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

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.

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.

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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.

No Caption Provided
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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.

No Caption Provided

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.

No Caption Provided

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

Evangelion creator’s next project is a new take on Ultraman

Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno will re-imagine Ultraman, the iconic, 54-year-old tokusatsu superhero who has appeared in hundreds of Japanese movies, television shows, and video games, in a new movie called Shin Ultraman, which translates to New Ultraman.

Shin Ultraman will hit movie theaters in Japan in 2021, according to an announcement from animation studio Khara, production company Toho, and special effects studio Tsuburaya Productions, longtime producer of the Ultra Series, which includes Ultraman.

Anno is producing and writing the screenplay for Shin Ultraman, and will “fully join the project” after completing work on Evangelion: 3.0+1.0, the next film in the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. Shinji Higuchi will direct Shin Ultraman.

The studios involved in Shin Ultraman offered little detail on the project, including whether it would be animated, live action, or a combination of the two. But based on the title alone, Shin Ultraman sounds like it will offer fans of tokusatsu superhero action an original take on the character, just as Anno did with 2016’s Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence). That film was written by Anno, and co-directed by him and Higuchi. Shin Godzilla was as much of a biting satire of Japanese politics and bureaucracy as it was an engrossing kaiju movie.

Source: Polygon.com

Blizzard explains new Overwatch hero’s design, mental health, and baby-soft feet

Overwatch gets three new heroes a year. There’s a routine and a rhythm to their release, especially for the heroes who are announced outside of BlizzCon. There’s a tease or two on social media, and then we get to see an animation that introduces us to the character as, well, a character, and then finally there is a kit reveal. Sometimes, those reveals land well, and I am delighted or intrigued at the newest member of the Overwatch cast.

Sigma, Overwatch’s Hero 31, was far more of a gut punch. His origins animation is an ambitious piece of work from the Overwatch team; it involves non-linear storytelling, an abstract depiction of Sigma’s thought process, and a healthy dose of cosmic horror. It verges on the Lovecraftian, or inspired by a plot device like Warhammer 40k’s Warp.

The mental illness stigma

I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life, including in-patient stints in hospitals. Today, my health is much better managed, and I take a cocktail of medications and see a surfeit of professionals to ensure it stays that way. But when you’ve been in the mental health system your entire life, it’s easy to see how parts of that experience have evolved into common cultural tropes and archetypes.

Padded rooms, abandoned asylums, and straitjackets are all imagery that is liberally used in media. It’s a convenient shorthand for unpredictability, violence, or loss of control that appeals to a primal fear — and unfortunately, that can contribute to the real-life stigma around mental illness. In Sigma’s origin video, he is restrained. Floating equations are liberally used throughout the narrative, reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind’s depiction of a mathematician dealing with schizophrenia.

When I had the chance to sit down with three Overwatch developers, including lead writer Michael Chu, I asked about the animation and whether it was an intentional depiction of mental illness.

“It’s interesting, because I can see how people in the community have identified with Sigma as someone who is struggling or dealing with mental health issues,” Chu said. “But with the idea of the character, we never intended him to be an example of someone who’s going through mental health issues. He’s really supposed to be more focused on this very specific thing that happened to him, which is that his body and his mind were literally ripped apart by the momentary exposure to a black hole.

“With other aspects of his character, he’s certainly supposed to be eccentric. The idea behind that is more just that he sees the world a little differently. We liked this idea that he had this connection to music. So, for example, the way that he thinks about the universe, gravity, and physics, is through this prism of music. From experience talking to physicists and especially theoretical physicists is that other things that aren’t literally just the equation or the mathematics have influenced the way in which they interpret things. And so that’s the direction we went with him.”

Overwatch - Sigma’s origin animation shows him in a medical gurney and a spacesuit. Blizzard Entertainment

Is Sigma a “bad guy”?

According to Blizzard, Sigma is “unaware” he’s “being used as a living weapon.” Instead, he’s largely working off-site, in a lab Talon has granted to him. It’s a similar dynamic as the one Symmetra shares with her Talon-affiliated boss at the unethical Vishkar corporation. Symmetra is also on the autism spectrum, as hinted in a comic and confirmed by game director Jeff Kaplan. It’s an uncomfortable dynamic to work with, and can potentially go wrong.

With Sigma, it’s easy to read the shorthand Blizzard uses as common mental health tropes, even if it wasn’t what was intended during production. If one sees him as unstable and ill, then the dynamic between him and Talon is inherently exploitative.

