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CONTENT
FEATURED NEWS FEEDS


NEWS (LAST 200)
We have a winner! Massachusetts ticket s...
Dixons Carphone warns on profit as mobil...
UK car production increases in July as m...
David Jones profit falls 25 per cent as ...
ASX inches higher as investors dig miner...
Australia defends intelligence chief aft...
The driver of a van from Spain has been ...
17 Ways to Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes an...
The Latest: Venezuela is a dictatorship,...
US Open: Milos Raonic withdraws because ...
Australians now paying desperation price...
ACT government moves to criminalise food...
Woman seriously injured in crash in Paku...
Greens pledge light rail to Wellington a...
Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow admits he w...
Pictures of the Day: 24 August 2017...
Fijian man Zainal Mahmood Begg believed ...
Snowdens look to add to three-year-old h...
NAB questions the secrecy of Turnbull go...
The Latest: US criticizes Cambodia for o...
A vicious policy Merkel blasted by top e...
Lip Service review: John Misto brings tw...
Chinas speculators are swarming all over...
Barcelona set to bid for Willian - Thurs...
Fintech startup AutoFi raises $10 millio...
New Herald feature paves way for money-m...
Lachlan Murdoch clears competition hurdl...
Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channe...
Career in limbo, Pirates Kang Jung-ho gi...
Chad shuts down Qatar embassy
Body found by Malaysia is not the remain...
Court to rule on Kia wages next week...
Brand new BeatsX Wireless Headphones--un...
8 inch Bluetooth Hoverboard Lights - Col...
Fire at three-storey building in Newport...
Cambridge Audio Phono MM Pre-Amp (Black)...
Focus: Disabled boys need for speed...
Local Focus: Two escape helicopter crash...
Swanseas revised plan to tackle poverty ...
Wanted in Sweden: Manure from hundreds o...
Carmarthen cafe quarter plans set for go...
The NZ dollar virtually unchanged, at ri...
Weak pound boosts NI hotel industry...
Contraband offensive: Inspectors target ...
Real Salt Lake victory begins MLS playof...
Novartis receives EU approval for breast...
Full Face Snorkel Mask - GoPro Mount- 18...
Diesel Watch Mens (used) model DZ-1415 (...
Deadly Typhoon Hato lashes Macau and Sou...
Xbox one console blue (Queens) $2...
Fugitive Venezuela prosecutor says she h...
WWE 2K18 roster news: New Superstars and...
Roche says FDA grants priority review to...
Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface + Micro...
TGAU: Disgwyl canlyniadau is mewn pyncia...
Police seize counterfeit jewelry, bags w...
Oculus rift Dk2 (Suffern) $140...
Police: Handyman was caught in crossfire...
Focus on fairness in grading new GCSE ex...
A nearly perfect game by Rich Hill is sp...
Arsenal Transfer News: Arsene Wenger sho...
Hyundai, Kia face protracted slump in Ch...
Liverpool News: Sadio Mane being away wa...
Entertainment expenses by drug firms fal...
NZ shares down, Metro Glass and TradeMe ...
Angels fall to Rangers 7-5 in extras wit...
[Ana Palacio] Guardian of liberal world ...
Liverpool transfer news: Keita and Van D...
Northern Ireland floods: Clean up and qu...
Scottish Gossip: Celtic in Champions Lea...
GCSE results day for thousands of NI pup...
Health service savings consultation to b...
Chargers eye preseason meeting with Rams...
Counter-protester who allegedly sucker-p...
Jackpot! Winning ticket sold in Massachu...
Lasko 2511 Tower Fan, Three Quiet Speeds...
ASUS Designo MX279H 27" Full HD 1920x108...
Scotlands papers: Scotlands deficit cut...
School providing grief counselors after ...
Catalonia terror suspects visited Paris ...
iPad Pro 9.7 Rose Gold $400...
Cascadia Cup: 2017 schedule, standings a...
F/S: 32" LG HDTV (Woodhaven) $89...
Ready Fredy: Whitecaps Montero strikes a...
Gigaware 2.0 Channel Multimedia Speakers...
Expectation to frustration: How will his...
34 Russian artists, celebrities go bail ...
Supporters flood restaurant defaced with...
Transfer news LIVE updates: Coutinhos pu...
Experts invited to Wales by charities re...
Netmarble’s ‘Lineage II: Revolution...
Man Utd transfer news: Darren Anderton r...
Barcelona Transfer News: Lionel Messi pr...
Rugby: No one at fault for Sonny Bill Wi...
Film Review: Animated LEAP! sets a low b...
Longsight GMP custody officer cleared of...
Report: Home care `in a fragile state´ ...
Cost cuts help Wal-Marts South African a...
All Blacks hooker Dane Coles refused to ...
School bus driver allegedly drove drunk ...
Little-known company behind NZ pet food ...
Olympics: AOC chief Coates defiant after...
Dutch police question Spaniard after con...
Cape Runaway man rescued from water...
Report: 0.7 percent of terror victims in...
Man United to begin League Cup defense v...
New data boosts case for extended use of...
Game of Thrones inspires Geelong housing...
Braith Anastas girlfriend Rachael Lee hi...
Asia stocks brush off Wall St slide afte...
Spanish terrorist cell, led by a ‘guru...
Meghan Markles character is stuck in a s...
Singer Paulini leans on The Bodyguard ca...
Moon orders publication of white paper o...
Government to remove goshawks from scarc...
The Bachelors Simone Ormesher rubs her b...
Natalie Portman is classic in a jeans an...
Group I-winning horse trainer and former...
The Bachelor Simone Ormesher in wet t-sh...
Sydney Roosters flyer Daniel Tupou neari...
Leto and Robbie will reprise Joker and H...
Princess Mary tries on VR glasses at UNL...
The Latest: Qatar foreign minister spoke...
Threatening strike in Syria, Israel tell...
Powerball winner in Massachusetts nets $...
The Latest: Body found at sea not one of...
Jacinda Ardern wows Auckland school chil...
Beltre hits 2 HRs, Rangers beat Angels 7...
US$750 million lottery prize - one winni...
Getting drought-relief hay to Northern P...
News24.com | Wrongly jailed satanic day-...
Lipstick on a pig: Gareth Morgan says fr...
GCSE heartbreak as thousands of pupils w...
Tararua roads left scarred by weather do...
ACT Brumbies sign young guns Mack Hansen...
Canberra Raiders Jarrod Croker says no s...
NZ Rugby to honour Meads ahead of Bledis...
Typhoon Hato leaves 16 dead after lashin...
Australias highest-paid CEOs are Peter a...
Monty Betham restarts crowdfunding campa...
Rapper calls off shows after staring at ...
Dixons Carphone warns on profit on tough...
Threatened fish spared in costly Christc...
We have a winner! Massachusetts ticket s...
News24.com | Brazil scraps Amazon reserv...
Australian comedian throwback photo gues...
One-time ‘biggest Giants fan’ excite...
Did Kim Jong-un kill his uncle and broth...
PGA playoff fever, and all the math that...
Three Trump personas in three speeches, ...
The white stuff: SpaceX reveals Musk-hav...
Cambodia accuses U.S. of political inter...
‘Monster’ NYPD officer: I’m a vict...
India top court rules privacy a right, t...
Police find drugs, cash and a gun in a P...
Changes to GCSEs: What you need to know...
No-go zones keep kin from burying deceas...
Officer ordered booby trap - but charges...
Paige the jack russell keeps her menacin...
Nasas bold new plan to defuse super volc...
Gary Sanchez’s resurgence can be trace...
Police launch DUI campaign
Mandy Moore in emotional This Is Us seas...
Australian government faces uncertain tw...
Car mows down demonstrators in St Louis,...
How a Confederate monument stirred a bat...
Immigrants making hundreds of attempts E...
Footy Show host Erin Molan FAKED her inj...
Peninsula Things To Do, Aug. 25 and beyo...
Song Companys Antony Pitts warms to his ...
It tasted slushy: Perth woman hits out a...
Poland - Factors to Watch Aug 24
‘Ama’ newcomer, 19, living out her d...
India eyes remote air traffic control to...
Brisbane weather: storm clouds roll out ...
Pullen killer to be released on parole...
Just say no: Archbishop Denis Hart ralli...
As Syria’s battlefields shrink, U.S. a...
Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez cozy u...
Bronx man, 19, drowns while swimming off...
No further crackdown for interest-only c...
Police investigate aggravated robbery of...
Premier Mark McGowan defends his partys ...
Nine calls for cap on prices for sports ...
Nick Kyrgios snubbed for world team at L...
Just say no: Archbishop Denis Hart ralli...
U.S. Navy says remains found by Malaysia...
Yass Valley Council endorses 5km buffer ...
Charlottesville: White supremacist Chris...
Fin24.com | Why South Africans feel poor...
Rescuers thanked for efforts to help two...
Otago student gets a masters degree in O...
Urban trees save megacities millions thr...
Tiffen Cycling Teams Matthew Rizzuto gea...
Outside Trump's rally in Phoenix, b...
Canberra Capitals recruit Rachel Jarry c...
Did Kim Jong-un kill uncle and brother o...
'A very bad day': Kim Jong-un ...
‘Back up, you creep!’: Clinton muses...
Black-footed tree rat returns to WA afte...

