Doctor Manhattan Just Redefined Superman in Doomsday Clock

Doctor Manhattan taking out the Justice League.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock opus has been quietly ticking along at its own pace independent of the rest of DC’s other comics, but a revelation Doctor Manhattan makes in this week’s issue #10 has a significant impact on virtually each and every other character that exists within the publisher’s comics multiverse.

As far as plot developments go, what this week’s comic introduces is rather significant for the Doomsday Clock series itself, but for Doctor Manhattan—a being imbued with a godlike ability to manipulate reality—it’s the sort of strange turn of events that isn’t exactly all that surprising.

For the past few issues of Doomsday Clock, Doctor Manhattan has become obsessed with the last vision he is able to see in the future before his multidimensional sight is no longer able to perceive anything past a specific point. Manhattan sees that after facing off against Superman—a person who embodies the crystalized power of hope throughout his entire home universe—he is fated to fade away along with the rest of all things in existence.

After his fight with Superman, there’s nothing in the future at all except at yawning blackness, the absence of all things. Either Manhattan’s vision is failing, which can sometimes happen, or, he realizes, there’s simply nothing there to see. Never really one to be alarmed by such things, Manhattan sees it as a puzzle to reason his way through because he genuinely cannot fathom why he and an enraged Superman would ever come to blows. The even larger questions on Manhattan’s mind, though, have centered on whether it’s him or Superman who are ultimately responsible for the destruction of the multiverse. The answers, of course, are complicated.

Doctor Manhattan thinking.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

Doctor Manhattan’s jump over into the prime DC universe is a continuation of the role he played in DC’s Flashpoint event which resulted in the creation of Prime Earth, an amalgam of the previous main Earth, the Wildstorm Universe, and pieces of the Vertigo brand traditionally kept separate from DC’s more mainstream books. Having found no point in staying in his native reality, Manhattan journeyed to Prime Earth in the hopes that he would be able to start a new life for himself, but he found that the new reality’s connection to a grand multiverse made it strangely difficult for him to maintain his perception of time and space.

While Doctor Manhattan has been struggling to understand the strange, new multiverse by gazing at multiple important points in time, the rest of the world had become fixated on the “Superman Theory”—the idea that the reason so many of the world’s metahumans originate in the United States is that the government is actually responsible for their creation. As the theory grows in popularity, various governments from the world over respond by forming their own teams of metahumans as a show of hard power, and an even larger amount of scrutiny is paid to Superman, who enjoys an uneasy startup as an internationally-supported hero.

During a tense incident between Firestorm and the Russian hero Pozhar, everything blows up in Superman’s face both literally and metaphorically when the two energy-wielding heroes’ fight accidentally transmutes a crowd of bystanders into glass. Understandably, Firestorm is horrified and distraught at what he’s done, but Superman’s confident that he can help his ally reverse the process and diffuse the situation. But before the American heroes have a chance to explain themselves, Vladimir Putin declares war on America, soldiers fire Superman and Firestorm, and many of the still-glass civilians are shattered in the process.

The conflict culminates in an even larger explosion that knocks both Superman and Firestorm out, causing the bonded hero to unfuse. While most of the world believes that Superman was attempting to protect Firestorm, who was responsible for the accident, Batman and the remaining members of the Justice League quickly deduce that the energy that caused the explosion shares traits with Doctor Manhattan’s, and the heroes set out for the surface of Mars to take him on.

It does not go well for them.

Doctor Manhattan experimenting with magic.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

This week’s issue #10 takes places in the past, present, and future, and closely follows just what Doctor Manhattan’s been learning about himself and Superman during his time in Prime Earth’s reality. If his oncoming fight with Superman is the event in the future that ends all things, Manhattan uses his reality-altering abilities to poke and prod at the events of history to see how his changing things about Superman’s existence could have a cascading effect on the entire universe.

As Doctor Manhattan shifts details about Superman’s exact origins (all nods to DC’s various reboots over the decades), he soon realizes the universe he currently exists in is not truly part of the proper multiverse, but rather a metaverse which exists, hierarchically-speaking, above others. Superman is but one person who exists within the metaverse, but he’s also the metaverse’s linchpin, the being around which all of its most significant events revolve.

Doctor Manhattan realizing that Superman is the center of the Metaverse.
Image: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh (DC Comics)

From the outside looking in, Manhattan’s realization about who and what Superman is provides a very nifty way of acknowledging how central a character Superman is to DC’s brand. But within the comic itself, it leads the blue thinker to a conclusion that’s been rather evident for a while now.

Doctor Manhattan thinks back on how the Earth’s heroes—the Flash in particular—fought to resist his machinations during Flashpoint, and he comes to the conclusion that the metaverse is a living, reacting thing that uses its heroes as a means of correcting anomalies that should not be. Anomalies like him, who find pleasure in putting things where they aren’t meant to exist simply because he’s grown weary of reality. Manhattan finally sees that he’s one of Doomsday Clock’s main villains and honestly, it’s about damn time.

