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Game

New ‘FIFA Mobile’ mode puts the focus on strategy, not action

Would you rather oversee your FIFA Mobile team than control your players’ every last step? You now have your chance. EA has introduced a Manager Mode to the Android and iOS title that has you focusing on strategy and tactics rather than action. You choose the starting lineup, set the tactics in real-time (such as attacking or countering) and let your team play. You can even queue multiple matches as you climb the division ranks.

The corresponding game update also improves goalkeepers, adds player switching options and offers kits for 30 national teams. The upgrade is available now.

This doesn’t turn FIFA Mobile into a management sim like Football Manager. You aren’t scouting talent, shaping training programs or wrestling with the team’s board. Think of this more as the soccer equivalent to an auto battler like Auto Chess or Teamfight Tactics — it’s a slightly more relaxed experience that does more to reward situational awareness than fast reflexes.

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Game

PlayStation VR2 will offer livestreaming support and a ‘Cinematic Mode’

Sony is finally ready to share early details of PlayStation VR2’s software experience, not just the hardware. The company has previewed a few key features for its PS5 VR headset, including livestreaming support. If you have a PS5 HD Camera, you can broadcast both gameplay and a view of yourself. As you might guess, that could be helpful for Twitch streamers, YouTubers and others who want to share their PSVR2 footage without relying on capture cards and green screens.

The company also explained how it will handle non-VR content. The PSVR2 headset will offer a 1080p “Cinematic Mode” that displays the PS5 interface and conventional games on a virtual screen at refresh rates between 24Hz and 120Hz. This is a very familiar experience if you’ve used VR before, but it will still be helpful if you’d rather not remove your headset to change system settings. Native VR content displays at 4,000 x 2040 with a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate.

 Other known features exist primarily to prevent accidents. A “see-through” mode lets you quickly peek at the room to avoid a collision or find your controllers. You can also define a customized play area that will warn if you’re too close to the couch or TV. This also isn’t a novel concept, but it could prove crucial to apartment dwellers and anyone else with limited space for walk-around VR experiences.

There are still many more unknowns, such as the VR-native interface. Sony has promised that developers will “soon” have access to this latest experience, though, and it has teased upcoming details for the release date and more games. Don’t be shocked if you hear considerably more about PSVR2 in the near future.

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Security

Anti-vax dating site exposed data for 3,500 users through ‘debug mode’ bug

Unsurprisingly, it seems like the type of people who shun vaccinations are not great at preventative cybersecurity either.

As reported by the Daily Dot, “Unjected” — a dating site specifically for people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 — failed to take basic precautions to keep users’ data secure, leaving sensitive data exposed and allowing potentially anyone to become a site administrator.

The “Unjected” site was set up to leave the administrator dashboard fully accessible to anyone who knew how to look for it. Through this dashboard, an administrator could access user information for any member of the site, including name, date of birth, email address, and (if provided) their home address.

The configuration error was discovered by a security researcher known as GeopJr, who confirmed the vulnerability to the Daily Dot by editing live posts on the site. GeopJr apparently noticed that the site had been published live to the web with “debug mode” switched on — a special set of features for software developers to use while working on the app, which should never be enabled by default in an application that has been deployed.

Using these features, the researcher was able to make almost any change to the site, including adding or removing pages, offering free subscriptions for paid-tier services, or even deleting the entire database of post backups. Currently, the site is believed to have around 3,500 users, all of whose data was accessible through the administrator features.

Though its user base is small, Unjected seems to have big ambitions for building connections among the unvaccinated community. Besides providing dating services, Unjected also offers a “fertility” section where users can offer their semen, eggs, or breastmilk for donation. In another section of the website, users can also sign up for a “blood bank” by listing their location and blood type. Both the blood bank and the fertility services are branded as helping users find “mRNA-free” donors — a reference to the mRNA molecules used in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

The Unjected website is now one of the main portals for the project after the Unjected app was booted from the Apple App Store in August 2021 for violating Apple’s COVID-19 content policies. However, Android users can still download the app if they want: it’s currently still listed on the Google Play store, where it has more than 10K downloads and an average review of 2.5 stars.

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Security

Apple Lockdown mode adds ‘extreme’ protection to your iPhone, iPad and Mac

Apple is taking steps to increase security for people like journalists, activists, and politicians with a new setting in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura called Lockdown Mode. This setting hardens an iPhone, iPad, or Mac’s defenses in ways that interrupt methods we’ve seen used to compromise devices for highly targeted attacks.

