Spike’s rebooted VGA’s, now inexplicably called VGX, has come and gone, leaving a pungent trail of awkward memories and flat jokes face down on the floor.
Seemingly slapped together in twelve minutes, the formerly televised, now streamed video game awards show ran close to three uninterrupted hours in which a strikingly disinterested Joel McHale lazily mocked gaming culture and industry guests while Game Trailers’ Geoff Keighley apologetically made “He Who Smelt It, Dealt It” faces in between fruitless spurts of holding the broken shards of professionalism together.
So, no, not much has improved over the VGA format. On the upside, there were plenty of neat game announcements and pretty footage of next-gen titles to oogle. I took the liberty of gathering them here.
Tomb Raider Reboot, Rebuilt
Crystal Dynamics, though nearly foiled by an Amazon listing, officially announced a next-gen port of Lara Croft’s 2013 re-imagining. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is heading to both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 28th.
Owning 4x the resolution of its current-gen incarnation, TR: Def’ also features a remodeled Lara and new effects technology that better simulates realistic, free-flowing hair. Just in case you were curious why the price point still rests at $59.99. Rest assured, you’re paying for a better head of hair (and all the multiplayer DLC you won’t touch).
Telltale Tells Borderlands Tales, Games Up Game of Thrones
A property chewing beast, Telltale added two new universes to its adventure game repertoire.
The first is a percolating collaboration between themselves and Texas-based think-tank Gearbox Software. Telltale’s creating a choice driven spin on the Borderlands mythos in the episodic Tales From the Borderlands. Assets by Gearbox, gameplay by Telltale.
Their next adaptation is recent rumor made titillating fact: the studio is taking on Game of Thrones. Interestingly, the game is confirmed to be based on the HBO series as opposed to the novels, meaning we can expect the visual design and narrative approach to tie-in closely with the show. No solid details to go on besides a projected 2014 release.
See the Universe, All of It in No Man’s Sky
A surprise reveal that genuinely raised everyone’s collective eyebrows impossibly above their hairlines comes from Hello Games, the indie team that brought us Joe Danger.
No Man’s Sky is a sci-fi game that ditches space marines for explorers. Your discoveries will span planets and galaxies. You’ll run into procedurally generated life reacting to organic worlds. The trailer showed us an explorer surveying life from within an ocean, hopping to the shore, jumping in his spaceship, and flying straight through the stratosphere into star craft populated space.
Stars in the distance aren’t merely lighting effects; they’re far reaching celestial bodies within their own solar systems, huge planets revolving around them (planets you can also traverse to). No Man’s Sky is a vastly ambitious next-gen undertaking that, insanely, is being developed by only four people.
And the Rest…
Broken Age [Elijah Wood featurette]
Tim Schafer returns to the adventure game (good time for it; ask Telltale). Brings with him a talented cast (Elijah Wood of Wilfred and only Wilfred fame) and a quirky art style.
Destiny [gameplay trailer]
Bungie has the “shooter” part down pat. Now they’re trying to redefine “epic.” You had me at “Gunfights on the Moon.”
The Division [snowfall trailer]
Gameplay? No, no. You’re obviously more interested in the wondrous engine being utilized to breathe life into a Tom Clancy post-apocalypse… that Tom Clancy didn’t actually write about. Still, impressive effects. Watch as the next-gen further advances the technology we use to realistically deface cop cars.
Dying Light [gameplay trailer]
I loved Dead Island, which is, according to reviews, too much praise for the open-world zombie stomper. This spiritual successor looks to approach the formula with a new, free-running centered bent. It’s zombie carnage, only faster.
Quantum Break [trailer]
I… I don’t know about this at all. I should trust Remedy Games, especially after two rad Payne's and Wake's, but this whole TV-meets-gaming crossover garbage makes me want to shrug hard enough to dislocate a shoulder. “Time is fucking broken!!!” is a premise that could go dangerously camp real bad.
Respawn introduced two new classes of Titan. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything beyond that — I was in a trance watching hulking, anthropomorphic metal husks decimate ground troops. Which… How am I supposed to enjoy any part of this game not spent in a Titan? This game’s strength could be its metallic Achilles’ Heel.
Destiny Launches Globally on September 9th, 2014
"We first shared the design pillars of Destiny less than one year ago. We promised to redefine what players should expect from a Bungie game. We said we wanted to change the way people play games together. We set our bar high. For us, Destiny represents a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Bungie’s “shared-world shooter” — the first title coming out of the studio’s gates since 2010’s Halo: Reach — has finally been dated. Destiny finds a home on both current and next-gen consoles, releasing for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4 simultaneously.
The public beta for the game begins Summer 2014, starting on Sony’s systems first.
The Father of Survival Horror Wants to Bring Scary Back
Shinji Mikami, the Japanese game designer heralded as The Father of Survival Horror since unleashing Resident Evil unto the world in 1996, says gamers are too inured against being scared these days.
"Not much has changed when it comes to instilling terror in the player," Mikami said, talking up Edge Online at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. “But people have got used to the tropes of horror and they know what’s coming next, so in that sense it is harder to make them afraid.”
