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CONTENT
FEATURED NEWS FEEDS


NEWS (LAST 200)
Melania Trumps adventures across Europe...
Paul: Russia sees "NATO expansion as a t...
Schiff: Candidate Trump welcomed Russian...
Outlining the history of U.S Presidents ...
T20 Blast: Glamorgan target finals day r...
Remnick: Putin wants to throw US off bal...
Graeme McDowell misses out on Open place...
Paul: "Moot point" to try to extradite R...
Missing swimmer dies after being found i...
Bridgend County Show loose pony injures ...
Scottish Open: Brandon Stone misses hist...
Jamie Murray and Azarenka lose mixed fin...
The Latest: Spain, Portugal offer to tak...
WAGS cheer France to victory and Pamela ...
World Cup Soccer: Montreals French fans ...
Maine rapper surprises strangers with fr...
Emergency services called to car and tru...
Police officer, bystander shot to death ...
Nicaraguan troops launch attack in south...
France coach, players and President Macr...
Misfortune knocks at Porte's door a...
Trump rails against texting FBI agent, c...
Bushfire trial streaming a WA courts fir...
Soccer-Golden Griezmann delivers on the ...
‘The situation is going to get worse...
Elon Musk slams Thai cave rescuer as a p...
More than 500 fall ill after visiting a ...
Ask the Captain: Major improvements in a...
French fans go wild after World Cup vict...
Police: Suspect sought in shooting of 2 ...
Family lose everything in Waipawa blaze...
Putin says Russia can be proud of organi...
With Putin, Trump insists hell be differ...
Giants put RHP Samardzija back on DL...
Shangri-La Hambantota Sri Lanka: Where M...
Is there a 50p coin in your pocket worth...
Kevin Clifton surprises fans by rapping ...
Conor McGregor attends World Cup final a...
Soccer-Young France triumph and promise ...
Man busted in fatal stabbing of teen dur...
Exit of US-backed Kurdish militia from S...
Modric wins Golden Ball as World Cup´s ...
‘Lost’ Kubrick screenplay found 60 y...
Man charged on AVO breach after woman di...
World Rowing Cup: Great Britain take men...
Man Arrested After Paraglider Unfurls An...
The Latest: Croatia PM says fans rejoice...
Trump told Britain to sue European Union...
Authorities: 2 Kansas City, Missouri, po...
Injured British man saved by off-duty me...
World Cup Winning Coaches
News24.com | Four men sentenced to leng...
Watch highlights as France win the World...
Man hit with DWI charges after slamming ...
Cop fatally shot after suspect attacks h...
At concert, Ethiopia, Eritrea leaders pr...
Instead of media days cliches, here are ...
VAR plays key role in final but was it t...
Fans proud despite Croatia's World ...
To France the glory, Russia the plaudits...
News24.com | Gaza truce mostly holds aft...
Boeing concerns over US-China trade row...
Officers save pair from Sydney house fir...
Man dies in bike crash at Port Melbourne...
Gunman on the run in shooting of two Kan...
Golden Griezmann delivers on the biggest...
World Cup 2018: France 4-2 Croatia - pla...
Politics guide Syrians backing Croatia i...
Reports detail Mossad raid on Iranian nu...
Rep. Joe Crowley: Primary loss to Alexan...
Fans proud despite Croatias World Cup fi...
Ryan Fox finishes sixth equal at Scottis...
Chicago man killed by police IDd after a...
Key moments from Frances electrifying Wo...
Novak Djokovic: Wimbledon champion doubt...
More than 200 firefighters tackle major ...
Novichok Inquiry in U.K. Turns to Russia...
Man arrested after dragging police offic...
In pictures: France celebrates
Anderson fails to find key to unlock Big...
Potato plant discovered by Charles Darwi...
Police: 6-month-old girl found unrespons...
Early morning fire guts home in Waipawa,...
SH25 and SH25A in Coromandel remain clos...
France wins second World Cup title, beat...
Exit of US-backed Kurdish militia from S...
Stone wins Scottish Open, but misses cha...
Labour to back England-led bid for 2030 ...
Peya and Melichar win mixed doubles titl...
Soccer-From Paris to Moscow, France fans...
To Putin, Trump insists hell be differen...
Who wants to see some Kylian flair?...
Luka Modric wins Golden Ball prize as he...
Italy to take some migrants after EU cou...
Three killed and 22 hurt in New Mexico h...
World Cup 2018: Harry Kane wins Golden B...
Robert Mueller blames Russian government...
Pakistan opens terrorism investigation a...
Ashley Graham flaunts her killer curves ...
Kate Wright flaunts her sensational figu...
Two Mississippi inmate escapees back in ...
Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons celebrat...
The Latest: Pele praises French teenager...
Man, woman charged after body found behi...
Billionaire Elon Musk calls Thai rescuer...
Two protesters killed in clashes with Ir...
France fans cheer on World Cup champions...
Wimbledon 2018: Jamie Murray & Victoria ...
Jamie Murray and Victoria Azarenka lose ...
Misfortune knocks at Portes door again i...
Didier Deschamps third person to win Wor...
Luke Shaw still hoping to win back Manch...
Jilted correction officer pointed gun at...
Mbappe: France World Cup star taking cro...
Lifeboat rescues family stranded in car...
World Cup 2018: Goal of the tournament p...
Kylian Mbappe takes the main prize but L...
MLB Results
Love Island SPOILER: Ellie and Charlies ...
Barack Obama arrives in Kenya to launch ...
Fans proud despite Croatias World Cup fi...
Trump raves about ‘beautiful’ Queen,...
Brandon Stone wins the Scottish Open...
Dejan Lovren floors Pussy Riot pitch inv...
Chicago police: Video shows man killed b...
Three people killed in bus crash on New ...
Russia to extend soccer fans visa-free r...
Trump arrives in Finland for summit with...
On Eve of Talks, Trump Congratulates Put...
UN: All-out war narrowly avoided after I...
Chinese Billionaire Asks to Delay Prison...
Plans Unveiled for Memorial at Site of C...
Luca Modric wins Golden Ball as World Cu...
Protests erupt in Chicago after black ma...
Flares, beers and tears! World Cup final...
Sea turtle found dead with beach chair s...
California man arrested for attacking wi...
Germany agrees to take share of 450 migr...
Novichok poisoning: Did Skripal attacker...
Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic discus...
Eastbourne fire: Arrest over mother and ...
Serious crash between truck and car clos...
Massachusetts officer, bystander have di...
Donald Trump lists Russia, EU and China ...
Anderson fails to find key to unlock Big...
Cardinals look for spark after managers ...
Benidorm plunge victim Kirsty Maxwell ...
Tennis-Highlights of Wimbledon day 13...
Woman discovers family photos in project...
Bradford amateur rugby league player die...
Amesbury: Novichok found in perfume bott...
World Cup: Didier Deschamps says France ...
Pakistan opens terrorism investigation a...
Police body cam shows Harith Augustus sh...
Wanstead Flats grass fire tackled by 200...
Newspapers run IDENTICAL letters slammin...
Pizza delivery driver found dead after b...
Ian Poulter defends himself after he say...
Lawsuit claims 'S-Town' podcas...
#WorldCupFinal: ‘We are the champions,...
Hawaii gets new island as erupting volca...
Stone wins Scottish Open, misses 1st 59 ...
John Degenkolb wins crash-filled, cobble...
Phones Killed Handwriting. Lets Bring It...
The Latest: Pele praises French teenager...
[2018 Russia] France wins 2nd World Cup ...
May reveals Trump Brexit advice: Sue the...
Skyscraper Gets a Rocky Start
Stone narrowly misses out on 1st 59 in E...
Football World Cup final: What you misse...
France are the World Cup kings!
Trump congratulates France on historic W...
Kylian Mbappe, World Cup final 2018: Fra...
World Cup final 2018: The story of the g...
Even if I get Moscow as retribution, cri...
How Carriers Get Permission to Share You...
Pentagon Nears New F-35 Deal
Cardinals look for spark after manager&a...
Fill er Up, or Plug It In? Oil, Utilitie...
Baby Trump: Today's Toon
Keeping the Right Flame Under an Economi...
Apple announces $300m China clean energy...
Pussy Riot Says Its Members Ran Onto the...
Review: In ‘Marie and Bruce,’ It Tak...
Tiger happy to be back for oldest champi...
Super Rugby: Chiefs confident ahead of H...
Focus: Call for hospitals to have police...
France crashes Croatia with 4-2 World Cu...
Champions du monde: Photos and videos of...
'Welcome to the club' - Pele p...
WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo arrives in Turi...
France, Finally Showing Its Class, Wears...
World Cup final: Luka Modric wins Golden...
World Cup final 2018: Manchester United,...
France lifts second World Cup after winn...
World Cup final 2018: The sad story of I...
World Cup 2018: Harry Kane's name b...
Modric voted best player of Russia 2018,...
‘The Mbappe era is upon us’: Youthfu...
World Cup final 2018: France used Euro 2...

REVIEWS & PREVIEWS (LAST 60)
¿Cuánto ganará el campeón de la Copa...
Iraqi police fire water cannons as prote...
In rebuke of Dianne Feinstein, Kevin de ...
California voters almost always say yes ...
Motorist pursued by California Highway P...
Review: Who Is America? Sacha Baron Cohe...
Nier: Automata Review
Buying Guide: The best cameras under $10...
Alien Skin Exposure X3 review
Buying Guide: The best cameras for trave...
Mario Tennis Aces Review: Aim High...
The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit...
Fujifilm X-H1 Review
The Book Review Podcast: An Inside View ...
Pentax K-1 Mark II Review
Glendale detective pleads guilty to obst...
Belgium beats England to finish third in...
Home of the Week: Bel-Air showplace with...
Racing! Looking forward to today’s Los...
At a storied Chinatown bakery, four gene...
Europes rising nationalism is putting pr...
Your electricity goes out when you need ...
Trumps find the 30,000 emails quip looks...
The radioactive waste problem makes nucl...
President Trump is the political gods pu...
Wary of terror attack, U.S. approves fir...
The Best PS4 Console Exclusive Games Sin...
The D Train Review
Live: LMFAO has fun with debauchery...
Rylo Camera Review
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Review
Live: The Beach Boys at the Hollywood Bo...
Democrats urge Trump to cancel Putin sum...
Little Boy Review
Live: Lil Kim good, not quite great at K...
Review: Grimes, Grouplove and more at Ma...
Tomorrowland Review
Review: Power 106 FMs Powerhouse at Hond...
Review: Charming Chinese comedy King of ...
Review: Creepy romantic drama No Postage...
The Crew 2 Review - On The Road Again...
Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera review
Live: Santigolds retro party
Sony Alpha a7R III Review
DJI Spark Review: Small but mighty...
Hot Pursuit Review
Mad Max: Fury Road Review
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III Review...
Shaggy, Alison Hinds, Tarrus Riley shine...
Live: The Clean stays youthful at the Ec...
Van Halen at Staples Center: Arena rock ...
Review: Cyberpunk actioner Bleeding Stee...
Poltergeist Review
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Review...
Review: Mashup of cameos and mismatched ...
The Water Diviner Review
The Age of Adaline Review
The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review...
Pitch Perfect 2 Review
Review: Nickelback at Staples Center...


