All posts by gamesavepoint

Down Review: A Leap Over A Low Bar

There is a gory moment in the third act of “Down” when the filmmakers abandon all pretense and restraint, spraying the screen with a fountain of blood. In that moment, the movie shows its hand; I turned my brain off and enjoyed the remainder of “Down” as a pulpy diversion. But as fun as “Down” was–and it was fun, to be clear–it was also disappointing. The first half of this film promised something better, more complex, and more discussion-worthy than what we ended up getting.

The film opens with a woman named Jennifer (Natalie Martinez) and a man named Guy (Matt Lauria) working late on a Friday night. They’re headed down to the parking lot of their office building when the elevator suddenly stalls, four floors underground. Their cell phones don’t work. Despite their best efforts to set off the alarm or call for help, they’re trapped in this enclosed space for the 3-day weekend. So, they slowly get to know each other.

This extended sequence, where it’s just the two main characters bantering back and forth, is the film’s high point and the right mixture of clever and flirtatious. There’s an old-fashioned, theatrical rhythm to it.. And even when the dialogue is a bit too cute, Martinez and Lauria deliver it naturally. We believe these two could have a mutual attraction, even under these odd circumstances. Framed differently, the premise could easily fuel a Howard Hawks screwball comedy instead of a horror film.

But this isn’t a Hawks film. And quite suddenly–in the space of a minute, if that–the premise takes a weird, dark turn. There’s a shocking reveal that changes everything we’ve learned thus far. It presents great potential to explore abusive relationships, gender dynamics, consent, and how sex is leveraged and exploited for power and control–all in the context of the horror genre. But the film, despite alluding to these themes, falls short of addressing them in any meaningful way.

Instead, the film rapidly shifts from being a talky, dialogue-driven film to an action-driven cat-and-mouse slasher in no time at all. Both characters make dumb, illogical decisions–necessary only to advance The Plot–and betray their prior cleverness and wit.

There is a way to build horror and tension through talking, facial expressions, and nuance. But “Down” isn’t concerned with ambiguity or complexity after revealing its central twist. If you like your horror movies to end with a big fight, cheeky humor, and a triumphant hero, you’ll get all that. But what a waste, that such a rich premise ends so conventionally.

“Down” is produced by Blumhouse, the production company behind blockbuster hits like “Paranormal Activity,” Happy Death Day,” “Get Out,” and “Sinister.” The company’s ethos is simple: bankroll low-budget horror films and allow the filmmakers a corresponding level of artistic freedom.

Into The Dark, the film anthology series that “Down” belongs to, is Blumhouse’s attempt to replicate their big screen success on Hulu. They’re producing 12 low-budget horror films, each based on a holiday, and releasing them one month apart from each other. October’s film was “The Body,” based around Halloween. Next was November’s “Flesh and Blood,” based around Thanksgiving. December’s film was Pooka!” based around Christmas. Then came January’s “New Year, New You,” based around New Year’s Day. And now, we have February’s “Down,” based around Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the problem: none of the Into The Dark films are of theatrical release quality. They’re made-for-TV movies; they get good reviews by the mere act of being interesting. So on one hand, it feels unfair to judge these films against something they’re not; perhaps, if they were good enough to be theatrical releases, they would have been.

But in today’s entertainment landscape, multi-million dollar blockbusters debut on digital platforms and bypass the theater entirely on a regular basis. As an audience, we have been conditioned to expect more on streaming platforms.

Small films must deliver better quality than what their budgets would imply. “Down,” for better and for worse, delivers precisely what you would expect. Enjoy it on that level, and you won’t be disappointed.

The Good The Bad
Fun dialogue Strange editing choices
Shocking twist Becomes conventional in its second half
Excellent performances from both lead actors Gore feels jarring and out of place
The setting provokes great tension and claustrophobia Hokey ending


Apex Legends Skins — All The Legendary Skins So Far

While a recent series of leaks took some of the luster off of the news, Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment has both announced and launched a brand-new game that’s out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale title that features elements of Overwatch, among other games, and utilizes a class-based setup. And, as you’d expect, there are skins to collect.

