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Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
Ah, those dastardly delays. Almost since the dawn of gaming, managing the hype for highly-anticipated titles has been part and parcel of counting (and often re-counting) the days to their release, and this week has seen a small handful of game makers extending their windows to get their Next Big Thing out the door.
Even as Microsoft narrowed down its launch target for the arrival of the Xbox Series X to November, developer 343 Industries also asked fans to hold on a little longer for the system’s flagship mascot to finally touch down on the new console with Halo Infinite. Explaining that COVID-19 and other factors have extended the time it’ll take for Master Chief to suit up and load out once more, 343 posted that it’s “not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday,“ instead pledging to have Infinite ready sometime — and we’re not exactly sure when — next year.
That news comes only a couple of weeks after 343 showed off a meaty chunk of Halo Infinite gameplay as part of Microsoft’s latest Xbox showcase, and no doubt disappoints early Series X buyers hoping for a killer app to break in their shiny new next-gen consoles. But nudging the drop dates for AAA games like Halo Infinite isn’t uncommon across the industry, and history demonstrates that the final product that lands in players’ hands is often better for it. In only the latest high-profile example from across the gaming playing field, Sony and developer Naughty Dog delayed the Last of Us Part II more than once before finally releasing the game to massive sales and critical acclaim this year — and the minute the game debuted, nobody was talking about the wait.
Quality control is a big, big deal for tentpole games that stake their makers’ reputations (and financial fortunes) on the outcome, and 343 acknowledged its primary focus is on giving fans the best experience possible. “We know this will be disappointing to many of you and we all share in that sentiment….We wanted nothing more than to play our game with the community this holiday,” wrote Chris Lee, the game’s development leader, in announcing the wait. “The extra time will let us finish the critical work necessary to deliver the most ambitious Halo game ever at the quality we know our fans expect.”
Halo isn’t the only long-developing game to tap the brakes this week. Citing exactly the same quality-refining reasons that put Master Chief on pause, publisher Paradox Interactive and developer Hardsuit Labs shared their decision to postpone the release of Vampire: The Masqeurade — Bloodlines 2. The sequel to its 2004 action-RPG predecessor, which itself garnered a long tail of fan support on the way to evolving into a cult horror hit, Bloodlines 2 has officially been in the works since early 2019, though fans had long expected a new game was coming after Paradox bought the rights to the series back in 2015.
As it stands now, Vampire: The Masqeurade — Bloodlines 2 will hit consoles and PC sometime next year, with the studio leaving the window wide open for when in 2021 we’ll get to sink our teeth in. But, as with Halo, it’s all about finishing strong: “Due to the quality bar and ambitions we have set for ourselves, we have made the difficult decision that we need more time…Moving launch is one of the changes we are making to ensure the best player experience possible,” the development team tweeted.
It’s not even just the games themselves that sometimes need an extra minute or two to incubate. After revealing an undeniably cool-looking modern reboot of its 1980s classic console, Intellivision revealed last week that it needs more time to get its upcoming Amico system out the door. As Intellivision CEO Tommy Tallarico explains in the deep-dive video below, the Amico is being delayed from its planned Oct. 10, 2020 launch until April of next year at the earliest.
Intellivision is touting the Amico as accessible and family-friendly, pledging “no bad language, graphic violence/blood or sexual content” for any of its games and targeting pricing that falls between $3 and $10 per title. Connecting via a mobile app for iOS and Android will extend the Amico’s reach to eight simultaneous players, and its launch library is slated to feature more than 40 games — mixed between new titles and updated classics, from Asteroids and Astrosmash to Toejam & Earl and Earthworm Jim 4.
Like other ‘80s consoles, the original Intellivision merged advanced for-their-time games with insanely cool hardware that gave systems like Colecovision and even the original Atari 2600 a strong sense of brand identity that entrenched them in fans’ hearts and minds — and the Amico looks like its makers grasp that vital concept. The old-school system’s keypad controllers have been upgraded with digital touch screens and motion sensing, while retaining their predecessors’ overall look and feel. And the pick-your-color lineup of custom options, coupled with the sci-fi LED glow emanating from the base of the console itself, has us rationalizing the meant-to-be-seen system’s $249 base asking price — a cost that also includes a pair of controller and six pre-installed games.