El ganador del partido final de Rusia 2018 entre Francia y Croacia obtendrá $38 millones, tres millones más de lo que obtuvo Alemania tras ganar la final en Brasil 2014. El perdedor del partido por el campeonato en Luzhniki Stadium obtendrá $28 millones, también tres más de los que ganó Argentina...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Sun, 15 Jul 2018 05:52:00 PDT )

Iraqis demanding better public services and jobs took to the streets again on Sunday in the southern oil-rich province of Basra, as authorities put security forces on high alert and blocked the internet on the sixth day of protests in the country's Shiite heartland.

The protests come at a delicate...

Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 15 Jul 2018 05:35:00 PDT )

California Democratic Party leaders took a step to the left Saturday night, endorsing liberal state lawmaker Kevin de León for Senate in a stinging rebuke of Democratic icon Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

De León’s victory reflected the increasing strength of the state party’s liberal activist core, which...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 14 Jul 2018 23:45:00 PDT )

Perhaps more than any state, Californians govern themselves through the ballot. Most of the attention goes to the laws they write, but voters also spend taxpayer money — a lot of it.

They do so through bonds, instructing government officials to borrow money for specific projects. It’s the closest...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 15 Jul 2018 00:05:00 PDT )

A motorist pursued by California Highway Patrol officers was killed when the individual’s vehicle veered off a road in Orange and burst into flames, authorities said.

The pursuit began about 7:25 p.m. at the CHP office at 2031 E. Santa Clara Ave. in Santa Ana, Orange police Lt. Mike Monjaraz said.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 14 Jul 2018 22:50:00 PDT )

Sacha Baron Cohen, whom you may know better as Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, Brüno Gehard and/or Admiral General Aladeen, returns to television Sunday night with the first in a seven-part Showtime series, "Who Is America?"

As in his previous works for the littler and bigger screens, Baron Cohen assumes...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 14 Jul 2018 21:00:00 PDT )

Warning: This review contains minor spoilers for Life Is Strange and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a short Life is Strange episode set before the upcoming Life Is Strange 2, and it doesn't cost a cent to download and play. A cynic might call it a simple act of marketing, a demo to whet our appetites. But Captain Spirit feels like much more than that, despite sticking to a single location and ending pretty quickly. It's more like the Ground Zeroes to Life is Strange 2's The Phantom Pain: it hints towards what the next series might be like, with a nice visual upgrade and a few new mechanics, but it also feels whole as it is. From the moment Sufjan Stevens' haunting, gorgeous track "Death with Dignity" kicked in over the opening montage, I was hooked on The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. It is a beautiful game.

Captain Spirit is the playful superhero alter-ego of Chris Eriksen, a young boy with a love of comics, an untarnished sense of childlike wonder, and a bubbling inner turmoil and grief that rarely cracks the surface. Chris lives alone with his dad, Charles, a former basketball star whose life has been on a downward trajectory for years. The pair live alone in a drab, cheaply built house on the outskirts of Beaver Creek. Chris' mother died some time ago, and without getting into the specifics, there are parallels to Chloe's situation in the original Life is Strange. It's odd to see Captain Spirit dipping so explicitly into that same emotional well, because otherwise, it is very much its own thing, despite a few interesting links to the original game for eagle-eyed players to find and speculate on.

The game--which runs for maybe three hours if you're a completionist, but can be sped through much faster--takes place across a single Saturday morning. It opens, charmingly, with Chris doodling a superhero costume, giddy at the prospect of having a full day to play. It's up to you how you want to spend that Saturday. Most of the objectives in the game are strictly optional, and you can "finish" the game having completed very few of them, but Chris' stated desire is to go on various adventures as Captain Spirit. These range from the mundane to the fantastical--Captain Spirit needs to throw snowballs at beer bottles to improve his aim and play with all his toys to "check in" on them, but he also needs to assemble the parts of his costume to go on bigger adventures, like defeating the Snowmonger (an evil-looking snowman), and the water-hoarding "monster" in his home (a malfunctioning water heater). There's a whole mythology to Chris' games and fantasies, and they're a delight to dig into.

Mechanically, completing these objectives boils down to standard adventure game puzzling. You travel around the interior and yard of the Eriksen house, building up your inventory and figuring out how to solve numerous puzzles. In fact, Captain Spirit is far more of a classical adventure game than many titles in the genre have been since Telltale's The Walking Dead, and it's all the better for it. The puzzles, while rarely challenging, have a nice sense of logic and order to them that make them satisfying.

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Chris is a great character, too. He's a believably childlike 10-year-old, which is rare not just in games, but in any media. He's dealing with a difficult life as best he can, and succeeds as a sympathetic figure. He also has a powerful imagination, which sometimes sends him off into fantasy sequences as he does battle with Captain Spirit's "enemies." These are cutscenes rather than playable sections, but they're visually inventive and fun nevertheless, working as metaphors for Chris' grief and fears, and they give some insight into how the boy's mind works. The game is also beautifully coy about whether Chris has any sort of power akin to Max's ability to rewind time in the first game. The line is cleverly blurred, as Chris is often shown performing what looks to be telekinesis only for a pullback to reveal that it was something much more mundane--a remote control nestled in his concealed hand when he turns the TV on with his "mind," to give one example. But there's a strong hint that there's more to it than what we see. Charmingly, these moments--and the fantasy sequences--are labeled as "hero" choices, which can be triggered when Chris wants to do something befitting of a hero.

Between these moments of imagined bravado, you'll be pulled right back to earth when you're hunting through boxes and finding letters and drawings by Chris' mother, or finding things his dad didn't want him to see. Captain Spirit is surprisingly moving, and the aforementioned Sufjan Stevens track is used a few times to devastating effect. I ended up playing through Captain Spirit three times to test out all the different dialog options, and while I couldn't affect truly significant change--the ending was the same each time--picking away at the game and finding everything hidden in it was a satisfying experience.

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While Chris enjoys his morning, his dad sits on the couch watching basketball and drinking, occasionally giving compliments or barking orders as his mood--and his level of sobriety--shifts. Without, again, spoiling the specifics, Charles is a fundamentally bad dad, a heavy drinker with a violent streak that, one can surmise, is getting worse over time. We see him through his son's eyes, though, and the naivety of Chris--who only sees the efforts of his father and is too young to fully comprehend how bad things have gotten--is heartbreaking. At a few points in the game, you can discover nice things Charles has planned for his son, and Chris is very vocal about how much he loves his father.

The first Life is Strange often went quite broad with characters, especially when you first met them, but there was an underlying complexity to them. This is even truer here and the important thing with Charles, at least in this short episode, is that he's a more complex figure than an outright monster--however, it never feels like the writers are excusing how awful he's being. This is a hard line to walk, but the game successfully condemns the man in a realistic way, acknowledging that abusers with some humanity are still, at their core, abusers. The script is tight too, with dialog that is free of dated terms or incongruities. A few exchanges start to sound stilted once you've played through multiple times and have a sense of how all the pieces fit together, but that's perhaps unavoidable.

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Life is Strange gained a huge cult following, and whether you're a veteran or a newcomer, Captain Spirit captures a lot of the original game's appeal. Regardless of how you classify The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit--whether it's a standalone adventure, a demo, or a prologue--it's a beautiful game, and one that leaves you all the more excited about Life is Strange 2.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:54:00 -0700)

When the credits rolled on Mario Tennis Aces' Adventure Mode, I vowed to never again laugh at a tennis player having an ugly meltdown on the court. I had felt the volcanic surge of adrenaline that comes when a rally has gone too long. I knew the sense of high alert while trying to suss out which corner of the court an opponent is going to attack next. I have spliced and invented new curse words to mutter when a ball goes out of bounds. Off-beat stages and creative use of characters from the Marioverse ensure that you'll never lose sight of simply having fun, but don't let the adorable exterior trick you; Aces takes its unorthodox tennis very seriously.

Mario Tennis' renewed vigor is driven by a suite of new mechanics that force you to make pivotal risk-reward decisions. Special shots are now tied to a meter that fills a little with every shot fired back at your opponent, more so if you're able to charge your swing ahead of time. Once the Energy Meter is at least a third full, a ball landing on your side of the court will be forecast by a glowing star. Initiating a special swing while on a star activates a first-person view that lets you aim a powerful Zone Shot.

And when the Meter is completely full, you can unleash your character's Special Shot. While Specials don't unleash the cavalcade of effects they did in Wii U's Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, they do fire a lightning-fast ball that requires exacting maneuvers to return without incurring any harm to your racket--destroy your collection of rackets during a match, and you lose.

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Holding the R button slows down time at the cost of meter, allowing you to stroll over and hit hard-to-reach shots or gain a slight advantage when returning racket-breaking balls. Alternatively, a new dodge mechanic called Trick Shot allows you to tilt the right stick in the direction of an incoming shot and, if timed right, leap across the court and smack it away at high speed. You can get away with basic shots during simple matches, but in advanced matches the exchange of powered-up strikes feels like a breathless symphony that requires you to be at the top of your game and on top of your options.

Even veterans of the series have a little bit of a learning curve to overcome, but Aces' Adventure Mode does a good job of both entertaining you and teaching you how and when to use your new tools. The story itself is ridiculous, but ridiculous in that very specific, quirky way Nintendo has been getting away with for decades. During the Mushroom Kingdom's annual tennis tournament, an evil tennis racket--yes, really--named Lucien takes possession of Luigi and flies off to find five Power Stones that will help him take over the world.

