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The Week in Gaming: Star Wars: Squadrons revealed, Last of Us 2 drops, Cyberpunk delayed
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!
Of all the forms of entertainment the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted, it's perhaps video games that have been disrupted the least. While all the on-site fan conventions that typically herald the start of summer have had to take things online, the games themselves just keep coming, lifting a medium that's tailor-made for spending time at home. Going online didn't hurt Sony's PlayStation 5 event last week; in fact, it took fewer than seven days for Sony's "The Future of Gaming" presentation to become the most-viewed product announcement in the company's history.
With in-person events off limits, one game studio or media organization after another is following the new online announcement model, including Star Wars license holder Electronic Arts. At this week's EA Play event, the publisher may have strengthened its case to players that EA — for years criticized for what many fans viewed as an ad hoc approach to the franchise — is taking Star Wars as seriously as the players are.
That's a long way of saying that Star Wars: Squadrons, EA's newly-announced pilot sim set in the galaxy far, far away, looks absolutely incredible — at least at first glance. Following on the success of last year's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the next Star Wars game in EA's playbook leaps straight off the big screen and into its first pair of trailers as something approaching a playable Star Wars movie, putting players in the very middle of the dogfight action that the final trilogy in the Skywalker saga — regardless of how fans feel about the series' overall direction — took to a whole new level.
We've broken down both those trailers elsewhere (check out more on the cinematic announcement trailer here and the gameplay trailer here), but it's still cool to take a step back and take stock of where Star Wars stands in EA's lineup versus where it appeared to be after the studio gained rights to the franchise in 2013. In that time, EA has scuttled nearly as many planned Star Wars games as it's actually released, and had to fight to redeem some lost good will among fans who hopped on board early for Star Wars Battlefront II — a game whose ongoing support from the publisher strengthened it into a far, far better experience than the one that first shipped back in 2017.
Fast-forward to today's post-Fallen Order landscape; one in which EA has now shown off two big titles that sync up nicely not only with each other, but with the beloved movie universe on which they're based. Fallen Order deftly struck a balance between familiar and new lore while nailing the look and feel of a modern Star Wars game, and has already spawned plans for a sequel. Squadrons may have even bigger shoes to fill as the heir to a line of occasionally great Star Wars pilot sim games over the years, but it's impossible not to be encouraged by the first looks EA's shown off so far.
Of course the proof is in the actual gameplay, so there's no way to pre-emptively coronate Squadrons an instant success — but Fallen Order has shown that EA has what it takes to wrap a great Star Wars story inside a solid single-player experience, so we're hyped to hop in the cockpit when Squadrons releases on Oct. 2 in the hope that the Star Wars video game franchise is finally striking back.
No Cyberpunk 2077 before its time
Get this: Cyberpunk 2077 was first announced eight years ago, all the way back in 2012. Since then, perhaps no other cross-platform game has generated as much buzz as CD Projekt RED's sprawling dystopian urban dreamscape. As the first AAA game to follow in the iconic footsteps of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, fan expectations soared for 2077 after Wild Hunt redefined open-world RPGs for the PS4 and Xbox One generation when it arrived in 2015. And if there's one thing the Polish developer wants to get right with Cyberpunk 2077, it's sticking the landing.
After a series of delays that've bumped 2077 from an original release target that's now in the rear-view mirror (April 16), CD Projekt RED has bumped the game once more, pushing 2077 from its planned Sept. 17 release to Nov. 19. The studio made the announcement via Twitter this week, with an earnest message to fans that signaled the delay is all about quality. "Those of you who are familiar with the way we make games know that we won't ship something which is not ready," it states:As many of the fan comments can attest, CD Projekt RED has good will to spare in postponing its hugely anticipated release, and we're right there with them. But it does raise an interesting scenario for players torn between scooping up the game for their PS4s or Xbox Ones, or waiting for the slicker graphics, greater speed, and built-in longevity of the next-gen version.
Fortunately, the studio is making that decision significantly easier, regardless of which path you take. In a reported call with investors this week, CD Projekt confirmed that not only will 2077 get a full release for the PS5 and Series X; it'll also be a free upgrade for anyone who's already bought a PS4 or Xbox One version of the game. From that report (via Gamespot), it sounds as though the initial next-gen release will mark an incremental improvement in graphics and loading times over current-gen versions. But the developers added that a "more robust update" — one tailored specifically for the new consoles — is planned to arrive in the distant future.
