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Games that are going to blow everyone away in 2019

No doubt about it: video games are bigger than ever. In 2017, the American game industry grew by a whopping 18%And thanks to popular devices like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and pretty much every mobile phone on the planet, things aren't going to slow down any time soon. For gaming fans, 2018 should be great. With a number of high-profile titles slated to come out right before the turn of the decade, 2019 might be even better. These games might be a ways off, but don't let that stop you from getting excited. If even half of them deliver, 2019 is going to be one heck of a year.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey - Aug. 27

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is going to be big. Literally big. It's a survival game that spans 8 million years of pre-human history, and charges you with making sure that your tribe survives the evolution from a simple primate into a fully-functioning member of the human race.

Or something human-like, at the very least. "Evolution was not written in stone," Ancestors says, and your choices will have major, long-term impacts. While your immediate goals might include finding food and shelter and fending off hungry predators (and, yes, a fair amount of running away from them, too), you'll also need to decide which genetic traits and pieces of knowledge you want to pass on down to the next generation in order to ensure their survival.

Ancestors could be epic, which is something that designer Patrice Désilets knows all about: before his termination in 2013, Désilets created Ubisoft's time-travelling Assassin's Creed franchise. While Assassin's Creed takes place over centuries, however, Ancestors covers epochs. That's about as ambitious as it comes — if it works. We'll just have to wait and see.

Control - Aug. 27

Between Max Payne, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break, Remedy Entertainment has a proven track record when it comes to creating successful new intellectual properties. In 2019, the studio is set to do it again with Control, a third-person shooter that combines supernatural threats, psychic powers, and surreal shapeshifting environments into something that's a little familiar, but mostly just weird.

Control should be an interesting change for pace for Remedy, too, given that the studio is focusing less on story — one of their big strengths — and more on the open-ended gameplay facilitated by hero Jesse Faden's various powers. E3 demos highlighted Jesse's push, levitation, and time-shifting abilities, as well as her stylish transforming gun. It's kind of like Alex Garland's Annihilation in video game form: we're not sure that Control makes any sense, and that just makes us all the more eager to get our hands on it.

Conan Chop Chop - Sept. 3

It started as a joke. On April 1, 2019, Funcom dropped a trailer for its "next big Conan game." That game was called Conan Chop Chop, and it reduced Robert E. Howard's hulking barbarian into a cute widdle stick figure, who pranced around the screen killing enemies with a sword almost as big as he is.

It was a prank, but it was a nice change of pace after years of Funcom's grim (and notably janky) Conan games. The internet let the company know. And so, Funcom did the only thing it really could: it made Conan Chop Chop real. Australian developer Mighty Kingdom is handling the heavy lifting, which includes bringing Conan and three of his allies to life in super-minimalistic form.

Mighty Kingdom warns that while Conan Chop Chop might be humorous — and it's undeniably adorable — they're treating it like a real game. That means a fully functional roguelike environment and plenty of challenging hack n' slash combat. Thankfully, if Hyperborea proves too challenging for you, you can bring help: Conan Chop Chop supports four-person local multiplayer. Clearly, Mighty Kingdom knows what's best in life.

Gears 5 - Sept. 10

The title might look a little different, but don't be fooled: Gears 5 is indeed the next entry in Microsoft's ultra-popular Gears of War series, and looks all set to deliver the same intense and violent third-person action that fans have come to know and love. The name isn't the only thing that's changing this time around, though. For the first time in series history, Gears 5 features a female protagonist. Good old Marcus Fenix is still around, of course (his kid will return, too), but Gears 5 is all about Kait Diaz, the former Outcast who made her debut in Gears of War 4.

Gears 5 isn't all about the future, though. It's got big ties to Gears' past, too. According to Microsoft, the game's plot with delve into the origins of the subterranean Locusts, resolving one of the franchise's longest-lasting mysteries. All that, plus new melee weapons and all the giant guns you can handle? Quite simply, we can't wait.

Borderlands 3 - Sept. 13

When Borderlands arrived in 2009, the mere idea of an open-world loot-driven shooter felt fresh and new — but that was before we had Destiny, The Division, Anthem, Warframe, and so many others. In this day and age, Borderlands 3 is going to have to work a little harder to remind us what makes the series special. Well, it looks like Gearbox Software has figured out the solution: give players more, more, more.

