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The Week in Gaming: Gamescom ‘Ratchets’ up the next-gen hype — and we’ve got the trailers
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!
Gamescom is only just entering its second day, but already it’s given us enough trailers, news, and announcements for new and expanding games to overheat our browsers. Usually hosted on location from Cologne, Germany, the world’s biggest gaming convention went all-digital this year — a feature that, at least on its opening day, actually streamlined all the typical sideshow buzz to put the focus squarely on the games.
By the time you read this, Gamescom will already be getting ready to drop a fresh round of gaming goodies as the four-day festival heads toward the weekend. To keep up with everything that’s been announced so far, it’s time to go rapid-fire. With no big new details on the upcoming consoles from Sony and Microsoft, Day One of Gamescom was all about the games — and there's much more to come in the days ahead, so here we go:
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
From the studio behind the PS4's mega-selling Spider-Man and the upcoming Spider-Man: Miles Morales for PS5, Insomniac came with a seven-minute extended gameplay demo that shows off the next-gen Ratchet & Clank adventure that's also headed to the PlayStation 5. If the brief glimpse of the game’s incredible breeze through loading screens in Sony’s PS5 reveal event back in June got you excited for the next generation, then this trailer is definitely your jam, because, as the clip shows, it's a feature you'll be using early and often.
Insomniac also dropped a little more info on the backstory for Rift Apart, the first proper Ratchet & Clank game since 2016’s eponymous PS4 title. “Ratchet and Clank find themselves at odds with their archnemesis, Dr. Nefarious. Only this time, he’s equipped with the dangerous Dimensionator, a device with the power to travel to other dimensions,” the studio teases, helpfully setting up the backstory for our Lombax & robot heroes’ tendency to shatter through dimensional rifts at warp speed. “The duo fights their way through an army of hired Goons in Megalopolis until something happens and they are ripped apart. Where are they now?”
No one knows where they’ll end up, but wherever they go, Ratchet & Clank will keep things in-house as a PlayStation 5 exclusive. Without getting specific (because that might out the PS5’s closely guarded release date), Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was revealed at Gamescom to be a release-window title for the PS5 — meaning we’ll likely be getting to team up with these guys — as well as a new female character, the “first ever playable Lombax not named Ratchet,” according to Insomniac — sometime around the end of this year.
A trilogy of Star Wars updates
With Star Wars, good things are supposed to come in threes, and that’s exactly what Gamescom’s first day delivered. First up is the one that’s calling out like Ben Kenobi’s Force Ghost to the inner Rebel pilot in all of us: Star Wars: Squadrons showed up with an extended gameplay trailer that also served up some inspirational words from Princess Leia, scarred even in victory from the obliteration of her home planet of Alderaan. This trailer was enough to earn Squadrons best-in-show action game honors, and the new gameplay only fuels our hype to hop in the cockpit (as either a Rebel or an Imperial pilot) and win at all costs in EA Games’ dogfighting sim. Star Wars: Squadrons swoops onto PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Oct. 2.
Before Squadrons even gets off the ground, The Sims will have us venturing to a Star Wars location some of us may already have visited here on the real-world side of the galaxy. EA and developer Maxis showed off a new expansion for The Sims 4 that’ll take players to Batuu — the planet Disney guests have already been exploring at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. “Hone your lightsaber skills, befriend a droid, and get ready to unlock missions for the Resistance, First Order, or scoundrels,” EA teases in the trailer for the Star Wars: Journey to Batuu Game Pack, adding that Rey and Kylo Ren will even pay you a visit — once, that is, you’ve earned your way in by checking off enough items on your galactic to-do list. The Batuu-themed expansion arrives for The Sims 4 for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and MacOS on Sept. 8.
