Mary and Mike finally realize how much f a soap opera Code: Veronica is, and have fun hanging out with Steve.
Get Out, It Follows, The Witch. These are modern horror films we still talk about because of a standout premise. A Quiet Place joins these ranks with a strong hook of its own: everyday noise as something to fear. It’s a harsh, scary film that pulls no punches and makes excellent use of sound.
A Quiet Place has a simple setup, where the rules are clearly established: The world is overrun by blind monsters that track you by sound only. This leads to an hour and a half of pure tension. Common things like a toy that makes noise or a dropped bottle of pills can lead to disaster, and not just when the creatures are in the next room. It’s a smart concept that keeps your eyes and ears focused throughout the film.
In a typical horror film, you have the baseline noise–dialogue, music, background action–punctuated by the volume spike of a scare. With A Quiet Place, it’s the range in between, the innocuous everyday sounds that would be harmless in any other movie, that keep the tension flowing.
The Abbott family is the center of attention, composed of mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), father Lee (John Krasinski), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmons), and sons Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward). These names are never actually said aloud in the movie, and it doesn’t matter. In fact, there is a miniscule amount of spoken dialogue throughout the entire thing, making those few verbal moments more intimate. The family dynamics are clear from the opening scene, and that familial warmth from everyone makes you care about them as one unit. Their performances come together to forge a believable family in a hellish world, where simply getting through the day is a silent struggle.
Krasinski pulls double duty as the film’s director, and he was able to coax out great moments from his cast. Most notable is Simmons, a deaf actress who taught her co-stars American Sign Language. This spotlights a method of communication not often seen in movies, but her performance goes far beyond hand motions, with a face that moves between expressions of happiness, sadness, and fear. She portrays a girl whose heart is also in emotional pain, largely over finding her place in this post-apocalyptic world. She thinks about the future, how best to protect her family, and how these things are made harder because of her disability. It’s far from the stereotypical moody teenager.
The Abbotts’ way of life is also clearly established early on. They walk on sand to hide their footsteps, sign to each other with ASL, and find ways to cook and clean while minimizing their audio footprint. But even during these would-be normal moments, the threat of making a sound is ever present. It adds a layer of unease to what would otherwise be dry scenes, especially in the opening act. That time is also spent foreshadowing setpieces and objects that later factor into the action in significant ways. A conversation between a father and son beside a river illustrates that you can speak aloud in this world, but only when another natural sound is louder than the one you make. The movie sets a strong tone of danger at all times, with rare moments of peace or joy.
Once the setup is complete, the plot takes a basic “survive the night” turn as a monster invades the family farm. The Abbots silently fight for safety, though there doesn’t seem to be any deeper meaning to the action beyond getting out alive. That said, the movie is not afraid to constantly ramp up the danger. Brief moments of respite for the Abbotts are quickly undone, either by a monster creeping into the scene or someone making accidental sound, from the opening to the credits. Watching Blunt deliver a baby while the monsters stalk about the house is harrowing.
The smart use of sound also leads to a few pleasant moments. At one point, Krasinski and Blunt dance to a song played through her iPod’s headphones, the only time music is heard in the entire film. The tone overall is pessimistic, but these few moments of happiness help you empathize with the Abbotts even more. They’re complemented by cinematography that uses equally warm colors, and a few striking reds during particular moments of tension.
A Quiet Place does its job well: It clearly establishes ground rules, continually ups the danger, and makes dynamic use of all types of sound. Any hope of progress or safety in this world can be crushed by a dropped object or even the soft crying of a baby. There are precious few seconds where the Abbotts–and you as the viewer–can relax. While it certainly doesn’t shy away from trying to make you jump, it’s the sonic nature of the scares and unending threat of everyday actions that make this film stand tall.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Constant threat of sound keeps you on the edge of your seat||Pretty basic “survive the night” plot|
|Fantastic sound design|
|Thoroughly explores its premise|
In the three years since its release, Techland has continually been churning out content for Dying Light. In addition to a number of quality-of-life updates and tweaks to the gameplay, the open-world zombie survival game has also seen a number of new modes–including The Following DLC campaign and additional multiplayer options. And now, the developers are riding the wave of interest for battle royale with their own take on the familiar every-man-for-themselves game type. While at GDC 2018, we got to go hands-on with the upcoming DLC Bad Blood–launching later this year–which pits several players in a race against time–and the zombie hordes–to acquire enough resources and make it out of Harran alive.