We don't just mean more guns, although Borderlands 3 has over one billion of those. Borderlands 3 also has more skills to unlock — three per character, this time around — making for a much wider variety of builds. There are more ways to move around, including some Apex Legends-style crouch-slides. Instead of confining the action to the planet Pandora, Borderlands' traditional home base, Borderlands 3 will give you a spaceship and let you explore a bunch of different worlds, each one of which is full of treasures to find.

There are also more collectibles to track down — if you want to build Borderlands' ultra-annoying mascot Claptrap a girlfriend, you'd better start hunting — an improved multiplayer system, and, well, more. As long as Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford can stay out of his own way, Borderlands 3 could very well vault to the top of the shlooter pile. Step aside, everyone: the king is back.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - Sept. 20

Between all of the remakes and a little something known as Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has showed the 3D Zelda games a lot of love. The 2D editions? Not so much. That's going to change this summer, however, when The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Link's first portable adventure, gets an HD remake for the Switch.

If you haven't played Link's Awakening, or if it's been a while — and given that the game first arrived on the Game Boy back in 1993, we wouldn't blame you — you really should check this one out. Not only is Link's Awakening just as deep and compelling as its 16-bit cousin, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but it's the weirdest Zelda game ever made (and yes, that includes Majora's Mask). Taking a number of cues from Twin Peaks, Link's Awakening drops Hyrule's legendary hero into a surreal dreamscape where he fights to hatch a giant egg, and where even the friendly townsfolk hide dark secrets.

The Switch-exclusive Link's Awakening plays up this tension with an art style that can only be described as adorable without shying away from any of the original's eccentricity, including some truly baffling Super Mario Bros. cameos. The combo of traditional Zelda gameplay and the odd atmosphere makes Link's Awakening one of Link's most memorable adventures, and we can't wait to get stranded on Koholint Island all over again this September.

The Surge 2 - Sept. 24

If you've got a Souls-shaped hole in your heart following The Ringed City, the last piece of content released for the series-ending Dark Souls 3, hold on — relief is on the the way. When it comes to third-person melee combat, anyone who spent some time in Lordran will feel right at home with The Surge 2.

That's not to say that The Surge 2 is a straight-up rip-off, though. Like its predecessor, The Surge 2 has a few unique tricks up its sleeve. By gathering weapons, drones, and other add-ons, you'll be able to outfit your mech-clad warrior with all kinds of different abilities, including buffs and debuffs, healing powers, or fancy finishing moves. If Dark Souls wasn't quite tactical enough for you, The Surge 2 also reintroduces the first game's "limb targeting system," which lets you focus your attacks on specific body parts — leaving the undamaged remains around for you to pick up and add to your arsenal.

The Surge was a pleasant surprise when it hit in 2017, and while it didn't necessarily crack the mainstream, it's got its fair share of fans. From the looks of things, developer Deck13 is doubling down on everything that made the first game great, while introducing players to a "brand new environment" that's darker and more dangerous than ever before. No, we're probably not getting any more Souls, but don't worry. With The Surge 2, the series' legacy lives on.

Code Vein - Sept. 27

The internet might've dubbed Code Vein, Bandai Namco's upcoming action role-playing game, as "anime Dark Souls," but so what? It's not like fans are getting more Dark Souls any time soon, and besides, "anime Dark Souls" sounds kind of awesome. At the very least, it's enough to earn the game a quick look.

Do so, and you won't be disappointed. According to hands-on reports, Code Vein is very much what you'd expect it to be: a methodical and punishing hack-and-slash adventure in which you'll need to carefully time your attacks for maximum impact, unleash parries and dodges at just the right time, and manage your stamina meter so that you can do what you want to do when you need to do it. Sure, your characters wield comically large swords and sport spiky hairdos, but this is a Souls game in everything but name.

