Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

The Rock Band series has been known for many things. It's gathered up friends for Friday night parties filled with booze, snacks, and plastic instruments. It's brought people closer together, as they team up to try and rack up a high score together. But more than anything, Rock Band has allowed people to experience new music that they might not have listened to before.

While Rock Band has featured a vast share of rock 'n' roll classics from across the past several decades, it's also included songs from other genres. There have been pop, country, electronic, and even hip hop hits among the thousands of DLC tracks, as well. And that long list of available songs was bound to have some oddballs.

So while DLC owners will likely hit the ground running with Foo Fighters, Queen, and The Black Keys, Shacknews would like to take today to spotlight some of Rock Band's weirder offerings.

"Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)" by Stephen and the Colberts

This is where it starts to sink in that Rock Band has been a video game institution for quite a while. This piece of free DLC first released back in 2008 during the early days of a little Comedy Central show called The Colbert Report. Sure, Stephen Colbert is now the host of The Late Show, but before that, he was taking parody news to insanely funny new places. And one of his most memorable early moments involved debuting this little number, a touching (if a bit stalkerish) ode to a gal named Charlene.

Sadly, there was never DLC for the follow-up single, "Charlene II (I'm Over You)," but this will easily suffice.

"Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face' (South Park Version)" by Eric Cartman

Like any trend across the ever-changing zeitgeist, the kids of South Park also had a brief fascination with the plastic instrument era. One episode saw them lampoon Guitar Hero, in particular, but a later episode saw them gather in front of the television for a quick round of Rock Band. Their song of choice? "Poker Face" from Lady Gaga, with Eric Cartman on vocals.

It was a hilarious moment and one that Harmonix was quick to immortalize by offering this specific version of "Poker Face" as one of Rock Band 2's DLC tracks.

The SpongeBob SquarePants pack

Certainly can't narrow this one down to a single track. There was not one, but two, three-packs of songs dedicated to SpongeBob SquarePants, taken from across his show's history. The weirdest part of these songs isn't just seeing your lead singer on-screen bang his head and rock out while belting out the high-pitched voice of the sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea. It's the fact that these songs, in their own crazy way, actually work with this formula. And they're actually pretty fun to play! Still, SpongeBob remains one of the unlikeliest artists to hit Rock Band's long list of DLC.

"Still Alive" by GLaDOS

Bear with me here. Yes, this song has been infused into just about every gamer's musical taste just because of how memorable Portal and its ending was. Now with over five years of retrospect, it becomes a little easier to see this offering as quite a strange addition to a game filled with traditional types of music.

The reason this list is ending with "Still Alive" is not entirely because it's a strange pick, but because it pioneered the idea of novelty tracks in Rock Band. "Still Alive" was a huge hit and saw frequent play when it first released, helped largely by some wicked guitar chords. The Portal song proved that non-traditional, more oddball songs can absolutely work with the Rock Band formula, opening the door for some of the aforementioned oddities to make their way into the game.

So enjoy "Still Alive" and pop it into Rock Band 4. For science.

Any other strange tracks from Rock Band's history worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments. Rock Band 4 arrives today on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. If you missed it, our review is up now.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Soma and certain Star Trek episodes.

The Star Trek franchise is approaching its 50th anniversary. Between five decades, six television series and ten movies (12 or 13 if you count the reboots), Star Trek has had a long history of covering a multitude of different topics related to high technology, society and ethics. It's tough to contend with a franchise that has touched on just about every sci-fi issue ever imagined thus far, but the independently developed survival horror game Soma manages to hit some the big issues involving the life, the afterlife, and the dark side of technology without pesky Starfleet rules to get in the way.

Man Out of Time

Time travel in some shape or form has always been a go-to Star Trek feature, with the 20th Century being one of the most favored eras. However, Simon Jarrett (the main character in Soma) is an accidental time traveler. As one of the prototype volunteers from when brain scanning was an emerging technology, there's a copy of the Simon on almost every brain scanning machine for troubleshooting and testing purposes. It's practically by chance that his template was downloaded into a fully functional and self aware body, one of the WAU's (an artificial intelligence running the PATHOS-II station) only successes at creating a biomechanical hybrid human.

