Month: July 2024

Concord trailer screenshot
Concord – what did you think of it? (YouTube)

The Wednesday letters page suggests making a Tomb Raider survival horror game, as one reader looks forward to the summer’s indie line-up.

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Almost recommended
I just wanted to give my verdict on Concord, after having played it at the weekend and into Monday. I’d say I broadly agreed with GC’s review, although not necessarily in terms of which characters were my favourite. I hated all the alien ones, so I’m glad there’s not more, and actually found Haymar to be a lot of fun.

Clearly the game is not original, or even trying to be, but I think it’s a bit pointless to concentrate on that, given the state of most other games and sequels. I guess it’s extra disappointing when a brand new franchise just straight-up copies something but even then this is still more imaginative, within its limits, than Valorant or XDefiant.

For me, the question is how good is good enough? The game is enjoyable and well-made but at the same time it’s not a world beater. If it was free that wouldn’t be a problem but it’s not, so then you’ve got to decide if it’s worth playing and worth both the money and time investment. Even as someone that enjoyed it at the weekend I’m not sure.

The beta may actually have been too generous, as now I’ve played all the characters I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to from the main game. The story? Not so much. I think Sony has still got a big job ahead of them, trying to sell it.

Friends of Rockstar
I see there’s some rumours about GTA+ coming to Switch but what do people think this could actually mean? With these sorts of things it’s always the boring answer, so it’s probably just because Red Dead Redemption is on Switch, but what if this was Rockstar getting ready for the Switch 2?

I can’t see any scenario where GTA 6 could possibly work on the new console but what if Rockstar were making something new for Nintendo, like they did with Chinatown Wars? Or maybe they’ve got a version of GTA 5 working on it? It’s still basically an Xbox 360 game, so it’s not as if it should be a problem.

Rockstar get on better with Nintendo than I think some people realise, so I’d be keen to see them try and team-up again.

Full horror
I see Lara Croft is now in Dead By Daylight, which seems a bit odd to me, as none of her games have been survival horrors. There was a bit of it in the first reboot, and I guess there was tense elements in even the early games, but it does seem odd to me that she’s constantly associated with horror stuff but none of her games really go for it.

I know the original version of the reboot was much more explicitly a horror game, that got diluted down to what we got, but if people are so keen on the idea, then maybe it is time to go for a full fat survival horror? It would certainly make more sense to turn Tomb Raider into that than the ultra violent stealth/shooter game that the last trilogy became.

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Surprise hit
There might not be any big name games out at the moment but it’s a pretty good time for indies at the moment, to judge by GC’s reviews of Gestalt: Steam & Cinder and SCHiM – both of which look interesting to me. I’m also optimistic for Dungeons Of Hinterberg, Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure, and Thrasher. I’m guessing GC will review these as well.

Hopefully there’s a lot of others I don’t know about yet, as I find one of the pleasures of indie games is that they suddenly come out of nowhere and they’re amazing and weird. I certainly never would’ve imagined that Balatro would become of my favourite games of the year and yet I was obsessed with it for months. Here’s hoping 2024 has more independent surprises in store.

GC: We should be reviewing those, yes.

Internet detective
To add to the rumour mill, and I know you’re gonna love this absurd addition to my theory regarding ‘Who is Emio?’

Referring once again to the trailer, it’s blatantly obvious the reason our paper bag-wearing enigma is hiding one hand behind their back is to conceal the game’s unique selling point.

Nintendo’s Vitality Sensor, which will play the important part of cracking the case in this whodunnit murder mystery.

You can lie, but you can’t hide.
Bad Edit

GC: To be serious for a moment, the latest rumours suggest it may be part of the Famicom Detective Club series and not necessarily anything to do with Bloober Team.

Unsteady studios
I’ve seen some rumours, that were probably made-up, that Rocksteady is planning to reuse some of the stuff from Suicide Squad to make a new game where this time you’re playing as the Justice League trying to make it up to people. It’s good that the first step isn’t just to shut down the studio, but I just can’t see it working.

I didn’t like anything about Suicide Squad: not the gameplay, not the visuals, and not the story or the way they did the characters. I don’t know if Rocksteady have just lost interest in the DC universe now or if too many of the original crew have left now but this was almost unrecognisable from the Batman games they used to make.

In my opinion, the sensible decision would be to let them make their own new and original game but the problem with budgets and everything today is that even if Warner wanted them too its such a massive risk. Now Rocksteady is trapped making lame comic book games, that they don’t seem into anymore, until they eventually get shut down. It’s a real shame.
Onion Knight

This time it’s war
Aliens: Dark Descent on the PlayStation 5 is on sale at the moment.

I re-read your review from last year, in which you said it had a lot of bugs, but the PlayStation 5 version may be better.

Would you score it higher now? I’m assuming a lot of the bugs have been ironed out now, but I doubt they have had added more dialogue and music to the game.

GC: We haven’t played it since launch, but we understand from others that the bugs have been fixed. Even if they hadn’t it’s worth it in a sale, especially if you’re an Aliens fan.

Serious choices
I’m not sure how serious people were being when they said that they hoped there’d be a new Marvel Vs. Capcom but with the new compilation and Marvel movies ramping up again I don’t think there’s been a better chance in years, assuming we hand wave away any legal complications from Sony, until we know better.

So, what are people’s serious hopes and expectations of new characters? Multiple Fantastic Four characters are a given, with that film coming up, but I don’t know how many new X-Men they’d have, beyond the legacy ones, because it’s going to be a couple of years before Marvel gets into that (I think there’s a reveal expected at Comic-Con for their film slate?).

I think we’d probably also get Doctor Strange, Miles Morales, Loki, maybe Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Moon Knight, and Scarlet Witch. But who knows, because Capcom loves to pick some really obscure characters. I have no idea where Shuma-Gorath came from in the original – he’s an interdimensional god not a little green octopus guy!

As for the Capcom side of things, I think Lady Dimitrescu is a shoe-in, as well as one or two new characters from Street Fighter 6, which sadly probably includes Luke. There’d probably be a Monster Hunter avatar (can’t believe there wasn’t one in Infinite) and then I’d like to see Gene from God Hand and Falco from Power Stone (guess we better have Squirrel Girl from Marvel as well, for GC, even though I don’t know who she is).

I’d like to see some other obscure Capcom picks too, like old school Bionic Commando and Regina from Dino Crisis. Then get really obscure like someone from Knights Of The Round or Forbidden Worlds. I always loved these games and the more obscure the characters the better.

GC: A monster hunter was added as DLC after launch.

Inbox also-rans
The Sims is one of those franchise I wish another company owned. I used to love that game but EA has been so terrible controlling it, I’m not surprised to learn that The Sims 5 is having problems.

