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Gears Pop Is Available For Free Right Now

 

Gears Pop! is available to download right now on Android, iOS, and Window 10 PC for free. You can now take Locust hunting on the go with this cutesy Gears of War spin-off.

The official Gears Twitter account shared the news, along with a brief announcement video of gameplay and squad assembly. In Gears Pop, you will build your team from an assortment of Pop Vinyl-styled Gears characters like Kait and Marcus, challenge players around the world, defend against the Horde in co-op, and more.

Gears Pop was announced at Microsoft's E3 2018 presentation. The game is described as a "mobile Gears experience with an official Funko Pop twist" and comes just two weeks ahead of Gears 5, which is slated to launch on Windows 10 PC and Xbox One on September 10.

In other Gears news, developer The Coalition unveiled a new Gears 5 campaign trailer at Gamescom 2019. Game director Rod Fergusson stood next to show host Geoff Keighley during the Opening Night Live presentation, where Fergusson showcased the new trailer featuring NIN's Head Like a Hole. Fergusson later stuck around to talk about the new ultimate abilities in Horde mode and more.

Hearthstone Nerfing Powerful Cards Like Dr. Boom And Luna's Pocket Galaxy

 

Hearthstone recently introduced its Saviors of Uldum expansion, and now that it's been out in the wild and the meta has started to form, Blizzard is getting ready to rebalance some cards. This time the nerf stick is hitting some cards that have been recognized as problematic in the community for quite some time, including rolling back two of the cards it buffed in a June update. The balance update will go live next week.

The two biggest changes are coming to prominent Warrior and Mage cards. The Warrior Hero card Dr. Boom, Mad Genius and the Mage card Luna's Pocket Galaxy have both been hot topics in the Hearthstone community since Uldum launched, and both are having their Mana cost increased. Dr. Boom will increase from 7 Mana to 9, which Blizzard says should make it more difficult to find a good time to play, and give opponents more time to make their own power-plays. Luna's Pocket Galaxy, which was reduced to 5 Mana in June, is being reverted back to its 7 Mana state.

That isn't the only Mage card to get a nerf, though. Conjurer's Calling is having its Mana cost raised from 3 to 4, which Blizzard says will make it more difficult to play both of its Twinspell instances back-to-back. Similar to Luna's, the Priest card Extra Arms will have its cost reverted to 3 Mana, reversing the buff it received. Finally, the years-old card Barnes is having his cost raised to 5 Mana to better balance Wild, where he's still in play.

Notably, none of these balance updates are coming to cards that were actually introduced in the Saviors of Uldum expansion. These are all older cards that have proven to be consistently too powerful through more than one expansion, or alternatively, have now become problematic in conjunction with new cards from the Uldum set.

Saviors of Uldum is the second chapter in a planned year-long story event. Like the first chapter, Rise of Shadows, a single-player element is planned to launch roughly a month after the expansion itself.

Fortnite Week 4 Smash And Grab Challenges List (Season 10)

 

Week 4 of Fortnite Season X has arrived, and it brings Battle Pass holders another set of challenges to complete in the popular battle royale game. This week's set of tasks is called Smash and Grab, and the loose theme running through each of the challenges is dishing out damage and grabbing loot quickly.

As usual, only three of the challenges are available from the outset, with additional ones unlocking as you complete them. Fortunately, all of this week's missions seem rather straightforward; there are no tasks that set you off on a search for obscure landmarks, so you should be able to complete the entire batch with enough persistence.

This week's challenges include searching a chest within 60 seconds after landing from the Battle Bus, landing at a Hot Spot in three different matches, and dealing damage within 30 seconds after using a Launch Pad. You can see the full list of Smash and Grab challenges below. If you need help with any of this season's previous missions, be sure to check out our tips and guides in our full Fortnite Season X challenges roundup.