In Bad Blood, six players are dropped into random locations around the map in a race to acquire enough samples from several elite infected. From the starting point, you’ll have to find weapons and support items as you go. Every player starts on an even playing field as they maneuver through the streets and rooftops of the ruined city. As you take down these special zombies, you’ll be able to collect samples and potentially level up your character–boosting their health, agility, and attack power. Of course, other players have similar goals, and they may find that attacking you while you’re being swarmed by infected is the smart thing to do. As in traditional battle royale fashion, you only have one life to live, so you’ll have to make the right choices and play smart.
While this mode may initially come off a bit gimmicky, the actual experience is surprisingly tense. Bad Blood is a constant race for resources, with the virus samples being the most valuable. In a some cases, encountering another player felt like the last thing you wanted to happen, resulting in a mad dash to evade them. The end-game portion which focuses on booking it to the helicopter is a where things get really hectic. The player with the most samples will have to reach the evac site and wait for the chopper to land, which paints a large target on their back. Only the player with the required amount of samples can make it out alive, and some players may forge quick alliances to try and take down the lead player–only for it to quickly fall apart as they scramble to scavenge the samples to make it out alive.
Battle royale has been one of the most talked about topics for the last year, with many people wondering what games would benefit from such a mode. In the case of Dying Light, it makes some rather clever choices with how it incorporated BR into its current strengths of survival and action gameplay. With Dying Light still going strong, and with the developers experimenting with adding even more players into the battle royale mix, Bad Blood looks to be a refreshing change of pace for players looking to dive back the game, which has only gotten better with age.
With many games paying homage to the nostalgia-ripe 2D-era of the ’80s and ’90s, Pixel Ripped 1989 seems like it could get lost in the crowd. But when it comes to reliving a bygone era, this strange yet surprisingly relatable throwback goes about things a bit differently, offering one of the most impressive and self-aware VR experiences in quite some time. During GDC 2018, we had the chance to go hands-on with the game ahead of its Oculus, HTC Vive, and PS VR release on May 22, while also speaking with creator Ana Ribeiro about its rather lengthy development.
“I started this as my final project in university for the master’s degree program, and it was at a university more well-known for movies and stuff [National Film and Television School], and then when I put it on Oculus share, it got a lot of press,” said Ribeiro. “People seemed to have liked it. It was more of a proof of concept to try and get a job, but then I decided to work on this game and get it a full release. It’s been four years altogether. This is the dream. It actually has a lot of my life experiences in the game. I used to be a bad student, throwing paperballs, playing games in the background–it’s all from a really personal place. “
Set in the late ’80s, you’re placed in the shoes of rebellious grade-school student Nicola, who loves to spend time on her handheld game system. Her favorite videogame is the action-platformer game Pixel Ripped, starring the blaster-wielding and platform-jumping Dot. When the evil Cyblin Lord’s ambitions go beyond the realm of the videogame, he escapes into the real world, bringing familiar enemies along with him. To stop the main baddie, Nicola must guide Dot through increasingly difficult stages where she’ll shoot monsters and other baddies–all while avoiding the gaze of her overbearing teacher and other distractions around the school.
As a game within a game, you’ll be tasked with alternating between two different mechanics. In the world of Nicola’s handheld, Dot controls in familiar style to a Mega Man game, where she’ll blast enemies while traversing dangerous jumps and sketchy platforms to make it to the end boss. Of course, playing your videogame in the middle of class is asking for trouble, and Nicola’s teacher becomes extremely angry when she catches you looking down at your game. In order to low-key get your game on and help Dot, you’ll have to cause distractions around the classroom. Using spitballs, you can cause a ruckus to distract the teacher to keep your focus on the game.
Of course, many of these familiar tropes are mechanics wrapped up within the VR medium, which is what makes this particular game so interesting. What Pixel Ripped 1989 does well is center on the relatable experience of keeping your head buried within the game–while still trying to be aware of the real world around you. Balancing twitch-based platforming action when playing on Nicola’s handheld system with perspective-focused controls that challenge your peripheral vision, it leads to some rather tense and humorous moments where you’re trying to make a dangerous jump in Nicola’s game, only to be caught by the teacher in the classroom at the worst possible moment. Eventually, there are moments in the levels where the ‘game’ will spill out, bringing together the two parallel game mechanics as you guide Dot through virtual constructs scattered around the classroom–all the while using Nicola’s spitballs to open up pathways for the character.
In terms of mechanics, Pixel Ripped 1989 is a relatively simple game, but it makes some rather clever choices in how it presents those familiar and relatable actions in the VR experience. One of the most striking aspects of Pixel Ripped 1989 is its vibrant style, and the sort of exuberance that comes from being sucked into a good game. Going all in with the retro-80s aesthetic, the game features heavy doses of old-school charm with neon lights and chrome decals.
