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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!
For someone who’s turning 25 this year, Lara Croft doesn’t look a day over…well, 25 actually seems pretty close. In a franchise so old (at least in gaming years) about an adventuring archaeologist so young, she’s seen and done enough, as the star of more than 30 Tomb Raider titles, to make even a seasoned cave-diving vet like Indiana Jones lecture himself on how he spent his youth.
Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics pledged at the start of 2021 that they’d be holding a year-long blowout birthday party as Tomb Raider celebrates its 25th anniversary, and this week has brought a trove of new Lara Croft sightings as her licensed likeness starts turning up in a slew of gaming crossovers. From Final Fantasy to Fortnite, expect to start seeing a lot more of the iconic, relic-hunting daredevil in games you can play this year — even as star Alicia Vikander gears up to bring Lara back to the live-action big screen in the upcoming Tomb Raider 2, while Netflix eyes a new Tomb Raider anime series.
As part of this week’s first-ever “Square Enix Presents” digital gaming showcase, the studio teased no fewer than three Croft crossovers bound for Fortnite, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius: War of the Visions, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Break Point. Details about the latter two games, which exist in completely different gaming-verses than Lara’s mythic stomping grounds, are still slight. But new Lara Croft skins have already gone live in Fortnite's new Primal storyline, where she’s showing up with a choice of Tomb Raider looks as part of the newly-launched Chapter 2, Season 6 Battle Pass. More interesting, though, is the imminent March 23 arrival of Croft Manor in the game's Creative mode, which will serve as a fully-explorable hub for what Square Enix is teasing as a “playable adventure."
Of course it’s way cool to look like Lara in Fortnite, but in the real world, no celebration is complete without food. Square Enix has fans covered on that front, too, thanks to a newly-announced (and pretty unexpected) cookbook — Tomb Raider: The Official Cookbook and Travel Guide. If you ever pondered matching your kitchen-knife skills against someone who knows her way around a blade, this will probably be the take-home food tome for you. We’re still waiting for more details on recipes (it’ll hopefully include fancier fare than what Lara eats when she’s in survival mode), as well as a release date — though Barnes & Noble already has the book listed as available beginning Oct. 26.
What about a proper new game? Square Enix’s latest update came and went without any mention of a followup to 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, but at least it didn’t leave us completely empty-handed. The Tomb Raider: Definitive Survivor Trilogy was announced as a three-game bundle that puts all of Lara’s modern HD adventures into one package, including newly remastered versions of Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The hook here is the get-in-quick price: The entire set is on sale through the end of this month for $19.99, before jumping to $49.99 in April.
The best of the rest
Sony gets spherical as VR goes next-gen
One thing’s for sure: once you get your hands on them, no one will be mistaking your new PlayStation VR controllers for any other. Though Sony’s next-gen virtual reality headset isn’t due out for at least another year, players recently got an early preview of how it’ll stand apart from its current, long-in-the-tooth VR predecessor — and this week, Sony followed up by showing off an early look at the unique, “orb” handheld wands that we’ll one day be grasping.
Aside from the eye-catching looks, the controllers bring a handful of innovations from the PS5’s DualSense controllers over to the VR arena. Each orb features adaptive trigger buttons “similar to what’s found in the DualSense controller,” as Sony’s Hideaki Nishino explained at the PlayStation Blog, as well as integrated haptic feedback aimed at “making every sensation in the game world more impactful, textured and nuanced.”
The new gear also comes with a new-to-Sony feature aimed at improving the quality of life experience for long gameplay sessions: finger touch detection, which allows the controller to sense the difference between an intentional gesture and a player’s constant grip. “The controller can detect your fingers without any pressing in the areas where you place your thumb, index, or middle fingers,” Nishino wrote, enabling players to “make more natural gestures with your hands during gameplay.” Each controller also features an analog stick, while the left side houses Sony’s classic triangle and square buttons and right side completes the picture with cross and circle buttons. The controllers also will retain the dual-paired L-and R-button setup, with the L1 and R1 buttons doubling as “grip” commands.
Sony hasn’t shown off the design for the headset that’ll be powering its new VR system, but already believes its spherical controllers mark “an iconic design that will change how VR games are played.” Some of that will depend on what developers do with the newer tech, but the rest depends on how widely players embrace it. So far, we don’t know how much the PS5-compatible new gear will cost, though Sony promises there’s still “much more to share” between now and the new setup’s yet-to-be-determined launch date.
DOOM Eternal's last dance with the devil
We haven’t yet gotten the chance to play DOOM Eternal’s new final chapter in its promised three-cycle story arc — after all, The Ancient Gods — Part Two was only released a day ago. But the Slayer’s swan song in Bethesda’s death-dealing demon romp is definitely striking a different visual approach to taking the fight straight to the devil.