Week 4's challenges arrive on the heels of Fortnite's 10.10 content update, which introduced another new item to the game: the Junk Rift. When thrown, it creates a Rift in the sky that rains debris down on an opponent. The content update also added Glitched Consumables, which can change into different foraged consumables and even some previously vaulted items like Hop Rocks and Shadow Stones. You can read the full patch notes for the content update on Epic's website.

Fortnite Season X Smash And Grab Challenges

Standard Challenges

  • Search a chest within 60 seconds after landing from the Battle Bus (3)
  • Land at a Hot Spot in different matches (3)
  • Deal damage within 30 seconds after using a Launch Pad (100)
  • Search two chests within 30 seconds of each other (3)
  • Pick up a Legendary item in different matches (3)
  • Search a Supply Drop within 10 of it landing (3)
  • Deal damage to opponents at Hot Spots (200)

Prestige Challenges

  • Search a chest and an Ammo Box within 30 seconds after landing from the Battle Bus (3)
  • Destroy Loot Carriers within 60 seconds after landing from the Battle Bus (3)
  • Eliminate an opponent within 30 seconds after using a Launch Pad (1)
  • Search three chests within 30 seconds of each other (3)
  • Pick up three Legendary items in a single match (3)
  • Collect 100 of each material within 60 seconds after landing from the Battle Bus (100)
  • Eliminate an opponent at a Hot Spot (3)

Marvel's Avengers Will See "Changes To Everything" Before Launch

 

The first footage for Marvel's Avengers was revealed earlier this year at E3 2019. Square Enix then followed that up at Gamescom this week, sharing a lengthy new gameplay trailer that showed each of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk in action. Yet the character designs for all five heroes is still a hot-button topic.

Some fans have taken to the internet since its reveal to voice their concerns over how Marvel's finest appear in the game. Crystal Dynamics' lead creative director, Shaun Escayg, previously said there were "currently no plans to change our character designs," but it appears Captain America and co. will be receiving some extra polish ahead of next year's launch.

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Speaking to PCGamesN at Gamescom, Avengers editorial director Casey Lynch said that "everything about the game is going to continue to change as we polish, as we approach launch right now. But things that we’ve shown both at E3 and here, it’s all been pre-alpha. There’ll be changes to everything from the characters to a lot of what you see."

A spokesperson for Square Enix clarified that "by changes, we're talking about polish. What we're doing is we are continuing to add detail to their character models, we're improving the lighting, we're improving the skin shading. So, what you're hopefully seeing is the characters continuing to look better as we get closer to launch. But in terms of changing character designs, that's not currently what we’re looking at."

The Twitter account, Have We Heard Anything About Marvel's Avengers, shared a comparison between the Black Widow seen in the E3 footage and the one shown in the leaked San Diego Comic-Con trailer. It's clear to see improvements have been made, and with Marvel's Avengers not due to arrive until May 15 2020, there's still plenty of time for further polish to be coated on our favorite heroes.

In other Avengers news, we discovered new story details at Comic-Con earlier this year, including information on how co-op works, and we also have a full rundown of every superhero confirmed in the game so far.

Check Out The First Photos Of Nintendo's Switch Lite In The Wild

 

Check Out The First Photos Of Nintendo's Switch Lite In The Wild


Gamescom's roundup of game news has been just as exciting as you'd expect from Europe's--and the world's--biggest gaming convention. We've had news on plenty of the big games coming out before the end of the year, but perhaps the most exciting thing present at the show was Nintendo's new Switch Lite console.

The device was announced recently as a more budget-oriented entry point to the Switch family. It's smaller and lighter than a regular Switch--but it's also cheaper. At $200 / £200 / AU $330, it represents a much more affordable option for people wanting to buy their first Switch. It does, however, lack the more expensive model's removable Joy-Cons, and you can't dock this version.

While we weren't allowed to play on a Switch Lite ourselves, we saw one of each of the new console's color variants--gray, yellow, and turquoise--running in front of us, so we decided to take some pretty pictures for you to get a proper up-close-and-personal look at the new device.