That’s not unprecedented; Talon kidnapped Widowmaker, brainwashed her until she killed her own husband, and then underwent genetic modification that included her heart slowing down and her skin turning blue. But Widowmaker is so extreme, so disconnected to real life, that it’s hard to imagine seeing yourself in the blue, catsuited, murder-loving, mysterious assassin.

I had a strong reaction to Sigma’s origins animation because I saw myself there. The gurney, the restraints, the artificial lighting, and the confusion were all familiar hallmarks of my experiences in mental health wards. It’s powerful imagery, but one that perhaps unintentionally trades in dangerous shorthand based on the stigma against mental illness.

Overwatch - Art from Sigma’s origin animation, showing him hovering. He’s wearing his in-game Overwatch uniform. Sigma is surrounded by the other members of Talon.

Best foot forward

After Sigma’s origin animation and gameplay, one of the biggest fan focuses has been Sigma’s feet. Some of that dialogue has been astonished (or a little bit horny) at Sigma’s bare feet and long toes. Other people have been more concerned about what Sigma’s feet might mean for the overall depiction of mental illness in Overwatch.

A Blizzard character artist, Qiu Fang, wrote that Sigma’s bare feet helped “sell the ‘asylum’ look a bit more”, citing the policy of hospitals and institutions removing shoelaces from patients as a way to reduce the risk of self-harm.

When I ask the assembled developers about their thoughts on the fan reaction around Sigma’s release, the topic of feet comes up naturally.

“The feet thing reminds me of a couple of funny stories, because I remember when Jeff [Kaplan] was like ‘He floats. Why does he have to wear shoes?’” said Chu. “It’s something he felt strongly about, and it was like… OK, that makes sense. He floats, he doesn’t need shoes. Jeff was also like ‘It… it’ll be a thing’, which… [laughs].”

“The other thing was from Alyssa [Wong, Overwatch writer],” Chu continued. “She was saying — and I can’t remember how she had heard this story — but when you’re up in space, and there’s no gravity, you don’t use your feet the way you do, and the blisters and calluses and stuff just fall off.”

There’s a moment of cross-talk with Chu and Joshua Noh where the two confirm that Sigma does, in fact, have soft feet and it influences why he floats. Chu credits concept artist Arnold Tsang with his “continued interesting footwear and foot design.”

new hero Sigma floats in the desert map Petra in a screenshot from Overwatch Blizzard Entertainment

Equations and conclusions

No Overwatch hero is the responsibility of any one developer at Blizzard. Sigma went through several iterations as he was developed, including a stint where developers thought the character might be Mauga, a Talon character from Baptiste’s past. His kit was eventually prototyped, and the rest was built around that kit and the idea of a gravity-based hero.

The origins animation and Sigma, as a whole, draws on established cultural understandings of mental illness. He’s described as a brilliant, yet eccentric pioneer, who’s ambition led him to undergo “serious psychological damage” that “fractured” his mind. Afterwards, he was “quarantined”, “deemed unsafe”, and “isolated.”

This isn’t a sci-fi, futuristic experience for many people; it’s an occurrence that many people dealing with the mental health system experience. The end result is that it comes across like Blizzard either wasn’t aware or didn’t think to investigate the real-life parallels of Sigma’s story. He doesn’t ruin the game for me, but he’s an uncomfortable splinter in the premise of the game.

Overwatch has been sold as a futuristic, inclusive world that is at best an utopia, and at worst, worth fighting for. When I look at Sigma’s origin animation, I see a depiction of a personal, painful experience I went through. I see a system that fails people that struggle, and sees illness as inherently dangerous.

It’s a lot to grapple with, and it raises questions. How does a game like Overwatch, which builds lore around the core experience of a team-based shooter, depict complex and multifaceted characters with inner conflicts that might match the ones real people experience?

“I think we thought this character would hit people, and they’d be like ‘Whoa! OK, that’s a lot to take in!’” says Chu. “That was very much by design.”

Source: Polygon.com

Pokémon Go Rayquaza raid guide: counters, best movesets, and more

Rayquaza is returning to Pokémon Go raids from July 31 at 4 p.m. ET until Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. ET, which means it’s time to try to nab the best dragon-type attacker in the game.

The green dragon will also be returning with a chance to be Shiny, so if you see that mean black dragon instead, get pumped. Odds to nab a shiny are about 1 in 19, but if you do get one, remember that Shinies have a 100 percent catch rate when they appear (as long as you don’t miss all of your balls).