The original (human) Simon died over a century before the game occurs due to issues stemming from a traumatic brain injury, but his brain scan is data, so it is effectively immortal and frozen in time until it is brought back online. The Star Trek reference that immediately comes to mind is Neutral Zone, from Next Generation's first season. In it, three individuals who were cryogenically frozen in the 20th Century due to terminal illnesses, and their chambers somehow ended up light years away from Earth.

Although the Star Trek episode was hastily written, and everyone's Rip Van Winkle syndrome was more or less resolved by being dumped on Earth, the spirit of the episode was meant to highlight how different the 24th Century is from the 20th. Altogether, it seems the frozen travelers take pretty well to discovering that extraterrestrials exist, and they're stuck in a world where everyone they knew is dead, everything they had is gone, and all their social values are completely antiquated.

Similarly, Soma only touches lightly on the issue of being left out of time, because let's face it, being trapped in a crumbling deep sea facility - even when it's a space gun - isn't really representative of 22nd Century living. There are moments when Simon reminisces to Catherine about his life as a living person, and she reveals a little bit about herself too, but these sequences are brief. They don't compare their worlds experiences. For the most part, they stick to trying to make their way across the station amid crumbling infrastructure and lots of patrolling monsters, which is too bad. Considering one of the driving themes is trying to get through the end of the world, it would have been nice to a better idea of how far humanity progressed before it got wiped out.

Unfortunate Coin Flips and Transporter Accidents

Apart from the warp drive, the transporter has to be the single most impactful piece of fictional technology ever introduced into pop culture. Even people with a vague, passing, knowledge of Star Trek know the phrase, "Beam me up, Scotty," and what it references. Not bad for something that the book "The Physics of Star Trek" describes as utterly implausible given what we know currently know about matter.

But the plausibility of it isn't so much an issue as what the technology represents. According to "The Physics of Star Trek," a transporter can only work one of two ways. Either it breaks people and objects down to atomic components and fires them at the speed of light to be rebuilt at a destination point, or it makes a perfect scan of those things, destroys the original, and creates a replica using available resources at the destination point. Although the previous is the accepted process of beaming, there are episodes - like when there are transporter clones - that can only happen if the latter is true.

The problem with the second scenario is the same one that Simon has to wrestle with in Soma. As it turns out, there is no way to move a brain scan from one media to another. You can only copy it. That means, if you copy a scanned mind out of one vessel, you essentially have two of the same person. One gets to move on, while other is stuck in whatever situation you leave them in. What do you do with the obsolete copy? A cult following on PATHOS-II determines that the best way to resolve that issue is to commit suicide right after the scanning process is complete.

When Simon is copied over the a deep sea diving suit, he has the option to drain the battery from his old suit, shutting down his copy. The alternative is to leave him behind so that old Simon will wake up, alone and confused in the station, with no knowledge of what happened or why he was abandoned. Although Star Trek generally finds ways to be comfortable with how it deals with transporter clones, Soma players are left with either killing old Simon (which is actually more of an indefinite dormancy) or leaving him to a fate that's worse than death until the battery runs out naturally.

As Soma observes, one version always has to end up with the wrong side of the coin flip. A truth that Catherine, a copy of the original PATHOS-II scientist, is surprisingly accepting of the issue. It appears, some people are just better suited to being artificial life than others.

Artificial Life

The other problem with converting people into data is that it decreases the value of that life. The experiences of that individual are no longer unique if you can create perfect copies of them infinitely. We don't know if this is the first time virtual Simon has been activated, or if hundreds of thousands of him have been awakened, deleted, and reset as part of the computer system's diagnostic program. At one point, Simon wonders if each of those copies has a soul, and if there is a heaven now filled with millions of his versions, which leads to the next logical issue.

As video games often demonstrate, death becomes less of an issue if you can revert to a backup copy. In Soma, you meet the last living human being on Earth, who is ironically hooked up to a life support system. In the exchange, she begs you to kill her, but you have reservations. All the brain scans loaded into the Ark are just copies, but she's the real thing. Singular, original, and alive. But with her health failing, and the rest of humanity supposedly wiped out by a comet, she states, "we have to go with second best."

Each Star Trek series has treated artificial life differently, which include giving both androids and holograms individual freedoms and ranks, often with the conceit that they cannot be copied, except when it's convenient to the plot. Apart from the ship's computer and most holodeck recreations, artificial life is generally treated the same as organic life. Conversely, these inorganic life forms often strive to be more human.

