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Game

You can now play ‘Doom’ inside ‘Doom II’

Doom is playable on just about anything, from a DJ controller and Canon printer to an ATM and Minecraft. YouTuber kgsws took the Inception route, though. They put a playable version of Doom inside Doom II.

They used an exploit in the DOS version of Doom II, as Gizmodo notes. The modder, who explains the process in a 15-minute YouTube video, was able to get a modern port of Doom (Chocolate Doom, which uses the original source code) running inside Doom II as an animated texture. The original game is projected on a virtual display in a custom Doom II map that kgsws created.

They built more maps that showcase the pioneering first-person shooter, including having the same instance of Doom running on four walls surrounding the player and a cinema screen that’s projecting the game. Additionally, kgsws showed off Heretic running inside of Doom.

You can try the hack for yourself, as kgsws shared the code on GitHub. You can snap up a DOS version of Doom II from Steam. You might need a reasonably beefy gaming PC to run Doom inside Doom II, though. “Both games are running independently of each other,” kgsws explains. “That means you need double the memory. I would recommend you to get at least 16MB of RAM.”

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Computing

Steam Deck battery life: 5 tips to extend your play time

The Steam Deck is a great device, but it has a major flaw: Battery life. In the best of cases, you can get around four hours before charging, and in the worst, the Deck can die in as little as 90 minutes. We rounded up the five Steam Deck battery life tips so you can extend your playtime as long as possible.

If you just picked up your device, make sure to read our top Steam Deck tips so you can get the most out of it. We also have a roundup of the best battery packs for the Steam Deck, which are essential if you plan on taking the handheld on a long trip.

Reduce screen brightness

The easiest way to save battery life on the Steam Deck is to turn down the brightness of the screen. Valve includes an option for dynamic brightness in the settings, but you shouldn’t use it — it’s way too sensitive, and the constant adjustment could actually decrease your battery life. Set it manually to the lowest point you can while still being able to see the screen.

Valve sets the default screen brightness fairly high. With God of War, we were able to play for just over an hour longer with the brightness down to its minimum setting. That’s the difference between playing for two hours and three hours in a demanding game like God of War. It’s simple, but screen brightness goes a long way to improve the Steam Deck’s battery life.

Use the frame rate limiter

The Steam Deck laying on a laptop.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Beyond reducing the screen brightness, always use the frame rate limiter on the Steam Deck — even if you don’t need to. We recommend setting the frame rate limiter to 30 fps in the Quick settings menu regardless of the game you’re playing. This is especially true for games that hover between 40 fps to 50 fps on the Steam Deck. Those extra frames could represent 45 minutes or more of extra battery life (as we saw in God of War).

You can also adjust the refresh rate of the display, which you should do to match whatever your frame rate is set at. The refresh rate won’t save as much battery life as turning on the frame rate limiter, but the two together can give you an extra hour or more of playtime.

Limit power and GPU speed

Power limit settings on the Steam Deck.

If you don’t mind a bit of trial and error, limiting the Steam Deck’s total power and GPU speed can massively improve battery life without sacrificing performance. You’ll find both in the Quick settings menu, and you’ll have to play with the exact numbers depending on the game you’re playing and the frame rate you want to hit.

We recommend turning on the frame rate overlay on your Steam Deck to see how much power the device is consuming and the clock speed of your GPU. From there, set the TDP and GPU around the mark you see in the overlay. It’s best to start low, see where your frame rate is at, and then slowly increase from there until you can maintain the frame rate you want.

For example, we limited the retro-styled platformer Blasphemous to 5W and were able to maintain a steady 60 fps (and improve battery life by around an hour and a half). The Steam Deck allows you to store these settings as per-game profiles, too, so you can set everything up once and keep your battery life steady.

Use FSR

Performance overlay on the Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck supports AMD’s FidelityFX Super Sampling (FSR) upscaling, and it’s hands-down the easiest way to save battery life. FSR essentially runs your game at a lower resolution, which takes a lot of strain off of the Steam Deck to improve battery life (and reduce fan noise in the process).

