parts of any open world game with a car is jamming to the licensed music, commercials, and DJ banter in the fake radio stations. Imagine how dull video game road trips and drive-by shootings would be without that mobile soundtrack. We have Grand Theft Auto to thank for that innovation. PC Gamer has a look back at what it took to get those radio stations into the series, and how it almost didn’t become a thing at all.

Back when it was made by DMA Design, the first game almost didn’t have the stations we now take for granted. The game was going to have a simple MIDI-based soundtrack due to storage limitations on Nintendo 64 carts. Thankfully, that N64 version was canceled, allowing the audio team to get more adventurous for the PC and PlayStation.

Colin Anderson, a member of the audio team, explained that the first game’s original music was part of the design. The game took place in an alternate version of this world. Tunes were familiar-sounding, but not specific. It was only after their (at the time) publisher Rockstar had another studio create Grand Theft Auto: London 1961 and the 1969 expansion pack that licensed music was used and became part of the GTA series’ vocabulary.

“That essentially broke the purity of the creative vision,” says Anderson. “I was kind of upset about that at the time, because I didn’t know anything about those products. They appeared from nowhere.”

Rockstar heads Sam Houser and Terry Donovan pushed for more licensed music going forward, whereas Colin Anderson and others wanted to feature original music by relatively unknown artists. Discrete radio stations allowed a mix of both familiar tunes and new songs, but licensed music became the norm.

That in-car radio station feature would eventually give us one of the best moments in gaming: The Take On Me sing-along in Saints Row 2.

The blast of nostalgia in Chip’s Challenge is free

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Chip’s Challenge, the simple grid puzzle game that first appeared on the Atari Lynx in 1989, is now free for your PC gaming pleasure. The title gained fame and fans when it was ported to Windows as part of Microsoft’s Entertainment Pack 4 in 1992 and the Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack in 1995. PC players discovered how easy it was to create their own levels thanks to a simple text file that made modding possible. In fact, it proved so popular that creator Chuck Sommerville got to work on a sequel, Chip’s Challenge 2, which unfortunately wound up tangled in a legal battle that prevented a quick turnaround.

Sommerville eventually published both games on Steam in 2015 after beginning work on a legally unbound spiritual sequel called Chuck’s Challenge 3D. Now, Chip McCallahan’s adventure to woo Melinda is free for everyone to enjoy like it’s Windows ’95.

Left 4 Dead 2 isn’t dead

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The Last Stand Update, a collaborative PC community update for Left 4 Dead 2 officially sanctioned and created in cooperation with Valve, is coming. There’s even going to be a free weekend to celebrate the launch. The content will be released for Left 4 Dead 2 on September 24th and marks the first official content update for the game since 2012.

The content includes The Last Stand campaign, 26 new survival maps, 4 new scavenge maps, 30 new achievements, and 2 new melee weapons. There’s a whole list of other changes and improvements in the official trailer comments. It’s time to get back to zed-hunting with the game that popularized the zombie horde co-op genre.

This short for Star Wars Squadrons is exactly the right kind of Star Wars

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I have no idea if Star Wars Squadrons is going to be good. In my review for Star Wars Battlefront II, I mentioned that the space arcade combat was one of the positives, and it looks like Electronic Arts and Motive just pulled that right out, spruced it up, fleshed it out, and turned it into its own game. Speculation aside, this short to promote the game is almost a pitch-perfect representation of how I used to think about my time in Lucasart’s Star Wars: TIE Fighter. It’s almost as good as the 2015 fan-made anime short from Paul Johnson.

The space between marketing and an actual product can be pretty wide, but it seems like EA is making all the right moves so far. Between this and their commitment to supporting flight peripherals, it looks like we have fans making the game.

Scott Pilgrim can’t be kept down forever by licensing issues

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, the 2010 brawler based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s snazzy comic property, has been a long sought-after title since it was de-listed and removed from all sales in in 2014. Licensing issues, the boogeyman of all media with great soundtracks, caused the game to disappear seemingly forever, but Ubisoft is bringing it back. Was it because O’Malley started tweeting Ubisoft about it last month? Likely not, but who knows? Perhaps one guy can fight off seven evil lawyers to get a game reinstated.

The new Complete Edition will include the Knives Chau and Wallace Wells DLC as well as 4-person multiplayer. It will be available later this year.

It may be the smallest Xbox ever, but it’s still not cute

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That’s 2020 gaming’s worst kept secret. The Xbox Series S is the budget-friendly version of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. It’s existence has long been rumored, and Microsoft finally confirmed it after the promo video leaked earlier today. The big news for the little guy is the price. It’s $299, and supposedly there will be a $25-a-month payment plan option that comes with Xbox Game Pass. Not bad, if you’re content with mostly 1080p (with upscaled 1440p) and a tiny 512GB drive to go with your disc-less hardware.

