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Mortal Kombat X introduces online factions and brings back the Challenge Tower

Feb 06 // Abel Girmay
Mortal Kombat X (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) Developer: NetherRealm Studios, Showtime StudiosPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentRelease Date: April 14, 2015   If you spent any significant amount of time with Mortal Kombat 9, you remember the Challenge Tower. Consisting of 300 challenges, the tower would test and frustrate you to wits' end as you worked your way up to the top. Mortal Kombat X's Living Towers fill a similar role with key differences. The biggest changes are that the towers are now split in three, and the challenges in each will update with new content. To start, you have your quick tower comprising of only five challenges, but it updates every two to three hours. The daily tower carries an intermediate level of difficulty, and updates its eight fights every 24 hours. For those more than confident in their fighting mastery there is the premier tower, built with long-form challenges and events in mind that will run for a few days or even a week, depending on how special the event is. Unlike the Challenge Tower, the Living Towers don't determine which character you can fight with. So if you're like me and only learn about four fighters, you won't find yourself awkwardly trying to learn characters on the fly as everything moves at double speed and the bombs come raining from the sky. That's another major difference -- Living Towers consist entirely of regular fights with various modifiers. Where Injustice's S.T.A.R. Labs and Mortal Kombat's Challenge Tower had silly stages where you'd break into a museum as a cat, or shoot a horde of zombies, these stages have none of that. A change for the better if you ask me. My biggest knock against S.T.A.R. Labs was how often the mission would turn out to be awkward platforming sections or some other distraction from the core fighting.  More noteworthy still is Mortal Kombat X's Faction Wars, a macro-level approach to traditional online clans. When you first boot up your copy, you are going to be prompted to join one of five factions, all based on series lore: Lin Kuei, White Lotus, Black Dragon, Special Forces, or the Brotherhood of Shadows. Once you choose a faction, it really tries to become your game's identity. Menus, interfaces, and even loading screens, will become themed after your faction. So Lin Kuei members may get scenic snowy forests for a main menu, while the Brotherhood of Shadow loading screens will greet you with images of the fire and brimstone Netherrealm. From there, everything you do in both multiplayer and single-player will give you faction points, which feed into your faction's total score. You can clear sections of Living Towers, complete faction-specific challenges, or even face rival factions in online battles. Again, all of this feeds into the collective faction war effort, as well as your individual faction progress. The faction war is platform agnostic as well, so fellow White Lotus accomplishments in the PlayStation 4 version will feed the White Lotus on PC and Xbox 360. The winner at the end of each week-long faction war will be rewarded with anything from profile icons to faction-specific finishers. And if you are the type to swap sides, just know you will not be able to bandwagon to the winning faction. Once a war starts, you are locked into your group, and switching after a war means losing all of your current faction rewards and progress. Of course, what's a fighting game without great fighters, and fight I did. Ermac and Reptile were not available in this build of the game, but all other announced characters were. That did not seem to matter though, as I spent nearly all of my time playing with the Buzz Saw variant of Kung Lao. For those unaware, every fighter has three variations to choose from, each variant adding its own moves to a characters base moveset. Buzz Saw is far and away my favorite. This is the rush-down, in-your-face Kung Lao that you either loved or hated in Mortal Kombat. While Buzz Saw is more focused on projectiles with the classic hat throw and ground hat, it's not in the interest of zoning. Both the ground hat and regular hat tosses are slow, much slower in fact, than in Mortal Kombat 9. The real fun here is to throw out the hat and close the distance. A basic example of this would be to toss it, which does a great deal of stun as your opponent is trapped in an animation of getting buzz-sawed in the chest, and close the distance with a dive kick. Basic I know, but even in my limited time, I honestly felt like Buzz Saw will be the variation of choice for those who previously enjoyed Kung Lao's breakneck pace. Of course you could also try out his Hat Trick variant, which focuses on controlling the hat as an independent entity, or Tempest, which emphasizes control and spacing with his signature spin.  While I still have lingering questions about Mortal Kombat X, what's been shown so far has been great. Living Towers' direct approach to challenges is good fun, and the Faction Wars (all hail White Lotus!) is something I already know will turn into a time sink for me. The last taste before launch has been a good one. Now I just need to hold out for two more months for the real meal.
Mortal Kombat X photo
Karnage with friends
Two more months. Just two more months. That's what I have to keep telling myself while agonizing over the release of Mortal Kombat X. As someone who logged nearly 7,000 matches into the last Mortal Kombat, and still plays Injustice from time to time, any new info is good news, and NetherRealm has recently dropped a lot of details on the game's online modes. Let's dig in.

