Saturday, January 28, 2023

Replay Review: Call of Duty 2 [2005]

Following on from my Classic Review of 2003's Call of Duty in February 2020, and after a time in a fictitious representation of WW2 in Return to Castle Wolfenstein in recent weeks, I said I would return to the 'realism' of Activision's WW2 shooters in Call of Duty 2 and see if it hold up today. This was Infinity Ward's second World War 2 outing after the original CoD (or third game counting Medal of Honour: Allied Assault as most of 2015's developers went to IW after EA gave them the shaft) and it was clear their experience and expertise was what made the games special as Infinity Ward produced 9 in the currently 19-game franchise, while Medal of Honor died on the barbed wire fence 10 years ago.

Call of Duty 2 mimicked it's predecessor somewhat in so far as it featured not one central protagonist as most other games but gave you slices of the war through the eyes of several fictional soldiers who fought with real units in dramatized but historically researched encounters. For the Russian campaign, you are  Private Vasili Koslov of the 13th Guards Rifle Division, who after the defence of Moscow takes part in the final assault to recapture Stalingrad in 1943. As Sergeant John Davis of the 7th Armoured Division in North Africa you assault the trenches and machine gun nests in the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942 later taking the role of British tank commander, David Welsh, engaging German forces in Libya. Finally you are Corporal Bill Taylor of the 2nd Ranger Battalion who climbs to assault Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, later takes Hill 400 and finally the Rhine River crossing in 1945.

As with Call of Duty there is no suggestion that you win WW2 all by yourself, you are constantly supported (or sometimes hindered by the AI of) your ever-present squadmates. If you are sent somewhere alone it's literally into a bunker or a building to shoot a bunch of Jerries, your team mates are less than 30 feet from you if not shooting and throwing grenades into buildings. There is an active "chatter system" where both friendly and enemy soldiers will call out the position of each other as they shoot. And shoot you will, you are once again restricted to being able to hold just two weapons such as a Lee Enfield and a Sten Gun, while you will eventually run out of "allied ammo" as you progress, one does best to pick up a German rifle and a machine gun for both far and closer-range enemies.

In every respect Call of Duty 2 is a step up from the original. It uses an enhanced IW Tech 2.0 engine a version of idTech 3 with a skeletal animation system, which was useful when depicting the Jerries getting blown into the air from grenades. The game was also an early example of true volumetric smoke effects especially useful for smoke grenades and the desert tank battles of it's British Campaign in North Africa. CoD2 also featured a regenerating health system preventing the action from being 'paused' as you went foraging for heathpacks. The game also introduced the franchise staple of the 'grenade indicator' letting you know that a grenade was near and to run or take cover. While the game did not have big-name voice talent this time, Hollywood composer Graeme Revell provided a remarkably less martial but more fitting score for the seriousness of the game than was achieved by Giacchino.

Final Verdict: Call of Duty 2 brought more dramatic realism to the WW2 FPS genre using carefully researched locations and astounding development technology to bring a teeth rattling, visceral experience though awesome sound and breathtaking visuals. While obviously aged Call of Duty 2 surpassed what came before and was as one would expect, surpassed by it's later successors. It was the best of it's time but is still great to look back on a fun shooter in 2022.

Technicals: 7 hours (approx) playtime using a Nvidia 3070Ti @ 3440x1440 with max settings on Windows 11. Windows HDR provided a negligible amount of superior lighting.

Bugs: None.

Call of Duty 2 suffers from the same prohibiting issue as it's predecessor in that it is available from Steam for €19.99 which for a 17 year old game is fucking ridiculous. This is the worst thing I've personally experienced with Activision - while the game certainly was worth the full price in 2005, today most 17+ year old games are under €5 when on sale but the pricing of Call of Duty franchise, even when the maximum 50% off remains premium and thus prohibitive to this day. 

