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Doom Eternal review: "Screams at you to move faster and to fight harder, and you can do nothing but obey" – GamesRadar+ AU

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Doom Eternal is at its best when it is screaming at you to move faster. As it thrusts the tools to single-handedly eviscerate the rampaging spawn of hell into your clenched, blood-drenched fists –  an array of finely-tuned weapons designed to deliver mass-demon-destruction. When you’re up to your ankles in viscera, blasting chunks of flesh from foe while the hum of the chainsaw warms your trigger fingers. As it sets its hyper-kinetic action to a cacophonic soundscape of blood, bullets, and heavy fucking metal

Doom Eternal screams at you to move faster and to fight harder and you can do nothing but obey. Not because you have become subservient to the altar of id Software, but because the cadence of Doom’s combat has demanded nothing less of you for more than three decades. 

Fast Facts: Doom Eternal

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Release date: March 20, 2020
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda

Much like its predecessors, Doom Eternal is a hammer-horror pantomime in which you are made an active participant. It is an elaborate and self-indulgent production, its violence so over the top that you can’t help but smile as it spills out over the stage and under your feet. It’s an utterly ridiculous and strangely endearing showing, warping your suspension of disbelief so extensively that you’ll wonder whether you’ve crossed over to another dimension – to a world where the first-person shooter followed the archaic directions first outlined by Doom in 1993 without question instead of turning toward the teachings of Half-Life. 

The problem with this stage show is that the screaming has to stop sometime. The director is hoarse and is begging you to enjoy an intermission from the action. The bullet casings need to be collected, they tell you; the buckets of blood need to be refilled, the gore mopped up, and the guitars tuned back down to D. The cast of cannon fodder needs to take a breather as the next hellish stage is reset somewhere out of sight. You were moving too fast, and there’s still a little story left to shout into your face. 

Doom Eternal is at its worst when it makes you slow down; it struggles to settle in silence. 

Feeling a need for speed

(Image credit: Bethesda)

I can count the number of first-person shooters that can function competently as platformers on one hand, and Doom Eternal is not among them. Developer id Software has found itself caught, by attempting to straddle the line between inducing nostalgia and embracing evolution it has disrupted the conditions in which Doom (2016) was able to so effortlessly thrive. 

Doom Eternal routinely breaks the pace of its action by forcing you to stiffly navigate towering spaces at regular intervals. You’ll do this by swinging imprecisely between monkey bars, scaling bland craggy walls, bouncing off of unstable platforms, dashing between spacious maws of death, and double-jumping to ledges with slippery collision detection. Doom’s movement systems are tightly refined, designed to keep your crosshairs focused on fast-moving enemies amongst a backdrop of colourful chaos. These systems struggle when you’re pushed to slowly and methodically scale the environment with little room for error to reach the next combat arena. 

It’s levels like Doom Hunter Base, Super Gore Nest, and Mars Core that make up the bulk of the mid-game that are hit hardest by this design decision. These spaces are larger and more ambitious than anything the studio has committed to before with Doom, and they struggle to maintain momentum. 

(Image credit: Bethesda)

“As a prerequisite to progression, platforming only serves to introduce points of friction in an otherwise frictionless experience.”

First-person platforming just about works for Doom when it is an optional extravagance – when you’re off exploring for the myriad of optional collectable scattered throughout each of the missions – but as a prerequisite to progression they only serve to introduce points of friction in an otherwise frictionless experience. 

By the time underwater sections were introduced – slowing you down even further, with the added annoyance of mitigating radioactive damage thrown in for good measure – it starts to become difficult to resist the urge to put the controller down and walk away entirely. That all said, it’s difficult to indulge in these tendencies when you’re faced with the prospect of coming across another sensationally-realised vista or the opportunity to shove the Super Shotgun double-barrel deep into the throat of a Baron of Hell.  

That’s where Doom Eternal feels right, revelling in ultra-violence across some impossibly beautiful environments. The game has built on the core loop that helped propel its predecessor from mere revival-project to genuine revolution, its central gimmick always working to keep players moving and – critically – engaging with enemies. 

Embracing aggression

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Glory Kills are still the star of the combat experience. Pumping enemies with enough bullets to reach a damage threshold will make them glow, indicating that you can do some graphic combination of: decapitation / goring / smashing / bashing / slicing / knifing / ripping / tearing (delete as necessary). These melee executions aren’t just for show, they serve as your primary method of retrieving health. 

It encourages you to play Doom Eternal the way id wants you to play it. The studio wants you to be moving and shooting as quickly as you can, giving as much aggression back to the hulking monsters as they give to you. To succeed in Doom Eternal – especially once you begin to whip through the difficulty levels – you must get in the face of enemies and never back away from a tough encounter; there’s no faster way to meet your maker than to engage in a half-hearted retreat, with victory earned by engaging with the relentless pace of the action on its own terms – backing off is never an option, carrying through with forward momentum towards piles of ammunition, red barrels, and, yes, fresh enemies to rip and tear through is the key to victory. 

