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Cities: Skylines – Mass Transit Review

Public transportation has never been my favorite part of city-building simulations. I’ve always treated it as something of a necessary evil–a hassle best dealt with by quickly laying down extra roads, bus lines, or whatever other available gimmick so that I could keep constructing the new subdivisions and industries necessary to keep my citizens healthy and happy.

Mass Transit–the latest addition to the growing Cities: Skylines family from developer Colossal Order–doesn’t quite change my mind on all of this, as I’m also a real-world mayor who focuses on the big picture. However, it comes awfully close thanks to an effective collection of people-moving options, ranging from ferries to monorails to blimps. What’s included here smooths out some kinks in the original game’s transit systems, allowing you to build more efficiently running cities–albeit at the cost of some added micromanagement that moves the game well out of the virtual mayor’s office.

Mass Transit is centered on two areas, largely addressed in the three new scenarios and three new maps that present fresh challenges when it comes to efficiently moving your citizens from Point A to Point B. The most obvious facet of the expansion is what it adds to city character. You’re free to embrace the quirks of each city’s particular geography. You can practice something of a “sea and sky” philosophy for coastal and mountainous locales, for instance, using monorails and ferries to link neighborhoods and give your cities something of a Vancouver or Seattle vibe.

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Since Skylines is pretty familiar to its fanbase at this point, being able to mix things up like this and put a fresh face on everything adds more to gameplay than you might imagine. The new Ferry Empire scenario offers a fairly light challenge when it comes to moving folks around your watery city, but it’s set it on a unique, beautiful landscape. Authentically, you have to work within the constraints of this terrain and embrace a municipal vision that’s far from the relative cookie-cutter metropolises seen elsewhere in Skylines.

The other focus is city efficiency. Mass Transit provides tools that make for better-running cities. Perhaps the best example of this comes in the form of the new hub buildings. These structures form central locations for public transportation. They allow you to concentrate your efforts and properly plan out transit systems–a big improvement from the more seat-of-the-pants concept of the original game, where you’re pressured to jury-rig and make it up on the fly. Here, hubs afford more opportunities to sketch out transit and approach development from a top-down perspective. You have more control as a result and become able to address transit as part of core city infrastructure, just like with electrical lines, water pipes, and sewers in the past.

One problem is the size of new additions, though. Retrofitting cities with hubs and other transit buildings can be a major chore, since they’re generally pretty big. The “Fix the Traffic” scenario sums up how challenging this can be, as you can’t seem to help leveling about half the city to get the snarled traffic situation smoothed out. Even laying down facilities that are a little easier to work with–train tracks, for instance–is both tough to design and to fit in without doing even more demolishing.

Structuring transit routes can be finicky, too. Simply establishing ferry pathways and routes can be frustrating and requires more trial-and-error than should be necessary for something seemingly so straightforward. So, it’s best to start with a clean slate with this expansion, something also advisable to best enjoy the suite of new game options (new road guidelines, for example) released as a free Skylines update alongside this expansion.

All of this combines to make Mass Transit more about micromanagement. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re a control freak who wants to take a hands-on approach to everything in your city. But it does move Skylines further away from a simulation of what it’s like to be the real mayor of a real city. With all of the extras added in the various expansion packs, the game now feels a little more like a municipal engineer or municipal planner simulation than anything that properly depicts what it’s like to be the mayor overseeing everything.

Even with that caveat, Mass Transit adds more character and depth to what’s already the premier city-building simulation. It may be a bit disappointing that some of the original game’s big-picture philosophy and mayoral authenticity has been sacrificed in the process, but it can be argued that these changes have also done an impressive job of filling out the public-transportation element of city design.

Get Even Review

What if you could re-live your memories and the memories of others to see the world through their eyes? How would that make you feel about your own life decisions? Get Even, from Polish indie studio The Farm 51, tackles those questions and more. Get Even’s best element is no doubt its story. With plenty of twists and misdirection, this psychological thriller contains an emphatic and thought-provoking ending. But its gameplay, which consists of puzzle-solving and shooting, does nothing of note other than distract you along the way.

Get Even starts in dramatic, bewildering fashion. Playing as Cole Black, a former soldier with a long criminal record and cloudy motivations, you start in what looks like a creepy psychiatric hospital. You’re armed only with a silenced pistol and a smartphone. You are told nothing about why you’re there or where you are, but you quickly discover that your objective is to save a young girl with a bomb strapped to her chest. After taking down the men who captured her, you try to defuse the bomb, but it goes off. Casualties are presumed. Fade to black. You then wake up with a virtual reality device strapped to your head.

