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How the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy wound up with the most thrilling music since Star Wars

“I don’t make a particular distinction between ‘high art’ and ‘low art,’” composer John Williams once said. “Music is there for everybody. It’s a river we can all put our cups into, and drink it, and be sustained by it.”

In a blockbuster era sonically defined by atmosphere and atonality, Williams’ brand of invigorating, motif-driven film music looks (or sounds) more and more like a relic of the past. Then a score comes swooping in to remind us that, yes, grandiosity still has a place at the movies.

For the last decade, those reminders have been John Powell’s compositions for the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, which concludes with this month’s threequel, The Hidden World. Through three adventures, the classically trained Powell — whose credits include the Bourne films, Happy Feet, Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone and United 93, Kung Fu Panda, and most recently Solo: A Star Wars Story — has soared against the grain to deliver a set of soundtracks that live by Williams’ high/low mantra without dipping into nostalgia. The booming, romantic Dragon tracks take full advantage of the orchestra, the freedom of animation, and the demand of 100mph dragonback flying. The scores pack the tunes you hear once, then spend a week humming to yourself.

To put a cap on Powell’s work on the trilogy, Polygon sat down with the composer to discuss the intricacies of the scores, his time collaborating with Hans Zimmer and Dreamworks Animation, and how he wound up working on this trip of masterpieces in the first place.

Polygon: I could gush about the Dragons scores all day, but to start, how do they stand out to you now that you’ve wrapped the trilogy?

John Powell: The Dragon movies were obviously a happy combination of factors. The filmmakers made great films — which is not always the case. You can write a great score to a movie and it really won’t be noticed. There’s only so much a score can do to help a film, even when it’s a really good film. A score brings out that extra dimension.

What’s needed [to make something great] is a type of music that just falls right into your sweet spot, which I think is what happened. My family is from Scotland. I was brought up with Scottish music. I love world instruments. I love the exoticism of what was needed sometimes, but it was really Celtic, and that’s in my blood. At a certain point it was like falling off a log. It was hard work, but also very comfortable to me.

Where did film scoring begin for you? Was working with Hans Zimmer an entry point?

It was in London. I was working for a company called Air-Edel, and was one of about 15 composers who did advertising music. The head of Air-Edel, Maggie Rodford, knew [Hans] well. She had given him a break doing adverts. Then he went off to Hollywood, but was always in touch with her. He came back to do a film called White Fang, which was a re-score (and in the end didn’t get used), but it was for Jeffrey Katzenberg, [who] was at Disney. Hans had, I think, 11 days to write. It was over Christmas and New Year’s. I got brought in simply because I was one of the few composers at Air-Edel who was tech savvy. I had a bunch of equipment and so I was introduced to Hans, and he let me use his sounds, and I set up a writing rig for another composer, Fiachra Trench, who’s a really good Irish composer who was sort of helping Hans with cues. But he didn’t program and he wanted everything to be programmed in so it could be demoed.

So Fi would come in with a sketch and we’d map it out into the equipment so it can be demoed, and so Hans could hear it, and we could change things. Then, by day seven, I was probably just staying up all night as well as doing Fi’s work in the day and writing cues at night to get it all done. That’s where I met Shirley Walker, she was on it, trying to get it done. It was one of those moments where you get an opportunity and so you cancel everything. I think I had two hours on Christmas morning with my girlfriend (who then became my wife). But Hans liked my work ethic, and he liked people who were technically savvy, and he got a sense of what I was like as a composer, even though it was really only just helping out.

Hans was at the forefront of a producer-as-composer philosophy to film scoring. Does technology play an essential role in your work or do you prefer more traditional methods?

Truthfully, I’m a bit Catholic in my taste in music, so I liked everything from Lutosławski to Benjamin Britten to Peter Gabriel to John Williams and Brahms. Didn’t really make any difference to me; it was a question of what it sounded like. Then you discover Gabriel IV was made very differently from a Rolling Stones album. It uses technology, it uses world music. Duck Rock by Malcolm McLaren, which was really a Trevor Horn and cohorts sort of record … I loved that record! It was amazing.