The best of the rest
Night City News — While we’re on the subject of developers who’ll share nothing sublime before its time, the twice-delayed Cyberpunk 2077 got a fresh batch of new teases and game details as part of CD Projekt RED’s second Night City Wire webcast this week. While there’s a neat handful of fresh info about player classes and weapons loadouts, what we’re really here for are the new trailers and fresh looks — and, as we’ve come to expect by now, the event didn’t disappoint,
New in the latest update is info on a trio of RPG character builds — or “Lifepaths” — that’ll underpin at least some parts of the larger story arc for V, your blank-slate, custom-created playable antagonist. At the start, you’ll be able to choose one of three backstories for V including “Street Kid” (a ragamuffin cyber-survivor who’s only ever know the hustler’s life), “Nomad” (a sort of dystopian biker outlaw with gangster ties), and “Corpo” (a ground-floor corporate tech aspirant hoping to reach the top by working within the system).
The other new Night City Wire highlight was weapons — and lots of them. Cyberpunk showed off a trove of specific new weapons drawn from five self-explanatory categories including Power, Tech, Smart, Melee, and the augment-oriented Cyberware class. While not exactly as abundant as the gazillions of weapons in a game like Borderlands 3, it’s clear there won’t be any shortage of ways to do battle when 2077 arrives this fall — and we’re especially hyped for some of the cooler-looking melee and augment weapons like the Thermal Katana, the smash-everything Gorilla Arms, and (of course) V’s Wolverine-like Mantis Blades, which let you julienne your foes with enhanced precision.
So far, it appears that CD Projekt RED is sticking with its late 2020 launch date, which means the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC versions are likely to arrive before their souped-up PS5 and Series X counterparts come along as free upgrades for anyone who’s already bought a current-gen copy. As this week’s event teased, there’s at least one more Night City Wire webcast in the works before the full game releases, so we’ll be on the lookout for more details before Cyberpunk 2077 lands, at long last, on Nov. 19.
Falling for Fall Guys — If we can carve out room in these chaotic times for the quiet burn of a tranquil Nintendo world-building sim like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, then there’s gotta be a place for Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Developer Mediatonic and publisher Devolver Digital’s new, cartoonishly cute take on the battle royale concept pioneered by games like Fortnite and PUBG has only been in the wild for less than two weeks, but already it’s one of the top-selling titles on Steam.
What is it about Fall Guys that has people tripping over themselves to play? Accessibility is a big part of it: The game’s deceptively innocent day-glo characters and bright inviting setting are luring in casual players who likely think themselves outside the core demographic for Fortnite’s more conventional gamer-y style of run-and-gun mayhem. But the action itself has a way of burrowing deep, too. As many as 60 players charge off the line for a spiraling series of increasingly frantic, last-player-standing mini-games and platforming puzzles, and getting eliminated feels more like losing out on a skill-based blitz of musical chairs than a KO in a conventional shooter.
With around 20 mini-games to keep things hectic at launch, Mediatonic already has begun adding new levels to the mix — and judging from its breakout early success, that ongoing support means we’re probably in for Fall Guys to become a regular touchstone in the wider pop culture lexicon…if, that is, it hasn’t already. To see what all the fuss is about, head over to the Steam store and download your blobby $20 starting kit for PlayStation 4 or PC.
Endure and survive (or else) in The Last of Us Part II — Except for a peppering of epic set-piece battles, the real difficulty in making it through The Last of Us Part II came not so much in its survival-oriented gameplay, but rather in watching some of the most wrenching character moments we’ve ever seen in a video game. That all changes this week with a new DLC update that ramps up the challenge.
First there’s Grounded, a return of the mode from the original 2013 game that removes the HUD, makes enemies tougher, disables your vital listening ability to track where the infected are hiding, and makes ammo even more precious and scarce. Grounded is "one of the base difficulty options available when starting the story,” according to Naughty Dog’s Matthew Gallant, "so you won’t need to have beaten the game once already to access it.”
That won’t be the case for Permadeath, the other new mode that’s exactly what it sounds like. Restart the game in Permadeath mode, and if Ellie or Abby die at any point during the entire playthrough, it means your’re finished IRL and will have to begin again. Fortunately, players will have their choice of where that’ll be: Depending on your confidence, you can opt to be kicked back to the very beginning, to the start of each of the three Day-long chapters that frame the story structure, or (mercifully) even on a “per-act” basis, according to Gallant.
A bunch of new quality-of-life tweaks are also part of the new update, but one especially neat new feature is a pack of visual rendering modes that’ll make The Last of Us Part II look like a cel-shaded game, an 8-bit old-school adventure, or even “a black and white noir thriller.” In all, there are 30 art styles to choose from, and the entire update is available now. For a complete rundown of everything it includes, head on over to the PlayStation Blog.
