While it is about as inevitable as death and taxes, a lot of gamers get very excited when a new Call of Duty is announced. This year we're getting Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 from developer Treyarch, which moves the series to the cyborg-tastic future of 2065.
The biggest change comes from the platform list. Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC. That's it. For the first time the Xbox 360 and PS3 are not receiving this new installment of gaming's biggest franchise. The move away from the last gen was also inevitable, but it will nonetheless be jarring to some.
However, the move away from the last gen also presents opportunities. The more powerful base hardware allows for a fully customizable protagonist, plus 4 player co-op in the campaign. While playing said campaign, you'll be leveling up - separately from the multiplayer - and given greater control over your character's development. Treyarch also promises that the campaign has been taken "off the rails", and maps will be much more open than in previous installments.
While CoD always sells itself on it's campaign, the bulk of the gamers seem to be most interested in the multiplayer. The biggest change in MP is the addition of 'Specialists.' Instead of playing a complete tabula rasa in MP, you'll play as one of nine Specialists, each with their unique weapon and ability. These abilities are powerful, but on a timer (albeit one which speeds up when you get kills or other point-scoring actions). This lets players have powerful effects on the game without needing to accumulate scorestreaks, although skilled players will still get more frequent access to them.
Onto all of this is a greater emphasis on movement. The game now includes thrust jumps, power slides and wall jumps, although each of these are dependent on a stamina bar. The game will also include swimming for the first time, letting you move in the water with complete control of your weapon and abilities.
Consumers who pre-order the game will get access to the multiplayer beta, which does not yet have a date. But Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will be released November 6.
The abrupt and acrimonious divorce of Hideo Kojima and Konami seem to have caused collateral damage in the form of Silent Hills.
We got our first inkling of the cancellation when Konami announced that P.T. - the stealth demo/teaser for the game released on PSN last summer - would be pulled from the network on April 30. Then, on Sunday, co-director Guillermo Del Toro spoke about the game's fate at the SF Film Festival.
A similar tweet was then posted by Norman Reedus, the Walking Dead actor who was slated to play the protagonist in Silent Hills. So far Konami has not officially confirmed the decision to kill the game, but all indications seem to be that Silent Hills is dead. And it may not be the only thing.
Right now Konami only has two active console products: Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain (set for release in September) and Pro Evo Soccer. PES traditionally his stores in the fall, but it hasn't been announced yet. At one point PES was a sold rival to the more popular FIFA from EA, but recent years have seen reviews and sales suffer. It's entirely possible that Konami - which makes the bulk of it's revenue from casino gaming machines - could be preparing to largely exit the entertainment gaming business. This last point is just speculation, but it's not unreasonable to postulate such a move.
Another challenger throws their hat into the ring. Square Enix will be hosting a formal press conference at E3 this June, joining Bethesda as new(ish) additions to the roster of flashy pressers preceding the event.
In the last few years only the platform holders - Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo - and the largest publishers - EA, Ubisoft and (for some reason) Konami - have hosted such events. Largely because they're very expensive, and few publishers have enough content to fill an hour of conference time. This would seem to indicate that Square Enix will have a fairly large slate of games to showcase.
We know of at least four major unreleased titles which will likely be centerpieces of the show: Final Fantasy 15, Kingdom Hearts 3, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Add to that second tier titles such as Just Cause 3, a new Hitman and the just announced new Star Ocean, plus existing titles like FF 14 and Nosgoth and you have a larger slate of games than I initially thought. But a press conference where you only talk about known titles would be a dull affair, much like a Dothraki wedding with only one death. So what do they have up their sleeves? At this point, I have no reasonable idea what they would be announcing. Almost all of their core properties have new installments on shelves or in the latter stages of development. Any ideas?
This would not be the first time Square Enix hosted a press conference at E3, but as far as I can tell it will be their first since 2006, which predates their acquisition of Eidos and expansion into western development.
It should also be noted that the 9am PST timeslot on Tuesday is traditionally when Nintendo holds their press conference or livestream. If the Big N is once again forgoing the formal presser and opting for a Nintendo Direct - and all signs point that way - we may have a real scheduling conflict on our hands here.
The Overlord series is returning this year with Overlord: Fellowship of Evil, a co-op action game coming later this year.