For more on the slimmer version of Nintendo's hybrid console, check out our roundup of all your Switch Lite questions answered. If you plan on picking up a Switch Lite, you may need a standalone controller so you can play from the comfort of your couch. Luckily, we've got a roundup of the best Switch controllers you can buy, plus a complete Nintendo Switch Lite pre-order guide.

In the meantime, you can whet your appetite with the photos below until the console launches on September 20.

Pre-order the Nintendo Switch Lite:

See at Amazon

See at Best Buy

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.


Turquoise, Turquoise, Baby


Here's a better look at the turquoise Switch Lite variant.


Gray Day


And now the gray model.


The Three Musketeers


The third color variant available at launch, yellow.


Clinging On


Unlike a regular Switch, the Switch Lite's controls are stuck on to the system body--its Joy-Cons do not detach from the screen.


Sidewinder


Here's how the gray model looks from its right-hand side. You can even see the back of the yellow model--just about.


Padded Out


Many fans rejoiced when the Switch Lite was announced thanks to its more traditional Nintendo d-pad. Since the Lite's Joy-Cons don't detach, there's no need for its buttons to act independently, so they're free to join up in a more familiar d-pad formation.


Right On


Here's a close-up of the right side of the system's front--not much different here, but it's nice to look at, regardless.


See The Lite


Finally, here's an angled and slightly artier look at the trio of consoles, because why not. Damn I wish I could've walked out with one.


DayZ Removes Cannabis Items, Gets Unbanned In Australia

 

Earlier this month, Kotaku Australia reported that DayZ was refused classification in Australia due to "illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards." This prohibited the game's physical release in the Oceanian country and resulted in its removal from Steam, the PlayStation Store, and Xbox Live.

The five-year-old zombie survival game was going to feature a cannabis joint that restored health, though implementation of the medicinal restorative had yet to be completed. In response to the ban, developer Bohemia Interactive chose to edit the game on a global scale to avoid splitting the player base, and it appears to have worked.

Kotaku Australia reports that the Australian Classification Board has recently updated its website, noting that DayZ is now rated MA15+. The application confirms that this version of the game has been modified, meaning a cannabis-less version was reviewed and approved by the board. The new rating should clear the way for DayZ to be restored on all digital platforms, and Bohemia will have the go-ahead to release a physical version in Australia now that the ban has been lifted.

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This isn't the first time a game has been refused sale in Australia. The government's antiquated guidelines have previously resulted in games like Fallout 3 and Mortal Kombat 9 being completely banned from sale until the offending content was edited out--or in the case of We Happy Few, taken to a review panel. Even in the past few days, Hotline Miami 2 was made available in Australia for the first time ever following its Switch release. But even that might not last.

WWE 2K20: Roman Reign's Biggest Matches The Subject Of Towers Mode

 

WWE 2K's Towers Mode is a gaming gauntlet, where players face opponents, one after the other, trying to reach the top of the tower, akin to Mortal Kombat's towers. However, what is going to set this mode apart from other games for WWE 2K20 is that it will feature live introductions and never-before-seen footage, all revolving around the career of WWE superstars.

Sharing the spotlight with "The Man" Becky Lynch, cover star Roman Reigns is the subject of 2K Towers: Roman's Reign, a 16-match gauntlet where players will relive some of "The Big Dog's" greatest moments in his WWE career. This includes covering his time in The Shield, when he was partnered with Seth Rollins--as Dean Ambrose most likely won't be in the game as he's working for AEW under the name Jon Moxley now. Below, you'll find all the matches in this tower mode, which highlight Reigns' career, so far, in WWE.

