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 mists that still obscure what we know about the PlayStation 5 could begin to dissipate in a matter of days. Sure, we've seen the radically redesigned two-tone controller and even glimpsed some stellar-looking gameplay footage — but Sony's successor to the enormously successful PS4 still doesn't have an arrival date, and Sony hasn't yet shared so much as a grainy close-up to give fans an idea of what their next piece of hardware looks like.
That could change next week, if a recent report is on target. Citing sources "with direct knowledge of the matter," Bloomberg is reporting that Sony is planning a PS5 info event for early June; possibly as early as Wednesday, June 3 — though that date, the report cautions, isn't set in stone.
What seems clearer, though, is that Sony is looking to tap some of the typical June gaming buzz that fans have come to expect from E3, which is canceled this year due to coronavirus precautions. Even though Sony had no plans for a stage presence at this year's E3 to begin with, June is when console makers and game developers roll out some of their biggest announcements — often years in advance. And even as the pandemic has forced one event cancelation after another, companies are dialing up new ways to virtually engage fans over the summer.
It sounds as if the June event is only the first in a series of online reveals Sony has planned for the PS5, and that the company likely won't unveil everything there is to know about the console all at once. "Other PlayStation 5 events may follow in the coming weeks and months, and Sony is not expected to reveal every essential detail on the console during its first presentation," Bloomberg reports.
With Sony still on track to get the PS5 onto store shelves by its holiday 2020 target window, we can afford to be circumspect about all the hype. Regardless of whether we find out tons of new PS5 info next week or at the last minute, we're only half a year away from having every question answered either way. And in the meantime, there are still some pretty big PS4 releases on the way to keep us busy.
The Last of Us Part II is almost here & already amazing
Speaking of that very thing, Sony devoted its entire State of Play event this week to highlighting a huge chunk of previously-unseen gameplay from The Last of Us Part II — and it looks killer. Stalking across a wasted American landscape on what (so far) has looked like more of a solo adventure for Ellie shouldn't be this pretty — but it appears to be a visual testament to Naughty Dog's ability to wrest the most out of the PS4's tech, right at the end of the console's lifespan.
The original The Last of Us was one of the PS3's most visually impressive games, and yet Part II looks like it's made a true generational leap beyond its universally acclaimed predecessor. In the top clip above, creative director Neil Druckmann says Part II spans a huge diversity of post-apocalyptic places and environments, and adds some RPG-lite mechanics that make your character (and your gear) look like they're changing over the course of the whole experience. It's a safe bet Ellie (and her rifle) will be wearing scars that feel satisfyingly well-earned by the time the credits roll.
One of the things that set the first game apart was its deftness at interweaving gameplay with a story that grew with its endearing characters — and now that we've seen what the intervening nine years have done to an older, wiser, and unmistakably tougher Ellie, we're true believers in the idea that The Last of Us — now heading to HBO as a series — is a franchise with staying power.
Online leaks abound for TLOU Part II, and the best way not to be spoiled (short of avoiding the internet altogether) is to warily take your news straight from the horse's mouth (as well as from us, because we're definitely not spoiling this game!) Our touchdown in Jackson, Wyoming is nearly here: The Last of Us Part II releases as a PlayStation 4 exclusive on June 19.
Outriders opens up
For a studio anchored by a handful of enormous big brands (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest all say "hi!"), Square Enix and its roster of go-to development studios have a history of breaking out totally new gaming IPs that, as the NieR franchise is proving, tend to resonate with fans and stick around for second and third helpings.
That's what's got us intrigued by Outriders, the brand-new sci-fi space shooter that Square Enix announced with few details at last year's E3. Now the publisher, along with Polish developer People Can Fly, is opening a new floodgate of info on the team-based online game, debuting this week the first in a series of "Outriders Broadcast" videos that take a deep dive to show what this mysterious title actually looks like in action.
The lengthy walkthrough introduces us to the First City, a now-ruined outpost on a distant planet, where people struggle for survival in the aftermath of a freakish storm that killed off most of the city's human colonists. Left for decades to fend mostly for themselves, the stranded survivors now take sides in a deteriorating and dystopian world beset by wild extraterrestrial weather, pockets of radiation, and monsters that don't always keep to their natural habitat.
Outriders is being developed to have a long shelf life, and it shows. This is one of those games that comes with an absolute ton of background lore and class customization info to unpack, so the 26-minute clip above just scratches the surface. The third-person shooter lets you pick from sci-fi-sounding versions of RPG character classes like Pyromancer (a medium-range class that conjures fire) or Trickster (a close-range fighter skilled in subterfuge), to name only a couple, and its menu and customization options look robust enough, all on their own, to keep players busy for days. Get up to speed with future Outriders Broadcasts in the months leading up to the game's generation-straddling "Holiday 2020" release for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.
The best of the rest
Fortnite forges ahead: Fortnite's Chapter 2 - Season 2 has been winding down for a while, and now it looks like it'll keep right on winding down just a little bit longer. After a previous month-long delay to the start of Season 3, Epic Games revealed this week that it's bumping the end of Season 2 another week, from June 4 to June 11.
If that feels like an eternity in Fortnite time, there's a silver lining: Epic isn't letting those final days go by without teasing the same kind of Doomsday drama that turned the map-changing Season 2 reveal into a pop culture phenomenon last October. Like that server-melting countdown, Season 2 is going out with a live event called "The Device," which Epic already is urging players to show up early for next weekend.
Will we be sucked into another black hole? Will players spend an entire day eagerly staring at a blank screen waiting for Season 3 to be born from the cosmos? In-game teasers appear to hint at something shark-themed… though this is still Fortnite, which means whatever we think Epic might be teasing remains wide open to the broadest possible interpretation. To secure your spot for The Device, cancel all your plans Saturday, June 6 and be ready to go before 2PM ET.
The cute Final Fantasy returns: Back in the day, Nintendo GameCube owners were limited to getting their Final Fantasy fix primarily via the cutesy, chibi-styled Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The action-RPG started life as a Gamecube exclusive, and turned out to be a great team-focused game in its own right — even if it didn't come with a proper Roman numeral at the end of its title.
Fast-forward to the present, and Square Enix is dipping deep into the well of nostalgia once again. The studio is giving the 17-year-old game a huge overhaul that adds new features and updated graphics for what the studio's Duncan Heaney pledged this week, via the PlayStation Blog, will be "far from a simple re-release." More importantly, the remastered game now has a new trailer (below) and a midsummer release date.
Those definitely aren't the grainy GameCube graphics we remember (just check out the detail on that giant Malboro!) Better still, the remastered version won't be limited to just one platform. Team up to beat back the miasma when Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition arrives for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS on Aug. 27.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge goes VR: If a visit to a Disney theme park to take in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge seems like a far, far away dream, at least you'll soon be able to get there in VR — while making a game of it in the process.Vader Immortal VR developer ILMxLAB announced this week it's bringing Batuu to your headset with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge, a virtual romp through the same lands you'll find at the theme parks — including a cast of familiar Star Wars characters populating the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost.
There aren't a ton of details (so far, the release window is simply pegged as sometime later this this year), but Disney and Lucasfilm are aiming to bring plenty of overlap between the real-life parks and the virtual version. "Now our guests can immerse themselves in these stories both inside and outside our parks," Disney Imagineering Creative Executive Scott Trowbridge said in a statement. Vader Immortal delivered more than we'd hoped for — especially on the immersive graphics front — so we definitely won't say no to touring Batuu in VR, away from all those pesky real-life theme park LARPers.
BlizzCon changes: Fans saw it coming, but this week Blizzard Entertainment made it official: The Overwatch and World of Warcraft developer announced it's canceling this year's BlizzCon, originally slated for November in Anaheim, opting instead for a digital-only fan event "most likely" to be held sometime early in 2021, as event EP Saralyn Smith wrote at the BlizzCon website. The decision, wrote Smith, came after Blizzard realized there wasn't a clear way to plan around all the public health unknowns that could arise, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, between now and November. For now, Blizzard's still ironing out the details of what its first-ever offsite fan con will look like (not to mention exactly when it'll be), so stay locked in to Blizzard's social media for updates, which we'll pass along as they appear.
Borderlands: This one's a no-brainer: From now through June 4, both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel are available for free at the Epic Games store. Borderlands 2 takes players back to explore more of Pandora in a truly bonkers race against Handsome Jack — one of the jerkiest video game bad guys ever. The Pre-Sequel takes things into the outer-space environs of Pandora's orbit, setting players on a bouncy reduced-gravity moon mission (among other things) that explores the shameless backstory of how Jack got that way (and we mean bad...not handsome.) Grab 'em both for free while you can at the Epic Games Store.
PS Plus: Not to be outdone, Sony has cued up a pair of classics for its free PS Plus June lineup: Star Wars Battlefront II and Call of Duty: WW2. We're especially misty-eyed about Battlefront II recently reaching the finish line of its well-supported cycle of new content updates, so consider this one a chance to snag a retrospective look back at a game that definitely got better with time. The free download period starts June 2, and you can scope out details for both deals over at the PlayStation Blog.