I came out of college, having studied composition and classical music and electronic music, that I should be a record producer. I thought everything Trevor Horn touched at that time was amazing. I still think [Grace Jones’] “Slave to the Rhythm” is one of the great pieces of music of all time. With that in mind, lo and behold, I get hooked up with Hans, and I realized that Hans is making music in that way: using the studio, using technology, but he’s also using orchestras and anything he fancies. I was a similar spirit in that way of making music. It shouldn’t ever have any limits.

How did you become one of Dreamworks’ go-to composers?

I helped Hans on the songs for Prince of Egypt […] and that kept going through to Shrek. I worked with Harry [Gregson-Williams], and Hans was always there on those jobs. We had a wonderful time working on those things. But I was moving away from Hans and trying to find my own voice. I needed to make sure I was making the sound I wanted to make, and make a name for myself. Hans is an extremely generous person to work with, but he casts a big shadow. So in trying to try to find my own place in this town, I think I pushed a little too hard on Shrek and got, as Jeffrey would call it, a timeout.

What does “push hard” mean?

I pushed hard in the sense that I was not as flexible in making compromises as perhaps I should have been. Obviously Harry filled in all of the gaps from me being a bit bullshit. It was never about the music. When you’re young and you’re a bit of an idiot, you push. You’re not accommodating enough. The thing I’ve always thought was useful in Hollywood was to take an opinion, to have a strong opinion. How you sell that opinion is how people either think you’re difficult and a pain in the neck to work with, or you have leadership as in you have strong ideas. Everybody wants you to have strong ideas, they just don’t want you to be a dick about it. […] So when they came back to do Shrek 2, I wasn’t asked, and that made absolute sense because Harry did most of most of the work on [Shrek].

So that was fine. I was in the wilderness a little bit from Dreamworks for a few years. And I went off and started working with other animation companies like Blue Sky, which was wonderful. A few years later, Kung Fu Panda came up and Hans said, “How about you and I have a go at that together?” Jeffrey was very kind and let me back into the fold. By that point I’d calmed down. I did a good job on that one. Jeffrey had fun. So when How to Train Your Dragon came up, lo and behold, that would be the first one that I got to do on my own.

Why is it so common for multiple composers to work on a Dreamworks Animation movie?

Hans is very collaborative, and in college I worked with Gavin Greenaway, we’d compose a lot of art installation music together. So I never had this issue with co-composing, and never thought it was odd until I got to Hollywood and discovered that nobody else did it. It was really very unusual. Or if they did do it, it was under the auspice of ghost writers — they were never mentioned, you never saw them in the credits, and often they were never even put on the cue sheets. That’s been the tradition in Hollywood forever. Hans was the first person to ever sort of debunk that and actually allow the people who were helping, which has always been the case, to come to the fore and gain some credit and cue sheets.

So I thought it was completely normal to collaborate on these big productions where there’s a huge amount of music to do, very little time, lots of possible questions about how the music should go. If there’s two of you working, you can collaborate in different ways. Harry and I, and Hans and I, would create themes together, sometimes apart, or sometimes I would create the front of the tune and he’d create the B part or vice versa.

What was your breakthrough moment on How to Train Your Dragon? Was it a theme? A motif? A sound?

I know it seems strange, but it was a heavy guitar. I was playing around with the “test drive” [sequence], one of the first scenes that I think was animated, and I was doing some big drum loops, programming something up like you would with an MPC 60. Like, if you were doing a hip-hop track, you’d get a drum machine going. They were giant kind of taikos and African drums, and I made this kind of loop of rhythm just to see if I could find something that was wonderfully driving for the flying. I liked the idea of not just trying to do that with an orchestra, really trying to find the right speed.

So once I got that drum loop going, I had a guitar, and I did these heavy chords and I just let the power of it go. I built everything on top of that. I then probably played that the next day to the filmmakers, and they loved it — that kind of cracked it open. I mean, even though it doesn’t feel like a very pop score, [the guitar] had a feeling that covered a lot of ground.

What did the filmmakers want out of the score?