And that's fine! Code Vein has a few small tweaks that set it apart, of course: you can switch your character build any time during the game, AI-powered helpers will follow you into battle, and you can steal your foes' blood (or "ichor") to make your character stronger and to fuel Code Vein's magic attacks. Still, for the most part, you know what you're getting into, and you know what? We'll take it.

Phoenix Point - September 2019

Do you like X-Com? You should. Julian Gollop's alien-infested tactical strategy game might be showing its age — it was 1994 when UFO: Enemy Unknown, aka X-COM: UFO Defense, first invaded home PCs — but it's still one of the most interesting and tense titles out there, and it's inspired everything from the recent (and also excellent) XCOM reboot to a little something called Fallout.

So when Gollop announced that he was making Phoenix Point, a game that blends "turn-based tactics and world-based strategy in a fight against a terrifying, alien menace," you better believe that we started paying attention.In Phoenix Point, you've got squad-based tactical battles, a world map full of strategic options and challenges, a mix of hand-crafted and procedurally generated missions, soldiers that you can customize to your heart's content, upgrade trees to master, and so on. At first glance, Phoenix Point is like an X-COM greatest hits package. That's hard to say no to.

Just don't expect it to be easy. Unlike the recent XCOM games, Phoenix Point combines a fully simulated ballistics system with destructible environments. That means when your soldier's bullets miss — and they will — chaos ensues. You can aim your shots carefully (in fact, you can even target specific limbs, Fallout-style), but if they miss the mark, they might take out nearby civilians or stray gas tanks. It makes Phoenix Point a tense and exciting experience — as if fighting off hordes of mutating aliens wasn't stressful enough all on its own.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint - Oct. 4

The Division 2 wasn't the only Tom Clancy-branded open-world shooter that Ubisoft had in store for 2019. This fall, Ghost Recon returns, and it's building on the do-what-you-want, kill-how-you-want foundation established by the franchise's last installment, WildlandsTom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint will let you and your friends assume different character classes to gather intel and take down foes using a combination of gunplay and stealth, with plenty of new, deadly gadgets to help keep things fresh.

You'll need them. For Breakpoint, Ubisoft has made enemies more deadly than ever. Now, your rivals have the same abilities that you do, not to mention much better AI. For the first time in Ghost Recon history, you are no longer the world's number one predator. Special ops-hunting death squads are just one of the obstacles that you'll need to deal with, too. Breakpoint also borrows heavily from survival games. If you don't maintain your weapons or heal major injuries, you're as good as dead.

Finally, Breakpoint will avoid its predecessor's political faux paus by moving the action to a fictional archipelago in the South Pacific. There, you're tasked with taking down Jack Skell, a tech magnate who owns the island Aurora, and who might be supplying evil regimes with weapons. Stopping Skell is easier said than done, however: along the way, you'll also be hunted by a former Ghost played by Jon Bernthal. You know, the guy who played the Punisher? Yeah, him. That's one guy you don't want to mess with.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - Oct. 25

We're not sure if you've noticed, but Call of Duty has gotten kind of silly lately. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare hopes to change that. For 2019's installment of the game industry's number one shooter series, Infinity Ward is ditching the fluff in order to tell a harrowing, realistic story about the horrors that soldiers face on modern battlefields. No exosuits. No zombies. Just lots of bullets, and plenty of difficult, morally compromising decisions to make. It's "No Russian" all over again.

Of course, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare isn't just a throwback. While the game might share a subtitle with Call of Duty 4, it's a "soft reboot" of the sub-series, and it's coming with lots of revisions to the Call of Duty formula. After taking a year off, the single-player campaign is back, along with a totally separate, story-based co-op mode. The game will be cross-platform, meaning that Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC owners will all get to play together.

Additionally, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is running on a brand new engine that supports 4K resolutions and all kinds of advanced graphical features, and it's forgoing the traditional season pass in favor of regular — and, more importantly, free — updates. If you burned out on Call of Duty, Modern Warfare might be just the thing to pull you back in — and if you're still buying CoD every year, then you don't need our recommendation. You're going to pick this one up regardless.

The Outer Worlds - Oct. 25

Obsidian Entertainment knows role-playing games. Over the course of its 15-year history, the studio founded by former Black Isle developers (the people who made Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout 2) has cranked out one critically-acclaimed RPG after another. South Park: The Stick of Truth? Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II — The Sith Lords? Pillars of Eternity? Freakin' Fallout: New Vegas? All Obsidian joints.