If you aren’t in need of health, you’ll find that your Chainsaw can be used to chew through foes and retrieve ammunition, which is always in short supply. Your flame belch, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower, can burn enemies and deliver armour plating when shot, while Glory Kills also charge up your ability to deliver a devastating Blood Punch which eviscerates just about anything within your immediate cone of vision.  All in all, it’s a killer cycle that only helps propel Doom Eternal’s core combat to new heights.  

Speaking of the core combat, it’s been a long-standing rule that you judge an id shooter on the strength of its shotguns. Unsurprisingly, the studio has taken its penchant for building the best boomsticks in video games and outdone itself. The Super Shotgun is impossible to put away; it screams power with every shot, its weight and staggering punch as satisfying to use the opening hours of the game to the last.

Weapons have always been at the heart of Doom, and Eternal is no slouch in this regard. You’ll also find that each of the firearms can once again be upgraded throughout the game with Weapon Points, earned by completing in-mission objectives and chaos thresholds. Most weapons have two available modifications, each of which can be switched up with a simple button press, and offer an array of utterly ridiculous additional ways to turn demons to pulp. Exploring the environments will also help you earn Sentinel Crystals and Praetor Suit points which can be used to upgrade your armour, improving its utility and resistance, or upgrading your health, armour, and ammo capacities.  

A celebration of ultra-violence

(Image credit: Bethesda)

You’ll want to invest in these upgrades and improvements early on, because Doom Eternal isn’t afraid to beat your head against the wall until it’s a pulpy mess. By the late game, Doom Eternal gets brutal, really pushing you to utilise all of your available abilities and weapons to get through its combat arenas in one piece. 

For the most part, Doom Eternal casts its action in locked-off combat arenas, pushing you to skirt through them at speed looking for the most violent lines of none-stop navigation. These spaces aren’t as tightly designed as the ones featured in Doom (2016), which I believe is down to the increased verticality – id is desperate to get you utilising its first-person platforming systems, even in the middle of frantic fights – but they are still great to engage enemies in. 

That said, Doom Eternal does suffer because of some of its enemy design. The game is structured around escalating encounters – it introduces you to an enemy type on its own, lets you figure out the hook to slaying it, and then continues to throw a litany of them at you once. It’s a potent design that keeps Doom Eternal feeling frantic at all times, with the game’s aggressive and persistent AI ensuring that some of these creatures combine tactics to overwhelm you in some truly terrifying ways.  

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Combat arenas are usually a mixture of Heavy Cannon fodder – foes that can be quickly chewed up or smashed down for an easy burst of ammo or health – and larger, more punishing enemies that’ll take a few runs around the arena to drop. This structure maintains momentum, and the relentless pace that the core ethos that the game is built on. Until it makes you slow down. 

Boss battles with health bars were a blight on Doom (2016), and while that isn’t so much of a problem here, there are a handful of enemy types that bring play screeching to a halt. For Doom Eternal to work, it has to have you managing your time between multiple enemy types and constantly leaving you on the verge of being totally overwhelmed, constantly asking you to push your understanding of the movement and combat mechanics to the max. And in comes a Marauder (a brand new demon designed for Eternal) or a returning Archvile, Super Heavy enemies that are generally no fun to fight. The Marauder, in particular, only works to slow combat to a crawl. It’s an enemy type designed inherently for one-versus-one encounters, and it doesn’t work in the controlled chaos of the wider combat experience. 

Still, that’s a small annoyance in an otherwise blistering FPS. If you can bite your lip and endure some routinely frustrating levels built around platforming, then you’re going to have one hell of a good time with Doom Eternal. It’s a fast, smart, and frantic shooter that seems to find real delight in testing your endurance. It’s an outrageous and ridiculous pantomime where you are bound by blood to the unrelenting cadence of the action. 

Doom Eternal was reviewed on Xbox One X

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Animal Crossing removed from Chinese stores after Hong Kong protests: report – Polygon

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Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been pushed inside, like many of us around the world, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts everyday life. School, work, and other events have been moved online — including protests. Activists are using Nintendo’s new, idyllic life simulator Animal Crossing: New Horizons to support Hong Kong protesters’ five demands.

But on Friday morning, the game had disappeared from major Chinese online retailers Taobao and Pinduoduo, reports Reuters. Nintendo began selling the Switch in China in December 2019, but has not released New Horizons there; interested parties must purchase foreign versions of the game to play it. Only three games are officially available for the Switch in China: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Super Mario Odyssey.