The original Overlord titles were cult classics more for the writing and theme than the gameplay (which wasn't bad, just not terribly memorable). Fellowship of Evil brings back original series writer Rhianna Pratchett to pen the story of four terribly evil people who are resurrected for...reasons. From the above trailer it seems to play a lot like Gauntlet; 4 characters with different skills romping though a dungeon filled with copious amounts of enemies.
Look for Overlord: Fellowship of Evil this year on XB1, PS4 and PC.
I've been intrigued by the travails of Patrice Désilets these last few years. While working for Ubisoft, Désilets spearheaded development of both the Prince of Persia reboot and the early installments of the Assassins' Creed franchise. He left Ubisoft after his work on AC Brotherhood was completed in 2010, and there were indications it wasn't a terribly amicable split. Désilets hooked up with THQ, and they even founded a studio in Montreal for his project, but since his contract included a non-compete clause, everyone involved had to deny his involvement with the studio for a full year. Work continued on his game - codenamed 1666 - until THQ's bankruptcy, when the rights to the game were acquired by...Ubisoft. Initial assurances that both parties would be able to coexist were turned on their head when only two months later Ubisoft would fire Désilets, and work on 1666 was subsequently suspended.
All of which is interesting (to me at least), but bears no real import on the announcement of Désilets' new game, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. New developer Panache Games describes it thusly:
Our game is a third person action-adventure survival episodic game.
Through each episodes, we want the player to relive the greatest moments of mankind with a documentary twist. Our civilisation is one idea away from extinction... or evolution.
The teaser for the game counts back through a number of milestones in human history and development, but doesn't give many clues as to visual style or gameplay elements. A game that plays around with the human development or evolution could be fascinating, obviously dependent on it's execution.
Panache and Desilets didn't specify a platform for Ancestors, but they say the game is "coming soon", so further news may be coming on this at E3.
Microsoft and 343 Studios are still trying fix the mess that was the Halo Master Chief Collection. More than six months after it launched in a near-inoperable state, they continue to roll out stability fixes and mea culpa free content.
Alongside a new batch of fixes, the company announced that Halo 3: ODST and the remade version of the classic map Relic would be coming to the game as a free update for anyone who purchased and played the game before December 19. Presumably this content will be made available to all owners at some point, but we don't know how much it will cost.
When trying to describe something creative, we reflexively reach for something familiar to draw a comparison. With today's review, Convoy the description is simple: Mad Max + FTL. A pair of simple concepts, but that doesn’t always make for a great end product
We don’t normally touch on things outside of gaming during the show proper. Something we used to do on our MUCH longer episodes or some kind of extra content (we should look into doing those again, huh?). Still, when you’ve had the week we’ve had as movie fans, it’s hard not to talk about both Star Wars and Batman/Superman.
Outside of that, however, we still cover games and ArJay gives us his thoughts on Mortal Kombat X, my thoughts on the new Avengers: Age Of Ultron table for Pinball FX2, and James’ thoughts on Final Fantasy 14. Plus, we still find time to get in some talk about stealth games since it’s been on our plates for the last few weeks.
It's been in closed beta for several months now, Heroes of the Storm has an official launch. After a period of open beta starting May 19, the game formally launches on June 2. At launch the game will include 30 playable heroes, with more added all the time.
I've had some time with Heroes of the Storm, and I've grown pretty fond of it. Whereas Dota 2 and League of Legends are notoriously newbie unfriendly, Heroes manages to come off as very approachable by gamers new to MOBAs. It still has depth and rewards skill and player coordination, it manages to pare down some of the more complex elements seen in other popular titles in the genre.
Could a survey have revealed information about the next Mass Effect title? For most other publishers, I would say no, but this is EA and it has happened before.
So it's possible this is real, but no where near certain. But we can look at the info presented with a critical eye and evaluate what seems reasonable.
According to the rumor, the story will revolve around a Pathfinder mission sent to the Andromeda galaxy to search for new planets to colonize. This gives the game a (potentially) clean split from the original trilogy while also changing the narrative. You're not just one of many ships in the Alliance, you're alone in a new galaxy. While in that new galaxy you'll be starting up new colonies, and the type of colony you start determines which bonuses you get.
EG: Recon Settlements will clear fog of war on space map and offer more strike team missions, meanwhile Mining Settlements will periodically supply crafting materials.
