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EA Outlines Anti-Racism/Bigotry Steps In EA Sports Titles

Electronic Arts has sent out statements outlining some of the changes it is making to combat racist and other offensive speech in its EA Sports games, and the NHL series in particular.

Racist, homophobic, sexist, and other toxic speech is not specific to Electronic Arts games by any means, but it has been a problem for EA Sports' NHL series in particular for several years. EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL) online hockey, with its customizable team and player names, is a place where racist and offensive speech has thrived. 

In conjunction with other efforts outlined recently, EA Sports has listed out some measures it is taking now and in the future to combat this toxicity, including adding more in-game reporting tools and general resources for its teams to address the problem.

Afterwords, the EA Sports NHL twitter account sent out its own message, specific to the game. Although it appears that some of the plans are duplications of the more general EA Sports message, the NHL team in particular mentions delivering harsher penalties for offensive content. 

Some of these actions have different implementation timelines for different games, but hopefully all of these communities can benefit from these actions as soon as possible.

For more on combating toxicity in online titles, be sure to check out Kim's excellent feature on the topic.

[Source: Electronic Arts (1), (2)]

Electronic Arts Postpones EA Play Event By A Week

EA Play logo

Electronic Arts has postponed this year's EA Play games showcase (normally timed around the E3 event) by a week after the recent events surrounding the killing of George Floyd. The event – originally planned for June 11 – will now occur one week later on June 18.

Although the notice (below) doesn't specifically mention Black Lives Matter, the company says it's pausing in order to let important conversations and voices be heard.

Earlier this week, Sony also postponed its planned PlayStation 5 presentation.

[Source: Electronic Arts]

Top Of The Table – Counter Attack

One of my favorite things about the board gaming hobby is the way games explore such a wide array of concepts, themes, and genres. The constraint of abstraction that is necessary to reduce a situation into something that can be clearly articulated on the table breeds a fascinating array of results. For longtime tabletop enthusiasts, much of the joy of a new game is discovering the way the designers and artists have crafted something that "feels" like the concept or activity the game presents, whether that idea is Lovecraftian monsters or bird-watching

This week, we're looking at a sphere of board gaming that rarely gets attention – the sports board game. In this case, the game at hand is Counter Attack, a wonderful project that captures much of the excitement and tactical thrill of soccer. And to offer the thoughtful perspective on the game that it deserves, my colleague Matthew Kato stepped in to check out the game, and offer his take as a guest columnist. He's had many years of experience with an array of sports video games, and because we're played board games together as well, I knew he'd have something meaningful to share about exploring this meeting point between sports and tabletop fun. 

Here's what Matthew Kato had to say about Counter Attack.


In soccer video games like Football Manager, the A.I.’s execution of your tactics can make you feel like a helpless bystander. You’re never really sure if your instructions are being carried out correctly by the CPU. Counter Attack, a Kickstarted project by Colin Webster and Rachel Codd, is a two-player soccer strategy board game that puts you in control of your team’s tactics, letting you faithfully execute your plans while still highlighting the individual prowess of a star striker making an improbable strike for a glory-filled goal.

Gameplay is hex-based, with players’ movements, shots, pass lengths, and other actions governed by hex distances. How many hexes a player can move is defined by their pace attribute, but shots and passes, for instance, are calculated by a handy custom ruler called the Distance Stick, which lets you accurately determine the path and distance of the ball. From here you can see if the ball might be intercepted, whether it’s a clear shot on goal, and more.

One-on-one situations are resolved by each player rolling a single die and adding their appropriate skill values to the role. Whomever is higher wins that situation. So, a corner kick into the box might come down to the keeper’s aerial skill versus the header skill of his opponent. There are modifiers on top of this, such as for injuries or rolls of a 1 automatically resulting in shots on goal missing completely, for example, but it’s all easy to figure out. Refs can even impact a game since each of the four refs included has a different level of leniency in how they book players for fouls.

The Distance Stick in action

The straightforward nature of the gameplay leaves room for the complexity of your own tactics. If you want to dynamically change your team’s shape during play you can do that. If you want to emulate a particular formation or tactic – whether they are focused on ball possession, movements of specific players, counter-attacking, launching long balls into the channels, etc., you can do that, too.

Key to turning your ideas into wins is seeing the pitch in its entirety, thinking in advance of the possibilities for your players as well as those of your opponent. Taking actions isn’t based on back-and-forth turns. Instead, whomever possesses the ball performs a specified range of actions until they lose the ball. For example, If you perform a standard pass, your next action can only be to move your players, perform a riskier first-time pass, or take a quick snapshot on goal.

While you’re performing these actions your opponent can also move and react to what you’re doing, so player positioning and matchups are always changing, giving you new things to consider. Keep an eye on the defensive compactness of your players so gaps can’t be exploited. Understand where open space is so you can use it. Make sure your players support each other so your player with the ball has options. All regular soccer tactics stuff. I once made a one-hex miscalculation with my defender that allowed a high pass to be played into space behind him to a pacey striker. Just like real life, in a flash I was down a goal.

Although the action on the board is very fluid, the pace of play itself is slower and deliberate as players consider all their options. The game includes sand timers you can use to limit the amount of time spent on each decision, and I think it’ll take players a little while to become comfortable enough with the game and their decisions before fitting into the stated 90-minute runtime – the length of a normal football match.

Another tactical layer is knowing the attributes of your own players as well as those of your opponent so you know what they’re capable of and how they can be utilized and exploited. At the beginning of the game, teams are constructed semi-randomly, and the player cards in the box are a mix of different fictional names and nationalities, so you can bond with your squad. The players on the pitch are represented by wooden markers screenprinted in team colors with numbers, and additional markers approximating real-world league and international sides can be purchased through the game’s website (which also has an FAQ and more).

Overall, the game's materials are well made. The hard, fold-out board is large enough you can place your player cards along its border, and the set comes with two teams, the sand timers, a rules manual, quick-play reminder cards, dice, various gameplay markers, two Distance Sticks, and a box for the player cards.

Apart from possibly ordering new makers representing your favorite team, one of Counter Attack’s great customization options is how its simple framework allows for custom user modifications. You can easily create your own players, setup a league structure, and add and modify rules as you see fit. The game is for two players, but it can be played online or even solo.

Counter Attack is hex-based and strategic, but it’s also incredibly fluid like real football. It challenges you to think both short- and longterm as you try to get individual players – with their own strengths and weaknesses – to effectively play in your tactical framework against an opponent simultaneously executing their own strategies. Now you can be a manager and not just be relegated to standing on the touchline gesturing frantically and yelling at your players in vain.


A big thank you to Matthew Kato for stepping up to bring his sports expertise to this week's column. 

If soccer isn't what you're looking for out of your next board game night, worry not. We've got a wealth of additional recommendations available over at the Top of the Table hub, which you can reach from the banner below. And as always, if you'd like a personal recommendation for your next board, card, miniature, or role-playing game, drop me a line and I'll be happy to offer up some ideas. 

A Console Version Of Valorant Is Being Prototyped

First-person tactical shooter Valorant just came out of beta, with a new character, mode, and map. In an interview with GameSpot, Riot Games said that a console Valorant is being prototyped.

Valorant plays a lot like Valve's Counter-Strike, with a focus on team communication, round-to-round economy, obstructing sight, and using information to make big plays.

Valorant also adds "hero shooter" abilities to the mix, leading to serious potential to set up game altering scenarios by bringing someone back to life or area-denying with poison.

A game mode that was added on launch, Spike Rush, allows for quick rounds, random guns, big powerups and fast games to go along with the marathon sessions that the standard game type fosters. But there's a big question for the PC-centric title right now - is it ever going to come to console?

Click here to watch embedded media

Riot followed up the prototype statement with a caveat that the game may not translate to console play. 

"We are definitely prototyping that right now," Donlon told GameSpot. "But there's a way to play this game and there's a way to experience this game that we're not entirely sure translates completely to console play."

You can check out the entire interview and more details over at GameSpot. 

For more on Valorant, take a peek at some of our beta impressions here and here, and stick around in the coming days for a full review.

Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox One X Bundle Includes First DLC

Microsoft unveiled its Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox One X bundle a few months back, which included a custom Xbox One X console, a Cyberpunk-themed controller, a digital copy of Cyberpunk 2077. Adding to that haul, the bundle now also comes with a code for the first batch of Cyberpunk 2077 DLC. CD Projekt Red's follow-up content for its Witcher series has been top-notch, so this could be a really good deal. 

Microsoft says that only 45,000 of these consoles will be manufactured, so this is a limited edition. Of course, copies of the game itself will be more plentiful when it releases on September 17. The bundle is available for pre-purchase now, so happy console buying!

Cook Your Heart Out In A Whimsical Adventure Called Epic Chef

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Publisher: Team17
Developer: Infinigon Games
Platform: PC

Infinigon Games and Team17 recently revealed Epic Chef, a hybrid life-sim/cooking/adventure game, in which you take a budding cook on a quest to become the best they can be. The accompanying trailer shows off the whimsical PC game in action, and it's as bizarre looking as the genre mashup sounds.

You play as Zest, who is a recent arrival to Ambrosia. You'll need to cultivate crops, master new flavor profiles, and take out rivals in high-stakes, one-on-one cooking battles. 

Epic Chef is coming to Steam later this year.