The game of price chicken with Sony has just kicked off!

Do Flight Simulator fans have the stamina for Airplane Mode?

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While you’re all gaga for Microsoft Flight Simulator’s spectacular launch, there’s another game that offers the true flight experience. Airplane Mode from Bacronym features all the excitement of real flying as a passenger. In coach class seating. On a real-time six hour flight. There’s the possibility of turbulence. You’ll hear intercom announcements. Mostly, there’s boredom.

Obviously, it’s a gag stamina game, like Desert Bus, but it presents a scenario I can actually judge for verisimilitude. I’m probably never going to pilot a Boeing 747, like the one in Microsoft Flight Simulator, but I’ve sure as heck sat in one for an eternity, scrunched between other helpless passengers, trying not to spill my in-flight soda as it bounces on the seat tray. Do I know the stall characteristics of the Icon A5? I do not. Do I know the pain of flipping through the airline magazine for the third time, desperately trying to find something interesting to read. Yes.

More importantly, you can play Airplane Mode with no special equipment. Good luck finding a nice joystick or throttle setup now that everyone is playing Flight Simulator.

Travel into a psycho’s brain in the last Borderlands 3 DLC

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Gearbox has announced the fourth and final planned DLC of the Borderlands 3 Season Pass. Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck will feature a journey into the madness that is Krieg’s mind courtesy of some wacky science. There, the player will map the dream-state of Vaulthalla and hang out with two of Krieg’s warring personas.

Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck launches on September 10th. Gearbox has not announced any further DLC, but they have said that their special live service events will continue.

What’s more annoying than one goose in Untitled Goose Game? Two geese!

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A two-player cooperative mode is coming to Untitled Goose Game. Developer House House has announced that a free update for all platforms will launch on September 23rd featuring double goose trouble. It’s not quite a gaggle, but you’ll be able to do all the jerky goose things you did before, but with a jerky buddy to help out. Two times the honking, flapping, and stealing. Wreak havoc on the countryside.

The game will also be coming to Steam and itch.io on the same date.

What’s a nice shoggoth like you doing in a game like Carrion?

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I remember Donald Pleasence screaming.  He’s trapped.  A white blood cell is bearing down on him.  He’s been shrunk to microscopic size and injected into a human body.  It’s the movie Fantastic Voyage, from 1966, and the white blood cell is descending slowly and inexorably toward Donald Pleasence.  It oozes over his head and he’s screaming and he dies a terrible death.  The special effects at the time, all very practical and weirdly theatrical, presented a white blood cell as basically bubbles from bubble bath.  Donald Pleasence screams as a stagehand pours bubble bath bubbles over his head.  I mean, that’s how it looks to me now.  But at the time, it was utterly horrific.  Donald Pleasence screaming as it consumed his head.

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Control more of the action in Control

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Remedy is adding more accessibility options and quality of life improvements to Control. As a free update coming for everyone when the AWE DLC launches on August 27th, the features include options to make combat less hard like recharging the player’s gun faster, taking less damage, and generally providing a bunch of toggles that will let story fans have an easier time of it. Remedy is also increasing the number of checkpoints so players can have a better way to navigate the mind-bending corridors of the Oldest House.

As someone that gladly breezed through the Last of Us Part II, thanks to some great combat options, I applaud Remedy’s plan. Although Control wasn’t particularly hard on the default settings, there were some spikes that caused frustration rather than keeping me in the mood of the game.

Another way to be embarrassingly eliminated is coming to Fall Guys

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Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, the massive sleeper hit from Mediatonic and Devolver Digital, is getting its first update. Included in the patch will be Jump Showdown, the “fan-favorite” level from the beta. It’s the one with a large booms that spins around, knocking players off, while sections of the floor fall away. The developers say more levels and costumes are coming as well, which is great news for the multiplayer party game.

There’s no word yet on how Mediatonic will respond to reports of rampant cheating. The developer said they are aware of some issues and are working on fixes.

In defense of the Batmobile. A look back at one of Arkham Knight’s best features.

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It’s been five years since Rocksteady wrapped up the Batman series that began in Arkham Asylum, continued into Arkham City, took a brief pre-tour with another developer for Arkham Origins, and then crescendoed in Arkham Knight.  One of the finale’s most prominent features was also its most divisive: the Batmobile.  If you ask someone their opinion of Arkham Knight, you’re likely to also get their opinion of the Batmobile.  “Great game, but the Batmobile stuff sucked,” will be a common refrain.

As an observer of game design, driving game aficionado, and professional contrarian, I take issue with this conclusion.  It fails to appreciate one of Rocksteady’s best design decisions in an all-around excellent game.  So I am here in defense of one of Batman’s greatest toys and how well it was expressed in Rocksteady’s greatest game (although you’ll note my enthusiasm for the Batmobile hadn’t fully developed when I reviewed the game).

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