Using FSR on the Steam Deck is a little confusing, though. You can turn it on in the Quick settings menu, but you’ll need to turn down your in-game resolution for FSR to actually do anything. The Steam Deck has a resolution of 1,280 x 800, so bump down your resolution to 960 x 600 to save some battery life (or 640 x 400 if you need your battery to last even longer).

Turn on half rate shading

Half-rate shading option on the Steam Deck.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Valve recently added half rate shading to the Steam Deck, which is an interesting piece of graphics tech that can massively improve battery life. Shading is a complex topic, but the short of it is that every pixel on the screen needs a color value — and figuring out all of those colors takes a lot of power. Half rate shading cuts the rate in half, essentially only shading half of the pixels on-screen and using nearby pixels to fill in the missing information.

The result is that your game looks like it’s running at a lower resolution, even if half rate shading isn’t exactly the same as FSR. Keep this tip in your back pocket, though. Several Steam Deck games don’t allow you to adjust the resolution, so half rate shading can be a major help to save your battery life.

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AI

The quest to make an AI that can play competitive Pokémon

An AI can beat a chess grandmaster. An AI can become the StarCraft esports champion. But creating an AI that could play Pokémon at the competitive level has been a more elusive problem.

Thanks to the variety of monsters, stats, moves, and items, a Pokémon battle has hundreds of thousands of factors for any player — or machine — to consider. But that hasn’t stopped some people from trying. Most recently, Future Sight AI, created by computer scientist Albert III, successfully made it into the top 5 percent of the competitive ladder.

Albert posted a video explaining how it all works, but to summarize, the bot takes in all the information it can about the current state of the game, extrapolates the possibilities for all the turns it could take, looks a couple of turns ahead to how these would play out, and then chooses the option that can lead to the highest number of best outcomes. By doing all of that within 15 seconds, turn after turn, it can beat all but the very best human players.

That’s pretty impressive, especially when you consider that Albert had almost no experience with artificial intelligence or other major aspects of the program before he started working on it. “I took classes in college about machine learning, [but] the real question is: was I paying attention?” he laughs. “The main software that it runs on is called Node.js. I hadn’t touched that at all before I started this project.”

“Even though computer science is my day job, it’s something that I love so much that I can’t help but do it in my free time, too,” he says. That passion, combined with pandemic boredom, propelled him to look into an idea that was first inspired by his interest in basketball. “[Some websites] would do this thing where you’d be able to watch a game and see the team’s current chance of winning, and I thought about doing that for Pokémon,” he says. “Then just kind of one thing led to another and then I ended up with an AI on my hands.”

One thing leading to another is a pretty good summary of Albert’s work on Future Sight AI. He says he wanted to learn new skills and simply broke them down into small enough tasks until he was able to create his vision. “This is such a bad reference but there’s that song in Frozen 2, called ‘The Next Right [Thing].’ It’s just that. Just keep doing that until you get somewhere,” he says. Nowadays, for example, he knows Node.js so well that he can use it in projects at his day job, too.

His step-by-step approach means that he actually wasn’t aware of previous attempts to make similar AIs. Earlier projects are not as well documented as Albert’s, though there have been a few varying success levels that gained some attention within the community.

An early example was Technical Machine, first created in 2010. Though it was updated through 2019, Technical Machine only ever fully supported Pokémon up to Generation 4 and did not create its own teams, one of the key features of Future Sight. Additionally, at the time of its release, the competitive ladder base was not established in the same way, so it’s difficult to tell how successful Technical Machine was overall. One Reddit comment, however, stated that “Technical Machine at its smartest was still leagues worse than a normal player.”

Another example was posted on Reddit in 2015 by a user who went by onmabd. Comments indicated that it was “one of the stronger bots to date.” The competitive ladder gives players a ranking of 1,000 to begin with, which then goes up or down depending on wins and losses. There’s no public way to view the data, and it changes over time, so it’s tricky to evaluate what a “good” rank is. However, during his creation process, Albert found that the average player’s ranking settles at around 1,170. Onmabd’s AI managed to reach 1,300, which would put it in the top 30 percent.