Black cannot make sense of what’s happened to him or why. (You might also note that he sounds just like Sean Bean, but he isn’t). The story gets even more distressing from there, as you try to piece together what happened as a mysterious scientist, Red, guides you through the asylum over monitors and speakers as part of your treatment.” You eventually discover that the asylum is not all it seems, and Red’s motivations only become more murky.

The first half of Get Even is spent under the guidance of Red, who is later revealed to be a character named Ramsey. You revisit Black’s memories, piecing together clues and attempting to unravel the story behind the mysterious victim. You find evidence as you explore these virtual memories, which ultimately ends up on a board scattershot with photos and newspaper clippings. You may not discover everything there is to see during your first recollection of each memory, but you’re free to return at any time to find what you might have overlooked and add a new piece to the puzzle.

Your vehicle to the virtual world–the Pandora headset–is Red’s life work. It allows you to be a fly on the wall in Black’s memories, where you can look but you can’t touch. Finding the answers you seek is complicated by memories that are maliciously corrupted. Apparently someone or something is trying to conceal the truth to make it difficult to understand what is real and what merely appears to be.

For a while, trust in your own judgement feels out of reach. It’s an intriguing way to tell a story, though it can be a lot to wrap your head around as the new and complex possibilities are introduced. But it all comes together in the end for you (and Black) in a very satisfying and unexpected way.

The action in the early stages of the game revolves around puzzle-solving and a limited amount of shooting, mostly with a weapon called a CornerGun. Black steals this item from a business rival of Ramsey’s, and like its name suggests, its barrel can turn 90 degrees, allowing you to shoot around corners. This is one of the more unique aspects of Get Even’s shooting. It takes some getting used to, as firing around corners can be disorienting at first. It ‘s a logistical challenge to learn where you need to stand or crouch to effectively fire around a corner, and it is very satisfying when you get the hang of it. Once you do, you can sneakily creep around, taking down enemies in secret.

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When shooting the CornerGun, you must land a headshot and make sure other enemies aren’t closeby or else they will be alerted to your presence and come after you in an organized way. It’s a bit unforgiving, especially on the Traumatizing difficulty (of note: Traumatizing and Gentle are the only two difficulty levels.) But it’s a good challenge and very satisfying when you get it right. Enemies inside Pandora vaporize when you kill them, and the action pauses for a moment as they disintegrate into shards. This is a cool-looking effect the first time, but it eventually wears out its welcome as the ensuing pause slows down the action with frustrating frequency.

Another item at Black’s disposal is his smartphone. It does basic things like display text messages and play voice calls, but is also equipped with a scanner that you can use on key items to learn more about them, while a heat vision camera alerts you to nearby enemies. A Vision tab on the smartphone illuminates certain key elements based on the context of a particular scene. All of this is critical info when problem solving.

Though it’s an unremarkable looking game, Get Even is backed by a wonderful soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere that heightens tension and accentuates action with pulsing, pounding electronic sounds and string instruments.

Get Even’s puzzles are rarely challenging or unique, and some can be frustrating when you have to look at the environment through your cell phone; bumping into objects while staring at the phone’s screen is a common annoyance. But there are a few puzzles that provide new and interesting challenges. One of the more memorable instances comes in the second half of the game, where you essentially play out a game of Clue. Using evidence like newspaper cutouts and police reports scattered in a room, you must correctly name a murder weapon, a perpetrator, and the bullet’s entry wound on the victim. It’s not the most difficult task, but it’s exciting to play the role of an investigator and it feels satisfying when you finally solve the mystery.

Eventually, you assume control of Ramsey, and this is where the story and gameplay get even more interesting. Ramsey performs an “audit” of Black’s memories to try to learn more about the events leading up the the girl in the warehouse. He wants to…get even with the people responsible.

When you’re playing as Ramsey, you have even more abilities than Black, one of which is a scanner that shows you where all nearby enemies are. Ramsey isn’t armed by default, but he can “assimilate” into the enemies, taking over their bodies and picking up their weapons in the process. You can sprint, but you can move even faster by warping, and when performed in rapid succession, warps allow you to get the jump on enemies in superhuman fashion.

