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Family Life Has Turned One Of World Of Warcraft’s Greatest Heroes Into Mel Gibson

In the latest cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft, orc leader Varok Saurfang travels to Outland in search of legendary Horde warchief Thrall, who retired with his wife and children following the events of the Legion expansion. What Saurfang finds is green Mel Gibson, but is it Braveheart Mel Gibson or The Patriot Mel Gibson?

Family life has treated Thrall pretty well. After killing his old friend Garrosh Hellscream toward the end of Warlords of Draenor and passing on leadership of the Earthen Ring to a player character in Legion, WoW’s orc daddy decided it was time to focus on his family. Gathering his wife and son, Thrall left for the rolling plains of Nagrand on the shattered remnants of the orc homeworld of Draenor.

When we last saw the Horde hero, he looked basically like this.

As seen in the cinematic below, Thrall’s been working on himself since then. He built a nice little homestead, grown out his hair and stopped plucking his eyebrows. He’s become Mel Gibson.

I thought I might be alone in thinking this. Maybe I harbored some deep-seated obsession with the anti-semitic actor. But no, within the first couple of comments on Blizzard’s post, my observation was echoed. Thrall has a green Mel Gibson vibe going here.

Again, not sure if it’s Braveheart Gibson or Patriot Gibson. The braids and the orcish love of war paint immediately bring William Wallace to mind, but Thrall’s major concern isn’t anyone taking away his freedom. In the cinematic, we discover that Sylvanas Windrunner, current Horde warchief and all-around murderous nutball, sent assassins to murder Thrall and likely his family. A retired war hero drawn back into battle when his family is in danger makes me think of The Patriot. I’m torn.

Either way, green Mel Gibson returns to active duty in World of Warcraft in the upcoming Rise of Azshara update. Whichever version he turns out to be, he’s sure to be much more likable than white Mel Gibson.


What’s it like to start Warframe in 2019?

It’s been a rough few months for big budget games-as-a-service shooters. Titles like Anthem, which promised an expansive world of looter shooter combat, haven’t managed to stick the landing. Other titles, like Destiny 2, were able to shore up their weak launch with paid expansions. Meanwhile, in the background, one free-to-play title has been quietly humming along, reaching greater levels of success and acclaim.

Starting Warframe in 2019 is an intimidating task for the brand new player, but it’s still well worth exploring — especially with the game’s community of players, who have rallied around the challenge of bringing new Tenno aboard.

‘Tenno’ is the noun used for the player character, who awakens from cyrosleep, only to be immediately thrust into conflict with the Grineer. Luckily, my Warframe gets me through the conflict, and I am aided by the benevolent Lotus. Confused at all the proper nouns? It takes a while to pick up the size and scope of Warframe’s plot, but that largely doesn’t matter. Most of it is pretty standard sci-fi stuff — an ancient empire crumbled, the factions of that empire are now at war, and I am a powerful card put into play.

What that effectively means is I unlock a host of missions with variable objectives and I get to jump around and be a ninja. Warframe’s combat is a genuine joy. Movement is fast, fluid, and beautifully lethal. Individual hits can have a huge impact — I take pleasure out of pulling back an arrow and firing it right through an enemy’s head, where he ricochets back and is pinned to a wall. Melee attacks are accompanied with a satisfying sound effect and bright flash along with a snappy animation.

Warframe - a Tenno ready for combat Digital Extremes

Even exploring the non-combat environments are novel and intriguing. At one point, I get to the first major human civilization, and after going through military bases and space ships and hostile ice planets, it’s a breath of fresh air. Not only is Cetus on Earth placid and calm, an oasis of peace after a stretch of slicing and dicing, but it’s a fascinating hub. I stop in my tracks to watch workers carve meat off a mystery slab. I run through a crowded, sprawling market where red tarps and silver bound lights hang down over people hawking their wares and chatting with friends. I’m still not 100% sure what’s going on in this world, but hubs like Cetus make me want to find out.

