Netflix’s Red Sea Diving Resort gives Chris Evans a white savior complex

After I described a few gratingly melodramatic scenes from The Red Sea Diving Resort to one of my colleagues, she asked me, “Was this script generated by AI?” It’s not much of a stretch to imagine, particularly if the AI in question had digested old action movies and accidentally seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Now streaming on Netflix, the film, directed by Gideon Raff (Showtime’s Homeland), is notable for two reasons: First, it’s based on a true story most are likely unfamiliar with, of a group of spies in the 1980s who used a coastal resort as a means of rescuing and evacuating Jewish Ethiopians from Sudan to Israel. Second, it stars Chris Evans.

The big question facing the actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been just how they’ll break out of the molds set for them in an age where the notion of the movie star is increasingly rare. Yes, Chris Evans was famous before taking on the mantle of Captain America, but there’s no question that his profile has risen considerably since becoming the First Avenger. He’s proven that he can do other things besides playing the hero, starring in Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and Rian Johnson’s upcoming Knives Out, and even tackling theater in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, but will any of it allow him to really leave Cap behind?

Ari (Chris Evans), Rachel (Haley Bennett), Jacob (Michiel Huisman), and Max (Alex Hassell) unload their bags from a car in The Red Sea Diving Resort
The staff of the Red Sea Diving Resort.
Marcos Cruz/Netflix

The question wouldn’t warrant too much pondering, but it’s inescapable in The Red Sea Diving Resort, given how the movie fails to turn Evans into anything but the most boring hero archetype possible. He’s the kind of guy whose introductory, establishing moment is saving a refugee child, whose actual child leaves him out of her drawings of their family, who says, “We never leave anyone behind,” and who is chided by his superiors for being a loose cannon.

These earnest tropes aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they’re painful in a story about black refugees where most of the roles filled by nonwhite actors are corpses, corrupt officials, or evil military officers. All of the fellow spies who assist Evans in his quest to help ferry refugees to safety are white, and though Michael K. Williams has a role as the man spearheading the operation on the refugees’ side, his biggest moments are to be rescued by Evans and praise him in voice-over.

The focus turns the film into a quintessential white savior movie, making every person of color a prop to be saved rather than a developed character. That clunkiness is also exacerbated by how wildly The Red Sea Diving Resort swings from kooky fun whenever the agents are shown running the resort to harsh scenes of violence against the refugees. Movies can be and are more than one thing at a time, but the two threads that Raff is tying together are so discrete — and feel so inappropriately matched — that it makes the refugees’ plight feel even more incidental to the heroism of these white spies.

Looking exhausted, Kebede and Ari move to embrace in The Red Sea Diving Resort
Kebede Bimro (Michael K. Williams) and Ari (Evans) greet each other.
Marcos Cruz/Netflix

The rest of the movie unfolds pretty much exactly as you’d expect it to, with the bad guy firing his gun into the air in frustration, a conflict between the two main men who eventually begrudgingly come to accept each other, and real footage of Operation Brothers playing over the credits. There’s nothing surprising about it except for how poorly it’s all handled.

More’s the pity, too, as the story of the rescue of hundreds of refugees is a remarkable one, and the plight of the Jewish Ethiopian population is one that I hadn’t heard of prior to watching the film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem to be on Raff’s mind, either, as the film is less an appeal to basic human kindness for those in need than an excuse to make a fun action movie based on true events. The only demographic to which The Red Sea Diving Resort won’t be a disappointment is crowd tuning in specifically for Evans, as he spends a good chunk of the movie shirtless, and all of it sporting a great beard. But it’s not the post-Marvel breakout that, presumably, Evans would want it to be.

The Red Sea Diving Resort is streaming on Netflix now.

Source: Polygon.com

The 1,000-Player Battle Royale Game Has Been Canceled

The 1,000-player PC battle royale game, Mavericks: Proving Grounds, has been canceled. Developer Automaton Games is scuttling the project due to “insufficient funding,” while the studio overall appears to be closing up shop.

The developer confirmed the news in a post on its website. “Please be advised that due to insufficient funding, the development of the Mavericks: Proving Grounds game has now ceased.”

Automaton Games, which is based in the UK, has become insolvent, and insolvency practitioners Paul Appleton and Paul Cooper have been brought in to wind things down and close up the studio.

It’s an out-of-nowhere update for Marvericks. Just last week, the developers announced that the game reached the Alpha stage of development–which is a major milestone for any game. Marvericks was playable at E3 2019 back in June.

Marvericks used the cloud-based SpatialOS tools that allowed the team to make massive worlds that could accommodate 1,000 players on a map. A public beta was planned for November.