As you play through these memories, you will feel a sense of deja vu, as you’re revisiting some of the places you played through as Black, but the story is experience in a new, unique perspective way. It is sort of like The Lion King 1.5, where you see the events of The Lion King from the perspective of Timon and Pumbaa. You tap into “engrams” scattered throughout the memories to see who Black spoke with, what they talked about, and how it contributes to the girl with the bomb. The mystery of the story is key to the intrigue of Get Even, and unraveling it yourself is the best part.

Though it’s an unremarkable looking game, Get Even is backed by a wonderful soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere that heightens tension and accentuates action with pulsing, pounding electronic sounds and string instruments. If you are in a memory that begins to break down, strange things can happen. In one situation, I was shooting my way through enemies and a pop song played over the action because I was going in guns-blazing instead of the quiet and controlled manner that Ramsey advised, leading to the memory breaking down and glitching. The performances of the voice actors is also notable, as lines are delivered with believable conviction and emotion, especially in the case of Ramsey.

Get Even tells a devastating story that ends with a striking M. Night Shyamalan-like twist. Interestingly, it’s the most crucial part of the entire story, and you see none of it. The visuals are left entirely to the imagination, which is unexpected and impactful. It is these kinds of powerful moments that emphasize Get Even’s key strength–delivering a twisting narrative that is fascinating enough to make up for its lackluster gameplay elements.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew Review

For better and worse, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is exactly what’s advertised–it’s a virtual-reality simulation of operating a Federation starship. For the first few moments, the sheer thrill of taking the Captain’s chair in VR, looking around you to see crew members all working away at their stations, and issuing your first commands is all wonderful and novel. But the second you start yearning for new life, new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before, you find a game nowhere near that ambitious.

Set in the J.J. Abrams Trek universe, Bridge Crew’s single-player campaign centers around the U.S.S. Aegis–which, after a brief training mission, sets forth on its task to help the Vulcans find a new home. This mission takes the Aegis into a Klingon-controlled territory, the Trench, and into the heart of a potentially ugly interstellar incident. You can fill one of four roles aboard the ship: the Captain issues orders to every other department from the holographic menu built into the player’s chair, the Helm puts you in the driver’s seat, Tactical handles shields and weaponry, and Engineering determines how much power gets shifted to the ship’s vital systems.

The single-player campaign is brief, but it acts as an extended tutorial on the ins and outs of running a starship. From the Captain’s chair, you receive orders from Starfleet and issue the commands that lead the Aegis ever forward. However, particularly in single-player, those commands aren’t as simple as just telling your crew to move forward at quarter impulse or fire phasers. Instead, they’re a piece-by-piece process that must be followed and timed just right, with every crew member involved performing their duties with precision. In single-player, even something as simple as warping involves opening a menu, setting the correct course, telling engineering to power up the warp drive, having the helm align the ship towards the target location, and finally issuing the order to perform the warp. The process becomes second nature over time, especially with a proper VR controller like the Playstation Move to navigate the menu-heavy UI.

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You also have the ability to temporarily switch to another position to take manual control over the ship’s various functions and levers in single-player, but it’s a lot to manage and not nearly the simple power trip you might expect. A.I.-controlled crew members have a nasty habit of being complete knuckleheads who don’t know how to properly and strategically fly around obstacles when pursuing a target.

Bridge Crew is somewhat more immersive in multiplayer, where you can speak directly to your crew and coordinate actions by voice, but you need to meet certain requirements for it to go smoothly: four trustworthy crew members, all of whom know their roles inside and out, and who can pull it together long enough to take the game even marginally seriously enough to get through the trickier missions. The situation is helped by the fact that, thankfully, the game supports Cross-Play between PSVR, Rift, and Vive users, meaning there’s typically no shortage of players to fill all four roles. However, since voice chat goes through all sorts of different protocols via the uPlay service, consistent communication remains a problem. Even then, that’s assuming you’re not stuck with someone who won’t stop quoting Galaxy Quest instead of remembering to keep your ship in low-detection mode in Klingon territory.

It didn’t happen often in my time with Bridge Crew, but sometimes the stars did, in fact, align with the right kind of crew: cheerful without being overly silly, strong in their roles, intuitive enough to question an order without the bridge descending into chaos, and being just plain fun, amiable companions. And once that miracle is accomplished, you’re left to contend with Bridge Crew as a game. And that game is, ultimately, a fairly milquetoast space shooter.

