If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself.
As USGamer reports, a group of Brazilian Nintendo fans, fed up with the way the company has withdrawn from the market (which has left them paying big import prices for games and hardware), decided to team up and record their own Nintendo Direct.
Led by the hard work of Rodrigo Coelho (who actually lives in Tokyo), the Direct showcases the work of Brazilian studios (or “developers with Brazilian backgrounds”), and puts them all in a very Nintendo Direct-style video, only with Coelho doing the presenting.
The hope is that by showing how much local fans care about Nintendo games, and how good so many Brazilian games are, they can convince the company to return to the market, from which they’ve been absent since 2015.
Microsoft reported earnings for its latest period today, and the company’s gaming numbers were up and down. For the quarter ended June 30, total gaming revenue for Microsoft was $2.053 billion, which is down 10 percent from $2.286 billion this quarter last year.
Hardware revenue specifically was down 48 percent due to a decrease in the number of consoles sold. A downturn in console sales is to be expected, given the Xbox One has been on sale since 2013. It’s also a historical pattern that console sales drop before the release of new hardware, and that seems to be the case here with Project Scarlett slated for release in Holiday 2020.
Another thing to consider is that the money in gaming is made with software and services, not console hardware. It’s not just Microsoft that’s experiencing a downturn in hardware sales. The NPD Group reported today that total hardware spending in the United States fell 33 percent year-over-year. PS4 sales are falling as well; only the Nintendo Switch posted year-over-year growth.
Microsoft’s gaming revenue from software and services for the period was down a more modest 3 percent. Microsoft said this downturn was due in part to the same quarter last year being exceptionally strong due to a “third-party title,” which is likely a reference to Fortnite. Also, Microsoft said its subscription revenue grew in the latest quarter, which is a positive.
Microsoft has recently expanded its subscription revenue category through Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The new streaming service, xCloud, could be yet another channel of subscription revenue for Microsoft when the platform rolls out later this year.
Another positive for Microsoft is that Xbox Live users grew to 65 million for the quarter, which is up 14 percent compared to the 57 million members that Microsoft reported a year ago.
Microsoft is one of the biggest companies on planet Earth, and gaming is just one part of its businesses. Altogether, Microsoft posted revenue of $33.7 billion for the quarter, which was up 12 percent. Additionally, Microsoft made $13.2 billion in profit for the three-month period.
Looking ahead, Sony, Nintendo, and EA will all announce their own earnings on July 30, while Take-Two and Activision will follow in August.
Marvel’s popularity has grown exponentially in the 10 years since Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was first released, as forays into shared universes in both film and TV have propelled the company to the forefront of pop culture relevance. Previously obscure characters such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther have risen to prominence thanks to appearances in movies, becoming household names, while new characters like Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, and Spider-Gwen have made their debuts in the vibrant pages of comic books. The stacked roster in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order reflects the past 10 years of Marvel’s history, assembling a cast of beloved characters, both old and new, that extends its reach into almost every corner of the cosmos. The diversity of Ultimate Alliance’s playable characters has always been the series’ strongest aspect, and that remains true in Ultimate Alliance 3, where our favorite heroes team up for an enjoyable adventure brimming with synergized action.
Much like its predecessors, Ultimate Alliance 3 is an isometric action-RPG, hack-and-slash hybrid featuring four playable characters at any one time that you can switch between on the fly. There are a couple of left-field character inclusions counted amongst its comprehensive roster, like the monster-hunting Elsa Bloodstone and The Inhumans’ Crystal, but it’s an otherwise familiar list of names that features everyone from Hawkeye and Doctor Strange to Iron Man and Thor. Somewhat predictably, the plot revolves around the Infinity Stones after a Guardians of the Galaxy-related mishap scatters them across the Earth and into the hands of the evil-doers in Marvel’s rogues’ gallery.
Thanos and his ruthless Black Order play their part, but the story is less Marvel Cinematic Universe and more Saturday morning cartoon. That works in the game’s favor, and the light-hearted writing and enthusiastic voice acting carry a narrative that does as much as it can with so many characters vying for screen time. There are fun one-liners, and the characters feel true to the ones we know, with their iterations pulling from the MCU, comics, and TV. It also helps that this isn’t simply a rehash of well-trodden ground, despite the presence of many common elements. Instead, Ultimate Alliance 3 tells an original tale that takes some inspiration from 1991’s The Infinity Gauntlet, while also encompassing various aspects of Marvel’s films, comic books, and TV shows to create something of its own.
You only need to glance at the roster to see how Ultimate Alliance 3 pulls from every eclectic branch of the Marvel machine. Costumes and character designs are judiciously plucked from numerous sources–all homogenized by a uniform comic book-inspired art style that’s full of color. The most important thing about these characters, however, is how each of them feels to play. Each hero has light and heavy attacks that can unleash various combos, as well as four super abilities that are gradually unlocked as each character levels up. There’s also a block that negates some damage and a handy roll for dodging out of danger. Simple stuff. What elevates Ultimate Alliance 3’s combat is the variety inherent to each of its heroes and the numerous ways in which they work in tandem. Take someone like Captain America, for example, who’s all about punching enemies in the face and following up with a vibranium shield to the ribs. He plays a lot differently to a ranged character like Star-Lord, who is ideally suited to fighting from a distance with his dual elemental pistols and flight-enabling jet boots. The differences aren’t just restricted to each hero’s choice of weaponry or traversal, either; the Hulk is a lumbering force of nature, Wolverine strikes with quick and agile ferocity, and myriad damage types like piercing, ethereal, fire, and ice differentiate each character even further.