Pokemon European International Championships

Photo by John Keeble / Getty Images

More recently, a user on Pokémon community forum Smogon going by pmariglia shared another attempt. Their AI beat Technical Machine in a best of three and was able to reach a rating of between 1,250 and 1,350 — again, around the top 30 percent.

Future Sight AI ranked at 1,550 on average during testing. Though Albert apologized on Smogon “for making it seem in my video that [Future Sight] is the first bot of its kind or the first to get as far as it did,” (as well as detailing where the two projects take different approaches) he says that ultimately he’s glad he didn’t know that other people had already attempted his project. “I don’t know why I never thought to look into it [but] if I’d gone down their path I might have ended up with the same results,” he says.

He also was never expecting the video to gain as much attention as it did. For starters, when I ask about its creation, he laughs. “I have to reveal something,” he says. “That entire video was animated in Powerpoint. I have to say I don’t have much video production experience [so] I had an idea for what I wanted the video to look like and I just kind of kept working on it until I could get the tools that I knew how to use to do it.”

Then, there was the delayed reaction. Posted in July, it was only viewed about 100 times in its first three weeks. The next week, it jumped up to 300,000. (As of late November, it’s almost at 600,000 views.) Albert thinks that it was picked up by somebody in the Pokémon community who posted it to Twitter, causing it to blow up, but he never found out who.

He says that it was difficult to process the sudden influx of viewers, but that he was appreciative of how supportive the Pokémon community was. “I kind of just had to take a step back a bit because the whole point of what I’m doing is that I want to teach people about computer science,” he says.

In particular, as a Black man, Albert wants to be the kind of representation he never had in the field. “I figured I have experience in public speaking, I like doing projects that people might find interesting, so really I wanted to put out a channel that said, ‘This can be an example of someone like you doing fun things in computer science.’ That’s genuinely the core of why I’m doing all of this.”

For now, his focus is on getting Future Sight playable in actual Pokémon games. Thus far, it has used Pokémon Showdown, a community-created simulator that allows online battling and functionally forms the center of the competitive scene. But early on Albert was hinting that he wanted to make something that could tie in with the releases of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Most recently, he’s managed to get it to beat the final boss of Sword and Shield, despite not having any code to deal with Dynamaxing, which is banned in common competitive settings.

Beyond that, he doesn’t have too many concrete goals. “I mean this is such a corny thing, but I want it to be the very best like no one ever was,” he says, echoing the old Pokémon anime theme tune. “But seriously, I don’t know. I just started this for fun and I want to take it as far as I still find joy out of making it.”

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Categories
Game

Facebook Gaming streamers and viewers can play ‘Pac-Man’ together

is about to become more interactive. Two features are rolling out today that should help creators and their fans seamlessly play games together, and give viewers other ways to get involved with streams.

Play With Streamer is self-explanatory. There will be a button on livestreams that lets viewers play Pac-Man Community (a version of Pac-Man developed in partnership with Genvid and Bandai Namco) with streamers and other community members. Pac-Man Community includes a four-player co-op mode, a mobile-optimized maze creator, rankings and community challenges.

Facebook Interactives, meanwhile, are interactive layers viewers will see on top of livestreams. When Pac-Man Community‘s Watch Mode is enabled, they can help or hamper an AI-controlled Pac-Man or the ghosts through the in-game video player. Facebook says these features form some of the first steps of its vision for the metaverse.

Other platforms have long had ways for players to interact directly with streams. On Twitch, viewers can control and by entering commands in the chat. There are also extensions that let viewers the streamer is playing by, for instance, granting them extra items or even instantly killing their character. With Stadia’s , viewers can play with a streamer who’s broadcasting their gameplay on YouTube, as long as they also own the game and have .

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Game

Nick Offerman will play Bill in ‘The Last of Us’ on HBO

Ron Swanson is coming to the world of The Last of Us. Yesterday, Murray Bartlett, a cast member on the upcoming HBO show based on the video game, said that he recently shot scenes with Nick Offerman, a person who hadn’t yet been linked to the production. Now, Naughty Dog has confirmed a report from Variety that Offerman is playing the loner Bill in The Last of Us. Bill had a small but crucial role in the original game that was played by W. Earl Brown, who said earlier this year he wouldn’t be reprising the role in the HBO show.