REVIEWS & PREVIEWS (LAST 60)
Nikon D850 First impressions review...
Nikon D850 Hands-On Review
Nikon D850 45.7mp FF DSLR Announced...
Today in Entertainment: Dutch concert ca...
Says Berkeleys new chancellor: Dont shou...
Netherlands concert by L.A. band Allah-L...
Bertrand Bonellos Nocturama is a hauntin...
Despite vacancy on Saturday, Dodgers sen...
A Show Of Hands
Meet Hexa, a Six-Legged Insectile Robot ...
Agents Of Mayhem Review
Leica TL2 First impressions review...
Proposed Clippers arena could get perks ...
2017 Roundup: Consumer Long Zoom Compact...
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX850/GX800 review...
Shoot Better Environmental Portraits Wit...
Learning To See Creatively
Fotodiox LED100WB-56 quick review
The D Train Review
Hot Pursuit Review
NFL: Cleveland Browns name rookie DeShon...
LG G6 Review
9 Cool Notebooks to Help You Write Right...
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Review
Matterfall Review
Joe Arpaio appreciates Trump’s hint of...
Kathy Bates gets Disjointed on Netflix...
An Ed Royce challenger is out with a new...
McDonalds expands its move away from ant...
Immigrant rights advocates urge Gov. Jer...
Felons in California prisons would be ab...
Media report says U.S., Canadian diploma...
Lots of noise, no fireworks, at Trump pr...
Gustavo Dudamel taps into the power of s...
Hairstylist Jen Atkins Ouai brand set to...
Revered Russian theater director placed ...
Floyd Mayweather Jr. catches up with Dan...
Trumps in Nevada and today hes talking a...
More attack ads target Republicans for t...
Comics giant Stan Lee celebrated with Ex...
Fired FBI chief Comey joins Howard Unive...
Media veteran Ross Levinsohns latest cha...
Brands distancing themselves from Louise...
Chad Mayes did the right thing on climat...
Keeping protesters cool at Trumps Reno r...
Philipp Pleins label gets into the ring ...
White communities in the Bay Area have l...
The Dana White-Bob Arum feud has reached...
Crowdfunding campaigns goal: Buy Twitter...
A crime reporter was in a program to pro...
Trump said the government is doing a phe...
Underground restaurants, banana suits an...
Guardians Of The Galaxy - Episode 3: Mor...
Book art, #bookface and Kareem Abdul-Jab...
Geffen Playhouses former artistic direct...
C.E. Toberman-designed English-style cot...
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 Is a Beast of ...
A Star Is Born: Barbara Eden turns 86 to...
Fiction: ‘Motherest’ Wrestles With t...
Nonfiction: An Educator Makes the Case T...


We've been shooting with the new Nikon D850 - Nikon's latest full-frame DSLR, with a 45.7mp BSI CMOS sensor, 4K video, and up to 9fps continuous shooting.
Read More

Source: ePHOTOzine - All Photography Articles (Thu, 24 Aug 2017 05:00:01 GMT )
Nikon has announced the new high-resolution and high-speed 45.7 megapixel Full-Frame DSLR.
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Source: ePHOTOzine - All Photography Articles (Thu, 24 Aug 2017 05:00:01 GMT )
Mark Wahlberg is sitting on top of the Rock on Forbes' 2017 highest-paid actors list.The rapper-turned-actor earned an estimated $68 million between June 2016 and June 2017, the financial mag reported Tuesday, edging out last year's top earner, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.That figure sums up the... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:35:00 PDT )
Upgrade from the basic spiral bound with one of these stylish notebooks. Read More

Source: WIRED - Product Reviews (Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:00:00 +0000)
It’s not designed to remind you of an insect, though. It’s meant to bring robot hacking to the masses. Read More

Source: WIRED - Product Reviews (Tue, 15 Aug 2017 16:00:00 +0000)
1.0 stars out of 5: Pursue a ticket to a different movie.
Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 08 May 2015 21:06:08 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Stay home.
Although there is at least one earlier, less sexual, usage of the slang term "the d-train," referring to having a generalized bad experience, lately the expression has become more synonymous with the penis. That's because pop culture always needs...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 09 May 2015 01:33:01 GMT )

After throwing a bullpen session Wednesday afternoon, Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw made another pitch to manager Dave Roberts and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to start Saturday against Milwaukee.

After a lengthy discussion, Roberts said the team has opted to stick with the original plan...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:55:00 PDT )

DeShone Kizer has strong-armed his way into a starting job.

The rookie quarterback will start Cleveland's exhibition at Tampa Bay on Saturday, and unless he flops or gets hurt, Kizer will start the Browns' Sept. 10 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coach Hue Jackson elected to go...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:15:00 PDT )

Humans have been laughing at jokes about inebriation at least since Romans wrote comedy. Once it was drunks who were funny — Otis on "The Andy Griffith Show," Foster Brooks, Dean Martin — but drunks just seem like alcoholics now. Marijuana, meanwhile, has moved in — pot jokes long ago entered the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:15:00 PDT )

The words of President Trump, spoken to a roaring crowd at a campaign-style rally here, came as sweet relief to Joe Arpaio, who was at home watching on television.