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The big issue really comes down to the fact that experiencing the minutiae of running a Starfleet ship is such a thin, pedantic aspect of what makes Star Trek a fascinating universe to play around in. It’s always been strong character work and far-reaching sci-fi ideas and allegory that have elevated the dry space-navy material. There isn’t nearly enough of the former here. The single-player campaign has a story, one that’s even a decent jumping-off point from the Abrams films (albeit one that’s deeply reminiscent of Mass Effect: Andromeda), but you aren’t making the truly hard decisions that define the best Starfleet captains, nor are you able to interact with your crew or even the ship outside of the bridge room in any meaningful way.

Even Trek’s infamous no-win Kobayashi Maru scenario–playable here as part of the game’s introductory chapter–ends up as little more than a mindless shootout while attempting to transport the doomed vessel’s crew. The remainder of the campaign never really rises above that, content to be a game of traveling between systems, scanning areas and artifacts, transporting life forms, and fending off Klingon Birds of Prey from time to time. It’s a game that crucially needs more interesting challenges that can’t be solved with phasers.

It’s still somewhat thrilling to inhabit the captain’s chair on the bridge of a starship–at the bare minimum, Star Trek: Bridge Crew accomplishes that mission. When the game is at its best, the spirit of cooperation between various asymmetrical elements is encouraging–even special. In every other regard, however, Bridge Crew is forgettable the second you pull out of VR.

Nex Machina Review

Nex Machina is a modern revamp of Robotron 2084 in all but name, and developer Housemarque even managed to collaborate with Robotron’s creator, Eugene Jarvis, to bring the high-quality homage to life. Conceptually, the two games are nearly identical, and every aspect of Nex Machina is appropriately chock-full of nostalgia; the gorgeously trippy graphics feel simultaneously modern and retro, and the synth-wave soundtrack complements the sci-fi action perfectly. In the same vein as Pac-Man Championship Edition, Nex Machina is one of the best modernizations of a classic arcade game that you can find.

The plot is brief and to the point: you’re a lone hero trying to save what remains of humanity during a robot apocalypse. The twin-stick shooting action that defines your fight is tight and responsive, and every world is relentlessly challenging. Individual levels are relatively small, fast-paced, and frequently packed with secrets to discover amidst the chaotic hero-on-robot action. And death comes instantly, whether you get hit by a lone bullet or simply bump into a nearby enemy.

Nex Machina’s pronounced difficulty is by design, hearkening back to the challenge of its arcade source material. Beyond advancing through stages, skillful play is rewarded with item upgrades, bonus points, and a strong sense of satisfaction from overcoming seemingly impossible odds. Nex Machina is consistently challenging, but it’s also thoroughly gratifying as every power-up gives you newfound confidence in the heat of battle.

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Your primary objective in each level is to destroy a number of enemy waves before rocketing off to the next set piece. There are, however, numerous secondary objectives to consider along the way. As with Robotron, there are a handful of humans haplessly wandering around each stage. Rescuing them (just by touching them) requires precise timing as you must not only protect your own hide, but also defeat enemies who’re whittling away the wandering humans’ health. Saving humans is considered optional, but it’s a relentlessly tempting (and risky) distraction that you’ll chase time and time again, even when you should know better.

Boss battles at the end of every level are the biggest test, throwing out dense curtains of bullets that demand exacting movements to avoid. All are challenging, and each is drastically different–from a mechanical ape that sits at the top of the screen and throws flaming debris at you, to a giant Terminator-like Skull and a hivemind boss that attacks from the safety of a protective field. Adding to the challenge, boss fights follow a series of dense enemy waves; if you lose all of your lives and end up using a continue, you have to start the process all over again.

Nex Machina is difficult, intensely satisfying, and packed with enough secrets and lofty secondary objectives to keep you enraptured for hours.

You can point to dense waves of enemies and monstrous bosses as the reasons Nex Machina is so hard, but more than their numbers or size, it’s the range of tactics they employ that ultimately stress you out. Some enemies mindlessly plow toward you, others will make beelines to humans, and there are burrowing turrets that send out waves of exploding balls, among a variety of other robotic dangers. You typically face myriad enemy types at once, from all directions, creating a juggling act that would be impossible to contend with if not for your special abilities.

Dashing is central to surviving in Nex Machina’s harsh world, as it was in Housemarque’s previous games, Resogun and Super Stardust. Once activated, you’re invulnerable for the duration of the lunge, and your timing has to be perfect given the small margin for error in most levels. Misjudge the duration of your dash through a crowd by a nanosecond, and you’ll lose a life. Since there is a brief recharge period between dashes, you can’t abuse it. This is alleviated somewhat if you spot and grab a triple-dash power-up, but these are few and far between and don’t completely diminish the risk of an untimely sprint in the wrong direction.

