Pokemon Go Was Reportedly Targeted By Russian Disinformation Efforts

Russia’s efforts to influence the United States were, and are, expansive, according to the American Intelligence Community and government officials. As we learn more, we are discovering that the scale of the interference efforts is much larger than previously thought–and even Pokemon Go was targeted.

According to a new report from CNN, Russian-linked accounts leveraged the popularity of the mobile game in an effort to play up a divisive topic. Across Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter accounts, actors linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency posted under the name “Don’t Shoot Us.” The posts and videos all related to police brutality.

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The name “Don’t Shoot Us” is likely a reference to “Hand’s Up, Don’t Shoot,” a slogan popularized after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. The slogan became widespread among Black Lives Matter and social justice activists. According to CNN, the Russian accounts probably hoped to galvanize black activism–and thus possibly spark a counter-reaction against black activists.

In July 2016, the “Don’t Shoot Us” Tumblr account held a competition, which tasked its audience to go out to the locations where alleged police brutality took place and to catch Pokemon in Pokemon Go. They would then have to name their Pokemon after a victim of police brutality–the account used a Hypno named Eric Gardner as an example.

“It’s clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission,” developer Niantic told CNN in a statement.

It’s worth reading CNN’s full report; the Don’t Shoot Us account owners have been linked to several other interference efforts, as well. You can check it out here.

Research has discovered accounts and individuals linked to the Russian government and other powerful Russian actors which have attempted to sow discord and divisiveness within Internet communities, with the bulk of the efforts happening before the 2016 Presidential election.

Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that social media giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter were specifically targeted by the interference efforts–and that Russian-linked advertisements were shown to users during the election season. Representatives from these companies will testify in front of the Senate and House of Representatives Intelligence Committees on November 1.

Epic Is Suing Fortnite Cheaters, Alleging They Violated ToS

Epic Games is suing two Fortnite players, alleging they have violated the game’s terms of service and EULA by cheating. TorrentFreak has obtained legal complaints filed in North Carolina federal court against two individuals, asserting that they are running afoul by “modifying and changing the game’s code, committing copyright infringement in the process.”

Epic warned players about potential action it might take. In a blog post last week, the studio said, “Let’s be straight for a second, nobody likes playing with cheaters. Not you, not me. Nobody.” It added that addressing cheating in Fortnite is “the highest priority across Epic Games.”

“We’re exploring every measure to ensure these cheaters are removed and stay removed from Fortnite Battle Royale and the Epic ecosystem. We don’t want to give too many clues about what we’re doing, but we are rolling out tools and will continue to do so,” the developer went on to say.

According to Epic, it has already banned “thousands” of players, and it will continue the bans as needed.

Epic’s lawsuits against the two alleged cheaters goes on to say that the defendants “use cheats in a deliberate attempt to destroy the integrity of, and otherwise wreak havoc in, the Fornite game. As Defendant[s] intend, this often ruins the game for the other players, and for the many people who watch ‘streamers.'”

As for why Epic is taking such a hard line against the supposed cheaters, the studio explained that one of the alleged cheaters was banned nine times already but created a new account every time to get back in. This person is also alleged to have written code for the hacks, which may explain why Epic is suing this person.

Epic is suing both parties for up to $150,000 in damages over copyright infringement. Another claim mentioned in the lawsuits is breach of contract and circumvention of technological measures. Go to TorrentFreak to get the full story.

This is not the only prickly situation that Epic is involved in right now over Fornite. PUBG developer Bluehole has threatened some kind of action against Epic over Fornite due to the game’s similarities with PUBG. Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode, which is free, recently passed 10 million players, so it’s clearly a huge hit.

One of the next new features coming to Battle Royale is a progression system, which is due out in the “next several weeks.” This will help in Epic’s “war against casual cheaters,” because the idea is they think twice about cheating if they know all of their progress will be reset if and when they banned.

Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

The Evil Within 2 Review

Innovating within the bounds of horror’s familiar tropes and rules is a difficult task, but one that The Evil Within 2 handles with grace. Developer Tango Gameworks cleverly introduces old-school horror design within the confines of a semi-open world that ultimately makes for a refreshing trip into a world of nightmares.

Picking up several years after the first game, we find the former detective Sebastian Castellanos in dire straits, still wracked with guilt over the loss of his family and haunted by his last visit into a nightmare version of reality. When a shadowy organization gives him the chance to set things right with his past and rescue his daughter from the dangerous and unstable world of Union, he willingly re-enters the haunting realm despite his residual trauma.

