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Hood: Outlaws & Legends review - rangy multiplayer heists in a hopeless alternate England

Thu, 13/05/2021 - 09:00

Robin Hood is the quintessential English folk rebel. He's also a total chameleon. The man (if he was a man) has undergone endless reincarnations, merry and not-so-merry, stretching back over 600 years of fact and fiction. Go on, pick your poison - no-nonsense Yorkshire highwayman or pantomime aristo? Crusading commoner or blueblood cheated of his birthright? Proto-socialist agitator or just a nickname given to any bandit of a certain repute? Errol Flynn or Russell Crowe?

The character has found a new lease of life overseas: I grew up not far from Robin's old stomping grounds in South Yorkshire, but the version of his story I fell in love with as a child was Disney's 1973 adaptation - Sherwood Forest by way of Kansas and the Jungle Book. Over time, sadly, this once-celebrated rogue has become something of an establishment figure. Robin's reinvention during the 19th century as the secret heir to a noble estate has less to do with historical evidence and more reconciling him with England's rotten class system - a rebel no longer, but simply the "better" kind of toff trying to muscle his way back in.

What idea of Robin Hood is appropriate to the England of today, with its draconian anti-protest laws, plateauing wealth inequality and murderously incompetent ruling elite? A thoroughly grim one, of course, and on that count, Hood: Outlaws & Legends amply delivers. A lean multiplayer heist game from the team behind Eve: Valkyrie, it blends the murkier Robin myths with a very contemporary dread of a status quo that seems final and inescapable. The game isn't strictly set in England but a silent, shadowy composite of sunken villages, coastal forts and churchyards populated only by soldiers and gibbets. It feels more like Chernobyl than Sherwood, and like Chernobyl, it is a place out of time, ruled by a nameless, ahistorical State that is both crushingly tangible and strangely without form. Its castles are caught between periods - broadly medieval in design but with a hint of latter-day fascist architecture, made up of vast, square monoliths that seem beyond the era's technology.

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Blizzard showing off Overwatch 2 PvP in two-hour livestream next week

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 20:04

Since its announcement back at BlizzCon 2019, Overwatch 2's pre-release marketing has predominantly focussed on its new bits - which is to say its PvE story campaign and co-op modes. PvP's still a major part of the package, of course, and Blizzard will finally be giving the game's competitive multiplayer more of an airing next week.

That's according to Overwatch's new game director Aaron Keller, making his Developer Update video debut following Jeff Kaplan's departure from Blizzard last month.

"We've been hard at work on Overwatch 2," Keller explains in the video, "and we'd like to share some of what we've been doing with all of you." To that end, Blizzard will be offering a closer look at Overwatch 2's PvP action next Thursday, 20th May, at 8pm BST/3pm ET.

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Resident Evil Village's PC port is disappointing and needs work

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 18:00

We loved Resident Evil Village on consoles, but unfortunately, my opinion of the PC port isn't quite so positive. On the one hand, I love what the RE Engine is doing technologically and the game itself is fantastic, but on the other hand, I'm genuinely puzzled and disappointed by some of the design choices, bugs, glitches and performance problems. This conversion really isn't where it should be right now.

It starts with the game's menu system and settings which are both excellent and awkward at the same time. In terms of features, the graphical options are great: there's plenty to tweak, along with preview imagery showing you what the settings actually do and some rough idea of the performance implications. The problem comes in how the user navigates through the menu. Scrolling through the options is so, so slow and while keyboard works, you can't actually leave a sub-menu without pressing the right-button on the mouse (and no, ESC doesn't work). It's all counter-intuitive to the point where remarkably, menu navigation is actually a lot, lot quicker using a controller.

I've also got issues with the graphical presets themselves. To begin with, I was excited to see support for Tier 2 Variable Rate Shading (VRS) - which looks so good in Gears 5 and Wolfenstein Youngblood, and effectively gives you free performance with no perceivable visual drawbacks. AMD's FidelityFX implementation is used here and it's immediately obvious that something has gone badly wrong with it. Detail is lost and you don't need to eyeball screenshots or zoom in at 400 per cent to see the issue. The fact it's the AMD implementation is doubly disappointing: you'd expect a standardised solution from the vendor to produce good results but that's not happening here. It really needs to be looked at and fixed.