Obscure Maxis Game SimRefinery Now Playable

Well, this is a weird one. A while ago, game historian Phil Salvador wrote an in-depth history about Maxis Business Simulations, a Maxis offshoot designed to apply gameplay concepts to real-world applications. One of the story's focal points is a game prototype developed in collaboration with Chevron in 1992 called SimRefinery. It was never completed, and was presumed lost. Fortunately for all of us, that's not where the story ends.

Ars Technica posted about the piece, and one of its readers happened to be friends with a retired chemical engineer. Long story short, that person had a copy of the mysterious game on a 3.5" floppy disk. Better still, it worked. And, even better than that, they've decided to upload the game to the Internet Archive. 

Keep in mind that this program was designed for chemical engineers and plant workers, and that it's incomplete. Don't think that you'll be able to learn how to run a plant yourself, either. Its intent wasn't to show the mechanics of how plants operate, but instead to show how various parts of a plant are connected and can affect one another.

Even if you aren't interested in playing the game, check out Salvador's piece that set this whole thing into motion. And Ars Technica breaks down the entire saga of how the game was shared here.

World of Warcraft Reveals Ardenweald

We're all expecting World of Warcraft: Shadowlands to arrive sometime this year, and possibly sooner rather than later. Blizzard has decided to give players a taste of what's to come in the Azerothian afterlife by revealing some details from one of the 4 major zones players will be leveling up and exploring in as they make their way to level 60.

At cap, players determine a Shadowlands faction to side up with. Selecting a faction gives you access to a special covenant hall, mount, transmog armor abilities, and much much more - your covenant identity plays a huge role in Shadowlands at both the functional and flavor levels. Right now, they're giving us an early peek at Ardenweald, the realm of the Night Fae. If you're into druids and the Emerald Dream, spirit animals, and all that kind of thing with a touch of winter instead of summer, this is going to be the covenant for you.

Like the other major afterlife zones, Ardenweald comes with its own special inhabitants and environments that set it apart. You can get a full rundown of all the curious creatures you can meet on the World of Warcraft site here.

We don't have a release date for Shadowlands just yet, but I expect an announcement can't be that far off. Until then, check out our tour of another zone coming to Shadowlands - Revendreth!

The Outer Worlds Is Rough On Switch

Click here to watch embedded media

The Outer Worlds is wonderful. The RPG from developer Obsidian Entertainment and publisher Private Division was one of the best and most talked about games when it launched on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in 2019. The companies partnered with the studio Virtuos to create a Switch port, which releases tomorrow, June 5. However, if you were waiting for the Switch version to check out The Outer Worlds, you may want to reconsider.

As you can see from the comparison video above, The Outer Worlds is not at its best on Switch, since the visuals and performance take a serious hit on the system. The textures, framerate, lighting, and more have been downgraded to run on the hardware. 

None of this is exactly surprising. At the same time, playing on Switch is better than not playing at all. The Outer Worlds still has great writing, interesting choices, and a delightfully twisted sense of humor. If you have no choice apart from Switch, then this port is worth playing. But if any other options are open to you, explore those instead.

The Kingdoms Of Amalur Re-Reckoning Comes

Update: THQ has confirmed the not-so-subtle rumors, adding that the game will also include all of the released DLC.

[Source: THQ Nordic]

Original Story:

Listings for Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning have been discovered on the official Microsoft store (and is still up as of the time of this writing) and Amazon, unofficially revealing a remastered edition for 38 Studios' cult title.

THQ acquired the rights to the game developed by former-MLB pitcher Curt Schilling's development studio in 2018. Despite picking up the property, at the time original publisher Electronic Arts still had the actual publishing rights, possibly preventing the release of a remaster.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning comes out on August 18 according to the Microsoft store Xbox One listing as well as Amazon, which also shows versions for PS4 and PC.

THQ has yet to officially announce the title, but its twitter did have this to say:

For more on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, check out this episode of Replay featuring the title.

[Source: Xbox.com via Wario64 on Twitter]

Project Cars 3 Expands The Scope Of The Series

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Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Release: Summer
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Flexibility has always been one of the important tenets of the Project Cars franchise. At first, it was nice just to have a series that gave you customization features like a bespoke HUD and weather progression, along with its various cars and racing series. But in the 2017 sequel and the upcoming third title, developer Slightly Mad Studios is not only layering on additions, but doing so in the spirit of the franchise.

Project Cars’ career mode has never been its strong suit, and Project Cars 2 only nudged this aspect of the game forward slightly. For this new title, the career mode has received a big boost thanks to the inclusion of in-game credits (there are no microtransactions) that can be spent on car upgrades. Whether you want to own a fleet of cars or stick with a few favorites, they can be upgraded through the different tiers of racing performance so you don’t have to leave them behind as you climb up the game’s curated ladder of events through 10 car classes.

Experience points and credits are won by completing various race objectives, and these are thankfully not restricted to just grabbing a podium finish. Hitting a certain speed, overtaking a minimum number of vehicles, and good driving confer rewards that move your career forward. Credits can also be used to unlock future events if you just want a change of pace from the current series you’re racing in. Best of all, what you do in other areas of the game earns you XP and credits for your career – a welcome design decision in keeping with the series’ spirit that doesn’t cordon off the game’s various modes.

Even if you’re not the world’s most dangerous racer, Project Cars 3’s online multiplayer has incentives for you to try it out – even if it’s only for XP and credits. The new Rivals MP mode joins the Quick Race (with multiple levels of matchmaking) and Scheduled Events online options to deliver daily, weekly, and monthly challenges. These are asynchronous, so you’re not necessarily racing directly against others, but you are still pushing yourself to perform so you can earn better rewards. It’s the kind of single-player online feature that titles like Madden and FIFA have included.

As good as Project Cars 3 is sounding on paper, we haven’t gotten our hands on the title to see what the cars feel like. I wasn’t completely satisfied with different cars’ handling in the last game, but Slightly Mad says it’s been working on this aspect of the title, and in particular to make racing with a controller a better experience. Shoring up this and other gameplay areas such as smarter and more consistent driving by A.I. cars are important factors in judging exactly how far this series has come.

Destiny 2 Teases Next Steps

Bungie has been very quiet about the newest season of Destiny 2, scheduled to begin next week. Previous seasons have had clear names discussed weeks or months in advance, but this summer’s season has consistently been titled Season of the [Redacted]. In addition, the developers have been gradually teasing a number of separate story threads for some time, including the impending arrival of the pyramid ships hinted at in earlier installments of the game, the Drifter’s complicated allegiances, and the current threat of a giant Cabal ship hurtling toward humanity’s last city.

While we don’t know yet if all those (and other) threads are finally coming to a head, we do now know that Bungie plans to hold back announcements until the very day of the new season. Season of the [REDACTED] is scheduled to launch on June 9, and a new teaser, first surfacing on the game’s official Twitter, suggests that the future of Destiny 2 will be revealed on the morning of June 9, at 9am Pacific.

Check out the brief trailer on Destiny's official Twitter feed, which seems to show the Drifter piloting toward a particularly icy moon.

Pressing Pause

In the name of letting more important voices be heard, Game Informer is choosing to let much of our regular video and podcast content fall silent for the time being. Thank you for understanding. 

#BlackLivesMatter

Check Out The Last of Us Part II Extended Commercial Trailer

June 19th and the release of The Last of Us Part II isn't too far away now.

Until then, you can check out the extended cut commercial trailer below - and our massive preview from two hours of gameplay. We also have a sprawling interview with creative director Neil Druckmann!

Click here to watch embedded media

 

Sega Releasing Game Gear Micro In Japan

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Sega is releasing four Game Gear Micro retro handhelds in Japan on October 6.

Each handheld comes in its own color and contains four built-in games from the original handheld running via emulation. Each Micro retails for 4.980 yen (approximately $46). A Collection package featuring all four handhelds and other items will also be available for 27,255 yen (~$250).

Sega Game Gear Micro Colors/Games

Black: Sonic the Hedgehog, Puyo Puyo 2, OutRun, Royal Stone

Yellow: Shining Force Gaiden, Shining Force Gaiden 2, Shining Force Final Conflict, Nazo Puyo: Aruru no Ru

Blue: Sonic & Tails, Gunstar Heroes, Sylvan Tale, Baku Baku Animal

Red: Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible, Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible Special, The GG Shinobi, Columns

The Micro's screen is only 1.15 inches diagonally, and if that's too small for you, the Big Window magnifier accessory is available if you pre-order all four Micros.

The Game Gear Micro has not been announced for release outside of Japan.

Golf With Your Friends Review – Shoot Your Shot

Publisher: Team17
Developer: Blacklight Interactive
Release: (PC), (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch)
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

I’m on the 11th hole and the pressure is on. Getting a par here is going to take good judgment, skill, and a little luck. Besides the normal golf stuff, gravity-bending black holes also stand between me and the cup, but I just have to take them in stride; I know I can do it. Golf With Your Friends is an enjoyable minigolf adventure because it balances the absurd, the expected, and the unknown.

Combining a ball, a putter, angles, obstacles, and physics isn’t what makes this game stand out. What does is that on any given hole I was rewarded for my patience, planning (look around for different paths), and skill nailing the power gauge, but could also be surprised, both pleasantly and unpleasantly. However, I usually came away feeling that I could do it with more practice at the hole. The fine aim function gives you minute control when you need it, the underlying ball physics are reliable (both in how the ball bounces and the importance of angles), and holes’ pars are mostly realistic. Of course, it wouldn’t be minigolf if you could easily chart your way past every axe-wielding ghost, Indiana Jones boulder, pachinko-style tumbler; sometimes you just have to hit the ball and suffer the consequences, good or bad. 