John Bercow in Fallout London? Suddenly, I really, really wish I had a gaming PC. Like the other reader said, what are Bethesda going to do if this ends up being better than the official games? It’s not like Fallout 4 was great to begin with.

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“I always knew how to rap,” JT says. “I was born with this gift. But did I think I was gonna be a professional rapper? Hell no.” She’s calling from Los Angeles, where she’s preparing to release her debut solo project City Cinderella this Friday. “I never thought I would be a celebrity growing up, but I always wanted to be,” she continues, the clacking of her nails audible through her microphone. “Like, who don’t want to be what they see on TV?”

Raised between Carol City and Liberty City, Florida throughout what she has referred to as a “chaotic” childhood, wealth and fame never seemed to be in the cards for JT — and when they first appeared in her hand, the game revealed itself to be rigged. Most of the world heard her for the first time as one half of the rap duo City Girls in their brief uncredited feature on the highest-charting song of summer 2018, demanding “the black card and the code to the safe” on Drake’s “In My Feelings.” The morning of the song’s release, JT left a recording studio and self-surrendered at the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution to begin a 24-month sentence. While her voice traveled around the world, JT found herself trapped behind bars. She had simultaneously arrived at the precipice of her wildest dreams and her gravest trials.

Just over six years to the day after she first entered prison, nearly everything has changed. Today, JT is more inescapable than ever: her first solo singles “No Bars,” “Sideways” and “OKAY” have each progressively surpassed one another, with the latter track becoming her first solo Hot 100 entry. Dubbed a “rising fashion fixture” by Vogue, JT has made front-row appearances at Paris Fashion Week, and starred in campaigns for Mowalola and Poster Girl.

Last October, JT announced in Interview Magazine that she would be releasing her first solo EP in 2024; in June, Yung Miami seemed to confirm that the City Girls had officially disbanded. By the time JT unveiled City Cinderella in July, her solo EP had evolved into a 16-track project.

“I would have never thought that today, I would be a week away from my first solo project,” JT says. “Not in no way, shape or form.” When she made that initial announcement in October, she explains, hardly any of those 16 tracks existed yet. Most of City Cinderella was recorded between Los Angeles and New York in the months since.

City Cinderella is definitely a mixtape,” she clarifies. “People work on their albums for a year, albums are just different. So City Cinderella is not my first album, being that I made this project so damn fast. I had to create this project throughout the tour and moving around, so I didn’t have time to really nurture and doctor it. This is just something that I’m putting out with my pure instincts.

She adds, “I mean, seven songs isn’t bad, but why not give a lot of music? I talk entirely too much to be doing [only] seven songs.”

City Cinderella reveals a new maturity in the 31-year-old rapper, most present in her vulnerability and her focus. Lyrically, JT is at her sharpest. Her beat selection is precise and varied, lending the project a sense of cohesion that is rare for a mixtape. “Immediately, if a beat talks to me, I already know what I’m gonna go in there and rap about,” she says about her process. “I kinda know the lyrics before the flow.”

Sprinkled throughout the runtime are hints of the kind of rap JT grew up listening to, from a song named after Uncle Al to the “OKAY” remix with Jeezy, the latter of which JT dropped two weeks ago as a single. “I wanted to be a surprise, but it sounds so good, as soon as I heard it, I was like, ‘I want it out this week,’” JT explains. “I’m so thankful to Jeezy — I’m such a fan.”

Brash and self-assured tracks like “Servin’” allow her to truly flex her muscles with plenty of the slick punchlines and addictive catchphrases that have become her signature, and the prophetic “JT’s Coming” is deliciously cocky with its victorious horns and drumline. With just a handful of features, it feels like a long-awaited pleasure to get so many minutes of JT laying down bars uninterrupted. The fuel behind her verses tends to rise throughout the course of a song, resulting in crescendos of energy and lyrical deftness that peak higher the longer they build.

City Cinderella’s standout, however, comes right at its beginning. “Still the same bitch, ain’t shit changed/ Still a lot of trauma eatin’ at my brain,” JT raps in the opening track. “Intro (Hope)” is easily the most emotionally unguarded and confessional she has ever been on a record: “Young, Black and lost, but never lost hope,” she repeats, reflecting on how far she has risen with awe.

The inspiration behind the project? “Just wanting to win, to create a project of my own,” JT says with a sigh. “I just wanted to authentically be myself and make music.” Previously open about her frustrations with a lack of promotional strategy or creative control within the City Girls, it is no coincidence that JT frames the creation of an authentic project of her own as synonymous with winning a battle.

JT’s solo era makes a compelling case for the value of returning the reins to the hands of the artist; each decision, from her album artwork to her music videos to her selection of beats and lead singles, feels refreshingly true to her. After being denied personal and artistic agency for so long and by so many — from record label executives to the carceral state — she is at a point in her life and career where she is finally her own sole authority. The City Cinderella is rising from the ashes for good, ready to take full advantage of what she calls her “second chance at music.”

JT was born Jatavia Shakara Johnson, the eldest of her mother’s three children and among the youngest of her father’s 16, the rest of whom were her stepmother’s children. When she was about five years old, JT’s mother was incarcerated, and she went to live with her father and stepmother in Carol City, where she often felt ostracized. “I always felt like I was the black sheep in my family,” JT told Angie Martinez in a 2023 interview. But despite that, she found a way to connect with her siblings.

“I was in a [rap] group when I was a little girl, called The Protegees, with my sisters and brothers,” she says. “I used to write my raps down. I was such a little girl that I don’t even remember much about it, but I know that I was writing my own music, and I was writing my sisters’ and brothers’ too.”

Throughout her teens, JT alternated between living with her aunt in Liberty City and sleeping on the couches of her friends’ homes. One such friend was Caresha Brownlee, also known as Yung Miami, who would eventually make up the other half of the City Girls.

Beautiful, popular, well-dressed and notoriously slick-mouthed, JT was known among her friends for the freestyle raps she would come up with in her car and occasionally post on social media. Knowing she had potential but too shy to record and release a song all by herself, JT recruited Brownlee to rap with her.

JT and Yung Miami uploaded their first song, “Fuck Dat N*gga,” to SoundCloud in August of 2017. Over an earworm sample from Khia’s classic “My Neck, My Back,” JT sets the tone from the opening line: “Give me the cash, fuck a wedding ring!” What had originally been a diss track directed at rival girls in the neighborhood had become a scathing critique of sentimental men seeking romance without the means to fund a lavish lifestyle.

