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macOS Catalina review: transition period

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge iTunes is gone, but what comes next? It’s been a messy fall for Apple software releases. iOS and iPadOS have already been updated multiple times to address bugs, and they still have issues as of early October. Now, macOS 10.15 Catalina is out, and the number one…

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macOS Catalina review: transition period


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

iTunes is gone, but what comes next?

It’s been a messy fall for Apple software releases. iOS and iPadOS have already been updated multiple times to address bugs, and they still have issues as of early October. Now, macOS 10.15 Catalina is out, and the number one question to answer is: should you update or wait to see how things settle down?

My general rule with Mac updates is to wait longer than I do for iOS updates, simply because the matrix of app and utility compatibility is much more complicated. It’s more likely that a critical app you care about won’t work on the latest version of macOS, and you’re likely dependent on your Mac for real work, so there are higher stakes for bugs.

My answer to that question is easy, then: wait — not because there are any show-stopping bugs, but because, on balance, the new features you get aren’t so compelling (yet) that you should rush to install it. (The one exception is if you are having problems with iCloud reminders. In that case, I’d say go ahead and update, as I haven’t had major issues yet.)

Starting a review with concerns about bugs and compatibility instead of new features probably strikes you as a bad sign, but don’t take it that way. With Macs, it makes more sense to wait, and with Catalina, that advice applies doubly so since most of the major updates on day one are about nicer media experiences.

If there’s a headline feature for Catalina, it’s surely that iTunes has been broken up into several different apps: Music, Apple TV, and Podcasts. Each is better at its individual task than it was as a section within iTunes, which was teetering on collapse like the Jenga tower of various functions it supported.

You can tell these are brand-new apps, though. Podcasts is slow to connect to Apple’s servers, for example, but I was most disappointed in the Apple TV app. It seems to only be aware of content from the iTunes online store and my Apple library, whereas on iOS or my TV, it’s able to send me off to Hulu or HBO apps for shows inside those services.

Music is similarly odd in places, especially when it comes to the Apple Music subscription service. It kept popping up the Find Friends settings on me, which was ironic because I’ll be damned if I have any idea where those social features actually are inside the app. The iOS version of Apple Music is much more mature and easy to figure out.

There’s a nice new sidebar that can display lyrics or history, but the list of recently played songs in History only updates when it feels like it and sometimes just seems to forget that I’ve played something.

Still, I appreciate that Music does a better job of recognizing and respecting my music library. I’m old enough that sometimes I just want to organize my music in something like a spreadsheet view, and the Songs view does that well. I am mostly a Spotify user, but if I want to make a special playlist like a mixtape, Apple Music is much better.

The other big new media-centric feature in Catalina is Apple Arcade. It gives Mac users a small library of games but, oddly, not everything that’s available on iOS or the iPad (at least to start). I paired up my DualShock 4 controller with my Mac and played a few Arcade games. It’s not anything like Steam, but it is a nice bonus if you’re already subscribed for your other devices.

Finally, Apple updated Photos on Catalina to be more in line with the new versions on iOS 13 and iPadOS. It offers nicer-looking overviews of your months and years, plus a photo editing interface I like more than the last version. It’s not quite enough to get me off Adobe Lightroom (Photo’s crop settings still aren’t persistent), but it’s an improvement.


Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

My favorite new feature on Catalina is Sidecar, even though you need an iPad to take advantage of it. Sidecar allows you to use your iPad as a secondary display. It works over USB or wirelessly, and I was surprised at the lack of latency, even while using it wirelessly. I’m sure a hardcore gamer would notice it, but for regular day-to-day stuff, it was great. One thing to note, though: it only works with iPads that share your Apple ID.

I am a little bummed that Sidecar is another example of Apple obviating a third-party utility with a system-level feature. Duet is carrying on by offering similar capabilities for Android tablets, though.

Sidecar has some advanced features. You can turn the Touch Bar on for it if you like. You can also interact using the Apple Pencil (not your fingers), including using Apple’s built-in markup tools. It can work with third-party apps, too, which could make it interesting for illustrators. I expect it’ll take some time before we know how well it compares to a more traditional Wacom tablet, though.

Apple has updated some of its core apps, too. Mail has some new unsubscribe and mute features. Reminders and Notes have been updated to match their iOS counterparts. Find My combines finding your friends and your devices in one convenient, ridiculously named app. As with iOS, it’s able to use a variety of tools to securely locate your lost Mac, and any other Mac that sees it can report its location.

There’s now a Screen Time section in Settings where you can track your usage, set limits, and schedule downtime. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Apple has done some important and impressive work to make the Mac more accessible via voice input.