One of Automaton’s other games, the asymmetrical first-person multiplayer horror game Deceit, may still see the light of day despite the studio going into administration. The administrators said they are currently working on a licensing deal for the game, presumably with a different company. The free-to-play games remains available on Steam, where it has mostly positive reviews, and the joint administrators said “there will be no change in the live operation and provision of this game.”

Source: GameSpot.com

E. Honda, Poison, and Final Fight’s Lucia Are Coming To Street Fighter V

Screenshot: Capcom

A video uploaded to the Street Fighter V Steam page revealed that E. Honda, Poison, and Lucia are the three new characters that will be added to the PlayStation 4 and PC game. The trailer, which seems to have gone live prematurely in advance of this weekend’s Evo tournament, was taken down from the Steam page almost immediately.

Street Fighter V has steadily received additional characters since its launch in 2016, but competitors have been waiting for new fighters to join the game since the devilish Kage launched in late 2018.

Sumo wrestler E. Honda is the last of the classic eight Street Fighter II world warriors to debut in Street Fighter V, and will arrive alongside two characters that made their debut in the side-scrolling beat-em-up Final Fight series: fan favorite Poison, an enemy from the first game, and deep cut Lucia, one of the playable characters in the Super Nintendo game Final Fight 3.

These new characters will be available in Street Fighter V this coming Sunday, August 4, which just so happens to coincide with the Evo 2019 finals.

UPDATE: Capcom has now released the trailer:

Source: Kotaku.com

Trying To Please Everyone In Fire Emblem Is Turning Me Into A Sociopath

Image: Nintendo

I knew I had a problem when I saw a timer appear and my first reaction was to immediately hammer my Nintendo Switch’s power button until it fell into a merciful slumber.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a feature called an “advice box” in which characters write you letters asking for aid. You’ve got to pick a response within a 30-second window, and if you tell them what they want to hear, they’ll like you more. I put my Switch into sleep mode because I couldn’t risk being wrong. Having stalled the timer that was likely designed to prevent this exact kind of thing, I sought out my closest medieval tactics and anime dating adviser: Google.

Like many connoisseurs of turn-based strategy and blue hair, I am in love with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. On Sunday, I played it for 12 (mostly) uninterrupted hours. This week, I’ve been playing it in Lyfts, at bars, anywhere I can find a spare second. I like the battles, but I adore the characters. Sure, many of them are tropey anime archetypes, but they’re endearing from the get-go, and they reveal surprising layers of depth and trauma as the game goes on. This is why, when I found out from our own Gita Jackson’s tips post that I can recruit characters from every house (and that if I don’t, they might end up battling against me), I decided I must. I categorically refuse to harm a hair on any of my precious children’s meticulously coiffed heads. Also, I want them all to love me so much that their little cartoon hearts explode. Is that so much to ask?

I have, as a result of these intertwining desires, become a paranoid min-maxer. Fire Emblem: Three Houses contains a multitude of ways for you, a mercenary-turned-professor, to bond with various characters from all three of its titular houses. When it comes to students from your own house, you’re all set on the recruiting front, since they’re part of your army by default. But you can still rank up your support level with them by engaging in an overwhelming number of activities: eating together, cooking together, choir practice, tea parties, finding lost items, giving gifts, answering questions in class, picking the correct dialogue options during random conversations, sending flowers on birthdays… I’ll stop there, but the list goes on.

Upping your support level helps out in battle, but also results in cutscenes and story beats that are by far the most compelling part of the game’s narrative. As for students from houses whose colors you aren’t flying, you can win them over to your cause by excelling in specific skills, but you can also drop those skill requirements by preemptively increasing your support level with those characters.

Seeing as I want to recruit everybody as quickly as possible, this means precisely one thing: I can never mess up. If a student asks a question in class, I put down my Switch and Google the answer. Same goes for quick dialogues while I’m wandering the school, affinity for specific gifts, any lost item I find, taste in food, and yes, the advice box.

In games with similar time-limited relationship-building mechanics like Persona 5, I’ve tried to avoid this kind of approach, preferring instead to go on instinct and hope things work out alright in the end. But in Fire Emblem’s case, I’m burdened with the knowledge that I control characters’ fates.

I’m also a nearly pathological people pleaser. I just want everybody to be happy and chill, and when I drop the ball in Fire Emblem, characters are decidedly neither happy nor chill. Instead, they’re like “Oh, I’m surprised you’d say that” in a way that seems nonchalant enough but feels like you just tanked a first date by telling your crush that you believe all birds were replaced by government robots in the ‘60s. And throwing up on their shoes.