The directors wanted it to be very thematic, so the opening of How to Train Your Dragon is endlessly huge tunes barreling away, even though there’s dialogue and effects and you have to bring the music down very low to get through it. They preferred I do that than to try and craft it around that. So I just kind of piled through it. I really noticed this when we did the live version of How to Train Your Dragon with the orchestra playing the whole score to picture in Switzerland at the end of last year (and I think there’s going to be the first American one in Houston in May). I realized you can’t get the orchestra, which is playing full bore, to turn it down. In a film I can get the orchestra hammering, but then we just pull the faders down and it works.

So that reminded me that that had been one of the requests: let’s be very thematic about this rather than textural. Believe it or not, that’s a less and less requested thing in movie-making today. My theory is that it has to do with realism in filmmaking. Think of Paul Greengrass, who has brought sort of a documentary feel to live-action action films that is quite extraordinary. Animation breaks reality simply by the very nature of how it’s made and the way it looks. So that allows for an instant fantasy to exist. […] Add a big theme to a very realistic scene and it will make your audience question why the music is so overwrought when the scene is kind of gritty — it doesn’t really want the musical commentary. Animation allows you to have more of a musical commentary. It survives it or it actually enjoys it.

Are there ideas from the first movie you only found room for in The Hidden World? Or ideas you finally paid off?

There are certain things that I brought back into the third one specifically, but almost harder than bringing them back was not bringing them back. If I’d over-indulged in the existing themes, I don’t think I would have got quite the value out of them. What was important in [The Hidden World] was to write other material that allowed the story to move forward and into a position where then [we were] retrieving from everybody’s memories, these feelings of how Hiccup and Toothless would soar in clouds together.

The joy of that, to pick the right moment to bring back the music that would amplify those memories, those memories and the bittersweet nature of what we were seeing, that was the interesting task. We do have the romantic music in one of the battles scenes because it’s a little bit of bonding between Astrid and Hiccup, and played when we first met Astrid. It was frustrating not being able to use it, but it was the right decision.

How do you use instruments to define certain parts of the trilogy?

So I have particular sort of … fetishes. I’m particular. I won’t use a bassoon for comedy — it just doesn’t feel right to me. But I’ll use it for yearning and I’ll use it for love and I’ll use it for sadness. I won’t use a bass clarinet except for very, very specific ways. I often use a viola and tuba in duets, which nobody will notice, but I used to play the viola and my father was a tuba player and I’m going to stick a little things like that. The thing is that, for me, a horn always needs to sound like it’s chasing you. That’s my favorite thing. It needs to sound like a pack of dogs is running after you.

In these kinds of films, there’s a lot of that going on, so I get to use the horns that way. Or, for instance, the bagpipes, which are actually called war pipes, and they were designed to frighten people over on the other side of a glen. The British (they’re not really Scottish) developed them to frighten the Scots in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. If you had three pipers going, and you heard that over on the other side of the valley, you knew that some shit was coming. It’s the loudest, incredibly piercing [instrument]. It can also be one of the most beautiful. I had fun throughout Dragons using it in different ways, very joyfully, but in number two, there’s a moment where we use the bagpipes in a very frightening manner.

The Hidden World employs a choir, which is relatively new to the series.

There’s certainly choir in the first two, but in number three, I managed to … in the interceding years, I had written a whole album of choral music. So I’d been working on my choral chops.

The choir is a great shortcut for a bonded society, a feeling of interaction with your neighbors. The village, the family, the town, the nation — a choir allows you to express that kind of feeling of togetherness as a society. That was one of the big things about this third movie: how are we going make this big, difficult transition together?

Did your work on the Dragon trilogy play a role in landing you the gig on Solo: A Star Wars Story? One could draw some parallels.

The thing about Solo was that it was me getting to honor what I felt was the greatest sort of music for film, the tradition that John [Williams] had created. It had a logic to it as well, an unbelievably high quality of musical compositional sort of rigor, as well as being incredibly successful at speaking clearly to a universal audience, even though it was highly sophisticated music. I think I’d always found it to be intriguing how he had such catchy tunes, and they weren’t simplistic. People could hum them, but they were not easy to hum. That always puzzled me.

So getting close to the source of that and getting to meet John and work with him, and play my own small role in that sort of tradition was a fascinating review of my own musical life. It was like going back to college and finishing that Masters that you’d started and been thinking about for 30 years.


