There are family-friendly classics like Katamari Damacy getting remastered this year, and then there are the games we played as teenagers who thought that the coolest thing in the world was getting a little bit violent with our incredibly ridiculous games that just look silly compared to more modern gorefests like Soldier of Fortune. Blood falls into the latter category of goofy gore games.
For all of the once-youngsters who enjoyed it in 1997, Blood is being re-upped for modern systems by the old game professionals at NightDive. Here’s part of what their Daniel Grayshon had to say about the update, which sounds like it won’t be a big bloody change to get Blood on modern platforms:
Regarding the upgrading effort, Daniel said: “Blood stood up extremely well over time and we are taking care to preserve all the qualities that made the game so special. It really only needs minor updates to provide a better user experience for contemporary audiences. By using some of the functions of Nightdive’s KEX engine, we’ll be able to provide compatibility with today’s video standards, with DirectX and Vulkan support.”
He continued: “Similarly, we’ll provide compatibility with the current audio standards. We’ll add support for modern networks, Steamworks, and GOG Galaxy to bring this original game to more players. As part of this, we will preserve the accuracy of the game behavior. While these upgrades are relatively minor, we are confident that they will provide fans with a better, current generation gameplay experience.”
The only disappointing about this update is that the improvements won’t be open-source. Other games that Nightdive worked on have made it to other operating systems and platforms, and they do good work. However, like the original Blood this work will be frozen in time once Nightdive moves on.
That’s true for all commercial updates, releases, and remasters, but other games that were originally using the BUILD engine, like Duke Nukem 3D, have had commercial and unofficial support through open-source projects once their individual game source code was released. Blood has never had it’s source officially released, which makes any work on it a little bit more crucial for preserving the game than other big BUILD engine games like Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior.
Nightdive hasn’t said when you’ll be able to check out their modern port of Blood, but you can also play the original unmodified version (and the sequel Blood 2) through Steam ($5) or gog ($6).
Katamari Damacy has had a troubled history of ephemerality, but the first game in the series has finally been re-released as Katamari Damacy ReRoll. It is a bare-bones update, the game was never a graphical showpiece, but the focus here is on making Katamari available again for the first time in over a decade
The unique gameplay of Katamari Damacy is still just as fun. Rolling things up to make a bigger katamari (ball) is so relaxing. The bigger your Katamari, the tinier the prince pushing the ball is by comparison, but the bigger ball also lets you and him roll up larger and larger objects until you’ve gone from rolling up erasers and pencils to rolling up continents and planets.
The Steam for Windows version of Katamari DamacyReRoll suffers from some limitations due to how old Katamari’s design is. There is no autosaving, and it’ll warn you about that, so you need to return to a house on the main planetary menu to manually save between levels.
Another limitation shows up when you launch ReRoll on Windows for the first time. ReRoll appears in a tiny window on your screen, and you can’t access the options to change the resolution until you complete the first level. That might be difficult if you’re trying to play on your couch. It’s not a huge issue, but it was a surprise that Katamari didn’t immediately choose a resolution to match the desktop.
Katamari Damacy ReRoll is a can’t miss classic. At $30 it’s ten dollars more expensive than it was when it was originally released at the bargain price of $20, but Katamari is worth every penny. I can’t think of any game as hopeful and vibrantly silly. ReRoll is out now on the Nintendo Switch and Steam for Windows.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest update to the classic Counter-Strike gameplay, and it is now free-to-play, and the game’s developers at Valve have added a battle royale mode called Danger Zone. Unfortunately that mode doesn’t involve crashing cars through puzzle-y intersections.
Everyone who owned CS:GO previously now has “Prime Status,” which apparently puts you into a different match-making hopper with other “Prime Status” players. It sounds worse than it is, though, since it’s possible to get to that tier through playing the game and reaching the 21st rank, as the FAQ explains:
Prime Status is an upgrade available to all CS:GO players. When you have Prime Status you are matched with other players who also have Prime Status, and Prime users are eligible for Prime-exclusive souvenir items, item drops, and weapon cases.
There are two ways to upgrade your account to Prime Status; reach Rank 21 by earning XP and add an eligible phone number to your Steam account, or purchase the CS:GO Prime Status Upgrade in-game or through the Steam Store.
I suppose then the question is “how long does it take to reach Rank 21?” and the answer is probably “a long while” otherwise they wouldn’t be charging $15 for it.