LEGO is lumping the whole Skywalker saga kitchen sink in its next Star Wars game, and the new trailer serves as a cutesy whirlwind tour through all nine movies in the series. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga shows off a new layer of polish over Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, its most recent predecessor from 2016 — and why wouldn’t it? Due out next year, the new game will warp in as a cross-gen release for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead
We don’t even know where to start with this one, and the live-action trailer — while giving off The Walking Dead vibes sure enough — doesn’t exactly tell us much more. What we do know is that an officially licensed TWD tale is shambling toward a crossover with Bridge Constructor, developer ClockStone and publisher Headup Games’ civil engineering sim …though we somehow suspect this is one mashup that won’t be so civil. “Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead combines the challenging puzzle gameplay of Bridge Constructor™ with the post-apocalyptic zombie world of the official AMC's The Walking Dead,” Headup teases, and in some strange way, we have a sneaky suspicion that this actually might work — if, that is, your design and puzzle-solving chops are on par with your survival skills. There’s no firm release date, but the studio is teasing a 2020 arrival for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC. If previous Bridge Constructor installments are any guide, we’ll also likely be seeing mobile releases for iOS and Android at some point.
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part One
Finding new ways to expand the lore world of a bullet hell shooter like DOOM might’ve seemed unlikely back in the game’s early PC days, but Bethesda takes the next step when DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part One, announced at Gamescom, comes smashing our way on Oct. 20. The game’s first expansion, The Ancient Gods, tasks you with battling your way “back to Urdak [to] decide the fate of the cosmos once again” following the power imbalance that came with the slaying of the Khan Maykr. The expansion will arrive for all versions of DOOM Eternal on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Stadia, and PC.
Twelve Minutes (and a voice cast of A-list stars)
We knew from last year’s announcement that Annapurna Interactive’s Twelve Minutes (stylized as 12 Minutes) would be a story-driven sci-fi narrative game with a Groundhog Day-style twist: After a police incident goes wrong and your wife to face a murder charge, you have to re-live the nightmarish incident on an infinite 12-minute time loop until you solve the mystery. What Gamescom added to the mix this week was the surprising lineup of killer big-screen talent who’ll be providing the voice work.
In a casting score that any movie project would be shouting to the rafters, Twelve Minutes will feature actors with the kind of résumés that can’t be done much justice with just a one-project callout (but here we go): James McAvoy (Glass), Daisy Ridley (The Rise of Skywalker), and Willem Dafoe (Aquaman). Teased as a blend of “the dream-like tension of The Shining with the claustrophobia of Rear Window and the fragmented structure of Memento,” Twelve Minutes is set to arrive “soon,” according to Annapurna, for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.
Dragon Age 4
Since its 2018 announcement, Dragon Age 4 has served as the placeholder name for BioWare’s next high fantasy adventure, the successor to 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition. At Gamescom, the studio showed up not to tease anything resembling a finished product, but to share early concept art and let fans know in no uncertain terms that the next Dragon Age is coming — and that they’re plenty hyped about making it. This far out from the next game’s arrival, there’s no release date, which means it’s fair to say Dragon Age 4 will likely be a next-gen game.
The best of the rest
Fortnite’s Marvel takeover
The Nexus War is on, bringing with it one of the biggest thematic shifts ever in Fortnite, a game that’s never been afraid to shake things up. Marvel’s invasion onto Epic Games’ battle royale island might be coming amid a still-simmering clash between Apple and Epic over what to do with iOS in-game transactions, but you’d never know it from the scale of the ambition behind all the changes for Chapter 2, Season 4.
Launched Aug. 27, the Marvel-ized new season brings some of Marvel’s heaviest hitters into Fortnite’s game world, putting Galactus at the center of the story as the villain who wants to consume the island (something he’s already pretty good at). Thankfully, players have some big-time hero power on their side, with Season 4 roping in Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, Groot, She-Hulk, Storm, Mystique, Doctor Doom, and more to bring some MCU-style pain (now with added X-Men!) to the Devourer of Worlds.
The Battle Pass trailer shows off characters like Iron Man using their unique powers from the movies and comics, which suggests players won’t simply be running around in Marvel-themed skins. Stark Industries tech will also help out, with players getting access to a new batch of weapons and drones as they explore new Marvel locations around the island (including Doom’s Domain). It’s early, and Epic already is teasing more Marvel arrivals like Silver Surfer as the season unfolds, so head to the Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 4 landing page to check out all the changes.
Gotham Knights drops some details
DC wowed fans with two huge game announcements at last weekend’s DC FanDome, but the one that came pre-loaded with more buzz than you can shake a cape at was Gotham Knights, the long-rumored new Batman title with a Court of Owls tie-in from Warner Bros. Games. While it looks like the Caped Crusader might be sitting most (or all) of this one out, fans had plenty of questions about how the game will actually play, once all the mist had cleared.
