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.
Major Improvements to Sharing and Streaming Coming to the PS4
Power to the people! Or, rather, power to the players! Wait, shit, that’s Gamestop’s slogan, isn’t it? They’re gonna be up my ass if I use that and they’ve already sued me the one time… Whatever, moving on. Point is, thanks to the PlayStation Nation’s feedback — as in your feedback — some pretty serious improvements are hitting the PS4’s Share functionality.
Coming soon via a patch, the PlayStation blog reports that a new video editor will be added that’ll let you “personalize your video clips” through use of a simple tool. Better yet, the update allows you to export screenshots and gameplay clips to a USB drive. Just hit share, choose your device, and you’re ready to rock. Hopefully this means we’ll have more avenues to share content than just Facebook.
Those who have been wishing for an alternative to capturing and streaming gameplay than the built-in Twitch/Ustream suite will be pleased as hell to learn that this very same update includes an “HDCP off” option, finally allowing gameplay capture via HDMI. The blog also promises even more unannounced features are being worked into this patch.
Sometime after that patch, Sony is planning yet another system software update that’ll integrate the ability to archive Twitch broadcasts. No more going live and having your sessions disappear into the ether. Additionally, Sony is looking to enhance streaming resolution to 720p. PC-less and capture device, uh, -less, I’m most excited by these upgrades (commence shameless plug: follow The Red Herb on Twitch!).
More info on these updates are said to follow in the weeks to come.
Kojima’s Psyching Himself Up to Visit Silent Hill
In 2012, Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind twenty-five years of Metal Gear, revealed that Konami’s president had called the developer personally with a unique request: He wanted Kojima to create the next Silent Hill game.
Before our collective fan boners could so much as twitch, Kojima said he’d rather supervise than direct, citing an unfamiliarity with the horror genre. While he thought his internally developed FOX Engine would be the perfect candidate to rebuild Silent Hill’s rotted, fog choked foundations upon, he posited that his involvement would end there. Worse, Hideo’s a bit of chicken, apparently.
“Honestly, I’m kind of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies, so I’m not confident I can do it,” he admitted.
But it would seem the notion of visiting Silent Hill hasn’t quite quieted down in his head. During an interview with Geoff “Bonus Round” Keighley in which fans could poke and prod Hideo about anything, the Kojima Productions head was asked if there were a series he would like to reboot or direct himself.
Kojima’s face tightened. His eyes immediately darted to an invisible horizon, staying there; transfixed by the unknowable. After a moment, a pocket eternity perhaps, he spoke. “Silent Hill,” he said, as if saying the words for the very first time. He then rose, put a hand gently on Geoff’s shoulder without looking at him, and left the studio never to be seen or heard from agai— All right, none of that shit went down, but he did say he’d like to reboot Silent Hill. Thought I’d spruce it up.
"Uh, there’s a problem," he actually said. "I’m easily scared of many things."
But Kojima no longer thinks that’s a detriment. In fact, it might his greatest asset if he were to undertake the project.
"A guy that is such a chicken and is so easily scared — making a scary game — I’m very confident something very horrifying would come out from that," he told Keighley. "But on the other hand I would have to prepare myself to have nightmares every single day. Hopefully sometime in the future I’m able to work on this, but I would really need to prepare to have daily nightmares."
Silent Hill: Downpour, the last main installment in the franchise, was released in 2012 under the direction of Vatra Games. Tepid reviews and middling sales have seemingly led Konami to put the franchise on hold until a new strategy is proposed. That strategy seems to be Kojima’s leadership on a revamp. You know what, Konami? I’d be willing to wait for that, too.
[via Rely on Horror]
What’s Next for Titanfall?
Respawn Entertainment’s community manager, Abbie Heppe, dropped some subtle hints to IGN about what players can come to expect, and not expect, from their mech-centric online shooter’s still brewing DLC.
For starters, if you were hoping to clamor aboard any titan models besides the three available on-disc, Abbie’s about to crush your dreams like a mech flattening a pilot. It seems appeasing you mecha fetishists out there — Wikipedia says I should call you technosexuals but that makes you sound like you get off to Moby — could possibly endanger the game’s stability.
“In order to [add a Titan] it takes so much balancing to make all the Titan abilities work with each other, and then against pilots. It’s a huge undertaking,” Heppe divulged. “Originally we just had the Atlas titans and then the team refused to add in the rest of the Titans until we were all sure that that one fitted perfectly with everything else in the game, so… I’m not announcing any new Titans right now!”
Spot-on balancing has been the cornerstone area of praise in almost every positive review Titanfall garnered since dropping from the stratosphere and into stores Tuesday. Not impossible to add new titan units, but not a task the dev team is anxious to jump at this soon after launch.
What we may see instead in future DLC are more of the exotic aliens indigenous to the battlefield IMC and Militia soldiers wage war upon. “We’re trying to give players as much of a varied look at things as we can so that is definitely a possibility,” said Heppe.
Once Titanfall is successfully released in its projected territories, the Respawn team will shift focus to free updates that’ll pad the game with additional features and modes. Downloadable content, the marquee of which is brand new maps, will follow.
Afterwards, what of sequels? Will Sony consoles see the first-person grace of Titanfall? IGN asked and Heppe “answered.”
"Vince, our CEO, has come out and said that while we’re exclusive for this game, it doesn’t limit us regarding console exclusivity for any of the future things we do.”
What a very exciting future that could be indeed. In the meanwhile, excuse me while throttle my PS4 until it learns to read X1 discs.