However, Star Trek glosses over the fact that it's impossible for artificial life to know what it's like to be human, unless they were once human or copied from a human. The logical fallacy is fully demonstrated the WAU's efforts to try to save the remnants of the human race, often with monstrous results. "Human" and "alive" are loose terms. What's close enough? Forcefully hooking a person up to life support and never letting them die? Transferring their minds into maintenance robots that are bound to go mad? Or rebuilding them until they have some semblance of living, walking around as zombie-like creatures that are in constant agony? WAU can't tell the difference between life and making a mockery of it, which is a situation that makes the Borg look like a better alternative.

In Soma, players can choose whether or not to recognize virtual life as something worth preserving. Actions include deleting brain scans (including your own), destroying a semi-aware robot that thinks it's human, and whether or not to destroy WAU and all the monstrosities attached to it.

When Virtual Beats Reality

Reality is very flexible term when it comes to Star Trek, but the virtual world of the holodeck deserves special attention because of the TNG episode, Ship in a Bottle. In it, the holodeck character, Professor James Moriarty, attains self awareness and demands to be freed into the real world. The episode is famously resolved by convincing Moriarty that he has been given a living body and his own small spacecraft, when in truth, he was transferred to portable computer system with enough memory to provide a lifetime's worth of new experiences.

Coincidentally, that is exactly what the Ark program is supposed to do in Soma, except that the volunteers are aware that their brains are being scanned. Practically the entire crew of PATHOS-II is ready to jump aboard their own ship in a bottle, where they can live thousands of years in a virtual paradise, running on a pod floating in space. It's not surviving the end of the world, but it's the next best thing. Besides, Earth is in ruins, PATHOS-II is falling apart, and there's an insane AI trying to turn the last remnants of humanity into mutants. Screw the real world. Lt. Barclay, who famously suffered from holo-addiction, had it right all along. Even Christopher Pike from the original series was allowed to live out the rest of his life in an idyllic fantasy world.

It's just too bad the originals are left to die painful deaths on Earth while their digital copies are sent up to paradise. But, as stated before, one version always gets the wrong side of the coin flip.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

Not content with having a the Surface Pro 4 being a tablet that works like a laptop, Microsoft announces the Surface Book - a brand new ultrabook with a 13.5-inch screen. It is presented as the most powerful 13-inch laptop around, with the latest Intel processor and Nvidia discrete GPU, which gives it twice the performance of rivals like the Macbook Pro.

Its screen supports 267 PPI, and they system promises 12 hours of battery life. The laptop is designed specifically for power users, and can run games like Gigantic and Gears of War.

But it looks like Microsoft is being cheeky with this one. The Surface Book is actually the Surface Pro 4 with a base that boosts its capabilities. The screen, which is a Surface Pro 4, can be detached from the keyboard for alternate viewing modes. The solid keyboard base houses the Nvidia descrete GPU. The base features a backlit keyboard, two USB 3.0 ports, and a full sized SD card.

Starting price for the Surface Book is $1,499, and will be available in stores starting October 26th. You can pre-order starting tomorrow, October 7th. 


Shacknews - Daniel Perez

It's been several months since Microsoft announced a new Surface tablet, and today, Microsoft has announced the Surface Pro 4.

The Surface Pro 4 features a 12.3-inch display that's capable of delivering 5 million pixels, a 0.4mm Gorilla Glass (GG4), 1.1mm backlight, and has a G5 Custom chipset that's manufactured by Microsoft.

The company has made a number of changes to the new Pen, which includes a tail eraser, all-year battery life, and 1,024 points of pressure. Storing the pen on the Surface Pro 4 has also been made easier as the tablet now has a natrual Pen Storage, which appears to clip on to the device through magnets. The Pen will also have interchangable pen tips that offers a different feel to its tip.

The Surface Pro 4 is 30% faster than last year's Surface Pro 3 and now offers up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of internal storage.

Microsoft revealed a number of accessories for the Surface Pro 4, which includes the Surface docking station and a new typecover. The Surface docking station includes four USB 3.0 ports, two 4K DisplayPort and Gigabit Eternet. The typecover features an integrated backlight, a 40% larger trackpad, and comes in five color options.