Instead of settling for a revolving door of opponents along the way, you're challenged to utilize Ace's new mechanics in a range of unusual scenarios. An average stage might simply challenge you to keep a rally going for a certain length of time, but bosses and puzzle stages require a greater level of ingenuity. You have to figure out how to disable protective barriers, earning enough energy to perform a Zone Shot, and aim at the right part of the court to inflict damage. Bosses also initiate hurdling challenges mid-match that reward precise use of your leaping Trick Shot. Adventure Mode mixes up your objectives from one stage to the next to ensure you're never simply going through the motions to progress.

Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior.

Aces is more difficult and devious than you might expect, especially in the latter half of Adventure Mode. Though not required, grinding through matches can improve your chances on the court. Win or lose, you earn experience points for every match played, allowing you to improve Mario's speed, power, and agility over time. But no matter how much XP you earn, the only way to make it to the end of Aces' campaign is to master its unique tennis mechanics. Those who persevere will find themselves better equipped and prepared to face anything the other modes have to offer than ever before.

Outside of Adventure Mode, you'll find a rather plain assortment of activities: a bracket-based tournament mode, exhibition matches against the computer or another friend, online modes, and the ability to play doubles matches, which can turn into downright anarchy before you know it. One surprising misstep in the package is Swing Mode, where players can swing Joy-Cons like proper tennis rackets, similar to Wii Sports Tennis. At first it seems odd that this control scheme is isolated to a specific mode, but within a minute or two, it's obvious why: playing with Joy-Cons feels too imprecise, and even just executing a simple backhand was a twitchy comedy of errors. It's too bad that the motion controls seem to fall apart so easily, but considering that, it's probably best that the option is siloed away.

Odds are most players will spend the majority of their time in the long run playing Aces online, an experience that can be pretty hit or miss depending on how you're matched up. The lack of stat-tracking means that you have no way to visually gauge how skilled your opponent may be prior to accepting a match, and as such lopsided matches are commonplace. Casual players do have the option of limiting matches to "Simple" gameplay, which removes special mechanics and hazard-type stages from the mix. Even without the exhilaration of the special shots, there’s something relaxing about occasionally fooling around with the no-frills version of Mario Tennis.

However, even this approach winds up feeling flawed due to the lack of options that are freely configurable for local multiplayer matches, including the number of rackets per player, the type of stages you play on, and the duration of a battle. Online Free Play matches are also locked into Tiebreaker rules for points instead of full blown sets, which goes a little too far in whittling back the game’s depth.

Tournament Mode is even more limiting, doing away with the option to play using Simple rules. There also isn’t any incentive for success, no rewards waiting at the end of the brutal five-match gauntlet, and frankly, people who persevere deserve something. That may change in the coming months, with multiple character slots marked as being reserved for participating in tournaments every month, but as of the time of this writing, even that comes off as the smallest token.

It speaks volumes that even the multiplayer limitations don't entirely dampen my enthusiasm for Aces. The Tetris Effect is in full swing here; days after the credits rolled, I still crave the satisfying thwack from a Power Shot, mentally replay matches and imagine how I might do things differently given a bit more focus and know-how. Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and for the most part, improves what it's rarely gotten right prior.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 27 Jun 2018 08:00:00 -0700)
Michael McFaul discusses “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia,” and Ottessa Moshfegh talks about her new novel, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 06 Jul 2018 19:40:19 GMT )

The post-apocalyptic world of Nier: Automata thrives on its mysteries. Its ruined Earth setting is a playground of mayhem where fashionable androids lay waste to less sophisticated looking robots. Its premise of a never-ending war is initially straightforward. But if you know anything about the game's director, Yoko Taro, then you know to expect the unexpected. That includes everything from an unusual soundtrack steeped in vocals to a battle-hardened heroine who walks with the swagger of a supermodel. Automata also delivers a well-executed and refined combat system, the level of which alone makes Automata well worth the price of admission.

You initially see Automata from the perspective of a female android named 2B who is part of YoRHa, a group of artificial soldiers tasked with wiping the Earth of its hostile robots and their alien creators. This conflict is all the more poignant due to humanity's displacement to the moon, an exodus that occurred hundreds of years ago. Joining 2B on most of her missions is 9S, a male android who lacks 2B's dual weapon-wielding prowess but compensates with invaluable hacking skills. They start off as strangers, but through the obstacles they overcome, an obvious closeness begins to form. This is thanks in part to Automata's sensational anime-as-hell archetypes and story beats.

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Given that Earth is utterly overrun with homicidal machines, making Earth hospitable seems like a tall order. But this challenge is softened by the manageable size of Automata's open world, which is equivalent to a small city. It entices exploration without feeling intimidating, and it's hard to get lost once you've run through the same paths a couple times. Much of the backtracking stems from the game's numerable side quests, where you help your fellow androids on simple errands and kill missions. While most of these tasks aren't especially memorable, they do add character to world. Furthermore, monotony is minimized by the convenience of fast travel and swift steeds like moose and boars.

The brightside of being a robot exterminator in Automata is that your canvas of destruction is the product of Platinum Games. Their penchant for feverishly fast and elegant combat is on full display with visuals that echo even the most outrageous attacks from Bayonetta. Combat evolves beyond mindlessly mashing on quick and strong attacks thanks to the variety of bladed weapon styles. Combining any two types produces uniquely flashy animations and, more importantly, damaging results. You can trigger other gorgeous maneuvers by attacking after pulling off a slick dodge cartwheel or by holding down either of the two attack buttons. 9S' own skill with a sword makes him a substantial AI-controlled contributor, and his ability to keep up with 2B make the battles look positively frenzied. Given the demanding yet rewarding high-dexterity combat and the acrobatic skills of 2B, it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that Automata is the closest thing there is to a spiritual successor to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, also developed by Platinum.

You're expected to use tools and techniques beyond the two main attack inputs if you have any hope of victory in ever encounter. Your pod companion--which echoes Grimoire Weiss, the floating book from the first Nier--provides you with various forms of support. Not only does the pod provide you with a sustained ranged attack, it's another outlet for personalizing your approach to combat. You can swap in a wide variety of passive performance enhancing chips, that provide you with stat buffs and helpful automated commands. Relying on your pod to automatically use one of your health items when your HP drops below a certain point makes healing one less thing to worry about. Your pod allows you to focus on other survival concerns, like kicking ass and looking good in the process.

Given the demanding yet rewarding high-dexterity combat and the acrobatic skills of 2B, it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that Automata is the closest thing there is to a spiritual successor to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, also developed by Platinum.

If you ever run out of healing items and get murdered by enemy robot, however, you’ll lose your experience points if you can't return to the point of your last death. This is similar to the style of difficulty popularized by Dark Souls with an additional risk of loss: along with the suspense of potentially losing experience you've earned since your last save, you can also lose all of your pod's installed chips, with the exception of the mandatory operating system chip.

While Automata resoundingly delivers that specific flavor of stylish combat found in Platinum's best works, it never overshadows Taro's distinct directorial handiwork and penchant for unconventional game and narrative design. It's the type of production that seamlessly blends story, hack-and-slash combat, and--believe it or not--an engaging bullet-hell shooter component. You don't question the infantile behaviors of many of the enemy robots because they're so darn endearing. And you don't get an explanation for 2B's cosplay-ready gothic lolita outfits, how she manages to move smoothly through a desert in heels, or why some of her comrades behave like self-involved teenagers. You just go along with it because of Automata's captivating world and involving battles.

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Taro's unorthodox approach to game design is best exemplified by Automata's multiple endings and the varying degrees of substance in those conclusions. He's not above novelty or gag endings, though the real rewards are the five major endings and the various journeys to each one. You don't get the complete picture until you reach those five endings. As you travel down these various paths, you're not only introduced to new events, but also given new perspectives to moments you've already experienced. Your forward progress isn't propelled by the mere compulsion to achieve 100% completion; you're simply pulled by curiosity to learn more about what happened to Earth and humanity.

Thanks to Platinum Games' knack for riveting and gratifying combat, Automata is Yoko Taro's most exciting game to date. The combat mechanics click after hurdling a low learning curve, and the end result is a skillful dance where balletic dodges complement wushu-inspired aggression. Moreover, this multi-ending trip is generously peppered with surprises and revelations, as well as easter eggs that call back to the first game and the Drakengard series from which Nier spun off. It's a meaty, often exhilarating trek that showcases Platinum Games' and Yoko Taro's unique blend of genius.

Editor’s note: Nier: Automata has released on Xbox One as the Become As Gods Edition, which includes the 3C3C1D119440927 DLC along with several cosmetic items for the main characters and pods. We tested the new Xbox One version by playing through the first three hours of the game, and it runs at a stable frame rate at 4K on the Xbox One X. Most importantly, everything we love about Nier: Automata is, of course, still here: the evocative soundtrack, unique narrative style, and affecting story are as strong as ever. We have updated the score to include the Xbox One version. - June 26, 8:00 PM PT

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 26 Jun 2018 20:00:00 -0700)

A Glendale police narcotics detective pleaded guilty this week to charges that he lied to federal investigators about his links to organized crime and tipped off the Mexican Mafia about an upcoming gang sweep, helping a top target avoid arrest, court records show.

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Belgium earned its highest World Cup finish by beating England 2-0 in the third-place match on Saturday in St. Petersburg. The goals came from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard, once in each half.

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This modern mansion in Bel-Air blends contemporary style and an array of lifestyle-focused features to dazzling effect.

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To the editor: Gustavo Arellano’s column, “Democrats in power always overplay their hand,” expresses well the left’s downfall by focusing on the recall of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and the November ballot initiative to repeal the new vehicle license fees and gas tax increase passed by...

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Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, July 14, 2018. You are reading the final Opinion newsletter to have been produced at the L.A. Times’ historic downtown Los Angeles building. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

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The PlayStation 4 launched in November 2013 and Sony's done a phenomenal job making sure a stream of excellent exclusives continues to launch on the platform. That trend isn't slowing down in 2018, with the phenomenal God of War releasing earlier this spring and Insomniac Games' Spider-Man on its way in just a few months.

Click ahead to view GameSpot's highest-rated PS4 exclusives since the console's launch. The titles are in alphabetical order and don't reflect our own personal ranking of each game. The list only includes games we've awarded an 8/10 or higher. We've also limited the gallery based on console exclusivity, so you'll see a few games in this gallery that are also available on PC or PS Vita. This means games that originally released for PS2 or PS3 and launched again on the PS4 without any additional content (like Beyond: Two Souls) are not included. Remasters, remakes, and reboots are all fair game though.