Halo 5: Guardians has left me oddly cold and worried

Nov 10 // Abel Girmay
Halo 5: GuardiansDeveloper: 343 IndustriesPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosRelease: November 2015  From the moment I sat down with Halo 5: Guardians, it was clear that the game has a big focus on player movement. If you thought Halo 4's universal sprint was blasphemous (again, you're wrong), enter a Halo game with ledge climbs, running melee's, air stomps, and slides. All of these new abilities are made possible by your thrust pack. Take the running melee for instance. When doing a normal sprint, your thruster will kick in after a few seconds, sending your spartan into a terminal velocity where your melee becomes a running charge that kills in one hit from the back, and your crouch turns into a slide. The ground pounds are similar to the air stomps in Crysis. To initiate a ground pound, you simply jump, aim by holding down the melee button, and a cursor will appear on any surface below, allowing you to smash down with speed. I do wonder how effective a technique the ground pound will be though, as the entire time you're aiming midair, you hover with the thruster pack, making yourself a painfully obvious target.  In exchange for the extra maneuvers, your shields take a hit, never recharging until you come out of your thrust-fueled abilities. It's quite the trade off, and after more than an hour of play, one that I still hadn't quite gotten the hang of. It feels as if 343 was trying to create some sort trade off between mobility and safety, perhaps even trying to find a middle ground between fans that enjoy sprint and those that long of Halo 3's slower pace. In any case, it led to many instances where I would feel like I was being punished for trying to escape a double team. One of the odder additions has to be the clamber system. Essentially a ledge grab and climb, clambering allows you to vault up platforms that are just out of reach of your standard jump. Playing Slayer on the map Truth, a remake of Midship, I must have killed and been killed three times trying to jump to the platform ring where the energy sword rests, as it was oddly just out of standard jump range. Finally, we had all wised up to the fact that the clamber was necessary to make it to the top. A relatively small, inoffensive change to be sure, but more and more I started to feel its implementation was forced. The issue I had with it is that most platforms that seem within jumping range are always just out of reach. Playing on a brand new map, Empire, I found many situations where I would expect to be able to make a jump, only to fall just short without the clamber mechanic. It created this weird chicken or the egg feeling where I'm not sure if clamber is the solution to a problem, or maps were intentionally designed to justify the mechanics existence. My time playing on Truth seemed to suggest the latter, as having this new ability on a well known map never opened up any new or interesting routes, or ways to interact with the map. For those of you who keep up with NeoGAF and its various leaks, you make have heard that Halo 5 has aim down sights (ADS). Well, yes, it does, and yes, ADS doesn't feel good in Halo. While there is no movement penalty, aiming down does narrow your field of view, as it does in all other games. The problem here is that aiming down is a feature that works best, and only in games where weapons by design are inaccurate from the hip, and guns are meant to kill almost as soon as you can land your cursor over an enemy. Halo games do neither of these things. Losing your field of vision with no significant accuracy gain is redundant, and at worst, I felt the narrow view caused me to lose my beat on an enemy. Frustrating in a game where it takes five head shots on average to score a kill.  So that covers the new mechanics, but what about the modes? Apart from Slayer, the only other mode available was the all new Breakout. In Breakout, you and your team of four take on an opposing team, racing to win five rounds. Each player has one life per round, is without shields (not unlike in SWAT), and starts off with an SMG. Their are only two Battle Rifles and two Assault rifles between eight players. It's quite a tense mode, and like Grifball or Zombies, can make for good bouts of quick fun. After I had finished my 90 minutes with Halo 5: Guardians it was clear that 343 wants this game to be more energetic, faster, and physically dynamic. I fear, however, that in their quest the good people of 343 Industries have changed so much that what's left can not be properly identified as a Halo game. That, in summation, is my problem with Halo 5: Guardians. The sinking pit-of-my-stomach feeling that I left with as I thought to myself, "This is not a Halo game." On a more hopeful note, the upcoming December/January beta the is earliest that a beta has launched in franchise history, and 343 made it very clear they want fans to help them make meaningful changes. So if you have an Xbox One and a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection (which you should because that game is amazing), participate, be vocal, and keep your fingers crossed for the next year. I know that's what I'll be doing
Halo 5: Guardians photo
Not my granpappy's Halo
I am not opposed to change. While certain circles of Halo fans find it popular to hate Halo 4, I've always appreciated what 343 Industries did with that game. Sprint was a logical next step to character movement, while loadou...

