Just Dance 2014 through 2018 are now the loneliest dances

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Ubisoft has turned off online multiplayer and online services for 90 games. The list of impacted titles includes almost an even dozen Just Dance installments, a handful of Splinter Cells, older Assassin’s Creeds, and many other legacy games. The games will still be playable offline and, for console titles, couch co-op will continue to work if it was a feature before, but any online functions will be disabled going forward including leaderboards and cosmetic unlocks.

Unlockable content (ULC) such as maps and skins will also be disabled, meaning that you will no longer be able to unlock them.

On PC, ULC will no longer be available even if it has been redeemed previously. On console, the ULC will continue to be available unless you reset your saved game files.

While some of the games on the list had their online multiplayer disabled previously, this latest change removes all features that require online communication, making them truly offline.

House Flipper has a friendly challenge for April Fools’ Day

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It’s April Fools’ Day which means you get a tidal wave of dumb jokes and pranks all day on the internet. Game developers like to get in on the action by teasing fake updates to their games. Sometimes these jokes become so popular that they end up in games eventually. The best game “pranks” are when the studio just goes all out and actually makes the comedy update playable right from jump.

Frozen District has updated House Flipper with two new places to renovate that might be familiar to fans of a certain 90’s TV show. They’re downtown Manhattan apartments that a group of young pals somehow afford. These aren’t just throwaway environments. They’re as good as the levels that come with the game in the first place. It’s “the one with the sitcom levels.”

You wanted a pure shooter in Fortnite? Now, you’ve got it.

, | News

Epic Games has introduced a permanent gameplay mode for Fortnite with no building. All you old-school shooter vets that complained about the twitchy “juvenile” need to out-build enemies to succeed in Fortnite Battle Royale can finally put up or shut up. Fortnite Zero Build boils the game down to its shooter elements.

“Without building, all players have the recharging Overshield as your first line of defense in Zero Build. Zip up Ascenders to access Blimps or use Mantling to get the high-ground over your opponents. Don’t forget to Sprint between cover on your way to a Victory Royale!”

No more infinite staircase fights.

Batman getting excited by Final Fantasy VII is the most adorable thing you’ll see today

, | News

Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz are doing press interviews for the launch of the new Batman movie. During their interview with French program Clique X, Pattinson recalled his love for Final Fantasy VII and more specifically a certain relationship triangle and the spoilerific outcome. He even touches on the game’s translation quirks, outing himself as a true fan.

“It’s a love triangle, where Aeris, or Aerith, depending on what version of the game you have, (as it’s sometimes mistranslated) she’s like the really kind girl that has superpowers to heal everyone, and Tifa’s like this sexy little thing and you have to decide.”

Although Kravitz says she’s “not judging” it’s obvious she had no love for the franchise and just wants to move on from the subject, but Pattinson is so deep into nerd mode that he seems to either not notice her discomfort or he’s amused by the disconnect with his co-star. The full interview can be found here. Pattinson’s Final Fantasy discussion starts at about the 20-minute mark.

Love knows no bounds in The Sims 4’s My Weddings Stories except all of Russia

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The Sims 4 My Wedding Stories DLC pack will not be sold in Russia due to the country’s federal laws against so-called “propaganda” that restricts the depiction of “non-traditional sexual relationships” in media available to minors. EA announced the regional restriction, but neglected to specify the issue.

“The ability to tell stories – any story – is at the core of what we do at The Sims. Holding back Cam and Dom’s story meant compromising the values we live by. We are committed to the freedom to be who you are, to love who you love and tell the stories you want to tell.”

The Sims 4 is already rated 18+ in Russia due to the game’s allowance of gay relationships and marriage, but the My Wedding Stories game pack would likely violate Russian laws due to the marketing and cover art (seen above) which puts the same-sex couple Dominique and Camille front and center. Rather than alter the marketing for the region, EA has opted to skip Russia entirely, a decision that has been applauded by Sims fans.

Congratulations gamers. You made Anno 1800’s cosmetic DLC a success.

, | News

I hope you’re all happy. This is where we are. We’ve gotten to the point that Ubisoft Mainz is crowing about the “success and the extremely positive reception” of the cosmetic DLC they sold last year for Anno 1800. They’re going to repeat the pattern this year and publish three packs of DLC that decorate your virtual towns in different ways. There’s even going to be a community vote on one of the themes they’ll make. The first of this year’s installments, the “Seasonal Decorations Pack” will launch on February 15th.