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The Sad Story Of Steve, The Pet Deathclaw Whose Life Was Cut Short By Fallout 76 Bugs

“This is how a Deathclaw is supposed to feel,” Hertell said. “This one doesn’t look like its about to die any minute.”
Screenshot: Mikael Hertell (Fallout 76)

Mikael Hertell really wanted a pet Deathclaw. He wanted one so bad he spent hours searching through Fallout 76’s broken wilds in search of one he could tame. He named it Steve. Steve was a good boy. Some might say a very good boy. That is, until Hertell went to sleep, woke up the next day and found Steve dead, killed by a glitch. That wasn’t the first time this happened to Hertell, either.

Before, Steve there was a Mega Sloth. There was also a gun—a legendary TSE (two-shot explosive) .50cal machine gun. Both disappeared. The gun vanished, Hertell believes, because of a glitch, something many players on the game’s subreddit have shared experiences of. What happened to the Mega Sloth is less clear, but Hertell, a YouTuber and musician who lives in Finland, thinks it died because of the unstable way campsites occasionally load in the game.

“What is the point of having near impossible to find weapons in the game if [Bethesda] won’t even acknowledge a bug that just deletes your most beloved guns from your inventory?” Hertell wrote in a frustrated May 1 Reddit post. “And I’m also out of my tamed sluggish mega sloth that i server hopped for ages [to get]…logged in and poof no sloth in my camp anymore.”

“I’m afraid to log back in, I lost my pet and my favorite gun i can’t afford to lose anything else :/”

What happened to the Sloth? Hertell still isn’t entirely sure.

Screenshot: Mikael Hertell (Fallout 76)

“I logged in and I noticed that there was no sound from the sloth but all the enemies that spawned were dead, looked around for a bit and found him hanging from the ceiling of one of the pre-existing buildings that existed inside my camp boundaries,” Hertell told Kotaku in an email. “To this day I have no idea what killed him because the only enemies there were low level mole rats.”

Whatever the bug was that took his first pet’s life, Hertell remained undeterred in his quest for an irradiated buddy. “I’m a huge pet lover irl and currently have three cats and a ball python in the house so it just felt like something was missing from my camp unless it had a pet in it,” he said.

The mysterious nature of pets in Fallout 76 also appealed to him. Nothing in the game tells you that you can tame wild animals. Even the game’s official strategy guide only mentions it in passing when discussing the perk card for Wasteland Whisperer, the skill that makes it possible to pacify wild creatures, and even then it doesn’t specify that these animals, if properly tamed, will follow you back to your campsite and hang out with you till death do you part.

Hertell crowdsourced information from random Google searches, equipped Wasteland Whisperer, and went out hoping for the best. The creatures have to spawn alone, and even then it doesn’t always work. Yesterday, after weeks of preparation and server hopping, Hertell finally found a lone Deathclaw and managed to woo it over to his side. He was elated. He posted about it on the game’s subreddit.

“God I hope this one doesn’t die like my megasloth…” he wrote.

Then today he logged back onto the game, and it had died. “Well that lasted a whopping 12 hours, I logged in and somebody was checking out my camp and he told me that a Supermutant killed my pet…” he wrote in a follow up post.

This time, the culprit was clear: bad loading times.

Screenshot: Mikael Hertell (Fallout 76)

Ever since Fallout 76’s Wild Appalachia update arrived at the beginning of April, loading into the game has become a slightly more wonky affair. It’s hit people with elaborate campsites the hardest, as different parts of the game world appear to occasionally load in at different times. This is what Hertell believes happened to him, and why Steve is now dead. “The problem is that now when you log in to the game the game loads you into the game world quite fast and then loads enemies relatively quickly or agonizingly slow depending on where you are spawning,” he told Kotaku.

“Same goes for camps,” he continued. They take a minimum of around 1.5-2 minutes to fully load into the world so you are stuck there waiting for them to load. My issue with the pet was that for some reason while my camp took a long time to load into the game (and as almost everything is client side in the game this holds true to every visitor I get) my pet deathclaw steve would load the same second you spawned near the camp along with enemies.”

Before Hertell could do anything, Steve was dead. A super mutant had killed him. Since pets in Fallout 76 don’t scale to match the level of the player they belong to, it doesn’t always take much to kill them, even if they’re a dreaded Deathclaw. And the pets don’t respawn. Once they’re gone they’re gone for good. If Hertell’s camp turrets had spawned in more quickly, they might have been able to save Steve. “I’m just pretty pissed really, i spend so much time getting the pet only for it to be killed in a matter of hours,” he wrote on Reddit.

Screenshot: xCryocide (Imgru)

The tragic story of Steve might seem like a strange, isolated incident, but it’s indicative of a broader tension within the game and its community. It’s possible to get a pet to get attached to in Fallout 76,, but almost everything about the world, going down to the very code its built on, seems intent on trying to extinguish that relationship at a moment’s notice. The subreddit is full of posts with people requesting an overhaul to the pet mechanic, or a little more attention for itso that more players can give it a try for themselves.