It likely won't be long before we learn much more about how Cyberpunk 2077 will stagger its launch between current and next-gen consoles. The game gets the neon spotlight all to itself next week, when CD Projekt RED's "Night City" online showcase drops a fresh batch of new details (stay plugged in to the official Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter feed for upcoming info on how to watch.)
Spider-Man: Miles Morales gets an asterisk
Sony's PS5 reveal event last week spun off a ton of bite-sized game trailers that have since gone on to be viewed a mind-boggling number of times. And of the reported 16 games that generated 1 million or more peeks on YouTube after just one week, none has drawn as many eyeballs as Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Showing off a cinematic trailer that puts Peter Parker's successor squarely in the next-gen spotlight, Miles Morales has attracted nearly 11.5 million looks at its announcement clip so far, just on PlayStation's official YouTube channel alone. But fans who came away from Sony's event expecting a complete sequel to 2018's Spider-Man got some tempered news this week, after creative director Brian Horton explained via the PlayStation Blog that Miles' adventure is more of an in-between morsel in terms of overall scope — even as he described it as a "standalone game."
"We know a lot of you want to know how big this game is," wrote Horton. "Our team at Insomniac has been working incredibly hard to bring you a fantastic Miles Morales adventure since we concluded development on Marvel's Spider-Man. You'll experience a full story arc with Miles, one that's more akin to a game like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy in terms of overall scope."
For comparison, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy clocked in at around 10 hours in length when it landed in PS4 players' hands in 2017. If Miles Morales' story indeed follows in those footsteps, that would put it firmly in the middle-ground realm of a title that's more than an update; but less than a full game.
If that's disappointing for PS4 Spider-Man fans eager to spend another 20-30 hours swinging through the concrete and steel canyons of New York, there's some upside. Insomniac appears to be throwing every available trick at the new game to showcase what the PS5 can do right when it launches this fall, with Horton teasing "near-instant loading, ray-tracing, 3D audio," and upgraded character scans with "improved skin shading for more realistic looking characters and spline-based hair that moves far more naturally." And it appears the studio's more long-ranging plans for Spidey will continue long after Miles Morales releases later this year. "Don't worry, we still have much of Peter's story left to tell," Horton teased. "But this game is all about Miles, a critical part of our Spider-Man universe, and you won't want to miss what happens."
The best of the rest
At last — The Last of Us Part II is here! After a long development cycle that came with its share of ups and downs, Naughty Dog's hugely hyped sequel has endured and survived to finally make its PlayStation 4 debut. Early reviews have TLOU2 sitting at the very top of acclaimed games among Sony's lineup of PS4 exclusives, but now it's the players' turn to weigh in on Ellie's grown-up adventure.
Other than all the buzz you're likely to encounter as opinions come flooding across social media, there's not a ton of new news to go along with Part II's arrival — the game's release is the big news. But to commemorate a day that feels like Christmas morning for longtime fans, here's a cool new clip from Chandler Riggs — a guy who knows a thing or two about outrunning plague-stricken zombies in the post-apocalypse — talking about how he became a lifelong fan of the franchise after playing through the 2013 original:
We get it, man — we really do. Joel and Ellie made perfect complements to each other in the first game, each needing something that the other was uniquely suited to provide, and we can't wait to dive in to Part II this weekend and see where the passing of time has left them. We've managed to stay away from all the spoilers and leaks, and we hope that you did, too: The Last of Us Part II is ready to play now for PlayStation 4.
Welcome to water world — Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 3 is finally here, flooding the game map and bringing a new aquatic theme that makes island outpost hopping the new way to play for the foreseeable future. In keeping with the new season's slippery motif, raising your Season 3 sail gets players on board for a "Splash Down" slate of events that even summon Aquaman himself — in actor Jason Momoa's full likeness — who fist-bumps a tease that, like Deadpool last season, we'll probably be seeing a lot more of him (and his trident).
Sharks? You know there are sharks; only these are the kind you can ride instead of run from. Fortnite's become such a ridiculously do-anything game (and we mean that as a compliment) that it's hard to describe everything Season 3 has in store — in no small part because Epic Games refreshes the emergent experience almost constantly with in-game happenings and noncompetitive diversions in its recently-introduced Party Royale mode.
In terms of structure, the new baddies for Season 3 are the swashbuckling Marauders, seafaring pirate types who come crashing the island party. Among the first batch of in-game challenges is a quest that can unlock a pair of new Aquaman skins, though we're certain future challenges (which arrive every Thursday) will begin upping the ante once everyone's suited up for their best Arthur Curry imitation. As always, the best way to stay on top of what's happening in real time is to follow Fortnite's Twitter feed, and refresh the game's always-updating Season 3 landing page.
