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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!
Can you feel it? It’s crunch time now. In two weeks, the next console generation will be a real thing, with the Xbox Series X/S launching on Nov. 10 and the PlayStation 5 just two days later on Nov. 12. If you’ve hung around this week on social media, you’ve no doubt seen all the early visual impressions the new consoles have made on gaming outlets who’ve actually unboxed these beasts and set them up next to their old Xbox Ones and PS4s. The PS5 looks like a hoss, even next to its chunky PS3 ancestor, while the Series X evolves Microsoft’s hard-edged form factor into a not-too-hefty box that calls less attention to itself by design.
But for all the photo posts that compare the new consoles with their predecessors in terms of size, shape, weight, noise, and at this point, possibly even their favorite brand of ice cream, it just might be the PS5’s DualSense controller that — at least in the early going — breaks out as one of the next console generation’s biggest stars.Sony is packing in a copy of Astro’s Playroom with every PS5 it ships, leaning into its VR-inspired robo-mascot to escort players through their first walkaround of the new console’s powered-up features. Critics love the game itself, but nearly everyone who’s spent time in Astro’s Playroom seems to want to talk mostly about the DualSense, with the gaming press singling it out as a true next-gen device that fundamentally changes the way you’ll experience the PS5.
Why? Those who’ve used it say the DualSense’s adaptive triggers, accelerometer and gyroscope, and especially the finely-tuned new haptic feedback rumble all combine to deliver an amazingly faithful tactile representation of what you’re doing in-game. Running around on a wood surface somehow “feels” like wood, while doing the same on, say, ice, or a metal surface, gives what reviewers say is a totally convincing and distinct vibe. YouTuber Dave Lee does a neat job explaining it all in a hands-on preview that even geeks out with diagrams over how Sony manages to make its trigger buttons put up staggered resistance:
Everyone’s beyond ready for new looks at the bigger games that are coming, from Spider-Man: Miles Morales to the Demon’s Souls remake. But Astro’s Playroom is the game that’s forming early PS5 reviewers’ impressions, and the 3D platformer, created by Sony Japan Studio’s in-house ASOBI Team, doesn’t appear to be sitting around waiting for bigger names to take its place. Early players describe it a full-fledged experience that compares with Nintendo’s Wii Sports when it comes to giving players more than they expect from a simple introductory game, making full use of the DualSense’s new magic powers and looking — at least to our eyes — like a buttery-smooth Sony version of what Nintendo does so well with games like Super Mario Sunshine.
All this hoopla over a game controller…and we’re so here for it. In theory at least, the rest of the world is just two weeks away from being able to get its hands on a PS5 so they can see firsthand what all the DualSense fuss is about. Just keep hitting “refresh” on those PS5 tabs we know you’ve left open on every major retailer’s sold-out PS5 page. Sooner or later, you’ll be unboxing the beast too.
The best of the rest
Speaking of Demon’s Souls…
Sony’s upcoming Demon’s Souls remake just got a ton of photos and a new trailer to show off how Bluepoint Games — the same studio behind HD upgrades from franchises like God of War, Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, and Shadow of the Colossus — is burnishing the 2009 PS3 classic to usher FromSoftware’s deathly difficult action-RPG pioneer into the modern PS5 era.
The new five-minute clip goes head-to-head with tremendously revamped versions of bosses like the Armor Spider, Flamelurker, and more — and we’ve gotta say, whoever’s behind the controller for this video has obviously beaten a Souls boss or two before:
Set in the claustrophobic tunnels and molten caves of Stonefang, the new peek at the next-gen version of Boletaria shows off just how much polish is going into the remake. “On PS5, we have lovingly recreated these daunting battles so you will believe that your memories have come to life,” SIE Worldwide Studios’ Gavin Moore explains at the PlayStation Blog. “Every spark and ember, every blow against your shield, and every furious screech, just the way you imagined it.”
What we mostly remember is the “You Died” screen — over and over and over. But there’s no way that’s gonna stop us from diving right back in for a new tour of FromSoftware’s forbidding challenge when the remake of Demon’s Souls arrives Nov. 12 as a launch-day game for the PlayStation 5.
Fleshing out Final Fantasy XVI
Square Enix must have learned its lesson from the years-long buildup to the release of FFXV, because it’s wasting no time getting fans up to speed on the next numbered installment in the hallowed JRPG franchise. Announced in September as part of Sony’s PS5 launch webcast with FFXIV director Naoki Yoshida as producer, XVI turned heads for its back-to-basics return to a medieval setting and high fantasy world — something its immediate predecessors had shed for a more sci-fi approach.
That was only about a month ago, but in a lengthy update this week, Yoshida and director Hiroshi Takai are already giving FF fans a clearer picture of what all that talk of Dominants and Eikons from the game’s first trailer is really about. Along the way, they shared a themed poster and a handful of new photos that show off more of the game’s new world, which we also learn has a name: Valisthea, a land dominated by resource-rich mountains of Mother Crystals, which of course also play a quasi-religious role in the story:
The characters from the first trailer also get names and backstories, with main protagonist Clive Rosfield (he’s the one doing all the fighting in the video) tasked to guard his younger brother Joshua — a mild-mannered kid who just so happens to possess the power of the Phoenix Eikon as a “Dominant” — a fated wielder of protective power. “Clive is a Shield who protects his younger brother Joshua, the Dominant of the Phoenix,” the developers explain at the PlayStation Blog. “Joshua bestowed the Blessing of the Phoenix upon him, giving Clive the ability to wield a part of the Eikon’s fire. However, as the story unfolds, he is swept up into a great tragedy.”