However, while there are a few exceptions, most of Obsidian's output has been based on existing franchises, not original properties. That's one reason why The Outer Worlds, Obsidian's big 2019 release, is so exciting. As revealed at The Game Awards 2018, The Outer Worlds is a new series that takes place on a distant planet on the edge of corporation-controlled space. Players will be able to fight their way across the planet, scoring loot Borderlands-style along the way, but fisticuffs aren't the only option. As per Obsidian tradition, branching dialogue trees and non-lethal skills provide alternate means for resolving conflicts.

Oh, and by the way, The Outer Worlds is directed by Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, and looks like it shares that series' special mix of goofy satire and dark, character-driven pathos, as well as a similarly quirky cast of characters. That's enough to make The Outer Worlds a can't miss for RPG fans, so let's hope that October release date holds up. The Outer Worlds looks like the perfect place to spend our summer vacation.

Luigi's Mansion 3 - Oct. 31

Ghostbusters: The Video Game might be getting a modern remaster for its tenth birthday, but for our money, the year's top paranormal exterminator isn't Peter Venkman. It's Luigi. In Luigi's Mansion 3, Mario's little brother straps the Poltergust to his back once again, then heads to a haunted hotel for his biggest, spookiest job yet.

Armed with only a flashlight and a vacuum cleaner, Luigi must work his way through the hotel floor by floor, navigating new environments every time that he hops off the elevator. Once he encounters a spook, spirit, or poltergeist, Luigi weakens them with his flashlight, then points the Poltergust at them, slamming them around Ghostbusters-style until they give in. If you want to work with a team, you can also tackle the Scarescraper, which combines randomized levels with frantic eight-player action.

Luigi Mansion 3's real star, however, is Gooigi, Luigi's oozing green doppelganger. Gooigi can't open doors, but he can walk through walls and spikes, which opens up all sorts of new puzzles, and should help Luigi uncover the hotel's many secrets. He's gross, bizarre, and oddly charming. Sorry, Slimer. When it comes to goopy green sidekicks, we have a new favorite.

Death Stranding - Nov. 8

We may not know exactly what Death Stranding is all about, but we do know when it's coming. Hideo Kojima's long-awaited follow-up to Metal Gear Solid 5 — and the first game that the famous designer has made since Konami gave him the boot — arrives this November. That's more surprising than any plot twist that Kojima has in store. Death Stranding was announced all the way back at E3 2016, and outside of a few extended trailers, we've seen very little of it. The best guesses seemed to indicate that it would be coming in 2020 at the earliest.

Surprise! Not only is Death Stranding coming this year, but it looks just as delightfully bizarre as we'd hoped. It stars The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges, who lives in a world where people have built "walls" that keep them separate from other people, who goes to an alternate dimension when he dies, and who travels around with a baby strapped to his chest. Margaret Qualley, Nicolas Winding Refn, Guillermo del Toro, and Léa Seydoux are there, too, as is a lot of Hannibal and Rogue One star Mads Mikkelsen.

The official synopsis describes Death Stranding as "a completely new type of action game" in which "you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing create new bonds or 'Strands' with other players around the globe," whatever that means. Even Death Stranding's collector's edition is weird. You want a life-size replica of a baby in a pod? For $200, it's yours.

Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order - Nov. 15

A month before Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker puts the tale of Anakin Skywalker's family to bed for good(?), a new Jedi takes center stage. Padawan Cal Kestis managed to escape death when Palpatine executed Order 66, but now he's on the run from the newly formed Galactic Empire, and it's up to you to guide him — and his adorable droid, BD-1 — to safety.

Star Wars: Jedi – Fallen Order's plot has the potential to be a lot of fun, especially with established characters like The Clone Wars' and Rogue One's Saw Guerrera playing major roles. What you really should be excited about, though, is Fallen Order's lightsaber combat. This isn't a Force Unleashed-style power fantasy. You're going to need to unleash each and every parry, thrust, block, and dodge yourself, and with perfect timing. If you don't? Cal is poo-doo.