Dibs on Nisha photo
Dibs on Nisha

To all you would-be Borderlands cowboys and cowgirls, I have dibs on Nisha


Shoot the flesh, whip the wounds
Oct 12
// Abel Girmay
"Behind every great man is a great woman." Screw that, says Nisha. While Handsome Jack is sitting in a climate-controlled bunker, cowering from the awesome might of the Vault Hunters and bandit gangs, Nisha fights her enemies...
Battleborn photo
Battleborn

Battleborn is made of MOBAs, spice, and all shooters nice


Just hoping Gearbox brought the Chemical X
Sep 17
// Abel Girmay
When Battleborn was first announced, there were certain trigger words my mind immediately connected before I had read a single word about the game. "Gearbox, shooter, color. Oh, I wonder what the loot drop rate is like," I sa...

Adventure Time Game Wizard has a pretty cool level editor

Sep 11 // Abel Girmay
So the level editor sound cool, huh? Unfortunately, the rest of the game drops the ball. Adventure Time Game Wizard is a platformer with awful controls, and a platformer with awful controls cannot carry itself very far. Out of all the different ways we've seen platformers played on a touch display, Game Wizard opts for a virtual d-pad setup. Simple commands, like switching directions, felt needlessly janky. Didn't matter whether I slid my finger over the d-pad or tapped it -- there was a noticeable pause in the time between hitting a new directional button, making the experience frustrating when going through the story mode. You can just imagine how unforgiving it can feel when playing on amateur fan-made levels. I like Adventure Time and would really dig a good game based off the show, so it hurts that this handles the way it does. Despite the rather ingenious level editor, Game Wizard is just par for the course for licensed games.
Adventure Time photo
But terrible platforming
There's a new game coming out based on everybody's favorite television show, Adventure Time! You know what that means right? Go on and grab your friends, because we're going to some very distant la---actually, you might want ...