Screenshot by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

Ahead of Catalina’s announcement, the thing I was anticipating the most was iPad apps on the Mac. It had the potential to completely change the catalog of apps that work on the Mac, bringing thousands of previously unavailable apps to the platform. The idea is that iOS app developers would be able to easily convert their iPad apps over to the Mac.

The feature ended up being called Catalyst, and it has spent the beta period since its announcement at WWDC mired in controversy. Doubters don’t believe that these apps will feel “native” to the Mac, but instead seem like iPad apps just plopped down in the middle of your mouse-and-window-central interface like badly transplanted organs. Supporters have been disappointed with the quality and depth of the developer tools Apple has provided, which could mean that the doubters will be proven right.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, I haven’t been able to try out any of the third-party options yet. But here’s a bad sign: Apple’s own Catalyst apps like Home, Stocks, and Apple News have barely been updated for Catalina. They still don’t support features that are basic and fundamental to the Mac, like separate windows or tabs.

If this is the example Apple is setting for the rest of the iOS ecosystem, that’s a very bad sign. It’s also the exact opposite of what I hoped Apple would do.

I’ll check back in on the state of these apps once I’ve had a chance to try the officially released versions of some third-party Catalyst apps. Twitter, Carrot, Tripit, and a few other apps that I use all the time on iOS are promising to use it. For some of those apps, it will mean making something for the Mac instead of just making users go to their websites. Something is probably better than nothing.

On top of everything, there’s also the open question of whether Apple is committed to Catalyst in the first place. CEO Tim Cook has explicitly mentioned it in earnings calls, but the company announced both Catalyst and a new framework called SwiftUI that could be more exciting for developers long term. In Catalina, however, neither seems really ready.

Catalyst isn’t the only source of developer angst in Catalina. Apple has locked down the security model for the OS a little more, requiring “notarization” for apps that aren’t installed via the traditional Mac App Store. This could end up not being a big deal at all if Apple is generous and timely with said approvals, but we don’t know yet.

Apple may also be repeating mistakes Microsoft once made way back with Windows Vista by requiring so many permission approvals from users that they begin to just click them all without thinking. Michael Tsai collected a ton of quotes from developers and users who were worried about this very issue back in July.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

More than anything, the potential changes to the app model are the main reason I’m recommending that you hold off on updating for a little bit. Do some Googling on your most important apps, and make sure they’re updated to support Catalina before installing it. I suspect that, for the vast majority of people and the vast majority of apps, it will be a nonissue, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

I don’t think we’re going to really know what this update will mean for the Mac until we know what happens with Catalyst apps. For Apple’s own software, Catalina’s biggest accomplishment is deconstructing iTunes into three separate apps. There’s still work to be done on Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV, but they’re a big step forward.

There are a lot of smaller features I haven’t touched on in this review — authenticating with the Apple Watch, activation lock, and improvements to the Quicktime App come to mind. You might be tempted to think Catalina is a small update, but I don’t. There are potentially big changes here, even though we don’t yet know just how big they are. Given that Apple is trying to release iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS on a yearly schedule, that’s about the most I think anybody should expect.

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We Played Half-Life: Alyx – Ask Us Your Burning Questions

This month’s IGN First for Half-Life: Alyx is officially in full swing, with brand new gameplay and some commentary on it from Valve! As part of our coverage, Ryan McCaffrey and I played through roughly the first four hours of Alyx, and now we want to know what you want to know. While we can’t…

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We Played Half-Life: Alyx – Ask Us Your Burning Questions

This month’s IGN First for Half-Life: Alyx is officially in full swing, with brand new gameplay and some commentary on it from Valve! As part of our coverage, Ryan McCaffrey and I played through roughly the first four hours of Alyx, and now we want to know what you want to know.

While we can’t reveal everything we saw just yet (and you can read Ryan’s full Half-Life: Alyx hands-on preview for his in-depth impressions), we want to open the floor to any burning questions you have about what it’s like to play Valve’s long-awaited return to the Half-Life universe.

Leave any questions you might have about our time playing Alyx in the comments below! We’ll grab a bunch and update this post with our answers next week.

Keep in mind, Valve has asked us not to share certain details about the story, some of the later mechanics we saw, and other spoilery things like that just yet. But maybe you’re curious about the movement, how its weapons feel, or what the pacing and atmosphere is like from within VR? We had a lot of fun playing Alyx, and we’re excited to tell you about it!

You can find all our Half-Life: Alyx IGN First coverage here, and be sure to keep an eye out all month long for even more exclusive reveals.
Tom Marks is IGN’s Deputy Reviews Editor and resident pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.