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Scarlet Nexus console demos arrive later this month, starting with Xbox

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 17:45

If you're still trying to wrap your head around what "brain punk" is, then not to worry, as action-RPG Scarlet Nexus is getting some demos this month ahead of its release on 25th June. Hopefully that will help clear some things up.

Bandai Namco has announced the demo will first land on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One on 21st May, with PlayStation 4 and PS5 following on 28th May. There's no news on whether the demo is coming to PC, so we'll have to wait and see if it comes to the platform.

Scarlet Nexus is set in a world where society has harnessed the power of the brain for communications and unlocking supernatural powers. Which is just as well, as these powers are required to defeat horrible monsters called "Others" that sometimes drop down from the sky. The demo lets you play as either Yuito or Kasane, who both have psychokinetic powers and sign up for the Other Suppression Force to keep the creatures under control.

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Save over 20% in this latest Sky TV and broadband package deal

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 16:28

Sky has launched a new all-in-one package deal with Sky TV, Superfast Broadband and Netflix for £43 per month.

When bought separately, the TV and broadband packages would usually set you back £55 per month, so that's a saving of over 20 per cent with this deal.

Altogether, it's a quick and easy way to bundle all your entertainment and broadband needs in one go, with some decent download speeds. Something we're all craving with the latest games such as Call of Duty Warzone requiring regular monstrous updates!

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Europa Universalis 4 director apologises for "long trail of low quality releases"

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 16:22

The recent Leviathan expansion for Europa Universalis 4 has managed to earn itself an unflattering spot amongst the lowest-ranked products on Steam, with a positive review rating of only seven percent from 3955 reviews. Players said the DLC was seriously buggy and suffered from a host of problems, and sure enough, the game's bug report megathreads quickly filled up with complaints. Paradox Tinto studio manager and game director Johan Andersson has now issued an apology for the state of the expansion and several previous releases for EU4.

Over on the Paradox Forums, Andersson admitted "Leviathan was one of the worst releases we have had," and that the expansion "follows a long trail of low quality releases starting back with Golden Century for EU4.

"As the studio manager and game director, at the end of the day, this is my responsibility, so I have to apologise for this," Andersson added. "This is entirely my fault."

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Scarlet Nexus impressions: chaotic combat, and not in a good way

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 16:00

A dark futuristic world, psychokinetic powers, monsters shaped like slinkies with human hands... despite the limited amount of information Bandai Namco released about Scarlet Nexus over the last year, what we had seen pointed towards a fairly unique action-RPG. In particular, the gameplay trailers suggested that Scarlet Nexus would boast some truly crunchy combat: after all, it's not every day you can smack a car down on a mutated unicorn's head.

Yet after playing the preview build for four hours, I've found Scarlet Nexus's combat to be chaotic at best, irritating at worst. Generally speaking, the combat just feels a bit woolly. Which is unfortunate, considering it's the main focus of the game.

Scarlet Nexus is a third-person action game developed and published by Bandai Namco, due to release later this year on PC, PlayStation and Xbox. It's set in an alternate reality where humans have learned to harness substances in the human brain to give them powers. They use these abilities to fight hideous monstrosities called Others that rain from the sky and eat human brains.

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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart: a PS5 stress-test built from charm

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 16:00

Back in 2012, and powered by the Quake engine, Thirty Flights of Loving unleashed a stylish trick on its players. Jump cuts. Oh boy, how we all sat up and put down our Cahiers du Cinéma. How we briefly silenced the gentle putter of our artisan zoetropes. Imagine it: you're running down a corridor and then the world cuts around you and you're somewhere else. Magic. A particular smart kind of magic that made you feel like you were in on something just by witnessing it, just by seeing it for what it is.