We got a sense of that from the announcement trailer…but who’s the girl? That’s Jill Warrick, raised along with Clive and Joshua in a political alliance that took her from her homeland at a young age. Now a ward of the Grand Duchy of Rosaria — the kingdom whose royal family the two brothers are a part of — Jill’s role in the story so far is still mysterious, other than that she’s “a confidant” for Clive and Joshua.
The team is pledging bigger update coming early sometime next year, but this week launched a new website where fans can start studying up on all the lore and character bios that will bring Valisthea to life. There’s no word yet on a release date for Final Fantasy XVI, but when it arrives it’ll be a PlayStation 5 console exclusive.
Next up for Nintendo
Link was the star of this week’s Nintendo Direct update, which delivered pleasantly surprising news that a free demo for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is now playable ahead of the game’s Nov. 20 release. But also tucked away inside this week’s event were plenty of killer announcements for games that are heading soon to the Switch. Along with today’s launch of Pikmin 3 Deluxe, here’s a highlight reel of what Nintendo’s got on tap:
Pikmin 3 Deluxe
Stranded with a 2013 release for the Wii U, it’s a shame that that console’s brief lifespan never turned more players on to Pikmin 3, the most recent installment in one of Nintendo’s most original series dating back to the GameCube. That’s set to change this very day, as Pikmin 3 Deluxe revives the strategy puzzler for the Switch with updated graphics, new features, and fresh online support. If you’ve never played a Pikmin game, there’s no way to explain just how absorbing it feels to marshal your plant-like alien troops and tap each of their unique abilities…or just how adorable these leafy little fellas are while they happily do your bidding. Pikmin 3 Deluxe arrives today as a $59.99 Switch exclusive.
Hitman 3 — Cloud Version
In a new move for Nintendo, Agent 47 is sneaking onto the Switch in a cloud-based version of Hitman 3 that’ll render IO Interactive’s latest stealth adventure as a remotely streamable game. There’s no early word on a release date, but this marks the first time our favorite barcoded assassin has targeted the Switch. As the concluding finale of the World of Assassination Trilogy, Hitman 3 will also arrive at the Epic Games Store for PC in January.
Control Ultimate Edition — Cloud Version
Also coming by way of the cloud is a Switch-adapted version of Control, Remedy Entertainment’s reality-bending sci-fi / supernatural adventure that earned raves from critics when it debuted on PS4, Xbox One, and PC last year. The Switch edition packs in all the post-launch DLC from the original game, and unlike Hitman 3, this one’s ready to go right now: you can snag Control Ultimate Edition — Cloud Version for Switch by purchasing Nintendo’s unlimited-access pass for $39.99 online.
It’s kind of a game and kind of a narrative experience, but it’s all Star Wars and it’s even got some A-list voice talent: ILMxLAB and Oculus Studios are showing off a new trailer for Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, a VR experience set in Batuu's Black Spire Outpost — the same place you can visit IRL at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The developers recently revealed that Frank Oz is joining the voice acting lineup as Yoda, alongside Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. Step into the role of Padawan Ady Sun’Zee for a Star Wars mystery set 1,000 years before the Skywalker Saga when the adventure arrives on Nov. 19 as an Oculus Quest exclusive.
- Watch Dogs: Legion debuted this week with its innovative new play mechanic that lets players inhabit the body and backstory of pretty much any character they meet in the Ubisoft’s newest dystopian hacking tale. Out now for PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC, a next-gen version for PS5 and Series X/S is also in the works as a free upgrade for anyone who already owns a PS4 or Xbox One version. Hop into the clip above for a lengthy immersion in the game’s opening chapter.
- Rather than go forward with the original plan of charging PS5 players full price for a standalone game, Sony is making cutesy adventure Bugsnax a bonus add-on for anyone who nabs a PlayStation Plus subscription when the new console releases next month. PS4 players can still buy the game, too — the promotion’s just a cool gesture to entice PS5 players to sign up for Sony’s curated library of PS Plus titles. Check out the launch trailer and whet your insect appetite: you’ve got until April 1 of next year to take Sony up on its Bugsnax offer.
- We could get used to this whole idea of substantially updating great games for free. On the heels of Sucker Punch debuting its big free expansion to Ghost of Tsushima with co-op multiplayer add-on Legends, FromSoftware has rolled out a new update for last year’s insanely challenging Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The “Game of the Year” patch comes as a free add-on that introduces a no-death boss gauntlet challenge for the truly dedicated, as well as new unlocakable outfits for the One-armed Wolf, and new social features. Read more about all the new stuff at publisher Activision’s blog, and steel yourself to dive back into one of the toughest games this side of a Souls title.
- Much to the disappointment of fans already rearranging their schedules for the planned Nov. 19 release of Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt RED announced this week that it’s delaying the hugely anticipated RPG one final time — this time bumping our date with Night City until Dec. 10. Citing the challenges of shipping the game for so many different platforms as the current console generation straddles the arrival of new hardware from Microsoft and Sony, the studio extended “humble apologies” and promised the extra 21-day wait will ultimately be worth it.
- It’s all fun and memes until the thing you’re meme-ing actually decides to raise the stakes. Rolling with all the social media jokes over the refrigerator-like appearance of the new Xbox Series X, Microsoft decided to just make an actual fridge out of the console — as in, a full-sized behemoth that belongs in the kitchen — and then hold a giveaway so one lucky fan can see green every time they crack open the door for a soda.The slab-sized Xbox fridge will be delivered to a randomly-selected winner who boards the sweepstakes by following the official @Xbox Twitter account and retweeting the post above with the “#XSXFridgeSweeps” hashtag. Just like that milk you forgot to put back, though, this one expires soon: Aspiring appliance owners have until Wednesday, Nov. 4 for a chance at making Xbox history…and maybe even a tasty sammich.