Posts by Ben Silverman

  • 14-year-old sets new Rubik’s Cube world record

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 1 day ago

    The year Lucas Etter was born, the world record for solving a Rubik’s Cube stood at 17.02 seconds.

    Fourteen years later, Etter is the proud owner of the new mark — and it’s a doozie.

    Etter solved a 3x3 Rubik’s Cube (that’s the classic, traditional Cube) in an astounding 4.904 seconds at the River Hill Fall competition in Clarksville, Maryland. That’s a full three-tenths of a second better than the previous mark of 5.25 seconds set earlier this year, and the first time a human has broken the five-second barrier.

    Before you cry foul, this was a formally sanctioned “speedcuber” event, and indeed Etter followed proper competitive Rubik's Cube protocol. That means he was able to look over the Cube before attempting to solve it, but the moment his blazing fast fingers started twirling blocks, the clock started. His mark has since been verified by the World Cube Association.

    Keep practicing, Lucas. The very future of our species might depend on it.

  • Review: ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ is gorgeous but you may find its lack of depth disturbing

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 8 days ago

    Star Wars Battlefront is the Star Wars game you are looking for. But it’s not necessarily the Star Wars game you want it to be.

    It’s in a tricky spot. Released just one month before the much-hyped debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens , the rebooted Battlefront is destined to cash in on rabid interest in the franchise. Fans of the films who might not otherwise care about video games have undoubtedly heard of it or seen it in action, while fans of the prior Battlefront games — and shooters in general —have been anticipating its return for years. So how exactly do you make an online shooter that will appeal to both casual and hardcore players?

    But it’s not just a looker, it’s also a shooter. And for all its style, Batttlefront ’s fun is mitigated by surprisingly limited gameplay that will undoubtedly leave some gamers feeling as unsatiated as a Sarlacc.

    Related: In Pictures: Recreating Iconic Star Wars Elements in 'Star Wars Battlefront'

  • Are UFC video game cover stars cursed?

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 9 days ago

    Days after being announced as the cover athlete for the next UFC game by game publisher EA, the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey lost her belt — and nearly her head — to striking ace Holly Holm at UFC 193. It was a stunning upset, one of the biggest in UFC history, but it’s a little less shocking when you take a look at the spotty recent history of UFC video game cover stars.

    Cover stars: Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson Release date: June 2014

    The best case for a curse can be found in the most recent UFC game, which put a pretty big dent in the careers of two of the sport’s most dominant fighters.

    Things haven’t gone much smoother for Gustafsson. Though the mild-mannered Swede stayed out of legal trouble, he hasn’t had any success in the cage since promoting the video game. He’s gone 0-2 with losses to Cormier and Anthony Johnson.

    Cursed? Yes .

    Cover star: Anderson Silva Release date: February 2012

    Tying Silva’s downhill slide to his appearance on the cover of UFC Undisputed 3 is probably unfair, but it’s still pretty compelling.

    Cursed? Maybe .

  • Review: ‘Fallout 4’ is a fantastic, familiar trip through the apocalypse

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 16 days ago

    If Fallout has taught us anything, it’s that time is fleeting. Life is precious. The good times can vanish in one mushroom-shaped flash.

    So let’s cut right to the chase: Fallout 4 is an exceptional video game, a sprawling, well-nigh endless jaunt through a dangerous wasteland packed with valuable bottlecaps, mutated beasts, and people needing a helping — or harming — hand. It’s big and busy and everything you’d expect from the sequel to 2008’s revered Fallout 3 .

    And, chances are, your expectations are sky-high. Seven years in the making, the first Fallout on the new consoles has been the lead car on the video game hype train for half a year; with visions of Fallout 3 ’s amazing world scavenging around in our brains, gamers have eagerly anticipated what, exactly, this irradiated beast of a role-playing game would do to our lives.

    But it starts off with a bang. A big one.

    Related: Review: 'The Witcher 3' casts a mean spell

    Thankfully, you can largely ignore the settlement business and instead focus on the real meat of Fallout 4 : killing stuff.

  • Review: Sci-fi hijinks liven up ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops III’

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 19 days ago

    That might be Fallout 4 , or perhaps Star Wars: Battlefront . Maybe it's Halo 5: Guardians, which just landed, and Lara Croft is back in a few days with Rise of the Tomb Raider . Traditionally, other video games get out of Call of Duty’s way in early November, smartly distancing themselves from the game’s blast zone and the ensuing week when seemingly half of the planet is shooting each other online.

    Not so in 2015. With huge games around every corner, this is the year the video game industry came to play. It’s also the year Call of Duty decided to get playful.

    Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a seriously beefy video game, packing three fully realized modes, plenty of sci-fi powers, and a handful of bonus experiences that could probably be standalone games in their own right. Yes, it’s still largely about dudebros duding out and shooting out, and yes, your preconceptions about this franchise means you likely made up your mind before even clicking on this review. But get out of your head and you’ll find a surprisingly interesting shooter, one that manages to toy with Call of Duty ’s staid conventions in clever ways.

    Platform reviewed: PS4

  • Review: ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ saves its so-so story with marvelous multiplayer

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 29 days ago

    Even a grizzled supersoldier needs friends.