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” the president said to heavy applause Tuesday night at the Phoenix Convention Center.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:15:00 PDT )

“Nocturama,” Bertrand Bonello’s hypnotically unsettling new movie, has the artful, suggestive symmetry of a Rorschach blot. In the first half, several young Parisians coordinate and execute a series of terrorist attacks over one afternoon. In the second, they hide out for the night in a locked-down...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Mon, 14 Aug 2017 15:25:00 PDT )

Matterfall is another game in developer Housemarque's particle-effect-heavy catalog. Drenched in neon and engulfed in a thumping techno soundtrack, it posits itself as a game for those interested in tackling challenging side-scrolling action and chasing high scores. And while the intense action and pulsating score make Matterfall a thrill to watch, a sloppy combination of mechanics and a few crucial oversights leave this game both disappointing and frustrating to play. Save for a few moments of greatness, Matterfall fails to make the most of its promising foundation.

As is the norm for Housemarque, Matterfall's obligatory opening cinematic quickly introduces your motivations before setting you free to chase high scores. You play as Avalon Darrow, a freelancer hired to clean up widespread and dangerous alien technology. As a massive evacuation is in effect, freelancers come in to eradicate the out-of-control technology and extract whatever citizens remain. And thus, you embark on a journey through three worlds with four stages each (the last being a boss battle).

It doesn't take long for Matterfall to seem all too similar to Housemarque's previous games. It operates in a 2D environment in the same vein as most side-scrolling action-platformers, but it has eight-directional inputs similar to Nex Machina. There are character upgrades, cyberpunk motifs, obligatory point multipliers, and the studio's signature, highly detailed special effects. Housemarque knows how to craft a captivating game, and Matterfall continues the studio's impressive, trademark design. It's tinged with vibrant blues, greens, and pinks reminiscent of the prettiest sci-fi worlds, and the synth soundtrack creates a rhythm that fosters intensity, fueling the frenetic chaos on-screen.

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While Matterfall as a whole doesn't display a lot of innovation, Housemarque tries to be inventive with the new Strike ability, a dash that emits a shockwave to stun enemies (to increase the amount of points gathered from them) and destroy nearby projectiles.

You can combine Strike with Avalon's double jump, granting you access to higher terrain and potentially imprisoned civilians bearing augmentations, upgrades that can be equipped to one of three slots. Augments vary from active tools like grenades and shotguns to passive benefits like greater Strike radius and increased weapon damage, and while they can add new tools to experiment with, they never feel like crucial additions to your repertoire.

A well-timed Strike feels satisfying, yet a peculiar design choice prevents the ability from feeling like a reliable tool: there's nothing to indicate when its cooldown timer resets. Unsurprisingly, because of this lack of notification, you wind up in situations where your best intentions mean nothing in the face of swarms of enemies you can't avoid and projectiles you can't destroy. This isn't a problem elsewhere--an audible cue informs you of changes to your score multiplier, and secondary weapons are given a graphical cooldown timer in the bottom-left corner of the screen--so the omission of an alert for a crucial mechanic feels like an oversight.

Unfortunately, Avalon also feels too stiff to control. Her double jump has no forward momentum; you can only propel yourself forward by using Strike, and since it's unclear how often or when Strike can be used, chaining together Avalon's mobility options can be cumbersome and tedious. Matterfall understands eight directional inputs--your gun, mapped to the right stick, fires in all directions--but Avalon can only dash in four directions: up, down, left, and right. This limitation feels contradictory in the face of Matterfall's insistence on agility and multiplier combos, especially when inputs fail to register as intended.

The rigid controls are further illuminated during boss battles, intense bouts with gargantuan enemies who fire barrages of projectiles, frequently accompanied by a few weaker enemies you encountered earlier in that world. These boss battles provide a true test of the augments and skills presented to you, forcing you to adapt during these multi-tiered fights. Boss battles deliver a bullet-hell experience, with all the incessant deaths and walls of projectiles you'd expect. Because the controls are stiff and Strike has an unclear cooldown, these showdowns are more exercises in trial and error than they are a test of adaptability and skill, meaning you're going to die repeatedly. Death inevitably leads to long load times while you wait to jump back into the action, and since boss battles are always difficult, waiting around while the game loads just so you can die again grows tiresome.

At first it's great to engage with Housemarque's tried-and-tested designs again, but Matterfall never manages to build off of its promising foundation, and it even mishandles one of the studio's longest-standing mechanics: dashing. There is still some fun to be had, and it's easy to appreciate the technical artistry on display, but factor in inconsistent controls and long load times, and it's easy to grow frustrated throughout the Matterfall's short campaign.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 14 Aug 2017 21:01:00 -0700)

Agents of Mayhem isn't subtle. The single-player action-adventure game from Saints Row developer Volition is all about being larger than life, with intense superhero-versus-supervillain combat and raunchy protagonists who drop F-bombs as much as they drop real bombs. Unfortunately, the game doesn't offer much more than a "to the extreme" attitude, which wears out its welcome in record time thanks to incessantly recycled missions, numerous bugs, and a juvenile script that mistakes swearing for humor.

You take on the role of the titular Agents of MAYHEM (Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds), a group of future superheroes that look and feel like the R-rated offspring of a union between the '80s G.I. Joe cartoon and the Agents of SHIELD TV show. The agents float above the world in a helicarrier-like fortress called the Ark, but you spend most of your time with them on the battlegrounds of Seoul, South Korea, a crisp and clean metropolis dotted with sky-high towers. It's there you wage war against the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations.

Basic elements of the story and setting work well in establishing an initial mood and place. Seoul's skyscrapers, whitewashed future tech, and industrial design make it more than just a battleground. It's a little too sterile to embrace the quirkiness of something like Grand Theft Auto V's Los Santos, without cops or oddball characters wandering around muttering to themselves, but it's still a memorable location that feels alive in its own way.

Agents tackle LEGION in three-person squads, although they fight one at a time with you swapping them in and out depending on personal preference and the challenge at hand. Squads can be fully customized on the Ark before missions, and there are a dozen agents on the roster, each with skill and weaponry specialties that you earn as you level up.

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Your heroes include: Hardtack, the hulking former naval officer who totes a shotgun and has a special harpoon attack, Kingpin, the rapping gang leader with an SMG, and Joule, the electro-blaster toting Italian fashionista, to name a few. Try as they might to elicit a laugh, the agents fail to be likeable characters. This is in part due to the tired tropes and stereotypes they embody. But look beyond their superficial flaws, and it's their dialogue--along with most of the writing in Agents of Mayhem--that will make you cringe the most.

The in-your-face attitude of the cast and the world around them wears thin, very fast. The entire game seems to have been scripted to the tastes of a 12-year-old boy, with non-stop swearing and ceaseless one-liners comprising the bulk of dialogue. "You want me to f--k it up? Don't you? Don't you?" insists Hardock before firing his Mayhem Mines. And cutscenes fall flat with jokes such as, "If you want to wear open-toed shoes, be sure and do some maintenance on your toenails," which is more reminiscent of a Madlibs short than a conscious attempt to be clever.