Then there are the abilities that tap into every hero’s spate of superpowers. An energy meter governs how often you can let loose with these snazzy attacks, but Ultimate Alliance 3 is fairly generous about replenishing any lost energy in rapid fashion. This is important because using these abilities with abandon and combining them with others is a ton of fun. The basic light/heavy combat is satisfying on its own. There’s a lot of button mashing, but fights can get pretty hectic when enemy projectiles are bouncing all over the screen, so you still need to be wary of your positioning and be able to avoid danger. Abilities add another layer, letting you blast away a crowd of goons with a wrecking ball comprised of Spider-Man’s webs, spin Mjolnir around in a deadly electrified circle, or mow down anyone unfortunate enough to get in the way of Ghost Rider’s hellfire bike.
Proximity to teammates also allows you to combine certain abilities with others to unleash devastating synergy attacks that amplify their damage output, whether it’s Iron Man reflecting his beam off Captain America’s shield or Deadpool tossing a deluge of grenades as Storm shoots a bolt of lightning out of her fingertips. Dole out enough punishment and you can activate a big Alliance Extreme attack that triggers all four of your character’s synergy attacks at once, filling the screen with a vivid cascade of particle effects, explosions, and ever-increasing damage numbers. The frame rate can take a hit during these moments, but you’re just watching the fireworks at that point, so it isn’t really an issue in gameplay.
The diversity of Ultimate Alliance’s playable characters has always been the series’ strongest aspect, and that remains true in Ultimate Alliance 3, where our favorite heroes team up for an enjoyable adventure brimming with synergized action
The level design is fairly straightforward, funneling you down corridors and into more open areas with little deviation. This does, however, lend itself to a sense of forward momentum as you’re constantly encountering new foes to fight. The only thing that slows it down are some terribly dull puzzles that are fortunately few and far between, revolving around pressing levers and pushing boxes, and a camera that has a tendency to get stuck behind objects or jitter up and down when not completely stuck. This is an occasional problem during combat when you’re momentarily blind to enemy attacks, but it can be an annoyance when simply traversing as well.
It’s a shame you can’t just forget the camera is even there because each level takes place in a new location and the environments on show are fantastically varied. Dimension-hopping allows the action to venture away from Earth and into some of Marvel’s more outlandish settings as you barrel towards the end credits, and Ultimate Alliance 3 makes good use of the sheer number of enemy factions that exist in the Marvel universe. Within the first couple of hours you’ll brawl your way through The Raft and tangle with Spider-Man’s nemeses before joining Daredevil and Iron Fist in a battle against The Hand’s ninja army. This makes for a disparate mix of enemy types and aesthetics that keeps each level feeling fresh, and the same can be said of the plethora of boss fights you regularly encounter, too.
Facing off against the likes of Green Goblin, Dormammu, and Ultron can be quite challenging by yourself on the default difficulty level. Fortunately, there’s a surprising amount of depth when it comes to upgrading each hero. Aside from accumulating XP to unlock more abilities, you can also spend currency to enhance each of their powers, reducing the energy cost or improving their potency. There’s also a sprawling hexagonal skill tree that allows you to purchase stat increases that are applied to every hero on the roster, whether you’re improving their strength, vitality, and resilience or unlocking various offensive and defensive buffs. Meanwhile, ISO-8 crystals give you the opportunity to apply additional bonuses to specific heroes. It’s minute stuff like increasing health or decreasing damage under certain conditions, but it makes a difference and gives you a degree of customization that can be used to turn the tide of battle–and that’s without even mentioning the importance of your chosen team’s makeup.
Picking heroes that work well together applies various team bonuses that can further enhance their stats. This is based on tangibles like their team affiliation, intelligence, agility, and so on. You could assemble a team of the original Avengers, the X-Men, Defenders, or Midnight Sons and see an increase in particular stats that will also take into account whether any of the heroes have shared traits like “wisecracking warrior” or “anti-hero.” Maybe you want to compile a team of web-slingers, Marvel royalty, or one that encompasses the women of Marvel. You have the opportunity to recreate canon teams or mix and match to create your own based on which bonuses are applied and how they can benefit you.
The only problem with all of this is that heroes only level up when you use them. Increases in strength, vitality and other similar skills are applied to everyone, but as you reach the latter half of the campaign, the lack of abilities, their upgrades, and the capability to equip multiple ISO-8s is keenly felt in your lower-level heroes, which means you end up neglecting most of the roster because they just aren’t powerful enough. The workaround for this comes in the shape of XP boosts you can discover within levels and by completing optional Infinity Rifts that task you with repeating modified boss fights and challenges to earn different rewards. Getting enough XP boosts can be a long, grindy process, though, and that’s just to get enough to significantly level up a single character. The diversity of Ultimate Alliance 3’s roster is one of its core pillars, so feeling restricted to only using a few heroes during its final hours is a glaring disappointment.
After spending some time with Ultimate Alliance 3’s online co-op, it’s clear that while the server performance isn’t perfect, it also isn’t too bad. There’s some occasional lag that only affects the appearance of other players in your party, causing them to slightly jitter when moving around. Other than being a minor eyesore, this doesn’t impact the gameplay in any way. Playing with fewer than four people is less than ideal, however, as the host is the only one with the ability to change heroes on the fly. Everyone else is locked into their pick, although this is somewhat rectified by the plentiful amount of S.H.I.E.L.D. stations found within each level that allow you to swap characters in and out. Beyond this, playing more of Ultimate Alliance 3 in co-op emphasizes the game’s replayability and the sheer enjoyment derived from using its assortment of heroes. Going back and replaying parts of the campaign gives you the opportunity to use characters you previously neglected, making it easy to fall into a groove that’ll have you eager to reach the end credits for a second time.
More so than its predecessors, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order excels because of its character diversity and the ways its disparate heroes work together. For this reason alone it’s an ideal co-op game, whether you’re playing with another friend in the same room or with three friends online, but the AI more than holds its own if you’re playing alone, too. It falters in places, but there’s still nothing quite like the Ultimate Alliance series, and this long-awaited third entry makes it a triumphant return for a superhero brawler that feels more relevant than ever.