- Look away if you dare, but virtual reality is about to get zombified. The Walking Dead Onslaught, an official AMC-sanctioned first-person survival shooter that ropes in characters from the TV series like Daryl Dixon along with Rick, Michonne, and Carol, is shambling its way to headsets on Sept. 29.
Set “shortly after the Savior War in an Alexandria devastated by the fighting, and struggling over its ideals,” according to developer Survios, Onslaught will follow Daryl through its main campaign mode “as he recounts a fateful encounter with a mysterious stranger.” In scavenger mode, you’ll make risky supply runs as any of the four included TV characters, teaming to build up their community, unlock new quests, and make upgrades to their weapons from the show — all, of course, while trying to dodge the Walkers (or cut yourself a path without getting bitten). Watch for The Walking Dead Onslaught to land for PlayStation VR, Oculus Home, and Steam VR on Sept. 29.
- The Elder Scrolls Online is getting a pair of new DLC dungeons to keep things spooky as part of its ongoing Dark Heart of Skyrim storyline. In the upcoming Stonethorn expansion, attack an ancient fortress and take a decisive bite out of a new vampire invasion, while stalking the clues left behind by Arkasis — a mad alchemist who’s whipped up some supernaturally lethal creations. Castle Thorn and Stone Garden (the two new dungeons waiting to entrap your wary Skyrim wanderer) open their creaky doors when Stonethorn arrives on Sept. 1.
- While we’re on Bethesda-published games, one of the new tidbits that came out of last weekend’s QuakeCon was a brief update on Deathloop, the upcoming PS5 and PC game from Dishonored developer Arkane Studios. The first-person shooter will pit two rival assassins in a Groundhog Day-style time circle, doomed either to flee (as antagonist Colt) or be the hunter (his stalker Julianna) in a never-ending cycle while stranded on an island that essentially serves as their mission-oriented prison. There’s still not a release date, so check out the developer update and pick your flavor: Deathloop is set to hit both the PS5 and PC at the same time.
- Square Enix is bringing a ton of new content to its numbered Final Fantasy MMO, all while expanding access to the sprawling game to offer what amounts to a pretty incredible value (as in, free) for new Final Fantasy XIV players who’ve never set foot in the land of Eorzea. In addition to bringing new endgame content and updates to FFXIV’s NieR crossover for longtime players, the new Reflections in Crystal update also lets new players go all the way through the first Heavensward expansion before having to buy the full game, and raises the free-to-play character level cap to 60.
There’s a ton more content that comes with the update, so check out FFXIV’s full Patch 5.3 notes to get the complete details. Marking the crowning adventure in the game’s current Shadowbringers storyline, Reflections in Crystal is out now for all FFXIV platforms.
- Pick your colors while you still can: As the PS4 enters its swan song period, Sony is bringing back a selection of DualShock 4 controller colors to make sure you’ll lock in your preferred palette before all eyes turn to the PS5 later this year. Included in the new-again Sony rainbow refresh are styles like Berry Blue, Red Camouflage, Rose Gold, and Steel Black, adding to more than two dozen colors that’ve graced the DualShock 4 since it first debuted in 2013.
- Sticking with PlayStation, one of the breakout stars of Sony's big PS5 reveal event earlier this summer is set to straddle two console generations. Developer Ember Lab shared this week that its Zelda-esque action adventure game Kena: Bridge of Spirits will be coming to both PS4 and PS5, and that the latter version will be a free upgrade for anyone who buys a copy of the PS4 game. The studio pledges that the PS5 version will be graphically enhanced over its current-gen counterpart, though we're stil without a firm release date beyond its teased late-2020 arrival.
- We’ve covered it fully here, but it’s worth noting the big (and perhaps inevitable) showdown that emerged this week between tech titans over Epic Games’ Fortnite mobile app. Both Apple and Google pulled Fortnite from their respective app stores this week, prompting Epic to file a legal complaint challenging (in particular) Apple’s standard practice of taking 30 percent of revenue from in-app purchases — in this case, Fortnite’s V-Bucks currency. Since the way the Fortnite flap gets resolved could have big repercussions for how Apple, Google, and game publishers approach mobile games in the future, we’ll be watching (and reporting) to see if a solution emerges that might ripple through the rest of the gaming world.
That's it for this week! We're off to finish collecting the last few Mongol artifacts and Sashimono banners we breezed past in our first playthrough of Ghost of Tsushima...while waiting to see if Sucker Punch has any post-game plans up its sleeve for Yuna and Jin Sakai. Until next Friday, y'all be nice to the foxes — it's totally worth it, we promise.