Based on his recent experience, Hertell warns players against trying until the feature is fixed, or at least the load times for campsites become more stable. “What good is taming a cat when it dies to the first radroach that decides to attack your camp,” he said. “[It] would be cool for Bethesda to actually make it work instead of leaving it in a sorry state that its in now but I feel like the only things that get patched are the ones that get a lot of public outcry and the pets aren’t that well known so I really don’t see them making any significant improvements to them in a while.”

Slowly but surely, pet taming might finally be starting to get the attention it deserves. There’s already a meta memorial service for Steve going on in the game’s subreddit, with some players calling on one another to celebrate the Deathclaw’s legacy in some way at their own camp.

“May the legend of Steve live on in campfire tales,” wrote one player.


Twitch Isn’t Just For Watching Games, It’s For Waiting For Them

Earlier this week, Sony announced the Death Stranding release date via a nearly day-long Twitch stream that mostly just showed handprints appearing on a black screen. The reasons why fans would watch this is obvious: Anticipation is exciting, and infectious. The reasons why it is encouraged by publishers is also obvious. Marketing on the internet has always sought to use fan enthusiasm to some corporate benefit, and anticipation is often the easiest way to do that. Countdown clocks, trailers, alternate-reality games and puzzles are all ways to excite fans and get them talking about a game.

Twitch has become so central to video games that publishers have made it a vital part of their marketing efforts. Twitch streams can be watched in places and times where games aren’t an option; they can also be watched as games are played. It’s a locus of attention that’s irresistible to a company with games to sell, which then makes it beneficial for these companies to find ways to get fans to spend even more time on Twitch. They don’t even have to engage with a game that’s out now. Which is how we get to Death Stranding.

The Death Stranding effort was confusing, as a lot of Kojima hype tends to be. The stream was mostly a black image, with a few outlines of handprints and eerie music. At noon, the full video was released, a nearly nine-minute trailer for Death Stranding. The plan seems to have worked, and the Death Stranding trailer racked up nearly five million views in a day’s time.

There was no real reason to watch the livestream—no mystery to solve, no real audience participation beyond showing up. What’s more, anyone who is online enough to watch a stream is also arguably online enough to know when the stream’s end result is achieved without bothering to tune in. The stream recalls another absurd livestream marketing moment, when HBO decided to reveal the premiere date for Game of Thrones’ seventh season by hiding it in a block of ice, which would eventually melt and show the world a date. A date fans would’ve eventually learned anyway, and posted about anyway.

Twitch is already something of a closed loop, integrated into the machines we play games on, so we can stream games and watch games that are streamed. But publishers have increasingly made an effort to control the contours of that loop, using their resources to tip the odds in their favor.

If you watched the Borderlands 3 reveal stream on Twitch last month, you had the chance to win in-game loot. Last fall, watching affiliated streamers on Twitch for an hour could have netted you early access to Black Ops 4’s Blackout beta. Rocket League fans can earn exclusive customization rewards by linking their accounts and watching streams. Those rewards are offered through the Twitch Drops program, which has also been integrated by other publishers and developers. When The Division 2’s first raid went live earlier this month, fans who watched select streamers run the raid could earn items in the game. In the Twitch attention economy, publishers have vast capital that no one else does: information on highly anticipated games to disseminate, and plenty of door prizes for players of games that are out.

As big-budget games move away from static, discrete products towards a “games as a service” model, attention has become a scarce resource. There are only so many games one person can pay attention to at a time—and when said games are persistent affairs, so many future games that can be anticipated. Thus we have hype as a service, and all the things publishers will try in order to keep their audience fixated on an upcoming game, in the hopes that long-term anticipation might translate to long-term interest once that game is out. And what better place to see that unfold than on Twitch—the best place to watch and wait for games.


This Weekend’s Rocket League Tournament Will Set The Stage For The World Championship

With a $100,000 prize pool at stake, this weekend’s big Rocket League tournament in Dallas will give some of the game’s biggest teams one last chance to test one another before next month’s World Championship.

Now in its seventh season, the Rocket League Championship Series is divided across four continents. The winners of the biggest divisions, North America’s NRG Esports and Europe’s Renault Vitality, both battled through their groups in matches that started earlier today, and Vitality has already stumbled on their way to the grand finals in a shocking upset.

Mousesports, which finished last in the European division with a one and six record, managed to edge out Vitality 3-2 in the Group A semifinals, sending the European champions down into the loser’s bracket. Though Vitality eventually qualified for the single-elimination bracket later in the day, the early results have shown that even the game’s top teams aren’t unstoppable. For its part, NRG Esports cruised through its group matches, while Cloud 9 and FC Barcelona, the runners up of North America and Europe respectively, will be tested later this evening.