Roman's Reign Tower Mode Matches:

  • Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. Team Hell No
  • Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
  • Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan
  • Roman Reigns vs. Big Show
  • Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
  • Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus
  • Roman Reigns vs. Triple H
  • Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
  • Roman Reigns vs. Rusev
  • Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
  • Roman Reigns vs. Undertaker
  • Roman Reigns vs. John Cena
  • Roman Reigns vs. The Miz
  • Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
  • Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
  • Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

As for the other cover star of this year's game, Becky Lynch and the other Four Horsewomen (Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Bayley) will be the subject of this year's Showcase Mode, which has players following in the footsteps of the highlighted superstars, completing specific tasks during matches. Much like WWE 2K19, this year's addition will also follow the documentary-style format, featuring interviews with the subjects.

WWE 2K20's DLC will also be a departure from what it's done in the past. This year, players will be able to purchase WWE Originals packs, which feature fictionalized storytelling of WWE superstars, adding new playable wrestlers--with an aesthetic twist, new arenas, and new create-a-wrestler parts. There will be four of these packs in total, and they will each cost $15. While "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt is the focus of the first pack, "Bump in the Night," GameSpot spoke to Braun Strowman about his character and involvement in the game. And like every year, the game's roster should be massive.

WWE 2K20 arrives to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on October 22.

Insomniac Sends A Message To Fans Following Sony Acquisition

 

Insomniac Games has sent a message to fans following the announcement that Sony Interactive Entertainment has purchased the developer.

"Today we announced that Insomniac has a new home," says Insomniac CEO Ted Price. "It feels more like a homecoming though. We've collaborated with Sony for more than 20 years--spanning all four PlayStation consoles, 20 total games and six franchises. We still work closely today with many of the same Sony teammates as we did when we released the original Spyro the Dragon in 1998."

The Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, and Resistance franchises have all been exclusive to PlayStation consoles, including last year's Marvel's Spider-Man. The only outlier is Sunset Overdrive, an Xbox One exclusive from 2014.

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"The decision to join forces with Sony extends far beyond familiarity," the message continues. "Our studio vision is to create experiences that have a positive and lasting impact on people's lives. As we look ahead to our future, we know that joining the WWS family gives us the best opportunities to fully achieve that vision on a much larger scale. Further, we believe that Sony shares a similar vision to positively impact players' lives, their employees' lives and the games industry at large.

"So today merely marks the beginning of a new chapter in our studio's growth and evolution. We're excited to put Insomniac in the best position to deliver fresh experiences for our fans for many years to come. Our structure and approach will remain intact across both Burbank and Durham, NC studios, and we will continue to cultivate our unique culture.

"It’s been a crazy ride for sure. Now, we’re ready for the next phase of our journey, and can’t wait to explore new worlds with our Sony family and loyal fans."

Sony recently explained why it decided to buy Insomniac, with Sony Games chairman Shawn Layden saying, "We felt that this was the time to formalize the relationship."

NBA 2K20 Demo Available Now, But It’s A Little Unusual

 

A demo for NBA 2K20 is now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can download it to begin creating and testing out multiple MyPlayer builds, which you'll then be able to take into the full game once it's released in a couple of weeks time.

It's an unusual demo, letting you explore a character creator more than the on-court action. You can adjust badges and attributes to create different player archetypes, and once you've done enough tweaking you can hop into a rematch of last season's NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors, to test out how your MyPlayer handles.

2K recently dropped a new trailer for NBA 2K20's career mode, giving us a glimpse of what your MyPlayer will be up to during the upcoming game's story mode. Idris Elba, Rosario Dawson, Thomas Middleditch, and Ernie Hudson star in the basketball drama, along with NBA superstar--and occasional actor--LeBron James.

Unsurprisingly, James is once again the top-rated player in 2K's latest. If you want to see how the rest of the top 20 stacks up, you can find the full list here. NBA 2K20 is finally adding the WNBA this year, too, with 12 teams available to use in the Play Now and Season modes. Some of the league's standout players have been scanned into the game, as well as animations and play styles fans will expect to see from the women's league.

If you're interested in NBA 2K20 and the demo has just whet your appetite, it launches September 6 for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. Check out our NBA 2K20 pre-order guide for all the info on pre-order bonuses and what's included in the Digital Deluxe and Legend editions.

