Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Half-Life 3 (sort of) confirmed, Xbox, Pokémon, Anthem, Undertale, Stadia and all the latest releases!
After years and years of people jokingly claiming that Half-Life 3 has been confirmed, Valve have now confirmed a new Half-Life game. However, just to be clear, it’s not Half-Life 3, it’s a VR prequel set between the main two games, called Half-Life: Alyx.
Unsurprisingly, Alyx Vance is the main character this time around, as she takes part in building up the resistance that played such a huge role in Half-Life 2. And far from a gimmicky VR tech demo, Half-Life: Alyx promises to be much more, and may give VR the killer app it’s desperately needed (and I’m saying that as a massive VR sceptic).
Valve are promising a game around the same length as Half-Life 2, and the trailer has shown some interesting gameplay twists, such as being able to rummage around a shelf and physically reload weapons with bullets found scattered around. Whether this is intuitive or will get old fast remains to be seen, but hopefully it’s the former. On the whole though, it’s looking really interesting.
But why VR exclusive after all this time? Valve state that it’s a game that simply couldn’t be made any other way, although I’d wager the actual reason is closer to “we have a VR headset, and this might give you an excuse to buy it”.
Half-Life: Alyx will be released in March 2020.
TOTALLY UP TO DATE NEWS FROM XBOX
Last Thursday, Xbox held its big X019 conference in London. I should have mentioned this last week, but as the event was on Thursday evening, and I write these things during the day on Thursday ready for release on Friday, it fell just behind my schedule to get in. I’ve sometimes snuck in small last-minute announcements if I can (the Half-Life story above is a perfect example!), but this was a huge conference with a lot of announcements and there was no way to get it all in on time last week.
So let’s talk about it now!
Xbox had a lot of announcements, some of which were quite surprising and others that made certain releases this week already seem pointless.
First up, new games! Rare are developing a new game called Everwild! Dontnod (of Life is Strange fame) are making a trans-fronted game called Tell Me Why! Obsidian are making a cartoony survival game called Grounded! Plus, West of Dead, Drake Hollow and The Last Stop!
Release dates! Bleeding Edge, 24th March! Minecraft Dungeons, April! Wasteland 3, 19th May!
More Game Pass games! This will include big names like Final Fantasy and The Witcher 3! Even more surprisingly, the Yakuza games are also coming to Game Pass, bringing the series to Xbox for the first time ever! Which means now I can pester Xbox players to play Yakuza too, and is therefore the best news of the night!
But most interestingly of all the news of the night was Phil Spencer discussing plans for xCloud, the new streaming service from Xbox. Especially as the news kind of blows Stadia out of the water right on the verge of its release. Simply put, Spencer acknowledged the difficulties of perfecting streaming technology and a desire to develop it through live testing. And they’re doing this in a fairly effective way.
Rather than selling it as a separate service, Microsoft are going to tie it to Game Pass, giving them an instant customer base, and giving customers the option to test the streaming service without committing extra money to it (and if it doesn’t work, you can just go back to downloading Game Pass games as you already have been). It’s a brilliant plan, and if they tied the entire Game Pass library to xCloud as well, then Stadia begins to look even more like a waste of time and money. Well played, Microsoft.
Overall, a pretty good showing there. There’s a lot for Xbox players to work with and, again, you get to experience the joys of Yakuza now too, so make sure you get on that. But that streaming announcement seemed laser-focused to shut down Stadia once and for all and, honestly, I think it’ll be successful.
POKÉMON – ONE WEEK ON
We’re a week on from the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield (which, of course, jointly made up my Game of the Week last week), and there’s already some interesting news that’s come out of the release since.
First of all, the upset at missing Pokémon is already being addressed by hackers. Some experimentation with models from Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee has seen Omanyte imported into Sword and Shield, to show just how possible it is. This is, of course, in response to Game Freak’s admission that the amount of work required to bring every Pokémon into the game would be huge, despite protests from fans who say it’d be “easy” to copy and paste Pokémon over.
However, the hacker may have revealed the extent of the work required because while he may have gotten the model in and working, the animations and stats are still broken, and the moves need to be refined. And it took him an hour to get it that far. Of course, this won’t stop this particular debate raging on for a while, no doubt.
Despite the protests from the fanbase, however, Pokémon has gone on to become a success in the UK. It’s now the third best-selling title in the UK charts for 2019, coming in just behind FIFA and Call of Duty. Of course, this doesn’t factor in digital sales, which still aren’t counted for the UK charts at present, but that’s still impressive.
The weirdest news surrounding Pokémon this week has to be a highly specific glitch. Owners of Roku devices have found them crashing every time they try and play either version of the game. Just this game, and just that specific brand of Smart TV. Some investigations on the internet have discovered the problem may be data pings sent by the game to find other Switches for trading and battling are being read by Roku devices, the devices try and interact with the ping and crash because they’re not programmed to interact with it. Essentially, your Roku TV really wants to trade Pokémon with you but isn’t actually a Pokémon trainer and probably doesn’t even know what Pokémon are. It’s probably the weirdest glitch in history, but Roku are looking into it.
