All posts by Sam Machkovech

Spider-Man Homecoming review: Having a blast with Peter Parker’s day off

Enlarge / Trouble brews high, high in the sky. If only we had a hero nearby who could quickly scale buildings. (credit: Marvel Studios)

How many Spider-Man film reboots do we really need? That's not a hypothetical question. The comic series often hinges on "boy-becomes-man" plot devices, so you don't want someone portraying Peter Parker who reaches 90210 levels of aging out. But the Menudo method of revolving-door casting can get exhausting with feature-length films.

To escape its reboot baggage, Spider-Man Homecoming had quite a skyscraper of expectations to climb. Thankfully, its every element, including one of the best "teen" actor ensembles I've ever seen, spins enough taut, sky-high webbing to leap it handily.

Peter Parker can’t lose

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Halo backwards-compat news may spell death knell for Master Chief Collection

Enlarge / Older Halo games are coming to Xbox One... again. Is this good news or bad news for Master Chief Collection owners? (credit: 343 Industries)

By the end of this year, the Xbox One's backwards compatibility program will finally include all of the Halo games released on the Xbox 360. Microsoft announced this news as part of its "Halo Summer Celebration" news update on Thursday, and while it's good news for owners of those games, a similar slew of classic-Halo fans have been left scratching their heads.

The series' remaining back-compat holdouts (Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4, and Halo CE: Anniversary) will land "later this year" on Xbox One. In an intriguing twist, anybody who owns those games either digitally or on disc will be able to play either online or via LAN against players on Xbox 360 consoles—which is rare for games in the Xbox back-compat program.

However, the news update includes zero updates about the Halo: Master Chief Collection, a 2014 game whose matchmaking bugs and woes have proven to be legendary. As of press time, users continue to flood the series' official forums with bug reports and complaints about lengthy matchmaking times.

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PlayStation Now updated with PS4 game support—and a hint at its future

Enlarge / There they are! PS4 games, ready for your paid-streaming pleasure.

Sony's paid game-streaming service, PlayStation Now, launched a significant update on Thursday with support for current-gen PlayStation 4 games. The feature is live for anybody who pays for an ongoing PS Now subscription, either on PS4 consoles or Windows PCs, and it adds 20 PS4 games to the service's hundreds of PS3 games.

PlayStation Now, which launched for a variety of devices in 2014, delivers playable games in streaming fashion—meaning, they're rendered on a server farm and gameplay is streamed to your system of choice. The service recently stopped receiving updates on most of its originally supported platforms, however. Only PS4 consoles and Windows PCs will be able to access the service starting August 15.

Today's update adds a scant few PlayStation-exclusive games: Resogun, God of War III Remastered, Exist Archive, and Killzone Shadow Fall. The rest of today's PS4 roster consists of deeply discounted triple-A games (Tropico V, Darksiders II, Saints Row IV), ho-hum games (MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore, Evolve), indies (Nidhogg, Broken Age, Super Mega Baseball), and more.

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Ubisoft wishes Watch Dogs 2 players a terrible Fourth of July

Enlarge / USA-themed update to Watch Dogs 2 is making people's dogs bark thanks to surround-sound barrage. Cool, Ubisoft. (credit: Ubisoft)

Haven't played Ubisoft's Watch Dogs 2 in a while? Its developers apparently want to torture you for the next week if you consider doing so, all in the name of the U-S-of-A.

Usually, seasonal events in video games are good news. Holiday-themed quests, gifts, and trinkets are commonplace in MMos like WoW and life sims like Animal Crossing.

Ubisoft's 2016 game Watch Dogs 2 falls in neither of those categories, but perhaps the company thought a little seasonal surprise would get the hipster-hacker open-world quest back on people's tongues. Its choice of patriotic accoutrement, however, hasn't brought out much happy feedback: a bombastic fireworks show that plays every "night" in the game (which starts every 24 minutes in real time and lasts for about 8 minutes).

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A programmer turned Wikipedia into a classic text adventure

Wikipedia as a classic text adventure: this "game" now exists, and it's thanks to a London developer who figured out a clever way to interpret the gushing fountain of data that is Wikipedia's API.

The Javascript project works on any desktop or mobile web browser, and it starts out looking like an '80s Infocom video game box. (Always a good beginning.) Wikipedia: The Text Adventure generates a list of major landmarks, and clicking any of them takes you to a landing page with a basic location description as pulled from its Wikipedia article summary, along with a list of nearby locations marked off by cardinal directions. You're restricted to a text box, and, appropriately, typing "help" into it brings up a list of commands you can type. (Mobile users can also tap on keywords in the summaries, which isn't as cool, but it's a welcome alternative.)

