Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie gaming roundup!
This week, we talk Sonic, John Wick, Final Fantasy, and Detective Pikachu!
SONIC TRAILER RELEASED AND OH MY GOD
No doubt as a direct result of the trauma it caused me, I somehow supressed the existence of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer last week and didn’t mention it at all. So I’m mentioning it now.
Oh boy that sure was a trailer. It has it all. A terrifying abomination that the producers are calling Sonic. Jim Carrey channelling his 90s persona with less of the charm, and the most drawn-out joke about the wacky subject of suspected child endangerment. All soundtracked, of course, by the first thing I think of when I think of Sonic music – “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio. Come on, guys, if you’re going to use rap music, at least pull in “Unknown from M.E.” from Sonic Adventure. At least that’s about Knuckles (unlike Sonic he don’t chuckle). The source material has a history of beloved soundtracks they could have drawn from, and yet this is where they went for some reason.
The trailer didn’t impress anyone. The reaction was so bad, in fact, that days later the producers said they were going to completely redesign Sonic himself and replace all the CGI. However, the release date, six months from now, has not been changed, which suggests a visual effects team who are going to get horrendously overworked between now and then. All because the movie producers didn’t listen to Sega’s concerns that the movie design was a nightmare goblin. Sega, of course, know how to ruin the Sonic franchise in their own special ways, but at least they’ve never gone that far.
My thoughts go out to that poor effects team having to endure months of crunch now. Speaking of crunch and poor working conditions though, it’s that time again…
THE LATEST IN DEVELOPER WORK CULTURE
There have been a lot of stories this week continuing the discussion around workplace conditions within the games industry.
Following last week’s story about the Riot lawsuits issue, Riot issued a statement that they would end the practice of forced arbitration ahead of the walkouts. However, only for new staff, it’s an optional opt-out, and after the current lawsuits have been resolved. In other words, nothing about the existing sexual discrimination and harassment cases that caused so much upset in the first place was going to change. So the walkout went ahead as planned, with roughly 150 staff taking up the car park with picket lines and protest signs. They’ve stated that they want to see action taken towards positive change by 16th May, otherwise there could be more walkouts.
Meanwhile, similar reports are coming from NetherRealm employees, with accusations popping up around excessive hours, poor conditions and some discriminatory behaviour during work on Mortal Kombat and Injustice titles. NetherRealm have stated they’re actively investigating these claims, although it’s not clear how likely this will please existing staff.
The stories about workplace conditions have gotten so bad that two other companies have issued statements about wishing to improve conditions or that they’ve been actively avoiding crunch time. Blizzard have publicly stated their desire, and attempts, at reducing crunch on World of Warcraft to 0, while admitting they still have work to do. Meanwhile Path of Exile lead developer Chris Wilson has stated that crunch is forbidden at Grinding Gears and he has no desire to treat his staff this way.
The fact we’re now getting developers coming forward to state things like this even though they shouldn’t need to be stated is a hint at possibly how bad the situation has gotten within the industry. Let’s hope for some positive news again soon.
US SENATOR LOOKING TO LEGISLATE AGAINST LOOTBOXES
Speaking of industry issues, US senator Josh Hawley is looking to introduce legislation against the inclusion of loot boxes and other manipulative tactics in games. Ostensibly this is “think of the children” situation, but it’s not unexpected. Experts have been warning the industry about potential legislation, especially after the issues with Star Wars Battlefront 2. This would be a bigger deal than existing legislation in Belgium, as it would apply to the entirety of the USA, one of the biggest gaming markets.
The Entertainment Software Association have hit out at this legislation by claiming that various countries have found lootboxes and other microtransactions to not be gambling. But this doesn’t paint an accurate picture. The UK, one of the named countries, didn’t say what they’re claiming. The Gambling Commission recognised similarities between lootboxes and techniques used in gambling,. But at present, lootboxes are outside the legal definition. Their conclusion was more that the law needs to catch up, which is exactly what Josh Hawley is seemingly aiming to correct in the US.
Hopefully this will have a positive effect, but politicians have rarely had a good relationship with gaming in the past, so there are concerns of potential negative side effects.
ANTHEM IS UNDERPERFORMING
Surprising no one, Anthem is performing below expectations, according to an EA investor call. They’ve stated support for the game will continue, but since the roadmap for updates is seemingly on hold in favour of bug fixes, it’s not clear whether these planned updates will happen after all. EA don’t seem to be learning from the game’s apparent failure either, claiming they need to learn more lessons from the mobile market. This is despite several high profile failures of “live service” type games and the continued success of single-player experiences elsewhere. Perhaps EA might want to pay attention to this?
But hey, EA Access is now coming to PS4 after Sony’s previous refusal to host the service. So that’s…good? I guess?