I suppose we should be happy that Anno 1800 doesn’t yet have NFTs.

Eat your heart out Gwent. The Elder Scrolls Online is getting a collectible card game.

, | Games

Bethesda Softworks has announced Tales of Tribute, a collectible card game that will be playable from within The Elder Scrolls Online. It’s coming with the High Isle expansion for the MMO, although it’s unclear if ownership of the expansion will be required to play the CCG. According to Bethesda, Tales of Tribute will feature leaderboards, tons of cards, a campaign story, and you’ll be able to challenge other live players and NPCs to a game while out and about in Tamriel. Rich Lambert, Creative Director for ESO, said Tales of Tribute is a deck-building game with the goal of out-producing your opponent as opposed to being focused on direct card combat. As if collecting pets, mounts, and furniture wasn’t enough.

High Isle’s first chapter, Ascending Tide, launches on March 14 for PC and March 29 for consoles.

Midnight Protocol hacks into the sweet spot between storytelling and strategy

, | Game reviews

One of my fondest early videogame memories is playing the 1988 adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer. It was just a point-and-click adventure game, but it had a cyberspace to hack into. Once you got in, you could subvert and solve stuff in the point-and-click parts of the game. This interplay between cyberspace and meatspace was my introduction to hacking. Real hacking, not that stuff in Matthew Broderick movies. Here was a way to sneak around guards, get through locked doors, activate switches, and generally get away with stuff I wasn’t supposed to do. Here was stealth gameplay that didn’t mean standing in the dark parts of the level design, memorizing patrol routes, and reloading the game when I got spotted. This was stealth for guys like me fascinated by systems within systems within systems. If I could handle the MFDs in an F-19, by golly, I could upgrade my deck to slip past some ICE!

It’s been an interesting stretch for hacking games, but hacking too often means “doing some minigames”. 

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Top ten games of 2021

, | Features

In 2021, I finally came to appreciate the Hitman games, although part of appreciating them is realizing how little they’ve progressed since their latest model. Hitman III is great, to be sure. But it’s also just more levels for Hitman I, so this would easily make my list of top ten games of 2016. When it came to roguelikes, I enjoyed Returnal’s dark sci-fi/horror aesthetic despite my inability to get past Housemarque’s trademark “get good” barrier. Imagine Earth was a smartly focused planetary development game based on head to head competition with other players. It was a realtime boardgame, really. Although unlike a boardgame, it’s hard to read, and not just because the developers thought it would be cute to make you spin a 3D globe instead of look at a map. Remember, developers, 3D globes are never a good idea. 

The goofy excesses of Outriders and Necromunda: Hired Gun were my gunplay of choice in 2021. Halo Infinite was a welcome change, focusing on what it does best in a sandbox instead of in corridors (at least until the end), with easily skippable cutscenes and multiplayer I can ignore because if Halo players are mad at it, I’m sure not going to want to play it. Speaking of, I have no intention of buying whatever iPad alternatives Microsoft is pushing, so I wish they would stop saddling games with godawful tablet interfaces in an attempt to get me to buy some dumb hardware. Jamming big square panels onto Age of Empires IV, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo: Infinite just reminds me that these games are published by the same people who thought the Kinect was a good idea. 

I was disappointed with Deathloop, a massive step backwards from the Mooncrash DLC for Prey that inspired it. Other notable disappointments include Riftbreaker for being a thrilling wide-open resource-management action-RPG…that had nowhere to go. SGS’ Halls of Montezuma and especially Heia Safari explored fascinating historical crannies wargames rarely visit, but they were undone by the usual wargaming bugbears of bad AIs and worse interfaces. Red Solstice 2: Survivors took the first games’ promising action RPG and turned it into an unsupported multiplayer boondoggle. Guardians of the Galaxy was all the splashly dialogue, the splashier color, and the gameplay of your favorite Marvel movie. 
Those are some titles that didn’t make the top ten, despite me spending a fair amount of time with them. Which leads us to the games that did make the list…

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Most disappointing adaptation you’ll see all week: Nightmare Alley

, | Movie reviews

The wrong way to watch Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of the 1946 novel Nightmare Alley is by reading the book first. Because then you’ll be one of those tedious “the book was better…!” people. Instead, just watch it as the elaborate period piece it is, none the wiser as to the missed opportunities and pulled punches. In fact, you should probably stop reading here, because I made the mistake of reading the book so this is a review by one of those tedious “the book was better…!” people. 