Offerman is not the first person to be cast as Bill. The role was originally offered to Con O’Neil, who previously had worked with show runner Craig Manzin on his Chernobyl series (also on HBO). According to Variety, O’Neil had to back out of the role due to scheduling conflicts.

In addition to filming scenes with Bartlett, Offerman should get plenty of screen time with series leads Pedro Pascal, who is playing Joel, and Bella Ramsey, who plays Ellie. While there have been plenty of leaks from location shooting around Canada that shows this production is well underway, there’s no word yet on when The Last of Us will arrive on HBO. It’s expected sometime in 2022, though. 

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AI

DeepMind makes bet on AI system that can play poker, chess, Go, and more

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DeepMind, the AI lab backed by Google parent company Alphabet, has long invested in game-playing AI systems. It’s the lab’s philosophy that games, while lacking an obvious commercial application, are uniquely relevant challenges of cognitive and reasoning capabilities. This makes them useful benchmarks of AI progress. In recent decades, games have given rise to the kind of self-learning AI that powers computer vision, self-driving cars, and natural language processing.

In a continuation of its work, DeepMind has created a system called Player of Games, which the company first revealed in a research paper published on the preprint server Arxiv.org this week. Unlike the other game-playing systems DeepMind developed previously, like the chess-winning AlphaZero and StarCraft II-besting AlphaStar, Player of Games can perform well at both perfect information games (e.g., the Chinese board game Go and chess) as well as imperfect information games (e.g., poker).

Tasks like route planning around congestion, contract negotiations, and even interacting with customers all involve compromise and consideration of how people’s preferences coincide and conflict, as in games. Even when AI systems are self-interested, they might stand to gain by coordinating, cooperating, and interacting among groups of people or organizations. Systems like Player of Games, then, which can reason about others’ goals and motivations, could pave the way for AI that can successfully work with others — including handling questions that arise around maintaining trust.

Imperfect versus perfect

Games of imperfect information have information that’s hidden from players during the game. By contrast, perfect information games show all information at the start.

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Perfect information games require a decent amount of forethought and planning to play well. Players have to process what they see on the board and determine what their opponents are likely to do while working toward the ultimate goal of winning. On the other hand, imperfect information games require the players taking into account the hidden information and figure out how they should act next in order to win — including potentially bluffing or teaming up against an opponent.

Systems like AlphaZero excel at perfect information games like chess, while algorithms like DeepStack and Libratus perform remarkably well at imperfect information games like poker. But DeepMind claims that Player of Games is the first “general and sound search algorithm” to achieve strong performance across both perfect and imperfect information games.

“[Player of Games] learns to play [games] from scratch, simply by repeatedly playing the game in self-play,” DeepMind senior research scientist Martin Schmid, one of the co-creators of Player of Games, told VentureBeat via email. “This is a step towards generality — Player of Games is able to play both perfect and imperfect information games, while trading away some strength in performance. AlphaZero is stronger than Player of Games in perfect information games, but [it’s] not designed for imperfect information games.”

While Player of Games is extremely generalizable, it can’t play just any game. Schmid says that the system needs to think about all the possible perspectives of each player given an in-game situation. While there’s only a single perspective in perfect information games, there can be many such perspectives in imperfect information games — for example, around 2,000 for poker. Moreover, unlike MuZero, DeepMind’s successor to AlphaZero, Player of Games also needs knowledge of the rules of the game it’s playing. MuZero can pick up the rules of perfect information games on the fly.

In its research, DeepMind evaluated Player of Games — trained using Google’s TPUv4 accelerator chipsets — on chess, Go, Texas Hold’Em, and the strategy board game Scotland Yard. For Go, it set up a 200-game tournament between AlphaZero and Player of Games, while for chess, DeepMind pitted Player of Games against top-performing systems including GnuGo, Pachi, and Stockfish as well as AlphaZero. Player of Games’ Texas Hold’Em match was played with the openly available Slumbot, and the algorithm played Scotland Yard against a bot developed by Joseph Antonius Maria Nijssen that the DeepMind coauthors nicknamed “PimBot.”