In her early 20s, JT studied Fashion Merchandising with dreams of becoming a designer. But she was no fan of the broke college student lifestyle, and her dreams weren’t panning out as quickly as she’d hoped. Her friends would borrow her car for the weekend and mysteriously return with bags full of designer clothes and shoes obtained through credit card scams; one day, JT joined them. Working jobs at the Miami Seaquarium, Burger King and Whole Foods, she was no stranger to hard work — but that hard work simply wasn’t paying enough. “Every two weeks, $500? $600? Like, what I’ma do with that?” JT demands in a clip from the documentary Point Blank Period. “They need to pay people more. The rush with scamming was you gon’ get all that stuff you wanted. In a bad way, but you was gon’ get it.”

I see myself being who I am, who I know I could be, which is larger than life.

A week after recording “Fuck Dat N*gga,” JT was charged with seven counts of aggravated identity theft and a single count of unauthorized device access, following an arrest for a fraudulent purchase in the shoe department of Nordstrom. By the time her sentencing date arrived in January, the two girls had become the first women signed to the Quality Control Music (QC) imprint under Motown and Capitol Records, giving them just six months to record their first mixtape.

“I know I gotta go, I gotta wear my punishment,” JT says, gazing out of a car window in one shot from Point Blank Period. “I should have never did it.” She pauses. “Well, I don’t really think I should have never did it… I don’t know what I think.”

“‘Cause who wanna be broke?”

The cultural influence of the City Girls was difficult to quantify. Their signature affirmative “period,” along with its phonetic derivatives like “periodt,” saw significant spikes in colloquial usage on Twitter following the duo’s official rerelease of “Fuck Dat N*gga” through QC in December 2017 and the arrival of their first mixtape PERIOD the next summer. In the years following, they shifted the way an entire subset of their generation idealizes sex, lifestyle and romance. The City Girls were infectious; they made you start talking like them, joking like them, thinking like them, demanding like them.

“This is alter ego music,” JT told the Miami Times in February 2018. But it is also not a coincidence that the particular alter ego that resonated with so many is that of a savvy, scamming, powerful woman — one whose power is derived from the manipulation of men, the weaponization of her own hypersexualization and a disregard for social norms and the law. The modern woman is expected to work and make her own money, but women still only earn 82 cents to every dollar earned by men as of 2023, and Black women only earn 70 cents to every dollar earned by a white man. For a generation raised amid the Great Recession, rising inflation, flatlined wages and an increasingly unaffordable cost of living, there is a cathartic honesty in the ruthlessness of the city girl mindset: an acknowledgement of the savage norms of heteronormative romance, the extortion of financial restitution and a mythological sense of triumph over the phallus. The city girl takes her power back on terms that you can count in dollars and cents.

After all, it’s merely a self-protective measure: “If you pay attention to male [rap] lyrics,” JT points out in Point Blank Period, “when they fuck a bitch for free, they make fun of them. They make fun of you!”

In late 2021, a snippet of a JT verse emerged online, the first hint of a solo track since her “JT First Day Out” freestyle in 2019. “My titties perfect, they plastic,” she spits, “I like my money Jurassic/ This pussy pop back, elastic/ You bitches don’t want no static!” The clip went viral immediately, spreading through the corners of the internet and accumulating hundreds of lip-syncing videos across TikTok.

“I hate that song, lord,” JT says now with a laugh at the mention of the clip, called “White Noise.” The song was a throwaway in her mind, one of the many tracks she recorded while she was living in a halfway house in Atlanta upon her initial release from prison. She had no idea so many people would love it. “That’s why I don’t have a doubt in my mind about City Cinderella,” she admits, “because y’all like the most stupidest things I put out sometimes, and I’m like, Oh my god, this is cringey as fuck!”

I plan on being a huge star.

“White Noise” was never meant to be a solo JT song, but the reaction to it was an indicator of the kind of hunger for her solo music that she could come to expect. In fall of 2022, JT posted another snippet, this time of what would become “No Bars.”

“‘No Bars’ is literally a freestyle, it was something I just needed to get off my chest,” JT explains. “It was so me. That song was the gift that kept on giving. Every time I thought it was over, it was something else in that song that went viral.”

JT finally released “No Bars” last June, and in the year since, it has sold over 500 thousand units. As of today, the audio of the song’s closing line “mwah, no bars” has been used more than 122,000 times on TikTok. “I couldn’t hold it,” she says. “I was like, This needs to be out. People kept begging; it was almost a year and people were still asking for that fucking song.”

“One time, I remember being really depressed about our record sales,” JT recalls. She is referring to the October 2023 release and underwhelming commercial performance of RAW, the third studio album by the City Girls, which triggered a wave of online mockery when it was projected to sell between 6,000 and 8,000 units in its first week. “I was like, Oh my God, it’s fucking over, and then ‘No Bars’ went viral again. That song got me through a lot, it will always be so special to me. I’m sad that it’s not even on my debut project, but I feel like it did what it had to do to get me where I’m at today.”

The music video for “No Bars” opens with a dedication to Monica Suh, JT’s late friend and creative partner who encouraged and helped JT as she made her way into the fashion world. When Suh’s name is mentioned, JT lights up. “I will always wanna talk about Monica. Oh my god, I can talk about Monica all day,” she says, reflecting on the early days of their friendship. “I’m a brick wall. I don’t let people in easily, but Monica was such a Leo and she had thick skin.”

In January of 2023, Monica took JT to her first Paris Fashion Week. “I remember having a meltdown in Paris, saying that I do not belong here, I’m not gonna fit in,” JT says. “I was freaking out, going the fuck crazy on her and she was just staring at me in the calmest way, saying, ‘Well, you definitely belong here.’”

JT had no stylist with her, but she did have a makeup artist. So they decided on an all-black look, to draw the attention to her face. “That’s when my viral lip came out, when I did the black lip liner with the little deep cut at Mugler,” JT says. “Monica was so happy. I remember her never shutting up, like ‘I told you [that] you was that bitch, I told you, I told you, I told you!’ She told me, ‘You definitely belong here. You don’t belong anywhere else in the world. You are a fashion girl.’”

Sitting front row, JT even participated in the show as part of a staged tug-of-war with Arca, who stopped halfway down the runway to “steal” an unreleased Mugler bag out of JT’s hands before continuing to walk. A few months later, Monica would help JT book her first campaign with Poster Girl for their Fall 2023 line, once again pushing JT out of her comfort zone and into something new.

“I went crazy on her about Poster Girl, I went crazy on her about Mugler, I went crazy on her about everything,” JT says. “But when I look back, those were my most special moments. Monica would always tell me I was an it-girl. And it ain’t no shade, but she always wanted me to be a solo artist.”

I was like, Fuck it. I’m gonna take the risk.

Monica passed away in a car accident in Los Angeles in April of 2023. Since then, JT has been public with her grief and enduring appreciation for her friend. “I love her,” JT says, using the present tense. “I’m always gonna talk about her because it’s so easy to. She’s such a good person and she deserves to be talked about.”