When I’m in the flow of playing the game this way, I don’t really think much about it. But when I take a step back and consider what I’m doing, I feel like a shameless sociopath, utterly devoid of firmly-held viewpoints or morals. I am, in practical terms, just making my character say whatever she needs to for everybody to like her. It’s not even really about role-playing anymore; it’s just about cold, mechanical optimization in pursuit of a larger goal—albeit one that’s still character-driven, at heart (as opposed to simply trying to get the best stats, or what have you). At one point, I was walking through the game’s chapel area, and one character asked about my feelings on religion and the game’s fictional Church of Seiros. My feelings were not super positive, but this character was religious, so I was like “Heck yeah, buddy. Church to the max.” Then, in the same room, speaking to another, differently inclined character, I was like “Church is for scrubs. Wanna do some coke out back?” (I might be paraphrasing a little.)

In real life, if you behave this way regularly enough, people become suspicious of you and your motives, or at least deem you too much of a coward to actually say what you think—a lesson I learned the hard way during my own younger, even more pathologically people-pleasing days.

So far, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has yet to give me this sort of pushback. Instead, it’s in my best interest to systematically charm everybody, beaming a pearly white grin to conceal the forked tongue behind it. In this way, Fire Emblem—like so many other narrative-driven RPGs before it—is at odds with itself, telling you to make choices and live with them but systemically encouraging optimization in the name of gaining access to everything and being everything to everyone. I’m enjoying getting to know these characters better, but I kinda wish I never got so wrapped up in doing it all correctly that I transformed into a Google sociopath. Yes, I want to protect every last one of my anime children, but is it really worth it if I lose myself in the process?

Source: Kotaku.com

Madden NFL 20 Review – Big Play

Continuing the Madden franchise’s recent tradition of story modes, Madden NFL 20 introduces a new narrative campaign. This new mode generally falls flat, but the pro football sim stands out on the field, with new additions that faithfully capture the essence of the NFL experience while making it fun to play again and again.

The new story mode, QB1: Face of the Franchise, replaces the Longshot story mode that was featured in Madden 18 and 19. Unlike those campaigns, which featured a pre-set character, Madden 20’s QB1 mode lets you create an entirely unique football star and guide him through the final stages of his collegiate career with the hopes of making an NFL starting roster, and, on a longer timeline, complete a journey to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl.

QB1’s story picks up as you decide which college to attend and play for. However, the college football elements within Madden 20 are not anything significant. You select a school from 10 options, including heavyweights like Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Clemson. It’s a treat to see fully licensed college football teams, complete with true-to-life jerseys, logos, stadiums, and marching band songs, but the gameplay experience in reality is limited to two games in the College Football Playoffs–and you can’t play the college teams in quickplay later on.

After winning the National Championship against all odds, you’re off to the NFL Combine where your performance in front of scouts and GMs determines how high you go in the draft. There are some genuinely funny moments here with your aloof agent Les Moore, and interactions with him are some of the best character moments in the story mode. After making it to the NFL, the game then disappointingly becomes the standard Franchise mode, except your character has more backstory that acts as fuel to drive you to succeed on the field. That’s the idea, at least; in practice, it leaves much to be desired.

In part, that’s because QB1’s cinematic cutscenes and Telltale-style choices end once you get to the NFL. At that point, the narrative beats play out through text messages you receive from fans and other players from around the league. This delivery method makes conversations awkward and ultimately forgettable. There is one storyline in particular involving a sick child rooting for you that falls flat; it tries too hard to tug on your heartstrings, moody piano pieces and all, without earning any payoff. Without giving too much away, another major storyline in QB1 involves your college teammate and friend, and it ends abruptly, with the strong suggestion that the story will continue in Madden NFL 21. That’s too bad, because this character, in the limited screen time he gets, is far more interesting than the cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill one you create.

In general, QB1 moves at such a fast pace that it doesn’t allow for thoughtful character development. Not only that, but the story that QB1 does tell is hokey and clumsily unraveled. The story overall feels barebones and incomplete, with the entirety of the QB1 mode feeling like a half-baked idea in the end.

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Despite the lackluster story and the way it’s delivered, QB1 succeeds in connecting you to your on-field performance and inspiring you to improve or play differently each week once you’ve made it to the NFL. The text message system, while not the best avenue for full conversation, is better utilized in delivering week-to-week objectives and challenges. You can complete these to earn XP, which you can then invest into your character in an RPG-lite-like system where you choose which aspects of your game you want to develop.

As an example, I responded with some trash talk against one of the league’s best cornerbacks, Richard Sherman, and my Game Day Goal, as it’s called, was to achieve 400 yards or more of offense and a 60-yard pass–not an easy task with Sherman in the backfield. The system is dynamic and responsive to what happens on the field week-to-week, and this is a nice touch that provides a further level of connection to your character and their status in the league.