DeepMind Player of Games

Above: An abstracted view of Scotland Yard, which Player of Games can win consistently.

Image Credit: DeepMind

In chess and Go, Player of Games proved to be stronger than Stockfish and Pachi in certain — but not all — configurations, and it won 0.5% of its games against the strongest AlphaZero agent. Despite the steep losses against AlphaZero, DeepMind believes that Player of Games was performing at the level of “a top human amateur,” and possibly even at the professional level.

Player of Games was a better poker and Scotland Yard player. Against Slumbot, the algorithm won on average by 7 milli big blinds per hand (mbb/hand), where a mbb/hand is the average number of big blinds won per 1,000 hands. (A big blind is equal to the minimum bet.) Meanwhile, in Scotland Yard, DeepMind reports that Player of Games won “significantly” against PimBot, even when PimBot was given more opportunities to search for the winning moves.

Future work

Schmid believes that Player of Games is a big step toward truly general game-playing systems — but far from the last one. The general trend in the experiments was that the algorithm performed better given more computational resources (Player of Games trained on a dataset of 17 million “steps,” or actions, for Scotland Yard alone) , and Schmid expects this approach will scale in the foreseeable future.

“[O]ne would expect that the applications that benefited from AlphaZero might also benefit from Player of Games,” Schmid said. “Making these algorithms even more general is exciting research.”

Of course, approaches that favor massive amounts of compute put organizations with fewer resources, like startups and academic institutions, at a disadvantage. This has become especially true in the language domain, where massive models like OpenAI’s GPT-3 have achieved leading performance but at resource requirements — often in the millions of dollars — far exceeding the budgets of most research groups.

Costs sometimes rise above what’s considered acceptable even at a deep-pocketed firm like DeepMind. For AlphaStar, the company’s researchers purposefully didn’t try multiple ways of architecting a key component because the training cost would have been too high in executives’ minds. DeepMind notched its first profit only last year, when it raked in £826 million ($1.13 billion) in revenue. The year prior, DeepMind recorded losses of $572 million and took on a billion-dollar debt.

It’s estimated that AlphaZero cost tens of millions of dollars to train. DeepMind didn’t disclose the research budget for Player of Games, but it isn’t likely to be low considering the number of training steps for each game ranged from the hundreds of thousands to millions.

As the research eventually transitions from games to other, more commercial domains, like app recommendations, datacenter cooling optimization, weather forecasting, materials modeling, mathematics, health care, and atomic energy computation, the effects of the inequity are likely to become starker. “[A]n interesting question is whether this level of play is achievable with less computational resources,” Schmid and his fellow coauthors ponder — but leave unanswered — in the paper.

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Game

Halo Infinite’s Surprise Launch is a Power Play for Xbox

For once, a seemingly ridiculous video game rumor turned out to be true: Halo Infinite’s multiplayer released nearly one month early. Leaks indicated that the surprise could happen, but it still seemed too good to be true. But the fact is that players are enjoying Halo Infinite’s first season much sooner than anticipated.

In an age where video game release dates only get moved back, not forward, the news came as a straight-up shock. Shooter fans were just sitting down with Call of Duty: Vanguard and waiting for Battlefield 2042’s full release. Xbox Game Pass subscribers had just begun digging into the recently released Forza Horizon 5. If you had a strict plan for tackling all the games launching this holiday season, go ahead and toss it in the fire.

The decision to drop Halo Infinite early isn’t just a sweet “thank you” to fans for their support. It’s the sneakiest power play a video game company has pulled since Sony’s infamous “$299” mic drop at E3 1995.

Un-freakin’ believable

Before the surprise drop, Microsoft was in something of an awkward position. Halo Infinite was set to be its big holiday game, but its planned December 8 release date wasn’t ideal. A December date meant that the game wouldn’t be out in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when many people buy holiday gifts or hunt for discounted games. Battlefield 2042 and Call of Duty: Vanguard would headline sales events, putting those shooters in the spotlight heading into the holidays. Even if Halo Infinite got positive buzz at launch, it would be late to the party.