The problem with Warframe isn’t with content, per se — there’s an endless deluge of things to do, and it’s all well done. The problem is finding your way. I log in and I’m assaulted with mail and objectives. I look at a sprawling star map and feel sweat bead on my brow. It’s not always clear what missions lead to progression and which one just give rewards, and oh god, what rewards to equip. Every time I log onto Warframe, I am faced with a firehose of content pointed directly at my face and I am drowning.

This is a pretty big problem, but I found relief from a surprising source: veteran players of the game. As someone who has been going online to get my game on for about twenty years now, I have often found the gaming community who has entrenched themselves in an online game to become protective of the culture they’ve formed and suspicious of newcomers, especially when they come en masse.

Warframe - a tenno faces an enemy Digital Extremes

In Warframe, everyone I encounter who is higher level than me is immediately obvious based on three things: one, the fact that their Warframe is sick as hell. Two, the fact that they have access to tools I’ve never even dreamed of, like mechano-skateboards. Three, they’re friendly. In League of Legends, when I introduced a new friend to the game, I took him into a bot game where he was promptly called a slur. In Warframe, a veteran joined my low-level game and asked if I had any questions. When I admitted I was so new I didn’t even know what to ask, he sent me some links to a wiki and guide.

That’s not a one-off experience. I have yet to be cussed at, no matter how far behind I fall to the extraction. Warframe has a nice community, and that’s something crucially important, because without them it would become even more opaque and inaccessible.

As it is, I look forward to continuing to plumb the secrets of Warframe. I’ve decked my own Warframe out in neon pink and teal, and while I’ve encounter microtransactions, they feel fully optional and not necessary to progress. Instead, I find myself exploring this new world at my own pace. Warframe is six years old and continually updating, but it’s not too late to jump in, as long as you’re patient enough to sift through early missions and the gameplay immediately grabs you.

Warframe is available on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and the Nintendo Switch. The newest update, the Jovian Concord, is expected to hit this week.


Microsoft and Sony announce partnership to explore cloud based solutions for gaming

In an unexpected move this afternoon, Microsoft and Sony announced a partnership to explore how to apply future cloud based solutions to their respective gaming and content platforms.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed by the parties, the two companies will explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services. In addition, the two companies will explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions for Sony’s game and content-streaming services. By working together, the companies aim to deliver more enhanced entertainment experiences for their worldwide customers. These efforts will also include building better development platforms for the content creator community.

Microsoft Azure platform has been accelerating its development as Microsoft pushes towards a cloud based future for Xbox consoles, with streaming options and digital options for gaming. Microsoft attempted to do this with the Xbox One initially but was met with backlash.

Sony acknowledges in the statement that the two companies are competitors in the industry but see the benefit in working together to advance interactive content, semi-conductor chips, and AI in the industry and beyond gaming itself.

Statements from the CEO of Sony and CEO of Microsoft were shared as part of the announcement:

“Sony is a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. We collaborate closely with a multitude of content creators that capture the imagination of people around the world, and through our cutting-edge technology, we provide the tools to bring their dreams and vision to reality,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony. “PlayStation® itself came about through the integration of creativity and technology. Our mission is to seamlessly evolve this platform as one that continues to deliver the best and most immersive entertainment experiences, together with a cloud environment that ensures the best possible experience, anytime, anywhere. For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content. Additionally, I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society.”

“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.

SOURCE: Microsoft

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New details on Call of Duty: Mobile announced, including new MP content

Activision has announced brand new information on some of the MP content that will be available in the upcoming free to play Call of Duty Mobile game.

There’s a host of fan favorite Call of Duty MP content that will be available in the mobile game, including maps, characters, and weapons, and more.

Activision also stated that a beta version of the Mobile game is currently live in India, with Australia beta testing to kick off soon. More regions for the beta will be added soon, but no details on when for now.

Here’s the details directly from Activision:

Main Menu Functionality

Tapping on the Multiplayer mode tile brings you to the Main Menu, where your character resides. The image above shows four separate menu screens. You’re able to check your messages and invites from other players and friends, find and Add Game Friends, look for other players from recent games, as well as contacting them via in-game text and chat functions.