Despite being a free-to-play game, there are of course still ways to spend money. We’ve already detailed how Apex Legends’ monetization works, but it boils down to customization. Alongside a battle pass, you can buy cosmetics that don’t impact gameplay; there are skins, poses, and banners to help distinguish your in-game look. Among the most desirable items are sure to be the Legendary skins you can collect.

There are a ton of skins in Apex Legends already, and below we’ve rounded up the Legendary ones to give you a sense for how varied your appearance can be. Each of the game’s eight characters has their own; six of those characters are available right out of the gate, with the other two needing to be unlocked.

Despite coming from Respawn and featuring a variety of elements from Titanfall–it takes place decades after Titanfall 2–you won’t see certain signature features from the series, such as Titans or wallrunning. Apex Legends pits 20 teams of three against each other and introduces some other wrinkles, such as a way to revive teammates by undertaking a risky process. You can read about what we thought in our hands-on impressions of Apex Legends.


Titanfall 3 Is Not In The Works, Respawn Says

What was once Titanfall 3 has become Apex Legends, the free-to-play battle royale game that launched today. In other words, a third Titanfall is not currently in development, despite the critical acclaim for the first two.

At a press event for Apex Legends, Respawn producer Drew McCoy told Eurogamer that Titanfall 3 wasn’t happening. “The world thinks we’re making Titanfall 3 and we’re not – this is what we’re making,” he said. “To try and convince a skeptical audience for months with trailers and hands-on articles, we’re just like, ‘Let the game speak for itself’ – it’s the most powerful antidote to potential problems. We’re doing a free to play game, with essentially loot boxes, after we were bought by EA, and it’s not Titanfall 3. It’s the perfect recipe for a marketing plan to go awry, so why have that – let’s just ship the game and let players play.”

It’s one hell of a revelation, as we learned that Titanfall 3 was indeed in development during the fall of 2017, when publisher Electronic Arts purchased Respawn for many millions of dollars. At the time, as I reported this past Saturday, a source told me that the third Titanfall was under way and that the studio was looking to get it out as quickly as possible, for fear of it looking and feeling dated if it came out too much later than 2018 (thanks to its use of the Valve-created Source engine). I speculated that either A) this was a stopgap en route to a proper Titanfall 3 or B) whatever work was done on Titanfall 3 has become Apex Legends.

The answer, it appears, is B, which will come as sad news to anyone who thought Titanfall 2‘s campaign was as brilliant as Kotaku did.


Watch Apex Legends, the Titanfall battle royale game, in action

Last week, Electronic Arts and Respawn hosted a preview event in Los Angeles for its new free-to-play shooter, Apex Legends.

A few dozen games journalists from around the world played the game for some hours, with servers also populated by Respawn developers and testers. The testers did not go easy on us. Above is a sample of gameplay that shows how we drop into the game, seek out weapons, work together, and finally engage the enemy.

It’s good insight into how the map works, most especially its reliance on vertical structures and sight lines. You can also see how players communicate with one another via single-button resource and positional alerts. You’ll also get a look at a few of the weapons and specials that are used by player character Gibraltar, who is the game’s biggest tank.

Apex Legends is out now as a free-to-play game for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.


The First Crackdown Still Makes Me Scream

On the occasion of Crackdown 3 releasing just eleven days from today, I revisited the first Crackdown. I loved it in 2007, and it pleases me to report that I still love it today. In this video, I ruminate on my enjoyment of it and philosophize about why it might have failed to become Microsoft’s “GTA Killer.”

Why didn’t Crackdown beat GTA? Well, for starters, it wasn’t as good. Also, it was exclusive to the Xbox 360, whereas Grand Theft Auto IV was multi-platform. Those two factors might have a lot to do with Crackdown’s failure to become a global household name.