See NBA 2K20 at Amazon

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

MCU Star Asks Sony To Return Spider-Man To Marvel, Following Dispute

 

The news that Spider-Man might be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe has, unsurprisingly, caused much dismay and disappointment amongst superhero movie fans. Marvel Studios parent company Disney and Spidey rights-holders Sony are in dispute over the financing of future movies featuring the web-slinger. While most actors involved within the MCU have remained quiet on the issue, there's one MCU star who has expressed his opinion--Hawkeye actor Jeremy Renner.

Renner posted the same image on both Twitter and Instagram, stating, "Hey Sony Pictures, we want Spider-Man back to Stan Lee and Marvel please, thank you." The issue isn't quite as simple as that--Sony has owned the movie rights to Spider-Man since Marvel sold them in 1999, and this dispute is over each studio's financial stake and whether MCU producer Kevin Feige will continue to be involved with Spidey films. Nevertheless, Renner's post has struck a chord with fans, with over 1.5 million likes on Instagram, and more than 40,000 retweets. Check it out below, and see if you can make sense of the bizarre hashtags that Renner has included:

Shortly after the story of the dispute broke, Sony responded with a statement. The studio claimed that many of the reports have "mischaracterized" discussions between the studios, and expressed "disappointment" that Feige would no longer be involved, laying the decision at Disney's feet.

Of course, the big question remains about the future of the character in the MCU. Spider-Man: Far From Home was the official end of the MCU's Phase 3, setting the stage for what's to come from the universe of films. With Feige no longer being involved, it's possible that the Spider-Man franchise could instead exist outside of the MCU.

Sony has already been building a non-MCU Spider-Man universe thanks to the film adaptation of Venom, as well as the upcoming Morbius movie, in which Jared Leto stars as the titular living vampire. Sources told Deadline that there were already two more planned Spider-Man films starring Tom Holland as the web-slinger, with director Jon Watts expected to return. For now, an extended cut of Spider-Man: Far From Home will hit theaters on August 29.

The Best-Selling Digital Games For July 2019 - Fire Emblem: Three Houses And GTA Online Are Big Winners

 

Sales tracker Superdata has revealed its monthly sales chart for July 2019, tracking worldwide digital sales across PC, console, and mobile.

Consumers spent $9.02 billion on digital games in July, up from $8.56 billion in the same month last year.

Grand Theft Auto V Online's Diamond Casino update led to a huge uptick in sales for Rockstar's immensely popular game. Earlier this month, the developer announced that GTA Online had broken its record for most players in a single day on July 23, and most players in an entire week between July 23 - 29. The company didn't share specific player numbers, but Superdata estimates the game sold $69 million across console and PC following the Diamond Casino update, so the numbers certainly back Rockstar's claims up.

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The update, which introduced a casino full of games to play, rewards to earn, and new story missions to complete, led to one of the best digital sales months for the game since it launched back in 2013. It also marked the first month of double-digit year-over-year growth since August 2018.

Elsewhere, Fire Emblem: Three Houses had the best digital launch in franchise history, selling 800,000 digital units on Switch in July. This follows NPD Group's monthly sales chart from July, which showed that Three Houses recorded the highest first-month sales for a Fire Emblem game of all time in the US, good enough to make it the second highest-selling game of the month, behind Madden NFL 20. NPD never shares actual sales numbers, but add on the 800,000 units sold in worldwide digital sales and it's safe to assume Three Houses had a very successful launch.

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Season 2 of Apex Legends kicked off in July, generating $37 million across both console and PC. This is double what Respawn's shooter made in June, but only roughly half of what Season 1 earned back in March. The Titanfall battle royale game courted controversy this month after its Iron Crown event introduced overly expensive new cosmetics. This led to altercations on Reddit when a thread discussing the event took a turn for the worse once developers began criticizing the community with insulting language and saying most players are "freeloaders." Respawn CEO Vince Zampella has since issued a statement apologizing for the incident.