Shiny Rayquaza next to its normal form in Pokémon Go Niantic via Polygon

To take down Rayquaza, you’re best off using ice-type moves. Dragon-, rock-, and fairy-type moves also work, but ice-type moves do double-effective damage against it. The best counters are as follows:

  • Mamoswine with Powder Snow and Avalanche
  • Weavile with Ice Shard and Avalanche
  • Glaceon with Frost BReath and Avalanch
  • Mewtwo with Psycho Cut and Ice Beam

You can also use Dialga with Dragon Breath and Draco Meteor, but it’ll be in for some hurt if Rayquaza knows Outrage, so try to stick to ice-types if you can.

Rayquaza is one of the most powerful Pokémon in the game, but it’s also very possible to duo or trio in raids. One simple flowchart made by Reddit user stozball notes that a duo each using six level 25 or higher Mamoswines can take down Rayquaza. If you don’t have six Mamoswines, Weaviles or Glaceons at level 30 or higher can also fill that space. Even if you don’t have those, Rayquaza is shockingly easy to do with a low amount of people, so grab your friends and your ice-types and get raiding.

Once you get your beautiful dragon, make sure it knows Dragon Tail and Outrage. This is its best moveset. While you can replace Outrage with Aerial Ace if you need a flying-type attacker, its DPS with Outrage makes it one of the best in the entire game.

For more information on raids, you can check out our guide.

Source: Polygon.com

Destiny 2: Eververse store inventory reset, July 30-Aug. 6

Tess Everis is the owner and operator of the Eververse store in Destiny 2. Each week, Tess sells a new inventory of items for Bright Dust, the currency you earn just from playing Destiny 2. She also rotates a grouping of items for Silver, the game’s real-money currency.

You can always find Tess in the Tower, standing next to the postmaster.

Bright Dust shop

Here is Tess’ Bright Dust offerings for this week. With Solstice of Heroes going on, she has some new, summers themed items going on:

Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Petiolora Growth, green shader — 40 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Dream of a New World, weapon ornament for Sturm — 1250 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Jade Jester, weapon ornament for the Jade Rabbit — 1250 Bright Dust
  • Vor Pyl VIII, ship — 500 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Paperwork, emote — 3,250 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Micro Mini, 160 speed Sparrow — 2,500 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Jubilant Shell, Ghost shell — 2850 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Summertide Kite, ship — 2,000 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Hip Bump, emote — 1250 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Triumphant Projection, Ghost projection — 1500 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Buried Treasure Projection, Ghost projection — 1500 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Tangerine Gloss, orange and blue shader — 40 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Pomegranate Gloss, dark red and yellow shader — 40 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Beach Ball Effects, transmat effect— 450 Bright Dust
Image of Destiny Eververse item Bungie
  • Sandcastle Effects, transmat effect — 450 Bright Dust
  • Fireteam Medallion, XP boost — 50 Bright Dust
  • Gleaming Boon of the Vanguard, Eververse gift from Strikes — 250 Bright Dust
  • Gleaming Boon of the Crucible, Eververse gift from Crucible matches — 600 Bright Dust

Most Silver items will eventually go on sale for Bright Dust.

Source: Polygon.com

Fortnite season X brings emotes to Save the World

Fortnite’s first-but-less-glamorous mode Save the World will now share the locker full of emotes that players have been using in its more visible Battle Royale incarnation. This becomes effective with the launch of season X, a community coordinator told the game’s subreddit.

That means the emoticons, sprays, toys and, of course, dances available to a player in Battle Royale are available to them in Save the World after season X begins soon. This is part of a larger reconditioning that will bring other improvements to cosmetics and locker functionality, Epic said. The publisher also plans to update the emotes so that they play out, with every Hero type, without clipping or weird positioning.

“Fixing those is an ongoing process,” Epic said. The publisher also plans on adding Emote functionality to the end-of-mission screen (in Save the World) and to call out distances in chat when toys are used.

“We’re focusing on wraps and pickaxes as the next addition to the Locker,” the community coordinator wrote. “When pickaxes arrive in Save the World, we will grant all of the unique pickaxes you earn through progress in Save the World as cosmetic items which you’ll be able to use in Battle Royale as well.”

As work continues, Epic says three principles will guide any forthcoming changes: Cosmetics will be completely optional (meaning they provide no gameplay advantage); no one will lose any cosmetic option once acquired; and they will be as universal as possible.

