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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!
A new version of your friendly neighborhood wall crawler is coming to aid Earth's Mightiest Heroes exclusively on PlayStation, in a move that’s largely overshadowed the previous buzz surrounding the imminent beta launch (as in, today) of Marvel’s Avengers. Game developer Crystal Dynamics revealed on Monday that Spider-Man will assemble with his fellow Avengers as a DLC-added playable character sometime after the game launches — but that he won’t be coming to the Xbox, Stadia, or PC versions.
Nope, Spidey will only materialize for those who buy Avengers for PlayStation, and the deal spurred a fresh debate among fans online over whether console-exclusive content — especially content that gets fans’ Spidey senses tingling the way Spider-Man can — is a good thing, a bad thing, or, y’know, just one of those ever-present things that'll always be endemic to video games.
Sony and Peter Parker already have a tight relationship on the big screen, and 2018’s PS4-exclusive Spider-Man set a gaming precedent (and sold tons of copies) that further cemented Spidey’s overall brand association with Sony. Addressing all the good, bad, and mixed reactions in the days after the announcement, Crystal Dynamics’ Scot Amos said the opportunity to tap that kind of brand synergy was just too good to pass up.
“[I]t comes back to the relationship with PlayStation and Marvel,” Amos told Comicbook.com. “…[T]hat’s a relationship question that PlayStation absolutely has the rights to, that as you guys know, with Sony's ownership there, and Marvel with Sony saying, ‘Hey, this is something we can do. This is something we can do on this platform.’”
The version of Spider-Man who’s generating all the fuss won’t be an MCU clone, nor will he even be the Spidey who went urban canyon-hopping in the earlier PS4 blockbuster. Instead, Crystal Dynamics is looking to the glory days of the 1960s comics, citing Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. as their key character-creating influences.
After all this Spidey-talk, Marvel’s Avengers still has far more immediate webs to weave than hyping up an undated piece of future DLC — no matter how seismic it might be when it lands. After all, we’re likely to have Insomniac’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales in our hands as a separate PS5 exclusive game well ahead of his Peter Parker counterpart’s DLC debut. Leaving the web-slinger aside for now, Marvel’s Avengers’ first closed beta period begins at 9 p.m. local time tonight and ends on Sunday, Aug. 9 for PS4 players. Other platforms get their shot a week later staring Aug. 14, ahead of the full game’s arrival — with Spidey still on the distant horizon — on Sept. 4.
Recapping Sony's State of Play
While we're still hanging out in the PlayStation corner of the gaming world, Sony's State of Play webcast this week delivered a ton of gaming announcements and updates, looping in a Star Wars Sith lord, a manic marsupial, a stone-cold assassin, and even a lengthy look at a PS5 title. Sony's full 42-minute stream is included below, but keep scrolling for pullouts of some of the biggest highlights (and game trailers).
Even as Sony revealed this week that the PS4 has surpassed 112 million units sold ( which puts it ahead of every game console in history except for its own PS2), it rolled out fresh info on games that're bound for the PS4 before its high-horsepower PS5 replacement arrives this holiday season.
Up first is the Vader Immortal VR collection, which is making its first move away from Oculus exclusivity for PlayStation VR. All three episodes in Anakin’s immersive galactic world are part of the package, and Vader’s coming in at light speed: adapted for PlayStation from ILMxLAB and Black Shamrock, Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series lands for PlayStation VR on Aug. 25.
Next there’s Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, which got a lengthy new video preview ahead of its Oct. 2 splashdown on good ol' Insanity Island. The most eye-catching news by far was the unveiling of a visually-saturated alternate screen treatment called N. Verted mode, which, according to Activision, takes “the concept of mirror mode and phase shifts it into another dimension.”
With N. Verted mode’s wild new perspectives that unlock once you complete the full game, the new gameplay mechanics that’ll open up suggest Crash will enjoy more than just a quick run-in with your PS4 when the It's About Time — the first numbered title in forever from Sony’s mascot marsupial — comes spinning our way this fall.
At least Vader won’t be lonely in virtual reality — Agent 47 is ducking his bald, barcoded assassin’s head in to give the Sith lord some dark company. Sony revealed that IO Interactive’s Hitman 3 is coming to PS VR, bringing his bag of tricks and disguises for a more immersive style of first-person stalking. Perhaps even bigger news than that was IO’s accompanying reveal that every location from all three games in the World of Assassination trilogy — which debuted in 2016 with Hitman — will be playable in VR via Hitman 3. Have your garrote in hand and ready to go in January, when the game releases for PS VR.
Developer Giant Squid has been working on The Pathless for a while now, but State of Play gave us our deepest look yet at the upcoming fantasy-tinged open-world adventure. Set on a forested island and rendered in somewhat of a cel-shading-inspired art style, you play as The Hunter, an archer who knows how to shoot on the run. The 6-minute walkthrough goes in depth with how you’ll come to rely on your eagle companion, as well as how environmental puzzles promise Zelda-like challenges as you search ancient structures and vanquish the cursed spirits who keep the world in darkness. Look for The Pathless to find its way to both the PS4 and PS5 sometime later this year.