This is Rival Megagun, it’s a competitive multiplayer vertical-scrolling shooter. I love it.
Twinkle Star Sprites was the first competitive multiplayer vertical-scrolling shooter I ever played, it’s a Neo Geo classic.
The thing that makes these games special is that they are unique multiplayer novelties. There are fighting games, there are shooters, there was even Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo if you’re into competitive multiplayer puzzle games and have good color vision. As far as I know there are just two examples of the competitive multiplayer shoot-em-up, and Rival Megagun is much more approachable than Twinkle Star Sprites, although both games are available via modern digital download services with online multiplayer today.
Rival Megagun does even more to differentiate itself from it’s one rival. Megagun has more interesting characters, better music, and you have a dedicated button to send bombs and other interesting weapons to your competitor’s side of the screen. Even better, Rival Megagun lets you transform into a giant boss monster space ship and fuck your opponent’s shit up.
Ben Heck leftThe Ben Heck Show at Element 14 and is back on his own channel. SNK’s cash-in on the mini console wave produced a mostly disappointing miniature arcade machine that doesn’t even wear the red and white color scheme we’ve come to expect. Heck’s first big project post TBHS is tearing down the Neo Geo Mini with his expert commentary and then rebuilding it as a portable, with the correct colors, in these two videos:
There’s a freely-downloadable prologue on Steam for Windows that lets you play those upgraded Hitman (2016)’s campaign missions, if you have access to them, as well as redone training missions from Hitman (2016) that include the new features like vegetation you can hide in.
I loved Hitman (2016) for all its quirks, it’s the best goofy action game where you can dress up and get shot for pulling a fire alarm. Although this game drops the episodic format, Hitman (2016) 2 ( 2018) still includes the scheduled elusive targets that were the reason I returned for many more silly one-off assassinations every month.
Mumbai is like a better version of 2016 Hitman’s Marrakesh, with large, bustling crowds that border more restricted areas that, crucially, are more enjoyable to traverse. A construction site that doubles as a movie set is a particular standout, with a clever placement of guards that ensures that—even with the right disguise—you’ll need to take a circuitous path or scale the unfinished elevator shaft. A great Hitman level forces you to adapt and respond as you go, and Hitman 2’s environments excel at providing the routes and options needed to adjust your plan on the fly.
Hitman (2016) 2 (2018) is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for Windows at $60 all the way up to an eye-watering $140 for the ridiculous edition that includes a briefcase with a rubber duck inside.
There was a version of the previous Hitman game for Linux and macOS but I haven’t seen anything promising those ports for this sequel.
Tetris has always been an exceptional puzzle game; now, thanks to the efforts of Tetsuya Mizuguchi and developer Resonair, it’s something much more than that. Mizuguchi’s career-long fascination with synaesthesia has given us the likes of Rez, Lumines and Child of Eden – and in the way it turns play into performance, Tetris Effect has at least as much in common with those games as Alexey Pajitnov’s seminal puzzler. The result, not unexpectedly, is extraordinary.
My favorite part of this review, though, is in the list of pros and cons, there’s this con: “Pretty much ruins all other Tetris games”
Apple has witnessed how the Mac mini has gone from being the best Mac it could build for $499 to one that’s a vital tool for professional and home users in a variety of contexts. And so, after a long time in the wilderness, the Mac mini has at last been updated—the right way. The last time the Mac mini got updated, Apple took away the highest-end configurations. This time, the Mac mini has been built with those many niche uses in mind.
Just when we thought it was dead, after several years of essentially no updates, the MacBook Air has returned with a new version that’s clearly inspired by the classic design. It’s been so long since the last major MacBook Air update, in fact, that most of the “new” features on this device are simply a recap of all the changes Apple has made to other Macs the past few years, finally rolled into this one: a new keyboard, Retina display, Force Touch trackpad, Apple-designed T2 processor, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, “Hey Siri”, and Touch ID.
Surprise! The definitive Mac of the 2010s is going to survive this decade. And while this MacBook Air is dramatically different from previous models in many ways, it’s also got a bunch of familiar touches that make it undeniably a MacBook Air. Like its predecessors, it’s not the computer for everyone… but it will probably be the most popular laptop among the (count ‘em) six models Apple currently offers.
He also has video reviews of both, and it sounds like they’re both good computers, even if they miss out on some features of older models like MagSafe which has saved my laptops many times.