Getting good word of mouth was going to be a challenge, too. December releases also tend to miss the Game of the Year season as many sites publish their lists by the end of November. While Digital Trends planned to hold our GOTY decision until we played Halo, others likely would have left it out of contention and saved it for their 2022 lists. Similarly, the game would be ineligible for The Game Awards this year and would be considered for the following year’s show instead, much like what happened to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate when it dropped in mid-December 2018. Any critical acclaim would come late, making it hard for Microsoft to capitalize heading into the holidays.

By dropping the multiplayer mode early, Microsoft has rewritten the rules. While the game isn’t fully out (single-player is still coming in December), the conversation around it is now in full swing. Players will start posting clips all over social media, it’ll dominate Twitch charts, and media will start kicking out impressions way earlier than planned (ourselves included). And all of that will happen before people start putting together their holiday wish lists.

It’s a bombshell move and one that might tick the competition off. Battlefield 2042 was supposed to be the most high-profile game launching this month (especially after tepid Call of Duty: Vanguard reviews), but Halo Infinite just crashed a Warthog full of banana peels on its clear runway. Now it’ll have to share the spotlight with the biggest shooter of the year — one that’s totally free to play and has the element of surprise behind it.

Halo Infinite is no longer at risk of getting lost in the mix; it’s the competition who should be worrying.

A sneaky beta

The sneakiest part of the whole early launch is the clever use of a “beta” label. Fans aren’t experiencing the final version of Halo Infinite right now. Microsoft is strategically calling the multiplayer mode a “beta.” That gives the company a fair bit of flexibility. Players are more likely to forgive any technical issues when they know they’re playing a non-final version of a game. EA won’t get the same good will when Battlefield 2042 launches in full later this week. In fact, the game is already getting “review bombed” by early access players who are bumping into stability issues in a game they paid $60 or more for.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the multiplayer mode actually leaves beta once the game’s release date rolls around. There’s a good chance that Microsoft will just leave the label on — an admission that the long-delayed game still wasn’t ready for launch. Had Microsoft fully released the multiplayer on December 8 as a beta, fans would have been outraged. The company would be under scrutiny for releasing an unfinished game (it will already lack campaign co-op and Forge mode at launch, which has drawn criticism from fans). Instead, fans are simply delighted they’re getting to play it weeks early.

New Halo Infinite Map Behemoth.

Messaging is everything in video games and Microsoft seems acutely aware of that. By positioning the launch as a “gift,” players are going to approach the game much differently than they would have in December. Microsoft now looks like a good guy kindly giving fans a surprise, rather than a giant company rushing out a game to pump up its fourth quarter financial earnings at any cost. It’s a devilishly clever move that could change the way companies roll out their games moving forward.

I’m not sure if that’s good for players in the long term, but that’s unimportant at the moment. Microsoft has delivered a rare shock in an industry that’s usually predictable. Rule-breaking power plays like this are scarce, but they tend to be turning points for the industry. Don’t be surprised if the Xbox Series X suddenly usurps PS5 as this holiday’s hottest console as a result.

Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is now free to download and play on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. The full game, including its single-player mode, launches on December 8.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Netflix Games portal expands to iOS: How to play on iPhone and iPad

As promised, Netflix has expanded its mobile games to iOS devices, enabling iPhone and iPad owners to play the same handful of titles previously launched on Android devices. The expansion brings the Netflix Games portal to the company’s apps on iPhone and iPad, as well as each standalone game with its own listing in the App Store.

Netflix Games explained

Netflix Games is a relatively new addition to the streaming company’s portfolio. The mobile titles are based on Netflix’s original content, giving the company a new way to engage with customers and, on the flip side, giving fans new opportunities to explore the worlds presented in some movies and TV shows.

Netflix includes the games as part of its streaming plans, meaning players won’t have to pay anything extra for the titles nor will they see advertisements and other annoying monetization schemes. This provides an experience similar to what mobile gamers get from Apple Arcade and Google’s Play Pass subscriptions.

How it works

The Netflix mobile apps on Android and iOS have been updated with a new “Games” section that makes it easy for subscribers to see the entire catalog of available titles. Tapping one of the titles takes the user to their respective platform store (Google Play or App Store) to download the offerings as standalone games.

