Connect with us

Tech

‘The Devil in Me’ feels like a dead end for The Dark Pictures Anthology

Published

on

Comment

The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me

Available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Developer: Supermassive Games | Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Seven years ago, the Sony-published “Until Dawn” mapped out the future of developer Supermassive Games. The team has reliably purveyed the choose-your-own-horror-adventure template ever since with The Dark Pictures Anthology series, though it’s never quite managed to escape the shadow of its predecessor. The latest entry, “The Devil in Me,” is a perfectly acceptable, even intermittently good variation on a well-worn formula, but it continues to feel like the developer is boxed in by its chosen format. For as good as Supermassive is at making these sorts of games, it’s tough to shake the feeling that it’s heading for a game design dead end.

The mechanics remain the same as “Until Dawn,” placing us in control of multiple characters who can all die during the story due to a missed button press or a bad choice, at which point the narrative changes and continues without them. Even the framing is similar, with a host character to address the audience and mark breaks in the story — for The Dark Pictures Anthology, we return time and time again to a man known only as the Curator, the series’s Rod Serling-type narrator.

The Dark Pictures Anthology has always been so much smaller, in terms of pure scope and ambition, than Supermassive’s other games. The games are consciously more modest efforts, with fewer story branches and recognizable actors. “The Devil in Me” serves as a finale for the first season of the series as well as a more focused, cohesive and experimental alternative to Supermassive’s bigger efforts.

Review: ‘The Quarry’ is a standout slasher that takes just a few wrong turns

It follows a true-crime film crew, headlined by Jessie Buckley as its vain, dissatisfied presenter, Kate, and Paul Kaye as its temperamental director/producer, Charlie. Initially, we find them agonizing over how to spruce up the crummy early cut of an episode on H.H. Holmes, the real-world 19th-century serial killer whose booby-trapped hotel has long since enshrined him as a figure of American myth. Luckily, a mysterious benefactor has the perfect opportunity for them: He’s built a painstaking re-creation of Holmes’s famous “murder castle” on a remote island, and all they have to do to film it is come visit and leave their phones behind.

It’s a setup that’s all but begging for trouble, and thus a terrific idea for a horror game whose generic title belies influences that range from “House on Haunted Hill” and “Psycho” to “Saw” and “Halloween.” Navigating a maze of death traps, trap doors and secret chambers, the crew finds themselves facing down the purest expression of our culture’s fascination with serial killers: a masked stalker who has taken Holmes’s mustachioed, bowler-hatted image for his own silent, fearsome persona in a kind of H. H. homage.

The game’s opening flashback of the “real” version of Holmes all but twirls his mustache, greeting guests with double entendres that would make Hannibal Lecter roll his eyes. It’s goofy, but Supermassive’s work requires us to accept a certain level of goofiness. Character models that look great one moment will look unspeakably wooden in another. But here, as in Supermassive’s other games, they serve their purpose well enough as avatars whose deaths we’d prefer to avoid while we nose around a game laden with cheap shocks meant to make us jump and then laugh at the fact that we jumped.

Not for nothing has Supermassive’s work emerged as a multiplayer fixture, perfect for couch commentary. It’s the “fun” brand of horror rather than the genuinely harrowing kind, and the studio consciously plays around within those parameters. For instance, the spooky animatronics that populate the re-created Holmes hotel are easier to confuse for real people when the characters themselves are computer-generated mannequins rather than human actors.

Is the interactive horror movie making its long-overdue comeback?

The yearly output of The Dark Pictures Anthology series makes such self-reflexive touches more visible, alongside slight tweaks and changes to each new installment. The last game, “House of Ashes,” featured a more adjustable camera than previous entries, for example. “The Devil in Me” furthers the inclusion of more “traditional” game elements, like giving individual characters inventories for equipment. For example, one of the characters, Mark, can use his extendible camera mount to nudge objects in high places, and he can light up the area in front of him with a brief, bright flash. Charlie relies on his cigarette lighter and can jam his business card into drawers to get them open.

In practice, though, the inventory mechanics feel bolted-on at best, meshing awkwardly with Supermassive’s long-established formula. Because we’re constantly shifting characters, the game doesn’t want to disorient us by having to track too many details across too many inventories. Pickups in the environment are primarily keys for use in the immediate vicinity through an extra button press, which is functionally just another way to visualize actions that have traditionally happened automatically in these games. If these new ideas accomplish anything, they suggest something potentially more experimental and fleshed out down the line for Supermassive. As is, they certainly don’t ask us to consider which character we’re playing or which tools they have for more than a few seconds.