Madden 20’s standard Franchise mode, which is separate from the QB1 mode, gets a welcome update this year. Its implementation of the new Scenario Engine, which lets you interact with players and coaches through the aforementioned text-message system, is the best new feature for Franchise. Like with QB1, having weekly objectives that you decide on is a compelling way to keep you interested and engaged in a 16+ week season that can otherwise get monotonous and repetitive. However, Franchise mode overall doesn’t get any other significant or meaningful updates this year, which might be a bummer for seasoned players wanting more.

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Perhaps the biggest and most exciting change for Madden 20 are the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities. 50 of the league’s best players have been given these super abilities, and they revamp the fundamentals of Madden playmaking. X-Factor abilities are unlocked when you meet the qualifications to get “in the zone”–for some QBs, it’s throwing for 5 or more yards in the air multiple times without making a mistake–while Superstar abilities are passive traits tied to your player that are always active.

The new X-Factor abilities are truly game-changers, and they further emphasize the distinction between the average NFL player and elite athletes. For example, the Gambler X-Factor ability–which only Aaron Rodgers has–makes it impossible for AI defenders to intercept his passes. Similarly powerful X-Factor abilities are available for defenders as well, and that helps balance things out. Not only that, but X-Factor abilities can be lost quickly; a QB who takes a sack is immediately out of the zone, while dropped passes and fumbles also cancel out these abilities.

These abilities, when combined with an elite player like Madden 20 cover star Patrick Mahomes (who has incredible baseline stats to begin with), become overly powerful in some instances. Mahomes’ unique passive Superstar abilities give him immense speed and dexterity out of the pocket, on top of his already powerful and accurate arm. When teammate Travis Kelce unlocks his own X-Factor ability (which gives him a guaranteed aggressive catch on any single-man coverage), it becomes simply too easy to complete big plays down the field.

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Outside of that issue, the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities introduce a level of strategy that the Madden series has never seen. I found myself often weighing up whether I should pursue the X-Factor qualification conditions or choose lower-risk plays that are more likely to be successful. At pivotal stages, like in the fourth quarter or in a third-and-long situation, this level of risk/reward is heightened. Not only that, but with 50 X-Factor abilities spread across players on the 32 NFL teams, it encourages you to try new teams and strategies.

Importantly, X-Factor abilities do not feel gimmicky or too overpowerful for the most part as they’re difficult to unlock and have numerous counters. Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots, for example, has an X-Factor ability called Acrobat that allows him to perform a diving move where he makes an incredible pass breakup. Some pass-rushers, too, including Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, can shred the defense and break the O-Line easily to sack the quarterback for a big loss. The saying “any given Sunday” is truer than ever in Madden 20 thanks to the X-Factor abilities.

Overall, the on-field action in Madden this year is better than ever. The game provides more on-screen info than last year’s iteration, making it easier to see things like decision-making specifics (such as average yards-per-play or yards given up) and which elite offensive and defensive players have X-Factor and Superstar abilities. This makes for an easy way to help you see the odds of having success with a play before the snap. The playbook menus (and menus overall, for that matter) are cleaned up and brighter, which helps you see important information at a glance.

Also new this year are Run-Pass Options added to playbooks. These hybrid plays provide yet another way for play-callers to mix things up and keep defenders guessing. There are also numerous player-specific animations, including Aaron Rodgers’ signature quick release and Patrick Mahomes’ sidearm throw. This all works together to make Madden 20 closer than ever to replicating the look and feel of actual pro football. Nothing in the updated gameplay mechanics for Madden 20 is as substantial as the introduction of Real Player Motion from last year, but the controls in Madden are as good as they’ve ever been thanks to further refinement on last year’s improvements and the introduction of some welcome tweaks and small changes. A subtle gameplay change for 2019 is that you can double press the receiver icon to pump fake; this small change makes it easier than ever to trick a defender into biting on a pass route, providing yet another level of depth and control.

The core fundamentals that underpin Madden 20’s gameplay feel more solid and dependable than ever. Mistakes like poor passes, missed tackles, and bad decision-making are yours and yours alone to own because the controls rarely, if ever, let you down.

Also notable for Madden 20 is what’s (generally) not there: bugs. After many hours with the game, I only experienced a handful of minor glitches, though your mileage may vary, and it’s worth noting that you can continue to expect other oddities like out-of-place commentary and some sideline players executing the same animations all the time. I also experienced what felt like an unusually high number of facemask calls and injuries.

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Now in its third year using EA’s Frostbite engine, Madden 20 also looks very good with its better-looking player models that have richer detail and more realistic flourishes (except for Greg Olsen; what happened there?). The Madden 20 game engine also provides gorgeous environmental effects like glistening sun rays peeking through the clouds and casting shadows on the field and snow effects that limit your vision and force you to suggest playing more conservatively to accommodate for the wintry conditions.