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Secondary weapons, however, are more prevalent and can make or break you depending on the scenario. Your options include powerful lasers, rockets, floating bombs, and a sword for deadly close-up attacks. These also require a brief pause to recharge, reinforcing the idea that your ability to manage cooldown meters is a critical skill–and another layer to track during frantic onslaughts.

You can, in theory, play through Nex Machina in under an hour, but it’s eminently replayable thanks to the number of secrets waiting to be found, and the skills you need to hone in order to survive and climb to the top of the leaderboards. You do have the option of bringing a friend along, but Nex Machina’s multiplayer is woefully limited to local engagements. The lack of online play is a notable disappointment given how useful a partner can be on the game’s harder difficulties.

Limited multiplayer options aside, Nex Machina is a game that confidently meets expectations. It’s difficult, intensely satisfying, and packed with enough secrets and lofty secondary objectives to keep you enraptured for hours. It’s a classic game at heart, but with refined challenges and exacting mechanics, it feels right at home in the modern era.

The 100: Season 4 Review

Note: this is a mostly spoiler-free review of The 100: Season 4, which is currently available on Netflix in the US (and will hit DVD and Blu-ray on July 18th). I’ll discuss basic character and plot details, and provide a proper spoiler warning for some brief, most specific discussion at the end of the review.

The 100’s third season was a rocky one, to say the least. I don’t think it was nearly as disastrous overall as some — as terribly handled and impossible to overlook as the circumstances of Lexa’s death were — but there were multiple examples of clumsy storytelling, even as the show still had a lot of powerful and effective elements at work as well.

Still, the perception for many was that Season 4 needed to get the show back on track. And on that score, it did very well, delivering a year that had some trouble spots along the way, but was built on a strong spine, grew to a crescendo as it continued, and was capped off by some of the best material yet for The 100.

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My Hero Academia Episode 24 Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

“Shoto Todoroki: Origin” is a tough act to follow, and while “Fight on, Iida” doesn’t capture the same emotional highs of the preceding episode, it manages to weave in a substantial amount of content without feeling rushed or overstuffed. The U.A. Sports Festival is quickly coming to a close, and “Fight on, Iida” does a solid job at setting the stage for the final battle, while also offering new insight into Iida’s family and the evil threat that looms outside the school’s walls.

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Impact Winter Review

Trudging through a desolate, snow-covered landscape for ten minutes, scavenging a couple of gas cans, and hiking another ten minutes back to the fire you need to fuel sounds like a chore. This series of actions is what characterizes the experience of Impact Winter, a slow-paced survival game. But monotonous as it may seem, you’ll be driven to keep performing these actions because of the tense scenario that contextualizes them. Instead of challenging you to persist indefinitely, Impact Winter asks you to endure for a set amount of time with the looming promise of rescue–an end to your struggles–and pushes you to stretch your already thin resources just that little bit further.

You play as Jacob, who leads a group of four other calamity survivors. They’re holed up in a church when a little robot called Ako-light springs to life, broadcasting a mysterious transmission that states a rescue operation is occurring in 30 days. Jacob’s task is to leave the safety of the church with Ako-light at his side and traverse the post-apocalyptic tundra, scavenging for supplies in order to keep the group alive until that time.

Sometimes, this is all you'll see for a while.
Sometimes, this is all you’ll see for a while.

Each survivor, including Jacob, has a number of meters that must be maintained at a safe level in order to avoid their deaths or departures from the group. These include overall health, energy, hunger, thirst, temperature, and morale. Keeping the church bonfire fueled and making sure each survivor is fed and happy are as important as exploring the world and completing quest lines, which fast-track the looming rescue operation by taking chunks off the timer. The constant juggling of all these priorities keeps you anxiously engaged, your thoughts constantly being occupied with short-term planning as you trek through the snow.

Each individual back at camp has a different crafting specialty that Jacob can take advantage of to help ease the burden of his tasks. For example, Wendy can effortlessly cook a number of filling meals given the right ingredients, while Maggie is exceptionally handy at mechanical repairs and upgrades. These characters also provide a series of personal quests, the completion of which help decrease the rescue timer and expand that character’s range of crafting recipes. These quests are narratively thin, but they are the primary motivators for you to explore the world and push the boundaries of how far you are willing to risk traveling from relative safety. And it’s the exploration of this bleak, snowy wasteland of a world which is Impact Winter’s strength.