Right from the beginning, there’s a sense of deja vu as Sebastian wanders the eerie and unreal locations in Union. Despite being one of the few survivors from the first game, he oddly finds himself falling for the same tricks and set-ups that the world and its inhabitants lay out for him. While this could be chalked up to a simple retread, much of these instances make a point of illustrating some key differences from this game and the last.

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There’s generally more of an adventurous feel compared to the original’s isolated levels. With more side characters to interact with–opening up moments of dialogue that flesh out the story–and optional events scattered around the world, there’s a level of freedom and variety in The Evil Within 2 that was largely absent from the first game. However, there are a few notable sections where backtracking is required, which slows the pacing and sense of progression to a crawl.

Despite this, exploration is consistently enjoyable, rewarding treks to the places tucked away, where you can find details about Union’s history and meet other characters looking to survive the nightmare. With so many little details that add a lot to atmosphere, there’s a clear respect for The Evil Within’s world. The many nods to original game feel more impactful for it, giving a renewed appreciation for Sebastian’s previous adventure.

Compared to its predecessor’s singular levels in unique chapters, The Evil Within 2 possesses a more organic and interconnected set of places to explore–focusing on several large maps with multiple points of interest. While there’s still plenty of mind-bending and perspective-skewing set pieces, such as a tentacle creature with a large camera for an eye, the explorable spaces are the real standout. In many ways, it’s like traversing through a demented amusement park filled with hideous creations, forcing yourself to face past horrors. Adventuring to places not marked on the map often yields valuable resources, and also leads to some surprising encounters with obsessive ghosts and multiple unnerving, fourth-wall breaking events.

It takes more than just going for the head to take out some of the tougher enemies.
It takes more than just going for the head to take out some of the tougher enemies.

Over time, environments descend into chaos when Union inevitably grows unstable, turning a small town into a horrifying and unnerving shell of its former self. Streets vertically upend, and fire and blood exude from places they shouldn’t. The visual design of The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While Sebastian felt more like a mere sketch of a hardened and weary protagonist in his first outing, he feels better realized and more grounded in this sequel, giving a certain gravitas to his struggle. Showing bewilderment and confusion throughout the first game, he’s more confident and determined this time, even throwing in some fitting one-liners that poke fun at some of the dangers in the last game. The supporting cast of villains also feel more active in the ongoing events, and have a greater sense of place this time around–particularly with the eccentric serial killer artist who photographs his victims upon their deaths.

The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While there’s occasional moments of cheese and humor throughout–such as the inclusion of a goofy shooting range and collectible toys related to other Bethesda games–the levity never feels out of place, which is an accomplishment considering the game’s pervasive macabre atmosphere.

Putting a greater emphasis on the survival aspect of survival horror, The Evil Within 2 demands resource management and bravery in its relatively spacious world. While common enemies are fewer in number compared to the original game, they’re far more threatening alone and can easily manhandle Sebastian. There’s a thoughtful approach to engagement and progression this time around, which means you’ll have to think twice about whether or not to engage a group of enemies. With that said, you have a sizable arsenal of weapons and gear–including the return of the Crossbow with six different ammo types–to take on the enemies as you see fit.

Some encounters will pull out all the stops to prevent Sebastian from making progress.
Some encounters will pull out all the stops to prevent Sebastian from making progress.

Throughout his journey, Sebastian carries a communication device, allowing him to keep track of main objectives, along with points of interest and intel on the fates of side characters in the area. How you go about dealing with these characters and exploring is up to you. Similarly, whether you avoid conflict with enemies or take out as many as possible along the way is down to your preferred playstyle. The Evil Within 2 accommodates those that prefer action as much as those that like to be stealthy. Combat is robust, thanks to improved weapon handling and character upgrading that allows you to focus on the specific areas of Sebastian’s skillset to enhance stealth, combat, and athleticism.

Sebastian can return to the safe haven of his mind to upgrade weapons and skills, and review case files and intel on various characters. With the Green Gel collected from fallen enemies–and the new Red Gel that unlocks upper tier upgrades–the core upgrading system has been greatly improved. Going beyond simply increasing damage of melee strikes and stamina length, new special perks can be unlocked such as the ever-useful Bottle Break skill that uses bottles as self-defense items when grabbed by enemies. Along with the expanded weapon upgrade system, using only weapon parts, the systems of progression feel far more nuanced and open.