SONY DO ANOTHER DIRECT
While we’re on the PS4, Sony released a new State of Play this week, or as I still insist on calling it, a new PlayStation Direct. And in news that pleases me specifically, the MediEvil remake has a confirmed release date of October 25th and it looks amazing. If you’re unaware of MediEvil, it was a PS1 action-adventure where you played a skeletal knight called Sir Daniel Fortesque. Navigating through a Tim Burton looking land to defeat the sorcerer who murdered you 100 years before. The remake for PS4 is looking highly polished and incredibly faithful to the original. With what appear to be a few improvements to mechanics like aiming and camera control, which were the original’s main downfalls. I’m very excited for this one.
There were a few other announcements, such as the announcement of Predator: Hunting Grounds, a PS4 exclusive asymmetric multiplayer title, with one player playing the classic movie monster. Up against a squad of human players. Then there was Riverbond, a dungeon crawler with voxel-based visuals, and guest appearances from various characters such as Shovel Knight (he’s in everything!) and Raz from Psychonauts. Then there was flying squirrel simulator Away: The Survival Series. Finally, there was also news of a major expansion to Monster Hunter World called Iceborne.
And that was about it except for one other small thing. Oh yeah, there was new footage of the Final Fantasy VII Remake that no one expected to see the light of day again for another 50 years or so. Of course, it was just a quick teaser trailer and an announcement of another announcement “in June” (aka E3, no doubt). But it was a cool surprise to end the stream on. Still no sign of a HD Cloud in a dress yet though.
A much better presentation this time around, it has to be said. Only real dud announcements were Riverbond, which looks merely okay, and the reveal of a limited promotional PS4 design that, honestly, looks exactly like the standard model but with the controller symbols on it. But otherwise, some solid stuff going on there. Much improved, Sony.
Over on Microsoft’s side of things, they’re celebrating Minecraft a whole bunch right now. Part of these celebrations include the release of a free browser edition of Minecraft Classic. In other words, Minecraft before the last decade of updates, for those who wish to see where it all began.
More curiously, however, Microsoft have teased a Minecraft mobile game. It appears to use AR technology, and looks set to bring elements of Minecraft into the real world. Okay, fine, let’s just say it outright: it’s Pokémon Go but with Minecraft. Which in an interesting choice. Full details will be revealed in a week or so.
JOHN WICK IS NOW A VIDEO GAME
And then there was another surprise announcement. In news that has excited our comics expert and Keanu fanboy Keith, John Wick is getting a video game. What’s surprising is that rather than a big flashy action title, John Wick Hex is instead being developed by indie darling Mike Bithell. It looks set to be a strategy title, looking like a mix of XCOM and Bithell’s own previous title, Volume.
It’s a rather unexpected announcement, especially with Bithell behind it. He’s known for quirky indie titles like shape-based platformer Thomas Was Alone and the text adventure Subsurface Circular. It looks stylish though, and John Wick himself is a spot-on digital recreation of Keanu Reeves. Bithell has said the only confirmed platform at present is the Epic Games Store on PC, but he does intend to get it on other platforms later.
First of all, a non-game release for you all, as this week is the cinematic release of Detective Pikachu. It’s getting surprisingly good reviews, and in the wake of the Sonic trailer, people have gotten a lot more excited for this. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will be soon, and I’ll have a review up for you once I have.
Anyway, back to actual games and not just games-related media. Very quiet week this week. The only release of note is Episode 3 of Life is Strange 2, which I have already played, and Dontnod continue to deliver some great, if stressful storytelling. And as I’ve hastily played through the first two episodes in the run-up to this, you should be able to find my first impressions of Episode 1 up on my YouTube channel as you read this!
Besides that, it’s been fairly dead. There is free stuff again, as always, with the various console subscriptions. Let’s get Nintendo’s NES games out of the way – it’s Clu Clu Land, Vs Excitebike and Donkey Kong Jr. Not massively exciting, but there you are.
On Xbox Games with Gold, it’s a middling selection this month, with Marooners, The Golf Club 2, Earth Defence Force: insect Armageddon and Comic Jumper. Nothing particularly earth-shattering unfortunately.
The PlayStation Plus selection, meanwhile, is pretty good, despite it still being reduced to two games. Sony are offering up What Remains of Edith Finch, which garnered a ton of critical acclaim and landed a few Game of the Year lists in 2017, and Overcooked, which is a beloved party game where you can yell at your friends for being bad chefs. Despite what the Internet thinks, that’s a good combo of games worth checking out for your subscription.
Game of the Week
But because of this scarcity of new titles this week, I don’t have a Game of the Week. I think, in honour of Detective Pikachu’s big screen debut, I’m going to show some love to the game that directly inspired it. This week’s Game of the Week is Detective Pikachu for the 3DS, a game where you play a boy who solves mysteries with a talking Pikachu in a deerstalker. He isn’t voiced by Ryan Reynolds, however, but instead has a much gruffer voice. So if you enjoy the movie, maybe go check out the game to see what directly inspired it.
And that’s it for this week! I will see you again next week with more of the latest from the world of gaming!