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The Week in Gaming: Milla Jovovich on her ‘embarrassing’ favorite game; Jurassic World Oculus hands-on; & more
Monster Hunter hits theaters today, reuniting the same creative team behind the Resident Evil films that, until more recently (thanks for saving us, Sonic and The Witcher!), were among this century's few bright spots when it comes to adapting video games for TV and film.
Monster Hunter director Paul W.S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and star Milla Jovovich (Anderson's real-life spouse) are all veterans of the enormously successful Resident Evil movie series — and judging from our recent chat with both Anderson and Jovovich, it's clear they share a true fan's passion for video games. And when Sony Pictures and Capcom hand you the keys to a game franchise that's as beloved as Monster Hunter, that can only be a good thing.But we're not here to talk about the movie (though we've definitely got you covered on that front elsewhere). Nope, this is a gaming column, doggone it, and we're here to talk about the games. Talking with Jovovich, we learned she played and thoroughly enjoyed Monster Hunter before taking up her new-to-the-franchise role as Captain Artemis in the film. But we also learned that she's developed an "embarrassing" soft spot for a very different kind of game... one so addictive, she says, that it's hilariously rearranged her thinking — even when she's just walking around her house.
It's "really embarrassing," Jovivich told SYFY WIRE with a laugh. "You know what? I feel like my fans might — I might, like, drop a lot of followers on my social media after I say this…or I might gain some; you never know. But you know, listen: I used to be a big gamer before I had kids, but of course, once you have kids, it's just impossible to find time to just play video games. I'm trying so hard to tell my 13 year-old not to just sit on the computer and play video games all day. So you know, I have to, you know, play my video games in secret, and so that usually ends up being on the iPad.
"At the end of the day, I don't have the brain power to do anything that's like, too crazy — you know, like playing Call of Duty or something. So I became addicted to this series of games called Emily's Delicious." [The proper title for the series is simply Delicious; Emily is its throughline protagonist.]
Never heard of Delicious? Neither had we. Created by Zylom Studios and now developed by GameHouse Studios and Blue Giraffe, it's the kind of game series that's tailor-made for casual players — people with mobile devices who still want a challenging way to train their brains. There are more than a dozen titles overall, but they all follow the ambitious adventures of Emily, an aspiring waitress with big dreams of getting good (and rich) enough to one day run her own business.
"They're these amazing games where you play Emily, who works at a restaurant. And it's a time management game where you have to, like, make sandwiches," Jovovich explains. "And you start easy, so it's [just] like ‘bread, ham, bread.' But then, like, as the game progresses, it's like ‘bread, ham, lettuce, cheese, bread, olive!'"
At this point, Jovovich is well on the way toward working herself into a comedically stressed-out state just thinking about juggling all the game's chores, and she starts rapid-fire riffing on how its task management system has gotten under her skin.
"There's different combinations, but then…you have to like, put the cupcake into the oven, and it has a timer, and you have to take it out before it burns — but then you also have to make the hot chocolate, which is on a timer. Then you have to pick some more vegetables that will go into your cupcakes, and [she finally takes a breath] — you're like, going around, ta-ta-ta-ta-ta! ‘Bread, cheese, bread! Olive! Cupcake! Hot chocolate!"
Phew. We thought we were fine being almost out of ammo and staring down a fresh horde of Infected in The Last of Us Part II — but after hearing Jovovich's Delicious setup, we're not sure we can handle the stress of burning the next batch of cupcakes.
"It's like, amazing, because actually, it's made me such a better housekeeper," she jokes. "Because now, literally, when I'm like, cleaning the house, I'll gauge what I have to do in one round. So like, I pick up the socks, but then I'll pick up, like, the schoolbooks that should be over there, and then like, a toy on my way. And on my way back, because I know I'm going to the kitchen, that's when I pick up the dishes that're left in the living room!"