Lockdown Mode blocks many message attachment types, disables link previews, turns off certain web browsing technology by default, blocks invitations and FaceTime calls from unknown sources, locks down wired connections to computers or accessories while the device is locked, and disables the ability to add new configuration profiles or enroll in mobile device management (MDM).

These are the areas that we know can be vulnerable, as Google’s Project Zero team detailed how iPhones of people targeted by the Pegasus software could be compromised in a “zero-click” scenario by using a GIF to exploit iMessage in the background. Other attacks have repeatedly targeted MDM solutions or used malicious websites to exploit flaws in rendering, and Lockdown Mode closes those doors from the start.

Lockdown Mode screen in iOS 16

Lockdown Mode screen in iOS 16
Image: Apple

Apple calls it an “extreme, optional” level of protection that’s a clear response to the growing use of state-sponsored mercenary software like the Pegasus tool developed by NSO Group. Evidence of the software has been found on devices of journalists like Jamal Khashoggi. According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, Apple just released iOS 16 Developer Beta 3, which includes Lockdown Mode.

In past years, Apple had been criticized for not working with security researchers to find and close flaws in its platforms as much as other big tech companies before launching an iOS bug bounty program in 2016. It eventually expanded the program to cover other devices in 2019 while saying it would distribute special security research devices to outside researchers.

According to Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, Ivan Krstić, “While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are. That includes continuing to design defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

While introducing the new operating systems at WWDC 2022 in June, Apple said its new Rapid Security Response feature will enable patches for security flaws that roll out faster and can take effect on a Mac without requiring a reboot. iOS 16 and macOS Ventura are also set to include support for new passkey technology that will help eliminate the use of passwords.

Other tech companies have made similar efforts in certain ways, like Google’s Advanced Protection Program for its accounts or the Super Duper Secure Mode Microsoft started testing in Edge last fall. Some small companies have also tried offering hardened devices running Android that promise protections against various vulnerabilities, but Lockdown Mode is a new level of security that will be available to millions of people once it launches with the new software updates later this year.

Even with these protections, finding vulnerabilities in the operating systems that control so many devices is a valuable endeavor, and Apple says it’s doubling the bounty for “qualifying findings” in Lockdown Mode to $2 million, which it says is the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry. Apple also says that any damages it’s awarded from a lawsuit filed last fall against NSO Group will be added to a $10 million grant to support organizations that “investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks, including those created by private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”



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Security

iOS 16’s new Lockdown Mode takes iPhone security to the max

Apple has introduced an extra layer of security coming to iOS 16, called Lockdown Mode. The Cupertino, California-based company announced the new extreme cybersecurity feature on July 6 with the aim of protecting people at risk of being attacked by targeted mercenary spyware.

Lockdown Mode is an optional feature that not every iPhone user will need, but would most likely be used by politicians, activists, celebrities, and other public figures who fear they’re being targeted by spyware created by private companies. This includes the like of NSO Group, which was sued last fall for using Pegasus to hack the phones of political figures worldwide — including the widow of the late Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the prime minister of Spain, as well as dozens of journalists.

“While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture. “That includes continuing to design defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

When Lockdown Mode is enabled, it limits the iPhone’s functionality to render it invulnerable to attacks. It blocks some message attachment types other than images, disables preview links, blocks FaceTime calls from unknown contacts, and prevents wired connections to a computer or accessory when the iPhone is locked — among other things.

Apple is also making a $10 million grant out to the Dignity and Justice Fund to bolster research into enhancing cybersecurity, as well as investigating and preventing highly targeted cyberattacks. Any additional research money will come from the damages awarded from the ongoing lawsuit against NSO Group.

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Computing

How to use desktop mode on the Steam Deck

When you first start using your Steam Deck, its native state is the gaming mode, designed for an easy mobile experience. But the gaming mode is also a little limited — it lacks the customization options and more in-depth settings that you’d find on a PC. That’s why Valve also included a Desktop Mode, which plunges the Steam deck into a Linux desktop that works great with a mouse and keyboard while expanding your options.

If you don’t mind working in a Linux environment, switching to Desktop Mode can make Deck management easier and even enable games Steam couldn’t otherwise play.

Here’s how to use Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck so you can make it work like a PC.

How to use Desktop Mode in the Steam Deck

Step 1: Turn your Steam Deck on, then once it’s booted up, press and hold down the Power button. Hold it down until a new menu appears.

