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!
It’s gonna be a long, hot, even painfully impatient summer. The bang of fireworks is still echoing from the July 4th holiday, and already we’re starting to realize just how wide a gulf still yawns between this present moment and the arrival — sometime late this year — of the next console generation.
With the handful of big new AAA games bound for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One getting smaller and smaller as the clock ticks down for their replacements (and with Nintendo rockin’ steadfastly along to Switch our minds away from all the Sony and Microsoft hype), we’re not quite at that tipping point when all anyone’s talking about is next-gen news. In fact, all you have to do is look no farther than next week, when Ghost of Tsushima arrives, to find the next big PS4 release. But that tipping point’s getting closer and closer.
Sony recruited Spider-Man to do the honors this week in showing eager fans what the PlayStation 5’s game boxes will look like. It’s not an earth-shattering change from what we’re used to with the PS4, but there’s one marked difference that’s easy to spot: a white strip across the top that serves up some instant PS5 brand synchronicity. Behold Spider-Man: Miles Morales, swinging onto the scene in Sony’s first official look at a PS5 game box:
Simple, clean, and remarkably rich in detail to show off Miles’ stealthed-out electric-capable suit, it’s a killer way to get players ready to clear some shelf space to make room for their budding PS5 collection (if, that is, they’ll be buying the disc drive-equipped Standard version of the PS5). Sure, it’s just a box, and it preserves most of what we’re used to with the PS4’s game box design — but that didn’t stop social media from lighting up this week as fans started mocking up and sharing their own ideas for other PS5 titles like Horizon Forbidden West and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Much bigger in Sony’s long-term plan was news this week that the company has bought a $250 million minority share in Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games. Details about how the new Sony-Epic union will shape the games we’ll be playing down the road weren’t revealed with the announcement, but it’s a partnership that pairs two companies that, each in its own way, straddle both pure gaming and razor’s-edge behind-the-scenes screen technology. Sony Pictures Animation broke new ground with the animated rendering technique it developed for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, while Epic’s tech has become a must-have for tons of ambitious CGI projects — including Disney’s The Mandalorian, which used a bespoke Unreal Engine platform to create much of Season 1’s stunning digital background scenery.
Xbox saves the date
Microsoft, meanwhile, is charting its own path toward the launch of the Xbox Series X by playing its part in the leapfrog game of Sony-Microsoft info drops that’ll have fans talking about one console or the other all summer long. If you’ve been itching for Halo Infinite news, developer 343 Industries is set to deliver just that at Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcase, the online event that this week was announced to kick off on July 23.
So far, Microsoft has played it relatively close to the vest with what to expect at its showcase blowout. We know the Xbox Series X will take center stage (as will Master Chief), but beyond that, things get speculative.
With a reported 15 Microsoft studios actively working on new games, internet rumors have fans hyped for everything from a possible new Fable announcement to a mysterious new next-gen project from Wasteland 3 developer InXile. Microsoft’s focus in recent years on highlighting cross-platform games at Xbox presentations (as last year’s Cyberpunk 2077 E3 showcase famously exemplified) could mean a strong showing from third-party developers. The company has also reserved a date with Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest later this month to show off a reported 75-100 new indie games for Xbox, over the course of Game Fest’s July 21-27 online demo event.
Ubisoft looks ‘Forward’
Speaking of cross-platform games, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion are set to drop new details Sunday, when Ubisoft hosts its much-hyped Ubisoft Forward online event to unpack what's in store for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The chance to see more of Valhalla's already cool-looking take on Nordic and Old English legends is reason enough to tune in, but the publisher is sweetening the incentive for anyone with an Ubisoft Uplay account.
Well, Ubisoft is teasing a new update to Ghost Recon Breakpoint, as well as more details on its super-futuristic new online battle royale shooter Hyper Scape. We can also expect some kind of info on upcoming new content for games like Trackmania and The Division 2 — and, as Ubisoft teases, “a few surprises.” Valhalla is clearly the big star of this show, though. Ubisoft will no doubt pull all the punches to make Eivor — Valhalla’s new Viking protagonist — a household name beginning at 2 p.m. ET on July 12, when the pre-show kicks off ahead of the main event’s 3 p.m. start time.
The best of the rest
Tetris goes Primetime — If you’re ready to take all those years of Tetris mastery to the next level, how about putting someone else’s money where your mouth is and jump in the ring to compete for actual cash prizes?
That’s the idea behind Tetris Primetime, a nightly showdown announced this week by mobile developer N3TWORK that pledges to dole out everyone’s favorite reward for top Tetris performance while the rest of the world watches in real time. More than $1 million is up for grabs as Tetris Primetime (hosted by actor Millen Baird) fires up at 7:30 p.m. local time each night, with the daily event currently slated to launch in anchor cities New York, Los Angeles, Auckland, Perth, Moscow, Berlin, and London — with more on the way.
Logging in via the Tetris mobile app gets you access to the free-to-join competition, but it’s not the app's only new feature. Be on standby to jump in the battle royale arena in Tetris Royale, a new free-to-play block skirmish that fields 100 players in an always-on frenzy to find the last player standing. There’s also a new "Tetris Solo Marathon" mode, “a familiar single-player Tetris experience that fans can play anytime, anywhere, even offline,” according to N3TWORK. But if the social experience is more your speed, the app is also introducing "Tetris Together," a new mode that lets players "create sharable Tetris games for friends and family where they can stay connected with voice chat while they play.”
