<300 – Assassin's Creed Unity: Dead Kings


Full disclosure: I really enjoyed Assassin’s Creed Unity.

With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let’s talk Dead Kings, the first DLC pack for Ubisoft’s much derided and oft-scorned latest entry in the hiding-in-haystacks genre. It’s free for everyone who buys the game, a make-good for all the bad press they received.

It reminds me a lot of the kind of boxed expansion you’d have bought in the 90s, back when shelling out $15-20 got you a bunch of new levels, maybe a new weapon, and little else. It wasn’t really a place to extend the story – story!? – or try new things; it was more content, plain and simple.

Much like something you’d have bought for Quake 1, Dead Kings introduces little in the way of new stuff — the much-touted lantern little more than another widget to solve puzzles with and the new guillotine axe weapon a gunblade for men with beards. The level design is heavily reminiscent of the original game and other recent titles in the series. The catacomb sections return spelunking to the series, which is appreciated, but it never quite hits the highs achieved by the various Assassin’s Creed II spinoffs. There are six or so missions, a bunch of icons on the map that you’ll feel slightly guilty for ignoring, and a bunch of new types of people to stab.

Oddly enough, there’s also more series meta-narrative than the entirety of Unity, but that’s not saying much.

But that’s…okay.

I mean, if you didn’t like Unity, Dead Kings won’t change your mind…and that’s fine. Move along, there’s nothing for you to see in this free DLC.

But if you, like me, are still carrying a torch for the beleaguered series, then Dead Kings is worth a whirl.

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<300 – The Evil Within


How you feel about The Evil Within will probably depend on how you feel about the tank controls in the original Resident Evil.

If you’re part of the dark and dismal Mordor-esque hellscape that thinks the stumbling turns actually add to the tension of the Shinji Mikami’s seminal game, then Evil Within is the game for you. For everybody else…it’s a bit more complicated.

The most obvious (and oft-referred to) point of reference is Mikami’s best title: Resident Evil 4.  As trite as it might seem, there’s really no better way to describe Evil Within than by dredging up that old fan favorite. “It’s RE4 but dredged in Silent Hill and then deep fried in blood.” I might say between bouts of cursing.

Don’t get me wrong, RE4 was an amazing game, and when Evil Within is possessing its desiccated husk, it’s at its best, the player creeping around spooky mansions or rainy vaguely-European hamlets working over zombified villagers with their weapon of choice. It’s creepy and unsettling and full of thinly veiled vaginal flesh portals – everything a good horror game needs.

But then there are times where it starts to slide into the dismal territory of later Resident Evil titles, echoing not the taut survival of earlier entries but instead the pointless melees of later entries. Remember that opening bit from Resident Evil 5? Yeah, there’s a few of those here.

If you’re willing to play along and give it the benefit of the doubt, Evil Within’s lack of ammo and generally pathetic protagonist can be tense and unsettling in a way only Mikami seems to understand, with every fight containing the potential for improvised strategy and desperate survival.

If not though? Give The Last of Us a replay, that’s probably what you really want.

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The Bright Side of Game of Thrones – The Game


These days, there are two major types of videogames: indie and AAA. Indie games are everything from Depression Quest to Hotline Miami, relatively tiny titles that are either independently distributed through stuff like Steam or picked up by a bigger publisher. On the other side there are the flagship games like Call of Duty or Madden, things you see on billboards or bus sides; games with budgets that oust the GDP of most small countries.

This wasn’t always the case. There used to be a middle ground, a place for games that weren’t birthed across multiple campuses but were slightly bigger than a garage or hastily rented studio apartment could handle. You could go to a store, spend $30, and get a game that was…okay. It wasn’t the new hotness, nor was it a risky venture. It was solid, but unremarkable, something that you might develop a fondness for but wouldn’t begrudge someone for disliking.

Game of Thrones is just that kind of game.

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Rogue Legacy: Thanatophobia Trophy Tips and Boss Guide


The PlayStation versions of indie darling Rogue Legacy contains a little treat for crazy trophy hunters: the Thanatophobia trophy, which demands that you beat the game from a fresh save in 15 lives or less WITHOUT using the Architect to lock down the castle. It’s unique to the PS3/PS4/Vita versions of the game and, as of this writing, isn’t even in the PC version.

It’s also a damn nightmare.

But, as the cast of every Nightmare on Elm Street movie can tell you, even the worst fever dreams can be conquered with some creative thinking and courage, so I’m here to take your trembling hand and guide you through the most difficult part of the game – the bosses.