Step 2: Select Switch to desktop.

Choose switch to desktop.

Step 3: Your Steam Deck is now technically in Desktop Mode. However, you’ll find working in the mode a lot easier if you connect a keyboard and mouse to work with (the trackpad works, but it’s not great). We’ll also suggest connecting to a laptop or monitor so you can use a larger screen for better visibility.

Blank desktop in Steam Deck.

Step 4: Now that you’re in Desktop Mode, what can you do? Well, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the pre-installed apps that allow you to quickly make some changes. One of the most popular is the Discover Software Center app (the blue bag icon), where you can find a variety of emulators. These emulators can allow you to play games that Steam doesn’t directly support. Choose the ones you want to install.

The Discover app allows you to search for a variety of other apps too, including browsers, specific games, and music players. It can even help you play Xbox games with the right setup.

Steam Deck Apps in desktop.

Step 5: If you have tinkered with Linux before, you’ll notice that the Deck is a read-only system that doesn’t allow for much in-depth change. However, you can still open the Terminal and run commands, as well as make specific changes to the files on your Deck. This also allows you to use a “passwd” command to set a password and enable sudo commands, but that’s only something you should try if you have serious experience in a Linux environment and know the changes you want to make.

Step 6: If you experiment a little too much with the Linux features and start to mess up your Deck, you can fix it, but you’ll have to run a recovery process. Steam has a guide to manage recovery, but you’ll need a USB stick and a compatible USB-C adapter or dock to plug the stick in.

Step 7: When you are ready to go back to the gaming mode, just select the very obvious Return to game mode icon in the upper left. You can move between both modes whenever you want, but it’s a good idea to avoid doing it mid-game.

Not received your Steam Deck yet? You aren’t the only one, but here’s why it might replace your gaming laptop when it arrives.

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Game

‘Deathloop’ update adds much-needed accessibility options and a photo mode

Arcane Studios has released the third major update for Deathloop, which adds a slew of accessibility features. There’s now an accessibility category in the options menu that includes the previously introduced settings (some of which have been upgraded) in addition to the new ones.

Players will be able to adjust various gameplay elements, though some settings will be limited to the single-player mode — i.e., when you play as Colt and Julianna is controlled by AI rather than an invading human. These include slowing down the game speed, adjusting the number of reprises (or lives) you have and making the combat easier or harder. There are more user interface options as well, such as the ability to change the color, size and opacity of some text and graphical elements.

In addition, players will, at long last, be able to navigate menus using the directional buttons instead of having to use a cursor. What a concept! If you prefer to use a cursor through, you can now adjust its movement speed.

When Deathloop landed on PS5 and PC last September, it was widely acclaimed, with critics praising its well-constructed gameplay, art style, level design and story. However, accessibility advocates pointed out issues that made the game difficult for disabled players to enjoy, such as the text size, lack of a controller remapping option and low contrast. Hopefully, this update will address most, if not all, of their concerns.

“We are truly grateful to the players and the ally community who gave us so much feedback when Deathloop was released,” lead UI/UX designer Yoann Bazoge told the PlayStation Blog. “We took the time to read all of the accessibility reviews and watch the videos of players explaining why they couldn’t play Deathloop. We then worked on a document listing all of the feedback and drew up a roadmap of what the additions would be for Game Update 3.”

Meanwhile, Arcane has added another much-requested feature: photo mode. This will only be available in single-player mode and you’ll be able to use poses, filters and stickers. Players can switch between Colt and Julianna, and choose a different outfit or weapon to capture the exact shot they want.

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Game

Halo Infinite campaign co-op and Forge mode release dates delayed

With the launch of Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer earlier this week, 343 Industries announced that season 1 will last longer than anticipated. Instead of three months as initially planned, season 1 has now been extended to six months. Unfortunately, this has implications for features beyond multiplayer, as the extension of season 1 also means that the launches of campaign co-op and Forge mode will be delayed.

Campaign co-op and Forge pushed deeper into 2022

Over the summer, 343 Industries revealed that while it was working on campaign co-op and Forge mode, neither of those features would be ready to go at launch in December. Instead, 343 planned to have campaign co-op ready to go at the start of season 2, while it expected to have Forge mode ready at the beginning of season 3.

When 343 shared those plans, it also expected each season to last around three months. Now that we know season 1 will be lasting an extended six months, that, unfortunately, means campaign co-op and Forge mode will be delayed in turn. 343 Industries head of creative Joseph Staten confirmed the delays in a brief interview with Eurogamer.