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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy: As good as the uneven series will ever get

Enlarge / Sadly, Activision didn't unlock an option in which you're a human wearing a giant Crash costume, like in the old ads. Oh well. (credit: Activision / Vicarious Visions)

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy gets about as much right as a game trilogy of this scope possibly could. A few uneven and unoptimized classic-game remasters have been pumped out in recent years, and I'm happy to report that the Crash series' handlers at Activision have not dropped the ball in any Activision-y way, beyond a current lock on PlayStation 4 systems. No pre-order restrictions; no microtransactions; not even corner-cutting on the game's production.

N. Sane Trilogy lands this week with a lot of apparent love and care. It also lands with the same baggage that made Crash such a divisive platformer series in the '90s. While that makes N. Sane Trilogy a tough game to unequivocally recommend, it also feels like the only way this collection could have come out. Developer Vicarious Visions chose authenticity over improvement, and, in the sphere of gaming history and archival, that choice matters.

Looney Tunes charisma is intact

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Ahead of July 30 season premiere, Rick and Morty tours nation in giant merch bus

Adult Swim

TACOMA, Washington—On an otherwise sleepy, slow work day, ahead of the 4th of July weekend, a mid-sized town about 30 miles outside of Seattle had slammed to a crawl. Cars and crowds lined a thoroughfare, all waiting to see... a giant bus with a drunken cartoon face.

Adult Swim's Rick & Morty just announced its season 3 premiere date—officially coming July 30, after its first episode saw a surprise April Fool's launch. To celebrate, the animated series has been sending a massive, Rick-themed bus across the nation stuffed full of merchandise.

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StarCraft Remastered devs unveil price, explain how much is being rebuilt

Enlarge (credit: Sam Machkovech)

SANTA MONICA, California—Before giving us a world-premiere look at StarCraft Remastered's gameplay, the franchise's holders at Blizzard rattled off a few major rules for how the game would be made. "Blend classic with modern." "Community's voice." One of the buzz phrases made Blizzard Classic Games Producer Pete Stilwell laugh: "Don't be disruptive." "That's how I was told to say, 'Don't fuck it up,'" he said.

Stilwell had already set that PR guidance aflame when he loudly declared his development team's mantra of preserving original games' systems and mechanics at all costs. "We're not here to change classics from a gameplay perspective," Stilwell said. "We're not here to fuck with that. We say, 'don't fuck it up,' all the time. Do not ruin this game."

The Blizzard Classic team appears to have pulled that off with a game that, for better or for worse, plays, feels, and, in a few cases, looks just like the 1998 version. StarCraft Remastered's announced price, $14.99/£12.99, reflects that aesthetic, as it has mostly been built to slap new paint on old mechanics. But executing that "plays exactly the same" mission—while making the new game (launching August 14 on PC and Mac) look demonstrably improved over the original and sneaking a few changes in—wasn't a complete breeze.

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Report: Valve’s former augmented reality system is no more

CastAR's first prototype. Subsequent revisions brought the glasses' size down and fidelity up, so that its mounted projectors would better convey the feeling that virtual objects appeared on a mat (also known as "augmented reality" or "mixed reality"). However, the project's future is now in doubt. (credit: CastAR)

The future of CastAR, an ambitious augmented reality system that began life in Valve's hardware labs five years ago, is now in serious doubt. A bleak Monday Tweet from a former CastAR staffer was followed by Polygon's Brian Crecente reporting a full company shutdown.

Citing unnamed "former employees," Polygon reported that the hardware maker's primary finance group pulled all funding last week. This was allegedly followed by a full staff layoff and an announcement that the company's remaining assets would be liquidated.

As of press time, neither CastAR nor its affiliated developer, Eat Sleep Play, have posted any confirmation of shut downs or liquidation. Ars Technica has reached out to CastAR co-founders Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson. We will update this report with any response.

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Steam Summer Sale’s best discounts, chosen by Ars’ cost-cutting braintrust

Enlarge / Ooh, AND stickers?! Those are fun, but we're here for the savings. (credit: Steam)

Sun? Beaches? Rooftop parties? Pish-posh! It's time to hide with your favorite acronyms—WASD, AC, 4K—as a discount-minded, summer-vacationing PC gamer. The annual Steam Summer Sale has returned just in time to keep you occupied and indoors.

After watching the sale kick off Thursday morning and seeing Steam's servers edge perilously toward utter meltdown, we at Ars have gotten just enough time to pick through the enormous list of games on sale (thousands already) and find guaranteed joy among the discounts. This list is, of course, just a hint at how many games are deeply discounted until July 5, and since there are no limited-time or "flash" deals this year, you have time to peruse, pick, and save. But if you can't help yourself, get started with these no-brainer Ars recommendations.

A video explainer will be attached to this article by tomorrow with more on my choices below. If you can't wait for explanations or Ars insight, store links are right there, ready to rock.

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