Debuting this many features all at once, says N3TWORK, is a way for Tetris fans to tap the mobile app as a one-stop shop to play one of history’s most successful video games their way — whether it’s on a world stage, with friends in your living room, or the classic you-versus-the-machine style that started it all. Oh — and fear not: The music's as addictive and hypnotic as ever, the better to get you in the zone for all those epic, nail-biting sessions.
Ghost of Tsushima meets the master — In what may be the coolest bit of easy-to-miss trivia we’ve seen in a while, Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch has scored an awesome nod from the estate of iconic cinema master Akira Kurosawa that’ll show up whenever you enter the game’s stylized black & white “Samurai Cinema” mode.
Actually, “Samurai Cinema” is what the game’s cinematic mode was going to be called — before the Kurosawa estate signed off on allowing Ghost of Tsushima to name its moody, evocative cinematic filter in honor of the Seven Sumurai and Rashomon director. Yep, stepping into the game's high-drama cinematic filter now means you're stepping into "Kurosawa Mode."
Via Entertainment Weekly, the Sucker Punch team — long fans of Kurosawa’s massively influential style — approached the director’s estate with the idea of crafting the game’s cinematic mode to help give players the feeling that they’re really playing inside the kind of feudal Japanese story that Kurosawa’s films recreated in black & white. The result is more than just a monochrome filter, creative director Jason Connell told EW: “We actually did some research on the curves that may have existed on that kind of film that [Kurosawa] might've used,” yielding a cinematic style that features film grain, an amped-up version of the game’s wind mechanic, and even an audio treatment that takes players back to Kurosawa’s 1950s cinematic heyday.
As if we needed another reason to play this game. Ghost of Tsushima arrives next week, debuting as a PS4 exclusive on July 17.
Crash Bandicoot on the go — Crash Bandicoot isn’t just getting an all-new platformer for the PS4 — he’s also getting a standalone mobile game. Fresh on the heels of news that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will be coming to consoles this fall, Candy Crush Saga developer King has unveiled the upcoming Crash Bandicoot: On the Run for Android and iOS.
As wild Australian marsupials go, Crash was already a pretty accessible mascot, running, whirling, bopping, and tossing in old-school Mario style. The mobile game looks to tap that easy-to-pick-up vibe, bringing back classic bosses for “high-speed battle runs across Wumpa Island to save the multiverse from the evil Dr. Neo Cortex,” as King teases.
On the Run has a few new tricks up its sleeve too, including newly designed levels for mobile play, as well as custom skins to set your version of Crash apart, plus a new base building and weapon-crafting mechanic. There’s not a release date yet, but players can already pre-register at the game’s official website. As for its console big brother, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time spins onto PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Oct. 2.
- Mario’s next retro-inspired adventure is only days away, and Paper Mario: The Origami King got a new trailer this week that shows off much more of what to expect when the mustachioed one shows up in his skinnier form next week. Check it out and mark your calendar: Paper Mario: The Origami King goes flat-out for the Nintendo Switch on July 17.
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 are getting ready to drop in with completely remastered versions on Sept. 4, but a new documentary that walks with Hawk through his incredible career (as well as the games) is set to kickflip onto digital platforms before that. Check out the trailer for Pretending I'm a Superman, complete with tons of footage of skating legends like Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, and more, ahead of the doc’s release to on-demand starting Aug. 18.
- Bet ya didn’t see this coming: Publisher Nacon and developer Spiders are teasing Steelrising, a new action RPG that puts a totally wacky mechanized spin on history. Your job is to re-fight the French Revolution, but this time against a King Louis XVI who came prepared with … an army of friggin’ robots. Steelrising is a next-gen game, but so far there’s no release date. Watch for it sometime next year for PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.
- Survival horror just feels different when it’s based on creepy European tales from the 19th century, and that’s what’s headed our way on July 28, when Maid of Sker — “set in a remote hotel with a gory and macabre history from British folklore” — arrives for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version is also planned for later this year, according to developer Wales Interactive.
- Bandai Namco and Supermassive Games are showing off a new story trailer from The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, the upcoming successor to Man of Medan. The second of a planned eight overall games in the Dark Pictures interactive survival horror series, Little Hope arrives on Oct. 30 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
- Consider this our unofficial plea to bring a cool Japan-only release stateside: Via The Verge, SEGA is prepping a mini-arcade console called the Astro City Mini (a throwback to the unique, joystick-equipped “City” arcade rigs that still pepper Japanese arcades to this day) for release later this year, and it’ll come pre-loaded with 36 classic games, including Golden Axe and Altered Beast. Priced at about $120, it’s on our radar for a hopeful U.S. release (make it happen, SEGA!).
- Cyberpunk 2077 is getting a companion hardcover art book to tide us over until the game itself releases on Nov. 19, according to IGN. Produced by Dark Horse in conjunction with CD Projekt RED, The World of Cyberpunk 2077 lands on July 28.
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has been delayed from Aug. 18 to Sept. 8. It’s a remake of the great 2012 game, and includes all previously released DLC — plus (via Gamerant) a teased additional piece of new DLC to be added at a later date.