Series (PC Only):

Call of Duty [2003]
- Call of Duty: United Offensive [2004]
Call of Duty 2 [2005]
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare  [2007]
Call of Duty: World at War [2008]
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 [2009]
Call of Duty: Black Ops [2010]
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 [2011]
Call of Duty: Black Ops II [2012]
Call of Duty: Ghosts [2013]
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare [2014]
Call of Duty: Black Ops III [2015]
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare [2016]

- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered [2016]
Call of Duty: WWII [2017]
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 [2018]
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare [2019]
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War [2020]

- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered [2020]
Call of Duty: Vanguard [2021]
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II [2022]

Monday, January 23, 2023

"No credible threat from planet within the Earth" - SPEARHEAD

Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann discovered in 1936 that Earth’s liquid outer core covers a solid metal ball effectively floating in the center of the planet. Today, Scientists reported in the Nature Geoscience journal that this core spins and every few decades the rate and direction changes, and at present the planet is in the midst of one of these changes! Study author Professor Xiaodong Song, a seismologist at Peking University in Beijing explained that the core is thought of as “a planet within a planet.”

SPEARHEAD's Deputy Commander for Global Security Major General "Whopper" Creedon assured an emergency press conference via video link in the SPEARHEAD Public Relations Suite at UNHQ in New York an hour ago that there was "unlikely anything to worry about!"

 "While we admit that the thought of a metal ball rotating beneath our feet is disconcerting, we do not believe it poses a clear and present danger to the future of the planet," informed Creedon "Despite how it does sound like the premise if a low budget doomsday apocalyptic direct-to-video movie only found when you scroll too far down the menu of Amazon Prime."

Once the press had recovered from Creedon's comedic genius, he added that so far there was no credible reason to take Professor Song literally. "We have no current evidence to believe that there is in fact a separate planet within the Earth. Rest assured that should we confirm that there is, and if a credible threat was faced from the inner planet that we would take any and all measures to defend ourselves and if necessary take the ultimate action to destroy it!"

Creedon took just two questions before abruptly ending the conference. The first question pertained to the aforementioned "ultimate action" and if SPEARHEAD was aware that if they destroy the Earth's core, all life on the surface would cease regardless of the method used. Creedon responded "No comment". The second question pertained to the possibility of the change in rotation of the core affecting the ecology of the Molemen Empire beneath the Earth's surface. Creedon didn't answer, but directed SPEARHEAD personnel to escort the reporter to a windowless office off to the rear of the building.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Epic Games Store and the past 4 years


In late 2018 Epic Games launched The Epic Games Store (EGS). While publishers opening their own stores was certainly nothing new with Blizzard, EA, Ubisoft for example all having their own stores, Epic had it sights on competing with Steam in so far as offering developers and publishers to sell their non-Epic related games on their store just as Valve sell non-Valve games. While competition is healthy especially as games, especially the more popular AAA titles aren't cheap, the store was laughable at launch and didn't make much of an impact. It wasn't long however before the Epic Games Store became rather famous - and not for the right reasons. 

The platform was crap, and still is

When you compared it to Steam or GOG, both with years of development naturally any new platform is going to look and inferior by comparison but eventually it gets up to an acceptable standard with a good user experience and all the bells and whistles. That's at least the theory; the reality for the EGS was that development has been slow with features like a shopping cart only added within the last year. Community interaction is absent, so visibility on game performance, issues, workarounds etc. is non existent. 

Additionally reviews aren't implemented at all which means that you have to go off-site to discover if a game would be worth buying. There is also no way to view your library online when logged in via the store. I visit the Epic store page once a week to examine their free game. I have to refresh the page at least once every single time because it never loads on the first try. I visit no other site that has this perpetual behaviour. The Epic Store Launcher app doesn't load things as fast as Steam or GOG either. I'm thinking there's only one developer assigned to both.

Epic offered a greater cut of the profits

Valve takes about 20-30% of all monies made from steam sales depending on how many units are sold. Epic came in and started offering to take just 12% of all revenue. According to CEO Tim Sweeney, this would have the knock on effect of Epic being able to later begin to offer games at lower prices. A cursory check of Steam prices vs Epic's right now will prove that this is horseshit. Who this may benefit to a degree however are indie developers for whom a 30% tithe to Steam may be too steep but then one must take exclusivity into account.

Epic introduced the "Exclusivity" concept to PC gaming

Exclusivity is something that has plagued consoles for years but the PC is one platform, a PC game works on every PC that's specced to run the game (bar technical issuers of course). Epic have made moves to hurt PC gamers by effectively holding games to ransom - the ransom price: You can only buy the game on EGS. Some high-profile publishers like 2K Games and IO Interactive sadly have fallen for this abhorrent anti-consumer practice with Borderlands 3 and Hitman 3 respectively, as have Quantic Dream with their recent PC ports of their PlayStation games (effectively double-dipping exclusivity). All such games have only been exclusive to Epic for a period of 6 months or 1 year. 