Total Control: Setting You Up For the Win

The Settings Menu offers a wide variety of ways to optimize your Call of Duty: Mobile experience: You can choose, for example, whether to always be sprinting, adjust your sensitivity, choose how the Gyroscope function works for aiming, and even tweak the Camera Field of Vision. Perhaps the biggest difference compared to Call of Duty on consoles is the ability to choose “Simple Mode” or “Advanced Mode” for your controls; allowing more optimization for mobile performance.

Simple Mode allows automatic fire when your crosshair focuses on an enemy (which sounds helpful, but eats up ammunition), with the option to limit the range of auto-firing from the hip.

Advanced Mode introduces more subtleties to your game; with manual firing, HUD customizations, and the ability to choose how you’re holding each weapon type. For example, you can default your Shotguns to Hip firing, and your Assault Rifles to ADS (Aim Down Sight).

No matter which mode you utilize, you have impressive control over where almost every single interactive game element appears on your screen. You can move the vast majority of all the various HUD icons that you’re used to so they’re all within reach. You choose an element (like emojis, chat functions, crouching, switching to a secondary weapon, reloading, lobbing grenades, or even where your Hit Points and Armor appears), and move the HUD component around until you’re comfortable.

If you’re hoping for exceptional control over your weaponry, then you’ll be pleased to learn the settings menu has, for example, 17 sliders just for tweaking your aiming Sensitivity! Add to that various Team Phrase choices for more rapid communication, and you can see why Call of Duty: Mobile is striving to provide an incredibly well-rounded first-person combat game on handheld devices.

Scorestreaks Information

Before any Multiplayer match begins, it’s important to choose the right tools for the job, and there’s plenty of decisions to make, not least in the Scorestreaks menu: Offering a wide variety of offensive equipment, you can choose up to three of them (providing you’ve unlocked each of them using in-game XP) to utilize during a game. Scorestreaks include the Recon Car, UAV, Hunter Killer Drone, Air Supply Drop, Counter UAV, Missile Strike, Drone, Sentry Gun, SAM Turret, Stealth Chopper, and VTOL.

Ultimate Flexibility: Loadouts

Over at the Loadout menu, there’s plenty of customization and gear choices to ponder: At the main Loadout screen (one of four separate menus), expect to pick a Primary weapon (with a separate spot for Optics and three Attachments), as well as a Secondary weapon (with the same augmentation possibilities).

Drilling down into the weapons menus, you can quickly and easily pick and add Skins, sort weapons by type (Primary Weapons include Assault, Sniper, LMG, SMG, and Shotgun, while Secondary Weapons include Pistols, Melee, and Launcher), Rarity (from Common to Legendary), or other elements (such as the time it takes to Level Up or acquire). Then you can easily compare two weapons before securing your preferred hardware, checking the Damage, Accuracy, Range, Fire Rate, and Mobility of each. Each weapon can also be Upgraded, using a Tier system. For those hoping a full complement of ordnance is available can rest easy; there are dozens of variants and different weapons within each type.

In addition to your Primary and Secondary weapon, there’s a choice of an explosive grenade or tactical grenade to lob, and a devastating weapon Skill. These work similarly to the Specialist Weapons in Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4; accessible after a timer countdown, they provide a brutally impressive method of ruining a rival’s day. Current Skills include the Purifier (flamethrower), War Machine (grenade launcher), Death Machine (minigun), Transform Shield (deformable shield), Sparrow (bow), and Tempest (electrical bolt rifle).

Complete your look with up to three Perks to choose from, with each perk slot offering a distinct set of ability choices, such as “Fast Recover” (a better health recovery rate), “Ghost” (enemy UAVs can’t reveal your position), and “Demo Expert” (which increases the damage of explosives).

Finally, you have five Loadout slots, which you can name yourself, copy and paste into another slot, and test out across the multiplayer modes and maps.