Resident Evil 2 Remake Ships 4 Million Copies

The Resident Evil 2 remake continues to perform well commercially. The game has now shipped 4 million copies globally, Capcom announced in a news release today. This is up from the 3 million copies that the game shipped during its first week.

The increased sales of Resident Evil 2 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC pushed total Resident Evil franchise sales to more than 90 million units since the series debuted in 1996 as of February 26, 2019. This is up from 88 million units back in January.

The 1998 original Resident Evil 2 reached sales of 4.96 million copies to stand as the fourth best-selling Resident Evil game, so the remake is coming up on that milestone.

Resident Evil 2’s free DLC, Ghost Survivors, was released on February 15. GameSpot’s Resident Evil 2 review called it “a terrifying experience like no other.”

“Resident Evil 2 is not only a stellar remake of the original, but it’s also simply a strong horror game that delivers anxiety-inducing and grotesque situations, topping some of the series’ finest entries,” wrote critic Alessandro Fillari. “But above all, the remake is an impressive game for the fact that it goes all-in on the pure survival horror experience, confidently embracing its horrifying tone and rarely letting up until the story’s conclusion.”


Anyone For Sonic The Hedgehog LEGO?

LEGO Ideas—the community program where fans can get their dream sets made—currently has a Sonic submission up for voting, and it looks great.

Based on 2017’s Sonic Mania, it would include Sonic & Eggman minifigs, a giant Eggman mech, a bunch of enemies, a Phantom Ruby, rings and some Green Hill Zone terrain modules that could be moved around.

It’s far from the first Sonic submission to the site, but I like how this one tones it down a little, focusing as much on the landscape as it does the minifigs. That, plus the fact it’s based on a recent and successful game, means it might actually get a shot at being made (provided Sega were willing to play ball).

There are more pics of the playset pitch here.

via Go Nintendo


Overwatch Cosplay Is Also A Music Video

Look, I love cosplay photos, but this recent thing of making cosplay music videos instead is something I can very much get behind.

Here’s ohmysophii as Overwatch’s McCree, and a one-minute video (shot by eugenephotovideo) is the perfect amount of time: long enough to let us actually see her cosplay in action, but not too long.


Halo Boss Says Infinite Is A “Spiritual Reboot”; Also Talks Battle Royale And Why They Didn’t Make “Halo 5.5”

As part of a wide-ranging new interview, 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross spoke candidly about Halo Infinite and what Microsoft wants to achieve with the Xbox One and PC game. She also responded to the battle royale phenomenon and confirmed that Halo Infinite will be at E3 2019.

Starting off, Ross told IGN Halo Infinite is a “spiritual reboot” of the Halo franchise. After the struggles of Halo: The Master Chief Collection and shortcomings related to Halo 4 and Halo 5, Ross said 343 took a step back to better consider what Halo Infinite should be.

“There has been a lot of introspective time to really reflect on what have we done as 343, where have we made mistakes, where have we hit it right, and what does Halo mean to all of us,” Ross said. “[Halo Infinite] is coming from [a place of], ‘What does Halo mean to all of us?’ The trailer that we did [at E3], that’s what Halo means to the studio. Maybe it took us two games to get there. We’ve done good things and bad things. But what does Halo mean to us? It’s about hope and wonder and heroism and humanity and community and bringing a community together. That’s what that trailer is, and that’s what we want to do [with Halo Infinite].”

Ross went on to say that she was proud of Halo 4’s campaign, but acknowledged that the multiplayer “lacked what we needed.” As for Halo 5, the game made improvements to the multiplayer package, but its story was “overwhelming,” she admitted. Halo Infinite aims to get it right with both single-player and multiplayer.

“So I look at Infinite as, we’re going to put the whole thing together,” she said. “Story is incredibly important and so is multiplayer. We have audiences that champion both sides–and then a lot of them that like both of them.”

Also during the interview, Ross responded to the current craze around battle royale games. She acknowledged that 343 is aware that some fans want to see a battle royale mode in Halo Infinite. She praised Respawn for Apex Legends, and said that game feels more like Halo than Fortnite, which could be a clue to Microsoft’s plans for Halo Infinite. But will Halo Infinite have a battle royale mode? “We have conversations all the time about what the right thing to do is,” she said, adding that the sandbox nature of Halo’s multiplayer allows for lots of different game modes, potentially including battle royale.