There’s reason to think that Apple’s custom ARM processors, which now outperform many of their Mac computers in some benchmarks, are coming to replace Intel’s chips. These models, and any speed bumps they get in the next few years, might be some of the last Intel-based Apple updates.
Apple’s laptop situation isn’t great. Earlier this year they released new 2018 MacBook Pros that may have allieviated some of the issues with the reliability of 2016/2017 model keyboards. At the same time they also acknowledged the issue and offered extended repairs for three years for anyone who bought those devices.
Last week, the only laptop Apple sold with USB type-A ports was the MacBook Air. It was oddly placed in the product line, because it was actually heavier than some of the other laptop models and was their only device with a screen that wasn’t high-enough of a resolution to be deemed Retina.
Cook introduced the new Air with this video before handing the device’s introduction off to Apple’s VP of Engineering, Laura Legros:
Finally, finally, the MacBook Air, 2018, has a Retina screen. It also has Touch ID authentication through a single dedicated spot on the keyboard (without the Pro’sTouch Bar,) two USB Type-C connectors with Thunderbolt 3, a new keyboard, Hey Siri hotword detection, and an entirely new body with much thinner bezels around the 13.3″ screen.
Legros said that this was the “greenest Mac Ever” with 100% recycled aluminum, and then introduced this video:
This Air is also more expensive, starting at $1,200 for the base model with 8GB of RAM, a paltry 128GB SSD, and a 1.6 GHz dual-core i5 that can boost to 3.6 Ghz.
If you want 16 gigs of RAM and a 512GB SSD you’re looking at an $1800 MacBook Air. There is even a 1.5TB SSD option that brings the price up to $2,600!
Yow. Legros called this “…the most affordable Retina Mac we’ve ever offered.”
My impression is that this is the laptop that Apple wants to compete with the new 2018 iPad Pro for the future of labor and entertainment.
The 2018 MacBook Air can be purchased online now, or it’ll be in stores on the 7th of November.
The 2017 Air is still for sale, if you want Type-A USB ports and a non-Retina screen at a lower $1000 price.
If I needed to replace my MacBook Pro and wasn’t onboard with the XCode-less iPad, I’d get this Air in a second.
The 2018 Mac Mini
Speaking of overdue updates, it has been four years since the Mac Mini was last updated.
Cook came back out to introduce the 2018 Mac Mini with this sci-fi trailer:
After the video Tom Boger, Apple’s head of Mac Marketing walked onstage to talk about this updated Mini.
Boger specified that the new Mini doesn’t use “mobile parts” but didn’t call the CPU a desktop processor. It’s a 3.6Ghz Quad-Core processor to start.
Spinning disk options are gone in favor of SSD’s, internally. The external design is extremely similar to the old Mac Mini except Apple in 2018 is attacking the the port situation differently. The 2018 Mac Mini has just two USB 3 type-A ports, one HDMI 2.0, four USB type-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, one ethernet port, and one”3.5 mm headphone” jack that looks particularly awkward to access between and just below the USB Type-A ports as reader basscomm points out.
Just like the Air, you can order a Mini today and they’ll be generally available on the 7th. They start at $800, the configuration I’d go with is the 3.2GHz i7 with 16 GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. That configuration is $1700.
The most expensive configuration you could do is the same CPU with 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD, 10 Gigabyte ethernet instead of Gigabit, and that is $4,200!
The cheapest iMac Pro is $800 more at $5000, but it starts with a much more reasonable 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. That is a machine that could last ten years or more.
This mini is also supposed to be made of 100% recycled aluminum.
Angela Ahrendts spoke about retail Apple Stores, and specifically the Today at Apple series of classes for people to learn how to create with Apple devices. Ahrendts introduced new classes, and talked about the renewable energy resources that power the stores.
The 2018 iPad Pro 11″ and 12.9″
Cook returned to talk about iPad sales, and showed this chart to demonstrate how Apple had sold more iPads in 2017 than “…the entire notebook lineup of all of the biggest notebook manufacturers.” Look at this chart, it has one notable exception missing from it:
Cook went on to boast that “…this makes iPad not only the most popular tablet, but the most popular computer in the world.”
Heavily rumored, and now proven to be correct, there is a new iPad Pro in two sizes: 11″ and 12.9″. They have no lightning ports, instead there is one USB Type-C port and a new “Smart Connector” that works with a new Apple keyboard case as well as a new Pencil stylus. Here’s the video that Cook used to introduce the new iPad:
The new iPad Pro tablets have a much smaller bezel, with Face ID that works in both landscape and portrait orientations. Just like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, the home button has been replaced with gestures. The new iPad Pro still has an LCD screen, but it also has curved edges like the iPhone XR. Apple’s John Ternus reintroduced this concept, again calling it Liquid Retina.
