Friday, 18 December 2015

XCOM 2: Resistance isn't futile


We play alien invasion sequel XCOM 2, the most exciting strategy game of 2016

I’m in trouble. I need to put a soldier on the back of a flatbed truck, so I can hack the device it’s carrying and abscond with the alien secrets inside. As it happens, the truck is on fire. It shouldn’t be, but I used a grenade to take out the Advent trooper standing next to it and things sort of got out of hand. I’ve got three soldiers left – the fourth having died earlier – and I don’t want to lose another to a fire I’ve made them stand in. Sadly, I can’t see an alternative, so I pick the XCOM agent with the most health and tell them to burn themselves alive. That’s when the Sectoid shows up.

The Making Of Until Dawn

The Making Of Until Dawn

How a late twist changed the fate of this gripping teen horror game

Most of us are familiar with the ingredients by now. It all begins calmly enough, a happy group laughing and joking before the screw steadily, inexorably begins to tighten. There’s an agonisingly slow build, a gradual sense of creeping dread, and that awful sinking feeling as plans go horribly awry. Along the way, there are unexpected twists and turns, the odd jolting shock, desperate races against time and a final, frenzied climax. Developing a game, it turns out, has plenty in common with the established structure of horror cinema.

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Agent 47

How stripping Hitman to its core opens up more options than ever for Agent 47

Agent 47, with his shaved dome, funerary suit and pitiless eyes, has never been what you’d call a reassuring presence, but in this incarnation his steely demeanour is magnified into something alarming. Perhaps Io Interactive’s in-house cloth physics are responsible for 47’s startling physicality, or maybe it’s the new line of his jawbone, which the team continues to tweak and obsess over. Certainly David Bateson’s assured voice work, rich with sly quips from writer Michael Vogt, leaves no doubt about who the dominant force in the room is. Yet that’s not enough to account for this newfound sense of lethality. Rather, it’s the simplicity of 47’s objectives and the terrible efficiency with which he achieves them that tells you that this game belongs in a different genre to 2012’s Hitman: Absolution. In Hitman, Agent 47 exists only to kill with precision.



Cinematic gunfighting as an artform

Games don’t often feature real gunfights. The few that do – the ArmA series of military simulators, for example – make a commitment to verisimilitude that comes at the expense of accessibility, readability and fairness. This is because real gunfights aren’t easy, clear or fair. They’re confusing and lethal, and push into emotional spectra far beyond what’s appropriate for entertainment. Military simulators are rendered niche by their commitment to getting it ‘right’, while the rest of the industry assembles something resembling gun combat out of ideas that originate entirely with the videogame and not at all with reality: health bars, damage values and so on. These ideas reintroduce accessibility and fairness into the equation, enabling you to enjoy the drama of a gunfight without the mess.

Scrap Or Salvage?

Scrap Or Salvage

Are we too eager to write off seemingly broken kit? Roger Thomas has been doing some creative upcycling

Giving away unwanted but functional tech is good, and we know it. So is recycling, such as sending a dead phone off in one of those prepaid envelopes so that valuable materials can be recovered from it.

Recycling, however, has its limits. One disadvantage is that recycled materials are usually ‘downcycled’ into something simpler or of lower quality. The metals and plastics from old phones are really no more than that until they get used to make a new product. Recycled paper is widely used, but its fibres are much shorter, so it needs to be mixed with fresh material. All these considerations bring their own costs, both financial and environmental. There is, however, a third possibility.

Google Maps Vs. Citymapper

Google Maps Vs. Citymapper

It’s a bust-up between map apps as Rob Leane steps into the ring with Google Maps and Citymapper…

The age of the app has reached something of a critical mass. We’re now at a stage where there isn’t just one simple option for any of your technological needs. Instead, there are two or more incredibly similar apps competing for your affections in any given area. When we notice an occurrence of this phenomenon, it’s time for an App Battle.

Mobile Security Essentials

Mobile Security Essentials

How can you stay safe when on the move?

Mobile computing has become a huge part of most people’s lives, but mobile security? That’s taking a while to catch up. While most of us know the basic rules for staying secure online or at home, knowing what to watch out for when we’re using our tablets and smartphones is a much different proposition.

For that reason, we’ve come up with this list of security threats to look out for when you’re using your mobile device, as well as what – if anything – you can do to combat them and secure your behaviour.

How To Stay Anonymous Online

How To Stay Anonymous Online

It’s hard to stay off the grid, but you don’t have to give information away...

In the era of social media, targeted advertising profiles and hacks dumping personal information onto the web wholesale, staying anonymous online is perhaps more difficult than ever – and maybe more important. When Ashley Madison’s contact details were uploaded by hackers, 37 million people found their personal lives effectively exposed – but is it possible to avoid that, and similar things, happening to you?

Maintaining complete privacy on the Internet is hard, if not down right impossible – but certainly there are things you can do to make it a little less damaging to you if (and when) the information you give away gets compromised or tracked back to you.