Later that year, JT would star in a campaign shot by renowned fashion photographer Hugo Comte for a collaboration between Mowalola and Beats by Dre, as well as return to Poster Girl for their Spring 2024 campaign. Lauded for “bringing visibility to alternative Black girls,” her distinctive image has proven to be as inspiring among fashion lovers as it has been controversial in the urban media landscape — but JT says that controversy has also “opened so many doors,” catching the eyes of collaborators who understand her taste.

JT’s follow-up to “No Bars” came this year in February, with an accompanying video and cover art that paid homage to Florida rapper Jacki-O. “Sideways” debuted even higher on the charts than “No Bars”; then, in March, JT announced a string of upcoming club performances. Reluctant to crowd her Instagram with club flyers, she compiled the dates onto a single graphic and posted it, leading some to interpret it as her first solo tour.

“It was mind-blowing,” she says of the club tour. ”I kind of underestimated myself a little bit with what the outcome was gonna be, because when I announced it, people was clowning me. It wasn’t a real tour — I put all my bookings on a sheet and they took it as a tour. I kid you not, I thought that when I went out there, I was gonna really be in restaurants and waiters was gonna be walking past me while I was performing. That’s how scared them bitches had me on the internet.”

JT laughs: “They really had me tricked. I was afraid, a little bit, but I was like, Fuck it. I’m gonna take the risk.” When she stepped out in front of her fans, who she playfully refers to as her “Juvies,” those nerves melted away. “I’m like, Oh, I did this before, like, What the fuck are you talking about? And it just started getting better and better and better. My fans have never not showed up for me.”

A highlight of JT’s club tour was a segment of the night called “Rap Cam,” when she would challenge her fans to rap her songs on stage, word for word. The ingenious idea was JT’s own. “I was like, I know they can get on stage and kill this,” she explains. “‘Rap Cam’ is literally my favorite thing to do. I love to see their confidence. I love to know that they know my music, and that they get their little five minutes of fame to be celebrities and be on stage. I love to see that for them.”

She giggles, “And I love when they just get to booing people like we at the Apollo. They be like, ‘Get down!’ It’s so funny.”

Now, JT is gearing up to embark on her first official solo tour in August, with 21 shows across the United States. “I’m so geeked, I’m like, Oh my god, I got a real tour on Ticketmaster,” JT says, her voice becoming earnest. “That is what I’m really, really most excited for, to see my fans be able to buy merch in the venues, do meet-and-greets, you know, like the real tour experience — because we had some rough days at them clubs, baby. I’m happy for my fans to really get to sit down and get professional treatment, with real production and all that shit.”

In a seven-year-old clip, JT’s hair and lips are a matching bubblegum pink, her Miami drawl is thick and she smiles with a mouthful of braces. “Y’all not takin’ my rap career serious yet,” the then-24-year-old says in the video, pulled from a 2017 Facebook livestream. “I’ma have to make it so y’all can take me serious. When I make it, then y’all gon’ be wantin’ to take me serious, so y’all better take me serious right now.” Despite the obstacles she was facing, the young woman in the video seems to have a premonition of what is to come.

When asked where she hopes to be seven years from now, JT answers without missing a beat: “I plan on being a huge star. Like, I’m already a star, but I plan on having a successful business, having a successful family, [performing in] arenas, making change in my community, giving back to my city, Miami. I want to build a juvie house for unfortunate kids.” Some of that work has already begun; her No Bars Reform initiative launched last summer and provides employment, housing, and therapy resources for recently incarcerated women.

She continues, “It’s a lot I want to do in seven years, which will come fast, ‘cause baby, time be going by fast. You would think that seven years is a long time from now, but it’s actually tomorrow.”

JT takes a long pause.

“I see myself being who I am, who I know I could be,” she says, finally. “Which is larger than life.”

Photography: Leanda Heler
Styling: Briana Andalore
Hair: Tevin Washington
Makeup: Eden Lattanzio
Nails: Tiny
Set design: Milena Gorum

Lighting tech: Emilio Tamez
Executive producer: Jenn Sarkis, Studio Matière Première
Photo producer: Alyson Cox
Stylist assistants: Alexandra Harris, A’kai Littlejohn, Gabby Weis
Production assistant: Kennedi Hollaway
Set design assistant: Coco

Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Managing editor: Matt Wille
Editorial producer: Angelina Cantú
Music editor: Erica Campbell
Cover type: Jewel Baek
Story: Brook Aster
Publisher: Brian Calle
Location: Rein Studios

SCHiM screenshot
SCHiM – a shadow needs light (Extra Nice)

Take control of a lost shadow in a monochrome Dutch city, in this inventive and agreeably mellow new indie adventure.

Even if they’ve only really taken off in the last 30 years, video games have been around since the 1950s. In that time, it’s tempting to believe that, with hundreds of new games released every year, literally every conceivable idea has been brought to a screen somewhere, whether arcade, TV or mobile. But, thankfully, SCHiM proves that’s not the case.

Presented in line drawn style, like an animated architect’s drawing and viewed from a rotatable isometric perspective, you play as a man’s shadow, your two beady eyes peeping out from its black depths.

As the man walks around town, you soon discover it’s possible to detach yourself from him, leaving him momentarily shadowless, and allowing you to carve your own temporary path. Naturally, there’s no way for a shadow to survive in direct sunlight, so you have no choice but to hop between pools of shade, whether they’re created by street furniture, cars, people or animals.

Just as you’re getting used to your newfound semi-freedom, the man wanders off into the city, leaving you alone. Your sole task is to catch up with him to reconnect. His shadow-free life comes with its own pitfalls and problems, making your mission all the more urgent – not that he makes it easy for you. Just as you’re about to catch up he’ll turn down a side street or hop on a bike, leaving you with a gulf of brightly lit road, pavement or park to navigate your way across.

In practice, you’re not actually in a hurry, your target only wandering into the next scene when you’re just about to catch up. It works quite nicely as a relaxed way of introducing you to the mechanics of being a shadow, letting you pick your way across sunlit areas at your own pace.

You can double-jump and, provided you land in darkness at the end of your second hop, you’re fine. If you’re still in sunlight, you’ll be dragged back to the last secure shadow you occupied, and if you’ve been scudding along in the shadow cast by a bike or a car, that can be a long way.

SCHiM screenshot
SCHiM – what an interestingly odd idea (Extra Nice)

There are some more stressful sections, like negotiating the fast moving shadows of aerial conveyer belts, their cargo flowing in opposing directions. That feels like being in an inverse game of Frogger, your job to hop between the safety of swiftly moving shadows, while avoiding the deadly sun-drenched ground in-between.