Indie developers are also held to ransom but even worse, as they are offered to have their games released on the EGS on the condition they agree to exclusivity! There is absolutely no benefit to the consumer as the games are now tied to an inferior platform and even worse, the consumer has no choice as to where to purchase the game from.

Epic Game Store, Spyware, Tracking, and You! 

This was the title of a Reddit post that embroiled the EGS in serious controversy when users questioned some of the background information Epic Games was collecting and transmitting. The most egregious accusation was that the EGS was sharing data with Tencent, one of Epic's major shareholders and is often mentioned elsewhere in the press as being associated with the Chinese government. While the spyware/malware aspect was later mostly debunked and may have been little more than anti-Chinese sentiment, the damage was done because those with an anti-Epic agenda made well sure it spread.

So there was no Spyware?

Not exactly. There is a function in EGS which collects and stores some of your Steam user data, such as games you own and names of your friends, however this is done when you specifically authorise Epic to do so via the app. In the version that was originally released - the EGS launcher did this BEFORE you specifically authorised it. Tim Sweeney admitted to this, issued an apology and had it promptly fixed. Spyware? No. Data-miner? Not anymore. Dodgy as fuck? Perhaps. 

Epic is dodgy?

Yes, this is an understatement to be fair, especially as seen in recent times where they brazenly breached a contract with Apple, then had the audacity to sue Apple in the attempt to use the courts to negotiate a better deal for selling their games on the Apple and Google app stores! They were unsuccessful and the judges threw 9 of the 10 ridiculous charges made by Epic out.

In December, the FTC fined Epic $520m for violating laws concerning the collecting of data of minors playing Fortnight and subsequently misleading them into making unnecessary purchases within the game. When you combine this with the notion that Epic "say" they don't share data with Tencent (and likely therefore the CCP) it's not actually outside the realm of possibility, and seems sinister.

Look at all the free stuff on Epic isn't it great? 

When you have such a crap platform, the only real way to get people to notice you is to give them free stuff and for many, it's the only reason to even EGS. The Epic Games Store give away free games every week, far more then Steam or GOG combined! Now the overwhelming majority of the free stuff is absolute shit but occasionally you do find a AAA game or something worth playing that you might not have in your collection on any of the other superior platforms. It's free, the only drawback is having to use the godawful Epic Games launcher app.


1. I do think the Epic Store is safe to use and is not Chinese spyware. I do believe however that your usage data of the platform may be used for other purposes. But that's something that you have to accept with everything from Facebook to your fitness app, the EGS is no different in that regard.

2. I do believe Tencent is an extremely "problematic" entity. However they are so ubiquitous now that it's not feasible to avoid products and services with which they have some level of involvement and maintain one's present video-game and/or social media lifestyle without severe disruption.

3. I do not agree with Epic's generally questionable ethics or its heavy-handed anti-consumer business practices, specifically exclusivity in the PC Gaming marketplace. Because of these, the fact you can get Steam games cheaper in many cases and the conclusion that there is not a single advantage for me to do so, I will never actually associate a payment method or make a digital purchase from the EGS and or otherwise promote the use of EGS in any way.

If at some point, Epic begins to offer a worthwhile product and/or alters their business practices significantly, I will revisit my conclusions.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Classic Review: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II [1997]

Between the void known as "The Dark Times", the period between Return of the Jedi in 1983 and The Phantom Menace in 1999, Star Wars as a franchise was kept 'alive' with novels, comic books and video games that were usually part of a shared narrative ecosystem. This was first known as "The Expanded Universe," until 2014 when Disney labelled it 'Legacy' due to the creation of their own new narrative going forward rather than being tied to so many years of previous work. The most significant Legacy events occurred in the mid 1990's including Timothy Zahn's 'Thrawn Trilogy' of novels, Dark Horse comics' 'Dark Empire' and Lucasarts' Tie Fighter and Dark Forces video-games; the latter which introduced the character of Kyle Katarn.

Dark Forces established Katarn as an Imperial officer who defected and became a mercenary after discovering the Empire was responsible for his father's death. He was often hired by the Rebel Alliance for whom he stole the plans for the original Death Star and then proceeded to put an end to the Dark Trooper project. Jedi Knight fleshes out Katarn significantly as a year after the destruction of the second Death Star he goes in search of revenge against Jerec the man who killed his father, as well as stopping him from becoming a Dark Jedi 'god' all while learning some force abilities on the way that would define his character in Legacy games, comic books and novels for some 17 years.