At least the villains are somewhat more interesting than the heroes. Boss battles feature the most engaging combat of the entire game, with gimmicks based around each villain's character and plot. But everything here still trips over failed attempts at humor. The most annoying examples have to be the missions that conclude with you taking down a boss's auto-tuner, and another where you defeat an enemy by shooting his "scrumptious" balls.

Repetition is the hallmark of the actual missions, though, no matter what villain you happen to be battling. You fight through the same corridors of the same underground LEGION lairs--which look like high-tech warehouses--spread throughout Seoul, killing the same helmeted troops over and over again. At first, the explosive combat is fun and impactful--when you fire a shotgun, or detonate some mines, or even just launch an arrow, you feel it--but you quickly get worn down by doing the same things on repeat. It doesn't take long for the game's initially exciting explosions to fade into the background.

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Missions are also bizarrely constructed. You engage a mission, beam down from the Ark to a Seoul warp point, then visit more than one checkpoints on your way to the actual starting position, and finally arrive at your destination to actually begin the mission you just spent the last few minutes winding up. In most cases, missions involve a lot of pointless traveling across the city, for no apparent purpose aside from stretching things out. Sometimes you have to make your way to the tops of buildings to keep things rolling, again often for no clear reason.

To top everything off, there are a number of bugs you have to contend with as well. Button presses regularly don't work, and it's not uncommon to find yourself incapable of swapping out agents despite meeting the necessary conditions. You will also end up inexplicably locked in cars, and the only way to fix the issue is by reloading an old save or ramming the car into your surroundings until it explodes--the agent behind the wheel dies, but you came back to life as another. Mission objectives and waypoints frequently bug out as well, sometimes appearing when they are no longer relevant, and other times not appearing at all.

Personality can only take a broken and repetitive game so far. The attitude behind Agents of Mayhem has potential, at least if it's executed properly. But there's little to Agents of Mayhem beyond its foul-mouthed and bombastic attitude, which push the game into grating and obnoxious territory. Throw in the poor mission design and bugs, and you've got a game with loads of mayhem, but not much else.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:01:00 -0700)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Sun, 04 Jun 2017 10:00:00 Z)

Learning To See Creatively is all about learning to see design, colour and composition in photography.

Author Bryan Peterson wants you to learn how to 'see' properly, paying more attentio...
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Source: ePHOTOzine - Book Reviews (Mon, 9 Nov 2015 15:48:38 GMT )
Environmental portrait photography can be difficult to master, but once you do master it, the results can be amazing.
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Source: ePHOTOzine - Photography Techniques (Thu, 24 Aug 2017 00:10:03 GMT )

A Show Of Hands is a book full of images of people's hands.

You might immediately think that this an odd port of the body to take images with. Usually we go for someone's face, or use th...
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Source: ePHOTOzine - Book Reviews (Wed, 23 Sep 2015 11:13:42 GMT )

McDonald’s said Wednesday that it is broadening its move away from serving chicken fed with certain antibiotics.

The fast-food titan said it will no longer buy chicken raised in other countries that has been treated with antibiotics also used by humans and deemed important to fighting serious infection....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:05:00 PDT )

The Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night may not have been a galaxy far, far away, but Holst’s “The Planets” and the premiere of an Icelandic violin concerto did give Gustavo Dudamel some musical and emotional distance from the tensions in his native Venezuela.

The evening also provided a warm welcome...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:00:00 PDT )

Jen Atkin didn’t put her name on the bottles of her hair-care products for a reason.

“The brand is not really about me,” Atkin, hairstylist to the Kardashian-Jenner clan and Bella Hadid and founder of her brand Ouai, said. “It’s my baby and it’s my hair-care brand, but I did not want to go the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:05:00 PDT )

A Moscow court on Wednesday placed a prominent theater director under house arrest in an embezzlement case his supporters and several leading cultural figures called the most serious step toward repression of artistic expression in Russia since the Soviet Union.

Kirill Serebrennikov, the director...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:10:00 PDT )
President Trump played some of his greatest hits Tuesday night.The president made a 90-minute speech during a campaign-style rally in Phoenix. He began by complaining about his old foe, the "truly dishonest people" in the media, then moved on to a rehash of his widely criticized response to the... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:16:00 PDT )

Ross Levinsohn is used to tough jobs. He tried to salvage a business out of social media site Myspace, and managed Yahoo during a tumultuous period when the Internet company was reeling from a management scandal and struggling to find its way.

But this week, the 54-year-old digital media executive...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 12:55:00 PDT )

Philipp Plein, the German-born, Switzerland-based designer who made his over-the-top New York Fashion Week debut in February, has inked a collaboration with boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., the brand announced this morning.

The partnership is set to officially launch at the Aug. 26 Mayweather vs. Conor...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 12:10:00 PDT )

To the editor: I was dismayed to read about the blowback that Chad Mayes, the Republican leader in the California Assembly, had to endure simply for supporting clean energy, which is not a controversial issue. (“Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes is still in charge after caucus meeting — but...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Wed, 23 Aug 2017 12:05:00 PDT )

Valentino has no qualms in denying any ties to Louise Linton after the new wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin posted on Instagram an image of herself exiting a government plane and provided a slew of designer hashtags.

A spokeswoman said plainly that “Louise Linton did not receive any gifted...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 12:00:00 PDT )

California communities with large white populations aren’t planning for their fair share of low- and moderate-income housing growth, according to a new study of Bay Area cities.

Every eight years, a state law requires cities to plan for a certain amount of new homes to keep pace with projected...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 11:10:00 PDT )

Former undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson is looking to raise enough money to buy Twitter so President Trump can't use it.

Wilson launched the crowdfunding campaign last week, tweeting: “If @Twitter executives won't shut down Trump's violence and hate, then it's up to us. #BuyTwitter #BanTrump.”...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 11:05:00 PDT )

A Mexican journalist who was enrolled in a government protection program after facing years of threats has been gunned down, becoming at least the ninth journalist killed in Mexico this year.

Cándido Ríos Vázquez, a crime reporter in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, was shot Tuesday along with...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 11:05:00 PDT )

By his latest count, Nguyen Tran figures he probably has 15 costumes. The face behind the restaurant and brand Starry Kitchen just deposited two large bags worth of clothing on the counter at the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen. Nguyen’s wife, Thi — the other force behind the brand — is busy unpacking...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:00:00 PDT )

The indelible mark of real estate developer C.E. Toberman is spread across Tinseltown. Dubbed “Mr. Hollywood,” he developed landmarks such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Chinese Theatre, the El Capitan Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Another of his works, a 1937 English-style cottage, is...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:00:00 PDT )
Don't you want to know what's new online and in L.A. in the world of books? Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:00:00 PDT )

Randall Arney, the former artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles who was dismissed in February after 17 years at the theater, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the Geffen of age and disability discrimination.

Arney, 61, also lists failure to prevent retaliation, libel and slander...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:05:00 PDT )

After two episodes raising interesting questions and establishing characters, Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy maintains the same momentum with Episode 3: More Than a Feeling. It starts out with flashback scenes that are well-suited to the Telltale style of storytelling, and the difficult decisions it asks you to make call back to previous episodes' choices in engaging ways. However, it's held back by inconsistent pacing and poorly executed exploration sections.