After a full day of matches on Saturday, the play-off stage will get underway on Sunday starting at 12:00 p.m. ET. You can watch all of the matches live on DreamHack’s Twitch channel.

DreamHack Dallas will be home to a number of other big tournaments this weekend, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Classic Halo, and a number of fighting games like Mortal Kombat 11 and Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can find stream listings and match times for all of them over on DreamHack’s website


Overwatch Workshop’s Most Popular Mode Is The Card Game Uno

The Overwatch Workshop, which allows players to create new modes with robust tools and rudimentary programming, has given rise to all sorts of unexpected oddities: a Smash Bros. clone, airplane races, portal guns, Mercy reinventions, and heaps more. The most popular mode of all, though? Uno. Yep, the card game.

This information comes straight from the dear child Overwatch’s doting father, Jeff Kaplan. He published a list of the most popular Workshop modes on Overwatch’s forums, and they actually include quite a few variations on games played by children in the mid-to-late 1900s. The top spot goes to Uno, but number two is a version of The Floor Is Lava, and number three is a McCree-flavored take on Hot Potato. Here are the top modes in the North America and Europe regions:

  • Uno
  • Floor is lava parkour
  • McCree hot potato
  • Hammond racing
  • Gun game
  • D.Va bumperkart
  • Flappy Bird
  • Floor is lava
  • D.Va racing
  • Endgame
  • Emote to kill
  • D.Va space battle
  • Play as two heroes
  • Portal gun
  • “Tea” mode
  • Top-down Overwatch
  • Bastion turret ffa
  • Flappy Bird (a different version)
  • 3rd-person mode
  • Super Smash Bros.
  • Helicopter mode
  • Surfer Mei
  • Lucio racing
  • Hero gauntlet

People have spent a total of 1,370 hours playing Unoverwatch across 1,556 matches. This puts it ever so slightly ahead of “Floor is lava parkour” and “McCree hot potato,” which have 1,246 and 1,048 hours respectively. In the name of science and understanding, I tried out Uno, and yep, it sure is Uno. Heroes are rooted to the ground and can draw and discard cards into the well on Ilios. The goal is to discard your hand as quickly as possible. There are some fun effects like fire and ice, but otherwise it’s a pretty standard digital adaptation of the classic game, albeit slightly more impressive than it sounds because somebody managed to convert a team-based hero shooter into it.

Kaplan acknowledged that this list has some surprising omissions. For instance, aim-practice modes have become very popular, but not a single one made it into the Workshop’s upper echelon. Kaplan has a theory as to why. “This may be a result of consolidation,” he wrote. “There is only 1 version of Uno floating around, but hundreds of accuracy trainer variations.”

He also published a list of the top modes in Korea, where people seem to be spending far more time with various modes than in North America and Europe. The top mode there is called “High Blood Pressure Marathon,” and players have spent a total of 5,447 hours with it. Kaplan said it’s “a mode with no cooldowns, infinite ultimates, and some other crazy things mixed in.” That sounds rad as heck? Meanwhile, we’re over here sitting in organized little circles, literally unable to move, playing Uno. What happened? Is everyone in North America and Europe just really old?


Destiny 2’s Season Of Opulence: Bungie Details Pinnacle Weapons, New Mechanics

The Season of Opulence is poised to kick off in Destiny 2 on June 4, bringing with it a new raid and a new six-player activity. As with all the content drops in the Year Two annual pass, this one is also full of new loot to chase and new secrets for players to unlock along the way.

Bungie outlined new details about the Season of Opulence in its latest blog post, which explains some key ins and outs of the Menagerie, the new six-player matchmade activity at the heart of the season. The thing that sets the activity apart from others in Destiny 2 is the new Chalice of Opulence, an item you’ll use to determine which gear you receive upon completing a Menagerie run. According to Bungie, as you play through the Menagerie, you’ll earn items called runes you can plug into your chalice. Which runes you use will determine the gear you get, and more crucially, what its stats are.

The thing about the runes is you won’t know what combinations do what until you experiment (or more likely, until the Destiny community experiments and posts it all on Reddit). Adding certain runes to your chalice can help you chase down specific versions of the new Opulence weapon set, including what boosts you get when you turn those weapons into Masterworks. That’s a significant change: usually, weapons’ stats are randomized, forcing players to fight through an activity over and over, hoping to get the best versions of certain guns. Masterworks offer bonus stats to guns as well, but again, which stat gets a boost is usually randomized.

You’ll also be able to upgrade the chalice itself, which will give you more control over the gear you get from the Menagerie, while also allowing you to earn more runes of specific types. Players will have to put in the work to upgrade the chalice for greater customization, though, and it doesn’t sound like it’ll be particularly easy.

Bungie also detailed the new Pinnacle weapons that come with the season. These are high-powered, specially designed guns you can only get by completing arduous tasks in specific activities, like the competitive Crucible, the cooperative Vanguard Strikes, or Gambit, which mixes the two play types.