Be sure to check out our list of the best cheap PS4 games to find the best deals on some of these exclusives, including top-tier titles like The Last of Us Remastered and Bloodborne.

Think you've got an insane amount of GameSpot knowledge? Put it to the test. We've reviewed a lot of PS4 exclusives since the console's debut in 2013, but only one of them has gotten a perfect 10/10 review score. Do you know what it is? Click ahead to find out, and we'll send a virtual high five your way if you happen to know the answer. If you also happen to know which PS3 game released again on PS4 with a perfect 10/10 GameSpot score (but couldn't make this list because it's not a remaster), then we offer you a virtual salute.

Also, let us know what your favorite PS4 exclusive is in the comment section down below. Doesn't matter if the game was critically acclaimed or criminally underrated. Be sure to check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch console exclusives and best Xbox One console exclusives as well.


Alienation


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Alientation review, Jason D'Aprile wrote, "Alienation is a refined and intense shooter that looks and sounds great, and offers fantastically chaotic and violent action. While the game sometimes feels a little too eager to kill players and lacks local play, with a full troop online, it’s easily one of the best all-out action multiplayer games in recent memory."


Alone With You


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Alone With You review, Jason D'Aprile wrote, "This is a game that warrants repeated playthroughs to see both endings and experience other relationship choices. Alone With You bears some heavy thematic overlap with [games] like SOMA, Everyone’s Gone to Rapture, and other story-centric releases that focus on the nature of what makes you human, the importance of relationships and contact, and mortality. It's different enough to feel new despite its retro roots, delivering impactful scenes that shine thanks to a stellar script that brings its few, but emotionally charged, characters to life."


Bloodborne


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Bloodborne review, Kevin VanOrd wrote, "The finest treasures are found within the city of Yharnam and the forests, lakes, and purgatories beyond it. Only Bloodborne would be so bold as to bury an entire factional player-versus-player mechanic within an optional region, which is in turn buried within a series of oblique steps you might miss if you aren't exploring every nook and cranny, or ignore the game's enigmatic hints. I finished Bloodborne in less time than I did Dark Souls II, yet I treasure it more in spite of its few missteps. In death there is life, and in blood, there is redemption. More hyperbole, yes, but for a game this theatrical, only hyperbole will do."


Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours review, Heidi Kemps wrote, "Even with [its issues], Darius Burst is one of the best traditional shooters to come out in years. The visual design is excellent, the music is avant-garde and memorable, the boss encounters are thrilling, and it's chock-full of challenges to keep you coming back and playing more. If you enjoy these sorts of games at all and are craving a finely-crafted, intense shooting experience that will keep you hooked for a long time, then Darius Burst: Chronicle Saviours is a worthy."


Everybody's Golf


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Everybody's Golf review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "Ultimately, [bothersome NPCs] are the only notable blemishes in an otherwise splendid and activity-loaded sequel, which also happens to be the best golf game on the PlayStation 4. Longtime fans will find comfort in the familiar controls and deep progression system, while newcomers will find the on-boarding experience easy and welcoming. Between the lengthy career mode and online play, you are never short of competition to test your nerves. And no matter how ridiculously superhuman your linksman skills become--there are awards for getting a hole in one on a par-5, after all--Everybody's Golf's strict adherence to the sport's strategic underpinnings is never compromised."


Everybody's Gone To The Rapture


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Everybody's Gone to the Rapture review, Alexa Ray Corriea wrote, "Everybody's Gone to the Rapture uses subtle cues to guide you through its world and then gives you the space to digest what you find. It's a wonderful example of what games can achieve narratively while presenting minimal physical engagement and tasking player imagination with the rest. That sense of futility never leaves you, but whether or not you cling to the story's threads of hope is entirely up to you; no happy ending is forced on you--just an ending. The moral of the story is whatever you think it is, and there's no wrong way to feel as you sift through its bright, empty world. And while I had my moments of frustration in navigation, that didn't stop it from dazzling me. I left Shropshire exhausted, spent, and utterly impressed by The Chinese Room's magnificently crafted journey, both in how it brought me to its conclusion and the conclusion itself."


Fighting EX Layer


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Fighting EX Layer review, Heidi Kemps wrote, "On a pure gameplay level, Fighting EX Layer is an absolute treat. What it lacks in bells and whistles it delivers in pure, fun combat. This is a game made for the sort of people who will spend hours perfecting an impractical, extremely-precise combo in training mode simply for the satisfaction of having done it. If that describes you, then Fighting EX Layer will be worth everything you put into it."


Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "While its enhancements do not translate into a brand new game for existing fans, [Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age] is nonetheless invigorating. For an experience that can last over a hundred hours, the subtle tweaks therein go a long way in showcasing Final Fantasy 12's grand trek in a new light. Its epic, lore-abundant story and its time-tested Gambit System should also appeal to those who missed out on the mainline series' trip to Ivalice the first time around. And thanks in part to the new audio and speed options, The Zodiac Age is an ideal definitive edition: one that improves the game over its original version across the board.


Final Fantasy 14 Online: A Realm Reborn


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Final Fantasy 14 Online: A Realm Reborn review, Pete Davison wrote, "There's no traditional PVP, and at times the grind can grow tedious, but if you press on, you find a vast and charming supporting cast, complex classes with plenty of interesting augmentations along the way, and a reworked MMORPG that combines new and old elements to weave together a satisfying and modern Final Fantasy that does its part to cater to longtime franchise fans and MMO enthusiasts alike. This is an admirable redesign, especially on the PlayStation 4, which very well may be considered the best venue to experience the staggering world and cornucopia of additional content. Even if you're still trekking through Vana'diel, consider making yourself a new home in Eorzea--we'd love to have you."


Galak-Z: The Dimensional


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Galak-Z: The Dimensional review, Mike Mahardy wrote, "But in the end, [Galak-Z: The Dimensional] is about learning as you go, and making the best of what you have. It's a layered, complex system, and even now, 20 hours after I started it, there are upgrades I haven't found, techniques I haven't practiced, and possibilities I haven't considered. Galak-Z pummelled me, knocked me to the ground and kicked me when I was down. But when I finally got the upper hand, and beat the final season with only a sliver of health left, the victory was all the more rewarding.


God Eater 2: Rage Burst


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our God Eater 2: Rage Burst review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "Good sequels strike a balance between reproducing familiar systems and introducing new features. Rage Burst shares many similarities with Resurrection, to the degree that you wouldn’t be blamed for mistaking the former for an expansion pack of the latter at a glance. But Rage Burst is bolstered by a beefed-up combat system and scores of stylish, powerful loot, making frequent, sometimes repetitive questing, more enjoyable than it was in Resurrection."


God Of War (2018)


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our God of War review, Peter Brown wrote, "In many ways God of War is what the series has always been. It's a spectacular action game with epic set pieces, big-budget production values, and hard-hitting combat that grows more feverish and impressive as you progress. What may surprise you is how mature its storytelling has become. Like Kratos, God of War recalls the past while acknowledging the need to improve. Everything new it does is for the better, and everything it holds onto benefits as a result. Kratos is no longer a predictable brute. God of War is no longer an old-fashioned action series. With this reboot, it confidently walks a new path that will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures to come."


God Of War 3 Remastered


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our God of War 3 Remastered review, Kevin VanOrd wrote, "Then again, this is not a series known for its sophisticated storytelling. Kratos is the vessel for an instinctive kind of gameplay that is rarely this successful. Your rewards for following God of War III's linear trail are genre-defining combat, excellent pacing, and the innate joy of watching enemies spew forth clusters of glowing red orbs when they fall. It's the ever-compelling quest for shinies, accomplished by slamming your cestus into the ground, then gutting a centaur and watching its viscera spill onto the floor. Your reward is more power, which you use to earn more shinies and to see more entrails. That the game finds so many ways to stay consistently fresh within this traditional structure is a feat worthy of the gods."


Gravity Rush 2


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Gravity Rush 2 review, Peter Brown wrote, "With a wealth of stories big and small to chew on, Gravity Rush 2 fulfills the needs of both a sequel and a prequel. The first Gravity Rush had enough going for it, but Gravity Rush 2 is stuffed with things to love. While its stealth missions are lame and it's disappointing to experience camera issues from time to time, Gravity Rush 2 excels in almost every other respect, making its predecessor seem quaint by comparison. This is easily one of the best video game sequels in recent memory, and an adventure truly worthy of its excellent lead character."


Gran Turismo Sport


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Gran Turismo Sport review, James Swinbanks wrote, "Ultimately, where you fall on GT Sport will mirror how you feel about racing games in general. If you’re looking for a highly focused console racing sim, GT Sport is excellent, but don’t come looking for a robust 'Gran Turismo' experience. You won’t find it. Casual fans will feel the pinch of the scaled-down offering and the intimidating push towards racing online. But for sim-racers with a competitive spirit, it’s easy to look past the smaller car and track roster and appreciate the incredibly detailed and responsive driving model, which is better than anything the series has offered before."


Grim Fandango Remastered


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Grim Fandango Remastered review, Kevin VanOrd wrote, "Grim Fandango's greatest triumph, however, is that you needn't overflow with nostalgia to appreciate its greatness. There is only this boisterous world and the unionized bee-demons that inhabit it, which you see through the eyes of one Manny Calavera, an everyday hero that has rightfully earned a place in video game history. Even if you don't know what happens at the end of the line, you're guaranteed to enjoy the trip."


Here They Lie


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Here They Lie review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "Here They Lie pulls you in by appealing to your curiosities of what's around the corner--but you're also motivated to stick to the main path, because a part of you just wants to get the hell out of this urban nightmare. As a dark, well-crafted psychological journey in VR, the game captures the distinct duality of being a curious observer--and, conversely, a participant who simply wants to survive and escape. Its enigmatic visuals, choice-driven narrative, and provocations on morality are the driving forces that warrant multiple playthroughs, and all of those aforementioned elements combine to make Here They Lie one of the standout offerings among the PSVR's launch lineup."


Horizon Zero Dawn


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Horizon Zero Dawn review, Peter Brown wrote, "This is the first departure from the Killzone series for developer Guerrilla Games, and though you might think the team took a risk by stepping out of its FPS comfort zone to create a third-person open-world action game, you'd never know it was their first rodeo. For every minor imperfection, there's an element of greatness that recharges your desire to keep fighting and exploring [Horizon Zero Dawn's] beautiful and perilous world. Guerrilla Games has delivered one of the best open-world games of this generation, and redefined its team's reputation in the process.