In an IGN interview this week, the studio swept away some of the confusion, dropping more details about how Gotham Knights — featuring a Bat-family lineup including Batgirl, Red Hood, Nightwing, and (of course) Robin — will play. Is it a solo game? A co-op game? Is it really as open-world as it looks? What’s up with the RPG elements, like those health meters and hit points above each enemy’s head? And is this thing set in Batman’s Arkham gaming universe or not?
In order, the answers appear to be yes, yes, yes, it’s complicated, and no. Creative director Patrick Redding told IGN that Gotham Knights will allow players to go through the game either as a solo adventure or in paired-up questing with a member of the Bat-gang, and that you can switch characters (by heading back to the Belfry base) anytime you like. As for co-op, there will be a mode that enables individual battles that rope in 4 players — but for the main story playthrough, you’ll be limited to exploring Gotham with just yourself and one other player at a time.
“You can have four-player brawler experiences, [but] I think the more you try to lean into that, the more you end up having to create environments that only really work for that” Redding explained. “And if you look at the fantasy of the Batman family and when these heroes get together, it is often weirdly kind of a drop in, drop out scenario. They'll, they'll be running, rolling their solo crime fighting efforts, and then they'll cross paths and it'll turn out they're after the same guy.”
Gotham Knights looks fully open and explorable in the trailer, and Redding confirmed that, yep, it’s “one open world city, right from the start.” As for RPG elements like leveling and tracking your character’s level progress behind the scenes, the game won’t stop you from charging into battles you’re not ready for: there’s no level gating to keep you from becoming your own worst enemy. But, he added, the game does have a sliding scale that’ll introduce some more powerful enemies only after you’ve reached a certain level plateau, and that enemy levels are only “one factor” in deciding whether you’re kitted out and ready to take on an especially tough bad guy.
Finally, Gotham Knights is indeed a departure from the Arkham world — it’s not meant to fit inside an ongoing narrative from Batman: Arkham Origins or Arkham Knight. “That was something we arrived at early on,” Redding explained. “We want this to be the start of something, not just the continuation or the prolonging of something.”
Gotham Knights is set to send up the Bat-Signal sometime next year, releasing for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.
Call of Duty heats up Cold War
Now there’s an in-game trailer to go with the psy-ops docu-style teaser that Activision and developer TreyArch released last week for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Better still for fans of the iconic series, there’s a release date.
Set in the early 1980s as a direct sequel to the original Call of Duty: Black Ops from 2010, Cold War puts players right in the middle of the global stalemate that framed the ultimate downfall (but not before plenty of spying, double agents, and espionage) of the USSR. And good grief — the new trailer even features a persuasively-rendered CGI likeness of President Ronald Reagan, authorizing a takedown of secret Soviet agent Perseus, by any means necessary.
This wouldn’t be Call of Duty without a full arsenal of ways to play, and Cold War will bring both a story campaign as well as the series’ eminently fraggable co-op mode to the mix — as well as a new take on the series’ Zombies mode. TreyArch also revealed that Cold War will share post-launch content with Call of Duty: Warzone, teasing a Sept. 9 reveal for more info on Cold War’s multiplayer side.
The single-player campaign sounds like a back-to-the-past blast, featuring “a mind-bending conspiracy story, where deception and subterfuge are the norm,” as the action takes players from era-appropriate global hot spots like East Berlin, Turkey, Vietnam, Soviet-era Moscow, and more. “As elite operatives, players attempt to stop a plot decades in the making as they follow the trail of a shadowy figure named Perseus, who is on a mission to destabilize the global balance of power and change the course of history,” TreyArch teases.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is slated to drop in on Nov. 13 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with next-gen versions arriving after the new Sony and Microsoft consoles hit store shelves. Cold War will feature full features cross-play support across current and next-gen consoles, preserving players’ progression across all modes. There’ll also be a Battle Pass system along with a steady stream of free post-launch content (including Zombies, multiplayer maps and modes, and “a robust schedule of in-game community events,” according to TreyArch).
Pre-orders are already live, and get players in on instant unlocks for digital rewards that also extend to Call of Duty: Warzone — and also makes them eligible for early access to the Cold War multiplayer open beta, once the yet-to-be-dated big event goes live.