Thanks to the Eternity Forge, a relic with the ability to resurrect the dead, the Guardians have been experiencing visions and vivid memories of their pasts. The episode starts with a scene from Peter's childhood, then shifts to one from Gamora's life with her sister Nebula and Thanos. Seeing how Gamora and Nebula used to interact is intriguing, especially since you're given a few choices in how to treat Nebula while in the memory. It's also satisfying coming off of the previous episodes, where Gamora's relationship with Nebula was positioned as conflict but lacked the context to be meaningful.

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Peter and Gamora then discover Mantis, a being connected to the Eternity Forge who has the ability to read people's emotions. Mantis reveals that she has been using Peter's memories of his mother to guide him to her--and that the Eternity Forge can either be given the power to resurrect anyone or destroyed forever. The choice lies in your hands: power up the Forge and resurrect Rocket's lost love and Drax's family, or destroy it at Gamora's urging and prevent the revival of an evil army. This is the main conflict of the episode, and it's not an easy choice to make.

Though there's little action in Episode 3 whatsoever, the moral questions are enough to drive the story forward. Using Mantis' power, Nebula shows you her side of the sisters' troubled relationship through the same memory you saw from Gamora's point of view. It's one of the highlights of the episode; where I previously found it incredibly easy to side with Gamora in every situation, understanding her faults through Nebula's eyes recentered me. That in turn made the choice to empower or destroy the Forge harder and far more weighty, since Gamora's support wasn't enough to make the decision for me.

Even with the right amount of intrigue, the pacing of the episode feels off. With one main conflict at its center, the episode feels empty in places, as if there should be more to do or more of Telltale's characteristic choices to make. For an episode that deals with so much--and with such high stakes--it ends just as it's ramping up in order to leave room for later episodes, which makes the two hours it takes to get there feel a bit slow and dull in retrospect.

That's made more pronounced by a particularly aggravating exploration and investigation sequence that requires you to spam one command until you trigger the next scene--but this isn't at all obvious just walking around and trying to figure out the solution. It takes way longer than it should, and it's yet another instance in the series of the more "game"-like elements feeling out of place and intrusive.

Like the previous two episodes, Episode 3 of Guardians gains enough momentum with its most engaging relationships and story beats to carry itself forward. It continues to build upon its characters and gives meaning to its choices, but it also suffers from similar problems, including poor gamified sequences. A cliffhanger ending interrupts the excitement of the scene and ends up feeling forced, which is less intriguing after two prior episodes of manufactured suspense.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:00:00 -0700)
Forget the Galaxy Note 7 disaster. Samsung shoved All The Things into the Note 8 and made it work. Read More

Source: WIRED - Product Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:00:00 +0000)
In “The New Education,” Cathy N. Davidson argues that colleges must do more to adjust to social and economic realities. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:00:25 GMT )
The narrator of Kristen Iskandrian’s novel, “Motherest,” hoped college would be an escape from an unhappy home. Now she must make a home for her baby. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:00:25 GMT )
We look at lenses ideal for wedding photography.
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Source: ePHOTOzine - All Photography Articles (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:00:01 GMT )
Alumni of Barack Obama's administration and campaigns are running for office, motivated by President Trump's policies and a belief their work after eight years in the White House was unfinished. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:05:00 PDT )

A month after a bruising political battle to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, the state received a big vote of confidence in the policy’s future.

Cap and trade requires oil refineries, food processors and other facilities to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:05:00 PDT )
We were lucky enough to experience the Nurburgring and the Tamron 16-300mm came along for the ride.
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Source: ePHOTOzine - All Photography Articles (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 08:00:06 GMT )

Wal-Mart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it's not doing it alone.

The world's largest retailer said Wednesday that it's working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:05:00 PDT )

As protesters massed on the streets of Phoenix, President Trump on Tuesday unleashed a vitriolic, 76-minute speech mocking those who considered his response after the Charlottesville white supremacist march as racist, adopted racially charged language and hinted that he would pardon former Arizona...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:50:00 PDT )

Floyd Mayweather Jr. reached under the table and tapped the leg of his longtime adviser with the back of his left hand.

As the pack of reporters waited for Mayweather’s response, it was Leonard Ellerbe who broke the silence.

“I can answer that,” said Ellerbe, the chief executive of Mayweather’s...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:50:00 PDT )

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles spends its first fifteen minutes invoking memories of two of the best Zelda games. It opens on a boat, with your player-created character and a cartoony crew sailing through choppy seas, heading towards a distant island. It's a scene reminiscent of The Wind Waker's early moments, when Link and Tetra first set sail together. Soon enough the ship is wrecked, and you wash up on the shore of Gemea, the island nation the game is set across. After a brief tutorial the game offers a near-direct copy of Link's emergence at the beginning of Breath of the Wild, as our character runs to a precipice and the camera pans back to reveal the wider world, the soundtrack underscoring the grandiosity of the moment.

It's a bold move, but while the experience that follows invites comparisons to Breath of the Wild's invitation to explore, Yonder plays very differently from Nintendo's masterpiece. This is an extremely relaxed game, one with no combat, few puzzles to solve, and no danger of death at any point (you can 'drown' if you jump into deep water, but you'll immediately spawn back on dry land with no repercussions). You're placed on this island and given, for the most part, free reign: after the first few missions grant you all of the game's essential tools you can either follow the main quest line or set out on your own path.

The plot is extremely thin--a darkness (called the "murk") has spread over the world, and it's up to you to get rid of it by completing a bunch of fetch quests. The murk doesn't manifest as a threat, per se, and is instead used to justify the emptiness of the game world, which is filled with wonderful vistas but very few people to enjoy them. The islands of Gemea are loaded with quests, but the majority of them involve little more than gathering resources. Yonder is a game of exploration--the game world is sizable, and there is barely a 'quick travel' system, offering only a few unlockable warp points. The quests you pick up will usually guide you towards the part of the map you need to head to next, but figuring out how to get there--which paths to take up which mountains, which caves to traverse, which roads to take through which clearings--is on you. By the end of the game, you'll likely find you have a much better sense of where things are, and how to get to them, than you usually do in open world games.

Along the way you'll want to pick up anything not nailed down, so that when you find an NPC with a side quest there's a good chance that you'll already have the things they wanted you to gather (and if not, you'll hopefully have enough to swap with a local merchant--the game has a barter economy). Some of these quests can be quite involved. One late in the game, for instance, asks you to collect a certain item from a cave, but to find that cave you'll need to craft a bomb (it makes sense in context). To get the materials to make that bomb, you'll need to first become a 'brewer', which requires that you head to another part of the map and complete a different quest to open up new crafting options. After that, you'll get the recipe required to create the parts you need in the 'crafting' menu, which tells you exactly what you can build and what you'll need to build it.