You’ll also find areas where shadows are transient, cast by the lights of passing cars. That teaches you that although brightness is deadly, you need light to create the shadows in which you survive – mere darkness is not enough. These levels mean waiting for cars to trundle by, before frantically hopping below their swinging headlight beams, or jumping into the shadow of the car itself as it goes under a street lamp.

For much of the time though things are calm and the challenge gentle. It’s at these moments you’re at liberty to enjoy the playful touches triggered by the game’s interaction button. Sometimes it’s an essential part of the level design – using a flexible sign to catapult yourself over a fence or across a wide, brightly lit road – but often it’s just for fun. You can ring bike bells, honk car horns, and vent all the litter from a bin, for no reason other than your own amusement (if that all sounds rather poltergeist-y, schim is Dutch for ‘ghost’).

Speaking of bikes, this is a game that’s Dutch to its very core. From the ubiquitous bicycling to the canals and occasional step-gable buildings, it may stop short of throwing bar furniture at English football fans, but its sense of place is very clear.

Although there’s a cadence to its moments, of peace and frenzy, it’s fair to say that most of SCHiM feels fairly meandering. But this gives you time to enjoy the experience of hopping aboard a mother duck’s shadow, as she guides her ducklings towards water, or testing the horns of different vehicles.

At those moments it’s the video game equivalent of a Wim Wenders movie, the journey being at least as important as the destination, with nobody in a particular rush to get anywhere. The negative of that is that it can leave things feeling formless, especially compared with more focused, traditional games.

The same’s true of the story, if you can call it that. There are no words, so any sense of narrative is wholly inferred, but the man whose shadow you control certainly seems to struggle without it, even if some of those bouts of bad luck, and the time-shifting scenes prior to them, remain rather opaque.

Whether you’ll enjoy SCHiM is a matter of personal taste. It’s well made, doesn’t have any bugs, and for much of its play time remains oddly tranquil, even if it lacks the impetus, competitive spirit, and clearly defined scope of most games. We thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s hard to imagine anyone throwing shade at such an imaginative and purposefully odd experience.

SCHiM review summary

In Short: A mellow and deeply unusual adventure where you play a man’s shadow adrift in a Dutch city, in a game that defies convention and is all the better for it.

Pros: Excellent line drawn art style that’s as unusual as its subject matter. Unexpectedly meditative gameplay and one of few games to place you firmly in the Netherlands.

Cons: You’re never completely sure what’s going on. The game’s deliberate disregard for games’ usual mores can make it feel shapeless. Not very challenging.

Score: 7/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC
Price: £20.99
Publisher: Extra Nice
Developer: Ewoud van der Werf and Nils Slijkerman
Release Date: 18th July 2024
Age Rating: 3

SCHiM screenshot
SCHiM – the world’s first shadow simulator (Extra Nice)

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Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 still
Early access isn’t too far away (Activision Blizzard)

The dates for Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6’s open beta have been announced and everyone can play it next month.

As a result of Microsoft’s £59.3 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard last year, Call Of Duty is coming to Game Pass on day one. But not without making the subscription service more expensive first, to try and make back some of that money.

Starting in September, there will be two Xbox Game Pass subscriptions for consoles (plus the PC-only service), but the cheapest won’t include access to Call Of Duty.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 is coming out on October 25 and Activision has now revealed the multiplayer early access and open beta dates, and who can play them early.

How to join the Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 beta weekend and early access

The first chance to play Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 early is during early access, which starts on August 30, at 6pm UK time, and ends on September 4, also at 6pm.

The early access period is available on all formats to anyone who has pre-ordered the game or holds a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate, Game Pass PC, or Game Pass Console (or Standard as it will be renamed).

If you aren’t pre-ordering Black Ops 6 or are a Game Pass subscriber, then you can still try it early during the open beta weekend – as long as you have an internet connection – between September 6, at 6pm UK time, and September 9, at 6pm.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 early access and open beta periods
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 early access and open beta periods (Activision Blizzard)

‘Experience the game-changing Omnimovement and other gameplay innovations for yourself across a variety of brand-new maps built by Treyarch,’ says Activision.

‘As well as building your own loadouts, accessing a variety of weapons, equipment and Perks, and dropping in with your squad across a number of modes.’

Fans who pre-order the more expensive Vault Edition will be able to play as any of the four operators in the Hunters vs. Hunted operator pack, as well as try five new weapons.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 will be available on  Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.

Call Of Duty 2024 teaser
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 6 has a heavy conspiratorial theme this year (Activision)

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MORE : Black Ops 6 is always-online for every mode – Modern Warfare cosmetics won’t carry over

MORE : New Black Ops 6 trailer confirms Game Pass day one and Margaret Thatcher

MORE : Microsoft is not buying Valve and Counter-Strike for £12 billion – unsurprisingly

The Sims 4 key art
What is going on with The Sims 5? (EA)

Fans are concerned that a number of developers working on the console version of The Sims 5 seem to have been moved back to work on The Sims 4.

If there’s one company you’d expect to follow a straightforward progression, from one sequel to the next, it’s EA but they have always been very strange in the way they’ve handled The Sims franchise, with their continued reticence in announcing The Sims 5.

The Sims 4 will be 10 years old this September and while EA has often spoken about the mysterious Project Rene, which has been described as the ‘next instalment’ of The Sims, they’ve always avoided calling it The Sims 5.

Project Rene was first announced in 2022 and while there have been updates and rumours since then there’s never been any official confirmation of what it actually is, and now fans are concerned that some developers that were working on ‘The Sims 5’ are indicating that it’s been cancelled.

There’s a great deal of uncertainty as to what’s going on here, as a series of updates on LinkedIn refer to The Sims 5 as being cancelled but none mention Project Rene.

It’s not clear, but they may only be referring to the console version of The Sims 5. Although many versions of The Sims have been released on consoles before, the series has never been anywhere near as popular as on PC and it wouldn’t be a surprise if The Sims 5 launched as a PC-only title.

Even if this version of The Sims 5 has been cancelled there will undoubtedly be a new numbered sequel at some point, but whether that’s Project Rene or not is less clear than ever. In fact, some fans suspect Project Rene may end up as a spin-off, after EA said that support for The Sims 4 would continue in parallel.

The only thing that’s been shown in detail for Project Rene is the build mode, for creating and customising houses, which while an important part of The Sims experience is not most people’s favourite part.

Actual sims have never been shown as part of Project Rene, although the developers in these new LinkedIn ads do talk about working on character customisation tools.

One other possibility is that EA may just stick with The Sims 4, treating it as a true live service title that is intended to last forever and will be constantly updated.

Unfortunately, the reason these posts were made seems to be because of ongoing layoffs at EA, which makes it even harder to guess what’s really going on behind the scenes.

There are multiple different ways to explain these job updates but until EA themselves confirms what their plan is fans are going to be left uncertain about the future direction of the franchise.