Jump cuts are still pretty powerful when used in a film - I don't fully get them, actually: they manage to make things feel more real, like a documentary, while also drawing attention to how artificial everything is? So in a videogame, in Thirty Flights, they were electric. Thirty Flights used jump cuts for bursts of Zippo-flicker new-wave cool. Breezy ambiguity! What is truth, eh? Eh? Some of us never really got over this, to be honest.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has a similar sort of trick, but the handling - and the tech behind it - is completely different. We are a long way from the Quake engine with this one, so to put it in the language of hardware, what came first, the SSD or dimensional rifts? When asked this at a recent virtual junket - bear in mind when watching the pretty much astonishing videos of this game in motion that much of what you see has been made in people's kitchens and spare bedrooms during the pandemic - the team at Insomniac finds it hard to answer the question. But here are the basics: PS5's SSD is a beast at loading, so while that's bad if you like to make a Pop-Tart between levels - I am not here to judge - it means that you can jump right into a game from the off. And game developers, after really thinking about it, have realised that you can jump right into a game inside a game. And what if both games are the same game? Hold me.

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Xbox Series X/S adds OG Xbox dashboard theme

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 15:30

Microsoft has released a new dynamic theme for Xbox Series X/S which brings to life the retro, Matrix-inspired aesthetic of the OG Xbox.

The animated background, named "The Original", is more akin to the loading animation you got when first turning on that chunky console rather than its actual dashboard, but the look will likely still feel familiar.

Here's The Verge's Tom Warren with a preview - though it should now be rolling out to all Xbox Series X/S owners:

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Ubisoft won't abandon paid AAA games while making free-to-play versions of core franchises

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 13:39

UPDATE 3.30pm UK: Ubisoft has further clarified its commitment to big budget games in a new statement shared with Eurogamer. In it, the publisher says it is not reducing its typical AAA output:

"Our intention is to deliver a diverse line-up of games that players will love - across all platforms," a Ubisoft spokesperson said. "We are excited to be investing more in free-to-play experiences, however we want to clarify that this does not mean reducing our AAA offering. Our aim is to continue to deliver premium experiences to players such as Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Riders Republic and Skull and Bones to name a few while also expanding our free-to-play portfolio and strengthening our brands to reach even more players."

ORIGINAL STORY 12.30pm UK: Ubisoft has said it will release big budget free-to-play versions of some of its major franchises - as well as continue its traditional full-price AAA releases of things like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry.

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Microsoft's Console Purchase Pilot looks like a new way to avoid Xbox Series scalping

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 13:03

Ever since the new generation of consoles released at the end of last year, both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles have suffered from stock shortages - and as a result of that, increased levels of scalping. The problem grew so severe that even British politicans began to pay attention. And with console shortages set to continue for the foreseeable future, it seems Microsoft is trialling a new way for customers to acquire a console - without everything being ruined by scalper bots.

The new program, called the Console Purchase Pilot, is available to Xbox Insider members in the US and offers the chance to reserve an Xbox Series X/S. Microsoft says that space is limited, however, so not all who sign up will be able to reserve a console.

Microsoft explained that a "small audience" of Xbox Insiders will be invited to register for a console via the Xbox Insider Hub app for Xbox One and Windows 10. The purchase itself, however, is restricted to Xbox One consoles - and cannot be made from your PC, web browser, Xbox 360 or Xbox Series X/S. The program is clearly aimed at Xbox One users who are looking for an upgrade. In theory, this should make it harder for scalpers to purchase several consoles or use bots to swipe stock before humans can place an order.

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Destiny 2 cross-play accidentally switched on early

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 12:37

Bungie has acknowledged the fact you can currently play with people from platforms other than your own in Destiny 2 - all a little earlier than planned.

Reports of Destiny 2 crossplay being possible emerged last night, and were picked up by Destiny community manager Cozmo.

Describing it as an unintended "sneak peek", Bungie said that crossplay was officially still in development, and would be disabled again in the coming days.

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Apex Legends update nerfs Spitfire and Bocek Bow

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 12:03

Apex Legends' Legacy update has now been live for over a week - after a somewhat wobbly start - and Respawn has already rolled out some balance changes for two weapons. The Spitfire and newly-added Bocek Bow, both considered overpowered by the player community, have been adjusted to make them a little less lethal.