    That’s the take-home message of Halo 5: Guardians . Microsoft’s latest entry in its 14-year-old first-person shooter franchise — the first to be built from the ground up for the Xbox One — breaks from tradition by sprinkling team-based dynamics throughout both its solo campaign and its various multiplayer modes. It’s a Halo to be enjoyed with others.

    OK, it’s much more than that. Halo 5 is the biggest Xbox One exclusive of the year. With Sony’s Uncharted 4 and Nintendo’s Star Fox getting pushed back to 2016, it’s the biggest exclusive game for any system this holiday. That’s a treat for a console maker, and luckily for Microsoft, Halo 5 delivers where it counts. This is a gorgeous, streamlined video game, and while it stumbles with its storytelling, it soars with some of the best online play the series has ever seen.

    Its plot, however, has seen better days.

    Where Halo 5 ’s storytelling takes a turn for the worse, its mechanics have never been better.

    But Halo 5 shines brightest in its multiplayer — specifically, in a brand-new mode called Warzone.

    What’s Hot: Warzone, all the way; looks and sounds fantastic; faster than the average Halo

  • This is the fastest anyone has ever beaten 'Super Mario Bros.'

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 1 mth ago

    And it hasn’t been done quicker than this speedrun posted by fleet-fingered gamer Darbian, who managed to race through the original, NES version of Super Mario Bros. in an astonishing four minutes and 57 seconds:

    Technically, Darbian’s time was 4:57.627, and believe it or not, those milliseconds matter. He beat the previous record, set in June of 2014, by 66 milliseconds.

    Speedrunning has become increasingly popular over the years, as inquisitive gamers pore over every inch of virtual worlds for secret paths and odd glitches that will help them make it from start to finish as quickly as possible. Often this means running an older game using emulation software, but Darbian’s run was accomplished on an old-school NES. Most of his tricks are pretty common — including the two level-skipping Warp Zones — but good luck nailing every jump and deftly dodging every enemy this perfectly. It’s a thing of beauty.

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  • Review: ‘Guitar Hero Live’ shreds the past, but breaks a few strings

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 1 mth ago

    This is the highest praise I can heap upon Guitar Hero Live . The first Guitar Hero in five years takes a different route to the stage than its forbears and its recently released competitor, Rock Band 4 . Where Rock Band 4 plays to your sense of nostalgia with gameplay rooted firmly in the past, Guitar Hero Live targets your sense of musical adventure with an entirely new approach, from the way it delivers music to the innovative build of its signature plastic instrument.

    The trouble is, a mediocre new song isn’t necessarily better than a great oldie. And while there is much to admire about Guitar Hero Live’s daring comeback, there’s much to loathe, too.

    The core will be familiar to anyone who has fake-rocked in the past decade: you bang away at a plastic guitar as notes slide down the screen. But forget other instruments; Guitar Hero Live focuses its efforts almost entirely on a brand new guitar peripheral. All that plastic you might have stashed in the garage should be summarily chucked, because none of your old gear is compatible with the new game.

    [Related: 'Rock Band 4' puts on a good show]

  • Review: Spike’s got no game, but ‘NBA 2K16’ has plenty

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 1 mth ago

    Not that I have anything against the diminutive director. He’s made some incredible films. He’s a ballsy, loudmouthed Knicks die-hard. He helped Michael Jordan sell shoes. I am a fan.

    But having slogged through Mr. Lee’s rough take on a video game Career mode in the otherwise excellent NBA 2K16 , I’m ready for him to go back to jawing at real-world refs. Leave the video games alone, please.

    Especially this one. The NBA 2K series has been the best basketball sim on the planet for years now, and somehow, the developers at Visual Concepts keep finding ways to top themselves. For the most part, NBA 2K16 is another incremental improvement over last year’s game. It’s prettier, has better handles, and somehow makes the world’s most realistic sports game even more realistic.

    But before you get to the good stuff, you’ll probably hop right into MyCareer mode. It’s the best mode in the game — it has been for ages — though this time, it’s been co-opted by Spike Lee. And it’s worse off for it.

    One exception? You.

    What’s Hot: Incredible depth; looks and sound great; smart changes to passing and defensive A.I.

    Platform reviewed: PS4

  • Review: ‘Rock Band 4’ puts on a good show

    Ben Silverman at Plugged In 1 mth ago

    I’m not sure if we’re billing our forthcoming jaunt across the continental U.S. (sorry, Honolulu!) as a “Comeback Tour,” because we’ve only been out of commission for about five years. But it’s clear our (twelve) fans are excited that Karianne, Joe, Paul and I will once again wield plastic for a genre-redefining journey to rock 'n' roll Valhalla. Or at least Detroit.

    After breaking up back in 2011, the surviving members of Spacepunch (R.I.P., former drummer Derp McBlunty) went their separate ways. Joe’s been busy with some data analysis gig, Paul went back to school, Karianne’s been doing hair, and I, of course, returned to my lowly gig as a video game critic. But we missed each other so much that we couldn’t resist cramming back into the van for one more ride.

    At least that’s what we’ve been telling the press.

    But we did it, and it was surprisingly fun. Rock Band 4 channels all the positive vibes and camaraderie of past music games, and while it’s short on new ideas, it manages to retain the most important one: making geeks with plastic trinkets genuinely feel like rock stars.

    What’s Not : Lacks innovation; weak on-disc track list; Career mode isn’t great