If your Netflix app doesn’t include a “Games” section in the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, close the app and then update it to the latest version. The new “Games” section should appear in the navigation bar upon relaunching the app post-update.

Alternatively, assuming you already know which titles you want, simply head into the App Store (for iPhone and iPad) or Google Play Store (for Android) and search for the game. Each title is available to manually download from the app stores; the Netflix app portal simply makes it easier to find them without searching.

Which games are available?

As of the date of this article, Netflix Games is home to a total of five mobile titles:

– Stranger Things 3: The Game (Android | iOS)
– Stranger Things: 1984 (Android | iOS)
– Shooting Hoops (Android | iOS)
– Card Blast (Android | iOS)
– Teeter (Up) (Android | iOS)

Netflix notes that its mobile games default to English if the user doesn’t have a language set in their profile; however, many of the languages supported by Netflix are also supported by its games.

Multiple users can play Netflix Games titles on the same account under their respective profiles. However, Kids Profiles do not include the “Games” category, and, assuming a PIN is set up, Netflix says users will need to enter the code before they can play games on the device.

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Game

Back 4 Blood Adds Offline Solo Play, New Cards in December

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment just released a Back 4 Blood road map of updates slated for later this year and into the next. The publisher tweeted out these end-of-year plans for the zombie multiplayer, with small details on soon-to-come features and content.

This month’s updates mostly include quality-of-life improvements and major bug fixes. December introduces fresh features like supply lines, a Ridden Practice area, and a solo offline mode with campaign progression. This winter update also incorporates new card types and cards into the game’s card system, which should mix up the meta as it is now.

Cleaners, the future is lookin' bright! Here's a roadmap of what's to come for Fort Hope. #Back4Blood @back4blood pic.twitter.com/0Tp82lCcV8

— Warner Bros. Games (@wbgames) November 8, 2021

Next year apparently adds even more content and cosmetics like a new difficulty level, player and corruption cards, and melee updates. A new co-op mode is also on the way, which could mean players get a much-requested split-screen co-op playing option. Turtle Rock Studios’ road map only offers an outline of the developer’s plans rather than specific information. However, players should expect to hear more in the next couple of weeks.

The developers also announced an “annual pass” that offers expansions on Back 4 Blood’s story. These extend beyond the four existing acts and kick off with the first expansion called Tunnels of Terror. All three expansions release sometime in 2022, though the developer hasn’t specified exact dates. New playable Cleaners and Ridden should also arrive with the 2022 update, along with weapons, cards, and exclusive skins.

Back 4 Blood is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It just released last month. Newbies can check out our Back 4 Blood beginner’s guide for tips on how to join the fight against the undead before the first update comes later this month.

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Game

Forza Horizon 5 vs. Riders Republic: Which Should You Play?

Structurally speaking, Forza Horizon 5 and Riders Republic are identical video games.

Sure, their vehicles are different. Forza is a pure car racing game, while Riders Republic gives players bikes, skis, jetpacks, and more. They’re both categorized as arcade racers, but Forza requires a fair bit more technical skill if you want to beat series veterans. Meanwhile, Riders Republic is a little easier to master, as it takes more creative liberty with physics. At the end of the day, though, these are both big, open-world racing games where you’ll compete in a series of races, gain experience, enjoy some online integration, try your hand at custom modes, and amass a collection of vehicles.

Realistically, most people probably don’t have time to juggle both games. Each one is a live-service time sink that demands long-term investment. And to make the choice harder, they’re both great. Having trouble deciding which game is more your speed? Here are the key strengths (and weaknesses) of both.

Racing feels good in both

When it comes to pure mechanics, it’s ultimately just a matter of taste. Both games feature fun, streamlined racing mechanics. Riders Republic is the more “pick up and play” of the two. Racing is as easy as riding a bike. It’s also literally riding a bike. And a snowboard. And skis. And jetpacks made of cardboard. No matter what ride you’re using, the controls are intuitive and just require that you accelerate and steer. There’s a little more nuance, but the game never overcomplicates anything. Even drifting is as simple as hitting a button and jerking to the side, rather than having to brake and account for speed.