“Yes, we are extending Season 1. So our goal still remains what I said before, which is to ship campaign co-op with Season 2 and Forge with Season 3,” Staten said. “But those remain goals. Those remain targets. And we can’t commit to any hard dates right now, because as we’re seeing with this multiplayer beta, other things might move up in the priority stack for us.”

While Staten’s statement leaves the possibility of further delays open, he did commit to getting both features out the door at some point in the future, saying that both elements are “really big promises that we’ve made that we need to make good on.”

Two crucial features missing at launch

Indeed, a lot of players probably consider campaign co-op and Forge to be important features. The co-op mode for the campaign has been a cornerstone feature for the Halo series ever since the very first game, while Forge mode has its own subset of hardcore fans. Forge was originally introduced in Halo 3 and lets players make maps for custom games.

The two features have become significant parts of the Halo experience over the years, so there are undoubtedly fans who are sad to hear that they won’t be in the game at launch. However, based on what Staten told Eurogamer, it seems we can expect campaign co-op in May 2022, while Forge should come down the pipeline three months later, presumably in July 2022.

That’s assuming everything pans out as 343 is expecting and the company transitions to a three-month rotation for seasons after season 1 wraps up. Assuming 343 can deliver the co-op and Forge modes when it’s hoping to, this represents a three-month delay to its original plans. That’s not bad, but of course, any delay stings a little bit. We’ll let you know when 343 shares some more concrete details on the respective launches of Halo Infinite campaign co-op and Forge, so stay tuned for more.

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Game

Halo Infinite’s free multiplayer mode is available now

Rumors started swirling over the last few days that Microsoft will release the free Halo Infinite multiplayer mode before the full game. During its Xbox 20th anniversary event, the company confirmed that’s the case. The standalone mode is now available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Players can access it through Xbox Cloud Gaming later today.

The beta is open to everyone, and Season 1 of Halo Infinite multiplayer, which will run until May, is underway three weeks early. Microsoft and developer 343 Industries have run a few multiplayer test events over the last few months, but now the mode is open to all. You’ll have access to all the Season 1 maps, the battle pass and the core modes.

The Halo Infinite campaign release date is still set for December 8th, and your multiplayer progress will carry over. A few features will be missing at launch, however. The campaign co-op and Forge modes will be released later, because 343 Industries wanted to focus on the quality of the single-player and multiplayer modes.

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Game

How Call of Duty: Vanguard Reenvisions Zombies Mode

In many ways, Zombies redefined the Call of Duty series. It added silly, arcade-style horror gameplay to break up the seriousness of a gritty war game. Something about being able to take a break from the stone-faced shooting to battle an infinite onslaught of zombies (with the use of your alien Ray Gun) in Call of Duty: World at War in 2008 was refreshing.

Since then, the Zombies mode has expanded and become much more complicated, full of memorable characters, a streamlined objective system, and much more to do. What started as a weird little one-off mode has grown to explosive new heights thanks to its gratifying gameplay loop that ropes players in.

Zombies makes its triumphant return in Call of Duty: Vanguard, and although it aims to be a familiar experience, developer Treyarch is reenvisioning the way the mode works, with a slew of additions that make it feel fresh. Treyarch is once again leading the charge on Zombies development after having worked on 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Ahead of its release, I spoke with Treyarch Associate Director of Design Gavin Locke, Senior Writer Tony Bedard, and Lead Writer Craig Houston about what to expect from the upcoming Zombies experience.

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Clearer path ahead

Der Anfang — which translates to “The Beginning” in German — is the new Zombies experience in Vanguard. One of the highlights of Der Anfang is the way it will streamline the familiar Zombies gameplay, giving more direction to help new players learn the ropes. Objectives will play a much larger role this time around, rather than simply having players try to survive against a horde of zombies for as long as possible.

“In this experience, Der Anfang, starting in Stalingrad, we use this objective gameplay loop to reenvision the idea of opening a map,” Locke tells Digital Trends. “So these objectives that you teleport to [will] take place in different arenas that are much different locations than the hubs on Stalingrad. And then within Stalingrad, instead of killing zombies, earning essence, and buying doors, it’s the completion of these different objectives that starts to earn you more paths to the map, and more things to interact with over the course of a single match.”