The Crucible weapon is a sniper rifle called Revoker, which sounds a lot like the popular Icebreaker Exotic sniper rifle from Destiny 1. It encourages you to take every shot by returning missed shots to your magazine after a short time–which means you can’t go crazy unloading your sniper rifle, but you do get an incentive to open fire a little more often. Earning the Revoker will be easier than past Crucible Pinnacle guns, also; it requires racking up 3,500 points in the Glory playlist, but doesn’t penalize you if you lose. Past Pinnacles have required players to fight through Glory to the Fabled rank–but you only gain points when you win matches. Losing sets you back, making earning the guns very tough for many players.

The Vanguard Pinnacle is the Wendigo-GL3 grenade launcher, which gets more powerful when you pick up Orbs of Light generated by teammates. Orbs give the launcher’s grenades more damage and a bigger blast radius, so it’ll pay to stick close to teammates and work together when using the weapon. For Gambit players, there’s Hush, a combat bow that rewards you for shooting from the hip, rather than aiming down its sights. Landing hip fire precision kills with the bow speeds up its draw time significantly, allowing you to fire deadly arrows much more quickly.

Bungie also followed up an announcement that it would be weakening some fan-favorite guns with the new season by outlining a few weapons that are getting boosts. Fusion Rifles, in particular, should be more useful thanks to damage increases against AI-controlled enemies. Swords are also being amped up a bit, with damage increases and ammo rebalancing.

The announcements about the Season of Opulence also came with a teaser from Bungie that it’ll be outlining the “next chapter” for Destiny 2 on Thursday, June 6–two days after the launch of the season. Players are speculating the delay is because Bungie is waiting for the first teams of players to complete Crown of Sorrows, the Season of Opulence’s new raid, which will give away some new story information about where the game is headed. Whatever Bungie has planned for Destiny 2 going forward, it’ll be the first content the developer has created without former publishing partner Activision.


John Romero Made A New Doom Mod And It’s Great

1993’s Doom isn’t the first shooter, but it is the one that truly kicked off a genre. Heavy weapons and bloody demons ignited controversy, while stellar level design kept players engaged. A 2016 reboot updated the series for modern times, but those left craving classic Doom can now hop into Sigil, a new collection of levels from one of the game’s original creators, John Romero.

Doom’s modding community is a dedicated one, churning out tons of levels and modifications ever since the game’s release. Sigil is what’s known as a “megawad,” or a mod nearing commercial size, and it’s some of the most punishing and devious Doom I’ve ever played.

Romero, who is working on a new FPS called Blackroom, stitched the project together in his spare time throughout 2017 and 2018. The result is an unofficial sequel to Doom’s fourth episode featuring nine new levels and music crafted by the eccentric guitarist Buckethead. I’ve been playing it all day, even streaming it on Kotaku’s Twitch channel, and it owns.

Playing Doom kicks off the highly specific level design observation node in my brain, and Sigil’s reveal some great tricks for making not just good Doom levels but great first-person designs in general. Romero delights in labyrinthine levels, some of which transform as walls open up to reveal spacious outdoor areas and hidden enemies. His flavor of Doom design has a lot in common with Zelda dungeon design, tasking players with making a mental map of the area and remembering where to go once they pick up keys or weapons. Sigil’s levels invariably loop on themselves or otherwise feature literal mazes for players to dissect.

What makes Romero’s designs work so well is how unabashedly excited he seems to be about them. Levels are teeming with enemies, including many tougher ones like the beefy, energy hurling Barons of Hell. Each new maze is punctuated with fights that mix and match Doom’s precisely-designed enemies. Pits feature side walls where projectile-spitting cacodemons and rushing floating skulls force players to dance in the tightest of spaces. Thin walkways span over chasms, doors waiting at the end. Open them, backstep, and you’ll find demons and zombies guided into the most perfect funnels.

The result is a challenging experience that manages to add bloody moments of triumph. Hell, the opening level starts with the player surrounded by fireball-spewing imps, inches away from a shotgun. There’s a real giddiness here, a sense that a master is excitedly returning to his favorite tools. (That said, this WAD only uses original Doom 1 assets and enemies, meaning it can occasionally feel less complex than other, fan-made projects.)

Sigil has a problem, but it’s the same one that many Doom modifications and WADs run into. This is a tried-and-true game, and Sigil presumes your familiarity with the original. There’s no slowly ramping difficulty, no miniature set-pieces meant to teach you to handle new monsters before they become commonplace. You’re in the thick of it, and if you happen to be a fresh-faced player for whatever reason, Sigil will kick your ass. The default difficulty is tricky; higher levels feel like borderline trolling. Screw it, let’s just toss a few cyberdemons at the start of this level. You know how to dodge, right?

In the old days, we used to call all first-person shooters “Doom clones.” But there’s nothing else like Doom. There’s a particular, nearly impossible to describe playfulness that even the 2016 reboot sometimes misses. A single run through Romero’s new levels feels positively joyous, a chance to see fantastic level design in action and observe a master at play. It’s hard, and I feel guilty admitting that I’ve been hurt plenty, but it’s Doom. Sigil gets it. How could it not?


