Andy Kelly: Choose wisely
This week I watched Bandersnatch, the latest episode of dark anthology series Black Mirror. Samuel sang its praises last weekend and I totally agree: it's an exciting piece of interactive TV, and something I'd love to see more of on Netflix. I was disheartened, though, to see a few prominent gaming critics being negative about it. I get that, if you've played a lot of interactive fiction or other narrative games, its binary choices seem kinda simplistic. It’s fundamentally no more complex than the old ‘80s text adventures its story swivels around.
But I think most people—especially non-gamers—won't know about these games, or have easy access to them. And in those cases, Bandersnatch is a brilliantly accessible entry point to the idea of an interactive story. All you need is a TV remote, and I think that should be championed. I didn’t love the story or the ending I got, but the choices I had to make were surprisingly thrilling. And the more people outside of gaming who get to experience interactive stories like this the better. Here's hoping Netflix does more experiments like this.
Tom Senior: Scary-go-round
I can’t think of another case similar to P.T. It was essentially a free interactive advert for a Silent Hill game that doesn’t exist. It’s also one of the most innovative and unusual horror games of the last few years, and its mystique has only grown since Konami made it unavailable to download. Why not just release it to the world? It has ties to Hideo Kojma, who has since moved on to different pastures, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Luckily for us fans are doing remarkably detailed remakes. They might be taken down eventually but you can’t stop the signal. I saw the version Samuel played in November last year and honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between that and the PS4 original. Download it this weekend and celebrate the new year by scaring yourself half to death.
Tyler Wilde: Looters
Certain major YouTubers are being paid to promote a 'real-world' loot box website, on which users can 'open' boxes containing anything from cars (which I am skeptical the site actually has) to sneakers to fidget spinners. Users are encouraged to 'sell back' items they don't want so that they can roll the dice again for a chance at a big ticket item. It's sleazy as hell, obviously, and it's being promoted to kids on YouTube, which makes it even worse. 2019 is off to the races.
Wes Fenlon: Just when I was getting in the mood…
I spent a good chunk of my holiday vacation traveling, visiting friends and family, and only a few days at home, again catching up with friends I hadn't seen since before the holidays. The time away from work and my PC was good: I feel reinvigorated… in my desire to play a lot of games. I'm brimming with excitement to play lots more Monster Hunter and catch up on loads of games I missed last year. I always feel like I come back from vacation needing another week to do nothing but sit around and play games. Here's an idea: what if all vacations were twice as long?
Chris Livingston: Atlas shrugged
I finally got off my ass and played a bit of Atlas, the pirate MMO from Grapeshot "Studio Wildcard" Games. I know it's a big game and I need to give it more time, and I know it's in Early Access and they need to give it more time, too. But my opening hours were a messy, ugly drudge. I struggled with Ark: Survival Evolved at first, too, before eventually settling in and really enjoying it, so maybe I'll reach a turning point with Atlas as well, but for now it feels like repetitive slog of chopping trees, digging for water, and hacking at stupid, jittering animals while a swarm of half-naked would-be pirates careen around in the background. Maybe I'll feel better when I've got a ship and get some exploring done, but it's hard to feel much interest in even getting that far.
Fraser Brown: New year, old Fallout
The bombs stopped falling on New Year’s Day. Normally that would be a cause for celebration, but not in Fallout 76. Actually, some players did celebrate, or at least didn’t seem to mind, but either way, 2019 kicked off without much of a bang in digital West Virginia. The cavalcade of disasters that have accompanied Fallout 76 since launch are so numerous that I’d almost feel sorry for Bethesda if the idea of feeling sympathy for an extremely successful game studio didn’t seem so ridiculous.
So, for a day or two, Fallout 76 was a bit more peaceful. If it had been planned, which some players assumed was the case, it would have been fitting—an armistice to start the year fresh. It was perfect timing. Bethesda copped to it, though, and later sorted it out with a hotfix. Not a great start to the year, then, but at least it was a quiet one.