Pixel Ripped 1989 replicates much of the same escapist joy that came from playing videogames as a kid, while recontextualizing it as a different kind of VR experience. It’s about what it’s like being engrossed in a game–even feeling like your success in it can have consequences in the real world. For its creator, she aims to have Pixel Ripped 1989 be the start of a series of retro-themed games that focus on different eras of gaming, while also showing different experiences of the characters that play them.
“After four years I never get tired of this game. I always have fun working on it. Previously, I had some problems sticking to things, like working longer on things, but surprisingly after all this time, I’m not tired of it. I’m happy to do four more episodes of this game–this is first set in 1989–but after the success of this release, we’ll do a Pixel Ripped 1978 set in the early arcade era with Atari graphics, 1983 will be arcades, 1985 would be the Mega-Drive, and then 1995 would be about the N64 era. We’ll try to reference all the different eras of games.”
The Witness and Cars 2 are available to download for Xbox Live Gold members right now, a day earlier than each month’s typical release. You won’t be able to grab them from the Games with Gold Hub today, but a quick search in the store shows that both titles are available for free now.
The Witness will be up for grabs until May 1 and Cars 2 will see the end of its rotation on April 15. Download The Witness here, and Cars 2 here. Xbox has not commented on why both were marked down early.
But just because the next round of games are up now, it doesn’t mean March’s final batch has been cut short. Today is the final day to pick up Trials of the Blood Dragon and Quantum Conundrum on Xbox One.
April 2018 Games With Gold
- The Witness (April 1-30)
- Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (April 16-May 15)
Xbox 360 (playable on Xbox One)
- Cars 2 (April 1-15)
- Dead Space 2 (April 16-30)
For even more Xbox One deals, be sure to check out the Xbox Spring Sale. This year’s seasonal sale has big savings on Rocket League, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Star Wars Battlefront II, Call of Duty WWII, and more.
We get that reference.
Ready Player One spoilers here!
Ready Player One is a blast to watch, and a large part of that is the endless flood of references and Easter eggs with which the movie assaults your every sense. These span movies, TV, books, video games, and music, from the 1970s up through the 1990s–and to the present day, which goes beyond what even the original book referenced.
The movie just hit theaters, so it will be a while before we can get it at home and start poring over every frame. But in the meantime, we sent as many GameSpot staffers as we could spare to the theater and asked them to note down every reference, Easter egg, and in-joke we could spot in Ready Player One.
Here are the results. This won’t be comprehensive, but we tried our best. Oh, and for your benefit, we’re skipping most of the really obvious ones, like Gundam, The Shining, and the Iron Giant. You’re welcome.
Battletoads fight in the big battle scene
Battletoads was released on NES in 1991.
A squad of Master Chiefs (and other Halo characters) fight in the battle too
Artemis uses the Lancer from Gears of War
Wade buys the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python’s Holy Grail
Although he fails to count to three when he throws it.
Parzival uses the SPNKR rocket launcher from Halo
Parzival briefly changes into Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” outfit
He even does the dance.
Tracer from Overwatch appears several times
Chun-Li from Street Fighter is there too
And Lara Croft from Tomb Raider
Aech has a tiny Battlestar Galactica in her workshop
And the Valley Forge from Silent Running
Silent Running was a 1972 sci-fi film.
Wade lists Goldeneye as Halliday’s favorite shooter
Although it’s a little strange for the movie, since the N64 game didn’t come out until 1997, later than most of the other things Halliday loved.
Artemis uses an Alien chest-burster glove to scare Parzival
Artemis uses a Madballs grenade in the final battle
Madballs were a toy in the ’80s and even had a TV show at one point.
Halliday’s jacket pin is the electronic Simon game
Aech tosses Wade a murderous Chucky from Child’s Play
And its many sequels.
There’s a Back to the Future hoverboard in Aech’s apartment
There’s a “Save Ferris” logo in Aech’s apartment too
From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Samantha is wearing a Joy Division shirt when Wade meets her IRL
Joy Division is a post-punk band popular in the ’70s and ’80s.
Daito sports a Mortal Kombat sticker
Halliday has an Etch A Sketch on his desk at the end
The Magic Etch A Sketch was a toy you used to draw things that your siblings would periodically erase because they were jerks.
Halliday’s desk also has slides for a View-Master
These things were always pointless.
There’s a Beastmaster poster in Halliday’s room too
Beastmaster was a 1982 fantasy movie.
There are also Space Invaders decals on the wall
Is that Speed Racer in the first key challenge?
And the van from A-Team?