In other words, all of those cool moves that Cam did during Fallen Order's pre-E3 livestream? They take practice. Fallen Order is openly inspired by Dark Souls, and while we don't expect fights to be quite as exacting as in FromSoftware's RPG, Cal's journey will be anything but easy when it begins this November.

Pokémon Sword and Shield - Nov. 15

Okay, we'll admit it: we expected Pokémon Sword and Shield, the first mainline Pokémon game to launch on consoles instead of handheld devices, to shake up things up a little bit more. Judging by the games' reveal trailer, however, this is going to be a pretty traditional affair. You'll still be rooting through tall grass, where Pokémon attack via random encounters. You're still challenging fellow trainers and journeying from gym to gym on your way to mastering the Elite Four.

On the other hand, they say that if it's not broke, you shouldn't fix it, and there's a reason why the Pokémon formula has persisted for over two decades: it's really, really fun. Besides, with their cell-shaded graphics, Pokémon Sword and Shield looks absolutely gorgeous, and its new London-inspired region, Galar, is unlike any other place Pokémon trainers have explored yet (aside from real-life London in Pokémon Go, of course).

Still, Pokémon lives and dies by its pocket monsters. Thankfully, Sword and Shield delivers. The internet is already full of fan art of Sword and Shield's three starters — the chimp-like Grookey, the firey Scorbunny, and the timid water lizard Sobble — all of whom look great in full-on HD. Pokémon Sword and Shield might not reinvent the franchise, but maybe that's okay. After all, it is awfully cute.

Shenmue 3 - Nov. 19

If you're worried that Ryu Hazuki has changed since the last time we saw him, put your fears to rest. Despite the long delays and smaller budget, Shenmue 3 looks like a worthy successor to the Shenmue name. As before, Shenmue 3 is a detailed simulation of everyday life. You're either going to love it, or it's going to drive you crazy.

While open-world games have become a lot more user-friendly in the past 17 years, Shenmue 3 remains charmingly indifferent. NPCs still have their own schedules, which you'll need to contend with in order to progress. You'll spend most of your time playing minigames disguised as menial tasks (yes, the forklifts are back). Ryu doesn't move quickly, and some tasks unfold in real-time. Like doing real chores, it's slow and tedious. That's the point.

Shenmue 3 does have a few game-like concessions, like forcing Ryu to eat in order to keep his stamina up, but those are designed to make things feel more realistic, not less. Shenmue 3 isn't going to be for everyone, but if the original's laid-back pace is your jam, you're going to find a lot to like here.

Doom Eternal - Nov. 22

Doom didn't really need rescuing — 26 years after launch, its co-creator is still producing content for the original game — but 2016's reboot was a welcome addition anyway. id Software's modern take on its flagship franchise preserved all of the speedy brutality that made Doom an international sensation and added a few new wrinkles along the way. In Doom, you only get needed rewards like health and ammo if you're ultra aggressive. Either you take the fight to the demons, or you don't play at all.

Want more? You're getting more. Doom Eternal doesn't radically upend its predecessor's formula, although new gimmicks like zero-gravity environments and a grappling hook that propels you towards enemies for fast and brutal close-up kills should create even more opportunities to unleash carnage and chaos on Hell's unsuspecting forces. Besides, Doom Eternal is giving us new multiplayer modes, including Battlemode, which pits two player-controlled demons against a lone space marine.

Or, to put it another way: it's id doing what id does best. The company has been making Doom for a quarter of a century. Judging by everything we've seen, it has another hit on its blood-soaked hands.

Super Meat Boy Forever - TBD

Almost a ten years ago, Super Meat Boy arrived on PCs and Xbox Live and single-handedly launched the super-tough indie platformer revolution. Did you enjoy Fenix Furia, The End is Nigh, or 2018 game of the year contender Celeste? Without Super Meat Boy, you wouldn't have played any of 'em.

