Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Activision are still the worst, The Game Awards and the Steam Deck.
Sorry for the lack of a roundup last week but I managed to get an eye infection on the day I normally write the roundup. So between a hospital trip and a limited ability to use my eyes, I couldn’t write a roundup for you all. But here are some stories and releases from the past two weeks! And oh boy do we start with a big one…
Activision Claim “This is Fine” (It Is Not Fine)
Activision continue to be in the news regarding staff mistreatment, with the past week raising the stakes significantly. An investigative report from the Wall Street Journal (summarised by co-author Ben Fritz on Twitter) revealed that CEO Bobby Kotick personally covered up sexual assaults within the company.
One case saw a woman raped by a supervisor after a work party where he pressured into drinking too much. Kotick personally settled the case quietly and did not inform the board. He also blocked an attempt to fire Dan Bunting, co-head of Call of Duty studio Treyarch, who had been accused of similar behaviour. In addition, a story about Kotick threatening an air stewardess on a plane he co-owned re-emerged as part of the story.
The story also revealed that Jen Oneal’s departure mentioned in the previous roundup was indeed down to a lack of belief in the company’s capacity to change for the better. In addition, in the midst of a lawsuit around discriminatory pay towards their female staff members, Activision seemingly thought it a good idea to pay Oneal less than her fellow co-leader Mike Ybarra, a man working in the same position.
In response to the news, workers at the publisher staged a walkout and issued a new demand on top of their existing demands – Kotick must go. Over 1,000 members of staff at the company have signed a petition calling for his resignation. In addition, both Jim Ryan of PlayStation and Phil Spencer of Xbox have expressed their concern for Activision’s behaviour. However, the board have stated that they stand behind Kotick, despite him covering up rape and threatening to kill a woman. He also isn’t making them much money, as the recent Call of Duty: Vanguard release is proving a disappointment sales wise and the company’s stock price is in the toilet, likely as a result of all of this, which raises questions about why they’re keeping him.
I fully support the employees of Activision Blizzard, and join their call to see Kotick’s resignation. It’s unlikely we’ll see change at the company until he’s gone.
Denuvo Causes Havoc
DRM is a persistently contentious issue within the games industry, and the use of DRM software in games didn’t make a good case for itself in the past couple of weeks. On 7th November, a tiny issue emerged where every game with Denuvo software built into it refused to load.
The cause was seemingly a lack of domain renewal on Denuvo’s part. The domain registration used for its verification ran out in September, and seemingly its grace period after this fact also expired, leaving the domain unusable. And, of course, leaving every game tied to it equally unusable. This includes major recent releases including Guardians of the Galaxy and the new Football Manager, both of which are predominantly single-player games.
Presumably, cracked versions, which the DRM has been unable to stop, have been able to run fine.
Makes you wonder what the point is, right?
The Game Awards Announced
Geoff Keighley’s annual ad show with some occasional awards has announced this year’s nominations.
The clear winners are time loop shooter Deathloop and beloved PS5-exclusive 3D platformer Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, which are nominated for 8 and 6 categories respectively, with beloved Xbox 3D platformer Psychonauts 2 and ambitious co-op adventure It Takes Two taking 5 nominations each.
Right behind them are the year’s biggest surprise, Guardians of the Galaxy, and tall vampire lady chase simulator Resident Evil Village, each with four nominations.
With three nominations each, there are Life is Strange: True Colors, Returnal, The Artful Escape, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, and this week’s Game of the Week, Forza Horizon 5. Regrettably, Far Cry 6 is also in three categories despite publisher Ubisoft being the French equivalent of Activision these days.
Games with two nominations include Metroid Dread, Inscryption, Back 4 Blood, Monster Hunter Rise and Valheim. Cyberpunk 2077 also has two nominations due to its ineligibility for last year’s awards and in spite of how much people hate that game now.
For the full list of nominees, check here.
Steam Deck Delayed
Valve’s new handheld system, the Steam Deck, has become the latest victim of the global chip shortage that’s also affecting stocks of the PS5, Xbox Series X and various graphics cards.