Forza Horizon 5 has a little more depth, by comparison. Just holding down the accelerate button won’t do. You’ll need to learn when to slow down, pump the brakes, or strategically slam the emergency brake. That adds some extra mastery to Forza’s driving, which is more appealing if you’re looking to play something over the long term and grow your skill ceiling. But if you don’t want to put too much more thought into it, Riders Republic is easier to pick up and put down.

Forza has a big tech edge

Let’s make something clear right away: Forza is the more impressive game, technically speaking. There’s no contest here. It’s a game that’s designed to get the most out of the Xbox Series X, and it certainly excels at that. It’s the best-looking current-gen game out there, and it’s a remarkably smooth experience. In 20 hours of play, I never hit a significant bug or crash. I can drive from one end of the game’s giant map to the other and not hit a single second of loading.

Riders Republic is a little rough around the edges by comparison. I’ve experienced several freezes and crashes while playing the game, one of which turned my Xbox screen black and forced me to restart the console. This is an always-online game, so you’re at the mercy of the servers here. I’ve found myself getting errored back to the main menu several times, or having Mass Race events shut down before they can start. It’s still a marvel thanks to its huge world featuring California state parks — fast traveling from place to place is lightning fast, too — but Forza’s the prettier and more reliable option.

Riders brings creativity

If you’ve played Forza Horizon 4, you’ve pretty much played Forza Horizon 5. It’s ultimately the same game on a new map. There are some extra features, but nothing that shakes up the basic beats in any way. That’s not a bad thing. If you’re new to Forza, you’ll be none the wiser. But the game doesn’t do much to subvert its formula. You’ll race cars until your hands hurt, with only a handful of short story missions playing around with that premise (like one mission where you take a runaway parade float off a ramp).

Riders Republic’s biggest strength is its creativity. It’s a downright wacky game that’s always finding ways to make creative use of its driving. Multisport races have players switching between jetpacks and bikes on the fly. Missions will task you with racing downhill while wearing a giant, inflatable giraffe suit. And the game’s 64-player Mass Races are a stroke of chaotic, slapstick genius. Forza ultimately feels better to me, but I’m more delighted when I pop into Riders Republic. I never know what will happen when I load into a mission, which is important for an open-world game like this.

Forza’s got style

Since the Forza Horizon series has been around for so long, Playground Games has had a lot of time to figure out its voice and style. That’s a hard task, and studios don’t often get it right on their first try. Five entries in, Playground Games knows exactly what this series should look and sound like. The game’s soundtrack is a tight collection of bops that are fun to drive around to. The various bits of writing, between NPC banter and radio host chatter, all match up with one another and create a world that feels consistent.

A red car drives fast in Forza Horizon 5.

Riders Republic, on the other hand, is a mess in this department. It’s not really clear what the game’s intended audience is. It’s kid-friendly, but also has an attitude streak. It’s got hip tunes aimed at younger generations, but then drops tracks by The Offspring and Ice-T in the same breath. Even worse, the dialogue is downright painful at times. NPCs are constantly cracking out-of-date jokes that feel like they belong in the MTV era. It feels like the game was made by a team of developers who grew up in the ’90s and are guessing what the TikTok generation likes. It’s very offputting, though understandable given that this is a first try at a new IP. Perhaps it’ll get it right on the second attempt.

Which should you play?

It really depends which details stand out to you the most. If you want a technically impressive racer with a refined vision of what it is, Forza Horizon 5 is the way to go. If you want something that’s a little easier to jump into and that isn’t afraid to get experimental, Riders Republic may be more up your alley. If you can play both, great — each is worth checking out.

Ultimately, Forza Horizon 5 does get an edge here. It’s an incredible achievement that fans of the genre ultimately shouldn’t miss. The fact that it’s included with Xbox Game Pass gives it an added edge — you might already have it, free of charge. But don’t sleep on Riders Republic. It contains plenty of fun twists on the Forza formula that have kept me delighted since it launched. Don’t be surprised if you see Forza Horizon 6 take a few notes from it.

Editors’ Choice




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