As explained on the Legacy patch notes page, the Spitfire's bullet damage has been reduced from 19 to 18, while gold and purple magazines will now hold 50 bullets instead of 55. The Bocek seems to be getting a much more severe nerf, with maximum damage decreased from 70 to 60, stack size decreased from 16 to 14 and inventory slot count decreased from 48 to 28. The Bocek's charge up time and Deadeye's Tempo hop-up charge time are also being increased by 0.2 seconds. I imagine this is all to prevent this sort of thing from happening:

The update also brings a number of fixes to the game - including one for those low-detail character models ("goodbye derpy blob Legends, you will be missed" say the patch notes). At one point Valkyrie's passive was highlighting players that were "not alive and/or in spectator mode," something that has also been fixed. Creepy. More importantly, the update brings some general stability improvements, which should hopefully help prevent some of the server issues we saw last week.

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids review

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 12:01

I'll get this out the way first. I understand there are people who may not want more Assassin's Creed Valhalla. It is an enormous game and, for sure, Wrath of the Druids is no minor DLC. To those people, I hear ya, and thank you for your time here today! Lovely. To those who are hungry for more Eivor and to hang out in a new country's history, welcome. Ireland offers lots of familiar things to do across a beautiful new landscape, and some fun fresh additions.

Here's the top-line stuff. Wrath of the Druids adds around two-thirds of Ireland to explore, with an enjoyable self-contained campaign, some interesting new enemies, a major new trading system and, fans will be pleased to know, a boatload of fresh armour sets and cosmetics to unlock and upgrade. This is an adventure focused on Eivor - and while things do skirt very slightly into the supernatural, there's no major modern day or Isu plotline here.

Designed to be played at any point of your Viking adventure, Druids introduces a new cast of characters led by your hitherto unmentioned cousin Barid, who has wound up becoming King of Dublin (where was he when we were trying to sort out England, eh?). Barid calls for aid via his trade envoy, the intriguing one-eyed Azar, who turns up in Ravensthorpe to rope Eivor in. From there, the action heads across the Irish Sea to a fresh map accessible via your Atlas, akin to Vinland and Norway, and the start of a sprawling new adventure.

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Battlefield 6 is designed for PS5 and Xbox Series X, but will also run on last-gen

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 11:50

EA has discussed how Battlefield 6 will benefit from its development focus having been on current-gen consoles - PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S - even though it will also launch on last-gen hardware - PS4 and Xbox One.

The fact Battlefield 6 will not be exclusive to current-gen consoles seems somewhat obvious, in the grand scheme of things - with scalpers and low stock still prevalent and a huge, active install base for PS4 and Xbox One. But EA only made it official for the first time last night, in an earnings call to investors.

"So yes, Battlefield will be available for both current-gen and next-gen as will our sports titles," EA boss Andrew Wilson said.

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Someone should make a game about: rabbit holes

Wed, 12/05/2021 - 11:00

Not real rabbit holes, of course - although I assume they're fascinating. Maybe I will look them up at some point. Maybe I will become engrossed. No! Today I'm talking about rabbit holes, as in research, as in esoterica, as in one of the only really great idioms - pins-and-needles is also a delight - and as in one of the things that often open up when we're trying to do something else.

Someone should make a game about rabbit holes. I say this because this week I realised that rabbit holes are the only way I ever actually learn anything. Yes, rabbit holes can be how people come to believe that the moon is hollow or that World War 2 is still taking place on Mars, and rabbit holes can lead to a Goop shopping cart, but they're also more simply how a lot of fairly standard learning journeys take place following the advent of hypertext and online catalogues and all that jazz. Regardless of the topic, and with me it's always trivial - a cake recipe, a funny spelling - I like a bit of spelunking in my fact-finding, I like to feel the rope give way and hear the distant sound of trickling water. I like to look up and think: Jeepers! How did I get here? Why have I got tabs open on Dupuytren's Contracture and deep water drilling and Hubert Julian, a legendary aviator who once skydived over Manhattan in the 1920s dressed in a red leather devil costume? Oh, rabbit holes!