Sony’s showcase took us through tons more previews, from the Braid Anniversary Edition coming early next year to the mini-sensation of an Alan Wake shared-universe connection in the upcoming AWE expansion for Remedy Entertainment’s action-adventure mindbender Control. But Sony couldn’t resist sharing at least one PS5-related nugget, going deep into the player classes and progression systems in an extensive gameplay walkthrough for Counterplay Games' Godfall.
As a PS5 launch title, Godfall frames its fantasy universe with the powers of the ancient elements (Earth, Water, Air, and Fire), equipping your five weapons classes for a variety of upgradeable paths that eventually put you face to face with a "mad god" final boss. In the new update, Counterplay describes Godfall as following an action-RPG progression system, combined with fluid, third-person melee combat that relies equally on both your Valor-plated gear and on your evolving fighting skills.
Watching your hero zoom around the field to leave a holographic phantom in his wake like Final Fantasy XV's Noctis looks pretty satisfying, though the developer offered the standard caveat that everything on display could change before the game's release date. Fortunately, that's not far off: Godfall is expected to arrive right around the time the PS5 does this holiday.
The best of the rest
Good grief, is Animal Crossing popular — In the brief few months since it released in March, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has already sold 22.4 million copies, in the process outselling every single previously-released game for the Nintendo Switch except for Mario Kart 8. That puts ACNH ahead of all the rest of Nintendo’s flagship mascots, including Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (19.9 million copies sold), The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (18.6 million), Pokémon Sword and Shield (18.2 million), and even Mario’s solo Switch platformer, Super Mario Odyssey (18 million), according to an investor bulletin this week from Nintendo.
Whether it’s New Horizon’s feel-good vibes to put pandemic-stranded players in a zen-like stay-at-home state, or simply the kind of broad appeal that has celebs like Selena Gomez singing on Rogue One writer Gary Whitta’s ACNH-themed web show, Animal Crossing is enjoying a pop culture feedback loop that few current games not named Fortnite can rival. A tip o’ the red Mario cap to Tom Nook…who’s gotta be swimming in so much money by now he can’t possibly notice if we’re late on our next mortgage payment.
Reaching a new Apex — Apex Legends has been around the battle royale block long enough now to be an established elder, and EA’s free-to-play take on the battle royale formula is boosting fast toward its sixth season of content. It’s not a proper update without new characters (check out Rampart and Sheila in the trailer above), as well as a season-spanning battle pass, an electrifying new weapon (literally), an all-new crafting system, and more.
Apex carved out a giant niche in the battle royale space when EA and Respawn Entertainment launched it as a surprise free game back in February of last year, and its smooth sci-fi juggling of up to 60 players per match (as well as some innovations that other genre games have since adopted) has kept that niche steady. Watch for Season 6 to evolve the formula further when the new Apex Legends update arrives for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Aug. 18.
Fortnite hits the road— This week’s new Joy Ride update to Fortnite is bringing the power of four-wheeled freedom (and mayhem) to the island. A quartet of new vehicles has just opened up in the game, each strewn about the place with keys already in the ignition, just waiting for you to hop in and go marauding.
From sports cars to big rigs, each vehicle takes aim at a different driving style, but whichever you choose, you’ll have access to some road tunes thanks to Epic Games' rollout of new radio stations. Just don’t forget to gas up before heading out to wreak highway havoc (here's a hint: in a pinch, you can even fuel up with one of the game’s throwable gas cans.)
- Riot Games’ Valorant has just rolled out its Act II update with new robo-centric agent Killjoy (featured in the trailer above), a battlepass crammed with exclusive unlockables, a new “Glitchpop” skinline, and a new deathmatch mode. It's already live, and as always, the update comes as a free add-on to the free-to-play tactical shooter. Check out Riot Games’ full patch notes for all the details.
- Bethesda fans probably don’t need a reminder, but the first-ever all-digital QuakeCon starts today. Check out Bethesda’s full schedule to catch all the panel action for everything from Fallout to The Elder Scrolls to DOOM, and be on the lookout in case surprise news turns up for upcoming games like Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo (hey, you never know what Bethesda might have up its sleeve.)
- Nintendo is really tugging at our GameCube-era nostalgia feels with this one: Pikmin 3 is getting a deluxe edition for the Switch on Oct. 30, bringing all-new content on top of the base game for our fearless Captain Olimar and his merry alien band of tiny floral troopers. The third installment in the adorable (yet surprisingly challenging) micro-sized Pikmin franchise appeared on the Wii U in 2013, and this is its first big showing since. Just remember to practice patience with your hapless sidekick Louie.
- Bungie dropped a new trailer for its ongoing Season of Arrivals event for Destiny 2 this week, helping us bridge the time gap until the Beyond Light expansion launches later this fall. The current cycle of Season of Arrivals content revolves around the Solstice of Heroes, the “annual tradition to honor the sacrifices of Guardians everywhere.” Pick up Destiny 2 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
- It's time to get neon again: Cyberpunk 2077 gets a fresh batch of news next week, when the second installment in CD Projekt RED's Night City Wire webcast series goes live at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 10. We're inching closer to the game's long-awaited arrival: Cyberpunk 2077 flicks the switch for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC on Nov. 19, with enhanced versions for PS5 and Xbox Series X waiting in the wings.