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This is one of the game's more complicated quests, though, and most are far simpler. Yonder is not designed to be challenging. The main quest line is extremely short; tellingly, the trophy awarded to you for completing the final mission is called "That was easy". This pace can actually be refreshing, but once that main quest is complete the appeal of having a beautiful island to wander around starts to wane. The side quests aren't necessarily much fun, and the rewards for completing them are often intangible, offering little more than a sense of satisfaction that becomes less satisfying with each new item ticked off your quest list. Search the world high and low, uncovering its secrets, and it will rarely feel like the game world has actually changed in any way that matters, even after you've finished the game. Once you've seen everything and the appeal of exploration wears off, there's little reason to push for 100% completion.

There's a farming system, too, which lets you establish farm plots and generate income by housing livestock (if you walk up to an animal while you happen to have its favourite food in stock you'll have the option of feeding it, and after that it's yours). This could be the game's deepest mechanic, but it feels weirdly inconsequential. Farms serve a practical purpose--they let you store resources, which is good when your backpack fills up--but farming is not exactly a deep experience, and it's not going to pull anyone away from Stardew Valley.

Stopping to take in the sights is a major part of the Yonder experience.
Stopping to take in the sights is a major part of the Yonder experience.

Yonder is beautiful and relaxing, but only up to a certain point. It's great for the first few hours, wandering around and discovering new sights, but the world ultimately leaves you wanting more depth and personality to explore. The NPCs you encounter aren't fleshed-out characters, and the villages scattered throughout Gemea feel like veneers rather than actual locations--there are no building interiors, and very little sense of the lives being lived within them. Yonder is full of beautiful views, but while a distant mountain might be stunning, after a few hours it's hard to get excited by what might be on the other side of it.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:30:00 -0700)

Indians All-Star reliever Andrew Miller has been placed on the disabled list for the second time in 20 days because of knee tendinitis.

Cleveland also placed starter Danny Salazar on the 10-day DL because of elbow inflammation.

Miller made just seven pitches — all fastballs — in Monday night's...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:50:00 PDT )

SERIES

Jay Leno's Garage Jay goes off-roading with comedian Alonzo Bodden, then meets legendary newsman Ted Koppel. 7 and 10 p.m. CNBC

MasterChef In a new double episode, each of the home cooks are given a bag of crawfish that they must cook in a manner to extract the maximum amount of meat....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:00:00 PDT )

Sweat poured off Chargers cornerback Craig Mager, beading on his shaved head and falling off his beard.

The weather in Costa Mesa wasn’t responsible for the perspiration; it was the result of a post-practice session that had Mager working on technique while sprinting in and out of drills.

“I’m...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:05:00 PDT )

Big corporations are known for being two-faced — presenting a nurturing, maternal face to the outside world while ruthlessly pursuing profit on the inside.

But few have been charged with as much of a divergence between its outside and inside views as Exxon Mobil, which has been accused of downplaying...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:00:00 PDT )
The L.A. gallery Parrasch Heijnen presents a humble, deeply affecting show with themes of likeness and difference, continuity and opposition. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:00:00 PDT )

UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones reportedly has been stripped of his belt after he tested positive for a banned steroid.

The UFC confirmed an initial report by TMZ Sports that Jones tested positive from a sample that was collected following the July 28 weigh-in for his fight against Daniel...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:55:00 PDT )
Mark Wahlberg is sitting on top of the Rock on Forbes' 2017 highest-paid actors list.The rapper-turned-actor earned an estimated $68 million between June 2016 and June 2017, the financial mag reported Tuesday, edging out last year's top earner, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.That figure sums up the... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:46:00 PDT )

When junior golfer Pratima Sherpa lists the Royal Nepal Golf Club as her home course, she is being literal.

The 17-year-old has lived her entire life in a maintenance shed between the third green and fourth tee.

When she talks about the pleasure of smacking drives with a wood, she is being serious.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:05:00 PDT )

About 40 high school students from local schools gathered in Burbank City Council’s chambers last week to hear student activists and community leaders such as Mayor Will Rogers and Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill discuss current political issues during the first-ever Youth Political Activism Day.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:40:00 PDT )
Plan on visiting a market on your travels? Take a look at these tips before you leave.
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Source: ePHOTOzine - All Photography Articles (Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:10:03 GMT )
German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug Ecstasy in the shape of President Trump's head, a haul with an estimated street value of $45,900.Police in Osnabrueck, northwest Germany, say they found the drugs while checking an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 14:10:00 PDT )
Now that Verizon has changed its unlimited data plan, it's time to see how everyone's all-you-can-eat plan stacks up. Read More

Source: WIRED - Product Reviews (Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:31:00 +0000)
Only one product line. Not many features. And a blueprint for every smart home company out there. Read More

Source: WIRED - Product Reviews (Mon, 14 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000)
“Freud,” a critical biography by Frederick Crews, asks why the creator of a scientifically delegitimized blueprint of the mind still carries so much sway. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 15 Aug 2017 16:29:15 GMT )

The beauty of Nidhogg was in its simplicity. Its minimalist style and two-button gameplay fed into what was a wonderfully streamlined and focused experience. With Nidhogg 2, developer Messhof has attempted to expand the multiplayer fencing game with more maps, different weapon types, and a busier art style, with mixed results. Some of the changes--particularly the weapon selection and grotesque aesthetic--prove to be distractions from what is otherwise an excellent party game.

Nidhogg 2's concept, as with the first game, is to stab your opponent and race past their decaying corpse onto the next screen. Your enemy will respawn on the new screen within a couple of seconds to once again impede you from reaching your goal--a giant hungry worm. You can jab your sword at any of three heights--head, torso, or... below the torso--or throw it for a long-ranged attack. Of course, flinging your sword leaves you vulnerable, as does attacking at the wrong height, which creates openings for your opponent to counter.

You're often left frustrated that your attempted swipe of a sword failed because you happened to reappear holding a bow instead.

This was the meta-game driving the original Nidhogg's competitive gameplay--except now there's more pieces to the puzzle. The sequel introduces three new weapons: a thicker broadsword, which can be swung from either top or bottom to bat your opponent's weapon away but leaves you vulnerable in the middle; a dagger, which has a much shorter reach but allows you to stab more quickly; and the long-range bow. Arrows can only be fired in the middle or bottom and can be hit back in your direction, but they're by far the longest ranged weapons in the game that don't leave you defenceless afterward.

The expanded arsenal is of course designed to add depth, and it does: wielding a dagger for a few seconds can be a refreshing change after three years spent playing Nidhogg with just the same old rapier. But the game's fast-paced nature and its lack of warning as to which weapon you'll spawn with next means that you're often left frustrated that your attempted swipe of a sword failed because you happened to reappear holding a bow instead. You can change the order of weapons you'll spawn with in Tournament Mode, but even there the speed at which matches unfold makes adapting in the split-second respawn window a struggle. In addition, those customization options are not included in Quick Play, Arcade, and online multiplayer--a minor but strange decision given some may wish to turn the new weapons off entirely.

The introduction of weapon variety also impacts balancing. The uniformity of map design and character types creates a level playing field, but this serves to further emphasize each weapon's weaknesses. The dagger in particular feels very underpowered--it's tricky to use its speedier stab when your opponent has a much longer sword keeping you at bay. Similarly, arrows take too long to fire, meaning a quick opponent can easily gain the upper hand. Even if they don't, arrows are pretty easy to dodge, and you'll be too busy hammering the Square / X button out of frustration to take advantage.