Another battle royale title, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, sold a further one million units after a price cut. Superdata estimates PUBG sold 1.1 million units on PC in July, with an average selling price of $18. Sales are still down significantly from last year, however.

Some Great Xbox One Games Are On Sale This Week

 

EA has published some fantastic games over the past two generations... and some that were a bit disappointing. Thankfully, in the latest Xbox One games sale, there are a bunch of discounts on awesome EA games. These include some of the absolute best Xbox 360 games, which are all playable on Xbox One.

For Xbox One games, we have discounts on the Apex Legends Founder's Pack ($20), Titanfall 2: Ultimate Edition ($4.50), and Burnout Paradise Remastered ($5), in addition to The Sims 4 ($8) and a bunch of its bundles and expansion packs. You can also pick up the super cute Unravel and Unravel Two for $6.60 each or together in a bundle for $10. Dragon Age: Inquisition - Game of the Year Edition ($10) and Battlefield 5 ($18) are also both discounted. And if you've been wanting to pick up Star Wars Battlefront 2 ($7.50), Mass Effect: Andromeda ($9), or Anthem ($20) at a reduced price, now's a good chance.

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See all of the deals at Xbox.com

Now for what I get most excited about: backward-compatible Xbox 360 games. We have discounts on two games each from three of the publisher's most beloved series: Dragon Age: Origins ($3.75) and Dragon Age 2 ($5); Mass Effect 2 ($6) and Mass Effect 3 ($6); and Skate ($7.50) and Skate 3 ($5). Three of my personal favourites are also on sale: Syndicate ($8), Fight Night Champion ($5), and NBA Jam: On Fire Edition ($5). Remember, all of these are playable on Xbox One, so you can buy them on sale, download them, and start playing immediately.

You can see the full sale on Xbox.com. In related news, there's currently an offer that gives players 2 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $2. Ultimate bundles Xbox Live Gold with Xbox Game Pass on both Xbox One and PC.

Why We Don't Need Another Matrix Sequel

 

What do you think about the new that The Matrix 4 is officially happening, with Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves, and Carrie-Anne Moss all set to return to the series? Let us know in the comments below.

It's 2019, and the question "What is the Matrix?" was answered long ago. Nevertheless, as we recently learned, The Matrix 4 is officially happening--whether or not it's needed.

I love the Matrix as much as anybody--more than most people, in fact. When I first watched the cyberpunk thriller at the impressionable age of 11, it pretty much blew my mind--I had to watch it at least a half dozen times before I was able to understand the concept that our reality is a computer simulation. But my friends and I, to this day, maintain a running joke that the sequels don't exist. If someone brings up The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions, we look quizzically at one another as if we've never heard of them. "What sequels?" "It's too bad that movie never got any sequels." Etc.

It maybe isn't a great joke, but it serves as more than that. It's a defense mechanism. I'd rather live in a world in which The Matrix 2 and 3 don't exist. Like the original movie's duplicitous but kinda-has-a-point betrayer Cypher, I believe that in this case, "ignorance is bliss." Cue the harp.

The Matrix sequels are bad. You may have enjoyed them at the time, and you may even still enjoy them. They had their moments--the million-Smiths fight was conceptually cool, despite being marred by bad CGI, and Reloaded's freeway chase is an action highlight. But as far as the cultural zeitgeist is concerned, The Matrix 2 and 3 failed to live up to the original on almost every level. Regardless of your personal feelings about them, they've gone down in history as massive disappointments, despite the fact that they made a ton of money (which is why, decades later, we're in this current pickle).

The Matrix doesn't need another sequel, because The Matrix didn't benefit from the sequels we already got. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions added little of value to the series, and in fact, they arguably made the original worse by association--the fact that a story with that much setup and promise wound up concluding with a hackneyed Christ metaphor and mediocre CGI might temper your enjoyment of the original, even if, like me, you like to pretend it's a standalone film. Whenever I watch the first Matrix--which is frequently--I have to continuously shush the grating voice in the back of my head whispering "Remember how bad these sequels were?"