Now, almost a decade after Meat Boy and Bandage Girl stole platformer fans' hearts (when they weren't busy making players snap their controllers in half, anyway), the dynamic duo is back. The evil Dr. Fetus has stolen their child, Nugget, and it's up to Meat Boy, Bandage Girl, and you to get him back. Your tried and true Super Meat Boy tricks won't work here, though: in Super Meat Boy Forever, every level is generated on the fly from predefined "chunks," and will scale to match your performance. The better you do, the harder Forever gets. Great.

Super Meat Boy Forever has been in development for a long time, and it's gone through a number of changes in that time. Meat Boy co-creator Edmund McMillen has moved on to other things, and the game transformed from an infinite runner into something more traditional over its lengthy gestation period. From the looks of things, it's time well-spent. Super Meat Boy Forever might only use two buttons, but it still controls better than almost any other platformer out there. Welcome back, little guy. We've missed you.

Wasteland 3 - TBD

It took 26 years for Wasteland, the late '80s role-playing game that inspired Fallout and its sequels, to get an official follow-up. Wasteland 3 is arriving a lot faster. Unlike modern Fallout titles, which combine role-playing games with a healthy dose of first-person shooting, Wasteland 3 takes place from a top-down perspective and features turn-based tactical combat. Don't let that scare you off. Every choice you make in Wasteland 3 matters, including how you position your troops and which weapons you use to battle your foes.

Thankfully, you won't be battling through Wasteland 3's apocalypse alone. As you work to strengthen your home base, both player-created characters and NPCs will help you gather supplies and fight off baddies. A brand new dialogue system, featuring writing from the team behind Torment: Tides of Numeria, promises to give you the deepest and most personalized Wasteland adventure yet. You can even play with a friend. Wasteland 3 comes with a complete multiplayer campaign in which you and a buddy lead separate squads on missions — but story choices still affect both teams, so make sure your travelling companion is trustworthy.

Meanwhile, Wasteland 3's setting is brand new. Instead of venturing through an arid, radioactive desert, Wasteland 3 plunges you into snow-covered, post-apocalyptic Colorado, where you're just as likely to freeze to death as meet your demise at the wrong end of a gun. Developer InXile's boss, Brian Fargo, plans on retiring once Wasteland 3 ships, ending an almost 40-year-long game industry career. 

"It seems like a good time to drop the mic," Fargo says, so get excited. From all indications, he's planning to go out with a bang.

In the Valley of the Gods - TBD

In 2016, the newly founded development studio Campo Santo released Firewatch, an adventure game set in the Wyoming wilderness. Its voice acting is killer, and its art is so pretty that it's constantly being stolen by other businesses.

Can Campo Santo strike gold twice? In 2019, we'll find out. That isn't to say that In the Valley of the Gods is a Firewatch knock-off, of course. Instead of taking place in a quiet forest, In the Valley of the Gods' action unfolds in Egypt in the 1920s. Instead of investigating a potential conspiracy, you'll be tomb raiding, Indiana Jones-style, in search of hidden treasures. But like Firewatch, In the Valley of the Gods really hinges on the relationship between its two protagonists. You play Rashida, a disgraced treasure hunter, and your companion is Zora, your former partner. There's some history there, and it's not good. As you explore, Zora will be right beside you, assisting you with puzzles and keeping you out of trouble. 

The game apparently looks so good that it drew the attention of no less than Valve Software. In April 2018, Valve acquired Campo Santo. That makes In the Valley of the Gods a potentially much bigger enterprise. Hopefully, the game will still release in 2019, and not on "Valve time."

Nioh 2 - TBD

Before Ghosts of Tsushima, before Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and a mere week before For Honor, Nioh brought feudal Japanese action to consoles around the world. In 2019, Team Ninja hopes to recapture its past glory with Nioh 2, which will return players to Japan for another dose of punishing, Dark Souls-style combat.

That's good news for fans of the first game, and if you liked Nioh, expect more of the same. Team Ninja doesn't expect the sequel to diverge much from the original blueprint. That's fine with us. There are a few small alterations coming, of course. Nioh 2 will ship with a fully-fledged character creator, meaning that, this time, the main character's looks and personality are in your hands. Deaths will be "more satisfying," whatever that means. Oh, it's also going to be hard. Creative director Tom Lee says, "This time around, the gloves are off," so, y'know. Watch out.