There was two prompts to replaying Jedi Knight in 2022, one was the 25th Anniversary of one of my favourite games - and one of my top 10 FPS games of all time - but also because there has been great strides in modifying the game to run on modern systems and take advantages of some of that hardware's power. The game is a quick and easy installation and once you've configured the add-ons you can be playing Jedi Knight as if it had come out in at least the mid-2000's.

Retro gaming purists are generally happy with tweaking original game files to allow games run as close to vanilla as possible on new systems (this is generally GoG's primary business model) and many of these balk at the idea of modifying retro games to look like they were released years later as it removes the "charm". While there are many games I would chose not to enhance, there are other games in which I am saddened that the replay experience is so far from what I remember that I wish I could get a more modern version, even if its just a visual makeover. Jedi Knight was one such game. I retired the vanilla version in the mid 2000s and played last with an early modification that introduced coloured lighting which I was happy with at the time. Therefore and in fact sometimes my incentive for returning to play an old game is to examine the technologies implemented to enhance the game and possibly my experience with it since the last time I played. The Jedi Knight Remastered mod is one such effort.

Jedi Knight Remastered 2.0 is basically a collection of mods fused into one easy app. It's neither the first or the last iteration, but it's the one I used today. Features include:

  • JKGXMOD v1.0 This makes Jedi Knight look better and run on new computers featuring, performance improvements, HUD scaling, 32-bit colour, Gamma correction, Bloom, Ambient occlusion, Parallax mapping and support for advanced, high-quality materials.
  • Enhancement Mod for JkGfxMod (JK Edition) 1.0 featuring higher detail community models as well as readjusted lightsabers, muzzle flashes and explosions.
  • Jedi Knight Neural Upscale Texture Pack. A replacement texture pack for Jedi Knight featuring upscaled textures using ESRGAN and a custom model.
  • Jedi Knight 2009 FOV - Mipmap Patches allowing for Field Of View for modern widescreen displays.

[Left] Remastered, [Right] Vanilla

Vanilla Jedi Knight is a significant chore to get running on modern systems, this is either the CD version or the digital distributed versions on Steam or GOG. It's one of the most incompatible games to modern hardware that many users have come across. Thankfully the hassle is almost completely eliminated with Remastered. Once installed there is some additional tweaking depending on your setup but once you're configured the first time that should be it, and the whole game is ready for you to play in whatever resolution you so desire.

The enhanced visuals here are nothing short of remarkable, character and weapon models are detailed, full coloured lighting is implemented, the bloom effect on lights and of course the lightsabers add about 5 or 6 years of graphical progression to the engine. It's not as strikingly different as Quake II RTX was, but like that, it's still the same game with relatively dumb AI and spartan highly simplistic geometry that one would find in this, one of the earliest fully 3D shooters. But I was genuinely so impressed with the enhancements that I played the whole game - which was not my original intention.

Dark Forces made you feel like a soldier for the Rebellion, perhaps a bit Han Solo without the wit. In Jedi Knight, you're pretty much the same only now you can add a few of Obi-Wan and Luke's force powers (or Palpatine and Vader's if you're so inclined) into the mix and have fun with them. In it's day it was the first time you could really feel like a Jedi in a video game and the experience has obviously been surpassed by everything from Jedi Knight's own sequels to Jedi: Fallen Order but crucially it has not lessened over time, the feeling you get when using force powers to thwart or circumvent an enemy is as novel today as it was then probably because of rare it still is. But the standout feature of Jedi Knight is being able to use the most famous symbol of my religion... the lightsaber. 

The mechanics may be simple now compared with successors but lightsaber combat here (especially in 3rd person view which is recommended) changes the dynamic of the game considerably after the first few levels. Not only is it a weapon with which you can "strike down" and dismember enemies (thanks to a JK Remastered mod element) but it's also a shield as you block some weapons fire and even deflect it back to it's origin, it's also a cutting tool which you use to cut open grating or slice machinery and finally it even acts as a light source in dimly lit areas. Both the significant graphical upgrade that the weapon benefits from under JK Remastered and it's overall utility elevates it from being another FPS melee weapon. In many games, your melee weapon is your last resort when you're out of ammo, in this game it's practical to be using it even if you have ammo at max.