Deadwood: The Movie is an improbable gift

Deadwood was a show that ended without an ending.

HBO’s drama was prestige television before the term existed: a critically acclaimed, wildly expensive Western, filled to bursting with copious profanity, cringy slurs, gratuitous nudity, and unforgettable characters. After three seasons, the network condemned the town. Early promises of send-off movies evaporated like water on the desert hardpan. For 13 years, we knew all we would ever know about creator David Milch’s South Dakota settlement.

And then last week, I sat down to watch the improbable Deadwood: The Movie, a one-off resurrection with a staggeringly reassembled cast, promising the ending that the series never got.

And here’s the good news: It delivers on that promise. Deadwood: The Movie is prestige television reborn as a movie.

Ian McShane as Al Swearengen in Deadwood The MOvie
Ian McShane returns as Al Swearengen
Warrick Page/HBO

Deadwood: The Movie takes place a decade after the final episode of the series, during South Dakota’s 1889 celebration of statehood. The event creates a plausible reunion for both the characters who still live in town and those who’ve moved on.

Like the series before it, Deadwood: The Movie luxuriates in the characters moments, and a large chunk of the beginning is about reintroductions. Some things have changed — electricity illuminates the former boomtown, characters have aged and grayed and stooped, children have sprouted — but it’s still recognizably Deadwood in sight and in sound. (Time to the first cocksucker is less than four minutes, and once the dam breaks, it’s a reliable vulgar spice.)

The true magic of the movie is how Milch weaves his large cast together into a unifying story that gives each character something meaningful to do. He has about two hours to reintroduce characters, have them act believably, set a new story in motion, and resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction. Nearly character has an arc, in which they act in ways both familiar and credible.

Deadwood’s hotel proprietor, the greasy E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson) is perhaps the best example of the aplomb with which Milch pulls the strings. Farnum is, like so many in Deadwood, an important supporting character, but he was never in danger of stealing the spotlight. He doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but what he gets is funny, perfectly in character, and integral to the plot. It goes on like this. The crotchety Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) has patients to attend to and chastise. Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) has whiskey to drink and slurred speech to overcome.

Speaking of speech, Deadwood: The Movie also luxuriates in its dialogue, which is as challenging to decipher — often lyrical and Shakespearean — as it is to hear. It always has been, but the reward for careful viewing is dialogue that challenges and surprises. (There’s no shame in subtitled viewing, though.)

That’s how you get lines like this: “I’d not prolong the chewing up, doc, nor the being spat out — not go out a cunt.”

Highbrow, meet lowbrow. That’s Deadwood.

Robin Weigert and Kim Dickens as Calamity Jane and Joanie Stubbs in Deadwood: The Movie
Robin Weigert and Kim Dickens as Calamity Jane and Joanie Stubbs
Warrick Page/HBO

Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) speaks those words. He always has the best words, but McShane acts as much with his face as with the teleplay. He’s as animated as U.S. Marshall Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) tries to be reserved — up to and including his deliberate anti-swagger walk — and watching personalities that are 180 degrees out of phase provides not just contrast but tension.

Deadwood: The Movie is, like many modern stories looking back at the era, about progress — about people living a lifestyle that’s dissolving around them. The last decade hasn’t been a steady march of progress for everyone, despite what the avaricious George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) believes.

The now junior senator from California sees his telephone poles, slicing their way through the wooded South Dakota hills, as unambiguous signals of the progressive and unstoppable future. Others in Deadwood see the prospect of telephone poles in their establishments as intrusive — as a way for the outside world to elbow in on a frontier where distance and seclusion mean freedom. Where past and present collide with the future, tragedy strikes, and the plot takes hold.

The only bad news, if there is any: It’s really not a movie for anyone who hasn’t seen Deadwood.

That’s not insurmountable. If you’ve got an HBO subscription, you could do a lot worse now that Game of Thrones is over than to watch Deadwood’s original three seasons. It’s well worth your time and attention. And when you’re done, you won’t have to spend more than a decade wondering what happened next.

Because Deadwood is no longer a show without an ending. It is a new and fantastic way for a bunch of cocksuckers to go out.


E3 2019: Google Stadia — What We Know And Want To See At E3

The way we play games changes by the year, but there’s something particularly special about 2019: the advent of cloud-based streaming. Google is leading the charge with Stadia, which is a hardware-less gaming platform that relegates all graphical processing to remote data centers. Through an internet connection, you’ll be able to stream games directly to any capable device using the power of high-end machines housed elsewhere. So, it doesn’t matter what your actual local hardware is; as long as you can run a Chrome browser and have a sufficient internet connection, you can play any game available on Stadia.