The commentary team composed of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis also return in Madden 20, and they are consistently a treat to listen to. Despite some lines being repeated from time to time (how many times do we have to hear that Julian Edelman was a quarterback in college or that Tom Brady was initially drafted to play baseball?), the pair deliver the right mixture of lines that keep you informed and engaged in equal measure. Madden 20’s overall broadcast, presentation, and gameplay packages aim to replicate the real-life NFL experience, but it continues to be a shame that the voicelines–at least all the ones I heard in over 20 hours with Madden 20–do not comment on real-world NFL issues. As with previous years, the commentary will be updated regularly throughout the season.

Among Madden 20’s other modes is the fantasy team-building card-based Ultimate Team, and this continues to be the game’s richest when it comes to the sheer multitude of challenges to complete. It remains a thrill to build a fantasy team and compete either against other fantasy AI teams or the world at large through online play.

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A subtle yet enjoyable change for MUT this year is how you can move from one challenge to the next without returning to the menu screen, which is great considering how many there are to complete. There is also a new “Mission” system that helps you select the right challenges to complete in order to acquire items for your deck. In years past, MUT could feel like a hard-to-parse system that you slogged through waywardly, but the new system gives you more direction, and as such it is more respectful of your time.

Ultimate Team does have issues with microtransactions, however. At the very start, the tutorial instructs you to visit the store where you can make real-money purchases, which feels like an unnecessary nudge toward spending extra. As with past iterations of MUT, it can feel like a grind to get the cards you want, which in turn encourages you to consider spending money on microtransactions when you otherwise might not. That rubbed me the wrong way, but MUT overall is still an enjoyable and engaging mode that I expect to return to again and again.

Madden NFL 20 is an improved version of the annualized professional football series that excels in some areas and leaves something to be desired in others. The new QB1 career mode–which includes a barebones NCAA football experience–overall feels like a half-baked idea that doesn’t deliver anything meaningful or interesting. When it comes to the on-the-field action, however, the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities shake up the familiar gameplay formula to give seasoned players and newcomers alike a fresh way to scheme plays and orchestrate strategy on both sides of the ball.

Source: GameSpot.com

Madden NFL 20 Review – Some Stumbles, No Fumbles

Continuing the Madden franchise’s recent tradition of story modes, Madden NFL 20 introduces a new narrative campaign. This new mode generally falls flat, but the pro football sim stands out on the field, with new additions that faithfully capture the essence of the NFL experience while making it fun to play again and again.

The new story mode, QB1: Face of the Franchise, replaces the Longshot story mode that was featured in Madden 18 and 19. Unlike those campaigns, which featured a pre-set character, Madden 20’s QB1 mode lets you create an entirely unique football star and guide him through the final stages of his collegiate career with the hopes of making an NFL starting roster, and, on a longer timeline, complete a journey to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl.

QB1’s story picks up as you decide which college to attend and play for. However, the college football elements within Madden 20 are not anything significant. You select a school from 10 options, including heavyweights like Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Clemson. It’s a treat to see fully licensed college football teams, complete with true-to-life jerseys, logos, stadiums, and marching band songs, but the gameplay experience in reality is limited to two games in the College Football Playoffs–and you can’t play the college teams in quickplay later on.

After winning the National Championship against all odds, you’re off to the NFL Combine where your performance in front of scouts and GMs determines how high you go in the draft. There are some genuinely funny moments here with your aloof agent Les Moore, and interactions with him are some of the best character moments in the story mode. After making it to the NFL, the game then disappointingly becomes the standard Franchise mode, except your character has more backstory that acts as fuel to drive you to succeed on the field. That’s the idea, at least; in practice, it leaves much to be desired.

In part, that’s because QB1’s cinematic cutscenes and Telltale-style choices end once you get to the NFL. At that point, the narrative beats play out through text messages you receive from fans and other players from around the league. This delivery method makes conversations awkward and ultimately forgettable. There is one storyline in particular involving a sick child rooting for you that falls flat; it tries too hard to tug on your heartstrings, moody piano pieces and all, without earning any payoff. Without giving too much away, another major storyline in QB1 involves your college teammate and friend, and it ends abruptly, with the strong suggestion that the story will continue in Madden NFL 21. That’s too bad, because this character, in the limited screen time he gets, is far more interesting than the cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill one you create.

In general, QB1 moves at such a fast pace that it doesn’t allow for thoughtful character development. Not only that, but the story that QB1 does tell is hokey and clumsily unraveled. The story overall feels barebones and incomplete, with the entirety of the QB1 mode feeling like a half-baked idea in the end.

