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‘The Last Night’ is a stunning take on 16-bit games for the 4K generation

Indie darling The Last Night stepped onto the big stage this week at E3. The game was announced as an Xbox exclusive during the same event that Microsoft officially revealed its powerful new 4K console: the Xbox One X. After those proceedings, we sat down with Odd Tales’ Tim Soret for an update on the “cinematic platformer” and to discuss the recent controversy about his tweets.

You’ve heard us say this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: The Last Night looks amazing. It’s one of the most visually stunning games I’ve seen in a long time, and watching parts of the game in the 4K trailer makes it look even better. The 16-bit aesthetic, set inside an immersive cyberpunk world full of depth, lighting and texture is an intriguing mix of old and new. That’s exactly what Soret is going for — right down to the side-scrolling navigation.

“I wanted to create a glorified game, in a way,” Soret told me at E3. “It’s like the old games as you remember them, not as how they really are. Imagination makes everything better than it actually was.”

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to play The Last Night until next year, when it’s scheduled to arrive on both Xbox One and Windows. Yes, the game has been in the works for a couple of years, but the team at Odd Tales is incredibly small. Not to mention the fact that when he started working on The Last Night, Soret didn’t have a studio and wasn’t really a game developer per se. However, his background as an effects artist is on full display here.

When it is available, expect to get lost in a world where your interactions with other characters have consequences both immediately and later on in the game. Soret explains that the characters remember how you treat them and if you’re a real asshole, they’ll remember the next time you see them.

“I don’t want systemic gameplay, I wanted to make only unique situations,” he explained. “We have branching dialogues in the game.” Soret gave me an example of knowing that a character you’re talking to in the game had information but is hiding it. You can choose to try and persuade her to give it up through conversation or you can choose to threaten her.

“We have a system where every NPC has a memory that recalls every choice you made and everything you did to them,” he said. “If you threaten someone, imagine having to go back to ask him for something. It might not be in your favor.” Soret said the characters also share information, so word-of-mouth is something else you’ll have to contend with. As the game goes on, the world becomes increasingly restrictive due to factors like politics, the police and others, so you feel more and more like you’re trapped.

Soret has recently come under fire for some of his tweets on feminism, equality and other hot topics. Both he and The Last Night publisher Raw Fury released statements this week admitting that Soret used a poor choice of words and those posts don’t reflect who he is now or the overall premise of the game. Soret has also had very public and very heated debates with Anita Sarkeesian regarding her efforts battling sexism in the gaming industry.

“I’m trying to clarify any misleading statements I made in the past,” he said. “Twitter doesn’t lend itself to understanding all of the context and the mindset I was in when I was talking about those things.” Soret admits the backlash during E3 was rough, but he says that he’s for equality and that The Last Night has nothing to do with the negative side of the issues he discussed in a social-media setting.

“I’m not trying to push any agenda anywhere,” he explained. “I hope that by the time the game arrives, everything will be clarified and people will understand it’s worth it.”

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What we’re watching: ‘Raw’ and ‘Feast of Fiction’

Welcome back to Video IRL, where several of our editors talk about what they've been watching in their spare time. This month we're kicking things off with some seasonally-appropriate horror fare, that you can catch right away on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Then it's time for a Gundam throwback before Kris Naudus points out a couple of YouTube food channels perfect for binge eating or binge watching.

Them / Raw

Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

To get into the Halloween spirit, I've been watching at least one horror movie a day since the end of September -- the lower the budget, the better. Problem is, so many of the American low-budget or indie horror offerings on Amazon and Netflix are crappy Paranormal Activity clones, cheap-thrill gore-fests or uninspired found-footage "documentaries." Whether it's by design or coincidence, I've found that French horror movies have held my attention the most lately. Specifically, 2016's Raw, as well as Them, from ten years prior. They're more psychological thrillers than straight-up horror, but that didn't stop me from being more on edge while watching them one afternoon than I was during A Haunting in Saginaw, Michigan, late at night. Both start with a car crash, but they couldn't finish any more differently.

Raw, recently added to Netflix, tells the tale of a vegetarian girl in her first week at a prestigious veterinary school. During a hazing ritual, she's forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney. She immediately gets sick, throws up and wakes herself up that night scratching a full-body rash to near bleeding. This bout with food poisoning is just the beginning, though, and soon protagonist Justine finds out she has a taste for forbidden fruit. As the remaining 70-ish minutes unfolded, I lost track of how many times I clasped my hands over my mouth, agape in shock, to stifle my shouts of "OHMYGODWHATTHEFUCKISEVENHAPPENING?!"