The overworld feels desolate, but once in awhile, you’ll encounter a hint of what once was. A half-buried gas station or the scene of a disastrous airline crash help create a gloomy world, in addition to being useful landmarks for navigation. You’ll encounter the roofs of what were once tall buildings that lead to dank underground caverns of former shopping malls and airports. These dungeon-like areas are convincingly devastated, with a mess of receptacles to scavenge from. The ominous soundtrack that accompanies your long journeys hit the correct notes to instantly evoke the tension of classic thriller films like The Thing. It’s an ominously intriguing world to explore, provided you’re adequately prepared to survive the journey out there and back.

Impact Winter runs on a constantly ticking clock, and traversing the icy overworld, referred to as “The Void,” takes up an enormous amount of that time. With no means of fast-travel, each journey you take topside requires some forethought and planning to avoid completely wasting the day while your group’s well-being declines. Limited time and resources mean that it’s also difficult to follow all character quests to completion, so the best course of action needs to be decided on well in advance.

Are you going far enough to warrant bringing a portable campsite to restore your energy for the journey home? What kinds of tools do you need to accomplish the goal at your destination? Should you bring food and drink for yourself, or do you think you’ll be able to procure some on location? Have you left enough room in your backpack to bring supplies back? Traverse frivolously, and you could find yourself in a situation where you’re desperately trying to satiate Jacob’s hunger to avoid health loss. Or perhaps using Ako-light’s flashlight and scanner functions too often has caused it to temporarily run out of battery power, leaving you with no radar, meaning you have have to navigate home with just your memory of landmarks and a paper map from before the world was buried in meters of snow. The game constantly holds you in a state of mild anxiety, worrying and hoping that the path you’ve chosen will pay off.

Underground caverns can be impressively derelict.
Underground caverns can be impressively derelict.

Deciding what to pick up while scavenging is also a constant dilemma. Impact Winter adopts a grid-based inventory system where each item takes up a different amount of physical space, meaning there’s a constant value assessment between, for example, grabbing a number of small food items versus a giant can of gasoline. With the sheer amount of items available in the world, it’s hard to tell what’s going to be useful or not in the beginning. With limited inventory space and unlimited pressure to provide for the group, it’s foolish to pick up every shiny thing you find and constantly make long hikes back to base to drop everything off. Scavenging requires you to always have clear goals in mind.

However, despite Impact Winter’s tonal strength and the genuine uneasiness its gameplay nurtures, the struggle to survive this harsh world is made even more difficult by a significant number of technical issues that quickly snowball, coating the already taxing experience in a layer of frustration that makes it hard to stick with for long periods of time.

There's always plenty to worry about, even as you sleep.
There’s always plenty to worry about, even as you sleep.

Areas for contextual actions are ill-defined, meaning that precious time is often spent trying to move Jacob into the right place to perform actions like searching a specific container or climbing a ladder. Collision detection is spotty, so you’ll struggle to get up a flight of stairs but also find yourself clipping through tables. Jacob will often refuse to respond to movement inputs until you pause and unpause the game.

Technical problems can also prove deadly. The game’s passage of time, which continues while you’re fiddling around in menus, is an interesting and thematically relevant feature, but it means wolves will continue to attack if you’re unfortunate enough to get a series of large, in-game notifications while trying to escape them. You’ll also likely experience dire situations where you’re cornered by hostile animals and ready to fight, only to discover that the weapon lock-on system has ceased to function properly.

We experienced what felt like consistent input delay when using a controller. At the time of writing, the developers only recently released a patch that implements previously nonexistent mouse and keyboard controls, though there are notable usability annoyances such as being unable to click a scrollbar to go through your supplies, and some bothersome key placements with no option for custom mappings. Some impossible side-quest lines also had us scratching our heads, like being asked to specifically deliver ten 45 RPM vinyl records to an NPC, and discovering that we were not physically able to bring ten of these objects to the quest-giver, even with our inventory space maxed-out.

 The post-apocalyptic tundra buries former skyscrapers.
The post-apocalyptic tundra buries former skyscrapers.