No Caption Provided

Despite the lackluster story and the way it’s delivered, QB1 succeeds in connecting you to your on-field performance and inspiring you to improve or play differently each week once you’ve made it to the NFL. The text message system, while not the best avenue for full conversation, is better utilized in delivering week-to-week objectives and challenges. You can complete these to earn XP, which you can then invest into your character in an RPG-lite-like system where you choose which aspects of your game you want to develop.

As an example, I responded with some trash talk against one of the league’s best cornerbacks, Richard Sherman, and my Game Day Goal, as it’s called, was to achieve 400 yards or more of offense and a 60-yard pass–not an easy task with Sherman in the backfield. The system is dynamic and responsive to what happens on the field week-to-week, and this is a nice touch that provides a further level of connection to your character and their status in the league.

Madden 20’s standard Franchise mode, which is separate from the QB1 mode, gets a welcome update this year. Its implementation of the new Scenario Engine, which lets you interact with players and coaches through the aforementioned text-message system, is the best new feature for Franchise. Like with QB1, having weekly objectives that you decide on is a compelling way to keep you interested and engaged in a 16+ week season that can otherwise get monotonous and repetitive. However, Franchise mode overall doesn’t get any other significant or meaningful updates this year, which might be a bummer for seasoned players wanting more.

No Caption Provided

Perhaps the biggest and most exciting change for Madden 20 are the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities. 50 of the league’s best players have been given these super abilities, and they revamp the fundamentals of Madden playmaking. X-Factor abilities are unlocked when you meet the qualifications to get “in the zone”–for some QBs, it’s throwing for 5 or more yards in the air multiple times without making a mistake–while Superstar abilities are passive traits tied to your player that are always active.

The new X-Factor abilities are truly game-changers, and they further emphasize the distinction between the average NFL player and elite athletes. For example, the Gambler X-Factor ability–which only Aaron Rodgers has–makes it impossible for AI defenders to intercept his passes. Similarly powerful X-Factor abilities are available for defenders as well, and that helps balance things out. Not only that, but X-Factor abilities can be lost quickly; a QB who takes a sack is immediately out of the zone, while dropped passes and fumbles also cancel out these abilities.

These abilities, when combined with an elite player like Madden 20 cover star Patrick Mahomes (who has incredible baseline stats to begin with), become overly powerful in some instances. Mahomes’ unique passive Superstar abilities give him immense speed and dexterity out of the pocket, on top of his already powerful and accurate arm. When teammate Travis Kelce unlocks his own X-Factor ability (which gives him a guaranteed aggressive catch on any single-man coverage), it becomes simply too easy to complete big plays down the field.

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Outside of that issue, the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities introduce a level of strategy that the Madden series has never seen. I found myself often weighing up whether I should pursue the X-Factor qualification conditions or choose lower-risk plays that are more likely to be successful. At pivotal stages, like in the fourth quarter or in a third-and-long situation, this level of risk/reward is heightened. Not only that, but with 50 X-Factor abilities spread across players on the 32 NFL teams, it encourages you to try new teams and strategies.

Importantly, X-Factor abilities do not feel gimmicky or too overpowerful for the most part as they’re difficult to unlock and have numerous counters. Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots, for example, has an X-Factor ability called Acrobat that allows him to perform a diving move where he makes an incredible pass breakup. Some pass-rushers, too, including Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, can shred the defense and break the O-Line easily to sack the quarterback for a big loss. The saying “any given Sunday” is truer than ever in Madden 20 thanks to the X-Factor abilities.

Overall, the on-field action in Madden this year is better than ever. The game provides more on-screen info than last year’s iteration, making it easier to see things like decision-making specifics (such as average yards-per-play or yards given up) and which elite offensive and defensive players have X-Factor and Superstar abilities. This makes for an easy way to help you see the odds of having success with a play before the snap. The playbook menus (and menus overall, for that matter) are cleaned up and brighter, which helps you see important information at a glance.

Also new this year are Run-Pass Options added to playbooks. These hybrid plays provide yet another way for play-callers to mix things up and keep defenders guessing. There are also numerous player-specific animations, including Aaron Rodgers’ signature quick release and Patrick Mahomes’ sidearm throw. This all works together to make Madden 20 closer than ever to replicating the look and feel of actual pro football. Nothing in the updated gameplay mechanics for Madden 20 is as substantial as the introduction of Real Player Motion from last year, but the controls in Madden are as good as they’ve ever been thanks to further refinement on last year’s improvements and the introduction of some welcome tweaks and small changes. A subtle gameplay change for 2019 is that you can double press the receiver icon to pump fake; this small change makes it easier than ever to trick a defender into biting on a pass route, providing yet another level of depth and control.

The core fundamentals that underpin Madden 20’s gameplay feel more solid and dependable than ever. Mistakes like poor passes, missed tackles, and bad decision-making are yours and yours alone to own because the controls rarely, if ever, let you down.