Whatever Microsoft decides to do with regards to battle royale or any other new game modes, Ross stressed that fans can rest assured that 343 won’t do anything that doesn’t feel right for Halo.

“Whatever we do needs to be the right thing for Halo. Whether or not you call it a battle royale or how we’re thinking about things going forward, the team thinks about, ‘This needs to be right for Halo,'” She said. “It’s always an active conversation, but I’m not saying anything more about [battle royale] right now.”

The interview also touched on the long gap between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite. In the past, mainline Halo games typically came out every three years, but that’s being extended for Halo Infinite. She confirmed that Microsoft considered releasing what she called “Halo 5.5” or a “Halo 6: ODST” type of Halo game that could launch as quickly as two years after Halo 5, but she and Xbox boss Phil Spencer ultimately decided it was “not the right thing for the fans.” Importantly, Ross stressed that no actual development work went into Halo 5.5 or Halo 6: ODST; it was only brainstorming.

She and Spencer had discussions about how to build a foundation for Halo that would set up the franchise for continued success over the next 10 to 20 years. Launching a “truncated” or “half-baked” Halo game, as Ross called them, would have potentially damaged the Halo brand. She acknowledged that Halo 5 lacked the kind of innovation that fans were looking for, so the team is taking extra time with Halo Infinite to ensure it’s an innovative game that also appeals to veteran fans.

Halo Infinite is rumoured to be a launch title for a new Xbox console said to be launching in 2020. Ross said Microsoft’s philosophy is to make sure a game is great before releasing it. It would seemingly be advantageous for a new Xbox platform to launch with a Halo game to help boost hardware sales, but she stressed that Microsoft is more focused on making sure the game is great instead of timing it to launch with new hardware. For reference, Halo: Combat Evolved was the only Halo game to be released as a launch title for Xbox hardware, and that was all the way back in 2001.

Looking ahead, Ross confirmed that Halo Infinite director Chris Lee will talk about the game at E3 2019 in June, but she didn’t give any teases for what to expect. While Halo Infinite’s release date hasn’t been announced yet, there is another rumour that claims the single-player will release in 2019 with the multiplayer component coming in 2020. Nothing is confirmed at this stage, but Microsoft has confirmed it’ll let people play the game ahead of launch through “flighting” programs.

Another interesting tidbit from the interview include Ross stating that Microsoft eventually wants to try again to make a Halo movie. There is a Halo TV show coming up sooner, and Ross said TV is a good format for a Halo story because its provides more time for character development. She also briefly spoke about the canceled Halo Mega Bloks game. She said the game, which had a more “whimsical and fun” take on Halo, lacked a clear design focus, and added that it was in development for a year longer than it should have been. Regarding other more experimental Halo games, Ross said 343 holds “hack-a-thon” events internally to come up with new ideas that could be made into Halo games after Halo Infinite.

Ross was recently inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame. The first woman in the AIAS Hall of Fame, Ross joins other industry legends like Bethesda’s Todd Howard, along with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Metal Gear designer Hideo Kojima, and Valve founder Gabe Newell.

You can watch the full IGN interview with Ross here.


Half-Life Is Now A Top-Down Shooter

If you’ve ever wanted to experience Valve’s classic shooter as more of Hotline Miami-type of affair, this mod by Sockman111 might be something you should be downloading.

It turns Half-Life into a top-down shooter by replacing the game’s first-person camera with one of two options: one tracks the player but will show ugly “voids” where the map ends, the other attempts to avoid this ugliness by adjusting its height automatically, which works nicely most of the time but can get a little cramped in tight spaces.

Even the creator admits they’re “not sure yet if the entire game is playable like this”, but at the very least it’ll make the platforming on Xen a little easier.

You can download it here.


Overkill’s The Walking Dead Failed To Meet Quality Standards, Contract With Rights Owner Terminated

A new Walking Dead game from Payday developer Starbreeze Studios, Overkill’s The Walking Dead, released back in November–and it was a major disappointment. Now, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s media company, Skybound, has ended its contract with Starbreeze for the game, citing the poor quality of the game.