Something the modding team did their best at but it's still rather hokey is the fully voiced and acted FMV sequences that progress the story as you progress the levels. They were all clearly shot on a green-screen with about 10% of the budget and equipment that would be used in Episode I's sequences the following year. There was no requirement for big name Star Wars casting for this so the bottom of the barrel casting brought a plethora of D-list talent together noting only Christopher Neame as the Dark Jedi Jerec, and who has been typecast as a German or various Sci-Fi villains over the years in everything from Blake's 7 to Star Trek: Enterprise. Dark Forces composer Clint Bajakian returns to his music editing role here to edit John Williams original trilogy score onto the game as by then games no longer favoured midi tracks but included the music as tracks on the installation CDs.

Final Verdict: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is a LucasArts classic and was one of the most celebrated Star Wars games of it's time. Thanks to some intrepid modders it's no longer a chore to get working and is arguably better than it was. You feel like a Jedi and firmly rooted in the Star Wars universe but much like any game you have to kill hundreds of enemies in ranged or personal combat to prove you're good enough to take on the last boss, not very Jedi like but it is very Kyle Katarn like.

Technicals: 11 hours approx. playtime @ 3440x1440 UW / 175Hz with max settings. Framerate was recommeded capped at 40FPS to prevent issues with older animations and other glitches. Played using the GOG version with the Jedi Knight Remastered 2.0 mod enabled using a Nvidia 3070Ti on Windows 11. 

Bugs: Sometimes explosions cause the game to crash. Users research suggest limiting saves or disabling hardware acceleration might fix them, but they were infrequent enough to implement workarounds.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Dorces II is available from GOG for €5.99 and Steam for €4.99. Review copy from GOG for €1.39 in May 2017.

Series Timeline:

Star Wars: Dark Forces [1995]
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II [1997]
-Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith [1998]
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast [2002]
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy [2003]

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Retro Review: Star Trek - 25th Anniversary [1992]

Star Trek's 25th anniversary was 1991 and the franchise was entering the height of it's popularity. Celebrations for the year included high profile conventions and documentaries, Star Trek's original crew had their final (and some say best) movie together with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Leonard Nimoy appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Mr. Spock and fans were getting some early information about a new series that would become Deep Space Nine. The celebrations were bittersweet however come October when fans learned of the death of Gene Roddenberry, the man creatively responsible for all of Star Trek up to that point. Despite his loss however the franchise continued (albeit with a few hiccups) and five different Star Trek shows are in production today.

Needless to say concurrent to its TV and cinema screen success, was the success of Star Trek video games. By 1991 video games for the franchise had been produced for machines like the Apple II and the Commodore 64, and for DOS for 20 years by companies including Apogee and Simon & Schuster. But it was the following year in 1992 that the first truly great Star Trek game was produced. US developer/publisher Interplay who had found success with The Bard's Tale (and would later create the first Fallout game and publish Bioware's Baldur's Gate) released Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. Sure it was a year late but was nonetheless critically acclaimed and a phenomenal success (prompting a sequel to be released the following year).

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary is a point & click adventure game where you, as Captain Kirk, issue orders on the bridge in spaceflight/combat mode and lead an away team with Spock, Bones and a disposable redshirt as you investigate happenings, solve elaborate puzzles and practice "diplomacy" in a myriad of dialogue options. The game is played exceedingly simply, you observe, speak to and scan every interactable person or node on the screen and through the results (and banter between the crew) you solve the mission and Starfleet gives you a new one. The game is divided into 7 missions which feel like different episodes and each take over an hour each if you take your time.

The game was 30 years old in 2022 when I played at Christmas and yeah it looks it but this isn't a game that relies on graphics as much as it does sound. First and most importantly the game is fully voiced (including all dialogue options) by the original series main cast, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig all lend their voices to their characters and is arguably one of the main selling points to the game today. Sound effects are directly taken from the series as are the music and themes which are those used in the series to indicate, danger, levity and the near inevitable death of a crewman. The music is a necessity despite the score being in the low quality of midi music of the era.