Sebastian will have to scavenge for supplies and other materials to make up for the lack of ammo boxes and health items. While this may seem like it can make things easy, efficient crafting can only be done at dedicated workbenches, whereas crafting in the field via the radial inventory menu should be done a last resort as it costs twice as many materials. This crafting element adds a bit of a survivalist feel to The Evil Within 2, where you’re scrounging around corners to find materials, all while avoiding packs of enemies looking to pummel you.

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Though the game is challenging even on its standard difficulty level, it’s not unfair, and there are options for multiple playstyles. The standard Survival difficulty mode is manageable, and you won’t find yourself hitting a way due to lack of resources. However, the Nightmare mode raises the stakes, featuring slightly altered combat encounters, harder enemies, and fewer resources to find. If you’re up for a challenge of a different kind, the unlockable Classic mode will disable auto-saves, upgrades, and limit you to a finite amount of saves. In addition to extra unlockables for completing the tougher difficulties, the experiences they offer is more in keeping with the true survival horror experience, where resources are hard to come by, and the enemies are deadlier than before.

There’s a clear respect for the horror genre in The Evil Within 2, with a number of references to classic films and games. The game channels that style and tone into combat that feels brutal and raw, stealth that has an air of suspense, and unsettling confrontations with dangerous, otherworldly creatures. The Evil Within 2 doubles down on the core of what makes survival horror games great: the focus on disempowerment and obstacles, and the ensuing satisfaction that comes with surviving a harrowing assault.

Though there’s some occasional technical hiccups that result in some particularly frustrating moments and weird pacing issues, this horror sequel elevates the tense and impactful survival horror experience in ways that feel fresh and exciting. What this cerebral horror game does isn’t totally new, but it rarely feels routine, and offers plenty of surprises. Coming in at a lengthy and surprisingly packed 15-hour campaign, the sequel does an admirable job of ratcheting up the tension and scares when it needs to, while also giving you the freedom to explore and proceed how you want. It’s a tough thing to balance, but The Evil Within 2 does it remarkably well, and in a way that leaves a strong and lasting impression after its touching conclusion.

Microsoft On Xbox One X — “It’s Not For Everybody”

In just a few weeks, Microsoft will launch a new console in the form of the Xbox One X. A more powerful version of the Xbox One, the system arrives on November 7, priced at $500 in the United States. While Microsoft of course expects it to sell well (the pre-orders are apparently strong already), Xbox boss Phil Spencer has now reiterated that the lower-cost Xbox One S model will remain Microsoft’s best-selling console this generation.

“Xbox One S will be the market leader for us. It’s the more affordable console. It plays all the same games,” Spencer told us at the Brazil Game Show today. “It will be the console that sells.”

The Xbox One X, meanwhile, is aimed at players who are looking for the “very best experience” with a home console. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV, you’ll still see the benefits of the console’s increased horsepower and more, Spencer pointed out. But similar to the Xbox One Elite controller, the Xbox One X won’t be for everyone. It’s all about giving players choice; if they want to spend more for a high-end experience, they can. This has been the setup on PC basically since the start, and now consoles are catching up, starting last year with the PS4 Pro and now the Xbox One X.

“Whether you’re on a 1080p TV or a 4K TV, you’re going to have a great experience. But it’s not for everybody. It’s like when we built the Xbox One Elite controller, we didn’t try to say to everybody, ‘If you need an extra controller, go buy the Elite controller.’ We sold a ton of those controllers. We know in the gaming segment, there are a lot of people who play games casually and there’s also people where gaming is their number one hobby.

“Their number one form of entertainment, and we want to give them the very best experience. I’ve played games in true 4K with HDR, and they look fantastic. But it doesn’t mean everybody has to do that. So we’re giving gamers a choice. Whether we’ve pushed the innovation too far? It’s hard to do that with gamers. I guess we’ll see; I feel very confident in the product we have coming to market.”

Are you going to pick up an Xbox One X next month? Let us know in the comments below! And for lots more on our conversation with Spencer, see the stories linked below.

