Battlefield 1’s tiny handgun is here to humiliate you

Picture this: you’re in the Battlefield 1 open beta. Chaos is happening all around you. Buildings are falling, gunshots are whizzing past your ear, narrowly missing. The fear of an airstrike or mustard gas bombing always looms in the background. As the action crescendos, an enemy jumps out of a bush, and kills you with a gun no bigger than a credit card. A fucking Kolibri. The 2mm Kolibri is a very real, very tiny handgun—first manufactured in 1910, it remains the world’s smallest centerfire cartridge. The name Kolibri literally means hummingbird, although I would argue here that the gun’s…


Game Boy-style visuals are too good at being creepy

The Game Boy is an icon of ’90s innocence. It’s a kid playing Tetris (1984) while sprawled across their bed. Or a bunch of kids trading Pokémon (1996) in the sun with a Game Link Cable. Nintendo’s original grey handheld is not typically a vessel for horror. But you try telling that to the people who participated in the fifth Game Boy Jam earlier this month. The challenge of the GBJam is to create a game with the small resolution and limited 4-color palette of the original Game Boy. That means there’s a bunch of green-and-black games ready for playing right now. Most are…


DUSK is the grubby circus act a ’90s-style shooter should be

DUSK is an intentional throwback. It’s a game that deliberately, lovingly evokes the running, gunning, and no-reload bullet-dispensing of ‘90s shooters like Quake (1996), Blood (1997), and DOOM (1993). As with most exercises in nostalgia, it’s also pretty off-putting at first. Why make another Quake when right this instant Quake is available to play, as good as it ever was? Why roll around in the past when the future is always so much more exciting? But give DUSK a chance and it makes an argument for itself. In the first moments of its preview version, a trio of burly, flannel-clad guys with burlap sacks over their heads and…

Duke 3D

Duke Nukem 3D is back (again) like an old uncle telling 20-year-old jokes

Like uncovering a spiral-bound notebook full of junior high poetry, Duke Nukem 3D (1996) is back once again to remind you of what passed for “edgy” in the late 90s. After a half-dozen repackaged versions over the past few years, a sizable anniversary is enough for Gearbox Software, the current stewards of 3D Realm’s 1996 FPS “classic,” to give everyone another chance to re-purchase it. Including a brand-spanking new lighting system and a fifth episode created by the game’s original level designers, Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour manages to play the way you remember the game and thankfully…

Gears of War 4

Gears of War 4 tries to cover up its battle scars

Two moments stick out from Gears of War 4. In one, a geyser of blood shoots from the exoskeleton of an enormous, crablike Corpser as the Hammer of Dawn—a satellite-guided laser—rains a beam of molten death down upon it. Fountains of gore flow from the creature like a waterfall while serious, beefy dudes in massive armor run accompanying waves of monsters through with a typhoon of bullets. In another, later scene, sparks fly off a metal-plated security robot as new protagonist JD Fenix plinks it apart with a submachine gun. He makes lighthearted, Whedon-esque quips to his pals and wears…

Destiny Rise of Iron

Destiny: Rise of Iron has learned nothing

I was at E3 when Destiny was first shown to the world in 2013. I remember being shepherded into a theater, the outside marked with huge printed artwork, among a group of whispering journalists. In that theater, we would be taken through the opening to the game: the wall, the breach, the first areas of the Cosmodrome. The person demonstrating the game spawned at what I now know—after hundreds of hours in Destiny’s world—to be the hard edge of the map. But back then I had no idea where this sprawling landscape ended, where its invisible walls lay. So as…

Merger 3D

Merger 3D combines the best and worst of 90s shareware

Nostalgia for the 1990s seems to have become the stock in trade for videogames over the past few years. I’m thinking of the tongue-in-cheek revisit to MS-DOS’s glory days of Vlambeer’s GUN GODZ (2012) and the brutal, tasteful modern reconfiguration of the 90s shooter in this year’s Devil Daggers. But these are exceptions, as drawing from that well is typically an exercise in diminishing returns. A new shooter, Merger 3D, is testament to this, as it showcases the best and worst of the 90s shareware aesthetic. The title weighs in at a svelte 10 MB, and supposedly will run on every Windows OS…

Lovely Planet Arcade

The most kawaii first-person shooter gets a sequel this Friday

The classic idiom goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but often the aesthetic and visuals of a medium offers a reasonably good idea of what to expect. One doesn’t imagine that dark horrors are lurking behind the sunny facade of Sesame Street (the webseries Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared subverts that expectation to an unsettling effect), or that the Berenstain Bear children books will descend into mature adult themes. A game’s looks inform us in the same way, as seen in the bleak muted palette and Orwellian environments of this year’s Inside, the vibrant island of The Witness, and the watercolor…