While the gameplay and the controls are simplistic the same cannot be said for many of the puzzles and the space combat. Solutions to most puzzles can be worked out by a combination of talking, observing, scanning and using different characters in combination with different objects. Often however, it was a matter of using the right character in conjunction with the right object that may not have been intuitive such as using the character on an object more than once to progress the result or getting to grips with the notion that using, for example, Spock on a device was not the same as Spock using the Tricorder on the device, but in other cases it was identical!

With the exception of a couple of skirmishes, space combat was only forced upon you at the very end - "the boss battle" or if you strayed off course during any other point in the game. It is the weaker part of the game and you basically move the mouse around the main viewscreen to steer the ship in the off-chance you can get a bead on your enemy to fire phasers and photon torpedoes. I was probably ruined by years of playing X-Wing that I was never able to drop back to the arcade-level of this gameplay. It can get a bit involved as you must also manually assign Scotty his repair jobs as you are damaged and soon the file that plays Scotty saying "She cannae take anymore Cap'n!" wears a little thin. I also declare that I've never actually beaten the game myself including my most recent 30th Anniversary play-through as it's Dark Souls in it's level of difficulty and considered a major accomplishment if you can actually do it.

Final Verdict: Despite it's advanced age, sometimes impossible combat and frustrating puzzles, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary still feels like a 4th season of the TV series. The visuals, music, sound effects and especially the voices of all the original main cast cement the immersion of you feeling like you're watching the show, a feat which not many other games have been able to manage - in any franchise.

Technicals: 8 hours approx playtime using a Nvidia 3070Ti on Windows 11. Game runs in DOSBox and will go full-screen unwindowed with black bars to force 4:3. Windows HDR does not engage.

Bugs: None. However some tweaks were made to the config file based on 'internet recommendations' to prevent the possibility of incompatibility bugs with high end hardware.

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary is available from both GOG and Steam for €9.99. Review copy from GOG for €5.69 in May 2015.

Interplay Star Trek games for PC:

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary [1992]
Star Trek: Judgment Rites [1993]
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy [1997]

-Star Trek: Starfleet Academy - Chekov's Lost Missions [1998]
Star Trek Pinball [1998]
Star Trek: Starfleet Command [1999]
Star Trek: Klingon Academy [2000]
Star Trek: New Worlds [2000]
Star Trek: Starfleet Command II - Empires at War [2000]

- Star Trek: Starfleet Command - Orion Pirates [2001]

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

2022 The Year in Review

The 2022 cycle is complete. It

  • brought war to Ukraine
  • delivered a slap for Chis Rock
  • set US women's rights back decades
  • saw the grip tightened in China
  • witnessed the loss of the longest reigning British monarch
  • saw Iranians beginning to protest
  • witnessed the assassination of Shinzo Abe
  • launched Artemis 1

2022 cost us Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI , footballer Pele, actress Anne Heche, writer Tom Veitch, actress Olivia Newton-John, drummer Taylor Hawkins, designer Vivienne Westwood, actress Kirstie Alley, singer Irene Cara, actor Kevin Conroy, singer Jerry Lee Lewis, former SecDef Ashton Carter, actor Robbie Coltraine, writer Alan Grant, actor Roger E. Mosley, actress Angela Lansbury, singer Coolio, actor Denis Waterman, composer Vangelis, actress Louise Fletcher, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, actress Nichelle Nichols, artist Kevin O'Neill, actor Paul Sorvino, socialite Ivana Trump, former Japanese President Shinzo Abe, actor David Warner, director Mike Hodges, actor Henry Silva, composer Angelo Badalamenti, journalist Barbera Walters, actor James Caan, artist Neal Adams, actor Ray Liotta, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, former SecState Madeleine Albright, actor William Hurt, actress Sally Kellerman, director Ivan Reitman, singer Meatloaf, acor Greg Itzin, director Wolfgang Petersen, comedian Bob Saget, actor Hardy Krüger, actor Sidney Potier, jockey Lester Piggott, actor Tony Sirico, composer Monty Norman, actor Bernard Cribbins, modelmaker Greg Jein and actor Clarence Gilyard Jr. May they rest in peace.

In gaming and tech, Ian Livingstone was Knighted, Microsoft announces potential Activision acquisition, Elden Ring reigns supreme, Embracer acquires Square Enix Europe, the Steam Deck is launched, Nvidia launches 4000 series, AMD launches Zen 4 CPUs and RDNA3 based GPUs, Google Stadia packs it in. 

We look forward now to 2023...

Happy New Year