Iconoclasts


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Iconoclasts review, Matt Espineli wrote, "When Iconoclasts' end credits begin to roll, it's bittersweet to see the journey come to a close. After solving every puzzle and witnessing the finale of its poignant narrative, you can't help but reflect on the growth of its characters and your impact onto the world. The game will shock and surprise you with how gripping its story is, and it's likely to do so again in subsequent playthroughs of New Game+ with your expanded knowledge of character histories and events. Iconoclasts may be a callback to the style and mechanics of old-school games, but it's also a sincere and compelling adventure that anyone with respect for fantastic storytelling and 2D-action can enjoy."


I Expect You To Die


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our I Expect You To Die review, Mike Mahardy wrote, "But the annoyances caused by these hiccups pale in comparison to the thrills I Expect You to Die delivers. Through well designed puzzles, intense escape room scenarios, and a kineticism absent in video games on standard screens, I Expect You to Die knows exactly how to leverage the magic of VR, and proves it almost every step of the way."


Infamous: Second Son


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Infamous: Second Son review, Tom McShea wrote, "[Infamous: Second Son] focuses on pure enjoyment. It communicates that through the excellent combat that forces you to concoct crazy tactics to overthrow the invading forces. It draws you in further through its incredible visuals that not only hint at the PlayStation 4's impressive power, but employ a sensible artistic touch that makes Seattle a place you want to explore. It uses a complementary score to underline dramatic moments, and the sound effects pop with flair. And yet, for all of the elements in which Second Son excels, the narrative fails to carry its share of the weight. Still, don't become mired in the negativity as Delsin so often does. Instead, just laugh at the cheesy dialogue and chortle at how extreme the morality system is. Second Son is a great game that knows exactly what it is, and sucks you in with its unfiltered fun."


The Inpatient


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our The Inpatient review, Justin Clark wrote, "The Inpatient doesn't just do right by Until Dawn, but stands right alongside it as one of the strongest horror experiences on PlayStation 4. It's a game far less concerned with pushing you towards what's lurking down every corridor than feeding you the worst ideas of what could be."


Invisible, Inc. Console Edition


We gave the game an 8/10.

In out Invisible, Inc. Console Edition review, Kevin VanOrd wrote, "Nonetheless, this emotional distance is merely a minor issue. I don't care much about Invisible, Inc.'s throwaway story and its last-minute grasps at meaningful themes, or about my agents' personal backgrounds. Like the game, my efforts are focused on getting the job done, emotionally disengaged but intellectually centered. I bask in the stylish cutscenes and the sharp voiceover, but my attachment is not to the agency or its people but to the sheer pleasure of a successful heist."


The King Of Fighters XIV


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our The King of Fighters XIV review, Matt Espineli wrote, "With plenty of opportunities available online or off, [The King of Fighters XIV] is a well-executed addition to the revered fighting series. Those disappointed in its new visuals may be unwilling to give it a chance, but if you remain steadfast in parsing through the multiple layers of its mechanics, you'll be rewarded with one of the most accessible, satisfying entries in the series to date."


The Last Guardian


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our The Last Guardian review, Peter Brown wrote, "It isn't clear whether or not The Last Guardian means to be frustrating at times--if it's a concerted effort to test your patience for a lovable-yet-stubborn creature. Your affection for Trico and sympathy for both characters blossom nonetheless, culminating in an enrapturing series of revelations that cements your attachment to their personalities. Trico is the undeniable star of the show, exhibiting believable physicality and emotional range, but the boy is a valuable lesson in how to be patient and resilient when faced with unforeseen challenges."


The Last Of Us Remastered


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our The Last of Us Remastered review, Carolyn Petit wrote, "In addition to the visual enhancements and the inclusion of map packs and story DLC, The Last of Us Remastered has other nice little features, like a photo mode that lets you stop the action at any time, position the camera to your liking, and share the screenshot with others, applying frames and filters if you choose. And there are commentary tracks on in-game cinematics featuring the creative director and principal actors. The Last of Us is a great action game that you should play if you haven't already. And if you have played it before, the improvements here aren't so dramatic as to make the game feel like a new experience, but it is definitely one worth revisiting. In the world of The Last of Us, as in our own world, love might destroy you, but it's also one of the only things worth fighting for."


MLB The Show


For review, we gave:

MLB 14: The Show an 8/10

MLB 15: The Show an 8/10.

MLB The Show 16 an 8/10.

MLB The Show 17 an 8/10.

MLB The Show 18 a 9/10.


Moss


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Moss review, Alessandro Barbosa wrote, "It's a testament to just how well Moss understands PlayStation VR and works with the device instead of trying to bend it to a will it was never designed for. Moss wouldn't feel right without it at all, and its many strengths are married to the interactions that only full immersion can manufacture. Unsurprisingly, then, Moss is easily one of PlayStation VR's best titles to date, even if it's a little too eager to get you in and out of its world."


Nex Machina: Death Machine


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Nex Machina: Death Machine review, Jason D'Aprile wrote, "Limited multiplayer options aside, [Nex Machina: Death Machine] is a game that confidently meets expectations. It's difficult, intensely satisfying, and packed with enough secrets and lofty secondary objectives to keep you enraptured for hours. It's a classic game at heart, but with refined challenges and exacting mechanics, it feels right at home in the modern era."


Nioh


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Nioh review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "Although the spectre of potential failure hangs heavy over any play session, dying in Nioh is never genuinely disheartening. This is thanks in part to the various avenues of character growth and many approaches you can utilize to tackle a difficult section or boss fight. It shouldn't be surprising that the foresight and patience needed to survive a battle in Dark Souls translates well to the fundamentals of samurai combat here. Nioh's most invigorating and intimidating moments occur when you feel you're at equal footing with your opponent. And it's during these encounters that one careless move can result in your demise or the right string of thoughtful actions can make you feel invincible."


Persona 5


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Persona 5 review, Lucy James wrote, "Within Persona 5 is a complex set of interconnected gameplay mechanics, and in almost every aspect Atlus has executed on its vision exceptionally, barring the pacing issues towards the end. At every turn, it presents something to marvel at, whether it's the fluid combat, vibrant world, or the many memorable characters. It's a game I could talk about for hours; I haven't mentioned the ability to connect to the Thieves Guild, which lets you see how other players spent their day or ask them for help answering questions at school. Or the thumping acid-jazz-infused soundtrack that I've not been able to get out of my head. Or even just the joy of seeing how it stylishly transitions between menus. But that encapsulates why Persona 5 is a game that shouldn't be missed. It's stuffed to bursting point with gameplay ideas and presentation flourishes--there's an overwhelming level of artistry in every part of Persona 5, making it a truly standout entry in the series. It's a refined, effortlessly stylish RPG that will be talked about for years to come."


Pyre


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Pyre review, Peter Brown wrote, "And thus it's all too easy to fall in love with Pyre. It's immediately attractive. Its songs dance in your head long after they debut. And before you know it, you find yourself driven to get better at rites and perform at the top of your game. Likewise, you can't help but reflect on your partners in the Downside--those you trained, as well as those you neglected. Supergiant Games has created something special that lives on in your heart. And against great odds, it's invented a sport that could have stood on its own without the story it's attached to--but it's so much better because it is."


Ratchet & Clank (2016)


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Ratchet & Clank review, Cassidee Moser wrote, "Ratchet & Clank is every bit as dynamic and fun as the 2002 original. It’s endearing and entertaining, a veritable power fantasy fueled by rockets and carried by specialty gadgets. Re-introducing a classic franchise to a new generation is a difficult task indeed, but Ratchet & Clank is a shining example of how it can be done."


Republique Remastered


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Republique Remastered review, Justin Clark wrote, "Needless to say, despite its mobile game roots, the world of [Republique Remastered] is meant to immerse, to beckon the player's curiosity, and to involve them enough in the city-state's ins and outs enough to get Hope out of danger. In transitioning to consoles, the game remains largely successful at that."


Salt And Sanctuary


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Salt and Sanctuary review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "Salt and Sanctuary is wholly engrossing from every angle, from its happy marriage of combat and exploration to its ominously gripping art direction. Its world is rich in ambiguity, well designed to fill up message boards with discussions on the theoretical histories of its bosses to the origins of the seven Creeds. For as much as it unabashedly borrows from Dark Souls, it’s an achievement that Ska Studios managed to give its homage an identity of its own that can be appreciated on its own merits."


Shadow Of The Colossus (2018)


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Shadow of the Colossus review, Edmond Tran wrote, "Shadow of the Colossus is a tremendous journey, and one well worth taking and retaking. The visual overhaul is stunning, thoroughly enhancing every facet of Wander and Agro's excellent adventure. Galloping through the tranquil world is always breathtaking; felling a monumental colossus is always humbling. Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful reconstruction of an already exceptional title. It continues to be a modern classic and is an extraordinary game that everyone must experience."


Super Rude Bear Resurrection


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Super Rude Bear Resurrection review, Chris Pereira wrote, "For all of these minor gripes, none of them stand in the way of enjoying nearly every second of playtime. On the strength of its pacing and basic mechanics alone, Super Rude Bear Resurrection would make for an extremely engaging platformer. The addition of its corpse mechanic elevates it to something greater, allowing it to simultaneously serve as an extreme challenge for the most diehard platforming fans as well as a game that can be enjoyed by the novice crowd. Super Rude Bear Resurrection demands a lot from you, but the satisfaction of success is immense in the end."


Tearaway


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Tearaway review, John Robertson wrote, "Tearaway's most lasting feature is not within the game itself, but through the inclusion of printable blueprints. Through standard progression and by taking photographs of certain objects, you earn blueprints that allow you to create your own origami editions of your favourite elements from within the game. Be warned, though, that even when you follow the instructions, some of these are incredibly tricky propositions, but if you've got the patience, it's worth the effort to take the theme of connecting worlds to that next step. The fact that it's so tempting to spend time creating these paper models is a testament to how appealing and attractive Tearaway is. It's just a shame that one of the Vita's best experiences feels as long as a piece of paper is thick."


Tooth And Tail


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Tooth and Tail review, Daniel Starkey wrote, "Rotating through the band of 20 fighters will offer plenty of depth on its own, too. There's plenty of room to fake out foes by overbuilding one type and feinting a foe into countering that so you can sweep them with your own reserves. If you don't have quite the squads you need to deal with enemies in the best way, you'll have to adapt -- and strong variety will give you the tools to come up with unique combinations and tactics on the fly.