Click here to watch embedded media

Golf With Your Friends

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC Release Date: January 29, 2016 (PC), May 19, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch) Purchase

The game can work against the carefree feeling of blasting into the unknown, especially when holes’ level designs are predominately reliant on luck. Sometimes you have to rely on chance straight away with your first shot. Other times even when you know what you have to do, and you select the right power and path for your ball, your chances at par are still down to luck.

The PC version of the game includes a course editor and user creations, which are absent from the home consoles. However, the default 11 courses offer plenty of challenges, and if corkscrew ramps, tilting floors, and jetpacks of the levels aren’t enough, Golf With Your Friends adds extra spice with optional power ups (some help you, others hurt your opponents), mode variants (such as hockey with a moving goal/goalie over the hole), odd-shaped balls, and even alterations like sliders for gravity that can be mixed and matched for custom online or offline sessions. 

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Some of the variables are fun additions to a regular round, and they help spice up a game that doesn’t otherwise have a career mode/progression arc. Customization objects are awarded randomly based on a timer.  In the end, however, I was more interested in the aids such as being able to add  ball spin or more time to how much you can use the freecam to scout out holes. Things like changing the ball shape are fun when it’s against your friends in multiplayer, but are overpowered because they render shooting straight useless.

Golf With Your Friends captures the spirit of minigolf – you’re going to have some laughs, frustrations, and at the end of the day, not take it all too seriously.

Score: 7.5

Summary: The ball might not always go exactly where you want it to, but it’s a fun time getting there.

Concept: Combine inventive and challenge minigolf courses with a hearty selection of custom modifiers

Graphics: Golf With Your Friends is colorful, but the whole package looks pretty basic

Sound: Each level’s looping soundtrack is simultaneously forgettable and catchy, which is to say it’s perfect for a minigolf game

Playability: The camera can get frustratingly locked close to the ball when it’s pinned against rails

Entertainment: The ball might not always go exactly where you want it to, but it’s a fun time getting there

Replay: Moderate

Click to Purchase

Check Out Path of Exile's Upcoming Expansion - Harvest

Coming this month on June 19, Path of Exile's latest expansion is all about growth. Literally! Players can build up gardens that grow monsters, and then harvest them for all kinds of powerful loot.

Like other leagues, players find the critical league mechanic to interact with the instanced garden in each area and/or map, seed caches that allow them to travel to their own Sacred Grove, complete with pipes that route color-coded energy to plants. Check out the trailer below for a solid high-level look at what's coming.

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Players have plenty of seeds to pick from, both big and small, common and rare, and can handcraft deadly monsters by selecting the right seeds. Seeds grow over time, and as you visit your garden from area to area, you can watch your little buds turn into potential loot caches - but be careful, these blooms bite back!

After harvesting your plants, they turn into monsters. If you're interesting in careful, safe farming, low-tier seeds can provide you with a steady influx of loot. However, you can take on much bigger, rare seeds and plants for shots at incredible loot (with a much higher chance of death!). The Grove also lets you craft items to your specifications, which will allow players a ton of flexible customization that can be hard to achieve without tons of farming or trading in other leagues.

Along with the big new league mechanic, Harvest includes some revamps and special skills for 2-handed weapon users that help bring the weapon class in line with the power level of others. There are new skills and 12 new uniques to discover, along with large retooling of older uniques, making them more useful and desirable for play.

Harvest launches on PC June 19, hitting Xbox One and PlayStation 4 the week of June 22.

Pokémon Sword & Shield The Isle Of Armor Expansion Hits June 17

Pokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass

When the Pokémon Sword Expansion Pass and Pokémon Shield Expansion Pass were revealed earlier this year, Game Freak promised to inject two story-based adventures in new areas of the Pokémon world, as well as new and returning Pokémon, into Sword & Shield. While we haven't received much news since, today, we got a new trailer that gives us a refreshed look at the two expansions that are due this year. 

The Isle of Armor sees you venturing to an island to study at a prestigious Pokémon trainer school under the apprenticeship of former Galar-region champion Mustard. The Crown Tundra casts your trainer in the role of expedition leader as you venture through the snowy landscape and delve deep into a Pokémon Dens to battle myriad Legendary Pokémon from past games, including Galarian forms of the Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres. 

In addition to seeing several returning Pokémon roaming the green pastures and desert expanses of the Isle of Armor, we also got a look at Galarian Slowbro and many of the new characters we'll be encountering, including Klara, Avery, and Mustard. The trailer below also gives us glimpses of Gigantamax Venusaur and Blastoise, as well as new Legendary Pokémon like Kubfu (and its evolved Urshifu forms) and Calyrex.

Check out the new trailer for the Pokémon Sword & Shield expansions below.

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Pokémon Sword & Shield: The Isle of Armor is set to release on June 17, while Pokémon Sword & Shield: The Crown Tundra is scheduled for a fall launch. For more on these two expansions, check out an in-depth preview from earlier this year. For more on Pokémon Sword & Shield, head to our review.

[Source: The Official Pokémon YouTube Channel]

Total War Saga: Troy Will Be Free On The Day Of Its Release

Creative Assembly's Total War strategy series is almost always consistently good. However, there have been so many Total War games over the years that it is hard to know where to start. How about with this year's Total War Saga: Troy, which lets players assume the roles of Achilles, Hector, and many other legendary heroes from the Greek Trojan War. 

When Troy releases exclusively on the Epic Games Store on August 13, it will be free for the first 24 hours, so you have one less excuse to give this prolific series a shot. Mark your calendars now. 

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Our Support For The Family Of George Floyd, Our City, And Nation

As a Twin Cities company, Game Informer is devastated by the events of the last week. We are reeling from the gruesome and unjust death of George Floyd. We offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of George Floyd, and support to the countless other members of the Black community around the country whose pain and loss goes undocumented or unresolved.  

Gaming can often act as an escape from the troubles of real life, but for many families, there is no escape from persecution, harassment, and the threat of death. Systemic racism has no place in gaming or in our society.

#BlackLivesMatter

Sony Postpones PlayStation 5 Presentation

Sony has decided to postpone its PlayStation 5 showcase indefinitely after the recent events in the killing of George Floyd.

The showcase was originally planned for this Thursday, June 4, and was expected to feature a number of PlayStation 5 games and perhaps even more info on the holiday system's pricing.

[Source: Sony]

Pokémon Trading Card Game Announces Battle Academy Board Game

The Pokémon Company has announced the first-ever board game adaptation of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Pokémon Trading Card Game Battle Academy delivers a modified version of the TCG in the form of an easy-to-learn, 30-minute board game meant for two players. 

When you pick up the Battle Academy box, you receive the two-player board game, three 60-card decks, tutorial guides, and various gameplay accessories. The cards and accessories included in the Pokémon Trading Card Battle Academy box are fully compatible with the standard Pokémon Trading Card products.

The set also includes digital codes for the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online on PC, iOS, and Android.

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The Pokémon Trading Card Game Battle Academy board game releases June 21 exclusively at Target in the US, with a worldwide release set for July 31. 

The Last Of Us Part II Interview – Adding Depth, Staying Grounded, And The Cost Of Revenge

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release:
Platform: PlayStation 4

The Last of Us Part II is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a mutated fungus has turned most of humanity into creatures called Infected. That premise may sound like familiar zombie fiction, but anyone who played the original can tell you that developer Naughty Dog has elevated the world of The Last of Us beyond easy genre classification. The story of Joel and Ellie was emotionally complex and raised ethical questions with no easy answers , and that doesn't appear to be changing for The Last of Us Part II. In advance of the sequel's impending June 19 release, we talked to creative director Neil Druckmann about how Ellie is evolving, being grounded versus realistic, and creating a believable world for players to explore. 

Click here to watch embedded media

GI: One of the earliest details about the story you revealed was that Ellie is on a quest for revenge. What do you see as the most fertile ground to explore within the themes of a revenge story?

Druckmann: When we started work on the game, there was an excitement to make Ellie the protagonist and to explore her character further – in the same way that I’m sure the people who worked on Breaking Bad were excited to explore Walter White for many years. We started with this girl who was so innocent in the first game, and we know this world is one that makes you make choices. As a survivor, you lose some of that innocence, shed it, evolve, and change. To take that further was exciting.

We played with ideas that were interesting from a plot standpoint, but never quite captured that emotional pull that we thought made that first game special. So then it was like, “Do we want to go back to this world if we don’t have that emotional pull?” We were starting to really debate that until we landed on this idea that felt like, “Oh my god, that’s almost like a mirror image. A mirror theme of what we had in the first game.” The first game was so much about love – can we, through the experience of a video game, get you to start with these two character who don’t quite like each other, and by the end of it, you get to feel the unconditional love that a parent feels for their child? And you understand how far that love can go, both in its beautiful aspects, and its very dark and almost insane aspects. So you understand why Joel does what he does.

In [The Last of Us Part II], it’s almost a similar question. How far would you go for love? Except the setup now is that the person you love has been hurt badly, and how far are you willing to go to bring the people responsible to justice? The motivation is still love. And when you look around the world, it’s stuck in this cycle of violence because the people they care about got hurt. And what do they do to the other side? How do they dehumanize then? How do they attack them? That all felt like fertile ground that raises the interesting philosophical questions that we had with the first game. It was like, “There’s the core. That’s the thing we’ve been missing. Now we can hang the whole story around this core idea.”