Loadouts: Confirmed Characters

You’re also able to take your pick of Soldier to play as. As well as a number of familiar faces across the Call of Duty universe making an appearance, you can choose a more anonymous entity (clad in Merc or other tactical combat gear), and customize the Headgear, Backpack, and Clothing of each. Today, we can confirm six veterans reporting for this Call of Duty:

  • Alex Mason, the CIA operative, special agent, and Marine Force Recon Captain (retired), from the Call of Duty®: Black Ops franchise.
  • David “Section” Mason, son of Alex Mason, SEAL Team member and J-SOC Commander from Call of Duty®: Black Ops II.
  • Thomas A. Merrick, a Captain, former Navy SEAL, and Commander of the Ghosts, from Call of Duty®: Ghosts.
  • Simon “Ghost” Riley, the skull-textured, balaclava-wearing British special forces lieutenant from Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare 2.
  • John “Soap” MacTavish, the British special forces demolitions and sniping expert from the Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare franchise.
  • John Price, the special forces captain with the Bravo Six alias from the Call of Duty®: Modern Warfaref ranchise.

No matter who you choose to play as, expect the same level of fast, tactical gameplay as you engage enemies in the in the combat zone.

And speaking of combat zones….

Newly-Announced Game Modes

When you’ve chosen a Match, Rank Match (for XP and rewards), or Private Matches (for your hand-picked acquaintances), it’s time to pick a game mode to play. The first modes to be revealed are:

  • Free-For-All*: The classic every-player-for-themselves deathmatch.
  • Frontline**: After spawning at a team base, defeat players on the opposing team.
  • Team Deathmatch**: The classic defeat-players-on-the-opposing-team mode.
  • Hardpoint**: Capture and hold the hardpoint to earn points.
  • Domination**: Capture and hold the designated positions to gain points.

(*This mode supports up to eight players. **This mode supports up to 10 players).

Newly-Announced Multiplayer Maps

A host of iconic Call of Duty maps across the Modern Warfare and Black Ops franchises are playable in Call of Duty: Mobile. With Nuketown, Crash and Hijacked revealed previously, prepare for combat across multiple game modes, and throughout some iconic locations. Today, we can showcase more information on five of the seven revealed Multiplayer maps:

  • Crossfire: “Small desert town. Intense interior fighting and strong firefights.” Bring your sniper rifle in this compact street fight; the Call of Duty® 4: Modern Warfare map is revisited, with cramped and confined structures (where shotguns are a good choice) are flanked by two taller buildings at each end of this Z-shaped thoroughfare.
  • Standoff: “Border town between China and Kyrgyzstan. Classic engagements and desintations to fight over.”Also known to Black Ops III fans as Outlaw, this map which originally debuted in Black Ops II offers a variety of tight hiding spots, upper structures that favor the long-range weapon wrangler, and a main compound with a walled perimeter to infiltrate in a variety of gameplay styles.
  • Crash: “Downed Sea Knight in a desert town. Fantastic team games.” A classic Call of Duty® 4: Modern Warfare map, this well-loved map features blind corners, a crashed chopper, rusty barrels, narrow streets overlooked by shelled-out buildings as well as rooftop sniping positions. Expect quick and deadly action during Multiplayer matches here.
  • Killhouse: “Speedball style warehouse interior. Great for small teams.” If you’re wanting an almost symmetrical map with a central lookout tower, and have a penchant for rapid takedowns where shotguns can take precedence, practice on Call of Duty® 4: Modern Warfare’s Killhouse. This warehouse offers multiple wooden and concrete hiding spots, and almost constant action.
  • Firing Range: “Military practice facility. Hectic Domination games.” Journey to Cuba in this reworking of an original Black Ops map, seen most recently in Black Ops 4. Corrugated and wooden sheds, long, ruined structures, a muddy courtyard and rusting equipment, abandoned in the hot sun, make this a classic and chaotic map.

Other Modes

There’s more to Call of Duty: Mobile than just Multiplayer matches. Consult the related Activision Games Blog posts (listed below) to discover more about the menus, loadouts, characters, and multiplayer maps, and look for further information in the coming weeks.

