With big guns & a bionic dog, Necromunda web-slings through the world of Warhammer

, | Game reviews

Necromunda: Hired Gun is the best Spider-Man game since Spider-Man.  My magic web-shooter/grappling hook can get me anywhere I can see.  A quick thwip and I’m standing on a ledge high overhead!  The double-jump assist is just gravy.  But unlike Sony’s 2018 love letter to Silver Age superheroics, Hired Gun lives in a grim Warhammer world where I didn’t jump up to this ledge for thrills; I jumped up here to snipe a bunch of crazy dudes sporting plasma rifles, blue Mohawks, and skull flair.  Also, I’ve got a dog tagging along and I’m toting serious firepower of my own.  Frankly, the dog isn’t much of a dog anymore.  When I upgrade him, I swap out his dog parts for robot parts.  A paw here, a leg there, one side of his face, a jaw, another leg.  He may not be as furry as he used to be, but he’s still a good boy.  I summon him with a squeaky toy (Warhammer needs more humorous touches like this).  As for the guns, they’re not foolin’ around.  This is the Warhammer universe, so they’re absurdly large heavy hitters, even when they’re just pistols.  They have names like Deathbringer, Funeral Ball, Burning Sun, and Scars Machina.  They take up a lot of screen real estate.

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Stay awhile and listen to Dying Light’s Hellraid DLC

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When the Hellraid expansion for Dying Light launched last year, the reception was decidedly negative. The limited scope of the gameplay that the DLC presented was harshly judged by most as little more than copy-paste assets with repeatable rooms of enemies. The only thing it had going for it was the medieval setting, but players were stung by how little of the original standalone concept remained. Instead of a first-person Diablo with loot and monsters, Techland made a small arena mode trifle.

With The Prisoner update, Techland hopes to change some of the DLC’s reputation. It adds a story mode to the DLC, and the developer says more quest updates will be coming. Techland has also created a new enemy type, tweaked some loot, and added a new area to encounter. It’s not Dying Light 2, but Techland seems to be doing what it can to not lose any fans until the next game launches.

Worst thing you’ll see all week: Those Who Wish Me Dead

, | Movie reviews

We can’t be letting city-slicker criminals murder kids out in the woods.  It’s just not right.  Fortunately, there are salt-of-the-earth outdoorsman types doing their part, some of whom are even ladies!  I consider this a subgenre in thrillers.  Movie about criminals in tracts of wilderness going up against people who are better than them at camping and whatnot.

For instance, Those Who Wish Me Dead, a thriller directed by Taylor Sheridan, a square-jawed TV actor who apparently had a drawer full of scripts.  

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Biomutant tells a cautionary tale about cleaning up your own mess

, | Game reviews

A colorful post-apocalyptic open world populated by intelligent mutated animals.  Tthe usual Ubisoft style open-world with a touch of Gamma World and a Secret of NIMH vibe.  Over-the-top brawler gameplay, intricate stat-based character development, and a hearty crafting system.  Mounts, vehicles, loot, exploration, puzzles, choice-and-consequence.  A robot cricket sidekick!  If games were bullet points, Biomutant would have a lot going for it.  But since games are games, Biomutant is only as good as the realization of these bullet points.

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Will stealth finally work in Phoenix Point? Find out May 25th!

, | News

One of my complaints about Phoenix Point is that the stealth is poorly integrated into the game. From my otherwise enthusiastic review:

Combat is very gamey and deterministic, but stealth is all under-the-hood voodoo.  You never know whether an alien will see you or not. You can see a stealth number and a perception number, and you can affect these numbers in different ways.  You know the interaction of these numbers determines whether someone is visible. But there’s no indication of how the numbers interact. It’s the worst kind of information: presented without any of the context you need to make decisions.  There’s no way to make sure your sneaky assassin stays out of sight as he creeps around the map while everyone else is shooting. Stealth is obviously supposed to be a gameplay system in Phoenix Point, which has cloaking suits and noiseless weapons and varying levels of light to affect visibility.  But in its current state, it is no such thing. It’s a locked black box, good for stubbing your toe and not much else.

Yet stealth is part of how gear is tuned, which in turn is part of how characters are developed and factions are balanced, both a fundamental element of gameplay progression. Will that change next week? From developer Snapshot Games’ latest blog entry about the May 25th update:

…understanding enemy awareness was important for players trying stealthy maneuvers, and we wanted to help players know when they might be in jeopardy. Enemy perception range is now visualized when hovering over a selected enemy, so you can see which of your soldiers may be at risk.

At least, my infiltrators might actually be able to infiltrate! The new Festering Skies DLC will also be available on May 25th. It adds more stuff for your interceptors to do and a giant alien ship that flies around terrorizing the globe.

Welcome to the Warzone party, pal

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John McClane and John Rambo are coming to Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s Warzone mode and they’re bringing special additions to the map. Yes, that’s Nakatomi Plaza in the screenshot above. According to Activision, while all 35 floors of the building’s interior may not be modeled, it will have a few floors accessible to players that they may recognize from Die Hard. In this video, you can clearly spot the lobby, office fountain area, and the rotating vault. Of course, the all-important helicopter landing pad rooftop will come into play. For my money, it’s just not Nakatomi without Argyle bopping in the limo.

The 80’s Action Heroes additions for Warzone begins on May 20th.

Lady Dimitrescu and kin deserve a better game than Resident Evil: Village

, | Game reviews

Remember that time when Resident Evil tried something new and different?  Resident Evil 5 cast horror in a new light.  Africa’s equatorial sun blew the usual cobwebs out of the series in favor of something different and even controversial.  It finally played like the shooter it had been trying to be for so long.  It even introduced an exciting new character.  And that was back when representation was more a prerequisite for taxation than a cultural imperative.  But what’s become of Sheva now?  Why does Capcom keep going back to the white-bread familiarity of their Chrises and Jills?  Why are they all-in on the tragedy of the faceless Ethan Winters, aptly named for being as bland as the driven snow, searching for his wife and/or daughter the same way he searches for green herbs, handgun rounds, and whatever arbitrary cog, key, or crank handle unlocks the next heavily scripted set piece?  Mia, Rose, press X to Jason, all just meat for the refrigerator.  The shadow of Silent Hill looms over so many games, yet so few of them understand what made it tick.

Since Resident Evil 5, the series has alternated between updated remixes that work well enough and new stories that have been various levels of awful.  Maybe The Village can thread the needle between effective gameplay and a new setting, style, and characters.

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Xbox free-to-play games are actually free-to-play now

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Microsoft has dropped the requirement for a service subscription to access online features of free-to-play games today. You can now fire up Fortnite or Korgan (pictured above) on an Xbox and only spend money on cosmetics, XP boosters, episodes, or loot boxes the way the publishers intended, rather than wasting your hard-earned cash on the basic ability to get the Xbox console online in the first place. (You’ll still have to pay someone for home internet access unless you’re sneaking onto your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, but that’s on you.) The full list of truly free-to-play games is here.

The announcement was first made in January when the company reversed a decision to increase the price of an annual Xbox Live Gold membership. Since then, Microsoft has de-emphasized the Xbox Live Gold plan in favor of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service that includes access to premium games like Outriders and MLB The Show 21.