With six Resident Evil films and Monster Hunter under her belt, Jovivich definitely knows a thing or two about turning video games into movies. And after seeing her dish on having this much passion for her secret mobile gaming crush, it made us wonder — could Emily's eatery empire exploits ever find their way onto the big screen as another Anderson-Jovovich game-to-movie crossover?
Yeah, probably not. But be assured, it's not like Jovovich hasn't thought about it. "I keep telling Paul, you know, that should be our next franchise," she laughs. "Emily's Delicious... Bread, Ham, Cheese: The Movie!"
If all this kitchen-sink talk has you curious, all the ingredients in the Delicious series are only a download away. Delicious World, the most recent spinoff, is available for both Android and iOS via Google Play and the Apple App store. As for Monster Hunter, you can catch Jovovich in theaters as Captain Artemis starting today, as the movie comes rampaging into theaters.
PS4 unplugs from Night City... for now
It'd almost be an understatement to say that Cyberpunk 2077 has been one of this year's most anticipated games. And stellar early reviews, which were based on the game's PC build, gave fans plenty of reasons to validate all that excitement at the thought of plugging in to CD Projekt RED's techno-dystopian RPG romp. But if you're playing 2077 on a last-gen console, your cyber-mileage may be varying considerably compared with your PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC-playing peers.
In an unprecedented move aimed at placating players' frustrations over encountering myriad bugs, play-stopping crashes, and low-rez graphics on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, Sony said this week that it's removing Cyberpunk 2077 from its online storefront, and issuing refunds to anyone who's bought a PS4 copy. By Friday, Microsoft had followed suit, tweeting that it will issue refunds to "anyone who purchased Cyberpunk 2077 digitally from the Microsoft Store." You can read more details here, but the bigger takeaway is clear: At least for now, console versions of Cyberpunk 2077 are best left to players who possess the higher horsepower of the PS5 and Xbox Series X.CD Projekt earned one of the gaming industry's best studio reputations for delivering at every turn on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and for boosting its sprawling fantasy RPG with great post-launch support as well as cool spinoff games like Gwent: The Witcher Card Game and Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. We think it's way too early to tell how the still-developing Cyberpunk news will affect the studio's well-earned esteem with fans over the long haul. But given the brewing social media storm over the game's last-gen issues, we definitely think it's smart of Sony (and now Microsoft) to take pre-emptive action before more PS4 and Xbox One players take their grievances to the internet.
In effect, Sony and Microsoft's move displaces the burden of shouldering the game's PS4 and Xbox One problems onto the developer — which, given that 2077 was developed as a last-gen title, feels justified. It also extends a good-faith olive branch to players, signaling that the console makers believe AAA games with huge hype ought to meet a basic playability threshold for the hardware they're aimed at — before players cough up the funds for a game's full, launch-day price. And it lets other developers know that it's probably a good idea to ship a polished product in the future, if they want a productive partnership with console makers; one that gives their title front-and-center real estate on the PlayStation Store (and, for that matter, Microsoft's Xbox Games Store).
Judging from history, we think there's a potential redemption story here. After all, Square Enix breathed new life into Final Fantasy XIV after completely scrapping the disastrous first launch of the MMORPG's earlier incarnation back in 2012. And, unlike that game, the PS5, Series X, and (especially) PC versions of 2077 already have gotten plenty of positive press.
For now, you can play the last-gen version of Cyberpunk 2077 with comparatively few hiccups on the PS5 and Series X/S — and CD Projekt is already working on a bespoke version of the game; one meant to take even more advantage of the new consoles' souped-up power. The new-gen version hasn't been given a release date yet, so for now, it's a matter of wait-and-see, as the studio juggles a post-launch to-do list that spans both console generations at once.
Dinos get virtual with Jurassic World Aftermath
We've been kickin' around in the virtual world with the new Oculus Quest 2 headset lately, and the newest target of our hands-on VR adventuring is Jurassic World Aftermath, which crash-landed on Isla Nublar this week as a $25 stealth mission set in a ruined research lab infested with — what else? — absolutely voracious Velociraptors.