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IGN’s Staff Reviews the Sonic the Hedgehog Movie

Video game movies have often proven worthy of disdain in the past but the new hybrid CG-animated/live-action Sonic the Hedgehog is shaping up to be better liked than most, at least according to the IGN staff who have seen the movie.In addition to the official IGN review posted on Tuesday, below you’ll find reactions from…

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IGN’s Staff Reviews the Sonic the Hedgehog Movie
Video game movies have often proven worthy of disdain in the past but the new hybrid CG-animated/live-action Sonic the Hedgehog is shaping up to be better liked than most, at least according to the IGN staff who have seen the movie.In addition to the official IGN review posted on Tuesday, below you’ll find reactions from six staff members across all of our content-making departments — from editorial to social to video — all of which are kept as spoiler-free as possible.

In addition to the staff review roundups for tentpole entertainment properties such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Netflix’s The Witcher, we also had several members of our team chime in about what they thought about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

These roundup pieces are a bit of an experiment that we will continue tweaking and refining, so we’ll be taking all your feedback left in the comments as we produce more of these in the future.

IGN’s Review, by Akeem Lawanson, Host/Producer

From the official IGN Sonic the Hedgehog review: While this family-friendly action-comedy suffers from a simplistic story and leans too heavily on tired visual cliches, Sonic the Hedgehog is nevertheless boosted by solid performances from Ben Schwartz as Sonic and Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. Their ongoing cat-and-mouse game is entertaining, and passionate fans of the Sega franchise should appreciate all the nods to Sonic’s history.Make no mistake, this frantically-paced film is made first and foremost for Sonic fans. If you’ve been there for the little blue fella these past 29 years, from his humble beginnings on the Sega Genesis to his current iteration, then Sonic the Hedgehog is the love letter you’re probably looking for. If not… maybe save your gold rings.

Terri Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief, Entertainment

Sonic the Hedgehog is a sweet and simple adaptation of the beloved video game franchise of the same name. This is a movie aimed at kids that certainly is charming as an adult viewer — and pays loving homage to the Sonic video games — but also isn’t especially edgy or adult with its humor. Instead, this is a sweet story about friendship and family, with the strongest bond being between Ben Schwartz’s teenage Sonic and James Marsden’s Tom Wachowski, a cop who crosses paths with Sonic and needs to protect him from Jim Carrey’s villainous Dr. Ivo Robotnik.

Carrey channels his full The Mask energy for a pre-Eggman Robotnik, with all the mustache-twirling zeal you’d hope from him playing this character. As someone who didn’t grow up playing Sonic and who didn’t have a deep attachment to the character, I found his big-screen debut pleasant and inoffensive, but it’s not something I would rush to theaters to see again any time soon.

Sonic the Hedgehog: All the Easter Eggs and Hidden References From the Movie

Zach Ryan, Director of Social Content and Strategy

I didn’t expect much from the Sonic film. To be honest, I’ve never really been much of a Sonic fan, but from the moment we saw those first renders, I knew that this movie would certainly be… something. Fortunately, for all of us, Sonic the Hedgehog is surprisingly fun and full of heart. Yes, it’s chock full extremely online jokes and there are a couple of genuinely bizarre product placements, but that’s not enough to bring down the absolutely bonkers action sequences or distract from a genuinely charming performance from Ben Schwartz as Sonic.

My only real gripe with the film is Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. He’s got a very ‘90s era Jim Carrey vibe about him throughout the whole movie and his over-the-top “I’m better than you” schtick is more annoying than it is funny. It captures a Saturday morning cartoon feel in the same way the recent TMNT films did: absolutely crazy, occasionally cringy, and ultimately a good time.

Nick Limon, Video Producer

The Sonic movie is charming and perfect for kids, with little substance for the adults bringing them to the movie outside of the fantastic bar fight and, of course, Jim Carrey chewing up every scene he’s in.

But other than that, not much of the movie sticks with me outside of the glaring omission of City Escape. Like, why have Sonic travel to San Francisco and have him run away from something and NOT play City Escape? It’s probably in a previous draft of the movie that’s forever lost in time. Like tears in rain.

Brendan Graeber, Editor, Games

I went into the Sonic movie with pretty low expectations – I was a Nintendo kid that played a handful of Sonic games at my friend’s house growing up, so I honestly wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The movie relied heavily on making Sonic a believable character on screen, and to that end, the design of Sonic was exactly what it needed to be to carry the film (I honestly don’t think I could have stomached a movie’s worth of Sonic’s initial gremlin design). Ben Schwartz did an impeccable job voicing a version of Sonic I actually liked: wisecracking, but not too snarky. Schwartz also managed to make Sonic a goofy chatterbox that never crossed the line into becoming a true annoyance, which I consider a pretty impressive feat. There were a few fun nods to Sonic’s source material, and I’m glad the movie didn’t get lost in the weeds with pointless references or lore that wouldn’t make sense to the plot.