Project Rene screenshot
Screenshots like this are all that’s been shown of Project Rene (EA)

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MORE : The Sims 5 full map leak suggests return to open world

MORE : Willy Wonka Experience has been recreated in The Sims and Animal Crossing

MORE : The Sims 5 will be ‘free to download’ but won’t replace The Sims 4

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John Bercow as Speaker of the House
‘Ordeeeeeer!’ (YouTube)

Former speaker of the House Of Commons, John Bercow, has joined the Fallout: London cast, as fans who own Fallout 4 via Epic Games Store are told they can’t play the mod.

Despite being delayed because of Bethesda’s next gen update, fan project Fallout: London is nearing launch once again. Although there is no official release date yet, it’s expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks.

Even so, there’s been more bad news, with those that bought parent game Fallout 4 from the Epic Games Store being told they won’t be able to play the mod, for technical reasons.

In terms of good, or at least unexpected, news if you’re a fan of the former Speaker Of The House, John Bercow, it’s been announced that he will play a robot parody of himself in the mod, that constantly shouts ‘Order!’

Fallout: London project lead Dean Carter confirmed on Discord that Bercow will join the vast cast of voice actors on Discord, where he said:

‘Little amusing update. Imagine being Fallout: London and feeling so lucky having all the talented voice actors on the team. But then boosting it further with the fact that we have two Doctor Who actors as VAs [voice actors]… then Neil Newbon messages us and also wants a role.

‘But the cherry on the top? Who better to represent our mods version of the Speaker of the House, than a robot version. Voice by John Bercow himself.’

The post also comes with an audio file, where we can hear Bercow say ‘order’ in a number of different ways, just like you would hear him when he tried to control discussions in the House Of Commons.

Bercow became known for his loud roars for order and wearing colourful ties, which sparked many memes on the internet.

John Bercow meme from Reddit
One of many John Bercow memes (Reddit)

The former speaker joins a cast of over 100 voice actors in Fallout: London, including Neil Newbon, who played Astarion in Baldur’s Gate 3; as well as the sixth and seventh doctors from Doctor Who, namely Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker.

Fallout London won’t be playable on Epic Games store copies

Not everyone can play Fallout London at launch, however, as GOG, the PC distributor of the mod, has said that those who have bought Fallout 4 via the Epic Games store won’t be able to run the mod, according to VG247.

The reason for this is because the aforementioned next gen update from Bethesda needs to be downgraded from Fallout 4 before being able to play the London mod.

The Epic Games storefront doesn’t support update rollbacks, but fans who own the game through Steam, will be able to play Fallout: London. However, there’s currently no expectation that the mod will be playable on consoles.

GOG also confirmed that Fallout: London is still being tested by them, before it can be released to the public.

Dean Carter says John Bercow joins Fallout London mod
Dean Carter confirms that John Bercow joins Fallout London (Discord)

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MORE : Fallout 4 fans ask Bethesda to stop updating game as mods become unusable again

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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth key art
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth – the best game of the year is more than a third off (Square Enix)

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It’s Amazon Prime Day 2024 and while there are no cheap consoles there are some pretty good deal on cheap games, including Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Suicide Squad.

It’s Amazon Prime Day again, the summer equivalent of Black Friday that has so many deals that it actually lasts two days. Or at least that’s the theory, from Amazon’s point of view. Although this year there are a fair amount of genuinely tempting video game deals.

Amazon Prime Day is live now and will last until midnight on Wednesday. Deals can change over the two days though, and stock often runs out, so if you see a deal that catches your eye it’s usually best to act fast.

Unusually, there are no console deals at the moment – for PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch – but there are more discounts on recent games than usual, which is good. The PlayStation 5 has the lion’s share of the bargains, but you should find something for everything in the list below.

There’s also a number of good peripheral deals, for things like controllers, headsets, and mice but as usual it’s best to stick with official joypads when it comes to consoles – although the Xbox ones are on sale, if that’s what you’re after.

If you notice something good that we haven’t mentioned, or that anything below has gone out of stock, do let us know via the usual email address:

PS5 Amazon Prime Day 2024 video games deals

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth – £49.99 (29% off)

Shin Megami Tensei 5: Vengeance – £34.99 (36% off)

Tekken 8 – £35.90 (35% off)

Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League – £22.09 (31% off)

Sand Land – £34.50 (42% off)

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Limited Edition – £34.99 (36% off)

Assassin’s Creed Mirage Launch Edition – £24.99 (44% off)

The Crew Motorfest Limited Edition – £27.99 (35% off)

Lords Of The Fallen – £18.99 (68% off)

Lies Of P – £33.10 (34% off)

Aliens: Dark Descent – £24.99 (29% off)

Farming Simulator 22 Premium Edition – £24.99 (44% off)

Grand Theft Auto 5 – £15.14 (39% off)

Xbox Series X/S Amazon Prime Day 2024 video games deals

Tekken 8: Launch Edition – £35.90 (49% off)

Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League Deluxe Edition – £26.69 (20% off)

Cyberpunk 2077: Ultimate Edition – £29.99 (40% off)

RoboCop: Rogue City – £25.64 (49% off)

Mortal Kombat 1 – £20.89 (68% off)

Grand Theft Auto 5 – £14.20 (43% off)

Nintendo Switch Amazon Prime Day 2024 video games deals

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown – £22.99 (49% off)

Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope – £14.09 (22% off)

Persona 5 Tactica – £21.80 (60% off)

Among Us: Crewmate Edition – £13.99 (50% off)

Bluey: The Videogame – £24.99 (29% off)

Sonic Superstars – £23.74 (53% off)

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Classic Character Edition – £24.59 (30% off)

Five Nights At Freddy’s: Core Collection – £17.99 (40% off)

Video game accessories Amazon Prime Day 2024 deals

Logitech G29 Driving Force Racing Wheel and Floor Pedals – £195.99 (24% off)

Logitech G G502 HERO High Performance Wired Gaming Mouse – £29.39 (63% off)
Logitech G502 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Gaming Mouse – £69.99 (50% off)

Xbox Wireless Controller (various colours) – £41.99 (30% off)

Backbone One Mobile Gaming Controller for Android and iPhone – £69.99 (30% off)

Logitech G435 LIGHTSPEED & Bluetooth Wireless Gaming Headset – £31.99 (57% off)

SteelSeries Arctis 7P+ Wireless PS5 Gaming Headset – £99.99 (43% off)

Roblox gift card
Just because it’s £50 doesn’t mean it’s £50 (Roblox)

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Pokimane screenshot (YouTube)
The Pokimane auction is getting out of control (YouTube)

A charity auction to play video games with YouTube star Pokimane is getting out of control, as two bids reach $500,000 for the chance to game with their favourite influencer.

