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The Week in Gaming: Xbox sets next-gen stage; Nintendo links the Zelda-verse; Apple gives Fortnite a break
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!
The closer we get to the holidays, the more it’s beginning to look a lot like the next console generation. Not only did Microsoft seal the deal this week with firm prices and release dates for its new Xbox lineup (your move, Sony); teasers and details for the games themselves are increasingly putting the focus on what’s to come. Even for games that’ll arrive before the new consoles do, more and more studios are pledging next-gen support, free cross-gen upgrades for players who buy the Xbox One and PS4 versions, and more.
Microsoft kicked things off for real with this week’s full launch plan for the flagship Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S — its smaller, cheaper sibling. The Series X will go on sale on Nov. 10 with a price tag of $499, while the Series S — a thinner, leaner machine without a Blu-ray drive — will land the same day for $299.
Beyond lacking an optical drive, what makes the all-digital Series S $200 cheaper? Well, although Microsoft is teasing processing speeds that still put it at least four laps ahead of the current Xbox One, it won’t support the Series X’s 4K resolution, comes with 10 GB of memory (as opposed to the Series X’s 16 GB), and features 512 GB of internal storage (while the Series X gets 1TB).
For players who don’t have a $5,000 television and just want instant access to the latest games, that doesn’t sound like a bad tradeoff — which is what Microsoft is hoping. “The primary difference between Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S is in resolution. Through talking to our customers, we found that many of our fans prioritize frame rate over resolution, so we wanted to build a console that didn’t require a 4K TV,” Xbox hardware chief Liz Hamren told The Verge this week following the pricing breakdown.
The Series S reportedly will still be able to do all the in-game things a Series X can do, like tapping the new Quick Resume feature that allows players to switch quickly between games. And if 512 GB of storage isn’t enough (and with current-gen games already topping out near 100 GB per title, it likely won’t be), the Series S will allow players to plug in additional storage cards to assure space is never an issue.
But enough of the technical stuff. How will you know what the Xbox, uhm, box, looks like when you head to the store? Thanks to an eagle-eyed Twitter user, it appears that this is what Microsoft has cooked up in the product packaging department, via a Canadian online retailer’s listing reported by IGN:
Kinda makes it all seem a little more real, doesn’t it? With Microsoft basking in the spotlight this week, Sony stayed quiet about its rollout plans for the PlayStation 5, which also will release as two consoles — one with a Blu-ray drive, and the other in all-digital, disc-free form. Will $500 become the de facto entry point for the best performance the next console generation has to offer? With Microsoft weighing in this week, the other half of that open question is left to the PS5 to answer.
Ubisoft looks Forward
We’re not sure how Ubisoft has a third Ubisoft Forward event planned after this week’s second installment in its summer-long online showcase, because it looked like it left everything on the field by the time the credits rolled. In the span of an hour, fans were treated to news of a 10th-anniversary remaster of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a Prince of Persia remake, a deep dive into the rechristened Immortals Fenyx Rising, the unveiling of a new, completely bananas extreme sports MMO called Riders Republic, and more — and that was just the headline material.
We’ve covered the big stuff here and here, but this week’s Forward still had plenty more gaming stories to tell, complete with preview trailers. Here’s a trio of other highlights that deserve a shoutout:
Rainbow Six Siege
Announcing Rainbow Six Siege World Cup, a sort of Olympics-style international esports competition debuting next year, Ubisoft also teased the real scene-stealer for RSS: a new season of content is coming to the game that’ll feature a story crossover from Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher. The announcement (which even got its own animated backstory, shown above) came alongside news that RSS will be a free next-gen upgrade for current PS4 and Xbox One players, and that it’ll take full advantage of the Xbox Series X’s 120 fps speed and 4K resolution. Get ready to load out all over again, because it’s safe to say that Rainbow Six Siege isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
AGOS: A Game of Space
VR players will get to test their survival skills in orbit with AGOS: A Game of Space, a new VR-only title revealed at this week’s event. Based on the trailer above, it looks like you’ll take on the role of an artificial intelligence guide, sheltering stranded space travelers by scouring the outer reaches for materials as you help them seek a new home beyond our solar system. Better still, it’s coming out soon — AGOS: A Game of Space arrives for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index on Oct. 28.
Ubisoft’s futuristic take on the battle royale genre is getting a limited-time competitive mode that’ll take an already-frenetic concept and inject it with an extra shot of adrenaline. If high-risk, high-reward sounds like a proposition you can get behind, Hyper Scape is getting a new “Turbo Mode” next week that’ll lavish high-level loot on the winners, with everything sped up — including how fast you’ll heal and how fast the level challenges reach their conclusion. This one’s definitely a don’t-blink situation; Turbo Mode launches for Hyper Scape beginning Sept. 15.