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You bought horse armor. You bought loot crates. You’ll buy in-game NFTs.

, | News

The gold rush for gaming Non-fungible Tokens (NFT) is on! Ubisoft is the first big-name publisher dipping into the “investment” fad by introducing Ubisoft Quartz. Think of it as a way to make your digital in-game doodads, (now called “Digits” because everything needs a brand name) artificially scarce by adding unique serial numbers to them. Ghost Recon Breakpoint will be the first to get them and players can get the first three for free by logging into their Ubisoft Connect accounts and connecting a compatible Crypto Wallet now.

The announcement video is light on details, but the point that Ubisoft is pushing as the upside to this glorious future is the ability to resell your Digits to other players, as long as you’re willing to share the chain of ownership.

“Each Digit will also be tied to the player names of all its previous and current owners… bringing you fame for years to come!”

I look forward to the day when others can buy my in-game Rabbids underwear for their Assassin’s Creed character and forever know that I wore it before them.

If The Washington Post says Halo Infinite’s progression is bad, you know it’s bad

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Halo Infinite’s free-to-play multiplayer released as a “surprise” early beta drop on November 15th, and in the days since almost everyone agrees that the shooting and movement is great, but the title’s progression system is awful. Like many other free-to-play multiplayer games, Halo Infinite features a battle pass with both free and paid tracks that unlock cosmetic doodads like armor bits and gun skins. Unlike most other games, the only way to progress in the tracks is by fulfilling a rotating set of challenges like “win two capture-the-flag matches” or “get five melee kills without dying in one match.” The kills themselves or advancing objectives do not contribute to your progression unless they happen to be part of an active challenge. As The Washington Post notes, this leads to some frustrating play.

Many of these challenges distract from the objective of winning matches, like when players are asked to use certain weapons or vehicles to get a kill. And since the current playlist system means you can’t choose what game type you’ll play, oftentimes you’ll see people running around using less-than-viable guns instead of, say, capturing the flag in a game of Capture the Flag.

To add to that frustration, the current game only allows a Quick Play option with no way to choose a match type. If you have a challenge tasking you to win three rounds of Oddball, it is extremely annoying to get placed into a second slayer deathmatch in a row.

Despite 343 Industries’ repeated assurances that they’re listening to feedback and their pre-Thanksgiving attempts to adjust some of the system, the addition of a special time-limited Fracture: Tenrai event featuring another confusing and frustrating progression layer inspired some heated discussion online. It’s a situation that’s now onerous enough to garner attention from The Washington Post, of all outlets. What’s next? Master Chief subpoenaed to appear before Congress?

Nazis, please stay away from Warhammer

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Games Workshop has published a warning that real-world hate groups are not welcome. It’s been a thorny issue for decades. Racists, xenophobes, and extremists have always been attracted to the fictional racism, xenophobia, and extremism in the Warhammer universe. Like real organizations founded on hate, the Warhammer 40,000 Imperium of Man apes the symbols and vocabulary of ancient Rome. Then it coats it all with authoritarian nihilism and some thin sci-fi trappings. In the fiction of the game universe, the Imperium is a home for cowards, opportunists, and the insane. Even the vaunted Space Marines are genetically manipulated freak warriors that are little more than brainwashed tools of the insane emperor. It’s a brutal and merciless future, and according to Games Workshop, it’s not meant to be aspirational. Please take your swastikas and go away.

The Imperium of Man stands as a cautionary tale of what could happen should the very worst of Humanity’s lust for power and extreme, unyielding xenophobia set in. Like so many aspects of Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man is satirical.

In fact, Games Workshop is making their stance quite clear. If you come onto a Games Workshop property, like one of their retail stores, or show up to one of their gaming events while espousing or wearing the symbols of a real-world hate group, they’ll ask you to leave. They just don’t want you around if you’re one of those jerks.

We won’t let you participate. We don’t want your money. We don’t want you in the Warhammer community.

Maybe find another hobby? Something a little less on-the-nose for Nazism. How about vegetarian cooking? There was a certain Nazi leader that was big into being a vegetarian, after all.