The launch trailer for the concluding content in DOOM Eternal’s story arc merges high fantasy scenery and alien tech with plenty of hellspawn, all to make a colorfully wild pastiche of sorcery and Satan-slaying that wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a 1980s-vintage heavy metal album. The mix of lush castle-scapes, cascading waterfalls, and fire-spittin’ demon hordes is a new look; and one that tends to draw you in:
“Your war against Hell ends here,” Bethesda ominously teases, and some DOOM theorists are even speculating that a victory in Part Two might mean the Slayer who’s borne us through two full games and a generous round of DLC might not walk out of the devil’s den with his life. At least it’s not all window dressing: The closing salvo in the saga features new map areas that include the ancient ruins of the Sentinels, a forsaken-looking Earthly city where nature’s taken over, and, eventually, the protected fortress of the Dark Lord himself.
Along with new demon enemy types and a new Sentinel Hammer weapon that sends devastating shockwaves to clear your path, it looks like a properly epic farewell to the trilogy that Bethesda and developer id Software began back in 2016 with the rebooted DOOM. Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods — Part Two is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC, and is backwards compatible on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Whatever the Slayer’s fate, any next chapter in the DOOM story will likely mean a new saga — and a new beginning.
- We really, really don’t know what to make of this, but the creative mind behind the gonzo parkour antics of Hardcore Henry and Angelina Jolie’s 2008 thriller Wanted is reportedly turning a recent short film based on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise into a full-scale feature flick. And get this: it’s a horror movie. The original report doesn’t mention where Nintendo might fit in, but you can get the details — such as they are — at Deadline.
- Clint Barton made his debut in Marvel’s Avengers this week, and Black Panther isn’t far behind. The King of Wakanda and nemesis Klaw will be joining the ever-growing squad of Marvel heroes (and villains) that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics promised to add to last year’s base game, coming later this year as part of the Wakanda Biome, an entirely new playable area. The full DLC road map for Avengers — which as of this week now includes the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S — gets the full rundown from Crystal Dynamics’ Andy Wong over at the PlayStation Blog.
- The PS5’s growing library of console exclusives is set to grow by one when developer Housemarque releases Returnal this spring, and the new gameplay trailer shows off more of protagonist Selene’s lone sci-fi survival fight as she battles her way across the hostile alien planet of Atropos. A repeating cycle of dying and respawning is all part of the story, with Selene waking to new memories, Captain Marvel-style, that appear to recall a previous life on Earth she’s grasping to remember. Watch for Returnal’s dark shooter to arrive for PS5 on April 30.
- Obsidian Entertainment scored a big sci-fi hit with 2019’s The Outer Worlds, and this week the Nebula-winning RPG’s story comes to a close with Murder on Eridanos, the second of a promised two-part DLC package that kicked off with the earlier Peril on Gorgon expansion. Check out the trailer and snag the just-released add-on, which puts players in detective mode to solve “an enticing interstellar whodunit,” according to publisher Private Division, for Playstation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is getting its first DLC expansion, Wrath of the Druids, on April 29…right on the heels of the game’s Easter-themed Ostara Festival. Set in Ireland, your Viking crew will set sail for the Emerald Isle to “uncover the secrets of a mysterious ancient cult,” teases Ubisoft.
- In somewhat-related news, Sony has recruited original Assassin’s Creed co-creator Jade Raymond to head Haven Studios, an all-new development house based in Montreal. Recently released from her position as head of Stadia Games and Entertainment after Google abandoned its first-party gaming plans, she’s leading a new team at Haven that’s already begun “working on an unannounced new IP for PlayStation,” according to the PlayStation Blog.
- Xbox is partnering with Twitch to host an indie games showcase next week, highlighting a promised 100 titles that include upcoming games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, The Ascent, Exo One, Wild at Heart, Voidtrain, and many more. Tune in at twitch.tv/twitchgaming or twitch.tv/xbox beginning at 12 p.m. ET on March 26.
- Speaking of showcases, did you miss Square Enix’s big spring gaming event? Catch some of the highlights here, and check out the full 45-minute, Nintendo Direct-style presentation in the clip above. Project Athia’s coming-out party under its new Forspoken title was a bit of an Apple-style surprise coda, since it was left out of all the advance media buzz — and Square Enix already is pledging another round of new gaming updates with a second showcase sometime this summer.
Will we see more of Final Fantasy XVI…or maybe news on the second installment in the FFVII Remake series? Remake director Tetsuya Nomura recently shared with Japanese gaming outlet Famitsu (via VGC) that he has no plans to focus on any more in-between DLC after the Yuffie-centric Intergrade update lands on June 10, and that it’s full speed ahead, instead, on getting Remake’s second act into fans’ hands as soon as possible. Come what may, we’re not sure there’s a busier publisher anywhere in gaming at the moment. Be on the lookout soon for our demo impressions from all-new sci-fi shooter Outriders — yet another Square Enix title — which is slated to debut on April 1.