Pre-Registration is Open!

Offering some of the most popular maps, characters, and equipment from across Call of Duty, pre-registration for Call of Duty: Mobile is now open in select regions, including North America, South America, Europe, and other territories. Sign up and pre-register for Call of Duty: Mobile on Android and iOS at to receive all the latest game updates, information, and access to the public beta coming this summer in select regions. In addition, pre-registration is also open in China; go to codm.qq.comto sign up within this region.

The first limited-scale closed Beta test began this week in India, and a regional Beta test will kick-off soon in Australia, with more territories coming online in the coming months.

SOURCE: Activision

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Microsoft And Sony Make Nice, Forge Partnership For Gaming And Cloud Services

Microsoft and Sony–the company’s behind Xbox One and PS4 respectively–have decided on a strategic partnership. The two companies plan on sharing technology and information going forward and build upon shared infrastuctures for some of their future initiatives. Nowhere in the announcement are Xbox or PlayStation named, but its wording implies Microsoft and Sony’s partnership will specifically focus on consumer entertainment platforms like gaming.

Specifically the agreement says that the two will jointly develop future cloud solutions within Microsoft Azure. It also says that Sony will use Microsoft Azure for its own game and content-streaming services, including a push to build better tools for content creators. The two are also committing to work together on semiconductors and artificial intelligence.

“PlayStation itself came about through the integration of creativity and technology,” Sony president Kenichiro Yoshida said in the announcement. “Our mission is to seamlessly evolve this platform as one that continues to deliver the best and most immersive entertainment experiences, together with a cloud environment that ensures the best possible experience, anytime, anywhere. For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content.”

“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” added Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”

Xbox head Phil Spencer and Nadella also followed up with tweets that stressed the entertainment and gaming aspect of the partnership.

The partnership has only just been announced, so any results from it could take a while to manifest. The mention of Microsoft’s cloud solutions in gaming comes just as Microsoft is planning its own streaming platform, xCloud., which will compete directly with Google Stadia. It’s unclear how this could impact PlayStation’s streaming platform, PlayStation Now.

With E3 2019 only weeks away, it’s unclear if this new strategic partnership will be discussed. We do know Microsoft is planning to “go big” while Sony has opted out of the show altogether. Check out the full schedule of press conferences for more details.


Fortnite Week 2 Guide: Where To Visit Oversized Phone, Big Piano, And Dancing Fish Trophy (Season 9)

Season 9 of Fortnite rolls on with a new set of challenges to complete across PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices. Most of Week 2’s challenges are fairly straightforward and should be easy enough to clear with a little persistence, but one that you may have trouble with–especially if you aren’t very familiar with Fortnite’s island–is to visit an oversized phone, big piano, and a dancing fish trophy. If none of that made sense to you, don’t worry, we’re here to show you exactly where you need to go.

As the challenge name says, all you need to do to complete this mission is to visit the three aforementioned landmarks. The tricky part is actually finding them, but to make this easier, we’ve marked their locations on the map below. There are two oversized phones around the island, either of which will suffice to complete the first step of the challenge: one in the forest to the east of The Block, and the other on the edge of the snow biome west of Fatal Fields.

The big piano–which is more accurately a big keyboard, but that’s neither here nor there–can be found east of Lonely Lodge. Once you’ve visited those two landmarks, all that’s left is the dancing fish trophy; that’s located just southwest of the new Mega Mall area. Stop by all three objects and you’ll net five Battle Stars for your troubles. If you still need more help finding them, we walk you through the whole challenge in the video at the top of this guide.

No Caption Provided

Oversized Phone, Big Piano, and Dancing Fish Trophy Locations

  • Oversized Phone 1 — East of The Block
  • Oversized Phone 2 — West of Fatal Fields
  • Big Piano — East of Lonely Lodge
  • Dancing Fish Trophy — Southwest of Mega Mall

On top of the standard weekly challenges, Epic has kicked off a special John Wick crossover event in Fortnite this week in honor of the movie’s premiere in the US. Not only are there John Wick-themed cosmetics to buy from the Fortnite store, there’s a new Wick’s Bounty limited-time mode, which comes with its own challenges to complete and rewards to unlock. These won’t be around for long, however, so if you’re hoping to snag them, you’ll need to act quickly.