Heroes from all corners of the Marvel universe unite to stop mad titan Thanos from collecting six Infinity Stones and unleashing their vast destructive power. What took the Marvel cinematic universe a decade and 23 movies to achieve, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order gets done in one game, and I didn’t sleep through any of it (looking at you, Marvel movies).
When last we visited the four-player, team-based action role-playing game series Marvel Ultimate Alliance, it was 2009, and the MCU had barely even started. The first Iron Man film and The Incredible Hulk hit theaters in 2008, with Iron Man 2 due out in 2010. Marvel fans who were eager to see Marvel heroes of all shapes, sizes and origins come together to kick villain ass outside the pages of comic books got their fix from 2009’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Lacking a series of interconnected films to take inspiration from at that time, the Activision-published game was instead based on Marvel’s popular Civil War comic book crossover, in which superheroes clashed over the idea of losing their secret identities and registering with the government. The setting and themes made for a gripping, dramatic game.
Marvel fandom has changed over the past ten years. Millions of moviegoers have watched the saga of Thanos and the Infinity Stones play out on movie screens around the world. Marvel’s Civil War is the Captain America movie where everybody fights at the airport and Spider-Man shows up. The Guardians of the Galaxy, a B-list superteam in the comics at best prior to 2014, are now one of Marvel’s hottest properties. So now we have Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, an action role-playing game for the Nintendo Switch that brings together Marvel’s greatest heroes to battle Thanos over the Infinity Stones, again. It’s what the people want.
The game opens with the Guardians of the Galaxy stumbling across all six Infinity Stones on an abandoned Kree starship, because this is a video game and no one wants to have to sit through Iron Man 2 or Thor again to get to the good bits. During a battle with Proxima Midnight, a member of Thanos’ evil Black Order, Star-Lord manages to grab one of the stones, teleporting his team to Earth and scattering the remaining five to random locations convenient to the game’s plot. The problem of getting Marvel’s cosmic team onto the planet with the rest of its heroes is therefore solved. After that point, an alliance is formed between heroes and the race to collect the Infinity Stones begins.
I am so tired of the Infinity Stones. We all know the deal with them by now, right? They’re colorful artifacts, each granting mastery over one of six cosmic forces—space, time, reality, power, soul, and mind. Should one user gather all six Infinity Stones, they gain ultimate power over the entire universe, though they never seem able to hold onto it long enough to affect any lasting change. They’ll always leave some of the heroes alive to change things back, or decide the power is too much for them and send them off to the corners of the universe to be found again later. Thus, the Infinity Stones are green, orange, blue, purple, yellow, and red herrings, existing only to facilitate epic crossovers.
Like so many Infinity Stone stories before it, then, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order isn’t really about the Infinity Stones. It’s about bringing together a diverse cast of heroes and villains and letting them play. It’s forming a party with Venom and Spider-Man and Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen and seeing what sort of webs they spin together. It’s taking common Marvel Comics events, like a breakout at super-powered prison The Raft, or Ultron attempting to take over Avengers Tower, and then seeing how those events get handled by your personal dream team. It’s the ultimate Marvel Team-Up. Oh, and Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel are there, too.
The story isn’t great, but the dialogue is very good, giving each new character a moment in the spotlight. Occasionally we get little asides between certain groupings of characters, like Miles, Gwen and Ms. Marvel celebrating their first ninja temple after taking down the Kingpin in his Shadowland base. The game is filled with cute little interactions.
While set in its own pocket Marvel universe, Ultimate Alliance 3 draws heavily on the MCU. Characters are well-voiced, with many actors doing a fair impression of their live-action MCU counterparts. The entire Kingpin level is filled with references to the Netflix’s various Marvel TV shows, from Jessica Jones’ ripped jeans, leather jacket, and bad attitude, to Daredevil’s “I do my best fighting in hallways” line. When Iron Fist showed up, I wanted to take a nap until his section was over—just like the TV show. Developer Team Ninja really captured the spirit of live-action Marvel.
As they partake in what my co-worker Paul Tamayo aptly calls “fan service tapas,” players are forming a team of four Marvel heroes and running them through ten chapters of old-school action role-playing goodness. Utilizing a combination of light, heavy and special attacks, characters dispatch hordes of whichever faceless troops are native to each of the game’s locations—Kree soldiers, Ultron robots, escaped prisoners, ninjas and the like. Tougher versions of each enemy type feature stun meters that must be depleted before significant damage can be done.
Each character has up to four special abilities they can use in battle. These abilities can be combined with those of other characters, creating powerful combo attacks. Combining Storm’s whirlwind attack with Dr. Strange’s fire attack creates a controllable fire tornado that tears into enemy ranks. A meter that fills as characters use normal attacks allows them to unleash Extreme attacks that all four members of a team can join in on. These massive, screen-filling spectacles do massive damage to enemies and the game’s framerate alike.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is not a mindless hack-and-slash game. Spamming attacks might get players through the first couple of chapters, but enemies get strong pretty quick. Dodging and blocking is a must. Enemies appear in massive numbers, often making it hard to pick out the character you’re controlling in the chaos. Switching from the game’s default difficulty of Mighty to the lower setting, Friendly, mainly seems to make enemies drop more health and power orbs, giving players a slightly better chance of surviving.
Staying on your toes is especially important during boss fights. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s boss battles are like dungeon boss fights in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Attacks are telegraphed via glowing circles on the floor. Players need to learn and pay attention to boss movement and vocal cues. Positioning is important in order to avoid sweeping area-of-effect attacks.
I’ve died a lot playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, mostly in boss battles, but I’ve not gotten frustrated. Each time I’ve come right back, armed with a little more knowledge of what makes big guys like Ultron or Dormammu tick. While I’ve played a little online with my co-worker Paul, I’m really looking forward to going online with the public and seeing what a coordinated team can do against these challenging encounters.