Nintendo links its BOTW lore-verse
Over the years, Nintendo has left it to ardent Zelda fans to untangle much of the iconic series’ epic, history-spanning lore-verse. But the Big N surprised players everywhere this week with news that it’ll be dropping a new action game that fills in a big missing piece from the events leading up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and its upcoming sequel.Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity takes players 100 years back in time to the big catastrophe that dominated all those BOTW conversations about how Hyrule ended up in Ganon’s grip, serving as a follow-up to 2014’s Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U. If you’ve played Fire Emblem or Hyrule Warriors, you know what to expect: “epic battles against a backdrop of familiar locations in Hyrule before they were destroyed,” as Nintendo puts it, staged as a fast-paced action game where fighting strategy will make or break your success — whether you’re playing as Link, Zelda herself, or one of the four Champions, playable for the first time ever in Age of Calamity.
While Hyrule Warriors’ over-the-top fighting game style isn’t exactly the same exploration-heavy, narrative-based adventure that players expect with each proper installment in the main Zelda series, Nintendo has a way of making these in-between games add up to far more than the sum of their parts. That looks to be the case here, with Age of Calamity promising “a robust story that depicts the events, relationships and dramatic moments of the Great Calamity in captivating detail,” complete with a raft of integral features that include “solving environmental puzzles, unlocking weapons and skills, crafting materials, and visiting shops to obtain items and use the power of the Sheikah Slate.”
While the game itself is coming soon, Nintendo is planning “another look” at Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity in a digital streaming event set for Sept. 26. After that, it’s just a short sailcloth ride to Nov. 20, when the game arrives for Nintendo Switch.
The best of the rest
Call of Duty multiplayer mayhem —
You just knew the first docu-style trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was only the beginning, and sure enough, TreyArch this week unveiled what for many players will be the piece of the game where the real action happens: multiplayer mode.
Featuring Black Ops’ hallmark online combat and “fast-paced battles by land, sea, and air,” multiplayer will give players more reasons than ever to “engage in deniable operations with all new and fan-favorite modes and maps from locations all over the globe,” Treyarch teased in its release. Touting Cold War’s cross-gen and cross-platform features, the studio pledged full support for players no matter which system they’re using, including “cross-progression support for the entire community.”
The studio also announced the start date for the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Open Beta, which is set to kick off Oct. 8 for PS4 players, followed a week later on Oct. 15 for Xbox and PC players. To get on board for early beta access, just pre-order Cold War on your chosen platform.
For more on the beta, as well as a deeper look at Cold War’s multiplayer maps and 1980s setting, check out publisher Activision’s blog post, which outlines play modes both familiar and new, from Team Deathmatch, Search & Destroy, Domination, and Kill Confirmed to “new ways to play like VIP Escort, Combined Arms, and Fireteam.” Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War releases Nov. 13 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, followed by upgraded versions coming soon to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Apple gives Fortnite a (temporary) break — The legal battle between Fortnite maker Epic Games and Apple appears to be far from over, but at least Apple won’t be dropping the hammer on iOS versions of the game today — as Epic had cautioned only two days ago.
Epic (who’s been waging its feud with Apple in the court of public opinion as well as in the actual courts) tweeted a last-minute update ahead of Apple’s planned removal of the “Sign in with Apple” function for Fortnite's iOS players, which was set to take effect today. For the time being, and with no definite expiration date attached, it appears that Apple will continue to allow Fortnite players to drop in via its all-in-one login (i.e., using the same password info that gets iOS owners access to everything from app purchases to Apple Music accounts).Despite the temporary break, Epic is still telling Fortnite fans it’s a good idea to plan for an iOS-free future, providing detailed instructions on how to change the game’s sign-on credentials using an Epic Games account. That’s no small change, either: more people play Fortnite using Apple devices than on any other platform. Business Insider reported this week that 116 million of Fortnite’s 350 million registered users get into the game using an iOS device.
In the meantime, Epic’s lawsuit against Apple is still ongoing, alleging that the tech giant is denying Epic the right to earn money via in-game purchases by taking a 30-percent cut of V-Bucks transactions (Fortnite’s in-game currency). Just this week, Apple countersued Epic in a filing that accuses the company, via CNN, of “self-help and subterfuge" and "commission-theft" for trying to circumvent Apple’s standard in-app payment practices.
- We can’t mention Fortnite without mentioning what’s happening as its Marvel-themed Season 4 rolls along, and this week brings Tony Stark’s R&D skunkworks to the mix. Fortnite’s latest update makes Stark Industries an explorable location on the island as an ideal venue for players to unleash their newfound powers with Thor’s Mjolnir Strike and other new weapons that arrive with the v14.10 update. It’s all part of the escalation in the new season's Nexus War crossover with Marvel, so drop in and fire up those new Repulsor Gauntlets that Iron Man’s also bringing to the table.
