By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. This week, our writers venture into a different kind of hell on Earth with Doom Eternal, spend some self-isolation time with Apple Arcade’s growing library, and fill the Major League Baseball void in our lives with MLB The Show 20. Plus, one of our young writers takes us deep into his love for Super Smash Bros.
It certainly is auspicious timing for the arrival of a game that’s about literal hell on Earth, but that’s exactly what we’re getting with Doom Eternal, the bigger, badder sequel to 2016’s gnarly Doom reboot. Christopher Byrd ripped and tore his way through the game for The Washington Post, finding it to be more of everything he loved about its predecessor—and then some. But it’s the “then some,” like needless detours into first-person platforming, where the game starts to falter, he says. Even still, Eternal is a worthy follow-up and “a challenging, engaging shooter that caters to one’s predatorial impulses,” Chris wrote.
Also at The Washington Post, Harold Goldberg checked in on the burgeoning library of Apple Arcade and reported back with a huge look at the service’s eclectic growth. There’s truly something for everyone, from butter-based battle royale and moody, thoughtful puzzlers to over-the-top baseball action and vibrant beach-hopping adventures. “No matter how much social distancing or sheltering in place you’re dealing with,” Harold writes, “no one can stop you from having a stellar time with your iPhone or iPad in these sundry worlds for what’s still a very attractive monthly subscription price of $5.”
Speaking of social distancing, the lack of Major League Baseball is a glaring omission from American life these days. Ebenezer Samuel dove into the latest installment of Sony’s stalwart MLB The Show series to see if it can fill the void. Luckily, he says, “you get a good one this year.” His in-depth review dives into what’s new and improved in 2020, with the biggest addition being fully named and licensed minor league rosters, giving a major boost to the game’s main career and franchise modes.
And over on the Circle site, senior intern Isaac Espinoza provided us with a majorly uplifting post about the joy Super Smash Bros. brings him—always, to be clear, but especially in this scary, isolating moment. For Isaac, even the pains of defeat are worth it, with tournament losses providing direction for learning and growth. “So it’s no surprise that Super Smash Bros. will always be a game that I hold near and dear to my heart,” he wrote, “now, when we’re isolated, and in the future when we can all be together again.”
From Beyond The Circle
For Vice, Jess Morrissette took a fascinating and utterly disturbing trip back through the history of advertising for online gaming services, making a strong argument that the violent, in-your-face messaging of publishers themselves is to blame for the rampant toxicity that is still so prevalent in online play and in gaming culture at large. Morrissette deploys a smattering of print ads from the dawn of online console play—all the way back to ad copy from Quake and some truly horrible ads for Sega’s Heat.Net service. These days, publishers like Microsoft make public lamentations about the harassment and bile you find online, but it’s hard to deny they brought it upon themselves, at least if only a little bit.
But Microsoft has come along way from those days. This week, for example, the company announced it would be making a bunch of educational content available for free in Minecraft to help kids stay engaged, entertained, and learning even while they’re stuck at home. That includes an in-game tour of the International Space Station (developed in partnership with Nasa), coding lessons, a trip through the human eye, and more.
After 13 years of speculation and longing, Valve has finally returned to the revolutionary Half-Life series. Only…it’s not for Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or whatever), and this new installment, Half-Life: Alyx, can only be played with a virtual-reality headset. For VR acolytes, it’s an exciting opportunity to see what one of the world’s most renowned, resource-rich developers can do with this technology. For Half-Life fans who, for one reason or another, can’t play in VR, it’s a bitter disappointment. If you don’t have a powerful PC and an expensive VR headset, you’re still out of luck, but Valve did try to account for, to a degree, players who have access to VR but are typically physically unable to play these sorts of very active games. As Gamespot highlights in a detailed rundown, Valve implemented a suite of accessibility options tailored to the challenges of playing in VR, particularly when it comes to a game that’s as physically taxing as Alyx. There are still plenty of people who won’t be able to play this long-awaited Half-Life return due to physical limitations, but it’s great to see Valve making an effort to open it up as best they can.
On a related note, and for a sweet happy-ending of a finale, we point you to Kotaku for a short but joyous post from Mike Fahey about Animal Crossing: New Horizons most unexpected bit of inclusivity: the presence of a wheelchair item. Mike is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair every day. Being able to obtain one in the game and have their character reflect their real-world situation, even if the wheelchair isn’t fully functional, is a power bit of inclusivity.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading. Stay safe. Stay healthy. We’ll see you next week.
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.