At some point, Epic will add an Item Shop to Save the World. “At the moment, we’re focused on adding the ability to use cosmetics you already own,” the manager said. “For now, you’ll have to buy cosmetics through the Battle Royale store until the Save the World Item Shop goes live.”

Source: Polygon.com

What do Luigi and Jackie Chan have in common?

Ever notice that Mario’s brother Luigi has a lot in common with martial arts and action-comedy legend Jackie Chan? Of course you have! Everyone knows this! Especially people who experienced the 10-minute demo of Luigi’s Mansion 3 at E3 back in June.

Next Level Games is bringing incredible animation chops to Nintendo’s ghoul-bothering franchise. Everything comes to life and oozes personality: the environment, the ghosts, and most of all, Luigi, who is a huge coward. So how does Nintendo make a game where a huge coward wrangles the undead in a convincing fashion? The answer is the Luigi / Jackie connection that I, and everyone I know, keep talking about! I’ve been yelling it on the streets and I’ve found nobody who will disagree with me!

Jackie and Luigi share a style of movement that’s built on the intersection of two elements, effort and vulnerability. It’s a philosophy that’s crystalized in one of Jackie’s favorite gags: He punches a foe, and he hurts their face, but he also hurts his fist. This same philosophy permeates all of Luigi’s wonderful animations, which I detail in the video above!

If you enjoy being reminded about things you already know because everyone’s been saying it, make sure you subscribe to Polygon’s channel.

Source: Polygon.com

Sky: Children Of The Light Review – Flying Free

When you start up Sky: Children of the Light, numerous messages shoot across the screen as it loads. Messages informing you of server connections, the reception of in-game currencies, and the like are commonplace for games with an online focus, but there’s one short message that feels uniquely descriptive to thatgamecompany’s fourth title: “Finding new friends.” It’s just a simple notification that you’re being connected to other players in this intimately connected universe, but it’s also a strong message of what Sky is really about. Although it mimics many gameplay elements from Journey, it’s Sky’s evolution of those ideas that makes it a fascinating multiplayer experiment with deeply meditative qualities.

Playing Sky is incredibly similar to Journey. You control a robed figure, recognizable as a small child, and navigate a series of small environments connected only by the constellations in the stars they share above. Sky keeps things simple by tasking you with navigating its environments and holding down a single button to soar into the air and take flight. Flight is central to Sky’s otherwise simple mechanics, letting you execute gorgeous maneuvers through the clouds or delicately glide between the remains of mysterious ruins. Expressive yet subtle animations make each movement in the air feel delightful, even though you’re doing little more than controlling your direction. Swooping down into the clouds only to tilt upwards at the last minute is rewarded with a cute pirouette, for example, letting the wind engulf your robe and accurately shape it in the wind.

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Flight isn’t free in Sky. Flying draws light from your robe, which limits how much aerial freedom you have. Light is collected from any light source you come across, and it’s your job to spread it around in turn. You ferry around light with candles, using them to spread fire to unlit lanterns and shrines. You can also use light to burn away corrupted vegetation or scare dangerous wildlife that will attack you in the dark. Glowing, faceless children are scattered around each new area you explore, bestowing you with wings that help you upgrade the amount of light you can store at a time, in turn letting you fly longer. You can lose wings when you’re carrying no light and take damage from enemies or environmental hazards, though you can easily pick them up again. Sky doesn’t feel punishing at any point, but it does use these gentle nudges to remind you of how great it feels to have a bounty of flight at your fingertips and what it might feel like to lose it again.

Collecting light is beneficial to getting around, which in turn lets you discover lost spirits that govern the central progression in Sky. Each area has a star constellation that you slowly complete by saving lost spirits and returning them to the skies above. Most of these are simple exploration puzzles. By diligently poking around, you find blue outlines of long-forgotten beings, each creating a breadcrumb trail to follow that tells a short story of the spirit it’s leading to. These are moments frozen in time, telling vague stories that can come across as anything from humorous to tragic. It’s cheerful to see a skit of two clumsy beings attempting to move objects far bigger than them from one room to another, and equally sober to witness another in anguish, mourning a painful loss. Sky’s story is intentionally vague so that you fill in the blanks, interpreting what purpose light serves in its world and why its sacrifice is meaningful.