The area you'll also be exploring will be much larger, up to 100x the area seen in ME3. There will also supposedly be seamless transitions between different activities, from flying the ship, to walking the halls, to taking the Mako down to the surface without loading times. You'll have to head over to the link for the rest of the info
Now that we've gone over the rumor, lets look at what Bioware has already revealed about the game officially. We know that the game will be separate from the Commander Shepard trilogy, but include nods to them. This likely means that your companions from the original games won't be returning. The Mako ground exploration vehicle will be back in improved form. There will be multiplayer of some sort. All of this jibes with the rumor, but is that because the leak is legit, or because it's the work of a skilled speculator?
All of the info presented in this release seems very plausible, and EA has made this exact sort of leak before. I assume we'll see much more on Mass Effect 4 in about 6 weeks at E3, with a fall release likely in the cards.
Earlier today I had a chance to preview the new table for Pinball FX2. It's Avengers: Age Of Ultron and is based on the upcoming film. I don't really think there are any spoilers revealed for the film in this so I think you're pretty safe.
The table releases next week on pretty much EVERY platform (Wii U coming soon).
The first nine minutes are just me getting a feel for the table, but the high score run starts around 9:18
So...Star Wars Battlefront. Coming November 17 to North America and November 19 to Europe. Available on the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. These things were already known. The new(er) stuff: up to 40 person multiplayer battles. "Challenges inspired by the films" will be playable solo, split-screen or cooperatively.
We get a little more info on the game from Polygon. The game won't have a dedicated single player campaign, a departure from recent installments of DICE's other franchise, Battlefield. It's being built from the ground up as a multiplayer focused title, with only the Challenges playable alone. There will be plenty of vehicles to play around in, but there won't be dedicated space battles with TIE Fighters dueling with X-Wings. But those ships will play a part in the fight, albeit closer to the ground. Based on the trailer, you'll also have gadgets at your disposal, such as the portable shield generator, although DICE isn't giving out a full list of those yet.
The first DLC pack - The Battle of Jakku - will be available for free for everyone, but you get it a week earlier - Dec 1 vs Dec 8 - if you pre-order. The DLC will set up events seen in The Force Awakens, which hits theaters later that month.
A pair of games from developer Amplitude Studios can be played for free on Steam this weekend.
Endless Legend is a turn-based strategy game which was one of my favorite games of 2014. You have resource collecting, empire building, tactical combat, and a healthy dose of RPG elements, all with an engrossing visual style.
Their other freeplay title is Dungeon of the Endless (yes, they have a theme in naming their games, as they also develop Endless Space.), which I've also played, but didn't enjoy quite as much. It's a roguelike in which you're trying to protect your crashed spaceship while exploring an expanding dungeon for resources.
Blizzard's World of Warcraft is nearing eleven years old, and they're still coming up with new tricks. Or in this case, and old trick.
With the upcoming 6.2 patch, Blizz is introducing the concept of 'timewalking' to allow your now almost unfathomably powerful character a chance to experience older dungeons again. During selected holiday weekends you'll be able to run random old school dungeons with your power and items scaled down to appropriate levels (your skill remain there, just scaled down) for that area. This makes the areas challenging once again. But while your powers are scaled down, the loot you get is scaled up to the uber-high level you're now (likely) at.
Blizzard is testing this on the public test servers now if you want to try, but remember it will only be available during select holiday weekends, and not be an everyday feature.
Publisher Take-Two has announced the shuttering of 2K Australia, with all employees being handed pink slips.
2K Australia most recently shipped Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in October, but most of their 15 year history was spent as a secondary developer for other titles. They had contributed to all three Bioshock titles, as well as The Bureau: XCOM, Tribes Vengeance and the original Freedom Force. As you can tell from their CV, they'd worked extensively with Irrational Games (and were founded as Irrational Canberra), and the closure of that studio likely contributed greatly to their ultimate fate.
VGChartz (a notorious inaccurate source, but the best I have) says The Pre-Sequel sold 1.33M units worldwide, a respectable total but apparently not enough to guarantee the studio's survival.
The world's largest specialty games retailer is embracing the retro movement.