Auctions have become an increasingly popular form of content on Twitch in the last few years, where a single streamer, or several, put up bizarre prizes to draw in a big audience and lots of money for charity.

Last year, Twitch streamers QTCinderella and Maya hosted an event that raised £192,000 from auctions, including sweaty shorts and the chance to win a date with Stranger Things actor Grace Van Dien.

Now Welsh streamer CDawgVA is hosting his annual influencer auction, which includes a gaming session with Pokimane, which has gone out of control as two fans have offered $500,000 (£385,000) for the privilege – although it’s not clear if they’re real bids or not.

The auction is called CDawgVA Charity Auction 2024, and is raising money for the Immune Deficiency Foundation.

CDawgVA is adding new auctions most days leading up to the main event on July 19, and the most popular prize by far is a gaming session with YouTube star Pokimane.

‘Enjoy a gaming session with Pokimane, one of the top streamers in the industry. Play your favourite games and share an unforgettable experience,’ the auction says, without stating how long the session will last for.

The auction went live less than 24 hours ago and already 156 fans have bid on it.

The auction started with a modest $1 (77p) offer, which was immediately topped by a $15 (£11.50) bid, and now two fans have been one-upping each other and reached a staggering £385,000.

CDawgVA himself is in disbelief, even questioning the bid’s legitimacy, but if it is real then the Pokimane auction will raise five times the goal of the entire event.

The event has has made $8,000 (£6,100) so far, with lots of auctions still live, including the Pokimane gaming session.

Other live auctions include a hangout/game session with CDawgVA and VTuber of the Year IronMouse, which currently has a top bid of $20,500 (£15,800). There’s also a Hidetaka Miyazaki signed Elden Ring poster at $15,000 (£11,500) and YouTuber JaidenAnimations’ 10 million subscriber achievement button at $13,100 (£10,000).

CDawgVA’s event raised $328,000 (£252,000) for the Immune Deficiency Foundation last year, and if fans are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to play with their favourite influencer then it stands a great chance to outdo itself and then some this year.

Pokimane auction bids (Tiltify)
Some fans really want to game with Pokimane (Tiltify)

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Gestalt: Steam & Cinder screenshot
Gestalt: Steam & Cinder – steampunk retro (Fireshine Games)

It may seem like just another indie Metroidvania, but few games have the quality of graphics and level of polish as this stunning new action adventure.

As entertaining as so many of them are, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get excited about the announcement of a new Metroidvania, even if Gestalt: Steam & Cinder made an immediately positive impression when it was featured in the recent Triple-i showcase. Its pixelated graphics are a homage to the 16-bit era of the SNES and Mega Drive, while at the same time being enhanced by modern technology, and it turns out its gameplay is a similarly successful mix of old and new.

On the Metroidvania sliding scale, Gestalt leans much closer to Castlevania than Metroid, with its gothic visuals and role-playing stats. It casts you as Aletheia, a mysterious fighter who lives in the steampunk world of Canaan where, generations previously, a mystical rift opened up, breeding a generation of technologically enhanced super-fighters who plunged the land into civil war.

A fragile peace now exists but Aletheia embarks on a quest to uncover Canaan’s dark secret, while shooting and stabbing as many robots and monsters as possible. Although its influences are obvious, the world of Gestalt: Steam & Cinder has more narrative depth than you might expect from a Metroidvania, with lots of plot twists and character betrayals.

In classic Metroidvania fashion, Aletheia acquires useful abilities as the game progresses, and she levels up. Gestalt has a huge abilities tree, bringing the expected upgrades to health, gun, and melee damage, along with a variety of increasingly powerful blade attacks and the ability for her energy-powered gun to fire more shots than the single one it starts with. In addition, she earns crucial new abilities through overcoming bosses, including a double jump, air dash, and a heavy attack.

As you’d expect, the new abilities open up previously inaccessible parts of the map, while Aletheia is able to pick up documents that populate the map with treasure locations, which in turn bring the likes of the gunsmith and the armourer into play, back in her hometown of Irkalla.

At first, even basic (mostly robotic) enemies prove challenging, thanks to Aletheia’s limited health, but she soon develops into a powerful fighter, with a larger amount of health-restoring draughts. This is just as well, since her enemies become even more difficult after that. Every time you leave and re-enter a room on the map, its enemies respawn, which feels somewhat unfair at first but becomes useful later on, since you can use them as a means of grinding to level up more quickly.

Occasionally you will have to grind, since the bosses – again, in classic Metroidvania fashion – are pretty hard. They are also impressively diverse, but they all have one thing in common: you need patience to defeat them. Much like Elden Ring et al., working out when to go on the offensive and when to evade their instant-kill attacks is vital, as you learn their patterns and vulnerabilities.

The further you get into Gestalt, the more inventive its levels become: you eventually encounter some sequences which are very reminiscent of the Metroid games, in that as well as taking on enemies, you must solve satisfyingly complex mechanical puzzles. There’s also a speed level in which you have to execute a near flawless sequence of platforming while under attack from a rogues’ gallery of enemies and a rapidly rising lava flow.

For an indie game, Metroidvania or not, Gestalt: Steam & Cinder feels extremely polished and finely fettled. It contains 15 to 20 hours of gameplay, adorned with great music (suitably baroque, atmospheric, and memorable), and fantastic pixel art graphics. There’s some fantastic animation and enjoyably imaginative designs, in what is an exemplar of how far you can push hand-drawn 16-bit-style graphics using modern technology.

In gameplay terms Gestalt: Steam & Cinder may not do anything particularly original but when it comes to presentation and slickness this is up there with the very finest Metroidvanias, indie or otherwise. It still doesn’t point towards any future evolution of the genre, whose design has remained largely static for decades now, but when a game looks and plays this well that barely seems to matter.

Gestalt: Steam & Cinder review summary

In Short: A fantastically polished Metroidvania, with some of the best 16-bit style graphics ever seen and impressively deep combat and role-playing elements.

Pros: Superb hand-drawn graphics and music. Great level design and varied combat, punctuated by clever puzzles. Complex character progression and surprisingly good storytelling.

Cons: Could do with a bit more checkpointing at times and level grinding is always controversial. No genuinely original ideas of its own.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PC (reviewed) and Nintendo Switch
Price: £15.99
Publisher: Fireshine Games
Developer: Metamorphosis Games
Release Date: 16th July 2024 (Switch TBC)
Age Rating: 7

Gestalt: Steam & Cinder screenshot
Gestalt: Steam & Cinder – pixel perfect Metroidvania(Fireshine Games)

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Red Dead Redemption 2 fishing mini-game
Red Dead Redemption 2 – a nice spot of fishing (Rockstar Games)

The Tuesday letters page thinks BioShock 4 would be better with less action, as one reader hopes for Aliens: Dark Descent 2.