When all of that comes together in a tight, four-player battle royale, it is a thing of beauty."


Transistor


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Transistor review, Carolyn Petit wrote, "Transistor is always a good-looking game, but in [certain] instances, it demonstrates a rare knack for combining its visuals and music to powerfully convey both narrative information and tone, driving the story forward with Red's own unwavering resolve. So in the end, yes, Transistor is a fun action role-playing game with a neat combat system, but beautiful moments like these make it more than that. They make it a game with a soul."


Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection


We gave the collection an 8/10.

In our Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection review, Mike Mahardy wrote, "At various times throughout the Uncharted games, our protagonist carries the ring of Francis Drake on a leather band around his neck. The ring's inscription reads: "Sic Parvus Magna," or, "greatness from small beginnings."

I can't imagine a better way to encapsulate this collection. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was a fine game in 2007, but its wrinkles are deeper now, its age more apparent.

With Uncharted 2 and [Uncharted 3], though, Naughty Dog transcended Drake's own small beginnings. The Nathan Drake Collection is a firsthand account of Naughty Dog's growth as a storyteller, and this collection is the best way to relive that history, and witness its transformation up close."


Uncharted 4: A Thief's End


We gave the game a perfect 10/10.

In our Uncharted 4: A Thief's End review, Mike Mahardy wrote, "And most of all, as its final moments make clear, this is a story about storytelling--the importance we lend our idols, legends, and myths. How we pass down the ones that inspire us. How an old photo of three friends sitting on a pile of gold can unleash a flood of memories. Uncharted 4 is a challenge to the medium. In its writing, in its design, in its understanding of what makes games unique, Uncharted 4 is something to aspire to. It's a shining example. And we'll be talking about it for years to come."


Uncharted: The Lost Legacy


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Uncharted: The Lost Legacy review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "The Lost Legacy doesn't signify a new era for Uncharted so much as it presents an opportunity to show the series from new perspectives, for which Chloe and the AI-controlled Nadine are perfectly capable. With a new playable treasure hunter comes new settings and character motivations, wrapped in a comfortingly familiar Uncharted package. The thrill of playing through set pieces that call back scenes from the earlier games is all the more enhanced when seen through the gameplay mechanics introduced in A Thief's End. The initial hours of The Lost Legacy give an "Uncharted Greatest Hits" vibe, but it grows into a more nuanced, clever experience, ranking among the best in the series while also making its own mark as a standalone Uncharted that isn't anchored to Nathan Drake's harrowing exploits."


Until Dawn


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Until Dawn review, Alexa Ray Corriea wrote, "I didn't expect to have so much fun with Until Dawn, and the depth with which my choices mattered and affected the final outcome encouraged repeat playthroughs. The visuals can be wonky at times, but in the end Until Dawn succeeds in being a thoughtful use of familiar mechanics, a great achievement in player-driven narrative, and a horror game you shouldn't miss."


Wipeout Omega Collection


We gave the game a 9/10.

In our Wipeout Omega Collection review, Miguel Concepcion wrote, "By focusing on this specific era of the series, Wipeout Omega Collection maintains a level of cohesion you wouldn't get if this compilation included, say, Wipeout Pure or Fusion. While each of the three games exude style and stimulation in their own distinct ways, they collectively showcase the best elements of franchise's engrossing racing and silky smooth visuals. And even though it doesn't completely scratch the itch that only a completely new PS4 sequel can offer, this collection is easily the next best thing."


Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life


We gave the game an 8/10.

In our Yakuza 6: The Song of Life review, Edmond Tran wrote, "Yakuza 6 reins in its scope, but doubles down on what has made the series great. It's a unique and fascinating representation of the modern Japanese experience, worth playing even if you're a newcomer. The narrative is dramatic and sincere, and the game's endearing characters--coming from all walks of life--are interesting studies. The world is dense and rewarding to exist in, the dynamic combat system stays exciting even after you've kicked the crap out of five thousand enemies, and perhaps most importantly, Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life serves as a fulfilling conclusion to the turbulent, decade-long saga of its beloved icon, Kazuma Kiryu."


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Source: GameSpot Gaming Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 17:08:00 -0700)
2.5 stars out of 5: A little much.
The past few years have seen a marked rise in the number of Christian-themed films getting wide theatrical distribution, but to call it a "new wave" of faith-based cinema is probably inappropriate. That designation is usually reserved for a...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:27:52 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Proustian mush
It begins with a shot of the Earth from space, and omniscient narration. (The voice of Hugh Ross, narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose low-key, somewhat conspiratorial, post-sincere, NPR reporter tone turns...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:25:37 GMT )
1.5 stars out of 5: History written by the winners.
First-time director Russell Crowe has stepped in it, probably without meaning to. But it's happening all the same. His film, entirely devoted to an exploration of the aftermath of a key, nation-defining battle in Australian war history -- the...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:26:41 GMT )
3.5 stars out of 5: Much Avenge About More Things
They're building a giant machine now, a machine made of movies. To participate in the machine's agenda of taking your money, it will not help to begin by looking at this perpetual motion installment and working backwards, trying to catch up. You...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 01 May 2015 00:39:50 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Pursue a ticket to a different movie.
Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 08 May 2015 21:06:08 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Stay home.
Although there is at least one earlier, less sexual, usage of the slang term "the d-train," referring to having a generalized bad experience, lately the expression has become more synonymous with the penis. That's because pop culture always needs...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 09 May 2015 01:33:01 GMT )
5.0 stars out of 5: Death to the patriarchy.
"Who killed the world?" yells a minor character in Mad Max: Fury Road. This outburst comes after an earlier moment where camera pauses on the question painted on a cave wall. And since it's one of only a couple dozen complete and comprehensible...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:05:45 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Songs about butts.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with a crazy, performance-based, wardrobe malfunction, one that, in the film's words, exposes the "down under" region of one of the a cappella Bellas. For this accidental offense they are mocked, chastised, and stripped of...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:04:29 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: You can fly. Eventually.
In your initial visit to Tomorrowland, you're not really there at all. That's what scientifically-named Casey Newton (The Longest Ride's Britt Robertson) discovers when she first goes there by touching a tiny, metal, "T"-emblazoned pin. She takes...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 22 May 2015 05:11:54 GMT )
0.5 stars out of 5: BOO-RING
It's hard out here for a ghost. Always having to think up new ways to scare suburban people in movies. You make the kids' toys come alive and play creepy music, and all the other ghosts hold up signs with straight 1.5s across the board. You're...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 23 May 2015 09:29:13 GMT )

Motörhead fans shouldn’t get too excited about the band’s late frontman Lemmy Kilmister appearing in a leading role in the L.A. vampire picture “Sunset Society.” The rocker’s scenes in this shoestring splatter project appear to have been shot years before he died in 2015 — and, frankly, Lemmy looks...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 5 Jul 2018 11:55:00 PDT )

Legendary Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan is having his full “Taken” moment. His last major release, “The Foreigner,” featured Chan as a grieving man seeking vengeance for his daughter’s death, and in “Bleeding Steel” he does daddy duty again, protecting a daughter who has no memory of him. But...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 5 Jul 2018 11:25:00 PDT )
Van Halen returned to Los Angeles to perform to a hometown crowd at the Staples Center, where band members David Lee Roth, and Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang Van Halen performed during their "Different Kind of Truth" reunion tour. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts says the performance was often lackluster. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 12:49:42 -0700 )
The New Zealand band the Clean has been around a long time but still packs energy, especially when it performs ‘Tally Ho.’ Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 31 May 2012 14:57:42 -0700 )
On day two of UCLA's annual JazzReggae Festival, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Collie Buddz, Alison Hinds and others showcased the many sounds of the Caribbean, from soca and reggae to reggaeton and lovers rock. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts offers an overview of the day. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Tue, 29 May 2012 12:25:57 -0700 )

Senior Democrats called on President Trump on Friday to cancel his planned summit Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, unless he was prepared to challenge the former KGB official over the U.S. indictment of 12 Russian intelligence operatives for meddling in the 2016...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 15:50:00 PDT )
The Beach Boys reunited June 2, 2012, at the Hollywood Bowl for the band's first tour together in more than two decades. A review for the Los Angeles Times. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:21:26 -0700 )
If you closed your eyes during the sold-out Santigold concert at Club Nokia Friday night -- especially at any point in the first half -- it’d have been easy to feel like you were at one of the Hollywood Bowl’s annual flashback concerts featuring ‘80s British bands. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 13:49:57 -0700 )
LMFAO's Redfoo and Sky Blu stay in character and play debauchery for laughs and fun at Staples Center as part of Sorry for Party Rocking Tour. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Wed, 06 Jun 2012 18:34:01 -0700 )
Live: Lil Kim driven to give till it hurts: The hip-hop diva's ambitious if erratic show was almost too much for the compact confines of Key Club. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:51:14 -0700 )
Now in its fifth year, Make Music Pasadena celebrates music at its most casual and community-focused, and has grown from a festival that once largely featured intimate, acoustic appearances in storefronts to one that can draw artists with national appeal. Boasting 149 performances and pop-up stages on Old Town's Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District's Madison Avenue, Make Music Pasadena is a large-scale event done on a budget. Ninety-nine percent of the artists appearing do not get paid, say organizers, and headliners such as electronic artist Grimes and peppy local rockers Grouplove were expected to bring at least 20,000 people to downtown Pasadena. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 17:39:47 -0700 )
Nickelback has no official connection to the big-screen version of “Rock of Ages,” but on Friday night at Staples Center, it was hard not to think of the just-opened movie musical -- a flashy-trashy dramatization of the 1980s hard-rock scene... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 19:36:33 -0700 )
Power 106 FM kept its annual summer hip-hop show, Powerhouse, old school and relatively orthodox, with rappers Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Young Jeezy leading a show that was light on the dance-oriented pop hits that dominate the airwaves. The Times' August Brown reviews. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews (Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:40:41 -0700 )

With the same cinephile spirit as “Cinema Paradiso” and “Be Kind Rewind,” this Chinese comedy is an inventive and light exploration of a father’s love for both his son and the movies. “King of Peking” has many charms, but its passion for cinema is its most infectious.

