Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A NEGATIVE Batch Of Brew

Playing Oddworld: Soulstorm is as arduous as Abe’s quest to liberate his Mudoken brethren from slavery. Each step is a supreme test of patience as you methodically guide your followers through challenging hazards, sweating over the fact that one slip-up could unravel all your effort. If you enjoy putting up with that old-school challenge, you might love this journey. However, if you’re a newcomer or a fan that believes this style of platformer hasn’t aged very well, turn back now. Soulstorm doesn’t do enough to modernize the series’ tedious gameplay, and a litany of severe technical hiccups spoil Abe’s attempted comeback. A reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, Soulstorm’s gameplay remains largely the same: you recruit and guide followers through 2D platforming stages littered with dangers. As charming as the classic Oddworld games are, they can be frustratingly difficult and that hasn’t changed much in Soulstorm. Most Slig enemies and other hazards mow Abe down instantly, and I was infuriated by how little wiggle room I had to correct course when things went sideways. Abe drops so fast that it makes the health meter seem like a cruel tease. While playing Soulstorm, I often felt like I was walking on eggshells because of that high price of failure, retracing every step, re-recruiting every Mudokon, and carefully guiding them through a gauntlet of foes is soul-crushing when it all falls apart in seconds. Dying to unexpected perils, like being suddenly gunned down by off-screen enemies, feels cheap and happens way too often. A crafting system serves as Soulstorm’s biggest addition, but it doesn’t feel necessary. You must repeatedly gather the same ingredients every time you die (by searching lockers, trash cans, and fallen foes), which wore me down in a hurry after repeatedly replaying certain sections. The crafted tools themselves, like proximity mines, smoke screens, even a flamethrower, do add a welcomed element of flexibility and improvisation to gameplay. Dropping smoke screens to create hiding spots anywhere is nice, but I wished I didn’t have to make these items myself and grew tired of digging around the same spots over and over.   Even when Soulstorm’s difficulty eases up, the gameplay is bland. The action feels largely the same from previous games in the series, and that formula doesn’t evolve significantly beyond the first few hours. Even the more interesting sequences, like facing down a giant mech aboard a speeding train, are far too punishing to be fun. I’m glad that Abe controls better now (he even has a double jump), but the controls still have a mushy unresponsiveness that makes entertaining actions, like possessing Sligs, feel like a hassle. The controls also lead to additional deaths because Abe doesn’t act as swiftly as you need him to, especially during the ill-fitting, overly demanding combat arenas that pit you against waves of baddies while you try to protect fleeing Mudokens. Soulstorm would be a tough recommendation for anyone outside of diehard fans if it performed flawlessly, but I encountered several progress-sabotaging bugs (even after installing the big day-one patch) that should scare off even those players. When I died, Mudokens sometimes failed to respawn alongside me even though my tally indicated they were still alive and under my command. That meant I lost out on turning in followers that I’d spent ages trying to safely liberate, which negatively affected my overall quarma – a vital metric in determining which of the four endings you get.  Abe occasionally gets stuck in environmental geometry, forcing a restart. At one point, I fell into an infinite loop. One escape portal permanently vanished once I reached it, forcing me to abandon followers. A gun in a late-game turret sequence failed to shoot despite working fine in previous segments. After multiple restarts, I randomly discovered that clicking the right stick “fixed” the weapon for some reason, allowing it to fire. I spent over an hour trying to lead a large group of followers through a particularly challenging area, but once I opened the exit door an invisible wall prevented me from moving forward. I was forced to restart this entire, lengthy sequence twice before the exit worked properly. Soulstorm’s gameplay pushed my patience to its limits, but these bugs sent me over the edge and made me nervous every time I started a new level. “What on Earth is going to screw me over this time?” I regularly asked myself. Soulstorm’s faults are a shame because its narrative and presentation brought a smile to my face. Abe and his pals are goofy, delightful underdogs I couldn’t help but root for. The enjoyable story is packed with heart, and the cutscenes look great. I wanted to welcome Abe into a new generation of gaming with open arms, but Soulstorm fails to make a case for why its brand of cinematic platforming works today. In fact, Soulstorm only reaffirmed that Abe’s past adventures are best viewed with rose-colored glasses.
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    Dish is buying Republic Wireless and its own 200,000 subscribers

    Dish plans to add yet another mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to its wireless business. On Monday, the company announced that it has an agreement in place to buy Republic Wireless. With the deal, which should close before the end of first half of the year, Dish will add approximately 200,000 customers to its wireless subscriber base. The company claims Republic Wireless customers won’t see “any immediate” changes to their plans. After spending nearly a decade of trying to break into the wireless market, Dish has made a lot of recent progress. It all started July when the company paid $1.4 billion to buy Boost Mobile from T-Mobile and Sprint. The two carriers agreed to divest themselves of the pre-prepaid brand to get regulatory approval for their $26 billion merger. One month later, Dish bought Ting Mobile from Tucows. It’s too early to tell if Dish will successfully transform itself into a competitive national carrier, but it’s certainly trying to make a go of it.

    Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile spent $78 billion on C-band spectrum for 5G

    The Federal Communications Commission has shared the results of its long-awaited C-band spectrum auction. A company called Cellco Partnership, better known as Verizon (Engadget's parent company), came away from the proceedings the clear winner. It spent $45.4 billion, more than every other participant combined, to secure 3,511 individual 20Mhz blocks of spectrum across the country. AT&T came in second place, winning 1,621 licenses on a $23.4 billion spend. In third place, you have two different companies. In terms of spend, it was T-Mobile with its $9.3 billion in bids, but US Cellular came ahead of the carrier with 254 licenses to its 142. All told, the auction raised more than $81 billion, significantly more than the $20 to $30 billion windfall that was projected last summer. All big three carriers will use the spectrum to build out their 5G networks. For Verizon, however, the auction was a must-win in many ways. To date, its buildout has mostly depended on mmWave spectrum. That’s allowed it to build a 5G network that is fast, but not very comprehensive. Millimeter waves are notoriously fickle. They can’t travel far and they oscillate so quickly they tend to scatter against any walls and obstacles they meet. Its new spectrum will allow Verizon to build out its 5G network without deploying cell sites at every intersection. Now that #CBand auction results are public, time for carriers to start explaining what they are going to do with their billions of dollars of new spectrum.Verizon is up first with an investor day on 3/10. T-Mobile goes next with its own analyst event on 3/11. — Eli Blumenthal (@eliblumenthal) February 24, 2021 What’s most surprising is the amount of money AT&T spent. It only recently reduced its debt load to about $164 billion and now it’s spending $23.4 billion. But while T-Mobile could afford to sit back because of its $23 billion merger with Sprint, AT&T could not. The carrier needs that spectrum to stay competitive. Just as notable are the companies that didn’t walk away with any spectrum. Comcast, Charter and Cox formed a joint venture called C&C Wireless Holding to take part in the auction and didn’t win any licenses. In many ways, it’s only the easy part that’s done now. Now the carriers need to actually build the infrastructure that will take advantage of the spectrum they won. It may also take a while before most people see the benefits of those investments. While some C-band spectrum will be available by the end of the year, other parts won’t be ready until 2023.

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