Watch Dogs Legion will allow more than assassin grannies

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Going by the E3 gameplay reveal, you could be forgiven for thinking Watch Dogs Legion largely eschews the non-lethal combat options the previous game encouraged. While there is something to be said for a retired assassin grandmother shooting enemies in the face like John Wick, it appeared like Legion was trying to up the ante on hyperstylized violence. According to creative director Clint Hocking, that impression is wrong.

“We really wanted to make sure that non-lethal was an option in any combat encounter.”

Speaking to Twinfinite, Hocking assured fans of the last installment’s stun guns and monkey fist knockouts that Legion can be played in a relatively non-lethal way. While Hocking was unable to confirm the possibility of a 100% kill-free play-through, he did say that half of the game’s current arsenal for the player is non-lethal. Grannies can still shoot to kill, of course, and the player’s enemies will pull out guns if you do or if you violate a high-security area.

Empire of Sin is going to make you its John Romero

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Romero Games, the company founded by John and Brenda Romero, announced Empire of Sin. It’s a turn-based strategy game published by Paradox Interactive. Empire of Sin is set in Prohibition-era Chicago and puts players in the strategic pin-striped suit of one of 14 mob bosses. Fight your rivals using your crew of hard-boiled button men and take over territory speakeasy by speakeasy.

Empire of Sin launches on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in the spring of 2020. Use that time to brush up on your mob patter.

Fallout 76 is going to be a Fallout game when it grows up

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Fallout 76 is getting there. After its rough launch, Bethesda’s developers have kept their noses to the grindstone and continued to work on improving the game. Here, then, is the biggest news for Fallout 76 that came out of Bethesda’s E3 2019 briefing. People – actual human NPCs – are coming to the game. The Wastelander update launching later this year will add those bipedal dialog boxes that have been missing all this time.

In related news, Bethesda has added a battle royale mode to Fallout 76. You can check it out right now while the game is free for everyone to try for the week.

Ubisoft clarifies its position on politics with muddy water

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The current rage in the game industry seems to be coming out with a strong message denying any political stance at all. Have a game about heavily armed special police forces fighting terrorists and criminals? It doesn’t mean anything. Made a game about a doomsday religious cult taking over Montana just before World War 3? Don’t read into it. Publishing a game about the modern surveillance state and privacy violations along with some slick commentary about Bay Area gentrification? Hey, that’s your opinion, man. And if anyone gets the wrong idea, you’d better publish a statement correcting that notion. You’re not apolitical, you’re just presenting a rich smorgasbord of viewpoints and systems and letting the player decide.

“We are scared sometimes as we are world-building. That was the case for Far Cry 5. It is a great game, but it just wasn’t possible to present all points of view and perspectives. We believe that ultimately, in the future, players should be able to go in the game world, have as many different experiences as they want, experience as many different political views as they want, as many religions as they want … as many different fantasies as they want.”

We get it Ubisoft. You don’t want to condemn or advocate any opinion that might offend some sector of your fans. You’re completely neutral.

Battlefield V makes a political statement by denying a political statement

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Wilhelm Franke, besides being a generic-sounding German name, was a real-life resistance fighter in Dresden during World War 2. Franke held antifascist meetings in the cigar store he owned, spoke openly about defying Nazism, and was a serious enough distraction that he was arrested by the Gestapo and died in February 1945. Unfortunately, Electronic Arts created an “elite” German avatar for Battlefield V with the same name. As shown in the image above, he’s the Hugo Boss uniformed gent with the Luger and the Phantom of the Opera mask shooting people in a church. The cosmetic skin having the same moniker as an anti-Nazi agitator is likely a coincidence. While Franke has a street named after him in Dresden, he’s not a well-known figure outside of Germany. Still, people noticed and informed EA that maybe they should pick a different name for their made-up villain.

Here’s where things go sideways thanks to how modern marketing messaging interacts with sensitive topics like Nazis. EA agreed that the name of the skin needs to be changed, but they denied their theatrical villain is a Nazi. In a statement to Vice, EA emphasized the character’s non-Nazi status. In fact, they doubled down and called out how not political their WW2 game is overall.