Venturing into the lab from the wreckage of your downed plane, silent protagonist Sam (that's you) begins a cat-and-mouse game of exploring the facility to see what lurks around each new corner, getting a lot of moody mileage from a persistent dread of jump scares and, inevitably, detection (and decimation) by hungry dinos. Aftermath has its own distinct look to set it apart from the movies, but once you've stumbled through the game's opening atrium, the Spielberg-style anxiety meter kicks in pretty effectively.
A remotely-observing research assistant named Mia (voiced by Laura Bailey) gets you through the early going, before things (and we're trying not to spoil too much) get a little more hectic, to say the least. Both Jeff Goldblum and BD Wong eventually enter the picture to reprise their voice roles from the movies as Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Henry Wu, respectively, and the ending will definitely leave you grateful that there's a second act — set to arrive sometime next year — already in the works.
Like a lot of VR titles, Aftermath is at least as much a narrative experience as it is a game. But what begins as an exercise in getting reacquainted with the movie franchise — through a new animation style that swaps photorealism for a more flattened, cel-shaded look — rapidly gives way to a sneak-and-peek adventure; one that begins to capture the movies' knack for making even a simple trek across an empty room feel like a dangerous gamble (which, in Aftermath, it definitely is).
It's fun to feel that first "gotcha" fright of being snuffed out by a clever raptor, though the brutal difficulty of escaping, once you've been spotted, means you'll be setting out from a previous checkpoint more than once. What really compels the four-hour quest is all the atmospheric silence, which pairs with the unscripted part of the narrative — you know, the inevitable drive to succumb to curiosity and see where every crouching vent and battered corridor leads — to make Aftermath feel like a series of mini-mysteries that we're hoping the second installment, when it arrives, will finally solve.
If a Quest 2 is in your future (or if you're looking for a VR experience that's more creepy than outright scary for your older Quest, which also runs the game), Jurassic World Aftermath is half a day well spent…so long as you don't mind a good cliffhanger — and admitting that the dinos, at least in this game, are the ones who're really in charge.
Spare parts- He's already stalked onto the PS4 in Final Fantasy VII Remake, and now he's about to take on a whole fightin' pantheon of gaming greats — could this be Sephiroth's year? Nintendo gave materia-loving fans of both Final Fantasy and Super Smash Bros. a surprise treat this week with news that one of gaming's most iconic baddies is jumping into the fray as the newest playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Sephi will swing into action beginning Dec. 22, with the DLC release of the game's Fighters Pass Vol. 2 – Challenger Pack 8. The new pack also includes a new fighting stage based on the Northern Cave setting from Final Fantasy VII, as well as nine new music tracks, including FFVII's "One-Winged Angel." Snag the standalone Challenger Pack 8 for $5.99, or spring for the entire Fighters Pass Vol. 2 for $29,99, which also includes Steve & Alex from Minecraft, Min Min from the ARMS game, and a trio of fighters still to be announced. Praise Jenova!
- If Ultimate's ever-growing fight stages aren't enough Nintendo for you to play around in, the Big N is about to take fans on an early tour of the real-life playhouse it's building at its new Universal Studios Japan expansion. Today at 6 p.m. ET, Nintendo will go live with a streaming preview of its first Super Nintendo World theme park, which is slated to open in Osaka in February of next year. With a U.S. version of Super Nintendo World planned to press start sometime in the years to come, it's a great chance to let Mario be your tour guide to all the amusement park madness Nintendo has in store.
- Rumors that Nintendo could be plotting a revved-up "pro" version of the Switch have been swirling for a while now, and the recent launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S have certainly done nothing to douse them. But leave it to Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser to pour water on the idea that the Switch will be getting any kind of hardware upgrade anytime soon.