The 11″ iPad Pro has the same physical width and height as the old 10.5″ garbage iPad Pro that can now be safely disposed of in the nearest fire before you upgrade. The 12.9″ iPad Pro is a smaller package than the old 12.9″, because of the edge-to-edge-ish design of the new Pro’s. The new 12.9″ iPad Pro is also a full millimeter thinner than the older 12.9″ design.
Both new iPad Pros have a look on the sides that resembles my favorite iPhone design, the 4S’s solid edges. They also both have an A12X system-on-a-chip instead of the A10X that last year’s design had.
The AnnX chips are supposed to focus on graphics performance, Ternus compared the new iPad to the equivilent of a portable Xbox One S.
Dropping the lightning port for USB type-C allows the iPad Pro to connect to other USB devices and external displays. No support was expressed for USB peripherals like mice, keyboards, or external storage options. Instead, it was demonstrated almost solely as a camera connector and for charging your iPhone which still ships with a type-A cable that can’t plug into any of the current generation of Apple laptops.
The Pencil stylus is particularly interesting, it magnetically anchors to the side of the iPad Pro and it also has contact charging. The 2018 Pencil has a new action accessible by double-tapping its side. The new ApplePencil stylus is $130.
I’m curious about the usability of Apple’s new folio keyboard for the iPad Pro. They specifically called out that it could switch between two angles. One for use at a desk, and one for use on your lap. That functionality is exactly what I’ve been looking at third-party keyboards for, replacing all laptop usage scenarios. The new iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Folio is $180 for the 11″ iPad Pro, and $200 for the 12.9″. That is a lot. To compare, the Brydge keyboard that turns the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9″ into a clamshell-style laptop while supportting way more angles of operation is $150.
Apple showed off a free-to-play game from Ubisoft called Assassin’s Creed Rebellion and said it was at 120 frames-per-second. Then they said that it was something that “no console could deliver.” That is sort of true in the sense that the game looks like Ubisoft’s take on Fallout Shelter and TV displays don’t really exist to take advantage of higher frame-rates from consoles as far as I know.
Greg Thomas from Take Two’s 2k Sports division talked about NBA 2k Mobile on the new iPad Pro while his underling demonstrated it. Thomas said it runs at 60 fps at the full retina resolution with no upscaling, it didn’t look that great to me.
Adobe’s VP of design Jamie Myrold and Chantelle (no last name or title given) demonstrated the new version of Photoshop, they repeatedly insisted that this was “the real Photoshop” on the new iPad. It isn’t available yet, but it was clearly frustrating to work with for an on-stage demonstration. Chantelle eventually swapped the same image she was working on to an augmented reality experience with depth between the layers in a separate program they’re calling “Project Arrow.” Both products are supposed to be available in 2019.
Phil Schiller narrated this other video introducing the new iPad Pro tablets:
If I were going to swap my laptop for an iPad I would get a Mac Mini to handle the desktop computing tasks that the iPad can’t.
The new iPad Pro’s are up for order today with general availability on the 7th.
Guess where all the recycled aluminum for the Macs comes from? The runoff from iPads and iPhones. As a Philadelphian I will now refer to these new Macs made with recycled aluminum as “Scrapple Macs.”
I’m disappointed that the Macs on display here have 128GB SSDs by default. I believe that many people will need more storage, and then they’ll have to use an external disk.
Apple’s folks talked up the capabilities of the new MacBook Air for expansion through devices like external GPU kits to bring actual graphics acceleration capabilities, those external enclosures are expensive as-heck and they oddly didn’t mention them for the Mini.
The iMac, MacBook, and Mac Pro are now the most out of date Macs according to the Mac Rumors Buyer’s Guide at 512 days since the last update for the iMac and MacBook, and a whopping 1777 days since the Mac Pro was updated in 2013.
The iPad Mini hasn’t really been updated since 2015! It was rumored to receive an update at this event, but didn’t end up getting one. That size is still interesting to me, although now I would be more likely to use a 12.9″ iPad Pro as a laptop replacement.
