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!
Ready? Let's dig in!
After a long, sometimes halting march to storm the gates of big-time gaming, Amazon has finally thrown the doors wide open this week with the arrival of Crucible, a team-based sci-fi shooter that's now free to play on Steam.
A peek at the launch trailer shows Amazon's serious about going all-in on this game as a big-budget, AAA title. Early reports peg Crucible as its own thing, though it definitely gives off some vibes that'll remind players of Overwatch's slapstick badassery and Fortnite's anything-goes cartoonishness. In fact, Crucible is neither, serving up three modes that each put novel multiplayer spins on familiar PvP playstyles.
What's the lore here? Has Amazon come up with a fleshed-out story world to entice players to keep coming back? Well, you're playing on a rough-and-tumble, Borderlands-style jungle planet as a hunter (which can be alien, human, or robot), and you're out to get your hands on Essence, the resource everyone's fighting over that also helps your characters level up. Speaking of characters, they're outlandishly distinctive, they can be suited up in a variety of ethnicities and genders, and they even have their own celebratory dances (sound familiar, Fortnite fans?).
There are three PvP modes in Crucible, and they represent new interpretations of playstyles you've probably seen before: Heart of the Hives pits two four-player teams against each other as they swarm hive-swelling reptilian monsters for "hearts"; Harvester Command is a capture-the-flag style mode composed of two eight-member teams fighting to gain the most Essence; and Alpha Hunters is basically a battle royale, last-team-standing mode between two eight-member squads.
For now, PC is the only way to play Crucible, though it's easy to envision the game making its way to more platforms over time. In any event, it's not the only ambitious title Amazon plans to drop this year. New World, a sprawling historical fantasy MMORPG originally intended to be the first game Amazon released, is on track to arrive on Aug. 25. In the meantime, check out Crucible, developed by Amazon's in-house Relentless Studios team, for free at the Steam store.
Surprise! 'Iron Man VR' demo takes flight
It feels like it's been a long wait for Iron Man VR, the Camouflaj-developed PlayStation VR game that lets you suit up in Tony Stark's shiny red suit and zoom around to take the fight to the skies. But after delaying the game a week ago, Sony surprised fans this week by announcing that a demo version was live and ready to download from the PlayStation store — for the low, low price of free.
In addition to launching on July 3, Sony's also sweetening the deal for first-time VR adopters by packaging both the game and the hardware into one convenient package: the PlayStation VR Marvel's Iron Man VR Bundle. Dropping the $349.99 asking price gets you a shiny new PlayStation VR headset, a PlayStation Camera, two PlayStation Move motion controllers, the Blu-ray disc for Iron Man VR, and a demo disc that further introduces you to the world of PlayStation VR.
As for the demo itself, it sounds like a decent slice of the finished game. Start off with the tutorial "Malibu" mission to get comfortable in Tony's metal skin, then head toward the real action with the "Out of the Blue" Stark Jet gameplay mission, which Sony promises (via the PlayStation Blog) will have you in good shape to dive into the much longer experience when the full game arrives. There's also a pair of optional "Challenge" missions to test your budding Iron Man skills in flight and advanced combat, as well as an "Interactive Stark Jet" cinematic featuring Tony, F.R.I.D.A.Y., and Pepper Potts.
In light of Tony's Avengers: Endgame fate, that last bit sounds especially intriguing, as the gaming world reconciles its upcoming Marvel stories with the MCU films and comics. Grab the free demo now, and if it leaves you jonesing for more, snag the Iron Man VR Standard Edition for $39.99 (or the Digital Deluxe Edition, with a trove of in-game goodies plus an exclusive PlayStation 4 theme, for $49.99).
'Valorant' gets ready for prime time
We haven't been among the few who boarded early to play the beta version of Valorant, the upcoming free-to-play multiplayer FPS from Riot Games. But with all the buzz this game's been getting lately, plus news that it'll be leaving its closed beta and going into wide release in just a few short days, it's time to pause and look behind the curtain to see what all the fuss is about.