  • Xbox Boss Is Unsure Cross-Play With PS4 Will Ever Happen
  • It’s A Myth That Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Is Ignored, Exec Says
  • Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Hasn’t Beaten Cuphead Yet, But He Has A Good Excuse
  • Phil Spencer Talks His Destiny 2 Power Level And The Weapon He Wants
  • Xbox One’s Original Xbox Backwards Compatibility Coming This Year
  • Xbox Exec Speaks Out Against Exclusive DLC And Recognizes The Irony Saying That

Xbox Exec Speaks Out Against Exclusive DLC And Recognizes The Irony Saying That

Speaking to GameSpot today at the Brazil Game Show, Xbox boss Phil Spencer spoke out against the idea of companies like Microsoft paying to secure exclusive content in games. He immediately recognises the irony of this situation, given that Microsoft had the timed-exclusive deal with Call of Duty before it shifted to Sony. The company is also working with Activision on a timed-exclusivity deal for Destiny 2, while Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 will have some content that’s exclusive to PS4, at least for a time.

But on Microsoft’s side, it sounds like you shouldn’t expect these kinds of deals to happen on Xbox. “People always knock me on this; I’ve been on record… I don’t love the idea or practice of us paying so other platforms can’t play or use a certain gun in a game or do a certain level,” he said. “I know I say that and, Xbox history–DLC exclusivity windows with Call of Duty–I understand the fingers are pointing right back to Xbox. I can only be who I am. It’s not the best PR answer. But I don’t like that.”

In terms of timed-exclusives for full games, Microsoft recently reached a deal with PUBG developer Bluehole to bring the game to Xbox One this year as a “console launch exclusive.” It could very well come to PlayStation 4 at some point down the road, but no announcements have been made about that. Microsoft’s deal with Bluehole, which presumably includes funds to help support the game’s development (and may reportedly get extended), is part of Microsoft’s aim to make the “best games possible” for Xbox.

“People ask, when’s that coming to PlayStation? I’ve got a deal, working with [Bluehole] to build the very best version of PUBG,” he said. “That’s where I am focused. Right now, we’re helping that game come to console. Our focus is on making the best games possible.”

Another recent example of a exclusivity deal Microsoft made is with StudioMHR for the well-received and very difficult platformer/run-and-gunner Cuphead. The game is exclusive on console to Xbox One forever (though it is also available on PC). It is never coming to PlayStation 4. Spencer said Microsoft invested in Cuphead because it saw potential in the title and wanted to help make it all that it could be.

“When there are games that come along, Cuphead is a good example, and the team had certain ambition about what they wanted to go do,” he said. “And together with them we wanted to invest more. We saw more opportunity. And what that turned into was us having an exclusive game on our platform. That’s a game that probably wouldn’t have happened the way it did if we didn’t invest the way we did.”

Console exclusives are a way to drive sales of a particular system. Microsoft has Halo and Gears of War and Forza, while Sony has Uncharted, God of War, Killzone, and others, just to name a few. While there will probably always be full exclusives like these, Spencer said the future of gaming lies in games that may not necessarily be tied to a specific device.

“If you define the gaming market as console and that’s all you’re focused on, then maybe that’s an important part of the business consideration,” Spencer said about console-exclusives driving system sales. “I’d say one of the reasons PC is still so strong, is because it’s an open platform. Through things like cross-play we’re working to allow people to play games together regardless of where you bought the games. if you’re really about trying to drive just a specific device and say I just looked at the gaming opportunity all up as a single device opportunity, maybe that’s an approach. We don’t see it that way.

“When we look at things that are really large in gaming today, we look at Twitch, Steam, PUBG, Minecraft. People on Minecraft on Switch are playing with people on an iPhone. They don’t own a Windows machine or an Xbox. But they own our game or are using Xbox Live across multiple devices, that’s what gaming in the future is about. Getting caught in a definition of gaming that’s about me trying to do everything I can to get you to buy one specific device to play one specific variant of games, is not really about growing the business.”

For lots more on our conversation with Spencer, see the stories linked below, and come back soon to check out the full Q&A.

  • Microsoft On Xbox One X — “It’s Not For Everybody”
  • Xbox Boss Is Unsure If Cross-Play With PS4 Will Ever Happen
  • Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Hasn’t Beaten Cuphead Yet But He Has A Good Excuse
  • Phil Spencer Talks His Destiny 2 Power Level And The Weapon He Wants
  • It’s A Myth That Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Is Ignored
  • Xbox One’s Original Xbox Backwards Compatibility Still Coming This Year

Xbox One’s Original Xbox Backwards Compatibility Still Coming This Year

One of the pleasant surprises Microsoft had in store for E3 this year was the announcement of Xbox One backwards compatibility support for original Xbox games. At the Brazil Game Show, we caught up with Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who provided some insight into where things stand with the upcoming feature.