Revenge stories usually follow a formula – an inciting event, followed by going down the checklist of people along the way, and then a final confrontation. Do you think the established formula makes it harder or easier to surprise players?

You’re kind of describing genre, and almost every genre has already been told. Every kind of story has been told. When people say, “I’m telling a genre story,” that genre has been told a lot. There are certain tropes to it, and I think as a writer, it’s important to have an author’s knowledge of that genre – of all the different things that can exist in that genre. Sometimes, a revenge story can be a power fantasy, and you see the people who wrong the protagonist at the beginning of the game or movie or book, and it’s about the thrill of bringing those people to justice. The certain satisfaction, the cathartic release that happens.

And then there are ones – with maybe a more nuanced approach – that say, “There’s a cost to this. When you go and hurt someone else, even if you’re in the right, it takes something away from you.” There’s a primitive part of our brain that wants to tip into that, but whether through society or evolution, we suppress it so we can live normal lives. I think if you give into that, sometimes it changes you irreparably … and then to make a character-driven experience where every mechanic that we’re building puts you the shoes of Ellie and you feel the evolution of that character as she becomes more lethal, but also as she’s losing more of her innocence, it begins to affect not only her, but the people around her.

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From a storytelling perspective, how often do you struggle with what needs to happen in service to the story, versus what you want to happen? Like, do you ever just want to give Ellie or Joel a break?

I think that wouldn’t be The Last of Us if people just got a break. That’s not what the story really explores. It explores the beauty of relationships, and the horror of relationships. It deals with the bonds that get formed, and relationships that fall apart, whether that’s through injury, death, or people just growing apart. Those are kind of what’s ripe for exploration with The Last of Us. But how do you explore all those facets and philosophical questions? I think what made the first game successful was that it presents ideas, and the characters have strong feelings about those ideas – or dilemmas – but the story doesn’t. The story doesn’t judge; it doesn’t say Joel was right or wrong.  Joel feels righteous. I’m sure the Fireflies feel like he wasn’t.

Likewise in this game, Ellie feels righteous, but I’m sure the people she’s doing this stuff to don’t agree. So much of the story is about empathy and trauma. And sometimes feelings that are unique to video games, like guilt and shame – can we make you experience those things through the actions you are taking part in? You are complicit in what’s going on in the story when you’re taking part in it. And that became exciting, like, “How far can we push those ideas?” Can we push the wall of the kind of story we tell at Naughty Dog, but even as an industry? If we can pull it off, it will feel like something I have never experienced in a story, and especially in a video game. It could be something really special.

You’re telling a story, but you’re also making a game that people play. That means players might see a disturbing and brutal cinematic one minute, and the next they’re scrolling through skill trees spending medical supplements to buy skills. How do you approach that tension between game elements and story elements?

That’s where it’s important early on to establish: What is the vision for this thing? We knew we wanted to put you in the shoes of Ellie and take you on this really long journey where each death has weight and consequence … Exploration has meaning to it … And then one of the things with The Last of Us more than other games we’ve done is that it needs to be grounded – despite there being Infected and the state of the world. How can we make you feel like a character is like someone you know? That doesn’t always mean realism, one-to-one. Like, you’re describing mechanics that don’t exist in the real world – crafting things, leveling up and improving attributes. But what those systems do is they make you feel the growth of Ellie as a capable killer, which speaks to the story. Sometimes you’ll give up realism for the sake of getting a certain feeling. Something I’ve discussed in the past is: With Ellie’s size, it’s not realistic that she could take on as many people as she does. We want every encounter to feel engaging, and make the enemies feel smart – but the reason we have the numbers we do is because it creates a certain feeling of survival and tension. If we were to lower the numbers, you wouldn’t get the same feeling. So we’re sacrificing some realism for authenticity of feeling.

So, once you define those constraints – I have the privilege of working with some of the most talented people in the industry, and they are constantly coming up with great ideas. Often, we have more ideas than we can fit in a game; you have five people coming up with five ideas that are all great on their own. Sometimes you might not go with the greatest idea – you need to go with the idea that’s most appropriate for the game. So once the vision is well-defined, people can go off on their own and come with ideas they think is appropriate for the game. And that’s kind of the beauty of video games – it’s such a collaborative medium, it becomes greater than any one person’s contribution. And we’re all working with the same goal of achieving a particular feeling.

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The places players explore, like shops and restaurants, are incredibly detailed and unique. Can you walk me through the process of creating an area?

We first come up with the structure of the game, the core story idea. And then we start putting notecards up on the wall representing each section or level – whatever term you want to use. Then we break down what is happening narratively in the scene. How is the character changing? Every part needs to evolve and take us toward the end – no part should just exist because it’s cool. We want cool ideas! But they have to work toward what we’re trying to move forward. If they’re just cool for the sake of being cool, that’s the first card that gets tossed.

For example, when you first reach Seattle, we want Ellie to feel a little frustrated, a little lost. We do that by – based on stuff we did with Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy that let us play with a much bigger level size than we have in the past – we create a really large space. We put you in downtown Seattle. You don’t know where to go. The character doesn’t know where to go. We want you to feel lost and start moving around. Again, authenticity is what’s going to help immerse you. If you’re moving through a space that doesn’t look good, that doesn’t look believable, it’s going to pull you out of the experience.

The art team traveled many times to Seattle to study architecture, the materials, the vegetation that grows in that part of the country. That kind of detail is going to immerse you in the world. Likewise, our tech team has to find a way to optimize it on the PS4, because again, if the level of detail drops because the area is big, that takes you out of the experience. Everything is in service to put in you that place, evoke a certain emotion, and put you on a journey with Ellie.

You’ve previously mentioned the Last of Us Part II broadening its narrative focus beyond Joel and Ellie. When you look at The Last of Us as a property or franchise, how much do you see it as the focused story of particular characters, and how much is about the world they inhabit?

Yes. [Laughs] Meaning, when we finish a game, our process is to look at every idea on the table. It might be an idea for a sequel [to that game]. It might be an idea for a sequel to an old franchise we haven’t touched in a while. It might be ideas for new IP. Everything gets explored, and we exhaust all of the ideas, because you’re going to go on this journey for many, many years. You want to make sure you pick something you’re really excited by, because four years into it, you’d better be as excited as you were at the beginning. Otherwise, if it’s something you’re ho-hum about, players are going to feel that. They’re going to feel your lack of excitement.

So, for The Last of Us Part II, it was exciting to come back to Ellie and explore more facets, more dimension to this character. Other ideas that didn’t have Ellie and Joel became less interesting – building characters from scratch or going to another part of the world. We talked about them. They just weren’t as exciting … But there were a lot of questions early on, like, “What is The Last of Us? Is it Joel and Ellie? Is it a particular set of themes?”

We knew we wanted to continue the journey of Joel and Ellie pretty early on, and then you need themes with an emotional core to ask philosophical questions – that became another pillar. The other thing we said was that we want to explore factions and how different people survive. Now we’re 25 years after the outbreak – what are they doing to form societies? And how do those societies speak to the high-level theme? Here we’re dealing with a cycle of violence, which is why we’ve crafted the WLF and Seraphites – groups that are locked in this everlasting conflict trying to reclaim Seattle … Everything has to speak to these high-level themes. And there’s just the Naughty Dog value: We want to challenge ourselves. We want to tell stories that we’ve never told before. We want to push the boundaries of the technology. We want to figure out pipelines of how to build games more efficiently. And – this shouldn’t be controversial, but it is – we want to have a diverse cast of characters that reflects the world we live in and helps us tell more unique, interesting stories. Those are things we value that come back into the game as well.

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The original Last of Us enjoyed pretty widespread acclaim, but it wasn’t without criticism. Was there a particular piece of feedback from the first game you wanted to be sure to address for the sequel?

Pallets and ladders. We knew even when we were working on the [first] game that we wanted a wider breadth of mechanics, and we wanted those mechanics to go deeper. That’s one of the challenges we set for ourselves for this game. The challenge there is that The Last of Us isn’t a sci-fi world where you can have a gravity gun or grappling hook or something that is easily marketable, like, “Here is the brand-new feature.” So it’s really the sum of the parts.

Going prone might seem simple on paper, but with the fidelity we have, how intricate the layouts and art are, and with all the mechanics Ellie can do while prone, it’s a hugely complicated system to look as good as it does and be as effective as it is. Likewise, adding grass that looks good, as well as the effect it has – you’re also not completely hidden, so it’s the idea of analogue stealth –  creates a level of tension that would be different if it was black or white, hidden or not. Which again, is a complicated system. Redoing our A.I. where they have vision and hearing. Every person has a name, every person has a heartbeat that is being tracked, which affects their audio cues – they might breathe harder or shout more. They have an emotional state that can change if you kill their friend next to them. Again, it’s a lot of small – “small” – things that, when you play it, hopefully you’re feeling much greater tension. Because Ellie can jump, climb, and we have better physics, the puzzles become more interesting. The exploration becomes more interesting. All of that, again, is done in service to putting you in the world, giving you more variety, and giving you more depth of mechanics.