In a statement, Skybound said it worked hard with Starbreeze since 2014 to create a unique and compelling Walking Dead FPS, but it didn’t work out.

“As of today, we have terminated our contract with Starbreeze Studios and will discontinue all efforts on Overkill’s The Walking Dead,” Skybound said in its statement. “Our creators and their stories are the core of Skybound, and since 2014 we have worked hard to expand the world of The Walking Dead into an exceptional co-op action FPS.”

While Overkill’s The Walking Dead did not work out the way Skybound would have wanted, the company said it continues to be dedicated to making more Walking Dead video games.

“We did our best to work with Starbreeze and resolve many issues that we saw with the game, but ultimately Overkill’s The Walking Dead did not meet our standards nor is it the quality that we were promised,” Skybound said. “We are exceedingly sorry to our fans and share their disappointment in the game. We remain dedicated to providing our fans with the most premium quality content we can offer, and will continue to look for alternative video game options for the IP.”

Overkill’s The Walking Dead launched in November for PC. The game was also announced for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with publisher 505 Games handling the publishing of the console editions. As of last week, the console editions were still planned for release, but it’s not clear if today’s announcement. We’ve contacted Starbreeze and 505 to get more details.

This is just the latest blow for Starbreeze as a company. Back in November, Starbreeze admitted that sales of Overkill’s The Walking Dead were lower than expected, and as a result, the company would undergo a restructuring of its business. As part of this, Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson resigned from the company, while other members of the Board of Directors also left.

In December, Starbreeze’s offices in Sweden were raided, with authorities seizing computers and other documents from the premises.


Red Dead Online’s New Update Is A Good Start

After weeks of teasing and hyping, the latest and biggest Red Dead Online update went live today. The update adds hundreds of new fashion items, changes how bounties work, rebalances gameplay and fixes numerous bugs. It’s a good update with some great improvements, but it might not be enough for fans looking to come back.

One of the biggest new changes is that players can no longer see where every other player is on the map. In the past, this was used to track down players who were all alone or who were fishing and hunting, then kill them over and over. Rockstar believes that this new change will help diminish abusive behavior.

My time with the new update seems to suggest this isn’t going to be enough. I was still killed walking around a city by a random player. But thankfully another new change helped keep this murderer from killing me over and over. After being killed by another Red Dead Online player, you now can parlay with them, be spawned away from the area, and neither player can hurt the other for 10 minutes. Parlay existed before this update, but it was harder to activate and didn’t always work. Sometimes players would get killed numerous times before they could parlay, and members of the killer’s posse could still attack the victim. Now, players can parlay a player or their entire posse. This change will hopefully allow players to escape annoying situations with trolls.

The highlighted red dot is an aggressive player. Other more lawful players are now hidden on the map.
Screenshot: Red Dead Online

In one server I joined, a player was killing everyone who came close to them. This player was marked with a bright red dot and could be spotted on my map from all the way on the other side of the game world. This allowed me to easily avoid them, which is a nice change. Before, all players were represented by a white dot, which made it impossible to know who was a nice cowboy and who was a deadly asshole.

Aggressive and violent players also now have AI bounty hunters come after them if they commit too many crimes. The bigger their bounty gets, the more bounty hunters come after them.

Another big addition to Red Dead Online is daily challenges. Every day players get access to seven new challenges. These can include collecting herbs, killing animals or eating certain foods. I even got a challenge asking me to cut my hair. (This update adds new hair colors and styles too, which is nice!)

Completing a daily challenge will award a gold nugget. It’s a simple system, but it gives players more things to do or try. Some players encountered a bug where the game asked them to complete a challenge using a gun that hasn’t been added into the game, but Rockstar is already fixing this issue.

The update is also filled with smaller and less noticeable fixes and changes. One that I’m really happy to see is that Rockstar is making major balance tweaks to the free roam event “Dispatch Rider,” a mode where players try to ride a target horse for as long as possible while avoiding enemy players. This mode used to be annoying to play because the moment you jumped onto the target horse, every player would shoot and kill you in less than a few seconds. The mode now gives players who get on the target stallion some protected time in which they can’t be killed, and they also regain health when they first mount the horse. This makes the mode less frustrating and more fun to play.