ANTHEM BEING REWRITTEN
With the abandonment of their roadmap and several high profile departures from the studio, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bioware were quietly in the process of taking Anthem into a back alley and humanely putting it down.
However, according to Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, the opposite is true. Instead of tossing the whole thing out, there are reports that Bioware may be pulling a No Man’s Sky, with the name “Anthem Next” being thrown around.
What do they plan on changing? Everything, apparently. There are discussions to rebalance loot and gear, but more drastically changing the entire structure of the game and breaking the game’s single large map into smaller chunks that can be worked on independently. It’s not clear if these changes will arrive as a series of updates, or a single expansion.
It’ll be interesting to see if Anthem Next is able to turn things around for the beleaguered live service, but time will tell. And can they pull it off before the EA assassins add Bioware to the pile they tossed Bullfrog, Visceral and Maxis?
YOU’RE GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME
Video game concerts are nothing new. Square Enix have made an entire revenue stream just playing the Final Fantasy soundtracks to an audience, while Atlus’s Japanese Persona concerts have gotten so big they use them to make announcements.
Undertale is the latest game to have its soundtrack played live, although plans for this one are filled with determination to go even further. The Toby Fox approved show will tell the story of the game, but the audience will be able to decide which direction the story goes. Anyone who’s played Undertale will know that there are two main routes through the game – the Pacifist run, where you spare every monster and make a bunch of friends, or the Genocide run, where you rampage through the monster world murdering everything in sight. Sounds like this will be tied to the show somehow, and I’m curious to see how they pull it off.
Let’s start the releases this week with the launch of Google Stadia. As expected, initial reviews aren’t looking great, with a general feeling that it’s not ready for public consumption yet, and here it is, live for the “founders” who pre-ordered months ago.
Or at least it would be live for those people, although there are many reports that Google’s “first come, first served” release schedule may be a complete fabrication. Some are stating that orders placed in July have been sent out before those placed in June, and there’s no concrete answer from Google about why this is happening.
The launch line-up is fairly lacklustre, despite a desperate push at the 11th hour to add a bunch more titles. The full line-up is as follows:
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Attack on Titan: Final Battle 2
- Destiny 2: The Collection
- Farming Simulator 2019
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- GRID (2019)
- Just Dance 2020
- Metro Exodus
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K20
- Rage 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Samurai Shodown (2019)
- Tomb Raider (2013) / Rise of the Tomb Raider / Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Trials Rising
- Wolfenstein Youngblood
If you’re looking at that lineup and thinking, “hang on, I can play those on systems I already own”, you’d be correct, and therefore it raises the question of why anyone should buy into the system when its library is identical to everything else.
There is one exclusive though.
Gylt is the brand new game from Tequila Works, previously known for Rime and co-developing The Sexy Brutale, two critically-acclaimed indie titles. Gylt looks excellent too, and features a young girl trying to find her cousin in a twisted world full of shadowy monsters. It’s a bit like Alan Wake through the filter of Little Nightmares. It would totally be a Game of the Week contender, but its exclusivity to a platform riddled with problems rules it out for me. Looking forward to playing it on a real system one day though.
Elsewhere in new releases, there are a lot of smaller titles. For instance, Kyle is Famous, which is a narrative driven free title on Steam where you make decisions for one man during an average day and try and encourage him to not eat his fridge, among other things. On the more complex PC game front, there’s Automation Empire, a sim game where the objective is to build massive production lines.
Oh, you’d prefer your smaller titles on a smaller system? Perhaps the Switch? Good news! There’s The Touryst, which is a holiday simulator with some curious dungeon crawling thrown in. Then there’s Black Future ’88 (also on Steam), a big boisterous run-and-gunner with roguelite elements. And finally, Still There (also on Steam), which looks to be a spooky 2D adventure set on a space station, apparently blending Firewatch with 2001: A Space Odyssey if the trailer is any indication. It’s a fascinating one.
The only really big release this week is Shenmue 3 (PC, PS4), and just writing those words seems odd to me. It’s the long awaited third instalment in the Shenmue franchise, continuing the story 18 years later. Reviews are all over the place with this one, but they all consistently state that this is a faithful sequel that plays exactly like its predecessors, for better or worse. So if you want a sequel exactly like the previous games, you’ll probably be into this, but if you feel the past games were a little clunky and dated, then you’ll probably feel the same way about this one.
GAME OF THE WEEK
My Game of the Week this week is Lost Ember (PC, PS4, XBO). This is a gorgeous-looking game where you play as a wolf exploring a world reclaimed by nature. As you explore the world, you can take control of other animals, allowing you to fly, swim, dig or otherwise move in ways the wolf otherwise couldn’t.
This game looks beautiful, and from trailers and other promotional footage, it looks set to be a relaxed, laid-back experience on top of that. And right now, an escape into a relaxed world of nature feels like the best idea.
And that’s it from me this week! I’ll be taking a break from next week’s roundup but I’ll see you again in a fortnight. Not in Fortnite though. You’ll never see me there.