You mentioned marketable features. Let’s say we lived in a world where it wasn’t necessary to have things like trailers and gameplay demos prior to release. Would you prefer to just set a date and launch the game, or is it fun to build the mystery?

I’m trying to imagine a reality where you don’t have to market your game. [Laughs] I think I have a pretty good imagination, but that’s a really hard one. I think there’s something that is exciting, especially when you work on something for so long and you have to be secretive, about moments where you’re like, “Okay, we’re going to show some of the game.” There’s something different about internal deadlines and external ones. External deadlines, you know the public is going to see it, and this pressure starts building. All of sudden, you’re making all these calls; you might have been doing all this exploration, and it helps you just lock some of the game down.

When people react positively, with conversations and excitement around it, you can just feel that energy on the team. You walk around and you can feel it from people, “We’re doing the right thing. This thing that has been super-challenging that we might have had doubts about, it feels like it’s clicking and starting to work.” Those are things that would be hard to give up.

But there’s something nice about trying to preserve the experience. That’s the push and pull: Trying to reveal as much possible without spoiling the final experience. But at the end of the day, nothing can spoil actually getting your hands on the controller, playing as Ellie, hearing the dialogue, seeing how the mechanics are adding to the tension of the world, and experiencing those beats.

For more on The Last of Us Part II, read our impressions from two hours of hands-on time with the final version of the game.

15 Things I Learned From Two Hours Playing The Last Of Us Part II

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release:
Platform: PlayStation 4

After years of waiting (and a couple recent delays), The Last of Us Part II will finally release in a few short weeks. Though Game Informer has its review copy in hand, we’re still limited in how much of the experience we can discuss. For now, we can give spoiler-free impressions based on a two-hour stretch that concludes with Ellie infiltrating a hospital in Seattle – the focus of Naughty Dog’s State of Play demonstration last week.

Instead of running through this sequence step by step, I’m going to share an eclectic selection of my thoughts during these two hours. Encompassing details I found helpful, interesting, and amusing, here are 15 things that stood out to me in this specific section of The Last of Us Part II.

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1. Ellie is angry. While she’s still recognizable as the character from the original game, it’s clear that her quest for revenge is taking a toll on her. As a small example: I made Ellie stealthily assassinate a patrolling Washington Liberation Front (WLF) soldier, and though he had done her no specific wrong, she spat a disgusted “F---er” at him as he died.

2. Ellie can be funny. Though the tone is generally pretty grim, Ellie occasionally says some entertaining things while talking to herself. After trying an improbable (but effective) puzzle solution, she congratulates herself with, “That was pretty smart, Ellie.” After a harrowing sequence that has one thing after another going wrong, she finally catches her breath and says, “F--- Seattle.”

3. Stealth is satisfying. I enjoyed the original The Last of Us, but it seemed like most encounters were destined to become firefights; though going full stealth was possible, the limited options meant that I would usually end up alerting the bad guys eventually. In The Last of Us Part II, it seems more feasible to remain undetected through an encounter. One part has Ellie evading Scars – a faction at war with the WLF – through a park. By staying low in the grass, using stealth kills, and wielding quiet weapons like my bow and silenced pistol, I was able to take out all of them without being detected.

4. The "Survivor" difficulty is available for your first playthrough. It's appropriately brutal.

5. Difficulty is highly customizable. I played through the hospital infiltration on a few different challenge settings, and the gulf between them is noticeable. However, you aren’t bound to defined modes like easy, normal, or hard; you can also fine-tune specific elements of the experience, like how much damage Ellie takes, how perceptive enemies are, and how plentiful resources are in the world.

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6. Being thorough pays off. As I advanced through Seattle, I saw a handful of places off the critical path, like a liquor store and an apartment complex. Exploring these spots carries some risk, since they can be full of Infected or other humans. But they also give rewards in terms of gameplay and side stories. In the liquor store, I learned the Infected there were once WLF soldiers looking for a group of deserters. In an apartment, I found that group of deserters, along with a rare manual that unlocked a new skill tree to improve Ellie’s explosives.

7. Locked doors don’t mean you can’t get in. To gain access to one apartment, I just needed to break a window and jump in to circumvent the locked door … but it’s not always that easy. In a conference center, I saw a bunch of ammo and upgrade parts sitting on a table in a seemingly inaccessible room. I won’t spoil the full solution, but getting in there involved using the environment and the objects Ellie finds around her.

8. The environments are incredibly detailed. Places like the apartments, liquor store, and conference center don’t just feel like they are copied and pasted from a bank of assets. It’s not just about looking good graphically; each one feels like a considered space that once served its purpose in the world. From decorations on the walls of a bedroom to the desk arrangements in an office space, Ellie’s surroundings feel authentic. They don't feel like areas created to fill space in a video game.  

9. Stalkers are just the worst. As in the previous game, these Infected are difficult to detect as they attempt to sneak up on Ellie, and the tension is terrifying. In one memorable section on the way to the hospital, Ellie needs to cross a series of rooms full of these brutal hunters. Though I successfully maintained stealth past several of them, a shrieking Stalker eventually jumped me and alerted its friends, which triggered a panicked frenzy of gunfire from me that ended with a pile of dead Stalkers and a shortage of shotgun shells.

10. The accessibility options are broad. They include a wide array of adjustments you can make to the visuals and gameplay. Colorblind mode, HUD magnification, remapping controls, and infinite breath while swimming are just a handful of options that illustrate how Naughty Dog has kept players with disabilities in mind.

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11. Transitions are relatively seamless. The actions flows smoothly between cutscenes and player-controlled sections, without lots of load screens breaking up the action. For example, I watched a cinematic sequence of Ellie being tossed around underwater, and when she emerged, I was back in control. The only obvious loading screens I remember seeing were when I died and had to respawn, and when I was saving or loading my game.

12. You can have 20 manual save slots. Plus one autosave.

13. The personal touches work. Most video games don’t ask you to think twice about killing dozens of gun-toting guards, but The Last of Us Part II makes the violence feel personal. Beyond the fact that all of the enemies can call out to each other by name (along with their dogs), they also have interactions with each other that hint at their lives beyond being an obstacle to Ellie. Right outside the hospital, I catch two guards in mid-conversation as they walk by. “I got my girl waiting for me at the FOB,” the first one says. The second replies, “Are you s----ing me? They put you with Jo again?” They keep chatting as they pass, but it’s hard not to think about Jo and her reaction as I sneak up on her partner with my knife drawn.

14. Killing dogs is rough. They don’t feel like the mindlessly aggressive animals that players often encounter in other games; they feel like someone’s pet. My approach to the hospital was definitely made more complicated by my reluctance to kill a dog named Bear who was patrolling there.

15. This isn’t all. Obviously, a lot of the context that informs this whole two-hour sequence is missing here, especially since it’s set partway through the game. But even if we could talk about story stuff now, we wouldn’t want to. The less you know now, the more you will enjoy the experience when you’re playing it for yourself on June 19.

For more on The Last of Us Part II, check out our interview with creative director Neil Druckmann, then read this spoiler-free overview of the game.

Gaming's Summer 2020 Digital Event Schedule

With the circumstances surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic causing organizers to cancel major conventions and expos and like E3, Gamescom, and Tokyo Game Show, many publishers, developers, and event organizers have turned to digital events to get the latest video game news out there. Whether you're talking platform-specific showcases, publisher-driven streams, or even third-party-facilitated schedules, the industry has a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

Check out the full digital event schedule for summer 2020 below, and be sure to bookmark this page and come back as more events are added in coming weeks!


June 4

IGN Summer of Gaming Kick-Off - 11:30 a.m. PT / 2:30 p.m. ET
What It Is: The official start of IGN's Summer of Gaming virtual event. This free digital event will include over three weeks of exclusive programming and gameplay world premieres from highly anticipated titles. In addition to showcasing various games and announcements, IGN is raising money in support of the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

June 5

IGN Expo Day 1 - 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET
What It Is: The first day of IGN's virtual expo promises reveals from Funcom/The Outsiders, Merge Games, and more. We'll also see a new cinematic trailer for Werewolf: The Apocalypse and gameplay for Blankos Block Party, Mortal Shell, Observer: System Redux, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, and Spellbreak. 
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

June 6

Guerrilla Collective Day 1 - 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET
What It Is: An online digital games festival featuring announcements, trailers, and game reveals from publishers and developers like Sega of America, Coffee Stain, Rebellion, Raw Fury, Thunderful, 11 Bit Studios, Larian Studios, New Blood, Versus Evil, Humble Bundle, and more. Hosted by Kinda Funny's Greg Miller.
Where To Watch: Guerrilla Collective on Twitch

Paradox Insider - 11:30 a.m. PT / 2: 30 p.m. ET
What It Is: A block of programming from publisher Paradox Interactive as a part of the Guerrilla Collective.
Where To Watch: Paradox Interactive on Twitch

The PC Gaming Show - 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET
What It Is: A digital adaptation of the annual E3 show of the same name. The show, presented by PC Gamer, will provide various updates on PC games.
Where To Watch: PC Gamer on Twitch

The Future Games Show - 2:30 p.m. PT / 5:30 p.m. ET
What It Is: An hour-long broadcast presented by GamesRadar and Future featuring exclusive trailers, announcements, and more. The event will focus on indie and triple-A titles for 2020 and beyond.
Where To Watch: GamesRadar on Twitch