I also felt like Sonic the Hedgehog worked as well as it did thanks to the efforts of its small but talented main cast. Similar movies like Detective Pikachu lost me whenever the camera cut away to the bland human characters, but I felt James Marsden ended up having great chemistry trying to keep up with the hyperactive hedgehog, and Jim Carrey absolutely stole the show by channeling his ‘90s-era zaniness to make every scene he was a part of absolutely over-the-top. I did find the plot revolving around Sonic and Tom Wachowski’s quest to get to San Francisco a bit odd and ultimately underused. The pacing didn’t feel quite right at times with Sonic rushing along with secondary plots by getting mad at something that didn’t make sense, and certain scenes just ended up feeling trivial. That said, Sonic’s slow-motion action scenes were pretty enjoyable, and actually translated Sonic’s signature “spin dash” to look as cool in a movie as it does in a video game.

Francesca Rivera, Associate Producer

I never played the Sonic games growing up, so everything I learned about Sonic’s tragic life-on-the run was straight from this movie. That being said, I love James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz, and Ben Schwartz’s love of Sonic, and would’ve tried to watch this movie for them regardless. Sonic is the kind of self-aware kids’ movie that would entertain both the young children and the grown-ups who brought them alike.

Although it is a fun time for the kids, Sonic doesn’t really say anything about anything, especially for its human (and actual) lead, James Marsden’s Tom Wachowski. Marsden, by the way, carries the film expertly and is clearly having a lot of fun, especially against Jim Carrey’s Robotnik. The cat-and-mouse road trip that covers the second act really builds Tom and Sonic’s friendship and fulfills each character’s needs the way a neat movie should. There are also some truly creative “freeze time” sequences with songs that, indeed, slap.

It’s obvious that this film is the first of a franchise, setting up the Sonic/Dr. Robotnik rivalry over the course of what felt like one long first act. The way Tom’s story ends does leave a bad taste in my mouth and Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik, unfortunately, is a little too out-of-place against everyone else’s dialogue and performances. So while the larger lesson of maybe staying in your comfortable space instead of challenging yourself may be troubling to expose to children, it still is a sweet story of helping those in need.

Yusuf McCoy, Social Media Designer

With a commendable performance from Jim Carrey and the titular hero voiced by Ben Schwartz, this live-action adaptation brings the joy and excitement for fans and children alike. Though the film does an adequate job of introducing some lore to Sonic, it falls short in the final act. With some surprise appearances making their way into the film leaving room for possible sequels, this is a strong start to a possible film franchise.

Let us know your thoughts on Sonic the Hedgehog in the comments below! And for more on the movie, here’s our breakdown of the end credits scene and what it could mean for a sequel, all the video game Easter eggs we caught in the film, find out what the critics are saying about Sonic, and what Jim Carrey had to tell us about the evolution of Robotnik’s look.

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‘Keep Fighting’ For Persona 5 on Switch, Atlus Says

Persona 5 still hasn’t been announced for the Nintendo Switch, but publisher Atlus says it doesn’t want fans to give up hope just yet. Rumors have swirled around a potential Persona 5 Switch port for a long time, with a bogus Best Buy listing even popping up in 2019, but that momentum has slowed considerably.…

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‘Keep Fighting’ For Persona 5 on Switch, Atlus Says

Persona 5 still hasn’t been announced for the Nintendo Switch, but publisher Atlus says it doesn’t want fans to give up hope just yet.

Rumors have swirled around a potential Persona 5 Switch port for a long time, with a bogus Best Buy listing even popping up in 2019, but that momentum has slowed considerably. So IGN asked Atlus Communications Manager Ari Advincula if it was finally time for fans to give up on hope for a potential port during a Persona 5 Royal preview event earlier this month, to which she responded “I am a strong believer in ‘never ever give up on hope’.”

The fervor for a port was spurred on by protagonist Joker coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate early last year, but ended up being squelched somewhat when the teased P5S turned out to be Persona 5 Scramble, an entirely new game (and essentially a full-on sequel) coming to Switch. But Advincula says fans making their voices heard is the only way it’ll happen.

“You want what you want,” she explained, “and if you don’t let us know it we’re never going to be able to make it.” Advincula said Atlus is listening and does see the desire for Persona 5 on Switch, saying “it’s important to always voice your opinion.”

Advincula encouraged fans to “keep telling us what you want,” saying she was fighting for it internally as well. However, it’s important to point out that she also said she’s obviously “not the decision-maker” in a situation like this despite being an “internal champion” for it, so this shouldn’t be taken as an indication of what is happening or could happen down the line.

Still, Atlus has made it clear it is listening to the Persona community and taking feedback seriously, notably also revealing that it will change a handful of scenes in Persona 5 Royal fans previously condemned for being homophobic for its Western release on March 31.

Tom Marks is IGN’s Deputy Reviews Editor and resident pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.

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