No amount of outside help will help me conquer Ultimate Alliance 3’s greatest foe its camera. Sometimes it shakes when players turn corners. It gets locked behind a character from time to time, shifting perspective in disorienting fashion. A few times, the camera’s gotten stuck on geometry, forcing me to fight blind. It’s worse in handheld mode, especially when it pulls way back on a scene, making characters incredibly difficult to make out in a crowd. A day one patch will address some of the game’s camera issues, but not all. Here’s hoping for more patches.
One of the few disappointing aspects of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is it severely stripped down the role-playing elements from the 2006 original. There was barely any character and stat management, leaving players who enjoy fiddling with upgrades and enhancements in the cold. I’ve got good news for those players.
Ultimate Alliance 3 has a whole lot of management to perform between battles. There’s Alliance Enhancement, a multi-section grid where players can spend enhancement points and credits to boost the entire team’s statistics. Players unlock Infinity missions as the story progresses, bite-sized tasks that reward upgrade materials, alternate costumes, and a couple extra characters.
This is also the first Ultimate Alliance game to feature Isotope-8 (ISO-8), the mysterious power-enhancing material that’s been shoehorned into almost every Marvel video game since 2012. Characters can equip different colors and potency of ISO-8 collected in the story or through Infinity missions to provide a wide variety of enhancements. Some of these enhancements are straight-up stat upgrades. Others grant benefits in special circumstances, like increasing the damage a character does when their health is under 25 percent. Eventually players gain the ability to upgrade their ISO-8.
As with earlier games in the series, teams gain special benefits when formed with related characters. My party of Venom, Spider-Man, Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen gains an eight percent boost to their resilience stat for having four members of the “Web Warriors” sub-group. Three members are in the “Agile Fighters” sub-group, granting a two percent boost to the mastery stat. And since Miles and Gwen are in the “Ultimate Alliance 3” group of characters new to the series, they get a one percent boost to vitality.
Basically, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is menu management heaven, and every stat tweak makes a difference. Many of my deaths during the game’s story were immediately followed by a trip into the menu system to switch up ISO-8 assignments, unlock a few more spots on the Alliance Enhancement grid or swap around characters. Each time I felt a difference in how my team took and dealt damage.
I’ve got a lot more menu fiddling ahead of me. It took me ten hours to finish Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s story on Mighty difficulty. The credits have rolled, but since I spent the back half of the game relying on a team of Storm, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Ms. Marvel, they’re the only four characters I have beyond level 40. That’s four out of the 33 characters I’ve unlocked so far. I have Infinity missions to complete, several of which require solo characters I’ve neglected thus far. On top of all of that, finishing the story unlocks Superior difficulty, which starts at level 40 and ramps up from there. I’m not putting down this game any time soon.
Marvel is in a very different place in 2019 than it was in 2009. Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 were made for fans of comic books, cartoons and the early Spider-Man and X-Men movies. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is very much a product of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The characterizations are straight from the films. The game prominently features characters no one cared about back in 2009. In the game’s gallery, there’s a report section with biographies on heroes and villains with commentary by members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, to be enjoyed by people who had no idea what a Groot was prior to 2014. I love that characters I’ve grown up with have so many new fans. I’m just mildly disappointed it led to another Infinity Stone hunt instead of a game with an original story to tell.
But that’s fine. If an animated rehash of 10 years’ worth of movies and television is the framing needed to get me an action role-playing game as rich, challenging and satisfying as Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, then so be it.
Secret Obsession, now streaming on Netflix, made me wonder in earnest how hard it would be to pretend to be someone’s spouse. That it prompted such a dark train of thought (to be clear, hello FBI, I would never do this) has less to do with how common the trope is (Before I Go to Sleep, Overboard) and more to do with the way that movies that don’t have much going for them will often invite a lot of extra thought on seemingly key questions they fail to address.
This is also true of, say, the new Lion King, which, through having been converted into something of a slog, invites new inspection of whether or not Simba and Nala are actually related, among other things. In the case of Secret Obsession which, as you may have guessed, is a psychological thriller in which a woman, suffering short term memory loss after an accident, begins to realize that the life she believes to be hers may not be all that it seems.
Directed by Peter Sullivan, Secret Obsession does pretty much exactly what you expect it to, and presumably what you want it to, if you watched the brief preview clip while browsing Netflix and then decided that, yes, you would like to hit play. As the film opens, Jennifer (Brenda Song) is seen fleeing an unseen assailant in the middle of the night, only to be hit by a car when she runs into the street. At the hospital, her loving husband Russell (Mike Vogel) appears, caring for her until she’s ready to continue her convalescence at their conveniently secluded, out-of-the-reach-of-cell-service home.
As time passes, however, clues seem to suggest that Russell isn’t exactly who he says he is. The funniest of these are poorly photoshopped photos, which, in any other movie, would just be accepted for what they are. Of course these actors aren’t married — why bother taking real photos when a few can just be photoshopped together? In Secret Obsession, however, they’re a pivotal clue, as a slip in one of the photos around the house is one of the things that alerts Jennifer to something being wrong.
The rest of the film unfolds exactly how you’d expect — the only thing coming even close to being a wild card is Dennis Haybert’s hapless detective, Frank Page, whose thirst for justice has become all-consuming ever since he failed to find his young daughter’s kidnapper. Now, he pours himself into his cases, while keeping boxes of unopened presents for his deceased daughter in his closet. He’s easily the strangest (and thereby most interesting) part of the film — he uses his daughter’s former unicorn light as a flashlight, for instance — though, regrettably, he’s not given that much room to play around.
Whenever he’s not on-screen, it’s hard not to return to that question: How hard would it be, really, to pull off this kind of crime? (Again, I would not do this, and you should also not do this. “The lady doth protest too loudly,” you might say. Fair, but seriously, I wouldn’t.) As far as Secret Obsession is concerned, it seems to be pretty easy, apart from a little murder. All it seems to require is a little skill with Photoshop and remembering that you now have to answer to a different name.