These custom ARM chips that Apple is developing really make me wish for a smaller Mac single-board-computer targeted towards the hobbyists that originally made the first Apple computers. I believe that Apple’s A-series would be perfect for these applications and would outclass the competition in build quality and ease-of-use, even though they would certainly not be cheaper.
I have felt the urge to switch to an iPad for all of my photography and writing needs for some time, I sold my iPad Mini earlier this year and regretted that decision because there hasn’t been a good device to replace it with. All of these devices are great, but they are also far out of reach of everyone. I hope that more of the new iPad Pro features make their way to a new iPad Cheap next year.
The XR is like the XS and XS Max in many ways, except the XR is missing the 2nd telephoto camera system of the X and previous Plus-sized devices which can be useful for composing shots or getting superior “portrait mode” photos in daylight. I specify daylight, because the telephoto (zoom) camera system makes portrait shots almost unusable at night on the XS and XS Max. The telephoto system used for portraits on the XS and XS Max captures less light (f2.4) than the “wide-angle” (default, non-zoomed, f1.8) lens.
There are some other differences between the XR and XS/XS Max, they’re important, but the camera situation is probably the biggest technical difference for most people.
The iPhone XR screen is bigger than the XS, X, and all prior phones, but not as big as the Max,
The XR has better battery life than any other iPhone
Way more color options for the chassis you’ll never see unless you’re a rich person who doesn’t put an iPhone with a glass back and glass front in a case.
The LCD screen has a lower resolution and is mostly worse than the XS and XS Max’s OLED screen, but still good.
The XR is less water resistant than the XS and XS Max.
The XR has less RAM than the XS and XS Max. The XR has 3 GB vs the XS and XS Max’s 4 GB.
The XR has different price tiers for storage, it’s “just” $50 to bump it from 64GB to 128GB. It’s $100 to bump the XS and XS Max from 64GB to 256GB.
The XR has no 3D Touch, instead you can “long press” to get 3D Touch actions in situations where long-pressing didn’t do anything before. For example, on previous iPhones you could tap and hold an icon on the home screen to make them start jiggling to be able to delete or move apps and put them into folders. iPhones that have 3D Touch also let you press forcefully on icons to bring up a small menu of quick actions for that app, like jumping straight into a selfie mode with the camera. The XR can’t 3D Touch and will only switch into the jiggling icons mode, it won’t let you open up the quick action menu for each app.
The XS and XS Max have better cellular radios that can handle faster speeds (“Gigabit-class LTE”)
The XR has slightly bigger borders around the screen.
The glass on the back of the XR’s is less durable than the glass on the back of the XS and XS Max.
Here’s what is the same
Same camera array on the front with the same Face ID system that doesn’t work in landscape mode
Same A12 system-on-a-chip
Similar goofy notch at the top which either doesn’t bother you at all, stops bothering you within a few days, or will constantly haunt you because you can’t let anything go.
Still more expensive than the previous generation of devices were when they were released
Same Qi “Wireless” (contact) charging
Same shitty 5-watt charger in the box
Overall, I would recommend the XR to anyone who wants to save money and is coming from a non Plus-sized 6/7/8 or earlier iPhone. The situation for people who had a Plus-sized iPhone is a little bit more difficult. The iPhone 6/7/8 Plus’ have two cameras for portrait and zoom, and a higher resolution “Retina” LCD (1920×1080) than the iPhone XR’s “Liquid Retina” screen (1792×828).
Specs aren’t everything, the XR’s screen is by all accounts fine, and not everyone would choose to pay a base price of $1000 over the XR’s $750 just to get the extra camera, worse battery life, fewer color options, and a shinier chassis (the XR has an aluminum band of metal around the edges instead of steel). Joanna Stern can’t even think of many people to recommend the XS and XS Max to over the XR. I’m really, really, into photography and it’s complicated even for me because I love taking good photos at night and the XR takes better portrait photos at night.
Still, still, these new iPhones are too expensive. Nick Heer:
But there is one thing eating at me with this new iPhone lineup: the starting price for a current model year iPhone is now $50 more than last year, and $100 more than two years’ prior. It’s as though they’ve dropped the entry-level model and are starting at what was previously Plus model pricing. In Canada, the difference is even more pronounced — for the first time, you cannot get a current model year iPhone for under $1,000. The iPhone XR might be the least-expensive iPhone Apple launched this year, but it is by no means a budget device.
It might be the right business strategy for Apple to keep raising their iPhone prices but it’s bad for the people buying them.