The pulsating electronic soundtrack helps each stage feel as enjoyable, as varied, and as weird as the last.

Messhof has taken a similar "bigger means better" approach when it comes to Nidhogg 2's art style. The minimalism seen in the original is gone in favour of a style that, while still retro, is noticeably noisier. At times, the lighting is lovely, and the greater color range allows for much more varied locales than the original's monochrome level design. But the style also makes it harder to immediately see what's happening on-screen, and this lack of clarity is representative of the sequel overall. Possibly the only area in which the increased amount of content has benefitted Nidhogg is in those added maps. The original arenas have been rebuilt, and they're accompanied by a number of all-new locations. They contain a number of environmental hazards such as pits, moving ice, and long grass--as well as a pulsating electronic soundtrack--helping each stage feel as enjoyable, as varied, and as weird as the last.

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Despite all the distractions, however, Nidhogg 2 can be brilliant. The original's tense, frantic, hilarious nature has not been diminished, and local matches offer some of the best same-room multiplayer around. I think my ear is still ringing from a friend shouting so loudly (repeatedly) after he beat me (also repeatedly). Nidhogg 2 becomes a sport: even onlookers get swept up in the tug of war the game evolves into, and you'll cheer or cry more in each swing of momentum than most video games manage to muster in a whole campaign. It effortlessly creates moments of nail-biting tension and in the very next room uproarious hilarity: in the moment, simply batting an arrow back at an opponent can seem like the most daring maneuver ever attempted, while falling into a pit immediately after a momentus kill can paralyze a room with laughter.

You'll cheer or cry more in each swing of momentum than most video games manage to muster in a whole campaign.

Each strike is lethal, and every inch of ground gained over your opponent feels like a huge step toward victory. The controls have remained as natural as they were in the first game, allowing you to plan and execute strategies with ease, making it perfect for group sessions even if some haven't played before. And when you figure out your opponent's strategy, exploit it, and just before they respawn you reach the finish line to win a tournament, it's exhilarating. I just hope my ear stops ringing soon.

Nidhogg 2, then, adds a lot without really adding much at all. The new weapons and busy aesthetic can frustrate, making the overall package feel less refined, but the core gameplay still shines through. Despite its problems, Nidhogg 2 is spectacular, engrossing, funny, tragic, and dramatic in equal measure, and it will no doubt become another party game staple. Nidhogg 2 sacrifices simplicity for more options, and it doesn't prove to be a good trade. But when the underlying action is this good, I'll put up with the odd unwelcome dagger.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 14 Aug 2017 07:00:00 -0700)

After Blade Runner implanted itself into the minds of moviegoers back in 1982, elements of its cyberpunk world and story would echo throughout pop culture for decades to come. Despite writers, filmmakers and game designers telling stories in similar worlds with outstanding results, the familiar dark rainy streets, grimy neon lights, and cautionary tales of body augmentations remained seemingly steadfast. With that in mind, it’s a small revelation to see Polish studio Bloober Team take early cues from these influences and use them as a springboard to create something new and exciting with Observer.

Set in the year 2084, Observer tells the story of Daniel Lazarski (played by Blade Runner's Rutger Hauer), a detective who works the despair-ridden streets of Krakow under the direction of the leading corporation of the Fifth Polish Republic, Chiron. The world at large has gone to ruin. A digital plague killed thousands of augmented people and a colossal war wiped out any previous global superpowers. Thanks to this all-consuming conflict, Chiron rose from the ashes and became the leading authority and manufacturer of basically everything. Lazarski takes jobs from his contact at Chiron and using his body tech, is able to violently jack into the minds and memories of people (alive or dead) to track clues and solve crimes. Hence his official job title: Observer.

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Lazarski gets called to a slum in the worst part of Krakow and this is where the majority of the game takes place. Citizens are divided into classes and this bleak Class C district is bursting at the seams with desperate, frightened people hiding in their rancid apartments and whose only escape from the absolute hell of their daily lives is drugs--chemical or technological.

Essentially a detective story, Observer almost immediately becomes more than the sum of its parts. Talking to residents, examining crime scenes and deciphering clues make up a lot of the gameplay here but it is all housed inside gorgeously detailed environments, the twisted memories of deranged strangers, and one of the most intriguing cyberpunk narratives in years. There's a constant sense of the towering dark skyline of the city but you're too focused on putting your hands in the muck to feel like you're missing out on anything greater. The society that has been carved out in this apartment building is all that matters and it’s here that Observer starts to pull away from its influences and blaze its own unique trail.

Told from a first-person perspective, Lazarski slowly unravels events with his augmented technology by scanning crime scenes for either biological or electronic evidence (either of which can reveal different clues). He also makes use of his "Dream Eater" augmentation, which is designed to observe people’s minds. Throughout the course of the game, it is these extraordinary sequences that present the horrific story beats in psychedelic, surreal ways.

From terrifying nightmare worlds, low-tech video game holograms and game designs that border on mad genius, both you and Lazarski emerge from these sections mentally exhausted but also instantly compelled to push forward to find out what happens next. Exploration, discovery and human interaction drive the narrative forward. In these bloody crime scenes and filthy apartments, the ability to open a door inches at a time adds another sense of sweat-soaked tension. Being in the moment is all that matters and every movement you make, whether it’s scanning ID tags on illegal body mods or sneaking a look at the tenant list before the janitor comes back, pushes you deeper into Observer's illusion.

Another key feature that helps this universe emerge fully formed is the outstanding sound design. Hallways creak as you stalk from door to door, listening to bizarre noises rising from each apartment. The crackle of terrified residents through speakers, broken video screens blasting static and the cacophony of rainstorms envelope you in an uncomfortable tale. Mixed with the truly disturbing sounds coming from somewhere in the basement and Arkadiusz Reikowski’s ominous industrial music and Observer’s clutches become almost impossible to escape.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of moments that are frustratingly jarring. More than once, you are forced to engage in some instant-fail cat-and-mouse sequences that really don’t fit with the rest of what Observer is trying to achieve. However, they are brief and are over within a few minutes. Problems like this are quickly forgotten when you’re lost in a discussion with a tenant telling you about his religious order which rejects body modifications or slowly discovering the oppressive extent of Chiron's reach, from desktop computers to picture frames. Everything is covered in a film of grime. Random neon lights sputter in and out of life in the hallways and obsolete technology is bolted onto apartment doors making it clear that nobody of importance cares about this corner of the city.

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That’s why Observer succeeds as well as it does. Every scene adds a meaningful piece of the puzzle to a world and a story that you want to immediately know more about. It consistently presents surreal moments and surprises that would seem like, on paper, the work of lunatics. However, in this grimy and hopeless corner of Krakow, they feel completely at home. The writing for even the most fleeting of characters (even dead ones) feels genuine. Every person here, from crappy parents yelling at their kids while talking to you through a grimy video screen to abstract constructs of lost souls trapped in their own minds, has a convincing life of their own and that commitment to detail make Lazarski’s descent into this future hell, and his own personal demons, all that more compelling.

