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Why the PS5 and Xbox Series X need to break the video game mold – CNET



Spider-Man is great, but we’ve definitely played this game before.

PS5 Performance Mode/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

When you look back at old consoles generations, themes tend to betray themselves. 

The SNES and the Mega Drive? Cartridges and neon-lit platformers. Sonic and Mario. Top down RPGs and Street Fighter. The PlayStation and the N64? Clumsy, adventurous leaps into the third dimension. Tomb Raider and Mario 64, Resident Evil and Ocarina of Time. 

But writing a eulogy for the generation just passed is always trickier. Trends become more apparent as time passes, and right now, as we head into the dawning era of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S, it feels like there’s little that distinguished the PS4/Xbox One consoles from previous generations. The controllers were similar, the consoles themselves were similar. 

More importantly the games were similar.

If I had to identify one trend that defined the generation of games gone by, I’d say this was the period in which big budget games — the type produced by Sony’s first-party studios or Ubisoft and EA — began to feel indistinguishable from one another. Games, even well-made games, felt like exercises in box ticking.

Third-person camera, check. Crafting, check. Skill trees, check. 

The problem was exacerbated, for me, by a fan-made video from Twitter creator SuhniLegend. A video designed to showcase the quality and breadth of Sony’s first-party lineup. Cutting seamlessly between games like Uncharted 4, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War, the video was beautifully made and perfectly edited, but if you squinted hard enough you could probably convince yourself that — outside of a few unique cosmetic choices — the footage was all from one single video game.

The mono-game. 

A homogeneous mishmash of styles, camera angles and mechanics. The end of video game history. Third-person, open-world adventures, interspersed with cinematics. Chasing mission markers, punching bad guys, upgrading your gear, leveling up, unlocking new attacks. God of War is more combat-focused, and Horizon has more RPG elements — but these sliders operate on the same spectrum. The same melody in a different key.

The Last of Us 2 screenshotThe Last of Us 2 screenshot

Why so sad?

Naughty Dog

It’s understandable. We know that video game budgets are spiraling out of control; that developers are working through horrific, intense crunch periods to get games like The Last of Us 2 or Cyberpunk 2077 across the line. We know that video game creation is the ultimate exercise in plate-spinning and that, inside that insane pressure cooker, it pays to think of games in terms of familiar, discrete mechanics that marketing teams and players can latch onto. 

But I also believe that something was lost.

In the last generation of consoles, the majority of big-budget video games played out like Marvel movies. Well-made crowd-pleasers operating within a comfortable set of aesthetics. You could never say that games like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey or Spider-Man were bad, but very few — even game-of-the-year contenders like God of War — pushed into any new territory that disassociated players from well-worn expectations.

When I look back at the generation that was, the games that stand out are those that pushed back against the mono-game. Games focused specifically on one type of mechanic. Games that broke the rules in a way that blasted me out of the malaise of pushing the same buttons in the precise same order. 


I cannot emphasize this enough: play this video game.

Mobius Digital

Games like Baba is You, a puzzle game and a satire of puzzle games all at once. Games like Outer Wilds, a pure exploration experience set inside a perfectly crafted snow globe of a universe. Games like Breath of the Wild, maybe the only big-budget game that truly subverted the tropes we’ve come to expect from the mono-game. An experience completely comfortable in its own skin, brave enough to break the rules we take for granted. Games like Return of the Obra Dinn or Disco Elysium. Games like Death Stranding — a bloated, bizarre but ultimately flawed mix of the familiar and the outright off the wall. That game might be the bravest of the lot, given the stakes involved. I didn’t enjoy every second I spent with that game, but I’m unlikely to forget it.

As we head toward this new generation of consoles spearheaded by the PS5 and the Xbox Series X and S, that brave chaotic energy is one I hope future games will aspire to recreate. We’ve invented the mono-game — maybe it’s time to break it. The indie space has always been where the majority of risks are taken, but I’d like to see more big-budget games follow that lead. See them subvert expectations instead of catering to them. 

Otherwise the next generation of consoles will serve up more of the same.

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Cyberattack exposes lack of required defenses on U.S. pipelines



The shutdown of the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline by a ransomware attack highlights a systemic vulnerability: Pipeline operators have no requirement to implement cyber defenses.