After his divorce, Big Wong...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 5 Jul 2018 11:10:00 PDT )

Every mediocre indie movie needs some kind of hook, and the middling romantic drama “No Postage Necessary” has one in its unique distribution model: It claims to be the first film to be released via blockchain, which is something to do with the internet and cryptocurrency. Any explanation beyond...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 5 Jul 2018 11:45:00 PDT )

After 30 hours, The Crew 2 has left me with a lot of wonderful memories. They aren't filled with the kind of emergent stories you get from exploring an open world and its systems, nor are they moments that involve goofing around with strangers--The Crew 2 is lacking in both those aspects. Instead, my memories are filled with the game's variety of vehicular activities and the wonderfully curated tracks: the unrealistic, the impossible, and the delightful.

It's surprising to see just how much The Crew 2 differs from the original game. There's been a noticeable shift in Ubisoft’s last few open-world titles, one that's moving toward a focus on player-driven progression--large selections of optional activities, non-linear structures, rewards for doing just about anything--and The Crew 2 benefits significantly from this direction. The gritty crime angle from the original game is gone, and instead, The Crew 2 takes reams of pages from the book of Forza Horizon. The game centers on a nationwide festival of motorsports where you, a rookie, are poised to become the next big star. While the setup is conventional, and the focus on social media fame is obnoxious, what it brings to the game is a colorful and upbeat vibe, an impressive variety of different disciplines, and positively ridiculous arcade driving on land, water, and through the air.

Despite the game's focus on real-world branding and mimicry of televised motorsports, The Crew 2's greatest asset is its willingness to be ridiculous. Races in The Crew 2 might involve jumping your street-racing car off skyscrapers, or your powerboat off the Hoover Dam. They might include making high-speed touring cars go head to head through the tight, windy Hollywood Hills, and motocross bikes take jumps across shipping freighters and freeways right before you transform into a prop plane like some kind of extreme-sports mecha. This is a game that will cover Los Angeles in three feet of snow for no logical reason other than icy roads make for more thrilling street races. Abundant nitro boosts, uncomplicated drifting, and generous rubber-banding also help keep the act of driving exciting when things are relatively tame.

As a game with an open world, races and challenges can naturally be found and initiated when you stumble across them at particular points on the map. However, playing The Crew 2 with open-world exploration as your primary means of moving from activity to activity reveals the game's major downfall: it's too big, and all the activities and interesting locations are too spread out. The game hides a number of boxes with vehicle components across the map, which you can hunt for using a proximity tracker, but even these feel too few and far between.

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But with that in mind, The Crew 2 thankfully makes it easy to cut your commute down via player-friendly shortcuts. The game has an option to view all 120+ primary activities and countless more skill challenges (featuring things like escapes, slaloms, and a rewarding photo mode) in a categorized, list-style view, with the option to not just set a waypoint to them, but instantly start them no matter where you are in the world, at no cost. The loading times in The Crew 2 are impressively brief all around, so if you want to, you can churn through races and challenges back-to-back to very quickly and efficiently rack up progression points, earn cash, and set leaderboard positions from the moment you start.

It's an option that's both convenient and gives the impression that the game is conscious of your time. Likewise, any activity can be restarted or aborted in seconds if you're having a bad run, and there's a quick back-on-track feature that can be used any time. When you're not in an event you can switch to any vehicle you own immediately, without penalty, and without having to go anywhere. That's on top of being able to assign a favorite ground vehicle, boat, and plane to your right analog stick to allow for instantaneous switching during free-roam exploration, which provides its own kind of fun, for example, flying into the stratosphere with your plane before switching to a boat and careening back to Earth. Any vehicle that's available for sale is also graciously available for you to test drive on a moment's notice.

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The variety of different vehicular disciplines in The Crew 2 is downright impressive--each of the 14 styles is tangibly unique from one another. Every time I started to get fatigued with one method of competition, I could quickly jump to another that had a completely different feel. Each is housed within one of four "Families" which you're free to move between to perpetuate your overall progress: Street (street racing, drifting, drag racing, long-distance hypercar racing), Offroad (cross-country rally raid, motocross, loose-surface rallycross), Freestyle (plane aerobatics, jet sprint boating, monster trucking), and Pro (power boating, air racing, touring cars, and grand prix).

While the execution of The Crew 2's disciplines might not wholly satisfy purists of any one given style, it does a great job of making each feel accessible, fun, and unique. I'm usually too intimidated by grand prix racing to give it a shot in other games, and I would never have even considered the idea of playing a power boating game. But, the Crew 2 encourages you to try a little bit of everything, and it's easy thanks to the game's approachable arcade-style mechanics, as well as the prospects of seeing more beautiful and ludicrous tracks.

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Those tracks are certainly another highlight of the game, because there's an inherent novelty to the virtual tourism of The Crew 2. You'll likely recognize iconic structures, but there are also enough abstracted details that contribute to the city's atmosphere and character. And, like the original game, The Crew 2 does a great job at building a seamless and recognizable version of America to drive through, whether it's a designated top-to-bottom endurance race or a self-assigned recreation of a road trip you did a few years back. The journey across the country feels grounded, as you drive through cities that morph into industrial areas and farmland, into plains, deserts, forests and rural areas, occasionally flying by a small town now and then.

And whether you're driving, boating, or flying across The Crew 2's America, it's a mostly beautiful journey. The game's natural environments, particularly bodies of water and the sky, look fantastic, as do weather effects like snow and rain. All are enhanced to breathtaking heights by the superb lighting, though the continuous day/night and weather cycle can be an occasional inconvenience during some events--whether it be afternoon sun in your eyes, snow obscuring track obstacles, or having to fly through a tight canyon in complete darkness. Where the visuals visibly falter are in dense urban areas. You likely won't notice buildings when you're zooming past them at 200km/h, but any slower and you can't help but notice how plain they are, especially in broad daylight with clear skies. Character models, on the other hand, always look incredibly basic, no matter the situation.

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The game's RPG-style vehicle upgrade system returns from the original game, though it still doesn't feel particularly meaningful. You'll receive loot after every race in various stages of rarity (common, uncommon, rare, epic), and each corresponds to a particular vehicle part and has its own power number, which contributes to your vehicle's overall power number. There is some small benefit to this system--all vehicles of a particular class, despite having different power levels in their stock configuration, will max out at the same number, meaning you can stick with your favorite car all the way up to and through the endgame.

But while some parts come with unique gameplay perks, and more professional tuning options eventually become available, I found the upgrade system pretty easy to ignore--simply equipping the one with the biggest number was all I had to do to stay competitive. However, if you own multiple vehicles in a certain class and decide to switch between them at some point, stripping one vehicle of all its powerful parts and re-installing them on another is a tedious annoyance. The gear system as a whole feels like it's there to act as an additional roadblock to make sure your progress to higher tiers of races stays gradual; there were a few times where I found it necessary to replay a number of previously-won races in order to earn higher-grade parts to give myself a reasonable chance in later events. Another obstacle is the cost of the vehicles you're required to purchase to be able to participate in certain disciplines: Buying a vehicle in order to gain access to an advanced discipline like air racing or grand prix is expensive, and will typically empty out your in-game wallet completely. I didn't need to dip into the game's real-world currency equivalent to progress during my playthrough, but those who like to keep a garage filled with lots of different cars will likely have a tougher time with in-game credits.

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The Crew 2 allows you to form a party with three other players to explore and participate in events together, but, at the time of writing the game doesn't offer any meaningful ways to interact with players outside your party, despite their visible presence in the always-online world. Aside from manually inviting them into your party via the roster menu, there is no way to formally challenge them to race in any capacity. Ubisoft has stated that player-versus-player lobbies are planned as a free content update in December, on top of new vehicle disciplines and other updates, but they do not exist in The Crew 2 as of July 2018.

The Crew 2's large open-world feels too sparse to be engaging enough for anything more than some light virtual tourism, and it's easy to disparage it because of that. But it also provides the landscape for the game's most memorable experiences, and these can come hard and fast, if you want them to. There's always a ridiculously indulgent twist or spectacular moment, whether it be drifting off cliffs in a snow-covered Grand Canyon before transforming into a boat to jet down the Colorado River, or hurtling down a mountain during a spectacular sunset in a rally raid.

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I'm annoyed by the game's lack of public interaction and meaningless gear system, but I'll fondly recall both the tension of flinging sprint boats back and forth through the narrow, artificial canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas, and the easygoing satisfaction of an hour-long hypercar race from New York to San Francisco, where I listened to a podcast and enjoyed the rolling scenery. Despite its shortcomings, The Crew 2 still displays admirable strengths, which lie in its player-friendly features, freedom of movement, and its willingness to bend the rules in order to make things exciting and varied for an accessible, American-themed thrillride.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 04 Jul 2018 21:16:00 -0700)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:00:00 Z)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:00:00 Z)

SUNDAY

The Joel McHale-hosted “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale” is back with a fresh batch of episodes. Any time, Netflix

They’ll be making quite a racket in the men’s final of the “2018 Wimbledon Championships.” 6 a.m. ESPN

France plays England or Croatia for all the marbles in the final...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:50:00 PDT )

Protesters in Britain on Friday did not mince words regarding their objection to President Trump.

“Honk if you hate Trump,” read one placard. “Trump go home,” read another.

A giant balloon in the likeness of Trump as an orange-and-yellow scowling baby was hoisted in the air above Parliament to...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:50:00 PDT )

Transportation Security Administration officers who are accused of abuse on the job are immune from being held liable for damages, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The 2-to-1 decision by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia this week means that passengers who file claims of abuse...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:50:00 PDT )

Fighting EX Layer is a one-one-one fighting game that's built for a very specific audience. There's no tutorial, no story mode, not even a basic arcade mode yet. However, the resulting game is built purely on competitive fighting with focused efforts on making the brawling as satisfying and engaging as possible. And to that end, developer Arika succeeded spectacularly.

Fighting EX Layer comes from Arika, the developer behind the Street Fighter EX series for the PlayStation 1 and 2, and features many of the original characters created for those games. Faces like Blair Dame, Doctrine Dark, and the fan favorite Skullomania are all here to deliver epic beatdowns while looking better than ever. If you enjoyed the SFEX games, playing EX Layer feels like seeing old friends again after a very long time--though you don't need to remember the roster from a 1996 game to have fun with its colorful cast of fighters.

Of course, characters in a fighting game are just empty shells without a solid fighting engine to back them up, and EX Layer delivers that. The six-button fighter incorporates throws, dashes, a special overhead attack, varied special moves and super attacks, and basic attack chain combos (executed by pressing light-to-strong attack buttons in succession.) Movement, particularly dashing, feels swift and responsive even for slower characters, and basic attacks are satisfying thanks to a combination of well-designed animations and delightful auditory and visual flourishes.