Shinji and his newly constructed team at Tango Gameworks are sure as shit going to try to rattle your nerves, though. Their vessel is the promising, tensely atmospheric The Evil Within — a new survival horror game steeped in classic scares. According to Mikami, it’s not about reinventing the genre; it’s about digging up its roots and latching on to what worked in the first place.
Constant gunplay, sporadic Quick-Time-Events, mindless action — what’s become routine in modern horror games the likes of Dead Space and, sadly, current Resident Evil installments are being done away with in The Evil Within. Contrary to this generation’s teachings, survival relies on far more than a loaded gun.
"The scariest parts will be when you encounter enemies that cannot be killed with a gun," says Mikami. Instead, you’ll have to use your environment and quick thinking to trap chainsaw swinging freaks lest you’re looking to lose a few feet above your shoulders.
When Bethesda, Tango’s parent company, initially announced the horror title (under the name Zwei), Shinji stated it would be his last directorial effort. A year later and the designer, thankfully, has changed his tune.
“I don’t think I’ll ever completely stop doing creative work,” he said. “We’re a studio that makes things, and that means we need a leader who also makes things. So I don’t think I’ll be taking my hands off the wheel completely. I want to give younger staff the chance to make games – that’s something I’m very passionate about – but I’m not sick of making games or anything. I want to continue in a creative role. That will never change.”
Naughty Dog Founder Calls Nintendo “Irrelevant” in the Console Biz
Mr. Jason Rubin, co-founder of acclaimed studio Naughty Dog as well as the last CEO at the helm of THQ before its public dissolution, recently had some biting remarks for industry titan and household name Nintendo.
A frequent, and outspoken, guest of the Geoff Keighley hosted Bonus Round, conversation on a recent episode gravitated from who will be successful in the new next-gen console race (Sony or Microsoft) to how Nintendo, in Rubin’s opinion, barely qualifies as a contender.
Rubin says both Sony and Microsoft stand to do “extremely well” because “Nintendo has stumbled.” Then he landed this juicy sound byte on the Japanese publisher’s chin: “Nintendo is irrelevant as a hardware manufacturer in the console business right now.”
In a cordial showing of impromptu damage control, Rubin rained praise on the company, calling them a “worldwide treasure” and that no developer alive “will ever be Miyamoto,” as in Shigeru, the living legend responsible for creating almost every A-list first-party franchise in Nintendo’s catalog. Rubin’s singeing comments stem, no doubt, from the year old Wii U’s struggle to place itself in consumer’s living rooms. To add some perspective, IGN noted that the PlayStation 4 outpaced the Wii U’s life-to-date sales in the U.K. over the weekend.
Hearing that, it’s easy to chart the Sega course for Nintendo, in which they burn up their manufacturing business and stick strictly to software, doomed to becoming a third-party publisher in order to keep breathing. For Rubin, that may be the ideal outcome. "It is a crime that we do not play those games on the systems that we have.”
But Nintendo could hardly be called “irrelevant” when it comes to the handheld market, which they have in a damn sleeper hold. The 3DS and its various incarnations are dominating the world, time and time again topping the NPD’s hardware list. Sony’s own bid at handheld success, the PS Vita, has fought to find even remotely the same traction since its launch.
Rubin’s words may sting, but if truth hurts, they sting for a reason. The Wii U left a gaping maw of an opportunity for the competition to seize upon. For now, the console war is between two companies, and despite helping define the home console as we know it today, Nintendo is not one of them.
China’s Call of Duty Invaded by Zombie Terminators; Related: I’m Moving to China
So Chinese gamers have cultivated a market where Activision’s annual cash-in, followed up by a year of expensive DLC maps, just isn’t supported.
Instead, Acti tapped its Shanghai studio (along with series familiar Raven Software) to condense the series’ hallmark gameplay and features into a single free-to-play title incidentally named after all that anyone truly gives a shit about — Call of Duty: Online.
The game draws from a smorgasbord of maps, guns, perks, and attachments found in both the Modern Warfare and Black Ops games, making it a kind of Call of Duty Greatest Hits mix. Though lousy with micro-transactions (a lot of which are regionally tailored character customizations), that actually sounds… pretty friggin’ awesome.
But it gets awesomer! Robotic zombies. They were robots that became zombies. Or, wait, are they zombies that were turned machines? Something to puzzle over as you (you being China) mow them down in the new, legally trying “Dead Rising” Mode which sees the original Zombies map, Nacht der Untoten, reconstructed into the modern wasteland re-christened “Natch.”
"Dead Rising" and its unerring fight against the steely dead is coming to CoD: Online sometime later this year. If justice is a tangible thing and if something is smiling at us from above the sky, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to battle the robotic undead.
Even More Mortal Kombat Assassins by Letticia Maer
Some are Assassins, some swear by the Templars. All are superpowered ninjas with a knack for dismemberment.
I featured Letty’s work (when she was Sona?) a while back and since then, this prolific artist has been, well, pretty damn prolific about churning out one of the coolest crossovers in fan art.