There were also problems that veered close to game-breaking. In our time with Impact Winter, returning to The Void from an interior area meant we had to sit through long loading times–sometimes wondering if our game had crashed. These loading times were shortened dramatically in a patch, but we then encountered instances of freezing and large swaths of texture pop-ins when spawning into the world instead. Most of these issues are minor on their own, but together they quickly become intensely irritating. To their credit, the developers have been transparent with their plans for upcoming patches, and mapped out their priorities to address a number of these issues in the short- and long-term future.

Impact Winter deftly captures the tension of being put in a survival situation and makes every compromise you need to make a tough and near-irreversible decision. Surviving in The Void is a mentally taxing experience, and once you begin to internalize the world and the well-being of your group, juggling the countless priorities can be engrossing. Unfortunately, the numerous technical issues make this experience more arduous than necessary, and mar what is otherwise an impactful survival experience.

I’m Dying Up Here: Series Premiere Review

This is a spoiler-free advance review of the first episode of I’m Dying Up Here, which premieres on Showtime on Sunday, June 4. The pilot is also currently available to stream on Showtime’s website and YouTube.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single stand-up comedian in possession of a strong sense of humor must be in want of a stable personal life. That’s the driving idea behind shows like Louie, and it remains true with I’m Dying Up Here, Showtime’s new period dramedy about a group of struggling comics in early ’70s Los Angeles. But while there’s always an appeal in watching a series that aims to explore the tortured soul that exists the 99% of the week they aren’t on-stage, I’m Dying Up Here’s heavy ensemble focus proves to be its undoing.

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Friday The 13th: The Game Review

When we published our review in progress of Friday the 13th last week, it was after a couple days of playing relatively smooth matches on PC. Since launch day, the PC version has remained our go-to option, but more out of necessity than by choice. On both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Friday the 13th has been intermittently unplayable. Yes, private matches with friends are sometimes possible, but if you wish to join up with a band of strangers online for a bout of deadly hide-and-go-seek from the comfort of your couch, you’re either entirely out of luck or stuck waiting upwards of ten minutes for a match–after days of not being able to play at all.

Developers Gun Media and Illfonic are on the case, providing frequent updates that seem to be improving the situation in minor ways, but for reasons involving platform holders’ patching policies and new bugs that emerge with continued testing, it’s hard to imagine Friday the 13th being anything other than a half-baked experience for the foreseeable future.

Even if servers were up to speed and able to keep up with the purported influx of eager players, you could still look at Friday the 13th and ask yourself if it would have been better off released as an early access game. The answer is “yes.” The dearth of maps, inconsistent frame rate on consoles, laughable animations, and shoddy collision detection are evidence of a game that isn’t ready for prime time.

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These issues are disappointing, but not only on the principle of meeting the expectations of a finished product. There is a good game in Friday the 13th that pops its blood-soaked head up every now and then. Its asymmetrical teenager-versus-supernatural-murderer premise is one that will speak to anyone with an affinity for survival games, cooperative problem solving, and ’80s slasher films. It has great potential, which is why you can’t help but be frustrated to see it left unrealized, if not outright squandered.

A single match lasts 20 minutes, and that time will either fly by or feel twice as long depending on which role you’re randomly assigned to. As a camp counselor, you are set free in one of three maps pulled from early Friday the 13th films, and are tasked with either repairing escape vehicles, calling the cops, hiding from Jason until the end of the match, or killing him–an obtuse and complex process that the game never explains, let alone hints at. If you are the lucky one who’s picked at random to play Jason, your only goal is to kill every counselor that you can get your hands on.

Playing as Jason is without a doubt the most enjoyable time you’ll have with Friday the 13th. As the lone killer, you are essentially unstoppable, and you gain new abilities over the course of a match that increase both your awareness and mobility. Jason can warp from one end of a camp to the other, rush across large stretches of land (think Evil Dead’s encroaching force), detect fearful or active counselors, and silence the haunting theme that usually plays when he’s approaching a target. He will also earn the strength to bust through doors rather than hack them open, a skill that directly thwarts a counselor’s best line of defense: shelter. Playing as Jason is the epitome of a power fantasy.

These shortcomings and ongoing server issues aren’t easily overlooked, and work against what promise Friday the 13th shows.

When caught, a counselor has a small chance to fight back by staggering Jason with a single-use weapon such as a pocket knife or a flare gun. But most of the time, once Jason has someone in his grasp, they are as good as dead. There are several places to hide, which include tucking yourself into an armoire, a camping tent, or under a mattress, but Jason can still find you if the counselor you’re controlling is prone to yelp in fear–an automated process triggered by the sight of Jason. Pick a counselor with a high stealth rating, and you’ll have an easier time waiting out a match from the safety of a confined space. It’s a boring but effective way to “win.”