- The first DLC installment in The Outer Worlds’ post-game rollout arrives this week, bringing a new story that ties in with Obsidian’s Nebula-winning RPG. Check out the launch trailer for The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon, and snag the expansion for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Picking up an Expansion Pass will also get you access to Murder on Eridanos, the second piece of story DLC set to arrive early next year. So far, a Switch version of Peril on Gorgon hasn’t been released, though Obsidian says it plans to bring all The Outer Worlds’ postgame content to Nintendo’s console sometime next year.
- Somewhere amid burning the neon-lit midnight oil to finish Cyberpunk 2077 in time for its Nov. 19 release, CD Projekt RED has managed to upgrade The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for a proper re-release on next-gen consoles. While cutting-edge goodies like ray tracing and super-fast load times are enough to get us on board, the studio is going the extra mile by making PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of the game completely free — we’ll say it again; completely free — to anyone who picked up a copy of the mind-bendingly deep RPG for their PS4s and Xbox Ones. There’s no word yet on when the next-gen version is coming, but expect to be able to tour The Continent as Geralt once again on both Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles, as well as PC.
- Here’s an idea so gobbly-good we can’t believe it’s just now getting the gaming treatment. Then again, the upcoming Pac-Man Geo game harnesses the power of augmented reality to put our hungry yellow hero on the real-world streets, so maybe it’s just been a matter of waiting for the technology to catch up. The idea’s just what it sounds like: instead of chasing ghosts inside the arcade classic’s rendered mazes, actual street data provided by Google Maps allows the great outdoors to double as a Pac-Man dinner course. Get ready to munch on dots in a whole new way when Pac-Man Geo arrives for iOS and Android sometime in the near future (a release date hasn’t been announced, but players can already pre-register for the game at Google Play and Apple's App Store.)
- Spelunky fans got hooked on the original indie game’s blend of roguelike gameplay and procedurally-generated dungeon crawling that assured no two trips underground would ever be the same. Now the sequel is ready for its debut, with Spelunky 2 set to release Sept. 15 for PlayStation 4 and PC. Keep an eye out for damsels in distress!
- Like Ubisoft is doing with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, SEGA is getting in on the day-one hype for the release of the Xbox Series X/S consoles by making the upcoming Yakuza: Like a Dragon available a little early, so players can jump in as soon as the new Microsoft consoles launch on Nov. 10. The game was already set to release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Nov. 13, so it’s a small gesture to fans. But if you’ve gotten hooked on facing down the Mafia in the Yakuza series' stylized Japanese underworld, then the next game can’t come soon enough.
- Netmarble is prepping the U.S. launch of a pair of games, including a remake of popular mobile action-RPG Seven Knights titled Seven Knights — Time Wanderer for the Nintendo Switch. The Switch version marks the developer’s first-ever console game; while prehistoric MMORPG StoneAge World is heading to smart phones as a blend of pet collection and RPG mechanics set in a “delightful and venturesome” game with a "whimsically inspired take on prehistoric societies,” according to the studio.
While neither game has been given a release date, Time Wanderer is stirring to life with a new website, months after the game was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. StoneAge World, meanwhile, is available for mobile devices via Google Play and the Apple App Store. Check out the Switch trailer above, and watch for more updates on when Seven Knights — Time Wanderer will be making its Nintendo debut.
- Polish developer Atomic Wolf has a super-claustrophobic idea for an RPG: one that puts you aboard a submarine (while the outside world goes into a full Defcon-4 meltdown) in the newly-announced 4 Minutes to the Apocalypse. “How hard is it to press the button that activates a weapon capable of ending our entire civilization?” the studio not-so-playfully teases at the game’s Steam page. We’re not sure, but it looks like a flashlight and (*gulp*) an axe will be our new best friends as we fight our way to the answer. 4 Minutes to the Apocalypse arrives later this year for PC, with no word, so far, on a console release.
- While Sony stayed quiet this week on official PS5 news, the aftermarket showed no such restraint — and we aren’t just talking metaphorically. UK-based tech tweakers Truly Exquisite showed off a pair of upcoming PS5 cosmetic upgrades that bling out the mean new machine in a gold-plated style that’ll be sure to get you plenty of attention — even on the Vegas Strip.
Feast your dazzled eyes on the 24k gold-plated PlayStation 5 in all its £8,099 (about $10,000) glory:
There’s also a rose gold version that — let’s face it — you might as well go ahead and spring for if you’re the kind of whale who’s already dropping this amount of cash for the 24k model. But for the thrifty, you can also dip your toe in the world of PS5 opulence by showing some self-control and only ordering the gold-plated DualSense controller or PS5 headset separately. Either way, this is one gaming gamble that definitely won't be on the house.