Stadia was first unveiled at the Game Developers’ Conference 2019 with a keynote presentation outlining the first details of this new platform. We were given a breakdown of how the tech works, a few on-stage demonstrations, some of its unique capabilities, and a tease of which studios would be contributing to Stadia. And we even got hands on with Stadia itself on the GDC show floor. With E3 2019 right around the corner, we expect Google to make another push with new announcements and more information since the company said it’ll have more to share in the summer. This could encompass Stadia’s business model, upcoming game library, and possible release date–it’s set to launch sometime this year in the US, UK, and “most of Europe” after all, and E3 is as good a time as any to go big.

What We Know So Far

The unveiling of Stadia at GDC 2019 gave us plenty of details about the platform. Aside from the fact that it’s entirely based in the cloud, making it accessible on multiple devices, we know about its technical specifications. At launch, Stadia users will have the power of a custom multi-core hyper-threading CPU clocked at 2.7 GHz, 16GB of RAM, cloud SSD storage, and most notably a brand-new AMD GPU rated at 10.7 TFLOPs–for comparison, the Xbox One X (the current powerhouse for consoles) is rated at 6.0 TFLOPs. Stadia will be able to play games at 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second, though that may vary depending on games, optimization, and your own internet connection. There are plans to gradually upgrade Stadia’s specs over time, and Google is aiming to support 8K and 120 FPS in the future. But Stadia’s capabilities aren’t bound by a simple TFLOP number, since cloud-based tech can account for much more.

You won’t have to wait around for game downloads, and updates or patches since Stadia is pulling from a cloud-based version whichever game you’re playing. Google is also going to great lengths for YouTube integration, and we’ve seen it in action, like being able to jump into specific parts of a game based on a video, which is called State Share. Streamers can also let viewers join their multiplayer games instantly through what’s called Crowd Play. Google Voice Assistant will be featured as well, and could have significant implications for guides and instant access to information for games you’re playing.

When it comes to cloud-based services, bandwidth is always a huge concern as this could be a deal-breaker depending on ISP conditions and data caps. Google stated that 20 to 25 mbps is necessary for a proper 1080p 60FPS experience and around 30 mbps for 4K. As for input lag, Google VP Phil Harrison said in response to whether or not he’s confident in Stadia’s performance will satisfy players, “Absolutely, unequivocally, yes.” He cited the expectations that id Software has for Doom Eternal and how Stadia has been able to meet those expectations with its responsiveness in gameplay.

What’s Confirmed For E3

Nothing has been confirmed for E3 2019 on Google’s behalf, yet. However, the GDC reveal was capped off by saying that there would be more details to come in the Summer. Well, E3 is in June, and June is in the Summer, so it’s fair to think that Google would insert itself into (or at least around) the biggest convention for the gaming industry. Whether it’s officially part of E3 proper isn’t likely. We may see some publisher/developer booths with Stadia running certain games, but we don’t expect to Google to have an official presence at the show since it is not part of the ESA.

What We Hope To See At E3

As much as we know about Google Stadia, there are still plenty of questions that need answering and finer details that need explaining. Most importantly, what does the Stadia pricing model look like? Will it be a subscription based service, or is it simply a platform where you purchase access to specific games, or will there be options for incremental play time? Maybe it’s a hybrid of all these? It’s a mystery at this point, but Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot predicted that it would blend several purchase options. Back in April, Google stated that it already decided on a pricing model but planned on sharing details at a later date. Well, Stadia launches this year and the coming days would be as good a time as any to make the announcement.

Up to now, we’ve seen Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the upcoming shooter Doom Eternal (see above) running on Stadia live. While those are some big names, that’s only two games, one of which has been out for months already. Google has boasted wide ranging partnerships with notable developers and publishers like Ubisoft, Bethesda, and 2K Games, and introduced its own first-party studio led by former EA and Ubisoft head Jade Raymond. With this in mind, we’d expect to see more games running on Stadia. A tentative launch lineup would also be nice to drum up hype for the platform, but to also get a better idea of what we can expect to play on it.

While Stadia’s key selling point is the elimination of a hardware requirement, Google is still going to offer its own controller specifically designed to give you convenient access to the platform’s unique tools. The Stadia controller was on display at GDC 2019 when the platform was first announced, but attendees couldn’t actually get their hands on it. We’d hope to get a feel for how it works and how its ergonomics compare to the DualShock and Xbox controllers, gamepads we’ve been using for years now.

We’re covering cloud-based game streaming from all angles as this is a big shift in the gaming industry, and you can keep up with all the Google Stadia news and details here on GameSpot.


The Cool Moments In PlayStation VR’s Blood & Truth Are Far Too Rare

For a few seconds, Blood & Truth, the most-hyped game to hit the PlayStation 4’s virtual reality headset since its October 2016 launch, is as thrilling a VR experience as one could hope for.