Titan Souls is my PAX Prime 2014 game of show

Sep 11 // Abel Girmay
There are no real enemies or objectives outside of taking down the bosses that inhabit the world. After a short introduction to the controls, I was immediately thrust into an overworld pitting me against four bosses, taking on each at my own leisure. The bosses themselves are incredibly simple to understand, and monumentally challenging to beat. Each requires just one hit to their weak spot to kill. Getting that spot exposed is another matter -- every boss comes with its own system of defenses. One boss, a massive ice cube, immediately hones in on you, and proceeds to slide around the temple until your guts paint its hallowed halls. To get to the fleshy one-hit center, I needed to lure the cube over to one of four pressure switches, each activating a torch that would melt the ice once I managed to get my arrow to catch its fire. [embed]276694:55601:0[/embed] [Gameplay courtesy of RedPandaGamer.] Like the bosses, the mechanics in Titan Souls are similarly minimal. There is a button to roll, a button to shoot your arrow, and the same button to shoot will send your arrow flying back to you. Lets talk about that last part. In Titan Souls, you only have one arrow to shoot, and it is your only means of attack. As you can imagine, this makes timing and managing you shot very important, but the game takes it bit further by making a mechanic out of your limited ammo. Say you miss your initial shot; you can summon your arrow back, hitting anything it touches on its the way back to you. This skill was especially useful during one of the early bosses, a giant gelatinous blob that required multiple hits to whittle down to the fleshy one-hit-kill heart. For all of the challenge that the game offers, it's worth mentioning that I was never frustrated with the game. Maybe that speaks to how well it communicates its objective. By my first or second death, I understood exactly what it was that I was doing wrong, or needed to do better. Everything else was a matter of execution. Whenever you die in Titan Souls, you will know that it is only because you are not good enough, and that's fine. With the gameplay feeling so tight and responsive, and every boss being one or two hits away from defeat, I found myself willing to try things over and experiment with new tactics until I'd finally taken down a boss. Honorable mention goes to the music as well. Whenever I found myself slipping into frustration, its soft, mellow tunes would snap me back to sanity. When I got up to finish with Titan Souls, I noticed one gentleman working the booth was keeping tally of all my deaths and kills. After seeing my 30+ deaths to take down four bosses, I asked the man at what point in the game this demo took place in. He turned to me, smiled, and said this was just the tutorial. I am really damn excited to see what the rest of Titan Souls has in store.
Titan Souls preview photo
The beauty of simplicity
Confession time: I'm pretty out of the loop when it comes to the indie game scene. I love me some Nidhogg, Samurai Gunn, and Crawl, but it's not uncommon for me to have only heard about these games just before release or late...

Hands on with Tales from the Borderlands

Sep 01 // Abel Girmay
Tales from the Borderlands (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [preview], Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Telltales GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesRelease Date: Fall 2014 Tales from the Borderlands doesn't stray from the formula seen in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. You move around the world, interacting with characters and making decisions that affect your story and how others react to you. The writing takes an interesting approach to player choice. The story in my demo was told through flashbacks, one from the perspective of the Hyperion agent Rhys, and the other from his cohort Fiona. Playing as Rhys, we follow him and his coworker Vaughn on their way to purchase a vault key from a shady individual. While his side of the story starts out believable enough, it starts to get a bit fantastical as he rips out peoples hearts and makes a daring escape from Zer0, who also seems to be after the vault key. Eventually Fiona calls him out on his story, and she begins to tell her side, which is unfortunately where the demo ends. The interesting thing is that Rhys' actions during his flashback were all decisions that I was making. I could have ripped that man's heart out, or I could have tried to be diplomatic. I could have told the group that I had to escape a Vault Hunter, or I could have chosen a more believable option. Considering that players will be making these choices in both present day and flashback sequences, I'm pretty excited to see how Telltale wraps up what could essentially lead to twice as many story threads. Of course, what I played is just a slice of episode one, so there is no saying that the entire season will use flashbacks. The choices and consequences in Telltale's game would not be half as meaningful were it not for the writing. Telltale seems to have little problem going from the dramatic Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us to the slapstick silliness of Borderlands. The game even takes small shots at its gameplay formula. Later in the demo, Rhys and Vaughn are looking to get through a locked door as one of them says, "If we randomly just found it someplace that'd be amazing." After finding the key (surprise, it was just lying around), we are reintroduced to Shade, the incredibly insane and lonely shopkeeper introduced in Borderlands 2's Pirate Booty DLC. As is his modus operandi, Shade has propped up the dead bodies of past Borderlands characters in his own museum-like showcase, complete with narrated bios. Commandant Steele, killed by The Destroyer. Boom and Bewm, defeated by the Vault Hunters. Professor Nakayama, killed by stairs. So yes, Tales from the Borderlands is a Telltale game, and if you like their last few games there's a good chance you'll like this one. Though Telltale is handling the writing, the Borderlands humor is intact, and if you have been following the series there are a good amount of in jokes calling back to previous games. This is a trip to Pandora worth getting ready for.
Telltale Borderlands photo
So close you can taste the gunpowder
Telltalle has been a busy beehive lately. Having wrapped up The Walking Dead Season 2 and season one of The Wolf Among Us, this fall will bring us right into the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands. Darren seemed...