- He’s baaaack! — Only this time, Ah-nold’s heading to Predator: Hunting Grounds in his younger, alien-hunting, big-screen fighting shape. Arnold Schwarzenegger already has done one tie-in with developer IllFonic’s jungle-stalking foray into the Predator-verse, though it came by way of voiced-over recollections, decades after the 1980s conflagration in Central America. This time out, though, he’s in full Dutch mode, arriving in his 1987 incarnation from director John McTiernan’s horror-stalker masterpiece. Check out more details at the PlayStation Blog (Sony Interactive Entertainment is the game’s publisher), and then start practicing your lines: Dutch ’87 arrives as a paid DLC update to Predator: Hunting Grounds for PlayStation 4 and PC on Sept. 1.
- Wasteland 3 arrives today for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and MacOS, and anyone who’s a fan of Bethesda’s Fallout series will probably find plenty here to suit their post-apocalyptic tastes: the Wasteland franchise got its start all the way back in 1987, and ended up inspiring many of the same nuclear survival themes that still keep Fallout players running from Deathclaws and Super Mutants to this day. Developed by inXile Entertainment and published by Deep Silver, Wasteland 3 is available now.
- Here’s a lasso-of-truth tie-in we can get behind: A trio of Wonder Woman 1984 themed Xbox One X consoles. No, there’s no direct game connection here, just three blinged-out Xbox styles that each is inspired, according to Microsoft, “by the iconic armor and outfits worn by the powerful female leads of the movie.” From left to right, the three flavors come via the Lasso of Truth; Wonder Woman Golden Armor; and the Barbara Minerva Xbox One X Console covers, and — here’s the catch — they’re not for sale. To get your hands on one of these, head to Microsoft’s landing page and read up on how to enter each version either by getting on board an Xbox social media promotion, or by bidding in an auction with proceeds going to the Together for Her Africa Outreach project launched by Charlize Theron.
- Outriders has unveiled its 4th and final character class, the Technomancer, in the latest Outriders Broadcast update showcasing nearly a half-hour’s worth of new info on the upcoming sci-fi co-op RPG shooter from publisher Square Enix and developer People Can Fly. There are also new looks at a previously-unseen environment in Outriders’ alien world of Enoch, along with tons of gameplay questions answered by members of the development team. Made to play solo or with up to three players, Outriders is set to arrive sometime this holiday for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. A Stadia release is also planned for 2021.
- Nothing to see here; nope — just a chance to go ahead and get on the list to be among the first people on the planet to pre-order a PlayStation 5 directly from Sony. For a limited time (we suspect very limited), Sony’s taking reservations from “existing customers” to be placed on the pre-order list when the PS5 finally becomes available. We don’t know the date and we don’t even know the price, but something tells us this one will fill up quick. Head to Sony’s landing page for the FAQ & more details.
- Say it ain’t so, Snake! IDW Games has announced the upcoming board game based on Metal Gear Solid has been delayed until summer of next year. Why? “We will not compromise our standards for the quality of game our community deserves,” IDW said in its announcement, which is reassuring enough for us to crawl back in our cardboard box and just hibernate it out.
- Marvel’s Avengers is nearly here, and developer Crystal Dynamics has one more "War Table" webcast lined up to give fans a last-minute preview before the game arrives Sept. 4. Publisher Square Enix says the last War Table will give players their first glimpse of “an additional post-launch playable hero,” as well as “numerous world-exclusive reveals, such as an in-depth look at the first post-launch story season for the Avengers Initiative.”
In related Avengers news, Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has apparently gone and made a Marvel’s Avengers commercial that’s set to air on TV and online as the game’s premiere date nears. Via GamesRadar+, Vogt-Roberts worked with ILM and Skywalker Sound to get all the cinematic action just right, and the clip definitely has a feel that distinguishes it from the game trailers, complete with bullet-time slowdowns and tag-team character humor that breaks the fourth wall — even as Hulk breaks stuff in the streets. The time for sitting by is almost over, though: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are yours to assemble when Marvel’s Avengers releases Sept. 4 for PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC. Watch for the game to also arrive this holiday for PS5 and Xbox Series X, coming as a no-cost upgrade for anyone who’s already bought a current-gen copy.