If you instead choose to escape rather than simply avoid Jason, you will have to poke around every available building in search of items like keys, fuel, and batteries to repair nearby cars and boats. Items are placed at random locations, so you never know exactly where to look. Teamwork then becomes important as you can coordinate your efforts to simultaneously search multiple buildings and report Jason sightings as you go. This is of course assuming that your fellow counselors are not only wearing chat-enabled headsets, but that they are willing to lead or be led at all. Playing with friends makes this easy; playing with strangers does not.

When you are a counselor without reliable comrades, Friday the 13th is typically boring or frustrating. You either hide or wander around cautiously in search of items, or ironically invite death to hasten your progression unlocks. The amount of XP you earn from sticking around long enough for the results screen to appear is unreasonable; you’re likely to earn far more from dying and waiting than actually making an earnest effort to be a resourceful player. XP plays into a progression system that allows you to acquire new counselors and outfits as you level up, so if you want to experience the breadth of Friday the 13th’s playable characters, you might as well exploit–or put up with–the match-based XP bonus early on.

It’s refreshing when the counselor routine is interrupted by being assigned to play as Jason, but regardless Friday the 13th grows stale in short order. Part of this comes down to the fact that there are only three maps to choose from, but numerous bugs and presentation flaws are equally grating. Characters regularly clip through objects, get stuck in geometry, and occasionally end up floating off of the ground, entirely negating their vulnerability.

These shortcomings and ongoing server issues aren’t easily overlooked, and work against what promise Friday the 13th shows. As of now, a week after launch, it’s short on content and performs poorly all around, especially on consoles. The story goes that the developers weren’t prepared for amount of people who wanted to jump on day one, but that does little to assuage players who were convinced that they were paying for a finished product. Despite showing potential that may one day be realized, Friday the 13th comes across as an unfinished game that shouldn’t have been released in its current state.

Architect Planner Biography

Mr. Stanbury has been involved in design and construction for more than 40 years. Born in Hampshire, England, he spent his childhood on military bases in Gibraltar, Malta and Germany with his father who was an officer from the British Army. Mr. Stanbury studied architecture at Chepstow Military College in Wales. After leaving Chepstow, he joined Naismith Engineering in Portsmouth, a design, development and research engineering company. There he worked some of the top engineers for the day, designing components for the Hawker Siddley Harrier jump jet project, the first vertical takeoff jet on the planet.

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Mr. Stanbury left England in 1969 to pursue his career in architecture and construction with WC French, a uk development company from the Bahamas. Shortly fater he began being an assistant and quickly had become the project foreman, owning a crew of 200 men in regarding high-rise buildings. This work soon took him towards the outer islands where he handled high-end custom beachfront homes on Treasure Key and Great Harbor Key.

Jan Stanbury FL

In 1976, Mr. Stanbury moved to Nyc where he was awarded contracts to development and produce homes for most high-profile celebrities and businessmen. Mr. Stanbury designed and remodeled actor Robert De Niro%u2019s three-story Tribeca loft. From that point project, he became Mr. De Niro%u2019s consultant for his Tribeca film center, a ten-story facility containing the Tribeca Grill, production offices, studios along with a 70-seat, state-of-the-art THX screening room. Mr. Stanbury also excelled inside the film and video post-production facilities field, working together with such entities since the award-winning Manhattan Transfer Edit Studios. In 1989, Mr. Stanbury won the Manhattan Transfer/Edit Facility Achievement Award.

Jan Stanbury Florida

In 1992, Mr. Stanbury gone to live in Miami Beach, Florida, where he designed and built many high-end waterfront homes. After that great devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he dedicated himself to designing and building hurricane-resistant homes that will keep their occupants safe and sustainable after and during damaging storms.

Stanbury Vimeo

In 2014, Mr. Stanbury was invited to Sarasota, Florida to style a seaside home on Lido Key. It will be a contemporary, curvilinear, yacht-inspired 15,000 sq . ft ., cutting-edge, hands-free, voice-activated smart home. Mr. Stanbury%u2019s goal is to apply one of the most advanced, innovative technologies to create one-of-a-kind, sculptured homes. He’s got also launched into designing unique, geometrically-balanced homes that may expand from three,000 to 6,000 sq . ft ., in a cost-effective and time-saving manner.