Cyberpunk is a reflection of where we’re headed as a society, an oddly alluring reality where we've allowed impressive technology into our lives at the cost of our humanity. This is a niche genre that needs new revisions and new pioneers so it can keep evolving as we inch closer to seeing its fictional warnings play out in real life, and Observer adds to the familiar parables in fascinating and unexpected ways. In that respect, and on so many other levels, Observer is a haunting and remarkable achievement.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 14 Aug 2017 10:00:00 -0700)

From the opening title's splash screen, Sonic Mania's presentation is intoxicating. Its colorful, retro 2D graphics and vibrant '90s-inspired pop soundtrack is enough to make any Sega Genesis fan squeal in excitement. In this jointly developed game, Sega and members of the Sonic fan-hack community have created a loving homage to the blue hedgehog's glory days. But Sonic's latest outing isn't only concerned with reminding you of his past; though it is decadent in this regard. Sonic Mania exceeds expectations of what a new game in the franchise can look and play like, managing to simultaneously be a charming celebration of the past and a natural progression of the series' classic 2D formula.

Taking place shortly after the events of Sonic & Knuckles, the game's story sees Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles getting involved once again in a battle against Dr. Eggman--this time over a mysterious emerald artifact. However, the conniving scientist isn't alone; enlisting the help of the Hard-Boiled Heavies--a group of customized Eggrobos. But the story takes a backseat as the time honored premise endures: defeat Eggman and his baddies, and collect all the Chaos Emeralds.

Sonic Mania makes a strong first impression thanks to amazing visuals and music. Its presentation replicates the charming aesthetic of Sonic's earliest games with thorough detail. While the pixelated sprites of Sonic and friends are reminiscent of their Sega Genesis' counterparts, they take on a new life with a higher degree of detail and animation quality. The new effects add an extra layer of personality to the iconic characters that's a joy to see in motion.

On the other end of the spectrum, the game sports an assortment of new music tracks and remixes of greatest hits. They channel the New Jack Swing dance music stylings that heavily influenced Sonic's soundtracks in the '90s, remaining just as catchy and well-orchestrated here. Both visuals and music work together in Sonic Mania to build up an aesthetic that's evocative of earlier games, but in a pleasing style that feels contemporary all on its own.

On top of Sonic Mania's fantastic presentation, the game also controls like a classic-style Sonic game. You have the option to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles; you can even work cooperatively with another player as Sonic and Tails a la Sonic 2. From the get go, the movement physics and overall feel of each character are distinct yet familiar, staying faithful to the originals. The gang's unique abilities remain intact, albeit with one exception: Sonic has a new Drop Dash, which allows him to quickly roll forward after a jump. It's a small addition, but it provides a handy new way to pick up speed or avoid incoming danger.

 It can feel exhilarating to pass through a multitude of pathways, especially at top speed.
It can feel exhilarating to pass through a multitude of pathways, especially at top speed.

Level design is at the series' best here, sporting 12 zones that are each meticulously designed with cleverly placed obstacles and varied pathways that keep you guessing. It can feel exhilarating to pass through a multitude of pathways, especially at top speed. No route ahead ever feels incorrect as you sprint through loops or hit springs launching you into different directions, and there are rarely any instances where the action halts without reason. And thanks to the visibility granted by the widescreen aspect ratio and the smooth framerate, your awareness and sense of control running through a zone feels better than Sonic's classic outings ever did.

It also helps that levels are designed around the abilities of each character. While Sonic can blaze a trail through a zone, Knuckles and Tails can find other paths beyond his reach thanks to their respective climbing and flying abilities, which often lead to new ways of experiencing the same stage. It's enjoyable to engage with the subtle ways each character interacts with the world and the conveniences they offer. And you're rewarded for taking the time to do so, as on some occasions, characters even get completely new levels to explore that are designed specifically around their abilities.

We all know where this goes...
We all know where this goes...

Sonic Mania closely follows its forebears, utilizing the exhilarating sense of speed that the 2D games charted their success upon. However, it never incorporates elements from the past purely for the sake of nostalgia; rather, it expands upon the familiar with new ideas of its own. This is most apparent when you play remixed versions of older zones from the first five games. Sonic Mania's version of Sonic 2's Chemical Plant zone introduces a mechanic where you constantly jump on jelly to bounce upwards to new parts of the level. Changes like this liven up the design of well-known levels, offering fresh and gratifying new experiences.

New zones, on top of offering a suite of charming visuals and catchy melodies, deliver plenty of inventive concepts that diversify and build upon the series' fast-paced level design. Whether it's by encouraging you to freeze yourself into an ice block to smash through walls, or challenging you to figure out a maze-like sequence of gates to reach the end of a zone, the ideas the game explores give it a strong sense of identity compared to the originals.

In the same style as Sonic 3, every level culminates in a boss fight--ranging from relatively simple, to demanding set-piece battles where you go head-to-head with Eggman and his minions. However, there are some fights that pay homage not only to past games, but early spin-offs from the Sonic's history, such as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine and Sonic Fighters. There's also a fair number of more challenging battles that require more advanced tactics to beat. One has you dodging projectiles as you use a series of poles to propel yourself towards a spider robot. Boss fights offer a great balance of difficulty, steadily challenging and entertaining you in numerous ways as you progress.

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The past and present seamlessly intermingle in Sonic Mania, answering your nostalgic yearning, while satisfying your thirst for fresh concepts.
The past and present seamlessly intermingle in Sonic Mania, answering your nostalgic yearning, while satisfying your thirst for fresh concepts.

The more you play Sonic Mania, the more it rewards you with reasons to keep playing. Additional modes like Competition and Time Attack offer other ways to experience its levels. Aside from acquiring all the Chaos Emeralds to obtain the true ending, one of the most compelling reasons to replay zones come from Secrets--Sonic Mania's term for unlocks that give you access to new characters and abilities. For example, you can play through the entire campaign using Sonic's Insta-Shield ability from Sonic 3. You can even unlock "& Knuckles" mode, where a second player can play cooperatively with you as Knuckles instead of Tails.

However, the caveat is that you can only turn on Secrets when playing without save functionality, so if you want to play using these abilities, you can only do so by going through the game in one sitting. It's a strange limitation that restricts your ability to take advantage of everything the game has to offer. Regardless, with so many unlockables to obtain and experience, there is always an initiative to go back for another run.

For years the Sonic series has chased the legacy of its early games, constantly delivering experiences that either came close or failed to recapture the spirit that made them classics. Whether it was by getting wrapped up in story or putting too much emphasis on speed instead of level design, the newer games lost track of what made the originals great. Sonic Mania methodically uses its sentimental appeal to great effect, but in the process, it heals the wounds inflicted by its most disappointing predecessors and surpasses the series' best with its smart and interpretive design. An excellent 2D platformer, Sonic Mania goes beyond expectations, managing to be not only a proper evolution of the series' iconic formula, but the best Sonic game ever made.

Editor's note: We have now tested both the Switch and Xbox One versions of Sonic Mania, and have updated the review accordingly. - Matt Espineli, Aug. 15, 2017, 4:00PM

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 15 Aug 2017 16:00:00 -0700)

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