Oh, Snap! — Nintendo is reviving a slice of Pokémon life from days gone by with New Pokémon Snap, a new Switch version of an old fan favorite that channels the spirit of the Nintendo 64's original picture-taking game.
Snap was revealed as part of a long list of Pokémon-themed announcements as part of Nintendo's "Pokémon Presents" online event, which also included fun teases for Pokémon Café Mix (a laid-back puzzle game) and Pokémon Smile — a AR-based smart phone game that encourages kids (and perhaps even grown-ups) to have fun brushing their teeth.
New Pokémon Snap hasn't been given a release date, but in related Nintendo news, another N64 classic is getting a fresh reimagining for the Switch with Paper Mario: The Origami King (teased in the trailer above). The Origami King updates the original Paper Mario's unique 2D style while giving Mario a new travel companion: Olivia, the good sibling to the evil King Olly, who's trapped Princess Peach's castle with plans to move the whole thing "to a distant mountain as part of his plan to re-fold the world."
Measure twice and cut once, because this one's coming soon: Paper Mario: The Origami King leafs its way onto the Switch on July 17.
- Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto and the newly-formed V1 Interactive studio have taken the wraps off Disintegration, the new sci-fi first-person shooter from V1 and publisher Private Division. Check out the launch trailer above, and head to the game's landing page to pick your flavor: Disintegration is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
- Survival horror series Remothered makes its return this summer with Remothered: Broken Porcelain, which stalks onto the PS4 on Aug. 25. Check out the trailer above, and head to the PlayStation Blog for a deeper look at how Broken Porcelain will challenge players to problem-solve their way out of third-person terror.
- The Lord of the Rings is heading to smart phones with The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War, an officially licensed strategy game set in the Third Age of Middle-earth. There's no early word on a release date, so keep that Eye of Sauron open for more details.- Insomniac added a fun new wrinkle to what we can expect when Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, teased as part of the PlayStation 5's reveal showcase last week, makes its yet-unscheduled arrival to the PS5. Remember that mysterious female Lombax from the big reveal trailer? We still don't know her name — but thanks to the studio's tease above, at least we do know she'll show up "from another dimension" as a playable character.
- A fan-favorite Skyrim mod is about to become its own standalone game. Via VG24/7, The Forgotten City, a story-driven game set within The Elder Scrolls V universe, is set to debut "this winter" from developer Modern Storyteller and publisher Dear Villagers.
- Persona 4 Golden, a hidden PS Vita gem in Atlus' long-running Shin Megami Tensei series of RPGs, landed at Steam for PC players to pick up this week. Snag the standard edition for $19.99, or the deluxe edition — which comes with an art book and the digital soundtrack — for $24.99.
- Square Enix and partner studio Eidos Montreal have announced the formation of Eidos-Sherbrooke, a new regional wing of the studio behind the Deus Ex franchise and the latest installment in the Tomb Raider series. Described as a studio to "support research and development by exploring, testing and applying new technologies to create the video games of tomorrow," via a Square Enix press release, it sounds like the publisher's very own in-house R&D skunkworks lab for video games — or, in other words, just our kind of place.
- Let's sign off with something cool: a creative pairing between Square Enix and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story writer Gary Whitta. After the Final Fantasy developer showed off a killer-looking but mysterious new game during Sony's big PS5 event last week, Whitta followed up by sharing with Twitter fans that he'd helped come up with the story concept for the next-gen game's fantasy world.
Going by the working title of Project Athia, the game marks an all-new IP from Square Enix's in-house Luminous Productions (it's actually Luminous' very first game.) Neither Whitta nor the trailer tell us too much about the world, which appears to merge present-day elements with a tech-infused land of magic; the kind of place where a girl in sneakers and a light-powered dragon can coexist — even if it isn't exactly peaceful:
We're not sure whether Whitta's involvement with Project Athia is ongoing as a writer, or if he's already left his mark as a source of bigger-picture ideas. His tweet puts things in the past tense, but he also teased that he "[c]an't wait for you to see and learn more" about "this immense new universe." But hey, if Project Athia can match even a sliver of the intensity of Rogue One's final moments, we'll take any Gary Whitta involvement we can get.
That's it for this week! We're off to see if The Last of Us Part II has finished downloading, so you know what we'll be doing this weekend. In the meantime, stay Cordyceps free until we're back together to talk more gaming goodies next Friday. Endure and survive!