AND the 1960s Batmobile?!?!
It pops up later in the race as well.
That’s also totally Ryu from Street Fighter
Aech drives Bigfoot, the original monster truck
That looks like Deathstroke in the club scene
And that might be Deadshot
Joker and Harley Quinn are in the club scene too
Maybe the Distracted Globe was having DC night?
And Blanka from Street Fighter
Artemis’s bike is Kaneda’s bike from Akira
Akira is a 1988 anime film widely considered a classic.
The dance scene is a tribute to Saturday Night Fever
An iconic 1977 film about disco.
Parzival’s boombox is an homage to the 1989 movie Say Anything
Starring John Cusack.
Hello Kitty appears in The Oasis
Along with Badtz-Maru, the penguin, and other friends.
Halliday’s “funeral” is Star Trek themed
That’s El Dragon from Battleborn
Gearbox’s 2016 shooter.
Parzival uses the Hadoken move from Street Fighter
In his showdown with Sorrento.
Halliday and Young Halliday wear Space Invaders t-shirts
Paramount’s rebooted Ninja Turtles appear in final battle
Freddy Krueger is in the battle where we meet Aech
Christine from Stephen King’s Christine is in the race
Greatest American Hero logo on Parzival’s headset
A comedic superhero series that ran on ABC for three seasons in the earl ’80s.
Goro from Mortal Kombat is Artemis’s disguise
Duke Nukem in the Doom World
Right next to Freddy Krueger.
The Serenity is the ship that drops off the Gundam
During the final battle.
Iron Giant gives a thumbs up while descending into lava
Just like the end of Terminator 2.
A Chocobo appears in the final battle
It’s not clear if anyone from the Final Fantasy series is riding it.
The Winnebago from Spaceballs is in Aech’s garage
And there’s even more in the garage…
A Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica (The ’70s TV series)
A ED-209 enforcement droid from Robocop
Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Swordfish II from Cowboy Bebop
An EVA Pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey
The cube used to turn back time 60 seconds was named after Robert Zemeckis.
Goldie Wilson campaign poster in Aech’s den
Goldie Wilson was running for mayor of Hill Valley in Back to the Future.
Art3mis uses the pulse rifle from Aliens
Can be seen in the nightclub scene. Also, the Art3mis action figure comes with it.
A copy of Schindler’s Ark is in Wade’s room
Spielberg directed the film adaptation, titled Schindler’s List.
StarCraft Space Marine
Wade’s aunt’s boyfriend, Rick, wears this skin in The Oasis.
The DeLorean has KITT’s grill
The talking car from the TV series Knight Rider.
These past few years have yielded an amazing roster of games that we personally love. With so many fantastic experiences out there, we began to grow curious over what games developers particularly enjoy. During our time spent at this year’s GDC, we had the opportunity to interview a wide variety of game developers and key figures in the industry, so we decided to ask what current game they find inspiring and admire the most, and why.
As you’ll see from the responses below, the games each developer adores might not come as a surprise to you, especially if you’re familiar with their work or tastes. Others had some surprising picks that you probably wouldn’t expect. What current games do you admire the most? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to check out feature detailing the 25 best games you might’ve not heard of that we saw at GDC 2018.
Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, Directors of Cuphead
Jared Moldenhauer: I have a library of 100+ games that I’m working towards currently. But one of the earlier games that I chose and found very rewarding was Hollow Knight. It’s an interesting and challenging Metroidvania. And the visuals and the universe that they created, and the feeling within all the characters; I was happy playing every minute of it.
Chad Moldenhauer: I recently started and really enjoy The Witness. I was looking forward to that for a long time!
Yoshinori Terasawa, Danganronpa Series Producer
Yoshinori Terasawa: I love the Persona series. I adore the sense of personality that those games have. I really like how cool and stylish they are.
Rami Ismail, Producer of Nuclear Throne
Rami Ismail: So many games have really sparked me. Games that really stand out to me are Engare and Farsh, by Mahdi Bahrami, both games based on this Iranian heritage. I was very impressed by This War of Mine, which gives a unique perspective on war. Just seeing that tremendous shift in perspective translated into a game that is so powerful and poignant, that reminds me that there is so much more out there.
Tom Kaczmarczyk, Producer of Superhot
Tom Kaczmarczyk: Our game director [Piotr Iwanicki] who actually came up with the idea, he often cites an indie flash game called, Time4Cat, as one of the inspirations, because it did have the same sort of time automation mechanic. For me, I love Hotline Miami because of its action sequences. A lot of what we pick up come from action movies, and from the way people design cinematic experiences where you fall into a certain archetype of a situation, and you immediately understand what’s going on.