It’s not immediately clear that New Horizons has been pulled because of the protests in-game, but the game’s removal comes after increased news coverage of the actions, popularized by Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong. Reuters also reported there’s no indication whether the game was pulled as the result of “a directive from China’s content regulator or a voluntary act by politically sensitive e-commerce platforms.”

Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad wrote on Twitter Friday that despite not being officially available there, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is “extremely popular in China.” Players were able to purchase it from online retailers, small game shops that have imported it, and by changing the Nintendo eShop location.

Demonstrations inside Animal Crossing: New Horizons include a creative use of Nintendo’s customization options. Of course, players are donning medical and gas masks — symbols of the protest — and wearing all black. But others have created signage and artwork sharing the message “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now.” Others are using the game’s nets to bop Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who is widely unpopular within the pro-democracy movement.

Wong tweeted Friday that gamers in China are blaming him for New Horizons’ disappearance. Polygon has reached out to Wong for comment.

Protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since the summer of 2019. Hongkongers are fighting for “universal suffrage” and an investigation into the Hong Kong police force, according to Vox. Last year, Hong Kong-based Hearthstone pro Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung used a postgame interview to express support for the movement, and was subsequently suspended and fined for the action. (Blizzard later reduced the punishment.) Angry with Blizzard, supporters began boycotting the company’s products and using Chinese Overwatch hero Mei as a symbol of the resistance. Demonstrators also appeared outside of BlizzCon 2019 to protest the suspension.

Similarly, a Taiwanese horror game, Devotion, was removed from Steam last year after players found a meme mocking Chinese president Xi Jinping in-game. The game has not returned to the platform, and it is currently playable only via bootlegged copies or at the Harvard-Yenching Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Apple and Google partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology – Apple Newsroom

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Across the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect people and get society back up and running. Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.

Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.

All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.

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Amid in-game Hong Kong protests, Chinese retailers drop Animal Crossing sales – Ars Technica

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Chinese online retailers are cracking down on third-party sales of imported copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The move comes as the game has become a popular virtual spot for anti-government protests amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

Reuters reports that popular gray market Chinese e-commerce sites Pinduoduo and Taobao have taken down all listings for Animal Crossing as of this morning. Chinese tech site Pingwest reports that the two retailers sent messages to their resellers late Thursday notifying them of the ban. The Chinese government hasn’t issued a statement regarding the game, though a directive from government officials seems the most likely reason for the sudden move.

A licensed Chinese version of the Switch launched late last year through local partner Tencent after the lifting of an outright game console ban in 2015. That version of the system can currently play three Mario-themed games officially licensed for the Chinese market, as well as imported international Switch cartridges, but it can’t access the system’s online features.

But many Chinese gamers have taken to importing fully featured international versions of the system through online resellers. Import prices for those consoles, and for accessories like Ring Fit Adventure, have skyrocketed on Chinese retail sites in recent weeks, mirroring supply shortages in other markets.

As industry analyst Daniel Ahmad notes on Twitter, sites like Taobao have officially banned third-party sales of imported video games since 2017. But that ban is usually lightly enforced and only becomes operative if, as Ahmad puts it, “the game has content or user-generated content that is deemed to be too offensive or violent” or “the game has become very popular and caught the attention of regulators.”

No censorship on this island

Both of those issues seem to apply to Animal Crossing. In recent weeks, the game has become a popular virtual location for pro-democracy protesters who have seen coronavirus restrictions limit their ability to host crowded street protests. Offline players can create elaborate signs, clothing, and other imagery that can, and is, easily shared on social media, as you can see in the above gallery. Online players, meanwhile, can invite other users to their islands to take part in virtual protest actions in miniature.

Animal Crossing is a place without political censorship, so it is a good place to continue our fight,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told Wired UK earlier this week. “Even lawmakers in Hong Kong are playing this game,” he added.

While these online retail restrictions seem to be stricter than normally applied for the Chinese market, they fall well short of a full-fledged ban of the game. Imported systems can still download the title from Nintendo’s eShop by easily setting up an international account, and some brick-and-mortar retailers may also sell the imported cartridge. Some online resellers also seem to be avoiding the restrictions with listings that don’t mention the game by name in order to arrange a sale through private messaging.

China has not yet taken the more extreme step of blocking direct access to Nintendo’s online servers from the country. That would block downloads of Animal Crossing and other Switch games as well as online play for imported systems, though players could potentially get around that with a VPN. Such a major move could anger Chinese Switch gamers whose imports have been treated mostly with benign neglect thus far. It also could anger Nintendo and imperil the company’s lucrative arrangement with Tencent, which is sharing in millions of official console sales in the country.

China’s Ministry of Culture has long put forward restrictions on games that pose a “serious threat to the moral standards of society,” as it put things when banning Mafia-related games in 2009. More recently, pandemic-simulation game Plague Inc. was removed from the Chinese iOS App Store because it “includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.”

Listing image by Joshua Wong

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