June 7

Guerrilla Collective Day 2 - 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET
What It Is: The second day of Guerrilla Collective's virtual event that promises announcements, trailers, and reveals from publishers and developers. 
Where To Watch: Guerrilla Collective on Twitch

Borderlands 3: Bounty of Blood

June 8

IGN Expo Day 2 - 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET
What It Is: The second day of IGN's virtual expo will deliver new trailers for Chivalry 2, Dual Universe, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Wasteland 3, and XIII. Players can also tune in for new previews of Borderlands 3's Bounty of Blood DLC, a new trailer and the release date of The Waylanders, and new gameplay for Forgotten City and Second Extinction. IGN will also kick off its IGN Icons interview series with original Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

Guerrilla Collective Day 3 - 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET
What It Is: The third and final day of Guerrilla Collective's virtual event that promises announcements, trailers, and reveals from publishers and developers. 
Where To Watch: Guerrilla Collective on Twitch

UploadVR Showcase: Summer Edition - TBD
What It Is: 
The latest news and announcements in the world of virtual reality. Self-described as a "Nintendo Direct-style video," but focused completely on VR. Last year, the showcase revealed games like After the Fall and Pistol Whip, and this year, the presentation will feature more than 20 VR games.
Where To Watch: UploadVR on YouTube

June 9

IGN Expo Day 3 - 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET
What It Is: 
The third day of IGN's virtual convention will give fans new looks of 13 Sentinels, Everspace 2, Guilty Gear Strive, Stronghold: Warlords, and a Humble Bundle Indies Showcase. In addition, you can look forward to new gameplay from New World, Skater XL, Solasta Crown of the Magister, Total War: Troy, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The team will also have exclusive previews of Blue Fire and Humankind, as well as the second entry in their IGN Icons interview series as IGN talks to Brian Fargo.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

June 11

IGN Summer of Gaming Streams - 9:45 a.m. PT / 12:45 p.m. ET
What It Is: 
IGN hosts exclusive gameplay and interviews for Humankind and Remnant: From the Ashes, with more to be announced.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

June 15

IGN Summer of Gaming Streams - 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET
What It Is: 
Another slate of exclusive trailers, reveals, and gameplay from IGN. This time, players can expect an exclusive reveal of an unannounced game, new trailers for Ninjala and Castlestorm 2, and gameplay for Mafia: Definitive Edition, Destroy All Humans, Scarlet Nexus, SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, Corepunk, and Warhammer 40k: Mechanicus.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

Torchlight III

June 18

IGN Summer of Gaming Streams - 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET
What It Is: Another stream from IGN featuring gameplay from Torchlight III and an unannounced game. IGN will also have two more IGN Icons interviews: Chris Avellone and John Romero.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

EA Play Live - 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET
What It Is: A digital version of what has traditionally been presented during E3. Fans should expect to see the latest news and trailers of games published by Electronic Arts.
Where To Watch: EA on Twitch

June 22

Day of The Devs + The Game Awards Developer Showcase - 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET
What It Is: A look at upcoming projects ranging from independent to triple-A.
Where To Watch: The Game Awards on Twitch

June 23

New Game+ Expo - TBD
What It Is: An online showcase of upcoming releases from developers and publishers like Sega, Atlus, SNK, WayForward, Arc System Works, GungHo, Natsume, Spike Chunsoft, Grasshopper Manufacture, and more. 
Where To Watch: New Game Plus Expo on Twitch

Avengers

June 24

Night City Wire - TBD
What It Is: A stream centered around CD Projekt Red's massively anticipated game, Cyberpunk 2077. 
Where To Watch: CD Projekt Red on Twitch

Marvel's Avengers War Table - TBD
What It Is: 
A first look at new gameplay for Crystal Dynamics' upcoming Avengers game, including cooperative play. Players can expect new trailers, as well as looks at co-op play and story missions.
Where To Watch: Square Enix on Twitch

IGN Summer of Gaming Streams - TBD
What It Is: 
IGN's June 24 stream includes the reveal of an unannounced classic revival, as well as new trailers for Dreamscaper and Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One.
Where To Watch: IGN on Twitch

June 27

BitSummit Gaiden Day 1 - TBD
What It Is: The premier indie showcase with an eye toward Japanese creations launches its first-ever digital event. BitSummit Gaiden will feature more than 75 games from Japan and the rest of the world, including streamable demos.
Where To Watch: BitSummit on Twitch

June 28

BitSummit Gaiden Day 2 - TBD
What It Is: The second day of BitSummit's digital event showcasing indie games from Japan and around the world.
Where To Watch: BitSummit on Twitch

Warframe

July 11

Tennocon 2020 - TBD
What It Is: An update from Digital Extremes on the future of its popular game Warframe.
Where To Watch: Warframe on Twitch

July 12

Ubisoft Forward - 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET
What It Is: A digital presentation similar to the E3 press conferences Ubisoft has traditionally done. Look for updates and announcements surrounding all the upcoming Ubisoft titles.
Where To Watch: Ubisoft on Twitch

July 20

Day of The Devs + The Game Awards Developer Showcase - TBD
What It Is: A second event hosted by Day of the Devs and The Game Awards, promising a look at upcoming projects ranging from independent to triple-A.
Where To Watch: The Game Awards on Twitch

August 27

Gamescom 2020: Opening Night Live Day 1 - TBD
What It Is: A daily show hosted by The Game Awards host/organizer Geoff Keighley. The show occurs over four days and delivers the latest news, announcements, and trailers for anticipated games.
Where To Watch: The Game Awards on Twitch

August 28

Gamescom 2020: Opening Night Live Day 2 - TBD
What It Is: The second day of the Gamescom virtual show hosted by The Game Awards host/organizer Geoff Keighley. The show promises to deliver the latest news, announcements, and trailers for anticipated games.
Where To Watch: The Game Awards on Twitch

August 29

Gamescom 2020: Opening Night Live Day 3 - TBD
What It Is: The third day of the Gamescom virtual show hosted by The Game Awards host/organizer Geoff Keighley. The show promises to deliver the latest news, announcements, and trailers for anticipated games.
Where To Watch: The Game Awards on Twitch

August 30

Gamescom 2020: Opening Night Live Day 4 - TBD
What It Is: The fourth and final day of the Gamescom virtual show hosted by The Game Awards host/organizer Geoff Keighley. The show promises to deliver the latest news, announcements, and trailers for anticipated games.
Where To Watch: The Game Awards on Twitch

Which RPG Is Right For You?

RPGs are a hefty investment, requiring time and dedication to delve into their complex intricacies. With a myriad of choices and divergent styles, finding the right one can be overwhelming. We’re here to help. This article breaks down our recommendations into a slew of categories, each for what’s important to you in an RPG. Whether it’s combat, story, or a preferred subgenre, it’s covered. We tried to recommend more recent games where we could, but didn’t want to completely eschew beloved classics in case you were itching for something more nostalgic. Read more...

Replay — Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

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Last week, Joe Juba, Andrew Reiner, and I went on a journey with Gabriel Belmont and rediscovered what made Castlevania: Lords of Shadow so great, including its absolutely bonkers ending. We had so much fun that we decided to look past the faults of the sequel and see if we could keep the good times rolling with Lords of Shadow 2.

The results? A wacky episode filled with impressions of Muppets, musings on vampire dating simulators, and a large discussion centered on America's sweetheart: Nicholas Cage.

This week's show is prerecorded, but we'll be live and chatting with you again in a mere seven days. If you can't get enough of our live shows, remember to subscribe on YouTube, Twitch, MixerTwitter, and Facebook to get notified when we go live each week!

Goosebumps Dead of Night Coming This Summer

Cosmic Forces, Sony Pictures Consumer Products, and Scholastic are bringing R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

In Goosebumps Dead of Night you try to collect missing pages from Goosebumps stories that have been stolen, but it's not quite that easy - scary creatures like Lawn Gnomes, the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, and Murder the Clown. It's first-person survival horror, Goosebumps style. Along your journey through the macabre, you must hide, sneak, and solve puzzles to survive. 

While we don't have an exact release date, the title is expected to arrive this summer. Check out the trailer below!

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BioShock, XCOM 2, And More Hit Switch Today

Today is a surprisingly robust release day for Nintendo’s Switch. As announced a few months back, 2K just dropped several big game collections. The first is BioShock: The Collection, which features the remastered versions of all three BioShock games. The second is XCOM 2 Collection, which includes Firaxis' stellar strategy game and all four of its DLC packs. Finally, the Borderlands Legendary Collection includes the Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

In addition to 2K’s offerings, the massive open-world RPG Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition also hits Switch today. This re-release of the 2012 Wii title features updated visuals, remastered music, and a new epilogue story sequence.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens – the fifth entry in WayForward long-running platformer about a magical half-genie – also released yesterday, which might be worth checking out if you’re bored.

Honestly, if you haven’t played some of these great games already, now might be the perfect time to catch up. But, hey, we're not trying to tell you what to do. 

Crucible Review - A Slow Struggle

Publisher: Amazon Games
Developer: Relentless Studios
Release:
Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: PC

Hero shooters are all the rage these days, so games in the middle or bottom of the field struggle to compete against the lead dogs. Crucible is one of those games, where its mediocrity only earns dismissal. Crucible is like a bland and forgettable meal – inoffensive going down, but quickly passed over for something with a little more flavor and spice.