Lana Wachowski's involvement isn't reassuring. Normally, when a new sequel to a beloved movie is announced, it's taken as a good sign if the original creators are still at the helm. The Matrix is an exception to that rule. The Matrix wasn't quite a fluke; The Wachowskis have been responsible for a couple of other bangers, including the 2005 V For Vendetta adaptation (they wrote and produced, but didn't direct), and 2008's Speed Racer (Wachowskis-written, produced, and directed), which some people liked. But the duo was also responsible for colossal turds like Jupiter Ascending, Cloud Atlas, and, of course, the Matrix sequels.

I think it's fair to compare the Wachowskis' work to M. Night Shyamalan's: They've made some classics, and they might have more in them, but they're not exactly a safe bet, especially considering that most of their successes occurred early in their careers. George Lucas is another fair comparison: Yes, they created something amazing, a franchise with a life of its own that's far bigger than a single movie. But they also failed considerably when trying to expand on the world they had created.

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The fact that Lana Wachowski is set to return to writing and directing duties for The Matrix 4 makes me less hopeful, not more, for this movie. As a diehard fan of the original Matrix and an equally diehard hater of the sequels, I wish the movie that started it all could simply stand on its own. Contrary to popular belief, the most interesting thing about the original Matrix wasn't the "bullet time" action or the leather trenchcoats, but the restrained worldbuilding and the subtext-filled writing--writing for which the Wachowskis deserve full credit, but which they failed to live up to in subsequent attempts. If the franchise, such as it is, needs to have a future, the best way to do it would be to drop the known characters and world, and go in a totally different direction--but it doesn't seem like that's what's in store.

And that's not even getting into the fact that the original film's red pill/blue pill binary has become a twisted touchstone for various nasty subsets of extremist internet culture. Is this really the right time to return to "Wonderland" and travel back down this particular rabbit hole?

I'll remain open to whatever The Matrix 4 turns out to be--partially because it's my job, and partially because I love the original so much. Even I have to admit that it's a little bit exciting that Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are also coming back, and I'm not really too concerned about how these two very dead characters might get written back in--it's science fiction, they'll figure something out. But right now, it's hard to get past the feeling that whatever happens with this movie, we simply don't need another Matrix sequel.

It's been 20 years since the original Matrix changed action movies and sci-fi forever. I'm not saying we should never get to revisit its fictional world. But it should be done in a spin-off or reboot--a brand new story with new characters--not with yet another sequel featuring Neo, Trinity, and all the baggage of a movie trilogy that's 20 years old and two thirds terrible. It's hard to imagine this turning out good.

PS4's Erica - First 21 Minutes Of Gameplay

 

We go through the beginning of ERICA, a new live-action interactive thriller that's available now on PS4.

Mindhunter Season 2: What Is The Real BTK Killer's Story?

 

Mindhunter Season 2 has finally arrived after a nearly two year hiatus and true crime fans everywhere are rejoicing--and for good reason. This season is just as strong as the first, with a powerful blend of fiction and reality as FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, as well as their academic consultant Dr. Wendy Carr (all of whom were invented for the show), continue their efforts to psychologically profile the very real serial killers of the '70s and '80s.

However, one of the prominently featured killers in both Seasons 1 and 2 never gets the interview-and-profile treatment. Dennis Rader, aka The BTK Killer, was first introduced to the show's mythology back in Season 1 through a series of disconnected vignettes that would cut through the beginning and end of episodes. Rader was never formally named, and in the first season, he didn't actually commit any crimes. The implication was there, to be sure--every moment of his screen time is dedicated to a sort of simmering tension and building discomfort that communicates just how bad things are likely going to get.