Fortnite’s Week 2 challenges arrive hot on the heels of the game’s 9.01 update, which added a new weapon to the game: the tactical assault rifle, a fully automatic gun with a 30-round magazine. To make room for it, however, Epic has vaulted the combat SMG. You can see everything else that’s new in the full patch notes on Epic’s website. And if you need help completing any other challenges, you can find tips in our full Season 9 challenges guide.


The Latest Free Game From The Epic Store Is Available Now

The Epic Games Store launched its first storewide sale today, and to mark the occasion, Epic is converting its biweekly game giveaways to weekly now through June 13, the duration of the Mega Sale. Starting today, Stories Untold is the newest free game you can claim from the Epic Store, and while you’ll still have two weeks to claim it as usual, another freebie will be available starting next Thursday, May 30. To claim Epic’s game giveaways, all you need is a free Epic account.

Get Stories Untold for free »

Create a free Epic Store account »

Stories Untold is a genre-mixing anthology of four stories that bring in elements of psychological horror, sci-fi, suspense, and 80s retro nostalgia set to a synthwave soundtrack. Released in 2017, the game incorporates classic text adventure, point-and-click puzzle-solving, and other types of gameplay in each episode, which come together in a mysterious, yet cohesive package. Its unsettling commentary on technology is very Black Mirror-esque, if you’re into that type of thing.

“This is a unique package with a strong sense of identity, one that finds a new, exciting way to weaponize nostalgia,” wrote critic James O’Connor in GameSpot’s Stories Untold review. “Just know that you might not look at the old Spectrum or Commodore 64 you’ve got packed away in the attic quite the same way again after playing.”

Rime, a puzzle-adventure set on a mysterious island, is the next free game on Epic’s docket and will become available to download and keep starting next Thursday, May 23. In the meantime, be sure to check out the rest of the deals going on in the Epic Store right now. Not only are many PC games discounted, but Epic is also offering an additional $10 off any game over $15, including pre-orders on games like Borderlands 3. If you’ve purchased from the Epic Store in the past two weeks, you’ll receive a refund for the difference between what you paid and the sale price, and if you’ve pre-ordered a game from them over $15, you’ll be refunded $10 sometime in the next two weeks.


Ubisoft Explains Why Division 2 Doesn’t Have Raid Matchmaking

Ubisoft recently launched The Division 2’s first raid, Operation Dark Hours, but at the same time announced that it won’t use the game’s matchmaking feature. This upset some players, and now the studio is working to explain its decision.

During a video stream, Ubisoft explained why it hadn’t used matchmaking for this raid, and said that it is still working on a solution–though it didn’t go into detail about what exactly it is. Asked if there will eventually be a way for players who don’t want to find a group outside the game to participate in the raid, associate creative director Chadi El Zibaoiui said “yes, we are working on it,” but then pivoted to explaining the decision not to use a traditional matchmaking feature.

“You need to be sure that the team you are going to work with has microphones, speaks the same language, has the proper gear to support the team,” he said. “It’s not about a simple matchmaking as we do for the missions. A mission or any other content, you can eventually do with randoms, and you will manage to beat that content.”

Previously in a statement, Ubisoft explained the communication required for a successful raid led to the decision. It also stressed that it was still working out a solution, and that there was no way for the company to simply “turn on” 8-player matchmaking. While Ubisoft stressed that all of the launch content had matchmaking as promised, some players have complained of feeling misled by the distinction.

Whichever squad does finish the new raid first will earn a special reward. In its recent financial earnings, Ubisoft stated that The Division 2 failed to meet its sales expectations on consoles.