Crucible’s heroes fail to entertain on the personality and character level, but they often have memorable and interesting moves that cater to perfection and learning. With the exception of the adorable robot Bugg, most of the cast lacks appeal. With color-by-the-numbers characters like Military Man, Berserker Lizard, and Fish Sniper, the heroes feel like they were ripped from the pages of a rejected comic book.

On the loadout side, learning a character’s nuances is highly entertaining. For example, the militant Sazan has a set of skills that's easy to understand on the surface, but has lots of room for growth and skill. Discovering how to distance myself to juggle my assault rifle, shotgun, and throwing knife cooldowns was a fun exercise. Mastering a moveset, both partial and perfectly, is satisfying and applicable to many of the heroes.

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The map, with its event spawns that help drive the action, is a suitable environment with plenty of spaces to play in. While there is only one map, it's constantly changing with different spawns to mix things up, and you can learn the locations of various landmarks to duck behind cover or jump off a ledge. Event spawns differ from game to game, but many are simple NPC enemies. Other events like power capsules enhance your whole team, but much of the time you may not see another soul as you complete these tasks in an arena largely devoid of activity.

Team clashing is the best part of the game, with skirmishes that pick off players and small-scale engagements taking the spotlight. True 4v4’s are interesting, but there’s a distinct lack of teamplay elements. The combat is weightless outside of a few big attacks, with little feedback or punch to most weapons and abilities. Everyone simply does the same thing they would normally be doing in a 1v1 scenario and hopes things shake out. Crucible lacks any in-game voice communication, which forces you to connect with people you already know via other services. For example, letting teammates know you're sacrificing an objective to glean an edge elsewhere is an important memo to relay, as they may go and fight otherwise and end up putting the other team even further ahead. A ping system attempts to mitigate this, but it’s not practical. Depending on the game, you may not even see the other team much, as you both farm dinosaurs and pick off stragglers in 3v1s or trade control of points of interest.

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One of the larger issues is the PvE component, which tasks you to essentially spend time dunking on dinos and spitter creatures between encounters with the other teams. The battles against these NPCs are fun for a few games, but then they become an absolute bore and a chore. The PvE component does everything it can to tear you away from fighting other players, instead forcing you to slaughter uninteresting one-note blobs of XP wholesale instead of actually playing the game.

Of the three game modes, the only one worth mentioning is Heart of the Hives. If you’re going to play, this is the mode to check out. Two teams of four battle over PvE objectives, so you have cool decisions to make, like when to engage with the somewhat dangerous PvE entity or if you should cede a flag capture to the other team so you can grab some levels and powerups for an easier win. Like many other aspects of the game, this mode provides fun for a few games, and then fades from memory altogether. Eventually you realize that you could be doing something else or playing something more fun than being slowly dragged across the map on a dino-chain for what might be a slightly satisfying team fight.

Crucible isn’t a bad game, but it’s not a good game either. In the context of today’s hero-shooter environment, that makes it a lost soul, struggling to find a strong sense of identity. With time, perhaps Crucible can find reasons to stay on the menu, but right now the recipe is diluted and dull.

Score: 6.75

Summary: The hybrid PVE/PVP experience has cool concepts, but many of them fail to resonate in a meaningful way.

Concept: Play as a variety of heroes in a third-person shooter, team-based environment

Graphics: The environments can look slick and colorful, but a permeating sameness prevents the details from making an impact

Sound: The effects and music are competent, but they can’t carry the experience by themselves

Playability: Highly accessible to new players, with room to grow in terms of mastering timing, skills, and strategies

Entertainment: Crucible has genuinely interesting character movesets, but is dragged down by a lack of combat impact, PvE that turns into a rote chore almost immediately, and sluggish pacing

Replay: High

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Sony Hosting Livestream Next Week Focusing On PS5 Games

Sony has announced that it's hosting a livestream next week, which will be focusing on the PlayStation 5. More specifically, it's all about the games this time.

The stream will be on Thursday, June 4, at 1 p.m. Pacific. On a post on the PlayStation Blog, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan outlined a few details on what to expect. "This digital showcase will run for a bit more than an hour and, for the first time, we will all be together virtually experiencing the excitement together," he said. "A lack of physical events has given us an amazing opportunity to think differently and bring you on this journey with us, and hopefully, closer than ever before. This is part of our series of PS5 updates and, rest assured, after next week’s showcase, we will still have much to share with you."

The stream will be available on Sony's official YouTube and Twitch channels.

Report: Sony Sets PS5 Compatibility Date For PS4 Titles

Backward compatibility is a big topic for gamers and the upcoming next-gen systems. Sony hasn't publicly talked about this topic as much as Microsoft has for its Xbox Series X, but Eurogamer has seen developer documents which state that developers of PlayStation 4 games which are submitted for certification with Sony on or after July 13 must make those titles "technically" playable on the PlayStation 5.

The report's qualifier of "technically" playable on the PS5 means that it's up to each developer to make sure this is the case, although Sony is working with its partners on the process.

Also, submitted is different than released, as companies must turn in their titles to Sony for approval months before they come out. This means that PS4 games releasing this summer may fall outside the July 13 start point – although Eurogamer believes that high-profile first-party summer titles Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part II will indeed play on the PS5. 

The report also reveals that PS4 titles must contain the same features between the systems, and any update or remaster of the title after the July 13 cutoff would have to retain compatibility. Updates or remasters submitted before that date would be "strongly recommended" to keep compatibility.

Sony has previously talked about backward compatibility for the PS5, but it's unknown how many PS4 titles will be playable at the PS5's launch later this year. In March, system architect Mark Cerny said that almost all of the top 100 PS4 titles based on playtime where playable at the time on the PS5.

Sony is hosting a live stream on June 4 focusing on PS5 games, so perhaps we'll hear more about backward compatibility at that time.

[Source: Eurogamer]

First Gameplay Action Of NASCAR Heat 5

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Publisher: Motorsport Games
Developer: 704Games
Release:
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Developer 704Games showed off the first gameplay trailer for July 7's NASCAR Heat 5 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), giving fans a glimpse of some of the pack racing at various tracks.

Consistently performing A.I. was one of the things the studio wanted to improve upon this year, and it'll be interesting to see how that influences passing, drafting, and the overall pack racing, which should be different at each track.

For more on the game, check out our previous preview, as well as our discussion with publisher Motorsport Games about the future of the franchise.

The Witcher Series Reaches 50 Million Copies Sold

On Twitter today, CDProjekt Red announced that The Witcher series has hit a major milestone - 50 million copies sold.

While everyone waits with mad anticipation for the studios' next upcoming effort with Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher has been slaying monsters and making trouble for quite some time, and has even transcended to other major media forms such as the popular Netflix series.

Check out our review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt here!

Sonic The Hedgehog Movie Officially Getting A Sequel

Paramount Pictures and Sega Sammy have confirmed to Variety that a sequel to this year's successful Sonic the Hedgehog movie is in the works. The original movie currently sits at a 64 percent on movie-review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, with a 93 percent audience-approval rating. In addition, it earned the best opening weekend ever for a movie based on a video game.

This news comes exactly one month after director Jeff Fowler said that there were not yet plans for a sequel. Now, Fowler is set to once again direct, with the writers of the first movie, Pat Casey and Josh Miller, returning as well. Casting decisions and production dates have not yet been determined.

For more on our thoughts of Sonic the Hedgehog, check out our video discussion about the film.

[Source: Variety]

Timelie Review – Making Every Second Count

Publisher: Urnique Studio, Milk Bottle Studio
Developer: Urnique Studio
Release:
Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: PC

When a child awakes in the middle of a mysterious facility full of hostile robots, she begins looking for a quick exit. Along the way, this innocent girl discovers she has precognitive powers that allow her to explore future timelines until she discovers the optimal route to safety. That's the premise to Timelie, Urnique Studio’s tightly designed stealth puzzle game that occasionally challenges your reasoning and critical thinking skills, but runs its course too quickly.

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All of Timelie’s levels are miniature mazes that have you dodging security drones as you make your way toward digital keypads to unlock the exit. Navigating these mazes is relatively simple, and your goal is almost always obvious, so the challenge comes from your limited windows of opportunity to dodge patrolling sentries and reach your target. Fortunately, your nameless heroine can see into the future. Practically speaking, this means that you can pause and rewind the action by scrubbing through a timeline at the bottom of the screen, which lets you fine-tune your movements through each tangle of hallways. Weaving through guard's eye lines and narrowly evading their grasp is always satisfying. Once you’ve perfectly orchestrated your escape, you can watch a real-time video of your plan in action, which is neat in concept. In execution, I was usually happy to skip these playbacks thanks to the main character’s slow movement.

In the middle of this adventure, you befriend a stray cat. This cat can squeeze through narrow vents to reach new areas and can meow to distract guards at key moments. Because this kitty can’t reach keypads, you have to bounce between control of the cat and the girl, using their skills in tandem to outwit an army of security robots. Controlling two creatures at once is a fun wrinkle that adds welcome depth to Timelie’s otherwise simple structure, and I had the most fun carefully coordinating both of my characters’ movements like they were performing a well-rehearsed dance.

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Even after the addition of the cat, Timelie’s puzzles never grow complex enough to be fully satisfying. A few sequences forced me to stop and consider all my options, but Timelie quickly runs out of tricks to throw at you, which makes the experience feel somewhat shallow overall. Additionally, during some of the late-game puzzles, I had to rewind to the beginning of a level’s timeline to correct an early mistake (which I didn’t know was a mistake at the time), forcing me to replay the whole stage. Most levels only take a few minutes to navigate, so this is a minor inconvenience, but it adds a sense of monotony to some of Timelie’s cleverest puzzles.