There’s so little to really chew on in Secret Obsession that, unless you’re watching it while completing some other chore, you’ll find yourself pondering the same question. There’s some rumination on the stereotypical “nice guy” and toxic masculinity, but it’s less effective when the man in question is most likely a murderer, and when the same themes have been carried out so many times before, and so much more effectively. Overall, it’s unremarkable — even as a jumping-off point for a morbid thought exercise.
Crystal Dynamics showed an updated gameplay demo of Marvel’s Avengers at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, providing a better sense of what the game will be like for players and revealing a little more about the game’s story.
Creative director Shaun Escayg ran down the entire game with a quick elevator pitch. “In Marvel’s Avengers, you get to play an original Avengers story, you get to customize your hero as you want, and you get to assemble online with your friends and play,” he said. The gameplay footage made that a little bit clearer, dividing the game between a story campaign and a cooperative portion. In the campaign, you’ll play as all the Avengers; co-op is where you’ll customize your Avengers character and play with friends.
The footage Crystal Dynamics showed is the prologue of the story campaign. In it, San Francisco is attacked on A-Day, a celebration during which the Avengers are preparing to open up a West Coast branch. An explosion during the battle ravages the city and kills Captain America, leading to a disbanding of the Avengers as they struggle with picking up the pieces in the aftermath.
The story sees players taking on the roles of each of the Avengers in turn. You start battling across the Golden Gate Bridge, brawling as Thor, before transitioning into flying and shooting as Iron Man, smashing as Hulk, and beating down boss character Taskmaster as Black Widow. The demo also featured a cameo of Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel, but it’s not clear how much of a role she’ll play in the story, or if she’ll be playable.
Kamala’s brief moment on screen teased a major potential plot point, however. The explosion on A-Day results from a reaction in an experimental Terrigen generator, which bathes the entire A-Day celebrator in Terrigen mists. That includes Kamala, who was prominently featured as she was knocked out and surrounded in the swirling green gas.
In Marvel’s comics, the Terrigen mist is the catalyst needed to create Inhumans, triggering the activation of hidden Inhuman genes in select people. The process tends to be traumatic, involving a monstrous cocoon-based metamorphosis that usually results in some very confused, very scared, newly empowered Inhumans coping with powers they can’t control or understand. Kamala undergoes the process and is transformed into Ms. Marvel in the comics.
It’s unclear whether or not Marvel’s Avengers will play up the Inhuman angle in the game’s story at large, but it certainly seems likely given the catastrophic events of A-Day and the growing distrust of superheroes that appears to be brewing in the world of the game. A sudden boom in the metahuman population would cause some significant unrest and tension, and an unavoidable conflict for the remaining Avengers to handle, regardless of public opinion. We also know more heroes than just the core Avengers will appear in the game, so we’d guess there’s more Ms. Marvel on the way, and it could pave the way for the likes of Medusa and Black Bolt, who were considered as the leaders of the Inhumans.
The story campaign footage appeared to be a more complete version of the Marvel’s Avengers hands-off demo we saw at E3 2019. As the story of A-Day unfolded, the player took on the role of each of the Avengers as they fought various minions of Taskmaster, each using a different set of signature moves and play styles. Thor’s moves channeled his thunder god abilities, allowing him to control and take down groups of enemies when he wasn’t pummeling individual goons with his hammer, Mjolnir. One move saw lightning blasting across the ground to nail a group of enemies, while another caught them in tiny tornadoes that lifted them off the ground and took them out of the fight. When the action switched to Iron Man, play changed to a much more range-focused style as Iron Man blasted away at guys individually, before laying waste to several with a shot from his Unibeam, which blew up the vehicles housing enemies.
Hulk, by contrast, used several aerial moves to come crashing back to earth like a meteor, sending people flying. He could also grab two enemies and smash them together, pick up and throw one tank at another, or rip through several enemies in front of him with his Sonic Clap. Cap, meanwhile, hucked his shield around quite a bit, with it bouncing around to take out several enemies at once. All the characters had a quick dodge move that briefly slowed time to let them get out of the way of danger or reposition to catch enemies from another angle.
Black Widow’s battle with Taskmaster took a page from games like God of War or Marvel’s Spider-Man, with the spy taking on the boss by herself. To start, Widow flung herself off a collapsing portion of the bridge to catch Taskmaster in the air as he rocketed around with a jetpack, pummeling him with punches as button prompts appeared to help her dodge obstacles and get hits in. When the pair finally landed, Widow had to avoid Taskmaster’s fast-moving attacks so she could find an opening to land attacks. Taskmaster’s photographic reflexes allow him to adapt to whomever he’s fighting, so Widow finished the fight by activating some active camouflage tech that turned her invisible. That allowed her to close the gap on the boss and hit him from behind. But as Black Widow mentioned after taking Taskmaster down, the whole fight felt like a distraction. When the Avengers reassembled a moment later, it became clear she was right. The team watched a SHIELD Helicarrier, where Captain America had been fighting, explode and crash into the San Francisco Bay–taking much of the city with it.
The footage also demonstrated some of the cooperative portion, where you can customize your own roster of Avengers. The panel included footage of skill trees for characters like Iron Man and Thor, allowing you to change their abilities and stats to fit your play style. You’ll also to be able to customize their appearances. The panel showed off quite a few different possibilities for each Avenger. The two most notable were a Mr. Fixit getup in which Hulk sports a suit and Fedora, and a Planet Skaar look that was heavy on animal skins.
Escayg said that you can take your customized versions of the Avengers into a co-op version of the game with friends, creating your own Avengers teams. He didn’t detail what exactly the co-op portion will entail, but brief footage showed Iron Man and Thor, controlled by different people, brawling against enemies.