There is a proper way to learn things, isn't there? Systematic, a bit at a time, follow the curriculum. A phrase returns from my younger years, a phrase that ended promising conversations. "Oh them," I would say. "We haven't done them in school." End of story. Come back later. Come back when I've done them in school.

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LucasArts' 16-bit classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors heading to PC and consoles in June

Tue, 11/05/2021 - 22:06

LucasArts' fondly remembered 16-bit classic Zombies At My Neighbours is getting a long-awaited re-release on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC on 29th June.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which originally launched on SNES and Sega Mega Drive back in 1993, follows the adventures of Zeke and Julie (who can be played solo or co-operatively) as they attempt to save their neighbours from a host of B-movie monsters - zombies, werewolves, vampires, giant ants, aliens, and so on - on a journey that stretches from suburbia to considerably more spooky locales.

It's a delightfully silly top-down shooter affair - players can wield everything from fire extinguishers and water pistols to crucifixes and exploding fizzy drinks cans in order to eliminate enemies on their travels - and a game that Eurogamer contributor Dan Whitehead reckoned had stood the test of time in his 2013 retrospective.

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HTC expanding PC VR headset line-up with Vive Pro 2 this June

Tue, 11/05/2021 - 20:53

HTC has unveiled the latest addition to its PC VR headset line-up in the form of the Vive Pro 2, which arrives on 4th June with pre-orders open now.

As its name implies, HTC's Vive Pro 2 is the direct successor to the high-end PC VR headset it released in 2018. It'll up the ante with a 5K resolution display (2448x2448 pixels per eye), a 120-degree field of view, and a 120Hz panel. By way of contrast, the original Vive Pro featured a 2880x1600 resolution, a 110-degree field of view, and a 90Hz refresh rate.

HTC claims the Vive Pro 2's technological upgrades mean "minimal motion blur", while screen door effect is said to be "virtually eliminated".

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Intel and Nvidia announce new 11th-gen laptop CPUs and RTX GPUs

Tue, 11/05/2021 - 19:50

Bad news: your gaming laptop is officially last-gen. That's the word from Intel and Nvidia, who teamed up today to announce new mobile processors and graphics cards. Intel is debuting their Tiger Lake H CPUs, bringing their 10nm process to high-performance 45W processors ideal for gaming or content creation, while Nvidia announced two new mobile graphics cards, the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti. Here's what you need to know.

Let's cover Nvidia's announcements first, as the company is doing something a bit unusual here: they're announcing two new laptop GPUs with no desktop equivalents (yet). The RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti also bring the RTX featureset, eg ray tracing and DLSS, down to a much more mainstream segment of the market. Previously, you'd be lucky to find an RTX-equipped gaming laptop for much less than $1000, but now RTX machines will start at around $800 - and sales towards the end of the year, eg Black Friday, will no doubt bring that figure down even further. That's great news for game developers, as they can rely on gamers having access to RT even on mid-range machines when creating cross-platform games that are also targeting PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

The 3050 and 3050 Ti are based on a new GPU from Nvidia, likely GA107, rather than being a cutdown version of the GA106 chip used in the RTX 3060. It uses the same 8nm Samsung process as its brothers and sisters, but ships with 2560 CUDA cores (in the fully-enabled RTX 3050 Ti, 2048 in the 3050), paired with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and a 128-bit memory bus - similar to the last-gen GTX 1650 and 1650 Ti.

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Ubisoft's beleaguered pirate game Skull & Bones now won't arrive before 2022

Tue, 11/05/2021 - 19:33

Ubisoft has confirmed its long-announced and much-postponed shared-world swashbuckler Skull & Bones is now expected to release in the 2022-2023 financial year.

Originally revealed back at E3 2017, Skull & Bones - which is being developed by Ubisoft Singapore - was initially due to release on Xbox, PS4, and PC sometime the following year. However, it's now been subject to two official delays, once in 2018 and another in 2019.

As part of the latter announcement, Ubisoft told fans, "We're going to batten down the hatches and push back on the game's arrival. This is challenging news for us all, but it's what's needed to make Skull & Bones as awesome as it can be!".

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