Another easy-to-miss change is rebalancing dead eye and rifles. When activating dead eye, accuracy will no longer be perfect. This should make it harder to exploit dead eye to kill players from long distances.

The varmint rifle is getting nerfed to be less accurate, and more powerful rifles like the Carcano are getting buffed and will do more damage. Before this update, the small caliber varmint rifle was popular over nearly every other rifle because it was incredibly accurate and did surprising amounts of damage. These changes will hopefully make bigger rifles more useful in PVP.

This update also adds emotes, though the prices on these and some other items feel too high. I was also disappointed to see that some of the new clothing items can only be bought in certain styles using gold. Thankfully, these items are purely cosmetic, but for those concerned about increasing prices, this won’t help ease those worries.

The new update adds new emotes that players can buy using cash or gold.

PS4 users also get early access to some extra content. These exclusive items, a new knife and some new clothing options, aren’t terribly exciting. Rockstar also hasn’t confirmed how long these items will remain platform exclusive.

This update really does feel like nearly every part of the game is being touched in some way. However, while this is a big update, many players might be disappointed by what this update doesn’t add.

There are no new story missions, side missions, new horses, or real endgame activities. The world still feels a bit barren. Rockstar is promising more content is coming soon, including a new free roam activity next week.

This new update is a great start for Red Dead Online, but I don’t know how many players who stopped playing are going to return because of this update. Red Dead Online is a better and slightly bigger game after this patch, but it still has a long way to go.


Black Ops 4’s Operation Grand Heist Update Out Now On Xbox One And PC

Treyarch has rolled out another update for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Following its arrival on PS4 last week, the big Operation Grand Heist update is now live on Xbox One and PC, bringing a new character, maps, weapons, and more to both platforms.

First, the update adds a new Specialist for multiplayer and Blackout modes: Outrider. She can be unlocked in Tier 1 in the Black Market, and just as in Black Ops 3, her weapon is the Sparrow, which can fire explosive arrows. Her Hawk drone can also tag any enemies in its sights.

The update also brings three new weapons for multiplayer: the Switchblade X9 SMG, Rampage full-auto shotgun, and Cha-Ching money bag melee weapon. These likewise can be unlocked through the Black Market. Black Ops Pass holders also get access to two additional multiplayer maps, Lockup and Casino.

Elsewhere, the island in Blackout has been expanded with a new area, Ghost Town. Its aboveground portion is based on the Outlaw map, while the caverns below ground are inspired by the Zombies map Buried. Black Ops Pass holders also get access to another new character, the Zombie gorilla Cosmic Silverback.

Rounding out the update is a new Gauntlet for Zombies mode as well as new Featured Playlists in multiplayer, including One in the Chamber. Players have three lives and a single bullet in this mode; when they shoot an enemy or hit them with melee attacks, they’ll earn another bullet and 100 points. You can read the full patch notes on Reddit.


Fortnite For Nintendo Switch Won’t Run At 60 FPS

The popular battle royale game Fortnite can struggle to maintain a solid frame rate on all platforms in certain scenarios, but the Nintendo Switch edition, at least at one point, had the toughest time maintaining a smooth frame rate in action-packed battles. During a recent Reddit AMA, someone asked Epic if the studio would be able to get Fortnite’s Switch edition running at 60 FPS. It’s not going to happen.

“I’m afraid that is not in the cards,” a developer said.

Not only that, but Epic doesn’t plan to bring back video capture for replays on Switch, the developer said. Video capture was dropped from Fortnite’s Switch edition last year in a move that Epic said was undertaken in an effort to try to improve overall performance. While client-side replays aren’t expected to come back to Fortnite, Epic said it is planning to introduce server-side replays sometime down the road.

In other Fortnite news, Epic recently said it’s considering allowing respawns, and we might learn more during the soon-to-start Season 8. We also recently learned that Epic is planning to update and improve the game’s sounds, while the developer is also looking into measures to help prevent accidental purchases. Not only that, but Epic is working on a new single-occupancy vehicle to be added in the future.

Fortnite Season 8 starts on February 28, and it seems the new season will have a pirate theme. Epic will presumably release a new Battle Pass with the season, and one of the skins has possible been revealed. Notably, this is Fortnite’s first new season since the launch of competitor Apex Legends.