Also notable for Madden 20 is what’s (generally) not there: bugs. After many hours with the game, I only experienced a handful of minor glitches, though your mileage may vary, and it’s worth noting that you can continue to expect other oddities like out-of-place commentary and some sideline players executing the same animations all the time. I also experienced what felt like an unusually high number of facemask calls and injuries.

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Now in its third year using EA’s Frostbite engine, Madden 20 also looks very good with its better-looking player models that have richer detail and more realistic flourishes (except for Greg Olsen; what happened there?). The Madden 20 game engine also provides gorgeous environmental effects like glistening sun rays peeking through the clouds and casting shadows on the field and snow effects that limit your vision and force you to suggest playing more conservatively to accommodate for the wintry conditions.

The commentary team composed of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis also return in Madden 20, and they are consistently a treat to listen to. Despite some lines being repeated from time to time (how many times do we have to hear that Julian Edelman was a quarterback in college or that Tom Brady was initially drafted to play baseball?), the pair deliver the right mixture of lines that keep you informed and engaged in equal measure. Madden 20’s overall broadcast, presentation, and gameplay packages aim to replicate the real-life NFL experience, but it continues to be a shame that the voicelines–at least all the ones I heard in over 20 hours with Madden 20–do not comment on real-world NFL issues. As with previous years, the commentary will be updated regularly throughout the season.

Among Madden 20’s other modes is the fantasy team-building card-based Ultimate Team, and this continues to be the game’s richest when it comes to the sheer multitude of challenges to complete. It remains a thrill to build a fantasy team and compete either against other fantasy AI teams or the world at large through online play.

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A subtle yet enjoyable change for MUT this year is how you can move from one challenge to the next without returning to the menu screen, which is great considering how many there are to complete. There is also a new “Mission” system that helps you select the right challenges to complete in order to acquire items for your deck. In years past, MUT could feel like a hard-to-parse system that you slogged through waywardly, but the new system gives you more direction, and as such it is more respectful of your time.

Ultimate Team does have issues with microtransactions, however. At the very start, the tutorial instructs you to visit the store where you can make real-money purchases, which feels like an unnecessary nudge toward spending extra. As with past iterations of MUT, it can feel like a grind to get the cards you want, which in turn encourages you to consider spending money on microtransactions when you otherwise might not. That rubbed me the wrong way, but MUT overall is still an enjoyable and engaging mode that I expect to return to again and again.

Madden NFL 20 is an improved version of the annualized professional football series that excels in some areas and leaves something to be desired in others. The new QB1 career mode–which includes a barebones NCAA football experience–overall feels like a half-baked idea that doesn’t deliver anything meaningful or interesting. When it comes to the on-the-field action, however, the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities shake up the familiar gameplay formula to give seasoned players and newcomers alike a fresh way to scheme plays and orchestrate strategy on both sides of the ball.

Source: GameSpot.com

Borderlands 3 Goes Gold Over A Month Before Release

Borderlands 3 has officially gone gold. Gearbox confirmed the game’s status on Twitter and thanked everyone who contributed to its completion.

For those not up to date on the lingo, a game that’s “gone gold” has been completed and is ready for manufacturing. So Borderlands 3 is in its final stage before release. Any additional changes to the game’s code that are made from now on will come in the form of a day one patch or post-release updates.

Borderlands 3 takes place shortly after the events of both Tales from the Borderlands and Borderlands 2: Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary. The game launches with four new playable Vault HuntersZane, Amara, Moze, and FL4K–each of whom has some of the most uniquely designed skill trees seen in any previous Borderlands title.

We’ve already had a chance to play as the first three. Zane can sacrifice his grenades to equip two different active skills at once, Amara’s mastery of the elements allows her to mix and match the skills of every Siren that’s come before her, and Moze is able to change what her active skill does by putting different weapons and armor on her Iron Bear mech.

Launching on September 13 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, Borderlands 3 has a limited-time exclusivity deal with the Epic Games Store. Once the deal is complete, the game will go to other PC platforms like Steam. Borderlands 3 is also releasing on Google Stadia once the cloud-based game streaming service launches. Though it won’t have cross-platform play at launch, Gearbox is “committed” to making it happen.

Source: GameSpot.com

The Original Diablo Is Now Playable In Your Browser

Screenshot: Diablo (GOG )

The sanctity of this place has been fouled!

Released back in 1996, the original Diablo has never gotten as much attention as its successors. That’s one of the reasons a group of programmers took it upon themselves to reverse engineer the game’s source code to make it possible for others to port it to web browsers.