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Is Frank Underwood the most accurate gamer on TV?


One standout detail about House of Cards protagonist Frank Underwood is that he’s an avid gamer. While it’s not a focus of the plot, he’s occasionally shown engrossed in everything from Call of Duty to God of War, zoning out as he blasts terrorists or slaughters mythical beasts. There’s no plot beat about him lobbying Sony or trying to elicit fundraising support from Microsoft. He simply happens to enjoy something that tens of millions of people do. Based on those numbers alone, there’s no reason for this to be unique or interesting. He’s just another in a long line of people with PlayStations.

But it does stand out. It stands out because he’s not a gamer. He’s a responsible, shrewd, and handsome older man. He’s got a job, a wife, a house, and power. He should be playing squash or racquetball, making deals on fairway while a young kid in funny pants hands him a 9 iron.

He’s not a zit-faced kit who’s getting shoved in a locker, a twitchy guy with the cold look of a killer in waiting, or any of the other widely used stereotypes of a gamer. But by casually avoiding these and making gaming just another facet of his complex character, Frank Underwood might just be the most realistic vision of a “gamer” we’ve got.

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The Bright Side of Aliens: Colonial Marines


A bad video game is kind of like an ugly baby. You spend months waiting for it, staring endlessly at blurry pictures and reading page after page of information on it, crafting this wonderful image of it in your head. You might even dream about it, picturing yourself watching the title cards flash by, your fingers tapping the mouse in excitement. Then, review embargos are lifted and, in a bloody torrent of viscera and day one patches, it’s released into the world.

And it looks nothing like what you thought it would be.

We learn to love babies though. A deep seated biological imperative tells us that, no matter how obscene that little mewling creature is, it’s our job to ensure its survival. We must love it.

Why can’t we do the same with videogames?

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There’s Nothing Wrong With Mediocrity


I have a terrible secret: I kind of love mediocre videogames.

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<300 – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons


There’s no single thing that makes Brothers great. It’s not the setting (fantastic!), the story (classic!), or the soundtrack (sweeping!) All of these things, were they just put together, would be little more than a pale shadow of PS2-era classic Ico. Instead, Brothers manages to be more than just the sum of its parts.

What makes Brothers great is the deceptively simple control scheme. The left stick and trigger control the brown haired older brother, the right stick and trigger the blonde mopped younger. It starts off easily enough, with the smaller brother slipping through gates to unlock doors while the elder reaches switches just out of reach. Puzzles increase in complexity as the game goes on, but the controls do not, staying intuitive.

Controlling the older brother with the tried-and-true left stick feels effortless, a reflection of the kind of comfort with your body that only comes with age. The younger brother instead darts around, stumbling from place to place in a pale pantomime of his partner. It feels maddening at first, but you forge ahead.

It’s what having a younger sibling feels like. You’re perpetually the left stick, always sure and true, the fumbling of youth long left behind. Playing the game, it’s hard to not always find yourself leading with the elder brother, the left stick, the comfortable and experienced. Even when separated, I tended toward auburn teen instead of the young boy who wasn’t quite comfortable in his skin.

Amazing things happen with these controls, things that dip into the spoiler-y end of the pool, but which you’ll immediately understand when they happen. It’s this seemless blending of tactile feel and emotional theme that elevates Brothers into the realm of greatness.

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Enjoy Your Platinum – The Evolution of Trophies in the inFamous Series


You can tell a lot about a game from how rare its platinum trophy is.

It can tell you if the game was easy or hard, critically panned or universally beloved. You can tell if the multiplayer was tacked on or well integrated, if the player base is still active or if the servers are on life support. You can tell if the developers have certain things in mind for the player or if they were typing up the list while the delivery boy waited for the gold master.

In the case of inFamous: Second Son, you can tell that Sucker Punch is damn proud of their game and wants everybody else to love it as much as they do.

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Stay A While And Listen


Ladies? People of color? Everybody else who exists outside the socially prescribed norms? This article isn’t for you. You can stop reading after the first paragraph and I won’t get upset. This article is really for the straight, middle class, by-the-books, white men in your lives. Go get them and sit them down in front of the computer. Put a beer in their hand, maybe a nice cup of tea if they don’t drink, and leave the room. I’ll wait.

Okay, have they left yet? Good. Here we go.

It’s hard being a straight white guy these days, I know.

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