You’re in the headset holding PlayStation Move controllers as the game’s graphics wrap around you. You’re a soldier back in his hometown of London, automatically propelled through a casino’s upper floor as you fire a gun at a clown car’s worth of dim-witted suit-wearing tough guys. After all this forgettable shooting-gallery gameplay, your character stands still as you confront a gangster. Then, a door nearby bursts open and some guy in a helmet walks through and machine-guns the gangster to death.

Then, this cool thing happens.

Blood & Truth pushes you forward down a hallway, making it feel as if you’re fleeing from the person with the machine gun. The hallway ends at a window, but it’s no dead end. The game launches you through it. The glass shatters as the action slows down. Suddenly, in slow-motion VR, you’re leaping through the London air toward a neon sign an alley’s width away. Look down and you’ll sense that you’re several stories up. Look behind and you can see the building from which you just leapt. Soon, you’re clinging to the exterior of the building toward which you jumped. With those Move controllers in hand, you can make your character grab a girder and then reach for a handhold. Then another, slowly scaling the wall. Then you can make him reach into an airshaft and crawl through the chute to relative safety.

This brief, thrilling moment is the highlight of the first couple of hours I’ve played of Blood & Truth, a game that mostly demonstrates how little virtual reality can make up for generic action gameplay and unlikable characters. Blood & Truth is mostly off-putting, mostly just a mindless shootout against uninteresting enemies who evade gunfire about as well as a houseplant, mixed with shouty b-grade dialogue. These are shortcomings that may have been acceptable in the first year or two of this current era of mainstream PC and console VR, when the novelty of wraparound graphics and the comfort of a game running well enough to not induce nausea could excuse other faults. Now, it feels far less acceptable, even more so in the wake of the truly great, no-asterisks-needed PSVR game Astrobot: Rescue Mission.

Astrobot, like Blood & Truth, is a first-party Sony game, the ostensible height of what well-backed VR video game productions can achieve. With Astrobot we got a cartoonish game that let players control a little robot from overhead, making him hop, run and tightrope-walk through colorful, secret-filled levels.

With Blood & Truth, we’re soldier Ryan Marks in a first-person shooter that mixes non-interactive story sequences in which Marks is either being interrogated or chatting with his mother, sister, and brother—complete with a lifetime supply of “fucking hell”s—about how to keep his dead father’s criminal empire from falling into a rival’s hands. The family members are annoying, especially Ryan’s brother. He’s especially irritating in an overly long sequence when the two break into a gangster’s art gallery and start screwing with all of these exhibits that just happen to demonstrate various VR gimmicks. Here’s a room full of objects that can collapse all around you. Here’s a room that lights up differently as you move your hands. Here’s a room that’s mostly dark and primed for jump scares when that annoying brother of yours keeps hopping into the light. Here’s a room where you and your brother suddenly have spraypaint cans and can deface art. Here’s a room with a paintball gun that you can shoot at other art as you and your brother cackle through it and snicker about whether any of this is art. The brother is as insufferable as the action is forced. I’d prefer a game without the shooting, without the brother, and maybe with some of these VR art projects fleshed out into a game.

Blood & Truth is best when it’s simply giving you a moment to feel that you are somewhere unusual. This is a strength of VR overall, to convey a simulated sense of presence. I got that in 2015 when I first tried a pre-launch PSVR demo for a demo called London Heist that would eventually ship on the PlayStation VR Worlds compilation and seemed to inspire Blood & Truth. In that one, I saw through the eyes of a character sitting in a chair being berated by an interrogator who loomed over me and puffed smoke in my face. Strangely, the interrogation scenes I’ve experienced in Blood & Truth are not as in-your-face and are, perhaps as a result, not as impressive.

I got that impressive VR-enabled sense of presence in Blood & Truth when I was jumping out of the window in the game’s second major level and felt, for a moment, that I was somewhere I’d never been—dangling mid-leap between two buildings. I got it, too, in part of the casino level, when my character suddenly found himself at the controls of a DJ booth, where I could trigger different lights and sounds while scratching a record on a turntable. I even got that when sitting shotgun in the car as my annoying brother drove us through London and reached out to hand me a vape. Would that the developers could make a game about this kind of presence, rather than offer drops of it between shootouts that feel so unexceptional.

Fair or not, Sony’s VR games carry the weight of justifying the platform and this entire endeavor of virtual reality gaming about which so many people who play games remain skeptical. Some holdouts simply need to get inside some VR graphics and see the generally wonderful experience of video game visuals that surround you. Others should play the kinds of focused indie games that take a concept like swinging lightsabers to a beat and make a great experience out of them. It’s reasonable, though, to think that some might be on the fence until they hear there’s a whole London action movie of a VR game out there to play. When such a game simply oscillates between basic gunplay and shoehorned gimmickry, it winds up being a poor showcase.

I might play more Blood & Truth, just to look for more of its silly or potentially thrilling gimmick moments. I sense, though, that I have sized up Blood & Truth well enough to know what it is. I also know what I wish it was: a game about leaping through windows and crawling through air ducts. I’d happily spend more time in VR doing that. And less time trying to deal with an annoying brother.