“The aforementioned Elite, Wilhelm Franke, whose name we’re changing is not a Nazi, but a German solider similar to ones we already have in the game. In Battlefield V, we’re not making any political statements in relation to the real life events of WW2 and there are no swastikas in the game.”

To claim your WW2 game is apolitical takes some brass. To further hold up a lack of swastikas as evidence of that neutrality is some hardcore public relations doublespeak.

Ikea wants to help you level-up your game

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Say “Ikea” and most people think of reasonably priced flat-packed furniture with goofy names. Stuff like Ektorp sofas, Skubb storage boxes, and Malm dressers may be ubiquitous in young peoples’ apartments, but thus far the Swedish company hasn’t delved into Razer’s gamer space. Ikea wants some of that sweet gamer gear market now. They’ve partnered with 3D printing company Unyq, to make custom-fit gear like wrist braces, textured key caps, and a mouse cord organizer. The Uppkoppla line of accessories will eventually have more items (prototypes of chairs and desks are being tested) and the items will be available starting in 2020.

What happened to the ending of Fallout: New Vegas?

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Despite the widely lauded story and player choice in Fallout: New Vegas, the ending was a disappointment. Siding with Caesar, House, Yes Man, the New California Republic, or doing your own thing got you a slideshow of narrated results and dumped into the end credits. That was it. You couldn’t even continue wandering the wastes for random adventuring. It was doubly perplexing because a similar ending in the original Fallout 3 was soundly criticized and later updated to allow gaming past the main quest’s finish. How did Obsidian drop the ball with New Vegas?

Chris Avellone admitted to Eurogamer that it was a missed opportunity. The studio originally planned to have post-story content, but they just ran out of development time. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy, but the player would’ve been able to go on walkabout and some NPCs would even comment on the character’s choices. The threat of adding more bugs to an already error-prone game, and the prospect of wasting resources on something that might not even matter to players was a significant roadblock. The idea of adding this feature with one of the DLC packs was suggested, but the plan was ultimately shot down.

“I even offered to pay for one of the milestones myself to allow for additional polish time on existing content, but that was refused because they didn’t want to extend the release date for the DLCs.”

Thus static images, narration, then credits. But there’s something to be said for having an actual ending, rather than anticlimactic aimless exploring, followed by ennui. Always leave’em wanting more!

The IntelliMouse is back for some true 1996 retro gaming

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Microsoft is relaunching the IntelliMouse as a gaming peripheral. When the first IntelliMouse appeared in 1996, PC users lauded its clean lines, ergonomics, and introduction of the scroll wheel. It quickly became the standard by which other mice were compared. In 1999, it became one of the first commercially available optical mice thanks to “IntelliEye” technology. Throughout the years, Microsoft has sold the venerable mouse to hardcore fans, but now they are offering a jazzy gaming version.

In a nod to modern gaming, there are subtle design updates inspired by the shadow and gradients that are popular on Xbox accessories.

The Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse has everything the serious gamer needs, like a blinky colored LED, a rad cable, and software to adjust the clickiness. The new IntelliMouse will be available in July.

Quake II’s lighting goes up to eleven for 2019

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For many old school gamers, Quake II’s colored lighting was their introduction to to the pixel-pushing power of a dedicated graphics card. The reds were so red and the greens were so green! Did you see the way the yellow blaster shots went down the darkened hallway? On June 6th, Quake II may become another common touchstone when Nvidia releases an update that supports raytracing for the game. They’re even releasing a three-act shareware file (ask your parents about this if you don’t know) for everyone to sample.

While this isn’t the first game with raytracing, nor even the first version of Quake II supporting it, this marks the first official effort from a graphics card manufacturer done in cooperation with id Software. The source code will be released on June 6th as well, so modders can go nuts.

Worst thing you’ll see all week: Brightburn

, | Movie reviews

Brightburn isn’t Brightburn enough.  Early on, it suggests some truly freaky angles to the familiar Superman story.  We all know the Superman story. An alien child comes to Earth, is adopted by wholesome parents, discovers his superpowers, saves world.  But Brightburn suggests we can’t assume that last bit because children can be evil little shits. Which, really, isn’t very provocative. “I gave you Lord of the Flies for your birthday,” a father tells his bullied child in the movie Cold Pursuit, “All the answers you’ll ever need are in that book.”  

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