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!
Next-gen consoles (and the games we'll be playing on them) look amazing, The Last of Us Part II is smashing sales records, EA's Star Wars game franchise looks like it's found the Force, and at last, reimagining Earth's Mightiest Heroes for Marvel's Avengers is beginning to make a whole lot more sense. But CD Projekt RED has crept in at the last minute this week, hacking the gaming news cycle to shine a garishly bright neon spotlight on Cyberpunk 2077.
When your next project also doubles as your encore for a game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, fan expectations are high — and judging from media and fan reaction to everything CD Projekt RED showed off in Thursday's "Night City Wire" online event, 2077's creators probably made the right call in delaying (more than once) the release date of its hugely anticipated RPG. Above everything else Night City Wire confirmed about the game, the insanely detailed attention to world-building Night City itself — Cyberpunk's dystopian fever dream of an anything-goes urban frontier of the future — stands out.
Check out these new still images (along with tons more peeks over at the game's official website):
And check out, too, the pair of new trailers: one a cinematic romp that shows what a mercenary, lawless, upwardly mobile, and techno-dystopian Darwinist place Night City truly is, and the other a full rewatch of the entire Night City Wire info stream:
Yep, that's Keanu Reeves' likeness as Johnny Silverhand, putting in a breathtaking appearance there at the end. Gaming media got to spend 4 hours playing through the start of Cyberpunk 2077 as part of this week's promotion, and one thing is evident from their many takeaways: Like The Witcher 3, this game is massive. Everyone who spent their allotted time with the game says they barely scratched the surface of getting their character started down the path along one of Cyberpunk's three skill classes (Techie, Netrunner, and Solo), and most came away with the impression that Night City, like the best of Rockstar's Red Dead and Grand Theft Auto worlds, is a place that somehow manages to be both dense and enormous at the same time.
CD Projekt RED teased other goodies, too. "Braindance" is a techno-infused gameplay feature that'll let players essentially channel the lived memories of other characters, expanding their powers of sleuthing, espionage, and thrill-seeking — but at the potential cost of dying, or "Flatlining," while you're down in the zone. And the universe doesn't end when the game does: The studio also revealed Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, a new anime series set in the 2077 universe that's heading to Netflix in 2022.
It's impossible to write about Cyberpunk: 2077 without tossing around a lot of 4-digit numbers — but thankfully, there's only one that really matters: After all the delays and all the hype, CD Projekt RED's wild RPG ride will indeed be in players' hands before the end of 2020. Cyberpunk: 2077 arrives for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Nov. 19, with a no-cost upgrade bundled in for anyone who springs for a next-gen console when the PS5 and Xbox Series X debut later this year.
The Most of Us
Have you been playing The Last of Us Part II? Everyone else evidently has. With only months left to go before handing the reins over to the PlayStation 5, the PS4 is enjoying sales numbers for TLOU2 that signal Naughty Dog's sequel already has overtaken Final Fantasy VII Remake as the fastest-moving console exclusive in the PS4's six-year life cycle. That means early sales numbers that eclipse not only Remake, but also previous PS4 record-setters like Spider-Man and God of War.
Sony has just revealed, via the PlayStation Blog, that Ellie's (mostly) solo journey is "now the fastest-selling PS4 exclusive ever with more than 4 million copies sold through as of June 21." That's more than 4 million copies in only three days (the game released on June 19), easily topping the chain of earlier PS4 record breakers. FFVII Remake sold 3.5 million copies during its April release window, while Spider-Man sold 3.3 million and God of War sold 3.1 million through their respective launch windows.
It'd be spoiler-y to get too far into story details for The Last of Us Part II just yet (after all, several of us at SYFY WIRE haven't even finished the game ourselves). But it's safe to say that the arrival of TLOU2 touched off one of the biggest pop culture moments in recent gaming, with other Sony studios even getting in on the hype by releasing some cool crossover art that puts Joel and Ellie together with familiar faces from other big-name games.
