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SYFY WIRE Jon Bernthal

Gaming: Jon Bernthal goes Ghost Recon; Borderlands 3 gameplay trailer; more

By Benjamin Bullard
Jon Bernthal in Ghost Recon Wildlands

Punisher and Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal is loading out for a different sort of punishment as the voice acting star of two new story missions for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Kicking off a free-to-play weekend that allows anyone to sample Wildlands for free on all platforms, Bernthal arrives to the multiplayer shooter’s new Operation Oracle mission pack as new character Cole D. Walker, a mysterious “fellow Ghost Team Leader with his own agenda,” according to Ubisoft.

Check out the Operation Oracle trailer below — where it isn’t just Bernthal’s voice that appears to be making the jump to gaming:

Set in the same Bolivian conflict as the Wildlands main game, Operation Oracle finds you joining a rescue mission to extract one of your missing Skell Tech engineers from the clutches of Bolivian special ops. Led by Bernthal as Walker, the mission soon turns out to reveal far more secrets, plunging players “headfirst into a scenario that will challenge your perception of the truth,” according to Ubisoft.

Finishing Walker’s story will snag you Walker’s “Ghost” tattoo, as well as a new CQC maneuver that can become a permanent part of your character build.

The free-to-play weekend is underway now, and lasts through 2 p.m. ET May 5 (Monday). Any progress you make during free-to-play will carry over if you decide to buy the main game. As for Bernthal’s Operation Oracle — it’s free to anyone who already owns Wildlands.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Borderlands fans worried the hugely anticipated Borderlands 3 might upset the addictive loot-and-shoot formula the series helped invent don’t have to worry about getting nickel-and-dimed by pay-to-win roadblocks, Gearbox Games promised in a huge reveal of the game’s new features this week.

Via Ars Technica, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford pledged B3 won’t include any “free-to-play” junk, a comment later clarified to mean that microtransactions in Borderlands 3 will be limited to cosmetic character and gear tweaks, and won’t have any effect on how players can progress.

Alongside the promise of a level playing field for the price of the base game, Gearbox also showed off a marathon swath of B3 gameplay this week (we’re talking four hours’ worth), which you can check out below:

As you can see, Claptrap is still very much alive and kicking (and mouthy as ever), and just as in previous installments, he’ll be there to help guide you toward your next objective.

A ton of new details also emerged about the game this week, highlighted by a 30-hour main campaign, ship-based interplanetary travel (a Borderlands first), and, via IGN, a rocket launcher that fires…cheeseburgers. Unlike most huge AAA games these days, the wait time between announcement and release promises to be mercifully short: Borderlands 3 arrives for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Sept. 13.

For all the talk of how gaming is becoming the biggest moneymaker in all of entertainment, it’s worth recognizing that mobile games are responsible for an enormous chunk of all that growth. 

Fresh off a huge $265 million quarter, Words with Friends maker Zynga told Variety it’s considering ways to charge a subscription fee for the free-to-play game, along with other huge mobile hits like Merge Dragons!, Empires & Puzzles, and Zynga Poker. Asking players to pony up a monthly fee, according to Zynga’s Bernard Kim, wouldn’t be an all-or-nothing deal; rather, it would be a way to add additional game perks for its games’ most devoted players, while keeping the base games free-to-play.

In addition to its own originals, Zynga also holds mobile game licenses for huge crossover brands like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. If the company’s pattern of making pick-up-and-play games holds, expect more mobile versions of Hogwarts, Westeros, and the galaxy far, far away that aren’t aimed at giving players a gaming experience with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Rather, Zynga hinted, it’ll continue to make games that invite mobile players to drop in and spend time in a familiar world, all within one app, for years to come.