In looking at Crackdown more deeply, I found it to be a game that narratively contextualizes Grand-Theft-y behavior by making every civilian a serial killer. It’s a game made for water-cooler discourse about its big, shocking moments. It is the perfect game for Twitch, a decade before Fortnite.

It is also a game about cops who can jump. Why didn’t “cops who can jump” at least become a genre of movies?

Though developed by a team led by David Jones, alumnus of Grand Theft Auto publisher DMA designs, Crackdown represented a different take on the open-world genre. Without Crackdown and its tireless devotion to wild mechanics and hilarious fun, we might not have Just Cause. Saints Row might have never decided to go all in on humor in its later installments.

I loved Crackdown in 2007. I played it in online co-op with a buddy across an ocean. We shouted like spontaneously combusting imbeciles as we threw cars, jumped between rooftops, kicked dudes, threw cars, kicked cars, threw dudes at cars, kicked dudes at cars, kicked cars at dudes, threw cars at dudes, threw cars at cars that the other one of us had just thrown, and threw dudes at dudes that the other one of us had just thrown.

You can hear more about my enjoyment of the game in the video.

Despite Crackdown 3‘s imminent release, little information about it has reached me. That is by choice. I’ve tried to avoid getting hyped because I don’t want to feel bad if it’s not the best game of all time. I’m a little worried about it. On the other hand, its trailer clearly shows Terry Crews’ lead character collecting an Agility Orb. That’s all I need to know to stand at attention ready to play it when I can.

By the way! You could subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you like videos like this.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!


How will Apex Legends be monetized?

Respawn’s new battle royale shooter Apex Legends is free-to-play. But publisher Electronic Arts has a patchy record when it comes to monetizing games. What’s the plan?

At a press event last week, company representatives were at pains to explain that there is no “pay-to-win” model in Apex Legends. Purchasable goods are all aesthetics. They cover every possible opportunity, from unlockable characters to weapon skins to victory poses. Everything that can be bought can also be earned.

“We’re dedicated to a player’s-choice approach,” said a spokesperson. “We’re committed to the protection of our players.”

As explained in our more detailed impressions story, the basic model comes in four options.

  • Direct Purchase: An in-game store will spool through offerings, so not everything is available at all times. In other words, when you go in to buy, say, a skin, it might not be available for purchase, and you may have to wait for it to become available.
  • Apex Packs: These loot boxes appear at various upgrade points in the game. Their odds of yielding high-value items are posted, and there’s “bad luck” insurance, which will guarantee a top-level drop within 30 tries. This means that if you open 29 loot boxes and fail to gain a high-value item, you’re guaranteed one on the 30th turn. Apex Packs can also be purchased. Further details to be announced.
  • Purchasable Legends: Players can buy the characters that aren’t freely available. The two unlockable characters are Caustic and Mirage. Players can choose between them when they unlock the first (after about 15 hours) and can gain the next after another 30 hours. To purchase, they cost $7.50 each.
  • Battle Passes: Season details are to be announced.

We’ll have more on Apex Legends in the days to come. The game is out now on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.


Fortnite’s 7.30 Content Update Coming Tomorrow, Bottle Rockets Teased

Season 7 of Fortnite may be winding down, but Epic Games still has some new content in store for the hit title before its eighth season kicks off. While the developer hasn’t yet announced what this week’s update will bring, it appears a new type of item is coming to the battle royale game: Bottle Rockets.

As it so often does ahead of its weekly updates, Epic is teasing the new item in Fortnite’s in-game News feed. The feed doesn’t share much information about them, but it says Bottle Rockets are “coming soon” and calls them “loud, bright, and dangerous.” It also warns not to light them indoors. You can take a peek at the Bottle Rockets below.

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Epic confirmed on Twitter that this week’s content update will go live on all platforms at 5 AM PT / 8 AM ET / 1 PM GMT, and it won’t require any downtime. Interestingly, the tweet teases that players will be able to “get cozy around campfires”–presumably suggesting that a new variant of Cozy Campfires will be available, although that is unclear.