The Surface Pro 4 will retail for $899 and is available for pre-order on October 7 and will go on sale starting October 26.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

Darkest Dungeon recently released The Cove update, and with it comes a new boss called The Siren. She can be extremely tough to beat, but we have the know-how to help you see the battle through to the end.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Rock Band 4 has arrived, marking the potential start of a new plastic instrument era for gaming. And while Mad Catz has crafted new instruments for a new generation of consoles, the option is also there to use instruments from previous generations. In the case of the Xbox One version, a legacy adapter is required to use old wireless instruments. There's just one problem. The adapter is nowhere to be found.

Major digital retailers, including Amazon, GameStop, Target, and Best Buy are all showing the standalone Xbox One version of Rock Band 4 with the legacy adapter as unavailable. It is also not available in stores, with many of these same major retailers reporting low stock numbers or never having received it at all. Shacknews reached out to several GameStop managers in the Los Angeles area, all of whom cited a shipping issue and are not expecting new stock until Friday at the earliest.

Shacknews has reached out to Harmonix for comment, but from the looks of it, Xbox One users will have to take a few days to warm up the band before they can take the stage.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Microsoft has announced Halo 5: Guardians’ Forge mode will release in December “just in time for the holiday break” and will be the biggest evolution of the feature since its initial release with Halo 3.

Halo 5: Guardians’ Forge mode will be running as an ongoing free service where 343 Studios will be taking feedback from the community and delivering new features and content on a regular basis. Some of the major improvements the studio has made to Forge are updated core controls, grouping multiple objects together, and the introduction of new objects. In fact, Forge will launch with over 1600 objects, which is a vast improvement over the hundreds available in previous iterations.

Other improvements expected to be available in Forge is a new budget system that does away with arbitrary dollar values, improved lighting, Forge canvases, color schemes, improved scripting, and more.

The new Forge appears to be as massive as we’d expect it to be running on a new generation of consoles. We can't wait to see what Halo 5 players come up with with so many options at your disposal.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

As players continue to trudge across the new environments introduced in last week's update, ARK: Survival Evolved is now adding to its roster of giant dinosaurs. And this time, it's time to take to the skies.

The Quetzalcoatlus is being called a 'flying battleship dino' for its massive size and its ability to hold supplies, survivors, and even other creatures. The Quetz will mostly act as a transport for players to move supplies from base to base, but can also act as the beast that it is if prompted.

The Quetz is being introduced just ahead of a mid-week Steam sale, in which ARK will run for $19.99. Those looking to pick the survival game up at this price will only have until Thursday to do so. ARK: Survival Evolved is currently on Steam Early Access.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Zen Studios has announced Bob’s Burgers is currently in development and will be joining Family Guy in the newly-announced “Balls of Glory” Pinball pack.

The Bob’s Burgers table includes members of the Belcher family prominently displayed across its surface, which is the street the restaurant is located on. The main playable area displays the inside of the Bob’s Burgers restaurant where we can see various ingredients, signage, and characters from the show.

There’s currently no release date for either the Family Guy or Bob’s Burgers, but considering both are FOX Digital Entertainment properties, we’re hoping this means we should expect a Simpsons table to be planned in the near future.

The Balls of Glory pack will be available across Zen’s pinball titles on console and PC. iOS and Android users can purchase each table as a standalone app or as individual tables within the Zen Pinball app.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Blizzard Entertainment has released a new patch for Heroes of the Storm today that finally makes Lt. Morales a playable character.

Lt. Morales was first announced back in early August where she was simply known as Medic, and in case her character class wasn’t already an indication, she is all about helping her teammates out through her numerous abilities.

Today’s patch also introduces an end-of-game survey that will be presented at the end of Hero League, Team League, and Quick Match games. The surveys will ask players to rate a variety of game-related topics, which Blizzard says will help in improving Heroes of the Storm. The Loading Screens have also received some love as player names, portraits, portrait border, loading progress, and selected Hero for that game will be displayed for each player.

Blizzard has also announced Artanis will become available for sale in Heroes of the Storm on October 27, but it’s also announced another way for fans to pick him up a week prior to his release. Those who pre-purchased a digital copy of StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void will gain exclusive access to Artanis starting on October 20, while those who purchase the upcoming expansion will unlock access to Artanis in Heroes of the Storm.

As usual, there are a ton of improvements in the latest patch for Heroes of the Storm. To see how your HotS experience has changed, especially your favorite Heroes, head on over to Blizzard’s official patch notes website.


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