Apex Legends Players Want Better, Cheaper Skins

Apex Legends players feel that the game is cramping their style. Skins are a frequent source of complaint in the game’s community, cropping up in forum posts every few weeks. As a free-to-play game with a set roster of characters, skins are how players can customize their characters. They’re also how Apex Legends makes money, whether by including them in loot boxes or selling a select few individually via the daily updated Featured Store, with most skins being available for about a week. It doesn’t matter where you get them, though; almost all Apex Legends skins have the same problem. They’re boring.

“I know this sounds silly, but the slight colour change skins don’t really count,” wrote one forum poster. “I’d rather have a selection of 3 or 4 major skin changes than 20 or 30 slightly different colour pallet [sic] swaps.”

That sums up the major issue with Apex Legends skins: They largely comprise palette swaps. Consider Bloodhound’s Legendary and Epic skins, for example. Because of their rarity, they’re supposed to be the best of the best, the most ornate and exciting you can get. In reality, they’re quite dull—mostly just new colors. The only substantial changes show up in the Royal Guard or Imperial Warrior skins, which add a bit of ornamentation that push Bloodhound into a more samurai aesthetic.

Royal Guard

And even those two skins are pretty similar to one another.

Imperial Warrior

This is consistent across every character’s set of skins. Even the ones who fare a bit better, like Gibraltar, don’t break too far from the mold. His legendary skins are more transformative, but only a little. Like Bloodhound’s, Gibraltar’s four legendary skins are just two different outfits, each done two ways.

This is Dark Side, Gibraltar’s most elaborate Legendary skin.

As for his epic skins, they’re all mostly palette swaps with a couple prints thrown in for good measure. This is par for the course in Apex. It starts to feel like skin inflation, if you will—padding out the epic-tier skins with simple color adjustments and only making marginal changes to the legendary ones. It only gets more thorny when you consider the game’s weapon skins.

On the one hand, they’re about as boring as the character skins. On the other, given the way weapon acquisition works in Apex Legends, a gun will only have your chosen skin on it if you are the first to find it on the map. And given the way Apex Legends requires you to constantly be on the lookout for better weapons and gear no matter where it comes from, there’s no guarantee you’ll even get to see a weapon skin you might have spent as much as $18 on.

“Almost all my guns come from bodies not the ground most games. So they have someone else’s skin,” wrote one player. “Why would I pay $18 for a skin I won’t see even if I use the gun?”

The in-game economy only exacerbates the problem. Prices are just too damn high. $18 is a lot to spend on a single skin—you can buy entire games with that much.

What’s frustrating is that Apex has shown at least once that it can dazzle with weapon skins without impacting how the game is played. The legendary Havoc weapon skin, added to the game as the level 100 Battle Pass reward, transforms as you get more kills. It’s legitimately cool looking, but it also takes a ridiculous amount of work to get. It’s also currently the only skin of its kind in the game.

It would be nice to see more bold, unique skin options in Apex Legends, particularly given the price. But it’s also worth keeping in mind that developer Respawn Entertainment is attempting to avoid employee burnout while updating the game. It remains to be seen where skins will fall on Respawn’s priority list, but many would consider them a welcome change.


Killing Rage 2’s Enemies Is As Satisfying As Popping Pimples

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

I know something about you that you probably won’t even admit to yourself, a fundamental human truth as undeniable as breathing: You like popping pimples. Slowly applying pressure until those tiny face volcanoes erupt into a gooey spew is one of life’s small pleasures. It is gross, yes, but so are a great many enjoyable things. Rage 2, for example.

I’ve played a few hours of Rage 2 at this point, and I largely agree with Gita Jackson’s early assessment: it’s fun, but lacking the sort of over-the-top moments that knock my socks into the stratosphere trailers promised. Still, I can’t stop coming back to it, because it just feels so darn good to play. But as I transitioned from video game adrenaline mode to pre-sleep anxiety mode while laying in bed last night, it struck me that in other games, I would be vehemently opposed to some of the game’s enemies. Some of Rage 2‘s early enemies, you see, wear thick armor or hide behind tall shields that you’ve got to chip away at with your assault rifle and pistol (the game’s starter weapons) in the middle of howling-mad bandit melees. This is nothing too crazy in the grand scheme of shooters, but usually, these sorts of baddies annoy me. In Rage 2, I love them. So then I got to thinking about why.