Epic has introduced a number of new weapons and items for Fortnite this season. Last week’s 7.30 update added the Chiller Grenade, which knocks opponents back and causes them to slide along the ground, while the week before that saw the arrival of the Sneaky Snowman, a wearable disguise not unlike the bush.

To make room for the new items, Epic also regularly vaults some older ones, temporarily removing them from item pool. Just last week, the developer moved four weapons into the vault: the Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle, Burst Rifle, Heavy Shotgun, and SMG (in common, uncommon, and rare variants). However, vaulted weapons may return to the game at some point in the future.

Only a few weeks remain in Season 7, which means this is your final opportunity to complete any outstanding challenges and unlock the Season 7 Battle Pass rewards. If you need help mopping up any remaining tasks, you can find tips and guides in our complete Season 7 challenges roundup.


Steam’s New Sale Has A Rewards Booth That Can Save You More Money

Valve has announced that the annual Steam Lunar New Year Sale is once again live. This year, there’s also a Rewards Booth, where you can redeem tokens to unlock limited-time awards.

You’ll get a certain amount of tokens based on previous Steam purchases you’ve made, which can be unlocked by logging into your account and opening your red envelope. In order to unlock more tokens, you’ll need to shop for games during the Lunar New Year Sale. Every $1 USD you spend for yourself nets you 100 tokens, while every $1 USD you spend on games that you gift to a friend gets you 111 tokens. These tokens disappear at the end of the Lunar New Year Sale, so any that you haven’t spent by February 12 at 10AM PT / 1PM ET / 6PM UK are gone for good.

There are three different types of rewards you can trade in tokens for, with the Premium rewards being the most pricey. The cheapest Premium reward is 2,000 tokens, and it’s a limited-time badge for your Steam profile. You can also spend 4,000 tokens and cause your profile to “go gold” for the rest of the Lunar New Year Sale, which can be extended to next month for another 12,000 tokens. For 15,000 tokens, you can unlock a $5 discount on your next Steam purchase–whether it’s during the sale or later.

During the Lunar New Year Sale, you can unlock several smaller rewards as well. In the Rewards Booth, you can unlock three different profile backgrounds–Courtyard, Market, and Firecrackers–each for 1,000 tokens. In honor of it being the Year of the Pig, you can also unlock 12 different chat emoticons that are all pig themed–each for 100 tokens.

During the Lunar New Year Sale, Steam is offering a $5 discount on your first purchase of $30 or more–which is different from the Rewards Booth discount mentioned earlier. As is usual for a Steam sale, you can find some pretty substantial deals on dozens of games, both indie and triple-A. Far Cry 5 has been discounted to $15 for example, with Nioh: Complete Edition going down to $25, Life is Strange 2 to $4, and Overcooked 2 to $19.


Apex Legends Battle Royale Gameplay Live

The creators of Titanfall have made a new battle royale called Apex Legends which is now available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Respawn’s Apex Legends Has Loot Boxes — How Monetization Works

Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment’s entry into the battle royale genre, Apex Legends, is taking a page from the massive success of Fortnite: make your game free. The new title launched as a free-to-play game on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One and looks to make its money by selling in-game items to players. It’s a model similar to the one that has made huge amounts of cash for Fortnite developer Epic Games, but which is also fraught with the peril. Free-to-play can make all kinds of cash–but it can also alienate players and kill games altogether.

Free-to-play games often carry a stigma because many fall into the trap of providing the paying customers with legs up over those who don’t choose to buy in or can’t afford to pay as much. At a recent preview event in Los Angeles at which Respawn showed off Apex Legends ahead of its launch, project lead Drew McCoy said the developer has been very cautious about its monetization choices, using lessons learned from its last game, Titanfall 2. You can spend money in Apex Legends, but like in Fortnite and similar titles, you can only ever buy cosmetic items and skins that change how your characters and weapons look–McCoy said you’ll be able to pay to look good, but never pay to win.