Valorant is a tactical first-person shooter from Riot, the same folks who make a little online game you may've heard of called League of Legends. Like LoL, Valorant is designed for online multiplayer, and comes pre-primed to feature heavily in the world of eSports with its 5-on-5 team configuration. The beta has generated tons of talk with its Twitch streaming setup that allows viewers a chance at getting in on the action if they tune in to watch the top streamers play the game, which has us super-interested in how much download demand there'll be when Valorant goes wide on June 2.
Set in the near future, Valorant throws teams into matches of 24 rounds each, with players suiting up as "agents" who pick a side (attack or defend) and support their team with a cavalcade of skill-controlled weapons that supplement the real objective: planting a bomb (called the "spike") on a designated target. If successful, the attacking team wins the round; but if the defending team thwarts the bomb, they get the point for that round. Each side gets 12 rounds apiece on both offense and defense, and whoever ends up with the most points after 24 rounds wins the match.
If that sounds like the basic setup for Valve's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, well, you're on the right track: Players and early reviewers have both drawn strong comparisons between the two. Counter-Strike's a great game, so coupled with Riot's track record and Valorant's unique story world, it's a comparison we're happy to hear.
We're only a week and change from getting the chance to see for ourselves: Valorant leaves beta and makes its public PC debut on June 2. You'll only be able to snag Valorant via Riot's proprietary launcher — which means you won't find it on Steam — so head over to the game's landing page for details.
The best of the rest
Maneater: Now we're getting to the short-and-sweet bits. First, we can't let the week go by without giving a sharky shoutout to Maneater, the oceangoing survival RPG from Deep Silver and Tripwire Interactive that throws a fun twist on the whole Great White threat by making you, the player, the predator instead of the snack.
Get a taste of what it's like to play as a shark and sink your teeth into anything you're powerful enough to chase down (and yes, that includes people) in Maneater's new launch trailer below. Who's hungry?
This looks like way more fun than it should be, though we won't know how much staying power swimming the sea depths truly has until the day comes when we can finally take a bite out for ourselves. Fortunately, that day is today: Maneater just released on the Epic Store, and it's available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Borderlands 3 DLC inbound: One thing's for sure: It'll be a cold day in Pandora before players ever run out of things to do in Borderlands 3. This week Gearbox teased the game's third DLC installment, which puts a western spin on things with the cheekily named Bounty of Blood: A Fistful of Redemption.
Sass and silly crass is Borderlands' sci-fi specialty, so the preview images that show Bounty off as a Red Dead Redemption-style diversion feel right at home alongside all the other irreverently funny pop culture send-ups the franchise does like no one else. Take a gander:
Bounty of Blood puts players in the lawless town of Vestige, stranded on the faraway planet Gehenna, where the criminal Devil Riders Gang is on the verge of overrunning the place. Of course there's a sheriff, and of course you're the one who'll be giving law enforcement an underhanded assist as a bounty hunter in charge of cleaning things up the violently old-fashioned way. We're gonna be sorely disappointed, though, if we don't get at least one "This town ain't big enough for the both of us!" as we're runnin' around shootin' up the place.
While we wait for Gearbox to drop the inevitably gonzo trailer — and you know they will — there's still time to get your Borderlands 3 vault hunter leveled up: Bounty of Blood: A Fistful of Redemption crashes the Borderlands DLC party when it arrives for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, PC, and MacOS starting June 25.
We've just gotta include this: Henry Cavill has his own easter egg in one of his favorite games: He's a High Elf Loremaster character named "Cavill" in Total War: Warhammer II. The shoutout to Cavill comes as part of the The Warden and The Paunch, the newest DLC out for the game as of May 21. It's not his likeness, exactly (he's an elf, after all) — but it's not incidental, either. Via PCGamesN, Warhammer II's director confirmed it was an intentional shoutout to Cavill because he's such a public fan of the game.
The Outer Worlds is heading to the Nintendo Switch, and pre-orders went live this week. Obsidian Entertainment's offworld single-player RPG is a super-fun sci-fi romp that tackles some heady themes while showing off what the Fallout: New Vegas developer does best, and it's heading our way on June 5. Visit Nintendo's eShop landing page for the game to reserve a copy for $59.99.
Looking for a steal? Get Sid Meier's Civilization VI for free at the Epic Games Store through May 28.
That's it for this week! Go back to playing Animal Crossing and get your house in order (unlike ours). See y'all next Friday.