That threat pays off in the first episode of Season 2, which reveals that BTK has been actively killing, communicating with the press through disturbing poems, and avoiding capture entirely. For viewers who know BTK's real history, putting two and two together isn't much of a challenge, and it's clear that the man in those vignettes has been Rader all along--though the show never explicitly names him.

Tench does what he can to help at first, but there are no real leads and the Behavioral Science Unit's resources are being otherwise utilized. Throughout the season, the vignettes continue, but the case never progresses in any official capacity for the FBI--something that may feel a bit frustrating for viewers who are unfamiliar with the reality of the BTK Killer, who managed to successfully avoid capture until the early 2000s. Mindhunter may take some liberties with the true stories it intersects with, but changing the ultimate outcome of the cases it deals in tends not to be one of them.

So what was the real BTK Killer's story and where does it fit into the Mindhunter umbrella? Hold on tight, because this one gets bleak.

The real Dennis Rader began killing in 1974 with the Otero family, three years after marrying his wife Paula, while working for a home security company installing burglar alarms--a detail included in his Season 1 storyline. Paula is a character in the show as well, but his children--a son born in 1971 and a daughter born in 1975--are not. The scenes included in the second season premiere that focus on his wife discovering him dressed in a mask and women's clothing are likely fabricated for the show. The fetish for women's clothing and the mask are genuine--but the implication that his wife had caught on to Rader's "deviant" sexual proclivities and, apparently, had chosen to ignore them for whatever reason, or tried to "fix" them by providing self-help books, can't be confirmed.

Rader began writing letters to the press about his murders shortly after the Otero killings, which sparked a mass panic through his native Wichita, Kansas. In addition to written communication, Rader also called in tips to police hotlines. One such call, made from a phone booth in 1977, actually led to the discovery of the body of one of his victims, Nancy Fox.

After an apparent lull in media coverage, Rader became frustrated with his lack of notoriety and began communicating again. In 1978, he wrote a letter in which he claimed responsibility for the murders of Kathyrn Bright, Shirley Vian, and Nancy Fox (who he had guided police to a year prior)--all of whom are mentioned in the show as cases that were confounding the police. It was in a 1978 letter where he coined his own nickname: BTK, for "bind, torture, kill."

In 1983, a task force of federal detectives were given the BTK cases and tasked with reinvestigation--the loose inspiration for Tench's brief involvement in the case during the show. The real-life team was nicknamed the "Ghostbusters task force" and focused on the collection of DNA evidence and the implementation of new technology, including a psychological profile, worked up by behavioral scientists, that assumed BTK was someone local to the area where his crimes were committed.

The work, unfortunately, provided to be ultimately fruitless, and the cases were marked as cold through 1997, when Robert Ressler--the actual FBI profiler who served as inspiration for Tench--stepped in to build a more expansive view of BTK. But Ressler believed BTK had either left the area or died because the killings had apparently stopped back in the 70s.

The case remained totally unsolved until 2004, when Rader began communicating with police again, claiming responsibility for more deaths through the 1980s, confirmed by the inclusion of mementos from the scene of the various crimes. It was these early 2000s communications--one of which was saved on a floppy disc--and advancements in DNA testing technology--that eventually lead to Rader's arrest and subsequent confessions in February of 2005. Rader reached out directly to the police to ask them, point-blank, if communication via floppy disc could be traced, emploring them to "be honest." After telling Rader that no, the disc could not be traced, they promptly used the metadata contained within the floppy disc Rader had sent to trace him.

Unless there's a significant time jump in future Mindhunter seasons, we can expect the BTK thread to remain unresolved for Ford and Tench--but perhaps that's actually for the best, even with all consideration for historical accuracy thrown aside. The reality of Dennis Rader is that FBI profiling and behavioral science were unable to successfully aid in his capture, often leading to more dead ends and conjecture. Had Rader not overextended his "game of cat and mouse with the police" (in his own words) he probably never would have been caught. In Mindhunter, it seems like he's being set up as the show's "big bad guy," but whether this will actually culminate in anything during future seasons is anyone's guess.

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