“A lot of the team was really skeptical early on that we were going to be doing dirty things or stuff that felt scummy,” McCoy said. “It was important to us that we did things that felt fair, that felt like Respawn. …We looked at other games, we did research with the first parties [developers] across other EA games, for what really drives people from a fun perspective without hurting the game from feeling like you’re being nickel-and-dimed.”

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While Respawn experimented with some monetization efforts like cosmetic items during the post-launch period of Titanfall 2, the team also hired a product manager who previously worked on Riot Games’ free-to-play powerhouse League of Legends to make sure they were getting it right.

But McCoy also noted that Apex Legends includes a particular free-to-play element that has generated a lot of ire: loot boxes. McCoy said the developers have taken steps to make loot boxes fair to the players who choose to buy them. Respawn publishes the drop rates for its loot boxes both in the in-game store and on its website, so players know what the chances are of getting the best stuff. You’re guaranteed at least a mid-tier “rare” item or better in each pack, and they don’t dish out duplicates of items you already have. There’s also “bad luck protection,” McCoy said, to keep you from buying lots of loot boxes and never getting lucky enough to acquire some of the game’s best stuff. During the preview, the store said that players are guaranteed at least one legendary item, Apex Legends’ rarest, for every 30 loot boxes they open.

Apex Legends also includes other ways to spend money outside of loot boxes. There’s an in-game store with a rotating inventory where you can purchase some items directly, and like Fortnite, Apex Legends will offer a “battle pass,” a flat fee that lets you unlock more cosmetic items as you play. Finally, you’ll be able to buy Legends, the game’s playable characters. Six of the game’s eight characters are available off the bat, and two more can be unlocked either with premium currency you pay for, or by earning in-game currency by playing.

“We have been very diligent about making sure that the characters, the Legends, play differently–not better,” McCoy said. “So the more cautious among the community would probably say, ‘Oh, you’re going to make the new ones more powerful for a little while if people buy them.’ That’s absolutely not our intention.”

McCoy said one of the ways Respawn hopes to stand apart from other battle royale games is in its dedication to care and balancing when introducing new elements to the game, to preserve its integrity as a competition. It doesn’t want to add a new gun or character to Apex Legends, only to have to immediately roll it back because of unforeseen consequences. A big part of that approach is gathering and analyzing data to see how people are playing the game and using its elements to make sure they’re balanced. While the characters in Apex Legends offer different abilities, McCoy said it’s essential that none are more or less powerful than the others, and Respawn is putting a lot of its efforts into making sure that’s true.

Respawn’s publisher, Electronic Arts, has run afoul of scummy-feeling monetization schemes in that department before. It was the trouble in Star Wars: Battlefront II, developed by DICE and published by EA. Before a last-minute change, the game was set to use loot boxes to hand out strong, useful weapons and items, and offered players powerful new characters they could purchase with real money. You could earn loot boxes and in-game currency to buy characters just by playing, but people willing to pay more into the game would obtain the better stuff faster and get ahead of the competition.

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“We’ve seen from games like Battlefront II, how much paying for any kind of advantage is so bad,” McCoy said. “I actually think that Battlefront is a really good game mechanically, and they did a lot of great things and it got overshadowed by some of those choices, but it’s a really good spotlight to shine on why those kind of systems are so problematic.”

You can’t buy everything with in-game currency you’ll earn for free, McCoy admitted, and he expects some people still will be turned off by the game’s loot boxes. But Respawn is trying to make players feel like they get a lot for their money if they do pay, and like they’re rewarded for their time even if they don’t, he said.

“We just hope that you find a large-enough player base that likes what we’ve built and wants to show off and decides to spend some money in the game,” he said. “But if not, free players who spend their time are just as important to us. We take that very seriously. Time and money are the two most precious things in any humans life. And in fact, they’re choosing to spend either of them with us is incredibly important to us.”

Check out our early impressions of Apex Legends from its preview event, and stay tuned for our full review in the next few days.