Square Enix and developers from Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal gave Marvel fans a new look at their upcoming Avengers video game at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, and perhaps the biggest reveal was the appearance of Ms. Marvel (as Kamala Khan), who will play an unspecified role in Marvel’s Avengers.
In an extended gameplay look at Marvel’s Avengers, featuring characters like Hulk and Black Widow battling bad guys like Taskmaster, Kamala Khan — wearing a Captain Marvel t-shirt, no less — appears as a bystander to the action. Khan watches the action unfold in San Francisco on “A-Day,” a celebration of the Avengers that goes horribly wrong, and flees amid the chaos.
Fans have speculated that Kamala Khan is the narrator heard in the debut trailer for Marvel’s Avengers, in which she talks about meeting the heroes she idolizes while also lamenting, “We all lost something that day. But that’s not how this story ends.”
The debut trailer may also provide some insight into Ms. Marvel’s origins in Marvel’s Avengers. In the Marvel comics, Kamala Khan gained her shapeshifting Inhuman powers after exposure to Terregin, a fictional substance in the Marvel universe — and a substance that appeared briefly in the game’s debut trailer.
One unconfirmed rumor posted to the ResetEra forums indicated that, in the early portions of Marvel’s Avengers at least, Ms. Marvel will be a core member of the Avengers team alongside Iron Man and Hulk as they try to rebuild.
Kamala Khan has appeared in a handful of Marvel video games since her comics debut in 2013, including Lego Marvel’s Avengers, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. But her role in Marvel’s Avengers sounds potentially more central to the story than her other appearance in Marvel games.
Square Enix officially revealed Marvel’s Avengers at E3 2019. The ambitious, years-in-the-making cooperative action game features Avengers such as Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor, with the promise of more playable heroes — like Ant-Man — to come.
Marvel’s Avengers will be released May 15, 2020, for Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.
The Broadway musical Cats is once again being filmed for our entertainment, but the upcoming Universal film starring Taylor Swift and Idris Elba will be much different than the VHS version I inexplicably owned as a child.
If you were not so lucky as to own a copy of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical growing up, the first trailer for the movie may be impossible to understand. Here’s everything we know about the “definitely not CGI” Cats film that will hit theaters this year.
What is Cats?
The original Broadway musical, which clocks in around two hours and 20 minutes (whew!), was created by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It lifts most of its lyrics from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a 1939 book of poems by T.S. Eliot. These poems tell the stories of typical cat characters, such as “cat that breaks all your shit,” and “cat that gets really hyper at night.”
Webber had been a fan of the book a child, and in the 1970s he began setting the poems to music. Because of the poetic source material, the musical doesn’t have a strong, shall we say, plot. It’s also entirely sung-through, and much of the story is conveyed through dance.
Cats debuted in 1981 on the West End. Fun fact, Webber had to remortgage his house to secure the funds! The struggle was apparently worth it, as Cats won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
The new live-action Cats movie is directed by Tom Hooper, best known for directing The King’s Speech and Les Misérables. But it’s not the first time Cats has been filmed: In 1998, a version of Cats staged specifically for direct-to-video release was directed by David Mallet, who directed many of David Bowie and Queen’s music videos.We do not yet know the long-term effects of Cats on the children who discovered it on VHS, but speaking only for myself, it made me bisexual.
What is Cats about?
Cats is an anthology-style musical that takes place over the course of one night. The cats gather in a junkyard and introduce themselves in song, making the case for why each one is worthy to enter the Heaviside Layer, the cat equivalent of Heaven, to be reborn as a younger, hotter cat. The proceedings are overseen by the delightfully rotund and kind Deuteronomy, although the shadow of the dread criminal cat Macavity looms.
Each song is generally about a cat introducing itself, or a cat telling a story about its life. During the night, a washed-up old cat named Grizabella attempts to join the festivities several times, but is rejected. The other cats judge her ragged coat and colorful past, and shun her.
After the lead cats have their moment in the spotlight, Deuteronomy decides that Grizabella deserves to ascend to the Heaviside Layer, and up she goes.
What … did the Cats look like
In the stage musical, the performers dress in tight fur-patterned suits with fuzzy collars, arm warmers, leg warmers and fuzzy headpieces with ears. They wear cat facepaint. These extremely tight cat suits are the source of much childhood confusion or distress surrounding the Cats VHS.
In the film, there are no cats suit or facepaint! The cat fur, tails, ears, and whiskers are added digitally.
“It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen,” Taylor Swift, who plays Bombalurina, told Entertainment Weekly. I want to know what else Taylor Swift has seen.
“It’s not animated,” Swift said. “And it’s not motion capture. It’s somehow this new way that hasn’t been done before. And they’re giving us a tail that moves naturally, and ears and whiskers.”
(At this year’s CinemaCon, an event for theatrical exhibitors, Universal showed a behind-the-scenes video of Cats, which showed the actors in motion capture suits, which just goes to show, you can’t believe everything Taylor Swift says.)
Andrew Lloyd Webber himself appeared on Good Morning Britain and confirmed that “they’ve got this technique […] which isn’t like CGI, but it turns you into a cat.”
“So you know it’s Taylor Swift… but she’s a cat.” He said that Taylor Swift wanted to see that part of the trailer 10 times.
How did actors prepare to be in Cats?
“We had this thing called ‘cat school,’” said Taylor Swift, again to EW. “You could learn about how to create the motions of cats, how to think like they think, how to sense things the way that they do, carry yourself the way a cat would. I learned a lot.”
We need to know more.
Why is the “Memory” song such a big deal?
”Memory,” sung by Grizabella, a role usually reserved for a non-dancing actress with killer pipes, is one of the only songs in Cats that doesn’t come from a T.S. Eliot poem. It’s also arguably the best, or at least most memorable song in the show. During the song, Grizabella remembers being young and happy, and vows to live another day in the hopes that she will feel happy again with the sunrise. It’s incredibly sad and beautiful!