Starting next week, Gamestop stores in the New York City and Birmingham, AL markets will start accepting trade ins of classic consoles, games and a limited slate of accessories. The program will encompass the NES, Genesis, Super NES, Dreamcast, N64 and Playstation 1 (sorry Saturn fans!). All units will apparently be sent to the company's new refurbishment center, where they will be cleaned and readied for sale. While for now only stores in those two markets will be accepting retro items, they will be made available on the Gamestop website, or their ship-to-store system. If the program is a success, it could spread to the rest of the chain.
There has been a mild resurgence in retro consoles in recent years. The trend is partly driven by good old nostalgia (hey, now that I have disposable income, I want the consoles of my youth!) but some also go retro to protest current trends in gaming they dislike (paid DLC, always on requirement, shipping with major bugs).
We’re doing some fuzzy math at the following link.
Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun playing Splinter Cell: Blacklist. It’s a game I got a little ways through when it released and then got distracted or bored or something that kept me from going back to it for ever how long. Now that I’m back playing it and enjoying it, I’m almost done with it. So it was nice last week to get the news that another sneaky-sneak game I’m a fan of was currently in the works. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a game I played all the way through without taking a year long or more (or less) break. Outside of the boss fights, I loved it. And while finishing up Splinter Cell, I was really hoping we’d be hearing something new for Sam Fisher, but I’ll totally take Adam Jensen in the interim.
Less than a month after Harmonix announced their plans to revive Rock Band, Activision has revealed their plans for a new Guitar Hero.
Guitar Hero Live, developed by FreeStyle Games (DJ Hero), brings the series back to it's guitar-only roots, while also making several major changes to the franchise. For starters, the plastic guitar has been redesigned. The line of five colored buttons along the neck is gone, replaced by two rows of three buttons - one black, one white - at the end of the neck. As you ascend the difficulty ladder you'll move from using just one row of three buttons, to two buttons on each row, to two full rows of three buttons. The strummer wedge, whammy bar and hero button all remain on the body of the guitar.
The next big change comes to the visuals. You're no longer playing with - and to - a collection of colorful cartoon characters. Instead you're playing before a photorealistic crowd which will react to your play. Do well and they'll cheer, screw up and they'll boo. Loudly. As you progress through the campaign you'll play to larger and larger venues, with correspondingly large crowds.
Changes are also coming to the songs you play. GHL will come with a roster of base songs - including The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy, Green Day, Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones, Carrie Underwood and Pierce the Veil - but it will also come with Guitar Hero TV. GHTV is a suite of constantly updating music video channels, accessible without a subscription, that let you choose among a variety of curated genre channels and song lists.
Activision isn't revealing everything about how the music library will expand, but based on what they have revealed I have a guess: they're going for the League of Legends model. If you haven't played it, League has a base roster of heroes available for free, with new heroes rotating in and out for free. If you want to use one of the heroes that are out of rotation, you have to pay to unlock them. I'd guess that the roster of songs on GHTV will similarly rotate, and if you want a song once it leaves the rotation, you'll have to purchase it. Again, this is just conjecture, so take it with a grain of salt.
Then you have what may be the most interesting change. Guitar Hero Live will be available on the 360, XB1, PS3, PS4 and Wii U, plus select mobile devices. You'll be able to buy the game on any of these platforms for $99.99 and get a guitar and the full game, even on your mobile device. With those mobile devices you'll be able to play it on that screen, or connect it to your TV for the big screen experience.
We've known for some time that the second DLC pack for Destiny was titled House of Wolves and now we have a release date: May 19. The content pack ($19.99 singularly or bundled with The Dark Below in a season pass for $34.99) will apparently add a new social hub in The Reef (aka, the asteroid belt) plus all of the new gear and raids you'd expect. You should also expect some amount of exclusive content for Playstation owners, but Bungie isn't yet divulging info on that.
While House of Wolves wraps up the season pass content, there is apparently more Destiny on the horizon for later this year. A still unnamed "major content release" for Destiny is slated for the fall. We'll likely learn more about it at E3. Early leaks about Destiny revealed that Bungie was contracted to release full sequels to the game on even numbered years, with major expansions coming in odd numbered years. It sounds like this "major content release" is one of those major expansions from the early leaks.
[Update] - I made what turns out to be an erroneous assumption when I said that House of Wolves would include new raids. Turns out it won't include any new raids. Instead it will come with the new Prison of Elders endgame content, which sounds like a horde mode, with waves of enemies in a set location. I apologize for the error.