To join in with the discussions yourself email

Something fishy
With the video games word at a crossroads, with the whole concept of consoles and big budget games up in the air, I want to talk to you about the most important issue of our times: which game has the best fishing mini-game?

I was compelled to write in after finding, to my surprise, that even Stellar Blade has one. It’s quite good even, although it’s a bit too simple to make my top 10. My top three contenders, in no particular order, are Zelda: Ocarina Of Time, Red Dead Redemption 2, and World Of Warcraft. I will also give a shout out to Sega Bass Fishing on the Dreamcast, but since that’s a dedicated game I don’t think you can count it as a mini-game.

I think probably Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favourite, since it makes sense in context, is reasonably difficult, and the graphics are great, but I’ve loved so many fishing mini-games over the years. I wonder what it is that makes developers think to put it in, even when it’s completely irrelevant – like in Stellar Blade.

Are all game developers secretly fishing fanatics in real? It can’t be because it’s easy to do because all of these could quite easily go without the mini-game and nobody would mind, so really it’d be easier to leave it out. I approve though and am always excited to find a new one. Perhaps the better question would be which is the most unexpected game to have a fishing mini-game?

A game of two halves
BioShock is a strange series of games because I feel the story and the action really do not work well together, despite both being very good in their own right. The original BioShock is really unappreciated at how good of a first person shooter is, but everyone remembers the unusual setting and story. I feels like if you took the action out as a separate game, or the story, they’d probably both be better than BioShock as a whole.

BioShock 2 was kind of all-action but they never tried to do a more story orientated game and I think that’s a shame. BioShock Infinite felt especially odd at times because you were meant to be in this big city and you hardly ever saw anyone, except the people you were fighting. It would’ve been a lot more interesting if you were talking to people and doing dialogue choices and the like.

I hope that when the fourth game does turn up it addresses this to some degree.

Unhappy anniversary
Just wanted to point it out, because I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, but Half-Life 2 is 20 years old this year. Apart from making me feel old it is still incredible to me there’s never been a proper sequel. Yes, there was Half-Life: Alyx but it was only on PC VR (why was it never on PlayStation VR2?) and I don’t think it moved the story forward much anyway, from what I understand. It just retcons the end of Episode Two.

The entire idea of Half-Life 3 has been a joke for years and now it’s obvious that the reason there isn’t one is that most people involved with the series have left Valve and those that are left just aren’t interested. It seems such a crying shame. With all that infinite Steam money, I wish they’d just pay someone else to do it or give it to the fans or something.

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Xbox Lite
I’ve seen a lot of people mention that with Game Pass being built into TVs and being on Fire stick means that a console isn’t needed. To me though that’s a bit like saying the Xbox Series X isn’t needed as the Xbox Series S plays the same games. Or any product that is sold in tiers, be it a Dyson or electric toothbrush.

Game Pass streaming is a good entry level product, but it only does 1080p and is limited to games in Game Pass. Call it Xbox Lite if you will.

An Xbox Series S gives you all the games and better graphics, and an Xbox Series X gives you Xbox’s best graphics.

I can’t see streaming replacing a device any time soon, but I don’t see why it can’t be a great little low cost service. If you’ve got a PlayStation, buying an Xbox for a couple of exclusives is probably a waste, but why not sign up for a month or two to play one that might interest you?

According to requirements
With the letters and recent Reader’s Feature, one idea I had a while back is Nintendo should release a Dock Pro. Some computational power to upgrade graphics to 4K, bit of storage for upgraded textures.

Don’t think the Inbox magic will work, as Switch is on the trajectory to being succeeded.

On another point, I do like how Nintendo only brings out a new console when it feels like it needs to.

Sony and Microsoft just release a new console to compete with each other, when (as many have recently said) doesn’t seem needed.

Cost effective
As tempting as it is to imagine what Nintendo would do if working on a much more powerful machine, I think we have to accept that not only is it never happening but that it would fundamentally break how Nintendo work as a company. They took six years to make Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom and that was on a low power machine that borrowed the same basic map from an existing game. How much longer would it have taken on a more powerful console, especially if it was a completely new game?

The short answer is they just wouldn’t make anything of that size or complexity and that obviously would be a great loss. A lot of Nintendo games seem to be quite low budget, especially compared to their competitors, and if they couldn’t be, because they need to create all the complicated assets needed for a high-end console, then a lot of them simply wouldn’t exist.

Remember that things like Animal Crossing and Smash Bros. started off as low budget, experimental side projects, and now look at them. More companies should look to work like Nintendo and I’m very interested to see Capcom’s new Path Of The Goddess game, which seems to be doing weird and interesting things on a modest budget.

We need much more of that and far less of low concept copycat junk like Concord. I don’t care how good the graphics are, I want something that’s actually new.

Solo gaming
I’m surprised to find out that Link will be playable in Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom, as that’s not the impression given by the trailer. I hope it’s only a small amount, perhaps a bait and switch at the beginning, as I do feel Zelda deserves her own proper game to herself.

I’m really looking forward to that game and am once again amazed that Nintendo has such an unexpectedly good line-up this year. If Mario & Luigi is good as well then I’ll probably get that too.

To be this good takes ages
I don’t know if the rumours about 343 Industries being downsized, over their handling of Halo, is true or not but if it isn’t it, it really should be. Microsoft should’ve taken them out to pasture years ago, once it was obvious they weren’t up to the job. Even when they did something right, like with the multiplayer of Halo Infinite, they managed to mess that up, with inadequate support that just let the game die an unnecessary death.

The sad fact is that there’s just no saving Halo at the moment. It’s got to go away for at least a decade, until people miss it enough to want it to return. Release one in a year or two and it’d still be tainted by the last several games (and I don’t see who they’d get to make it, that would be any good).

It’s just total mismanagement on the part of Microsoft and 343. Halo was the mascot of Xbox and it says everything about the console and brand that Halo is in the state it’s in at the moment. Imagine if Nintendo was as bad at maintaining Mario or Zelda, or Sony with The Last Of Us or God Of War.

I feel that one of Microsoft’s main problems is that it still doesn’t know how to nurture first party developers and that because it’s constantly in a rush for a killer app it never gives one time enough to mature. It took Sony three generations to get consistent about its first party games. There’s no way Microsoft has the patience for that.

Inbox also-rans
I read today Xbox stopping people stacking their Game Pass subscription from up to three years to 13 months. This is from September but does not affect anyone who has already stacked their Game Pass.

As much as I like the film, Aliens: Fireteam Elite wasn’t very good. I’d much rather get a sequel to Aliens: Dark Descent. That was a really good game, regardless of the licence, but sadly I don’t think it did very well.

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