After the musical’s debut, “Memory” won Best Song Musically and Lyrically at the 1982 Ivor Novello Awards (give me an excuse to write about Ivor Novello, and I’ll do it). Apparently when Andrew Lloyd Webber’s father heard the song he told him it, “sounds like a million dollars,” which is accurate, because it’s the reason people buy tickets to Cats.
Speaking from personal experience, I once made a bunch of people watch clips of Cats during a party, and “Memory” was the only song where everyone shut up and stopped making jokes. It’s very good.
What does the movie change from the musical?
In Cats’ CinemaCon behind-the-scenes featurette, the actors were reportedly shown dancing on sets with enormous furniture, which made the actors appear small (cat-sized), signaling an expanded scope that the stage would simply not allow. We should see some of the cats in their home environments, or perhaps stealing from peoples’ homes, since at least three of the characters are confirmed criminals.
They’ve also likely expanded several of the roles. More on that later, when I tell you about all of the colorful characters of Cats.
What does “jellicle” mean?
The cats in Cats are Jellicle Cats. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly jellicle is supposed to mean, but according to a Telegraph report, the phrase comes from T.S. Eliot’s very young niece trying to pronounce the words “dear little cat.”
From the song “The Jellicle Ball,” we learn that Jellicle Cats are black and white, Jellicle Cats are rather small, Jellicle Cats are merry and bright, and pleasant to hear when they caterwaul (jury is out on that one). That being said, the same song confirms that Jellicle Cats are “of moderate size,” so what is the truth? Additionally, the cats that attend the Jellicle Ball are of a variety of coat patterns — far more than the simple “black-and-white” that the lyrics suggest.
Which actors play the cats cast in Cats?
Idris Elba as Macavity
A dastardly criminal they call “the Hidden Paw,” Macavity (a mystery cat) is also the “Napoleon of Crime,” making him a feline analog to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Moriarty. It’s interesting to cast such a big name in the Macavity role, because in the stage production he doesn’t have any songs — the role is usually played by a chorus member, who switches back to a regular cat when Macavity is offstage. The movie will likely expand the role to take full advantage of Elba’s capabilities.
Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots
Jennyanydots is a gleeful seamstress cat who is extremely lazy during the day, but runs around all night long. She also teaches beetles how to dance.
Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy
Old Deuteronomy is a loving, soft senior cat who is deeply respected by the community. He (or she in the case of the film) is shown great reverence by the other cats, with the exception of Macavity, who is a menace to the aging feline.
Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat
Gus is an elder cat with shaking paws who has made a career on the stage. He sings about his memories of performing as Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell, and Growltiger, the scourge of the Thames. In stage productions Gus, like Macavity, is played by a chorus member who changes for the role. He’s a major tearjerker! Other cats have to help him around because he’s too old!
Taylor Swift as Bombalurina
Bombalurina is a sexy cat, who is horny for Rum Tum Tugger and Macavity, but Rum Tum Tugger rejects her, and she resists Macavity out of female solidarity. In the stage production, Bombalurina and her friend Demeter are main singers, appearing in most of the songs. Their stand-out duet is “Macavity.” Historically, Bombalurina is extremely hot, radiates sexual energy, and also made me gay.
Daniela Norman as Demeter
Demeter is Bombalurina’s friend and duet partner — they’re literally always together. She is also a morally flexible cat, but she shares a dark past with Macavity and is actually afraid of him.
James Corden as Bustopher Jones
Another extremely large cat of the upper class, who is a member of many clubs. He is nevertheless friendly to his street-living counterparts. Notably, he weighs 25 pounds.
Ray Winstone as Growltiger
Growltiger is a pirate who lives on a barge! The character does not appear in the 1998 Cats film; in the stage production his song “Growltiger’s Last Stand” is part of Gus’s memory of performing as Growltiger on the stage. Accordingly, he’s usually played by the same actor who plays Gus. Not so in the movie.
Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella
Grizabella is a lonely old cat who has been shunned by the other Jellicle Cats, possibly because she is implied to be a sex worker, which is bad praxis on the part of the Jellicles. Grizabella is probably the most coveted and well-known role in the play, and is usually played by a celebrity or respected Broadway dame.
Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks
The Railway Cat! Skimbleshanks works on a train and always makes sure it runs on time.
Laurie Davidson as Mr. Mistoffelees
Oh! There never was a cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees! Mr. M is a lovable young tuxedo cat who is also a magician. He’s cheerful and handsome, and can disappear into thin air!
Robert Fairchild as Munkustrap
Munkustrap is the Cats equivalent of an MC. He’s a cool-headed leader, and introduces basically every damn song (but his personality is frankly boring).
Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger
Rum Tum Tugger is the handsome bad boy of Cats. He’s an alpha loner who performs a role similar to Munkustrap, but so much hotter. A lot of times he waves his butt and the power of it knocks out any female cats in his vicinity. Still, he respects Old Deuteronomy, even though he mostly stays on the fringe of the Jellicle song-and-dance routine.
In the original stage production he summons a pastiche of Mick Jagger, with a leopard-patterned chest and a rockstar vibe. In a 2014 revival, Andrew Lloyd Webber himself decided it was a good idea to update Rum Tum Tugger and make him a rapper, and also to call this the “street cat” version of Tugger which seems, I dunno, racially insensitive. This version of Tugger was phased out in 2016 because it was universally despised.
Naoimh Morgan as Rumpleteazer and Danny Collins as Mungojerrie
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are athletic and playful young cats who will destroy everything in your home. They are also thieves, going after both food and valuables indiscriminately.
Jonadette Carpio as Syllabub
Because of her youth, Syllabub doesn’t judge Grizabella as harshly as the others, and is the first to accept her. This is mostly an ensemble role, with one huge, huge exception: she joins in “Memory” in the second act, and her singing is what gives Grizabella hope.