Shadow of Mordor photo
Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor's campaign digs into Middle-earth's past


Origins of the rings
Sep 01
// Abel Girmay
[Writers Note: The original story was amended because of number of factual inaccuracies. My sincerest apologies to anyone who was confused by the original article.] It won't be long now until Middle-earth: Shadow of Mord...
Mortal Kombat X preview photo
Mortal Kombat X preview

Mortal Kombat X is aiming to tone down the zoning game


New gen nut punches
Aug 30
// Abel Girmay
I got to play Mortal Kombat X for a half hour during PAX Prime, and that made me happier than a pig in whatever pigs love to be in. After 5,000 matches played online between Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us, my anti...
Diablo photo
Diablo

Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition will allow cross-platform save imports


For the ultimate good
Jul 29
// Abel Girmay
Not unlike what Rockstar is offering with the current-gen ports of Grand Theft Auto V, Blizzard has confirmed that players will be able to bring over their characters and saves from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version...
Wanna buy Capcom? photo
Holy corporate takeover, Mega Man!
Capcom announced today that its latest shareholder meeting has resulted in an official end to the company's buyout defense. Originally placed in 2008, the defense strategies were set in motion to defend Capcom from being acqu...

Destiny photo
Destiny

Bungie reflects on the short-lived Destiny alpha, teases the July beta


So far, so good
Jun 16
// Abel Girmay
After being frustratingly hush-hush about Destiny, Bungie put the game out in the wild in a big way this past E3, culminating with the recent weekend alpha. In an interview with the PlayStation Blog, senior environmental arti...
Watch Dogs photo
Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs' E3 2012 graphical effects discovered in the PC version


So, mod tools are still an amazing thing
Jun 16
// Abel Girmay
With nearly a month past release, it's safe to say the internet rage surrounding Watch Dogs' visual fidelity has largely passed. Still, fans have found ways to mod the PC version to look better, and not with the usual assortm...
Dragon Ball Z photo
Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z joins the new generation with Dragon Ball Xenoverse


What's the scouter say about current-gen power level?
Jun 10
// Abel Girmay
Another year brings another Dragon Ball fighter, but this time, the series has new hardware to play with. Dragon Ball Xenoverse is the next entry of Dragon Ball Z arena fighters, bringing the franchise to the Xbox One and Pl...
Watch Dogs photo
Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs Easter egg shows what a spying Kinect might look like


My tin foil hat told me it already does watch us
Jun 06
// Abel Girmay
Remember when everyone was mad at the idea of a game console that comes with an always on, always watching and listening camera? Well thanks to this Watch Dogs easter egg, we have a nice visual representation of what the NSA...
Madden photo
Madden

Madden 15 will feature player tattoos, releases E3 trailer


Let me know there's at least one person reading this that cares
Jun 06
// Abel Girmay
Amongst all the E3 hubbub about games like, Mortal Kombat X, Destiny, and Halo 5, let's not forget that August will bring us our annual Madden. Teasing what will be brought to the show, the Madden 15 E3 trailer implies, to m...
Forza photo
Forza

Forza Horizon 2 will display at 1080p, running at 30 frames per second


The difference between a game with set tracks, and an open world
Jun 06
// Abel Girmay
So it seems Forza Horizon 2, unlike Forza 5, will not be running at 60 frames per second. While it will still display in 1080p, the open-world nature of Horizon doesn't seems to play nice with the idea of a locked 60fps rate,...
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Female Tengu joins the cast of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate


A new challanger approaches
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
After spending a good amount of time teasing, Team Ninja has announced Female Tengu for Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. Sporting a pair of wings and a devilish demeanor, she reminds me of Devil Jin quite a bit. More than the desig...
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Asus reveals their ROG GR8 Steam Machine and other accessories


One might say its pretty gr8
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
Like many before them, Asus has taken a stab at making their own Steam Machine, and from the spec end, it seems they've hit a pretty good mark. Boasting an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750Ti graphics card, Intel Core i7 processor, and ...
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Speedrun through Super Mario World without finishing the first level


Faster than a speeding bullet
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
After watching a great deal of the week long Awesome Games Done Quickly charity livestream, I've gained a new appreciation for the ingenuity and thought process of speed runners. Still, it's crazy how many new tricks are bei...
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Get a look a what's behind Decapre's mask in these Ultra Street Fighter IV endings


Spoiler alert, kind of, sort of...not really
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
If you are playing, will be playing, or don't care either way about Ultra Street Fighter IV, the game's story is probably not what comes to mind whenever it's brought up. That said, it hasn't stopped Capcom from creating ani...
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The Terminator 2 river chase gets remade in Grand Theft Auto Online


Watch with me if you want to live
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
So middle school for me involved many brain-rotting activities, not the least of which was the countless amount of hours spent watching machinima videos. While I don't have the free time that I used to, it's still a joy to w...
Dead Rising photo
Dead Rising

Dead Rising 3 listed on Steam database (Update)


*fingers crossed*
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
[Update: The Steam database entry for Dead Rising 3 was removed shortly after this posting.] It's not uncommon to see a highly touted console exclusive make its way to PC, and it seems that Dead Rising 3 is next. Via a postin...
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Former Irrational staff form new studio, announce their first game


What's the phrase about shutting up and taking money
Jun 03
// Abel Girmay
It's been about four months since we first got the news that Irrational Games would be shutting down, and as some expected, some former staff have regrouped in a new studio called Day for Night Games. The studio boasts some b...
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Davy Jones' Locker awaits thee in Call of Duty: Ghosts Invasion


That Departed trailer looks like someone's been watching a lot of Tarantino
Jun 02
// Abel Girmay
Tomorrow sees the release of the Invasion map pack for Call of Duty: Ghosts, so how about we get one last rundown of the new maps. In Mutiny, you'll fight in what's essentially Tortuga, shooting off almost as many bullets as...
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Ninja Theory's Unreal Engine 4 tech demo leaks


Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Jun 02
// Abel Girmay
Ninja Theory, the studio behind DMC: Devil May Cry and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, seems to have had one of their tech demos leak. Entitled, The Beggars Opera, it's not known if this was ever meant to be the studio's next...
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Guild Wars 2 meets anime in this stop motion fight scene


Action figures never looked so badass
Jun 01
// Abel Girmay
From the painstaking artistry at work, to my upbringing with films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, there's a reverence that I'll always have for stop motion animation, even if the final product isn't amazing (looking at...
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Driveclub made quite the impression on me with these 4 new videos


Hoping this is an appetizer for E3
Jun 01
// Abel Girmay
After missing it's expected launch release date, Driveclub retreated into the dark before resurfacing recently. Driveclub continues its coming out party this week, releasing four new videos. The first three are the expected ...
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Deadpool does Fanime, and wins


He does it so hard, and almost gets done harder
May 31
// Abel Girmay
I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Deadpool. It's not that I dislike his humor or self-aware, fourth-wall breaking schtick. Rather, it's that I feel too few people can actually utilize said schtick into anything inte...
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Those unearthed landfill E.T. cartridges will be sold at auction


Everyone's getting a piece of this mud pie
May 31
// Abel Girmay
Nearly a month after Alamogordo, New Mexico saw the unearthing of the biggest stain on the videogame industry's past, the city commission had decided to sell 700 of the 1,300 dug-up E.T. cartridges. First though, the city ha...

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