I despise shooter enemies that can be described as “bullet sponges,” especially when a good headshot won’t reliably do them in. It’s one of my biggest video game pet peeves. It doesn’t make enemies more challenging or interesting, just tedious in a way that strains what little credulity first-person shooters have in the first place. I realized, though, that there’s a difference between bullet sponges and what I’ve taken to calling “bullet pimples.”

Bullet sponges suck down ammo like your gun is a smoothie straw. Landing single shots on them is not particularly satisfying, either because they barely react, or every shot is a reminder that you’ve still got a long way to go before they get on with their journey to digital hell already.

Uncharted 2‘s enemies were all a little too bullet-spongy, but the hulking purple-blue Shambhala Guardians near the end of the game were the worst of the bunch. They charged at hero Nathan Drake through hailstorms of bullets, repeatedly shrugging off death’s grasping clutches and forcing you to clumsily break cover and flee. It wasn’t fun, just a cheap, repetitive pattern you had to perform until they died. Gone were the rudimentary tactics of earlier encounters with regular humans, replaced by ugly bullfights against monstrous ape-men who didn’t even need to take cover. Shooting them produced hardly any feedback. A full clip would stun them, sure, but just for a moment. When they finally went down, their death animation was perfunctory. No interesting reactions or sounds. At the end of these fights, I felt far more relieved than satisfied.

The bullet pimple is a different animal altogether. In Rage 2, armored Mad-Max-like bandits, mixed in with more vulnerable enemies, still react to shots with surprise and anger. Each shot you land on them sends shards of charred scrap metal flying. You might not be doing much damage, but it still feels like you’re doing plenty. A few well-placed shots to the head, and their helmets come off. Or maybe you just drill them with enough shots to the sternum that they compress like they’re going through a junkyard trash compactor. Or you use your armor-stripping super suit power to send them flying. Regardless, you land a killing blow, and the result is an insanely satisfying squishing sound accompanied by an eruption of unidentifiable body fluids. It’s glorious. Weaker enemies, too, die with an intoxicating squish after you’ve clamped down on them just right. This is in no way revolutionary, but Rage 2 gets the look, sound, and rhythm of it all just right. I cannot get enough of these screaming, pus-filled pimple people. Even when I’m driving across the wasteland to reach a mission, I get out of my car to fight randos. I must squish more, more, more. Just before going to bed last night, I found Rage 2‘s shotgun, and given that it’s a perfectly calibrated pimple-person-popping machine—a revelation—it’s a wonder I slept at all.

The process of applying consistent pressure to these enemies over time and receiving a triumphant ooze of audiovisual feedback really is hilariously akin to popping a pimple. In both cases, it begins with tension. You identify a pimple, and you squeeze it, but nothing happens. Instead, the tension just builds and builds. You have to find the right angle, get the right grip, and wait for the right time before you can blow the thing sky high. Maybe it’s not ready to pop yet. Maybe you’re not good enough. Maybe you have to come back later. You’ve got to do something about it, though. It represents a lack of equilibrium in an otherwise unmarred space. So you poke and prod and fixate until you finally pull it off, and—crucially—it’s worth it. The pimple goes pop, and it’s a disgusting little party on your face and fingers. It is tactile and horrible and wonderful all at once.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that I’ve always been drawn to shooters that follow this flow, going all the way back to the original Halo. Yeah, many Halo enemies are shielded and difficult to faze with a burst of regular shots, but when their shield bubbles pop, it’s like you’re the kid at the party who busted open the pinata. Fortnite takes this analogy literally; everybody’s got Halo-like shields, and when you kill them, they shower colorful loot in all directions. It’s little wonder to me that those are some of the most popular shooters of all time. They’re drawing on something intrinsic, after all: popping pimples owns.