Speaking with Polygon this week, Bowser said Nintendo "will continue, for the foreseeable future, to really lean into" the Switch and its streamlined Switch Lite sibling, hinting in the process that any major Switch overhaul will come either in the more distant future…or else as a complete surprise. With the Switch still routinely beating out both Sony and Microsoft in console sales (seriously, it's been the world's top system seller for two years running), we can't really say we blame them.
- Marvel and developer Kabam (the same studio behind Marvel Contest of Champions) are assembling a new breed of RPG heroes for mobile devices, launching the all-new Marvel Realm of Champions game for both Android and Apple devices this week. Framed as "a bold, new imagining of the Marvel Universe," Realm of Champions takes players to "a mysterious, war-ravaged planet forged from many realities" called Battleworld. There, you'll strengthen your own character in a real-time RPG that unfolds within a deep, Secret Wars-inspired Marvel storyline intercut with intrigue, as the planet's leaders wage a hidden war among its super-powered hero factions in an attempt to keep the larger conflict from breaking out into the open.
Of course you'll be able to customize your own Marvel Champion with a big assortment of weapons and gear, while diving into an intense slate of real-time brawls in both an arena combat environment, as well as against in-game enemies and other online players. Marvel Realm of Champions is free to play now on both Google Play and the Apple App store.
- Sackboy's bringing friends to the PlayStation 5 this week, adding a new multiplayer mode to Sackboy: A Big Adventure that's completely free and filled with a new batch of "ten dedicated Teamwork Levels where you and your friends will have to work together if you want to succeed," according to developer Sumo Digital. On top of that, the just-released update will let you play through the "whole adventure from start to finish with up to three companions" online. Watch Sackboy and the gang get down in the clip above, and download the free update via the PlayStation Store.- Nothing screams "holidays" quite like the gritty, grimy viking world of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which is why "yule" no doubt be stoked at the game's just-launched Yule Festival event — AC Valhalla's very own wintry take on the most wonderful time of the year. Running now until Jan. 7, the Yule Festival is open to everyone who owns a copy of the game, and brings a seasonal slew of new activities, rewards, and items — all of which you can snag at a new specialty store with earnable "Yule Tokens." Check out Ubisoft's landing page for all the heartwarming details. - Nothing to see here, just Agent 47 jumping out of an airplane in the just-released opening cinematic for the upcoming Hitman 3. IO Interactive's next installment in the gloriously sneaky stealth series comes slinking Jan. 20, 2021 onto PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Google Stadia, PC, and (a little later on) the Nintendo Switch. - It's too early to know almost anything about this, but it's still massive news (so to speak) for League of Legends fans. This week, Riot Games' Greg Street served a mysterious tease that Riot's next project will be a new massive multiplayer online (MMO) game, with Polygon later reporting that the title Street referenced in the above tweet will indeed be set in League of Legends' world of Runterra. Together with next year's single-player Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, the new MMO is set to expand on LoL's omnipresent esports legacy…even if we'll need to wait a while to see what, exactly, it looks like. - No Force required to get us in line for this Star Wars-inspired collaboration between Lucasfilm Games and Microsoft: From now until Dec. 28, fans can enter for their shot at scoring a pair of galactically cool Xbox controllers featuring Din Djarin in Beskar along with lil' green Grogu himself. Set against colorways that Microsoft has dubbed "Tatooine tangerine for the Child and Tython turquoise for the Mandalorian," the fully-functioning wireless controllers inspired by The Mandalorian will be handed out to the winner (or winners) of Microsoft's social media sweepstakes, with the only requirement for entry being to follow @Xbox on Twitter, and to retweet the above Xbox post with #TheMandalorianXboxSweepstakes as a hashtag.
The contest runs through 10PM ET on Dec. 28, which should give you plenty of time to re-binge the just-concluded Season 2 of The Mandalorian in its entirety. The only thing that could make this giveaway even better would be the announcement of a proper Mandalorian-themed Star Wars game… but with a new Boba Fett spinoff series revealed right as the credits rolled on this season's finale, we admit it: asking even more than what The Mandalorian's already been giving us would just be approaching Greedo levels of greedy.