First up was God of War director Cory Balrog:
Then Little Big Planet makers Media Molecule with a six-stringed salute:
... And Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch with a hilltop duet:
... And Days Gone developer Bend Studio with two recognizable travelers meeting on a lonely road:
Naughty Dog recently revealed that it considers The Last of Us Part II a finished product as-is, and has no plans to release DLC (as it did with the endearing Left Behind DLC that fleshed out some key moments from the first game). If you haven't jumped in, now's the time: The post-apocalyptic water's just fine, so long as you like treading through spores, algae, and fear. Just be on the lookout for creative director Neil Druckmann's in-game easter egg while you're running (and paddling) for your life.
EA Star Wars trusts the Force
Star Wars' gaming future may truly be starting to look brighter. Only a week after compelling rhapsodic reactions to its amazing new announcement trailer for Star Wars: Squadrons, EA Games is making the noises fans want to hear with its renewed commitment to giving Star Wars an iconic status in the video gaming pantheon to match that of its pedigree on the big screen.
Fans have been critical of EA's early handling of its Star Wars license — easily among the most bankable in all of gaming — since the studio first laid hands on it in 2013. But after a spate of game cancellations and a course correction to rethink microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront II, EA got on a Star Wars hot streak with better Battlefront II support and the success of last year's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
In the wake of last week's heart-racing reveal of the upcoming Star Wars: Squadrons dogfighting sim, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said the studio is only getting warmed up. Via Gamespot, EA's goal is to "double down" on making the galaxy far, far away an irresistible place for players.
"We're going to double down on that partnership [with Lucasfilm and Disney]. Disney continues to be very very committed to the IP and to the canon," Wilson said. "… We've got the combination of great IP, great development expertise and experience and success from us across genres, across platforms, across business models. And we've got new generations [of fans] coming to the IP all the time. So our expectation is we think there continues to be a really really strong opportunity in and around that relationship and that IP going forward."
That kind of commitment didn't come with any new game announcements or long-term teases at what EA might have up its sleeve after Star Wars: Squadrons. But with Squadrons set to take galactic conflict to the skies with its Oct. 2 launch, we'll be too preoccupied with trusting our piloting instincts for the foreseeable future to clamor for more — so long as EA keeps steering the Star Wars license toward the light.
The best of the rest
Avengers look Marvel-ous on PS5 — Maybe all we needed to convince us that someone besides Robert Downey Jr. can ever, ever pass for Iron Man was to see these new Avengers' faces on next-gen consoles. Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics shared new looks at the PS5 version of Marvel's Avengers this week, and the extra polish the game's received — along with the news that it's coming to both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, totally free for anyone who buys a PS4 or Xbox One version — snapped us right to attention.
In addition to high-res photos that make Hulk look like the raging beast we always knew and friendly-feared, the studio also dropped a trailer that shows Thor and Black Widow — whose earlier looks gave some fans the jitters — more resembling their MCU counterparts, while still forging new video game identities of their own. Kamala Khan's character design gets an up-close tease in the trailer, too, along with new looks at M.O.D.O.K., the game's main villain and a comic book baddie you won't find (yet) in the MCU.
Taking a page from the MCU storybook to frame the Avengers as public blame targets after the group's A-Day celebration goes destructively haywire, the gang must salvage their reputation while uncovering the sinister purpose M.O.D.O.K. and Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) harbor for humanity. As Marvel's Avengers has moved through all the iterations we've seen since the project's announcement three years ago, we've moved right along with it — from initial trepidation when the characters were first revealed, to tempered relief, to the present day's outright enthusiasm. Gear up for the game's Sept. 4 launch for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC, with upgraded PS5 and Xbox Series X editions set to debut free of charge for current owners when the new consoles arrive this holiday season.