Sky is entirely playable alone, and you’re not required to find any fixed number of its spirits to finish it. But it’s also a game with a big emphasis on sharing your experience with strangers. You aren’t a unique figure in its world, and certainly not the only one carrying light to its eventual end. Instead, your journey is consistently filled with other players, each on their own adventure that you can choose to partake in for just a moment or two. You can contribute in small ways. A passing player might hold out their candle for you to light, letting you replenish their light in turn if you choose to. To befriend another player, you need to share a candle with them, permanently linking you two and adding them to your friends list (which is suitably represented by a growing constellation). You never see these players’ names; instead, you name them based on your interactions with them. It feels like meeting someone new for the first time, but not immediately being able to speak to them. You can use taps to let out audio pings that help gather other players around you, but you’re also able to take a seat on a bench, wait for another player to sit next to you, and engage in a more direct, text-based conversation if you choose.

The most interesting way to interact with other players is with emotes, which are unlocked with each new spirit that you free. You can use these emotes to express yourself to other players, with anything from a simple wave or a point in a direction to more intimate displays of friendly affection, like hugs. There are also separate emotes and actions you can unlock by increasing your friendship with other players. By rewarding each other with consumable candles, you’ll unlock unique abilities (which can also only be used between you two) that can change the way you navigate through each area. My personal favorite was the ability to form long chains of players by holding hands, with one player guiding the group to new places while using everyone’s collective light to fuel the flight. This also helps new players see areas they might not yet possess the ability to reach, granting Sky a cooperative nature that’s remarkably easy to engage with.

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This simplicity helps some of Sky’s more demanding puzzles, where cooperation between multiple players–anything between a single pair to a full group of eight–is required. Some doors, for example, require two players to light urns at the same time to open. Other more demanding challenges task up to eight players to gather around an octagon and light old runes in a specific order. Although these challenges are rarely hard to decipher, and finding enough players to participate with was never an issue in my time with the game, simply trying to get everyone to alight in more group-focused tasks was slightly frustrating. Since none of these puzzles are required to continue through Sky, they’re easy to overlook.

Sky weaves its focus on forming friendships into its microtransaction model, too, which changes the rules of what you’ve come to expect from these systems in a big way. Hearts are used to purchase cosmetic items, but you can’t buy them outright. Instead, you can purchase candles (which you can also get in-game) which can then be packaged and sent to a friend as a heart. This is the only way to earn hearts, meaning you’ll need to depend on the gracious gifts of friends you’ve made in Sky to kit yourself out in some fancy new clothing. There are also options to purchase seasonal passes that unlock more straightforward daily quests and a few pieces of exclusive clothing, but for the most part you’ll be focused on forming new bonds with strangers and exchanging gifts with them frequently if you’re invested in standing out from everyone else visually.

Your first flights through a temple in the sky or the hurried dash you need to make between awnings of large mushrooms in a rain-soaked forest are delightful.

This means that you’ll likely be playing Sky well after the credits have rolled on your initial playthrough, which can take anywhere between four to six hours. You can collect any outstanding spirits you likely missed, especially since some aren’t even accessible without having played later areas in the game. You also need to reacquire your wings for flight again, due to story reasons you learn about during the finale. All of this means that you’ll be revisiting many areas you’ve already soared through at least once before, which can remove some of the splendor you experienced the first time around. This is especially true when you’re breaking from their intended flow to poke around the environment in search of small crevices you missed the first time. This feels like it goes against the natural harmony of Sky’s intended path, signposted with simple nudges that point you in the right direction. When you’re solely focusing on completion, Sky just isn’t as compelling.

Yet, there’s a meditative quality to return visits when you’re simply looking for a brief escape. Your first flights through a temple in the sky or the hurried dash you need to make between awnings of large mushrooms in a rain-soaked forest are delightful the first time around. Their mixtures of stunningly detailed environments and suitable stirring music are impactful, and less so when you’re running around in circles trying to see if there was a small crevice you forgot to explore.

Sky is both different to everything thatgamecompany has made before but also a smart evolution of what makes its games special. It’s simple to play while feeling incredible at the same time, making the act of flight exciting every time your feet leave the ground. It also features a fascinating spin on in-game purchases, locking its most alluring rewards behind the action of making friends and making a positive enough impression on them. That means you have to play a lot of Sky to eventually work towards what you want, which saps some life out of the gorgeous vignettes you’re free to explore. But it’s no less memorable for the ideas it presents or calming in the way it gives you the freedom to pursue them, making it another journey worth seeing through.

Source: GameSpot.com