Several games offer players the chance to rewind time and pause the action, but I’ve never grown tired of this particular power fantasy. I appreciate Timelie’s stealth-based, tactical approach to time manipulation. But just as Timelie starts to hit its stride, I hit the credits. Timelie isn’t the most comprehensive exploration of time manipulation, but its bite-sized puzzles are a welcome distraction.

Score: 7.75

Summary: Urnique Studio’s tightly designed stealth puzzle game occasionally challenges your reasoning and critical thinking skills, but runs its course too quickly.

Concept: A young girl works to escape the confines of a robot-infested facility only to discover that she can control time

Graphics: Timelie’s environments aren’t detailed, but its smart use of color makes for a few interesting backdrops

Sound: This generic orchestral score doesn’t add much to the action of this wordless adventure

Playability: Controlling time is perfectly straightforward, but characters plod along at a snail’s pace

Entertainment: Mastering time is fun and weaving past enemies in the nick of time is a thrill, but fine-tuning some of those near misses can be monotonous

Replay: Moderate

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Fury Unleashed Review – Old-School Shooting With A Roguelike Bite

Publisher: Awesome Games Studio
Developer: Awesome Games Studio
Release:
Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on: Xbox One, Switch, PC

A run in Fury Unleashed often concludes with either you or a boss falling. This epic fight often comes down to both sides just having a sliver of health left. The spoils of victory are obviously greater than defeat, but even death can be rewarding, as every run potentially unlocks a new weapon, and perhaps enough experience points to level up and upgrade abilities. Developer Awesome Games Studio has created a balanced roguelike that delivers fun run-and-gun action and challenging battles that get a little less painful each time you attempt them.

Holding true to the Contra and Metal Slug games that Fury Unleashed draws inspiration from, you zip around stages filled with enemies, rotating the analog stick every which way to open fire. The controls are responsive and fluid, allowing you to quickly dash to new positions, and alternate between firearms and melee should enemies get too close. You can even bounce on enemy heads to make them explode, bank grenades off of walls, and use special attacks to freeze foes in place. All of this nicely made action is even better when you are playing with a friend, which is sadly only offered as couch co-op. If the game seems too hard, you can always lower the difficulty. The game is easy to get into and even easier to get lost in, given just how fun and rewarding it can be.

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If you chain together kills, you hit combo thresholds that activate abilities that give you an edge, such as various damage resistances and healing. The entire game is set within the panels of comic books in which you battle a random assortment of creatures, humans, and machines (most dying within a few hits, but rare variations of enemies in a red hue play the role of mini-bosses). The variety in the enemies is a bit light, but I like how some panels explode in unexpected ways, whether it’s Venus flytraps or turrets emerging from walls to join other foes.

If you die along the way, you are sent back to the comic’s first panel, only it’s different, and every following panel is also rearranged, sometimes bringing better rewards and other times deadlier foes. A giant boss waits for you on the final page, and should you be able to take it down, you move on to a new comic book with an entirely different theme with its own set of adversaries. This setup works well for lightning-quick playthroughs, which is fantastic since you often want to level up or change gear after a run. The comics are linked and arranged in random ways, so you don’t have to finish a run when you find the last panel; you can always spend more time in a book by going back to see what each missed panel holds.

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Since weapon and armor drops are all over the place, the randomized levels almost always deliver satisfactory loot. I may not find the exact weapon I want in each run, but I never find myself sticking with something I don't like for long, and am also able to pick up plenty of armor along the way. The true challenge is risking all by taking on a side task handed to you by an NPC. They ask many things of you, such as only using melee strikes to kill specific enemies or launching yourself through a dangerous gauntlet of obstacles, all for an unknown reward. These challenges create variety in the levels and make each run a little more interesting.

Fury Unleashed’s story is its biggest surprise, as it focuses on the comic-book creator, who is down on himself and feels lost creatively. His story unfolds through text messages and social media posts that show how he and others feel about his work. When the first story moment is revealed, it’s a bit of a record-scratch moment, but once you pick up on what is happening, the story is fascinating to see unfold. It isn’t what you would expect from something that looks and plays like Contra.

Like Dead Cells before it, Fury Unleashed is one of those roguelikes that is hard to put down, as you know the next run will only give you a better shot making more progress to unlock new comics, gear, and ultimately a better chance at taking down the final boss. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, whether you’re playing solo or co-op.

Score: 8.5

Summary: Mowing down enemies for rewards that stick with you is a lot of fun, especially when it plays this well.

Concept: A roguelike that plays like Contra and doles out meaningful rewards that help make subsequent runs easier

Graphics: Stylish and bloody. The action is easy to follow, even with numerous enemies, spinning sawblades, and rockets crowding the screen

Sound: The intense soundtrack is sometimes buried by the explosions and chaos, but that’s also when the sound is at its best

Playability: The controls are responsive and surprisingly deep, allowing for quick dashes, grenade tosses, special attacks, and weapon switches to be performed as you bounce across platforms

Entertainment: The action pops and is excellently crafted. You always feel like you are on the verge of making more progress, which is a great feeling for a roguelike

Replay: Moderately High

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The NFL And Electronic Arts Renew Exclusive Madden Deal

Update #2: Electronic Arts has officially announced the extension, adding that it is planning new games in "new genres with more forms of play and self-expression, available on more platforms, including expanded offerings for mobile players."

Furthermore, NFL commissioner Roger Goddell added, "The expansion of this partnership is not only about the continued success of the Madden NFL franchise but also the creation of new avenues for our fans to connect with the sport they love."

EA says that Madden NFL 21 will be previewed on June 1.

Update #1: A source has told NFL reporter Albert Breer that the NFL has indeed voted to extend the league's license with Electronic Arts, giving the Madden NFL publisher/developer the exclusive rights for sim-related football games through 2025. There is an option for the following year if the franchise is deemed a financial hit.

Original Story:
Madden NFL developer/publisher Electronic Arts and the NFL are expected to renew their exclusive deal for simulation-based football titles through the 2025 season, according to senior NFL reporter Albert Breer, with the possibility for another year after that.

NFL owners are conducting league meetings this week, where they are expected to vote to extend EA's deal, which runs through 2021. According to Sports Business Daily, a one-year extension through 2026 is also possible if EA meets "certain revenue goals."

Earlier this month, EA told investors that Madden NFL 20 had reached the highest engagement levels in the series history.

In March, EA competitor 2K announced that it was returning to making NFL games, but they were for "non-simulation" titles. The language of the upcoming renewal as reported by Breer appears to bear out this divide, stating that the deal is specifically for "NFL-themed realistic action simulation video games," while the rights for "arcade-style games, youth games, and casual/mobile games" is non-exclusive.

For more on the coming landscape of NFL video games, check out my earlier Sports Desk column regarding 2K's return to football and what it may or may not mean.

[Source: Albert Breer, Sports Business Daily via Gamesindustry.biz]

I'm not surprised by this news. Although many gamers and the Madden community itself wants to see more competition for the Madden brand, if the series is as lucrative as EA says, I would expect nothing more from the NFL owners than a continuation of the status quo.
For the NFL owners used to Madden's demonstrated revenue, opening up the simulation-based exclusivity could be seen as more of a risk than it might be worth. The fact that 2K and in-house developer Visual Concepts made great football titles a decade and a half ago is probably not as relevant to them as it is to us.

GI Show - The Last of Us Part II State of Play, Minecraft Dungeons, and Monster Train

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On this week's episode of The Game Informer Show, we discuss The Last of Us Part II's recent State of Play where we finally see some uninterrupted gameplay, and we cover the recent reviews of Minecraft Dungeons and Monster Train. Of course, we end this week's show with a fun community segment full of emails and games. So please join me, Alex Stadnik, Jeff Cork, and Dan "The Jacket" Tack for another great show.

We continue to do this show from our homes as we hunker down in quarantine, so please forgive us for any audio or video hiccups as we deliver content outside the studio.

Thanks for listening! Please make sure to leave feedback below, share the episode if you enjoyed it, and follow me @therealandymc to let me know what you think. 

You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Playlisten on SoundCloudstream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 at the bottom of the page. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show.

Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show's intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below.

The Last of Us Part II State of Play Reactions: 6:32
Minecraft Dungeons Review Discussion: 21:39
Monster Train: 39:11
Community Emails: 51:23

Harvest Moon: One World Coming To PS4 In Addition To Switch

Earlier this month, Natsume announced that its Harvest Moon series is receiving a new entry later this year. At that time, the Switch was the only confirmed platform – but today the company revealed that Harvest Moon: One World will release on both PS4 and Switch this fall.

The story of One World involves exploring an entire world (rather than just your quaint hometown), managing a farm while restoring a variety of familiar fruits and vegetables to the world.   

It's worth noting that what we know as "Harvest Moon" in North America is a bit complicated. It was originally the name for the series called Bokujō Monogatari in Japan. Today, that series is called Story of Seasons in North America, while Natsume has continued developing its own farming/life simulations under the Harvest Moon banner.

Even if this isn't the same series as the Harvest Moon you remember from titles like Friends of Mineral Town and A Wonderful Life, One World still has plenty of potential to deliver a pleasant, peaceful simulation on modern hardware.

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