Give a warm "pika" hello to Pokémon Unite, a 5-on-5 multiplayer arena game headed to smart phones and the Nintendo Switch. Bringing adorable monsters into a gaming realm long known as the preferred domain of esports might sound like a strange move, but if Pokémon as a franchise is anything, it's versatile. A partnership between The Pokémon Company and Tencent, Unite was revealed this week with a new teaser trailer that shows what players — many of them likely first-time MOBA battlers — are in for:
As you can see from all the human activity there, the emphasis is on the team-based competitive aspect of, well, uniting people over Pokémon. That has our interest super-piqued to see if a Pokémon game might one day end up drawing esports interest (and all the sponsorships, prize money, and viewer eyeballs that go along with it at the highest levels). To check out more actual footage from Pokémon Unite itself, sit in on this week's extended Pokémon Presents showcase, and then keep your radar up: the game hasn't yet been given a release date, but when it arrives, it'll be available as a free-to-start game for iOS, Android, and Switch.
Fortnite movie night — Is there anything we can do in real life that Epic Games isn't determined to find a way for players to do in Fortnite, too? Actually, with theaters still closed owing to the coronavirus pandemic and no new releases on the big screen, that's not even a fair question. For the moment, Fortnite's getting players together for something they can't do in real life: sharing a movie with a bunch of strangers.
Fresh off another in-game Party Royale concert, this one featuring Diplo, Young Thug, and Noah Cyrus, Fortnite is inviting players to the movies — and we mean the actual movies. Depending on your region, tuning in at different times on Friday, June 26 will get you a virtual ticket to watch one of three Christopher Nolan-directed box office smashes: Inception, The Prestige, or Batman Begins. U.S. viewers have two evening engagements with Inception to choose from, but checking out Fortnite's Party Royale landing page will whisk you to the title and showtime for the part of the world where you play.
On the actual gaming front, Fortnite's all wet with a world map that's been mostly submerged for the aquatic-themed start of Chapter 2, Season 3. As always, the new season is free to play and ready to dive in for consoles, PC, MacOS, and smart devices now.
- Microsoft and 343 Industries are getting the Halo hype train rolling for next month's Halo Infinite presentation with a super-cryptic new tease that hints at the return of The Banished, a familiar foe for longtime fans. Check it out in the trailer above, and get Cortana on speed dial for first word on when the long-awaited sequel arrives later this year as an Xbox exclusive.
- DOOM Eternal is out with its second update, bringing a new mini-event ("Castle Grayscale," available through July 2) and a new "Torment" Battlemode map.
- Biomutant, an action-RPG from the core team behind the Just Cause series, has been in the works for a while now — and just to be clear, there's still no release date. But something's brewing in Biomutant-land, because THQ Nordic showed off a lengthy new gameplay trailer this week that has us thinking there's more news on the near horizon. When it spawns, Biomutant will land on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
- There's nothing funny about surgery…unless you're talking old-school board games like Operation or its present-day spiritual video game heir, Surgeon Simulator. Channel your inner Franken-surgeon when Surgeon Simulator 2 arrives at the Epic Store in August... and try to do no harm.
- Square Enix is adapting The World Ends With You, a quirky JRPG for the Nintendo DS that racked up a passionate fan following from its 2007 release, for the anime treatment. Via IGN, the publisher is teasing a bigger reveal at Anime Expo Lite for July 3. Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura had his hand in the gaming version, so we'll be counting down along with the project's AX Lite landing page to see where this one's headed.
- Let's end on a more serious note this week, marking the efforts of fans and media companies who have focused recent attention on issues of sexual harassment and discrimination. In corners of the gaming world where socially-engaged players have brought to light allegations of harassment against both fans and studio staff, the past week has seen a grassroots hashtag movement on Twitch, a forced leave of absence for the creative director of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and a pledge from Insomniac Games to address accusations of harassment against a former employee.
Gaming isn't the only place where matters like these are drawing renewed attention. The comic book world is experiencing a similar moment of self-evaluation over similar issues, in the wake of new fan allegations that have compelled creators and publishing companies to make changes. But here's hoping, sincerely, that everyone involved in the creative process — whether it's comics, games, or entertainment on screens both big and small — moves forward with a listening ear, a responsive demeanor, and a focus on giving everyone the appropriate environment to safely thrive as they apply their talents to what we're really all here for…which, of course, is making, playing, and sharing great games.