This solid gameplay provides the foundation for EX Layer's two defining mechanics. The first is the ability to chain attacks into special and super moves, which is achieved by cancelling mid-animation into a stronger skill. While many fighting games do this, EX Layer is notable for how smooth and free-flowing the cancelling feels; timing windows tend to be generous, and there are only a few restrictions on what attacks can chain into others, leading to some spectacular combos involving multiple special and super skills fired off in rapid succession. Allen's Justice Fist special move has a tremendous recovery time that makes it difficult to utilize on its own, for example, but by cancelling it into a super move, it becomes a lot more versatile. The cancelling, combined with dash-oriented movement, makes for a game that's very focused on aggressive, in-your-face tactics.

The other major element that sets EX Layer apart is the Gougi, pre-constructed decks of five special skills--either active or passive--that activate when certain conditions are met over the course of the fight. Effects can range from an increase in movement speed after a certain amount of time has passed to special properties attached to your attacks after you land hits with them a certain number of times. There are currently 15 Gougi decks available in the “standard” version and five available in the lower-priced “light” version, with more potentially on the way as DLC.

The skills that activate in each Gougi are designed to pair well with each other. The Infinity deck, for example, contains three boosts to building super meter and two other skills that make use of this extra meter gain, allowing you to play by building and spending meter very quickly. Other decks can change basics of the game in some unique and challenging ways; the Stealth Raptor deck transforms dashes into short hops, while Sky Dancer gives you a homing jump that will let you land near your opponent from any distance. This results in some Gougi decks being easier to use than others, but the more technical decks offer some intriguing potential to those willing to put in the time and effort to work with them.

It's in the thick of battle when you really see how much Gougi can impact a match. Many of the effects don't activate until a couple of rounds in, meaning that you'll gain access to new skills and abilities throughout the entire match. This challenges you to not only change up your fighting style and take full advantage of your unlocked skills as the battle wages on, but also to adapt to your opponent's ever-evolving set of skills. Due to the aggressive nature of its combat and the Gougi boosts, the playing field in EX Layer is practically always changing in a fun, organic way.

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The fact that Gougi and attack cancelling are so versatile makes for a game that feels designed expressly for people who savor the technical aspects of fighting games--the kind of folks who will gladly spend hours upon hours in Training Mode just experimenting to find cool and interesting techniques. With its lack of single-player modes (besides a versus-CPU Kumite mode buried under menus), Fighting EX Layer is expressly targeting the hardcore competitor. While Arika has said that there are no plans for expanding the single-player element of the game anytime soon beyond an eventual arcade mode, it's showing that it's dedicated to maintaining the health of the community. Unfortunately, for such a competition-focused game, the netcode can be spotty, leading to some noticeable lag and occasionally frustrating matches if you don't have anyone to fight against locally. If you keep to high-bar connections, things usually go a lot more smoothly.

On a pure gameplay level, Fighting EX Layer is an absolute treat. What it lacks in bells and whistles it delivers in pure, fun combat. This is a game made for the sort of people who will spend hours perfecting an impractical, extremely-precise combo in training mode simply for the satisfaction of having done it. If that describes you, then Fighting EX Layer will be worth everything you put into it.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 11:00:00 -0700)
In “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” a new essay collection, the author of “The Queen of the Night” argues that writing fiction involves allowing yourself to become someone else. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:59:02 GMT )

When Amnon and Frances Yariv decided to downsize from an elaborate 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival home, they found the perfect spot. The new house was nearby so they could stay in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena, and its pared-down Midcentury Modern aesthetic was in sync with their desire to simplify....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 07:30:00 PDT )

An investigation of sexual harassment allegations against California Assemblyman Devon Mathis concluded last month that the Visalia Republican frequently engaged in “sexual ‘locker room talk,’” including making sexual comments about his colleagues, in violation of the Assembly’s internal policies....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 04:05:00 PDT )

Two days before the Fourth of July, a fire broke out at a gun range in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, just outside the town of Basalt. Twenty-somethings had ignited the brush with incendiary tracer rounds.

Yes, we have a gun range in Basalt. And we have a gun shop on Main Street. But the valley’s...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 04:05:00 PDT )

One morning recently, 28-year-old Rahila Qaisar donned a pink helmet, balanced her handbag on her lap and revved her new pink Honda motorcycle, so fresh from the factory that the passenger seat was still covered in plastic.

Qaisar is one of hundreds of newly minted motorcycle riders zipping around...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

On the 17th floor of Los Angeles Immigration Court the other day, Judge Lori Bass was setting hearings for juveniles who have been charged by the Department of Homeland Security with violating immigration law.

Teenagers and their attorneys sat quietly on rows of hard wooden benches in the windowless...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

For much of her career, Natasha Pecor followed a path well-worn by tech workers. She built her reputation with her first employer in the industry, earning the title head of platform at Yelp. Then she jumped to one of the giants, Amazon, where she worked as a product manager.

Most recently she parlayed...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Environmentalists praised Starbucks’ announcement this week that it will stop using plastic straws within two years, and it’s indeed a laudable move.

It also barely makes a dent in the global trash crisis.

This is the part of our gotta-have-it consumer culture that people would rather not think...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

This pocket of northwestern Syria is starting to look a lot like neighboring Turkey.

Many buildings bear signs in Turkish in addition to Arabic. Portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan adorn public schools, where students learn Turkish as a second language instead of English or French....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Lucas Matthysse couldn’t see from one eye three years ago when he was sent to the canvas by a punch that threatened to render him a contender destined for a downturn.

Now, Matthysse has a vision, one in which he becomes the man who sends Manny Pacquiao to retirement.

“Absolutely. I feel confident,”...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )
Being trapped underground in monsoon rains in northern Thailand is just one of many hurdles in the lives of the rescued Thai soccer team Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

They fight crime in old cotton hoodies, shimmering black capes and glowing LED unitards. They can repel bullets with their bodies, leap atop speeding cars like a svelte cat or dissipate in a puff of eerie smoke, all in the name of justice.

But most impressive of all: They have a newfound power...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Immigration detainees who were sent to a federal prison in Victorville last month were kept in their cells for prolonged periods with little access to the outside and were unable to change their clothing for weeks, according to workers at the facility and visitors who have spoken with detainees.

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 13 Jul 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Nintendo has all but cornered the market on streamlined, cute adventures for all ages. While Captain Toad made his first appearance in Super Mario Galaxy, he's since been spun off into his own puzzle-platforming series based on a very different type of design philosophy than you may be used to. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker debuted on the Wii U back in 2014, but as Nintendo moves much of its legacy system's library onto the Switch, Toad has another shot at stardom. And it's certainly a worthy outing--even four years on--for anyone who appreciates clever puzzles.

The core gameplay conceit is one of level design. You'll need to rotate a cuboid world around Captain Toad as you look for clues and solutions from multiple angles. Each move helps change the level, affecting how different parts react to one another and to you. As you turn the stage, you can see different pieces and elements. It's not uncommon to shift things around and notice a "POW" block in a convenient location. Toss a turnip from the other side, and you can dissolve a wall with its power and move through.

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Perspective matters, and the obstacles that can affect how you use your perspective are fertile ground for spectacular puzzles. And it allows a breadth of pacing options as well. Some stages feel tense and rushed, but some are set against calming pink clouds. A calm stage can be followed immediately by one filled with foes and traps, though, shifting where and how you focus your attention. The progression is steady enough--both within stages and across them--that you'll be left, more often than not, feeling clever and encouraged.

This is all true for both the Wii U and Switch versions, but the Switch version adds in a few things, most notably local co-operative multiplayer. Ostensibly a distinctive addition (as there's also a 3DS port that lacks it), it is poorly executed the majority of the time. Each player gets one of the Switch's Joy-Cons, splitting the typical play into two roles. One handles Toad's movement, while the other dispatches enemies and shifts the camera. It's a bizarre twist that could feel a lot more developed than it is. As it works, neither role gives much for its player to do and having enemies largely handled by one person cuts down on the scope of the platforming and the puzzles, making each stage feel like a cut-down version instead of a solid addition in its own right.

That said, the sharper screen on the Switch and addition of about a dozen new areas and modes make this version a strictly better choice, and the short, relatively simple stages of Captain Toad lend themselves to a portable environment. Of course, it also carries with it the weaknesses of its forebear. Even with the bonus content, Treasure Tracker is a bit short. You're left with the sense that there could be plenty more and that the idea of rotating through levels doesn't get its full due.

Despite a smattering of minor complaints, Captain Toad stands as a pint-sized version of Nintendo's stellar first party pedigree. It's among the best Mario spin-offs around and a delightful iteration on old ideas.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 12 Jul 2018 15:55:00 -0700)

Samantha Bee is the lone woman on the list of Emmy nominees for variety talk series. On her TBS show “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” she bravely and loudly voices her opinions about politics and the stew of controversial current events that have riveted the world this year, but she didn’t feel...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 12 Jul 2018 12:00:00 PDT )

A record of roadside vernacular and paintings that explore the intimate and the fantastical. Plus: a butch parade and an art-meets-sports night. Here are nine exhibitions and events to check out in the coming week:

Steve Fitch, “Vanishing Vernacular,” at Kopeikin Gallery. Fitch, who is known for...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 12 Jul 2018 11:00:00 PDT )

The Department of Justice has reopened its investigation into the death of Emmett Till, one of the most notorious slayings of the Jim Crow-era Deep South, more than 60 years after the 14-year-old African American boy’s mutilated body was pulled out of Mississippi's Tallahatchie River.

Two white...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 12 Jul 2018 11:00:00 PDT )

Bill Hader stepped into the Emmy spotlight Thursday with “Barry,” the show he co-created with Alec Berg. It earned multiple nominations, including for comedy series and lead actor in a comedy series. Hader plays the title character — a former Marine turned hit man who follows a mark from the Midwest...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 12 Jul 2018 10:55:00 PDT )

Emmy voters remembered how much they loved Tatiana Maslany and Ted Danson, didn’t have much patience for “Twin Peaks” and finally embraced Trevor Noah’s vision for “The Daily Show.”

Yes, Emmy nominations day wouldn’t be complete without the annual airing of grievances, globally trademarked as Snubs...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 12 Jul 2018 10:40:00 PDT )


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