Watch Dogs 2 is a love letter to a San Francisco I no longer recognize

I’m playing as Marcus Holloway in Watch Dogs 2, traipsing around a digital recreation of San Francisco. Angry at the system, Marcus has embarked on a romanticized hacking-heavy quest for revenge on nefarious corporations. In Watch Dogs 2, they’re evil personified within the Blume Corporation and ctOS 2.0, the operating system that runs the city. As Marcus awakens in a hungover daze across the bay in Marin County near the start of the game, he finds himself overlooking San Francisco, no signature Karl The Fog in sight. It’s a beautiful city, if a bit unrealistic. There’s always fog, and maybe…


The brilliant clumsiness of Grow Up

There’s a blinking emoticon of a robot waving its arms around. It has the kind of joy that should be reserved for kids at a birthday party, not a loading screen. Once the bar is filled the robot appears again—now in full 3D, a red shell like a Lego brick—but this time it’s animated like a drunk who’s too inebriated to stand. When I push forward on the analog stick it’s as if my small motion has turned the entire planet under its feet. The robot’s arms flail as if reaching for a pole or an edge to cling to.…


Absolver is the low-poly, God Hand-inspired brawler of your dreams

It’s tempting to describe Absolver with an endless stream of references to other games—big ones, the type for which you see cardboard cutouts at GameStop. It’s an online multiplayer game riffing on the model of Destiny (2014) or Dark Souls (2011)—not, they clarify, an MMO—with players both friendly and unfriendly roaming a semi-open world. The elegantly low-poly world has the feel of a somber The Witness, and its tight, frame-specific combat recalls the brawlers of Platinum Games.  But that laundry list sells it short. Tucked back in an Airstream trailer, far enough from the Los Angeles Convention Center to allow me to…


Videogaming’s most endearing, clumsy robot is making a grand return

It was a welcome relief amid all the Just Dance-ing and Watch_Dog-ing at Ubisoft’s E3 2016 press conference to see the reveal trailer for Grow Up—a sequel to last year’s charming plant growing/climbing game, Grow Home. BUD, the red, stumbling robot from the first game reprises his starring role, and is tasked once again with clambering across all manner of enormous flora to locate parts of his spaceship, presumably to head home once more. Grow Home was an unlikely hit last year. It was developed by an eight-person team at Reflections (known primarily for their driving games) as an experiment…


Steep will let you cheat death by never risking it in the first place

Listen. Me and heights? We don’t have what I’d describe as an amiable relationship. If you try to shuffle your house party on to the roof, I’m going to be the square making a case for couches and kitchen access. And the surge of GoPro stunt videos? I think the only reason I can white knuckle through them is because their very publication guarantees the daredevil survived. If you live your life in a flying squirrel suit just to thread the needle of a rock formation that’s the result of centuries of climate and sediment conditioning, and not designed as…


Star Trek: Bridge Crew brings space camp to virtual reality

I was always under the distinct impression that Star Trek was a virtual reality—no, it’s really not necessary to email me about this—but now… it actually is? This is Star Trek: Bridge Crew, as revealed at E3 on Monday. It’s a collaborative VR game where, instead of interacting with your friends, you all put on headsets and interact with one another’s avatars. Here, for instance, are some of the franchise’s distinguished alumna giving it a go: Having actors record a video trying out virtual reality is always an interesting gambit because they are… well… actors. But, for argument’s sake, let’s…


Watch_Dogs 2, this time with actual dogs

If there was anything missing from the underwhelming Watch_Dogs (2014), it was actual dogs. Luckily, bright and early Wednesday morning, Ubisoft hosted an unbearably long livestream cataloguing the details of its hardly-anticipated sequel, Watch_Dogs 2 (most of which was appropriately leaked—via premature ads—ahead of schedule). And guess what? It finally played up the single feature that we’ve all wanted from the beginning: legit dogs. Pettable dogs, even. By my eagle-eyed count (and watching the 18-minute broadcast on mute due to not really caring too much), 10 dogs total pounce onto the screen at some point, all within the mix of…

The Division

Now you can explore The Division’s version of Manhattan in Google Maps

There’s a stillness to The Division’s plague-stricken version of New York. Rats populate the streets in greater numbers than do human beings, and a rustling newspaper is often the only visible object in motion beyond the player character and the omnipresent snowfall. The view outside of Madison Square Gardens is one example of how Ubisoft Massive has repurposed Midtown Manhattan to suit its game’s persistent, near-future crisis state. Fences are lined with razorwire. The digital billboard out front loops between two images: an American flag and the seal of the Catastrophic Emergency Response Agency, the game’s fictionalized version of FEMA. A tarp has been thrown over the…

The Division

People are forming orderly queues in The Division, a game about chaos

Military-minded author Tom Clancy has his work adapted into games all the time; his blend of nitty-gritty technical detail and completely absurd US-against-the-world plotlines is perfect for shooters of all kinds. However, despite his dedication to apocalyptic terror scenarios, one thing Clancy never anticipated was … the queues. Luckily, Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division was released yesterday, and it has all the white-knuckle waiting action you can stand. Taking place in a disease-ravaged NYC with absolutely zero parallels to 9/11, The Division taps into the same “but what if society fell APART, man?” paranoia of AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s a license to be the all-American badass who lays…