Also new is the presence of more traversal options, similar to the interactive busywork of environmental puzzles in a Naughty Dog game where we climb around and push objects that all conveniently have wheels and handles. Rather than deepening our identification with the characters, these mechanics actually call more attention to the on-the-rails nature of the game. Before, we might have accepted that the “interactive movie” approach requires players to surrender some of the control we’re accustomed to in other games. Now, the interactivity only clarifies the hard boundary between walking-around segments and the actual, pivotal scenes that involve quick-time event button-pressing and choice-making.

From a narrative standpoint, it’s tough to tie up all of a story’s threads when any one of them can end at any time, and “The Devil in Me” exhibits the usual flaws of that approach. Characters tend to be awkwardly sidelined, and motivations don’t quite coalesce. Even the hulking murderer who can kill every character begins to feel a little inept when we spend so much time dodging his killing blows.

These issues are not unique to “The Devil in Me.” “The Quarry” often felt uneasily patched together, struggling to reconcile all of its plot threads. All of this raises a question that haunts the experience of Supermassive’s games: Amid players’ expectations of visual fidelity and complex narrative, how sustainable is a format where, at any point, any fully voice-acted, motion-captured character can die and be cut from the game in an instant?

Steven Nguyen Scaife is a Midwest-based freelance writer whose work has appeared at Slant Magazine, Polygon, Fanbyte, Vice and BuzzFeed News. For however long it lasts, his Twitter account will be @midfalutin.

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech

Twitter is going to show you more tweets from people you don’t follow • TechCrunch

Published

on

As new Twitter owner Elon Musk tinkers around with the social network’s feature set, more algorithmic recommendations are apparently on the way.

Twitter’s support account tweeted about the change on Wednesday, noting that the platform was “expanding recommendations to all users.” This is of course under the guide of giving users the “best” content (Instagram likes to use this line too), but in reality splicing more recommendations into a social feed primes users to expect more paid content too.

Twitter provided no other details about the change to recommendations, but links to a previous blog post explaining how they algorithmic content works and where it might show up. According to the post, “recommendations can appear in your Home timeline, certain places within the Explore tab, and elsewhere on Twitter.” As it stands, you can switch between the home feed and “latest tweets” by clicking the sparkle button in the upper right corner of the timeline.

It’s not immediately clear if Twitter plans to stream more recommended tweets into the “home” timeline or if this is something more aggressive, but we’ve tweeted into the void to ask the company for more clarity. Some users have already noticed changes, which seem to be affecting home feeds for now.

Twitter offers two different feeds: “latest tweets” which displays tweets from people you follow in chronological order and “home,” a curated collection of popular tweets from your follows. From our experience, the latter occasionally mixed in some recommendations from beyond our following lists but was mostly a non-chronological collection of tweets from people we did follow.

Given Musk’s habit of quickly rolling out major feature changes (and then rolling them back), we wouldn’t be surprised to see Twitter get heavy-handed with recommendations or even switch the default feed in that direction, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for anything major.

Pre-Musk, the platform planned to make recommendations more prominent but reversed course after a backlash from users. On Instagram, users have expressed a similar weariness at seeing their feeds cluttered with content from people they don’t follow. For TikTok, serving algorithmically-curated content is in the app’s DNA, but many other social platforms have to tread more carefully.

Because they were originally designed to let users follow people they already know (or know of), apps like Twitter and Instagram have to turn the algorithmic spigot on slowly and hope that users don’t notice any sudden changes. In this case, we’ll have to wait and see.

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Musk Claims Dispute With Tech Giant Over Twitter’s Potential Removal From App Store ‘Resolved’

Published

on

Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced that he and Apple CEO Tim Cook met Wednesday and claimed to have resolved a dispute over the social media site’s presence on the tech giant’s App Store.

“Good conversation,” Musk posted on Twitter two and a half hours after he tweeted a five-second video showing a pond at Apple’s headquarters. “Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store. Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so.” (RELATED: Mike Pence Says White House Likely ‘Keeping A Close Eye’ On Twitter Because Musk May Look Into Hunter Biden’s Laptop)

Musk claimed Monday that Apple threatened to boot Twitter from the App Store, targeting Cook in a series of tweets, as well as amplifying a claim from LBRY, a content creation site, about censorship. Musk noted that the option of designing a smartphone was on the table if Twitter was removed from the app stores of Apple and Google.

The reported threat from Apple drew criticism from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who said the removal of Twitter from the app store would be an application of “monopolistic power.”

Former Twitter head of trust and safety Yael Roth speculated that Musk’s push for free speech could be derailed by Apple and Google.

“There is one more source of power on the web — one that most people don’t think much about but may be the most significant check on unrestrained speech on the mainstream internet: the app stores operated by Google and Apple,” Roth wrote in a Nov. 18 op-ed for the New York Times.

Apple and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Mozilla, Microsoft yank TrustCor’s root certificate authority after U.S. contractor revelations

Published

on

Comment

Major web browsers moved Wednesday to stop using a mysterious software company that certified websites were secure, three weeks after The Washington Post reported its connections to a U.S. military contractor.

Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Edge said they would stop trusting new certificates from TrustCor Systems that vouched for the legitimacy of sites reached by their users, capping weeks of online arguments among their technology experts, outside researchers and TrustCor, which said it had no ongoing ties of concern. Other tech companies are expected to follow suit.

“Certificate Authorities have highly trusted roles in the internet ecosystem and it is unacceptable for a CA to be closely tied, through ownership and operation, to a company engaged in the distribution of malware,” Mozilla’s Kathleen Wilson wrote to a mailing list for browser security experts. “Trustcor’s responses via their Vice President of CA operations further substantiates the factual basis for Mozilla’s concerns.”

Mysterious company with government ties plays key internet role

The Post reported on Nov. 8 that TrustCor’s Panamanian registration records showed the same slate of officers, agents and partners as a spyware-maker identified this year as an affiliate of Arizona-based Packet Forensics, which has sold communication interception services to U.S. government agencies for more than a decade. One of those contracts listed the “place of performance” as Fort Meade, Md., the home of the National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command.

The case has put a new spotlight on the obscure systems of trust and checks that allow people to rely on the internet for most purposes. Browsers typically have more than a hundred authorities approved by default, including government-owned ones and small companies, to seamlessly attest that secure websites are what they purport to be.

TrustCor has a small staff in Canada, where it is officially based at a UPS Store mail drop, company executive Rachel McPherson told Mozilla in the email discussion thread. She said staffers there work remotely, though she acknowledged that the company has infrastructure in Arizona as well.

McPherson said that some of the same holding companies had invested in TrustCor and Packet Forensics but that ownership in TrustCor had been transferred to employees. Packet Forensics also said it had no ongoing business relationship with TrustCor.

Several technologists in the discussion said that they found TrustCor evasive on basic matters such as legal domicile and ownership, which they said was inappropriate for a company wielding the power of a root certificate authority, which not only asserts that a secure, https website is not an impostor but can deputize other certificate issuers to do the same.

The Post report built on the work of two researchers who had first located the company’s corporate records, Joel Reardon of the University of Calgary and Serge Egelman of the University of California at Berkeley. Those two and others also ran experiments on a secure email offering from TrustCor named MsgSafe.io. They found that contrary to MsgSafe’s public claims, emails sent through its system were not end-to-end encrypted and could be read by the company.

McPherson said the various technology experts had not used the right version or had not configured it properly.

In announcing Mozilla’s decision, Wilson cited the past overlaps in officers and operations between TrustCor and MsgSafe and between TrustCor and Measurement Systems, a Panamanian spyware company with previously reported ties to Packet Forensics.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.

There have been sporadic efforts to make the certificate process more accountable, sometimes after revelations of suspicious activity.

In 2019, a security company controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates that had been known as DarkMatter applied to be upgraded to top-level root authority from intermediate authority with less independence. That followed revelations that DarkMatter had hacked dissidents and even some Americans; Mozilla denied it root power.

In 2015, Google withdrew the root authority of the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) after it allowed an intermediate authority to issue fake certificates for Google sites.

Reardon and Egelman earlier this year found that Packet Forensics was connected to the Panamanian company Measurement Systems, which paid software developers to include code in a variety of apps to record and transmit users’ phone numbers, email addresses and exact locations. They estimated that those apps were downloaded more than 60 million times, including 10 million downloads of Muslim prayer apps.

Measurement Systems’ website was registered by Vostrom Holdings, according to historic domain-name records. Vostrom filed papers in 2007 to do business as Packet Forensics, according to Virginia state records.

After the researchers shared their findings, Google booted all apps with the spy code out of its Play app store.

They also found that a version of that code was included in a test version of MsgSafe. McPherson told the email list that a developer had included that without getting it cleared by executives.

Packet Forensics first drew attention from privacy advocates a dozen years ago.

In 2010, researcher Chris Soghoian attended an invitation-only industry conference nicknamed the Wiretapper’s Ball and obtained a Packet Forensics brochure aimed at law enforcement and intelligence agency customers.

The brochure was for a piece of hardware to help buyers read web traffic that parties thought was secure. But it wasn’t.

“IP communication dictates the need to examine encrypted traffic at will,” the brochure read, according to a report in Wired. “Your investigative staff will collect its best evidence while users are lulled into a false sense of security afforded by web, email or VOIP encryption,” the brochure added.

Researchers thought at the time that the most likely way the box was being used was with a certificate issued by an authority for money or under a court order that would guarantee the authenticity of an impostor communications site.

They did not conclude that an entire certificate authority itself might be compromised.

Reardon and Egelman alerted Google, Mozilla and Apple to their research on TrustCor in April. They said they had heard little back until The Post published its report.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending