The Inquisition is Coming in October
Bioware’s flame licked fantasy jewel is back with a dragon-y vengeance, and we’ve but one season to wait out for it.
Dragon Age: Inquisition will be bringing on the fantasy RPG/virtual romancing action fans have come to love October 7th, 2014. While this Third Age of Dragons will be available on PS3 and Xbox 360, Inquisition also marks Bioware’s very first foray onto next-gen platforms.
As such, B-Ware isn’t resting on its laurels; this sequel plays host to a number of changes meant to overhaul the series, including a blend of DA: Origins' and Dragon Age II's combat mechanics, vicious, environment razing AI, and an expanded open-world.
Despite its following, I feel as if Dragon Age has yet to hit its stride with the gaming public. It’s obvious Bioware craves the Skyrim crowd. If Inquisition can pull off that alchemist’s blend of dragon-bashing thrills and boundless freedom, making a footprint on next-gen before Bethesda does could very well push their property into the lead (unless Skyrim ports to next-gen; then they’re screwed).
New DLC Has Snoop Dogg Narrating Call of Duty: Ghosts Matches; “It’s the Coolest Game in the Hood” Apparently
Well, in just about the best news I’ve heard in 2014, a new personalization pack for Activision’s annual cash-in, Call of Duty: Ghosts, allows you to replace the multiplayer narrator with — and I am in no way shitting you — hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg’s smooth-as-thousand-dollar-velvet voice.
I’m uncertain what brought us to this reality. I understand micro-content; it makes sense for a corporation to further monetize their top selling product. I get that. And I understand personalization tweaks; for a few bucks, you can download weapon skins so people who don’t instinctively double-tap out of the Kill-Cam can see they were murdered by someone with style.
But Snoop to the Dee Oh Double Gee Dogg? Saying shit like “Squad Member active — a brother from another mother” and “Yeeahh, crizz-ay” during an online match? This is a stroke of idiotic genius. It’s completely stupid, yet I will purchase the voice-over pack with less hesitation than I’d have saving my own child from drowning. Just watch this video and try not to smile. Just fucking try.
Ghosts is a rather dry product — admittedly the least amount of fun I’ve had plugging into this series since Call of Duty 3 — butlittle stunts like adding Michael Myers and the goddamn Predator into the game provide the necessary flavoring that stops me from ejecting this vanilla wafer entry out of my collection.
The Snoop Dogg Voice-Over Pack, obviously trumping The Last of Us' Left Behind expansion as the most emotionally affecting piece of DLC this year, releases April 22nd on Xbox platforms, priced at $2.99.
Sony’s Selling All of its Square Enix Shares to Return to Profitability
But, hey, the PlayStation 4 is still killing it
Japanese juggernaut Sony, most famous for the globally known PlayStation brand — and for also making, I don’t know, headphones and a few movies now and again — is dumping its entire financial stake out of publisher Square Enix.
Sony holds 9.52 million shares in Square Enix, a sensual tryst that began in the early 2000’s. Once upon a time ago, before the word “timed” preceded “exclusivity,” Square’s Final Fantasy brand was nearly synonymous with PlayStation, especially helping Sony claim the dominance in Japanese households it still enjoys to this very day.
Sony’s equity is priced at ¥4.8 billion yen, or $47 million. The deal is expected to be closed as soon as tomorrow. The decision is the next of several moves the company has made to return itself to profitability. Since 2014 began, Sony has laid off thousands of workers, sold two corporate offices, and has even axed its PC division.
On the upside, the Sony PlayStation 4 has reveled in sales success, having sold 7 million units worldwide since launch, surpassing its next-gen competition, the Xbox One, by a slim margin. As an aside, I am currently a happy member of that 7 million club and I sing my PS4 into a gentle sleep, nightly.
Witness the Rise of Handsome Jack in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Strap on your spacesuits and reload your guns — you aren’t on Pandora anymore, kids.
2K Games and Gearbox President Randy “The Man” Pitchford have turned rumor into fact this morning by announcing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Before you sharpen your Pitchford pitchforks over Randy’s firm statement that Borderlands 3 wasn’t in development (and it still isn’t), here’s a little context:
Borderlands 3 will happen, says Pitchford, but it’ll be a next-gen affair chasing after bigger, bolder design goals. The Pre-Sequel, on the other hand, is built on the Borderlands 2 engine and is meant to cater to the massive install base found on PS3, 360, and PC.
The Pre-Sequel, as it’s so oddly but, for this series, fittingly labeled, is plopped snugly between the time our first Vault Hunters cracked open the vault in Borderlands 1 and when our new heroes led a resistance against the sociopathic, goblin-faced Handsome Jack in the second game. It’s a sequel to 1 and a prequel to 2, ya follow? “Mid-quel”? I don’t know what you’re saying and, frankly, your made up word offends me. Moving on.
This go around, your battlefield has been moved from the wastelands of Pandora to the low-gravity, nil-oxygen moon orbiting the planet. Your team, as usual, is a rag-tag outfit of personalities, each possessing skills unique to their class. Instead of a group of vigilante Vault Hunters, however, this “new” cast serves under a way less murder-y Handsome Jack, Hyperion’s leader. While never-before playable, Borderlands fans should already know this lineup of characters.
Athena, a Crimson Lance soldier formerly seen in the DLC The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, returns as your “Gladiator” class. Her shtick? The ability to kinetically propel a shield at her enemies for high damage. The shield, once upgraded, can either serve you defensively or offensively, depending on your tastes.
Nisha, the “Lawbringer,” puts in her time as her boyfriend’s pistol carrying right hand before residing as Lynchwood’s oppressive, tortuous sheriff.
Wilhelm, Jack’s “Enforcer,” brings experience and brutality to the team. At this point in time, he hasn’t gone all Borg yet; mechanical augmentation can be seen, but he’s a far cry from the hulking, robotic monstrosity he ends up becoming in BL2.
Finally, Claptrap rounds out the cast in his first playable role in the series. Yes, it really is the annoying, dancing robot you ally yourself with by the second game. Yes, his perspective is only a couple of feet off of the ground. Claptrap will be your “Fragtrap” class, whatever that could entail.
As a heads up, Gearbox Software is not developing The Pre-Sequel themselves — 2K Australia will be handling that job. Already, they have interesting ideas that Randy himself says are impressively fun (low-gravity gunplay does seem thoroughly enjoyable). It’s not Borderlands 3, sure. But, upshot, it is more Borderlands, and I love me some Borderlands.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is set to launch sometime later in 2014. Check out the official gameplay reveal right here.
Is PAX Invading the Midwest?
Penny Arcade Expo, started in 2004, has become the biggest and most renown gaming festival in the ten short years since its conception.
Starting in Seattle, Washington, and branching out to the other side of the country with PAX East in Boston, the celebration of games, gaming, and gamers has even made a global footprint, launching PAX Australia in 2013.
With PAX East set to commence just next week, rumblings from the Expo’s top brass seems to suggest a new event may be announced very soon. The above image of an office wall adorned with clocks and countdown timers comes way of a tweet from PAX Business Manager Robert Khoo. Next to three of the clocks are logos for the established PAX events we all know and flock to.
A fourth clock remains logo-less, next to a blank timer. A keen eye will notice each clock is adjusted to each event’s regional time-zone. The blank clock is set to Central time. That leaves a bevy of cities in the Midwest open for a new PAX; a chance for thousands of new attendees to experience what I consider to be the pinnacle gathering of gaming culture in North America.
In the meanwhile, my own company, Glitch Gaming Apparel, is scrambling in preparation for next week’s megaton explosion of gamers at PAX East. Hope to see you folks there!
Universal Begins Production on Bioshock Infinite: The Movie
Though a feature length film adaptation of Irrational Games’ original Bioshock failed to gain traction and move past the fires of development hell, it would appear rights holder Universal Studios is looking to the sky for another run at bringing the critically acclaimed IP to the silver screen.
Greenlit on the back of a spec script written by Jeremy Leven (The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife) in conjunction with genre scribe Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus), Universal is fast tracking a film loosely based upon 2013’s stalwart gaming experience, Bioshock Infinite.
While several key plot elements from the game remain in place — a man, a lighthouse, a floating city — Universal’s hurried excitement to reimagine Infinite for the big screen stems from the biggest narrative change found in Leven and Lindelof’s script: protagonists Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth Comstock are “wayward lovers in their mid to late twenties” attempting to reunite in the midst of a civil war waged on the streets of Columbia, a city segregated from the U.S. by clouds.
Booker fights alongside a rebellion of lower class citizens, the Vox Populi, while Elizabeth is the heiress to the ruling, and wealthy, Comstock family. The game’s religious overtones, Comstock’s cult in particular, are apparently being toned down purposely to service a wider palette, traded in for the classic struggle between the rich and the poor.
"It’s sort of a high concept, genre take on Romeo and Juliet,” said Lindelof. ”Jeremy [Leven] has proven time and again he knows how to write fully fleshed out characters. I mean, characterization is his thing obviously. I came aboard because I wanted to realize the world of Columbia and play with the really lofty, cool concepts Irrational laid down, like multi-dimensional traversal and gigantic steampunk birdman things.”
"It’s been great working on this project with Damon," said Leven. "We really complement each other’s strengths well, I think. I’m the go-to guy for drama and romance and such, while Damon’s your man when it’s time to maul a dude’s face with a skyhook."
Hollywood hunk Ryan Gosling and Tinseltown sweetheart Rachel McAdams are said to be in negotiations to play the roles of star-crossed lovers Booker and Elizabeth respectively. “I’ve never heard of Bioshock, haven’t played a video game since Mario [laughs], but I immediately fell in love with the script,” Gosling said. “It’s really heady, really out there. And the love these two characters have for one another… It’s a bond stronger than blood.”
Universal currently has a short list of directors favored to helm the picture including Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick Ass), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men), and Francis Lawrence (Constantine, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). Ken Levine, series creator and former head of the now disbanded Irrational, has confirmed he will be serving in an executive producing capacity. When asked how extensive his involvement would be, Levine replied, “I receive a paycheck and commence loud, hearty laughter on my way to the bank.”
UPDATE: April 2nd is here, folks. Thanks to all who believed my fabricated bullshit; you truly made April Fools’ a special day for me.
Microsoft Studios’ Phil Spencer Named “Head of Xbox”
Sir Phil Spencer, longtime Xbox figurehead and, up until now, head of Microsoft Studios, has been announced as the Head of Xbox today.
Spencer will now take the reigns of not only the Xbox and Xbox Live divisions of Microsoft, but he’ll oversee Xbox Music and Video as well as his old digs, Microsoft Studios. “Combining these teams will strengthen the connection between some of the world’s most innovative creators and those building the Xbox itself,” wrote Xbox’s new honcho in his open letter, “A New Day at Xbox.”
Most of the letter reaffirms Xbox’s stance to usher in growth and innovation into the console, mobile, and PC markets, while harboring a platform for both microscopic indie developers and gigantic, years-cemented publishing partners.
What instills confidence in me that Phil is the right man for the job came about in this simple, shot-to-the-heart statement: “Games and gamers have always been at the core of Xbox and the core of my work—and gaming will be our core as we take Xbox forward.”
Xbox One in particular was initially criticized for trying to become more of an entertainment hub than a gaming driven experience. The console is young and its path is still being paved, but with people like Spencer in charge who remember what put Xbox on the map to begin with — namely the games and not Netflix, if you can fathom such a dark age — I’m more willing than ever to see where the trail goes.
Best of luck to you, Phil.
The Last of Us is Bound for PS4
I’ll get through the bad news first: The Last of Us 2 ain’t happening anytime soon. Hey, come on. Don’t make that face. We pretty much knew that already.
Here be the good slice of news: A Sony higher-up has stated that the original Last of Us, including its sublime piece of DLC, Left Behind, is heading for the PlayStation 4 in all of its post-apocalyptic, giraffe-petting glory.
The news comes way of an attentive NeoGAF user (but doesn’t all juicy news, though?) who spotted a Mr. Sercan Sulun, PlayStation Eurasia’s Software Market Manager, giving an interview to CNN Turk. Thirty-six minutes in, Sulun fielded a question asking whether or not we’d see The Last of Us 2 (aka The Next to Last of Us) anytime in the near future.
"There is no information about a new The Last of Us game,” said Sulun, “But I can share this knowledge; as of this summer, The Last of Us will be on the PS4. Both on PSN and physically.”
Naughty Dog’s instant classic and the freshly released single-player DLC will be graphically enhanced for the PlayStation 4. It’s currently unknown if the port will take advantage of any PS4 specific features such as the touchpad. Honestly, I could give a shit if they program horse farts through the controller’s speaker; I’m just beyond stoked to see this brilliant masterpiece brought to the next-gen.
Stay tuned for more official news (or the Shakespearean tragedy of an official debunking).
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is Officially Official
Just as leaked promotional art forced Ubisoft’s hand into revealing Black Flag early last year, this week’s unofficial info lowdown on a next-gen exclusive Assassin’s Creed sequel has pushed the publisher to publicly unveil the project.
Say hello to Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Disappointingly, the game does not chronicle the efforts of hood-clad rude boys inciting social and political upheaval — completely dropped the ball there, guys, in my modest opinion — but instead focuses on the ska devoid French Revolution, sending players to late 1700’s Paris.
Unity's concept alone seems to stray from Black Flag's relatively lightened tone, and the somber teaser above only supports that theory. I imagine Unity is a return to the cloak and dagger wetwork and violent but unseen influence series assassins such as Ezio and Conner have made a profession out of.
Though many a fan has hoped the franchise would begin to cover the assassins’ dealings in the Eastern hemisphere of the globe (namely China and Japan), France’s Revolutionary Wars are an exciting, albeit tumultuous and extremely brutal, period in history for Ubi’s team to play with. And, upshot, we’ll probably get to meet Napoleon Bonaparte and gamers the world over will finally get to learn that the sonuvabitch was of an average height.
The aforementioned leak also pointed out that Unity is actually only one half of the Creed equation this year, the other title being an unannounced installment built especially for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Fans will have to wait and see if this current-gen counterpart weaves into the fabric of Unity's narrative…
Leaked Assets Reveal New Assassin’s Creed Set During French Revolution
It’s ‘bout that time of year again, folks. And here I was thinking we might actually slip into April without an Assassin’s Creed leak. Alas, I was wrong and should continue not to gamble.
The above images, and more, were sent in to Kotaku (the giant watermark may have given that away) by an anonymous contact. The leaked materials refer to this installment as Assassin’s Creed: Unity, though the moniker is likely a code-name — Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was called Golden Age throughout development in reference to the game’s pirate theme (i.e. the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’).
Pairing hushed internet discussions and conversations with developers, Kotaku has pieced together a clearer picture of Unity to complement these very early-production screens. Unity takes place, at least partly, in 18th-century Paris, smack dab during the French Revolution. You’ll control a new assassin named Arno whose knack for parkour will be a step above his contemporaries’ thanks to new free-running mechanics.
We’ve caught wind of this rumor before but Kotaku again corroborates that Ubisoft intends on releasing not one, but two separate AC installments in 2014: one designed for current-generation systems and another specifically tailored for next-gen consoles. Unity would fall into the latter category, releasing for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The thought process behind the decision is actually shy of genius; it would mean Unity’s team can fully harness the power of next-gen hardware without the constraints of making sure the game runs on last-gen tech.
From a business standpoint, it appears particularly shrewd to double-up on a proven IP and go after both next-gen adopters looking to pad out their bare-bones libraries as well as the gigantic install base already established on PS3 and Xbox 360. Problem is, franchise fatigue can lay waste to a publisher’s best-laid plans.
I thought Black Flag was brilliant; my favorite sequel since ACII brought on the changes that would cement the series as a prime-time player. Yet I had a helluva time trying to convince my peers it was worth even playing, the malaise of “been there, done that” keeping them from revisiting the historically driven, free-running filled mythos of Assassin’s Creed.
Black Flag proved that Ubisoft understands the formula needs some shaking up to persist, and I’m interested to see if Unity follows suit and introduces a new way to strut around under the hood. We won’t have long to wait for more information, either. Unity and its unrevealed counterpart are said to release this Fall.