The inception of objective-based gameplay can be seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War‘s Outbreak mode, which gave players an open world, allowing them to teleport to various areas after completing certain tasks. In Vanguard, you’ll see some of the same Outbreak mechanics return, such as being able to warp to new locales. This time around, thugh, players want to prioritize what kind of equipment they bring along depending on the objectives they choose to tackle.

“It’s an onion that keeps having layers to it. It surprised me. It’s fun, but it tastes better than an onion.”

“In Vanguard, you start with three objectives,” says Locke. “You think ‘Do I want to play Blitz on Shi No Numa, or Harvest on the Hub? And you’ll make that choice differently based on how you’ve loaded out and what your team has. Or you’ll pick your favorite mode and then change up your weapons based on that. So I think there’s a lot more variety for you to choose and the game will play out differently, hopefully, every time, without any sort of like monotony there. You’re not forced to do anything.”

The best part is that players aren’t required to complete objectives. For those who want to play it like the traditional Zombies modes — with the goal of simply lasting as long as possible — they can still do that. With Vanguard, it seems Treyarch is simply giving players the option to follow a narrative-driven objective to help captivate a new audience, without negatively impacting those who prefer a classic style of gameplay.

“I’ve been doing a lot of playtesting [with] this,” Bedard tells Digital Trends. “And that’s one of the things that’s really surprised and delighted me is that you begin to realize how many different strategies, how putting together different covenants will affect your gameplay. It’s an onion that keeps having layers to it. It surprised me. It’s fun, but it tastes better than an onion.”

Characters with more … character

Characters and zombies from Call of Duty: Vanguard.

Zombies will be much more memorable this time around. In attempts to keep the player invested, the cast will have wittier dialogue, according to Houston. “From a narrative perspective, I think we’ve tried to [add] a lot more humor, and a lot more personality into Vanguard,” Houston tells Digital Trends.

Cold War was very much a [military simulation], ” Houston said. “The Operators were quite dry — they were consistent with how they were in Warzone and multiplayer. And they were no longer the driving force of the narrative. So I think with the introduction of the Dark Ether Entities, and the other supporting cast, there’s a lot more personality.” This will effectively break up the horror elements to sprinkle in some humanity throughout, which once again will hopefully make things more refreshing.

“There’s a lot less ‘kill confirmed’ and a lot more ‘what the fuck was that?’”

“The Dark Ether Entities you choose to have a symbiotic relationship with — regardless of who you’ve chosen as your Operator — will offer a lot of encouragement and chastisement in very amusing unique ways,” Houston continues. “There’s a lot less ‘kill confirmed’ and a lot more ‘what the fuck was that?’ And that’s something that’s going to be expanding as the game continues post-launch.”

One big family

Zombies walking in Call of Duty: Vanguard.

While the team won’t quite divulge the specifics of what to expect from Zombies going forward, they did have a few words to say about the overall cohesiveness of Call of Duty as a series. Typically, a Call of Duty game launches annually, alternating between three developers, Treyarch, Infinity Ward, and Sledgehammer Games. While Sledgehammer is still in charge of the main development of Vanguard, Treyarch was tasked with developing its Zombies mode. This means it has worked on Zombies for two back-to-back Call of Duty games, which was a significant change from the usual schedule.

But the team embraced this change, using it as an opportunity to be more collaborative with the rest of the Activision teams. “This reflects a little more of the cohesiveness of Call of Duty as a franchise,” Bedard told Digital Trends. “The folks that I’ve interacted with at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have all been great. For me, it’s nice. We’re all one big team.”

Since the series typically rotates between three different studios, there often isn’t much continuity from one game to the next, but this will change with the Cold War and Vanguard Zombies modes since Treyarch is leading the charge. With the implementation of a shared progression system across Modern Warfare (2019), Warzone, Black Ops Cold War, and now, Vanguard, the series has been more unified than ever.

Cohesiveness is “something that we’re very cognizant of,” Houston confirms to Digital Trends. “I don’t think Rambo or John McLean are strictly canon, so there’s always going to be some raggedy edges in terms of how some of the narrative fits together.” Houston refers to the ’80s action stars who were implemented during one of the recent seasons of Black Ops Cold War, showing that fun is always a priority, more so than realism.

“I think there’s certainly a goal across all of the studios to just keep delivering consistent, quality Call of Duty games and all work together.”

Call of Duty: Vanguard launches for PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on November 5. The game’s publisher, Activision Blizzard, is currently embroiled in a legal battle stemming from a workplace culture scandal.

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