In a statement in the Steam Deck FAQ, Valve confirmed the delay due to logistic issues will prevent those who managed to successfully place an order for the first batch of the machines getting their orders in time for Christmas. Instead, they’ll now be waiting until February next year.
The Steam Deck looks to be a great bit of kit, so hopefully it won’t be long before the device lands in people’s hands.
Let’s start with major re-releases. Knights of the Old Republic arrived on Switch last week, allowing you to play Bioware’s classic Star Wars RPG on the toilet if you so wish. And then there’s Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, which brings together GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas in a single collection, although the quality of these remasters is…not winning many awards.
In small indies, Ollie-Oop (PC) is a very silly game about a skateboarding dog. Undungeon (PC, Xbox) is an open world action RPG with incredibly detailed pixel art. Next Space Rebels (PC, Xbox) is Kerbal Space Program with YouTubers.
A lot of indie management sims this week. Epic Chef (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is a restaurant and farming sim set in a fantasy land. Kainga: Seeds of Civilization (PC – Early Access) is a village builder full of strange tech and unique biomes. Alchemic Cutie (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is Stardew Valley but with jellies. And Grow: Song of the Evertree (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is a sandbox all about rebuilding the world and bringing life back to the titular tree.
Bright Memory Infinite (PC) is a stunning first-person shooter that gained a lot of attention for looking like a AAA game but is actually a one-man indie project. Reviews are all over the place for this one, but if you’re looking for a visually impressive sci-fi military shooter with sword and grappling mechanics, it might be worth looking into.
Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch) is the latest in Atlus’ long-running JRPG franchise, arguably best known for spawning the Persona sub-series. As the latest in the much darker parent series, SMTV focuses on a war between angels and demons in a post-apocalyptic alternate reality version of Tokyo. Also, despite its acronym, Ant & Dec are not involved.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is the latest park management sim in the Jurassic Park universe. So if you’ve enjoyed Planet Zoo but wish the lions ate people more often, this might be the game for you (also the lions are velociraptors).
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (Switch) are the long-awaited remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Return to the Sinnoh region to try and catch the DS era Pokémon all over again, all with a Chibi art style that’s upset the Pokémon diehards, although to be fair everything upsets them.
Battlefield 2042 (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is arguably the biggest launch of the past two weeks, with EA’s shooter franchise rolling out a futuristic, multiplayer-focused title. However, it seems like fans aren’t too happy, with none of its Metacritic user scores currently pushing past 40% (the PS5 is faring best here, but even that’s 38%). Might be worth reading some reviews before jumping into this one.
Games of the Week
This week’s Games of the Week are an indie and a AAA title, each from one of the two weeks. The indie choice is Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (PC, PlayStation, Xbox), yet another Frogwares Sherlock Holmes game. This one is a prequel starring a young Sherlock just starting out as a detective and working with a mysterious figure filling the Watson role.
It looks like an interesting take on the Victorian mystery genre with a bit of modern drama polish, and with Frogwares’ past Sherlock games gaining themselves a devoted audience, it promises some low budget charm.
Overall Game of the Week is Forza Horizon 5 (PC, Xbox), the latest in Xbox’s open world racing sandbox franchise. I’ve been playing this through Game Pass for the past two weeks, and let me tell you, I am 100% confident in giving this the Game of the Week award.
I’ve had an interest in playing a Forza Horizon game for a while because the open world concept seems fascinating to me. And with the release of this one, I decided to jump in and I have been having a great time. The handling is superb, and the arcade nonsense of the whole experience is making for one of the most enjoyable experiences of the year for me.
This is a game where you take part in a monster truck showcase, race a runaway train and take on luchadores in stunt races. It’s delightful in its absurdity, and the gorgeous Mexican vistas are a superb setting for all of it. It’s a racing game seemingly designed for people who don’t really care about the tuning and telemetry side of motorsports and just want to look cool in some flash cars, and for that it’s AAA Game of the Week.
And that’s all for this week! Would normally say I’ll be back in a week, but the release schedule is completely barren. So I’ll be back in two instead as we move into December. This means three more roundups before Christmas, and then the annual 50 Most Notable Games feature arrives in early January. See you again in two weeks!