But French director Julia Ducournau balances every body-horror scene either with something pedestrian twisted into being unsettling (like a horse on a treadmill) or with something that makes you ask how far Justine can go before someone confronts her about her new diet. And those questions keep coming right until the credits roll. I can't say I enjoyed watching Raw, but it was a hell of a ride.

The same goes for Them, currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Its focus is narrow, centering on a young couple living in a cavernous farmhouse, terrorized over the course of a night by unseen horrors. The camera never quite gives away who (or what) the perpetrators are, and revealing the twist would be a sin. As with Raw, its atmosphere and overall creepiness won me over straightaway. The scariest part? Realizing that I've probably driven past a shot like the final scene countless times and not thought twice about it. If you're willing to read subtitles, both of these should make you shiver and scream more than The Conjuring 2 on HBO Go could ever hope to.

Mobile Suit Gundam The 08th MS Team

David Lumb

David Lumb
Contributing Editor

I'd heard that a lot of anime had left Hulu, but I scanned their selection anyway looking for classic shows I'd missed, like the original Mobile Suit Gundam. They don't have that -- but they did have a series I didn't finish the first time it aired on Toonami, the 1996 classic Gundam side story The 08th MS Team. Unlike the franchise's other show released the year before, the massively successful Gundam Wing, 08th ditches the brand's typical pretty-boys-in-unbeatable-robots for a grounded and sobering story about the people who get caught up in wars -- desperate soldiers, civilians and guerrillas alike. It's dirty, honest, utterly humane and gorgeously animated.

It's also a little preachy and melodramatic, and it shows its age with odd sexist moments. While it's still the Thin Red Line of the Gundam universe, I remember it far more fondly from when my 14-year-old self grazed the series on its first American airing. There's something sad in seeing an old favorite for the flawed media it always was. Much like Waypoint's Rob Zacny, I've grown up and seen a lot since I first caught the show as a starry-eyed teen. I still think The 08th MS Team is a wonderful little 12-episode miniseries with a big heart, but I won't revere it so highly -- and will think a little harder about who I recommend it to.

Feast of Fiction / Binging with Babish

Kris Naudus

Kris Naudus
Senior Editor, Database

Back in March, I came home from a trip only to discover that my oven didn't work. The cooking gas in my building had been shut off due to a leak. My building management seemed to be on it, so I made do with a combination of microwavables, toaster oven and Seamless. Unfortunately, weeks and months went by, calls to the city were made and permits were issued, but, even as I write this in October, gas still has not been restored to my building. My landlords eventually threw their collective hands in the air and began installing electric ranges in every apartment, so a few weeks ago I was finally able to cook for myself again.

I am so jazzed to be able to make food. Hot food! Scrambled eggs! Steak! Cookies! I started reading food blogs and cookbooks, and shopping to refill my pantry. I'm halfway through Kenji Alt-Lopez's The Food Lab, a huge 900-page hardcover that talks about the science of how food cooks. On the lighter side, I've also been reading food-themed comics like Delicious in Dungeon and Food Wars. And the latter title (which is also an anime) ended up sucking me into a YouTube hole of food videos that I've been obsessed with ever since.

You see, the very first chapter of Food Wars features the "Gotcha" Pork Roast, a bacon-wrapped potato loaf that hero Soma Yukihira makes to save his family restaurant. It looks pretty tasty, so I searched for recipes and pics online and stumbled onto Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams' Feast of Fiction, a series that demonstrates how to make various foods seen in cartoons, video games and comics. If you ever wanted to taste Steven Universe's beloved Cookie Cat ice cream sandwiches or Kirby's super-spicy curry, there's an episode for you. One thing I really enjoy is how they also incorporate crafts into it, showing how to make paper wrappers for your Reptar chocolate bars or genuine-looking Ecto Cooler Hi-C boxes.

I've been marathoning through the episodes, which the YouTube algorithms have definitely picked up on at this point, throwing food show after food show into my suggestions. One that caught my eye was Binging with Babish. Where Feast of Fiction mostly sticks to the realm of kids' cartoons, anime and video games, Binging with Babish is a little more mainstream, covering foods from popular media like Mad Men, Seinfeld and House of Cards. Still, there's a bit of overlap -- both Babish and Feast have done their own takes on the Ultimeatum from Regular Show and Krabby Patties from SpongeBob SquarePants. But the recipes are different, and I watch the shows for the personalities. Feast of Fiction is pretty silly (and there's a cute dog), while Binging with Babish is a little more subdued. Not that Babish can't be ridiculous as well -- the Moist Maker is one of the most ridiculously complicated sandwiches I have ever seen, basically asking you to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner.

Sadly, I still haven't done a lot of actual cooking since getting my stove back. I'm having too much fun watching other people do it instead, with the added bonus that I don't have to clean up the mess.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.