The effort to reconstruct Diablo’s source code began last year, spearheaded by a programmer who goes by GalaXyHaXz, as part of a Diablo fan project called Devilution. “In order to ensure that everything is preserved, Devilution keeps everything as it was originally designed,” writes the Devilution team on Github. “This goes as far as bugs and badly written code in the original game. With that it serves as a base for developers to work with, making it much easier than before to update, fix, and port the game to other platforms.”

That then made it possible for a mod group called Rivsoft to make the game playable for anyone with a web browser over at diablo.rivsoft.net. It provides a link for you to download the Devilution group’s source code, which you can then drag and drop onto the screen in order to start playing the shareware version of the game. Called Diablo Spawn, it was the part of the game you could play without having the CD inserted and includes the first two parts of the dungeon as the warrior class.

If you have an actual copy of Diablo (it’s $10 on GOG, for example), you can drag and drop the DIABDAT.MPQ file from the game’s installed folder to begin playing that version of the game in the browser instead. The original Diablo is a bit archaic-looking over two decades later, but there’s still a satisfying rhythm to it, especially every time you send a skeleton’s bones thundering apart by clicking it with your sword.

Having Diablo playable in a web browser also makes it perfect for brief breaks at work or school. Just don’t forget to have Alt +F4 ready.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Mind Behind Neon Genesis Evangelion Is Helping to Make a New Ultraman Movie

It’s time once more for a new Ultra Warrior to rise.
Image: Tsuburaya Productins

Hideaki Anno gave us one of the most interesting Godzilla films in years with Shin Godzilla. Now, he’s turning his attentions toward another Tokusatu icon: the legendary size-changing superhero Ultraman.

Tsuburaya Productions and Toho, alongside animation studio Khara, have just formally announced Shin Ultraman, a new movie project re-imagining the Ultraman mythos in a similar manner to Shin Godzilla’s take on the King of All Kaiju’s cinematic legacy. Set to release in 2021, Shin Ultraman will once again see Anno partner up with Shin Godzilla’s director Shinji Higuchi, who will direct Shin Ultraman, while Anno will produce and write the screenplay. Although the announcement notes that an initial script was drafted this past February, Anno will “fully join the project” once work on the long-awaited Evangelion 3.0+1.0—the final entry in his rebooted movie adaptation of his seminal mecha/existential crisis anime series—has come to a conclusion ahead of its planned release in 2020.

Shin Godzilla gave Anno the opportunity to give us a weird as hell take on Godzilla that was as grim as it was occasionally bonkers, so seeing what he can do with Ultraman’s alien absurdity—not just the legacy of different Ultra heroes from across the franchise’s vast history, but the series’ weird, less-superheroic roots in the alien-investigation series Ultra Q—is going to be an interesting thing to look out for. We’ll bring you more on Shin Ultraman as we learn it.


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Source: Kotaku.com

The Long-Awaited Dark Souls Compendium Is Finally Available–And It’s On Sale, Too

It’s been over six months since the Dark Souls Trilogy Compendium first went up for pre-order on Amazon, and the book has since been plagued by multiple delays that led some to believe it may not come out at all. But luckily for any fans who submitted their pre-order requests as far back as January, the guide is finally arriving on people’s doorsteps. You can order a copy for yourself today, and it’s even 34% off right now, selling for $33.09 with free shipping on Amazon. Its list price is $50.

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Dark Souls Trilogy Compendium

$33.09 ($50)

See it at Amazon

Dubbed “the ultimate Dark Souls reference book,” the Dark Souls compendium is a stunning hardcover book with pages printed on premium art paper. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to know about the critically acclaimed trilogy, from in-depth lore to detailed, illustrated maps and a chronicle of every piece of NPC dialogue in the three games. The book also includes a bookmark ribbon and four art prints you can hang on your walls.

German publisher Future Press, which has produced collector’s edition guides for other games like Bloodborne and Horizon Zero Dawn, took to Twitter to clear up some of the confusion around the Dark Souls compendium’s shipping delays. On April 29, Future Press tweeted that all copies were being printed on a high-quality printer in Europe, causing an initial delay to ensure quality control. Then, on July 15, the publisher updated its followers that the books were being held for two weeks by US customs for inspection. Finally, on July 23, Future Press confirmed that the books are now in stock at Amazon, despite conflicting information in Amazon’s listing and in emails some people have received.

And fortunately, people are corroborating that claim, with many reporting that their copies have finally arrived.

So whether you’ve been on the fence about pre-ordering or are hearing about the compendium for the first time, it finally seems safe to place your order. There’s no knowing how long it will be discounted at Amazon, where prices fluctuate frequently, so there’s no better time to snag a copy for yourself or even a friend or family member (early Christmas present, perhaps?). Let us know in the comments down below–will you be picking up the Dark Souls Compendium now that it’s finally shipping?

Source: GameSpot.com