“We’re close, we’re really close,” Spencer said when asked for the status of Xbox backwards compatibility. “I have a little dashboard I go to and I can see all the games [and] where they are in getting approvals in the pipeline. I know the games that are coming for the original Xbox but I don’t think we’ve announced them all. We have to do this in partnership with partners, but we’re still on track. I feel really good. The games look great.”

Spencer also remains confident that the feature will be out before the end of the year, as planned. “Oh yeah,” he said about his certainty of a 2017 launch. He also teased that there are still details about backwards compatibility will work on Xbox One X that have yet to be revealed: “There’s some stuff we’re going to talk about in that space in terms of how compatibility’s going to work on [Xbox One] X specifically that I think people will find pretty interesting.

“Some of the games hold up really well; some of them don’t. But the gameplay mechanics and the smile [you got] on your face 15 years ago playing those games, those are things that are still there. I see it, like getting back to playing Crimson Skies, [it’s] fantastic, and the game actually looks really good even though it’s obviously been around.”

Spencer mentioning Crimson Skies is expected, as it’s only one of two games–along with Fuzion Frenzy–that have been confirmed as part of the program. “We have multiple games up and running–we just decided to tease the first one[s],” Microsoft executive Dave McCarthy explained about Microsoft’s E3 reveal of the first two games. “There will be a library of games available, for sure.” However, you shouldn’t expect the library to be as big as that of Xbox 360 backwards compatible games.

For lots more on our conversation with Spencer, see the stories linked below, and come back soon to check out the full Q&A.

  • Microsoft On Xbox One X — “It’s Not For Everybody”
  • Xbox Boss Is Unsure If Cross-Play With PS4 Will Ever Happen
  • Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Hasn’t Beaten Cuphead Yet But He Has A Good Excuse
  • Phil Spencer Talks His Destiny 2 Power Level And The Weapon He Wants
  • It’s A Myth That Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Is Ignored
  • Xbox Exec Speaks Out Against Exclusive DLC And Recognizes The Irony Saying That

Overwatch, WoW, Diablo 3 BlizzCon Virtual Ticket Goodies Revealed

One of the nice perks of buying the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket is that you get virtual goodies for Blizzard’s games. Now, Blizzard has announced what (almost) all of those bonuses are for each game. Also worth noting is people who attend BlizzCon in person also get these.

For World of Warcraft, the bonus is the Stormwind Skychaser (Alliance) and Orgrimmar Interceptor (Horde). These bonuses are already in the game.

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Overwatch’s bonus is a new skin for Winston, which is also already available in the game. “Through the power of science, Winston found himself teleported into BlizzCon 2017–and picked up this souvenir skin to mark the curious occasion,” Blizzard said.

In StarCraft II, the freebies include Junker SCV, Probe, and Drone skins, which, like the others, are already available in StarCraft II if you have a Virtual Ticket. For Heroes of the Storm, the freebie is the Nexus Razorback mount, along with a BlizzCon 2017 banner and Cartoon Nexus Razorback spray. These are coming soon.

Diablo III’s freebie is the Murkromancer pet, an aquatic companion, and it’s coming soon as well. Finally, Hearthstone’s freebie has not yet been revealed, though a teaser image suggests it will be a Golden Legendary card. This bonus will arrive after BlizzCon.

You can see all of the Virtual Ticket items that have been announced by clicking through the images in the gallery above.

BlizzCon 2017 runs November 3-4. The Virtual Ticket this year gives you access to all of the show’s programming, along with content in the weeks leading up to the show. Although the programming is expanding, the price–$40–is staying the same. We’ll have a lot more from BlizzCon as the show draws closer.

The Evil Within 2 PS4, Xbox One, and PC Giveaway

We teamed up with Bethesda to give away these awesome The Evil Within 2 prize packs for free:

  • The Evil Within 2 on PS4, Xbox One, or PC
  • The Evil Within 2 Prima Strategy Guide, Shirt, Comic, and Journal
  • Grand Prize: Custom The Evil Within 2 skinned consoles, (1) Xbox One and (1) PS4

Please read this carefully: We have a total of fifteen (15) prize packs to give away, and two (2) winners will receive a custom The Evil Within 2 skinned console for Xbox One or PS4. Five (5) winners will be announced daily at approximately 5:00PM PT until the competition ends on Friday, October 13th at 5:00 PM PT. Winners can be seen in the “Winners” tab below. Console winners will be chosen on Friday. If you enter for a chance to win today and don’t win, you’ll be automatically entered again the next day. Entry is open to United States residents only, void where prohibited.

Enter below (the additional entries are optional to increase your chances of winning):