Mette Towley as Cassandra
Cassandra is an elegant cat who looks very distinct from the others, as she has no fluff. Presumably she’s not a hairless cat — she’s certainly a cypher of some kind. In the stage production, hers is a dance-heavy role with no solo songs. She does a lot of dramatic, meaningful posing.
Francesca Hayward as Victoria
Victoria is a demur white cat who can do some truly mind-melting ballet. This is the most difficult dance role in the show.
Laurent Bourgeois as Socrates
This is apparently a role created for the 2019 film, which is nuts because there are so many cats in the musical. Laurent Bourgeois is one of Les Twins, a pair of French dancers who are famous for performing complex, synchronized dance moves. This will no doubt be a dance-heavy role, and I would have suggested he play “Tumblebrutus.” That being said, the Greek philosopher naming gives him synchronicity with…
Larry Bourgeois as Plato
Plato is another swing role in the stage production. Though the character is in the ensemble for most of the show, he also plays Macavity during the climax, before switching back to Plato. Generally Plato is a playful young cat. The role is very athletic, which is no doubt why Larry Bourgeois was cast. Expect Plato and Socrates to perform some elite-tier dances together. Sometimes Plato also plays The Rumpus Cat, but that role also goes to…
Bluey Robinson as Alonzo
Alonzo is another chorus member who has some stand-out moments: namely, he can portray The Rumpus Cat during a song in which this individual breaks up a fight between some warring neighborhood dogs. He also fights with Macavity when the latter comes to ruin the party.
Eric Underwood as Admetus
Admetus is an ensemble cat with no solos, and in some productions the role has been renamed “Plato.” Which raises the question: What the hell is this movie doing with both Admetus and Plato? Where is Tumblebrutus?
Freya Underwood as Jellylorum
Jellylorum is named after T.S. Eliot’s own cat! She’s a matronly cat who cares for the aging Gus, and stops cat fights from breaking out in the group. She is also one of the first to come around to accepting Grizabella into the group, even though she shuns her at first.
Zizi Strallen as Tantomile and Jaih Betote as Coricopat
A pair of creepy twin kittens who are psychic. I’m not fucking with you. In the musical they don’t have any solo songs, and mostly do eerie synchronized dance moves. One would have thought these roles perfect for Laurent and Larry Bourgeois who are, again, literal twins.
Melissa Madden-Gray as Griddlebone
Yet another famous criminal cat, Griddlebone is the lover of Growltiger the pirate. In the stage show, Jellylorum usually performs as Griddlebone, who appears during Gus’s memory of Growltiger’s Last Stand. She’s a vain soprano cat whose performance is a satire of opera divas.
Tommy Franzen, Aaron Jenkins, Chrissy Brooke, Yasmin Harrison as the Ensemble
Kinda seems cheap since there are so many leftover cat names out there, like Carbucketty, Elektra, Etcetera, Exotica (maybe not), Pouncival, and George.
Abigayle Honeywill as Cockroach
I am dying to know what “definitely not motion capture, just a human with cockroach parts” looks like.
Joel Swedensky as Mouse Band (trumpet)
Do cats have … relationships?
Yes, and it’s so much more complicated than you might assume. In Act 1 there’s a sequence called “The Jellicle Ball,” which is a nine-and-a-half minute dance sequence. It’s a notoriously difficult sequence that’s broken into many short sections. One of these is commonly known as “sensuals,” or the “pas de deux,” or to fans, “the mating dance.” In this section Victoria does a sensual dance with one of the male cats, generally Plato, Admetus, or Tumblebrutus (where is he!).
This digs into the Cats deep lore: depending on the staging, different cats appear to pair off. In the headcanons section of the Cats Musical Fandom website, fans have spun out a truly impressive amount of theories based on who interacts with who during the show. For example, Plato and Victoria are often seen together but Mr. Mistoffelees is the only cat to watch her solo dance and he touches her leg during “Invitation to the Jellicle Ball.”
And depending on the choreography of a specific production, interactions can change entirely! Oh, well, I never!
During its panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel gave the first new details on the Avengers game from Crystal Dynamics since it debuted at E3 2019.
The company explained that once you finish the prologue–which acts as an introduction to each of its major characters–the world opens up and you gain access to a base on a reclaimed Helicarrier. From there you’ll launch into single-player or co-op missions. The story campaign will be recognizable as a linear action game with you playing each character as the story unfolds.
The story trailer hinted at cameos from other notable names in the Marvel universe, as it was narrated by Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, who was attending the A-Day celebration.
For online missions, you can customize each Avenger with their own skill trees and cosmetics, and then team up with friends. The panel didn’t announce what the larger world missions will consist of, but it’s separate from the standard story missions.
Fans will be able to see all this for themselves shortly after Gamescom. The panel announced that footage of the demo will be released the week after that event, which is set to take place in late August.
The first trailer for the adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats is finally here and hoo boy, those sure are some cats. The cats are rendered via a new technology, not quite motion capture but not quite total CG. With bated breath, super fans of Cats the musical have waited to see how the cats would look. And folks, under the direction of Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables) they’re OH MY GOD.
Cats debuted on the West End in 1981, coming to Broadway in 1982, and at one point held the title of longest-running Broadway musical (currently, Phantom of the Opera holds the throne). Loosely based on poems by T.S. Eliot, Cats is about a group of cats known as the Jellicle cats, who dance around and introduce themselves, while deciding which one of them is worthy enough to ascend to heaven and be reborn. Yes, you read that right.
The star-studded movie boasts Jennifer Hudson as fallen woman-cat Grizabella, Taylor Swift as flirtatious Bomberlarinna, Idris Elba as Macavity the mystery cat, and Ian McKellen as the thespian Gus the Theater Cat, among others.