Tim Schafer, Founder of Double Fine (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend)
Tim Schafer: Lately, a game that really made a big effect on me–it sounds really cliché–but Breath of the Wild was a huge thing. I just loved it. Everyone loves something different about games, there’s no one game that’s perfect for everybody, but it made me realize that my number one thing is exploration. I’m constantly exploring and surprised and I just love it and I play it all the time. I also love Loot Rascals, which is a great roguelike, and I’ve recently been playing Persona 5, which is just amazing. Amazing style and tone, it’s so polished.
Jason Roberts, Director of Gorogoa
Jason Roberts: In 2017, I was a big fan of Inside and Night in the Woods; those were big games for me. I’m big on tone, mood, atmosphere. These are important to me. And I love those games. And I also, this year, I think Florence and any game from Annapurna are just very carefully, precisely created with tone and atmosphere. That’s what I value.
Dean Ayala, Hearthstone Senior Game Designer + Dave Kozack, Hearthstone Lead Narrative Designer
Dean Ayala: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. It’s a roguelike released back in 1997. A lot of the Hearthstone design team plays it. It’s super old-school.
Dave Kozack: It has been in continuous development; it’s one of those community projects. That’s why the name, Stone Soup. But we played a lot of rogue-likes while we were working on Dungeon Run, and that was one of our favorites. It’s just something we keep coming back to as a team. It’s a lot of fun.
Ian Dallas, Creative Director of What Remains Of Edith Finch
Ian Dallas: For me, the last game that affected me emotionally in a strong way was Universal Paperclips. A game about clicking on buttons and manufacturing paperclips that I just found myself lost in for 8 hours. It was really like a troubling emotional experience, and it’s amazing that it comes out of just text on a webpage. It reaffirms the power of video games and the way that they can teach you things about yourself and about the world that you couldn’t really internalize in any other way.
Chelsea Hash, Technical Artist of What Remains Of Edith Finch
Chelsea Hash: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Their commitment to the multimedia format and drawing from different rendering styles to support their vision was something that I was glad to be able to experience, something that was willing to think outside the box.
Damon Baker, Nintendo Publisher and Developer Relations
Damon Baker: I can’t choose one game. It is like choosing my favorite child! There are so many different types of experiences. Most recently I am working my way through Night in the Woods. I haven’t been able to play that previously, and having a lot of flights lately has given me more flexibility to get through a lot of indie content. Of course, I totally enjoyed Celeste. I vowed not to use assist mode on that game at all and beat it; but it took me 1800 deaths or something to get through it, but it was a beautiful game.
Matt Thornson, Director of Celeste
Matt Thornson: I’ve been really enjoying my time with Into the Breach. It’s amazing!
Victor Kislyi, Wargaming CEO (World of Tanks)
Victor Kislyi: Civilization. All of them, because I started playing from Civ I. Now, believe it or not, before playing World of Tanks last night I was playing Civilization and I was playing on the plane on my way here. Civ 6 is amazing, and it was my MBA. I’m a physicist by education but, playing Civilization, all those layers, economy, exploration, politics, military, science, religion–your brain is trained to juggle those multiple layers like almost instantly, or at least very, very correctly. And, that’s a good analogy with business, people, finance, media, failures, exploration, etc., etc. I think Civilization, as a concept, as a game, actually, is more valuable to humanity than Mona Lisa.
Yoko Taro, Director of Nier: Automata
Yoko Taro: I think that Grand Theft Auto IV and Super Mario Bros. are two big games that influenced me when making Nier. But with games from the past–not modern games–I felt more freedom or challenge as a player. Let’s say we have a black background with a white dot on it and let’s call it the space. I feel like that really creates freedom, especially in terms freedom of imagination, and challenging the dev team to create a world without really being able to express that world visually. In that sense, I feel that in the past, game developers were trying to create a new frontier. They were trying to expand the world, expand the universe of gaming industry.
Now that the game industry has matured pretty much now, a lot of people actually go for a more safe game. They try to make all the consumers happy with that one game. I think that that actually limits to what they can do and I feel that no one is really trying to expand that arena or expand that world anymore. I am a little bit sad about that.
Takahisa Taura, Designer Of Nier: Automata + Metal Gear Rising
Takahisa Taura: When The Witcher 3 came out, we all played it and had fun with it, but we also looked at it to see what would we do if we created a game like this. We were using The Witcher 3 as a learning experience on how to create an RPG. I think that’s where it all started. Well, that’s where we came from, so it wasn’t too difficult of a task to create a JRPG.”