The U.S. government has had robust, compulsory cybersecurity protocols for most of the power grid for about 10 years to prevent debilitating hacks by criminals or state actors.

But the country’s 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km) of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines have only voluntary measures, which leaves security up to the individual operators, experts said.

“Simply encouraging pipelines to voluntarily adopt best practices is an inadequate response to the ever-increasing number and sophistication of malevolent cyber actors,” Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said.

Protections could include requirements for encryption, multifactor authentication, backup systems, personnel training and segmenting networks so access to the most sensitive elements can be restricted.

FERC’s authority to impose cyber standards on the electric grid came from a 2005 law but it does not extend to pipelines.

Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. oil products pipeline and source of nearly half the supply on the East Coast, has been shut since Friday after a ransomware attack the FBI attributed to DarkSide, a group cyber experts believe is based in Russia or Eastern Europe.

The outage has led to higher gasoline prices in the U.S. South and worries about wider shortages and potential price gouging ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.

Colonial did not immediately respond to a query about whether cybersecurity standards should be mandatory.

The American Petroleum Institute lobbying group said it was talking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Energy Department and others to understand the threat and mitigate risk.


Cyber oversight of pipelines falls to the TSA, an office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has provided voluntary security guidelines to pipeline companies.

The General Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog, said in a 2019 report that the TSA only had six full-time employees in its pipeline security branch through 2018, which limited the office’s reviews of cybersecurity practices.

The TSA said it has since expanded staff to 34 positions on pipeline and cybersecurity. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it supports mandatory protections.

When asked by reporters whether the Biden administration would put in place rules, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it was discussing administrative and legislative options to “raise the cyber hygiene across the country.”

President Joe Biden is hoping Congress will pass a $2.3 billion infrastructure package, and pipeline requirements could be put into that legislation. But experts said there was no quick fix.

“The hard part is who do you tell what to do and what do you tell them to do,” Christi Tezak, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, said.

U.S. Representatives Fred Upton, a Republican, and Bobby Rush, a Democrat, said on Wednesday they have reintroduced legislation requiring the Department of Energy to ensure the security of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Such legislation could get folded into a wider bill.

The power grid is regulated by FERC, and mostly organized into nonprofit regional organizations. That made it relatively easy for legislators to put forward the 2005 law that allows FERC to approve mandatory cyber measures.

A range of public and private companies own pipelines. They mostly operate independently and lack a robust federal regulator.

Their oversight falls under different laws depending on what they carry. Products include crude oil, fuels, water, hazardous liquids and – potentially – carbon dioxide for burial underground to control climate change. This diversity could make it harder for legislators to impose a unified requirement.

Tristan Abbey, a former aide to Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who worked at the White House national security council under former President Donald Trump, said Congress is both the best and worst way to tackle the problem.

“Legislation may be necessary when jurisdiction is ambiguous and agencies lack resources,” said Abbey, now president of Comarus Analytics LLC.

But a bill should not be seen as a magic wand, he said.

“Standards may be part of the answer, but federal regulations need to mesh with state requirements without stifling innovation.”


(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Marguerita Choy)

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U.S. senator asks firms about sales of hard disk drives to Huawei



A senior Republican U.S. senator on Tuesday asked the chief executives of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Seagate Technology, and Western Digital Corp if the companies are improperly supplying Huawei with foreign-produced hard disk drives.

Senator Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, said a 2020 U.S. Commerce Department regulation sought to “tighten Huawei’s ability to procure items that are the direct product of specified U.S. technology or software, such as hard disk drives.”

He said he was engaged “in a fact-finding process… about whether leading global suppliers of hard disk drives are complying” with the regulation.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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Colonial Pipeline hackers stole data on Thursday



The hackers who caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down on Friday began their cyberattack against the top U.S. fuel pipeline operator a day earlier and stole a large amount of data, Bloomberg News reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The attackers are part of a cybercrime group called DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network in just two hours on Thursday, Bloomberg reported late Saturday, citing two people involved in the company’s investigation.

Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual U.S. business hours.

Colonial Pipeline shut its entire network, the source of nearly half of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply, after a cyber attack that involved ransomware.


(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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