Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what’s ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We’ll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
This is it — Coming close on the heels of The Last of Us Part II, the last of the big-budget AAA PlayStation 4 exclusives is here. Ghost of Tsushima has finally arrived, essentially giving developer Sucker Punch the bragging right of bookending a long and illustrious run of PS4-only games that it more or less began all the way back in March 2014 with the release of Infamous Second Son.
Though Second Son’s supercharged open-world adventure was well received (and, like TLOU2, featured actor Troy Baker voicing a leading role in a game set in Seattle), early reviews for Ghost appear to show that Sucker Punch has scored even bigger by heading across the Pacific — and back in time. The story of samurai Jin Sakai’s journey to save his 13th-century home on Tsushima Island during the first Mongol invasion of Japan already has racked up an impressive 83 average critics’ score at Metacritic, with 92 reviewers weighing in as of today — which just happens to be the game’s release date.
It wouldn’t be a proper launch without a launch trailer, of course, and on that front Ghost has us covered in more ways than one:
Though Ghost of Tsushima hews fairly close to a reality-based historical setting, Sucker Punch has amped up the fantastical elements to great visual effect, portraying Tsushima as a lavishly beautiful landscape where Sakura trees never stop shedding their petals and the ever-present wind becomes an almost mystical helper. Jin can commune with foxes in a way we only wish we could in the 21st century, and you can even summon the spirit of iconic director Akira Kurosawa by switching on the hyper-picturesque black-and-white cinematic mode named in his honor (and with his estate’s full blessing).
While Ghost of Tsushima marks the beginning of the end of a PS4-only hit parade that’s given us classics like Bloodborne, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man, Final Fantasy VII Remake, TLOU2, and more, the rest of the year still has a handful of enticing cross-platform games waiting in the wings — including Marvel’s Avengers (Sept. 4), Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (Oct. 2), and Cyberpunk 2077 (Nov. 19). So don’t box up your PS4 or Xbox One just yet — there’s still plenty of action headed our way before the new gear arrives.
Speaking of new gear …
Sony’s evidently expecting demand for the PlayStation 5 to soar through the roof, crushing early expectations of how many units the company needs ready to ship when the console debuts sometime near the holiday season.
Bloomberg reported this week that Sony has doubled its launch-ready production order of roughly 5 million PS5 consoles to 10 million, a massive bump that reportedly owes to a combination of surging fan interest in the swoopy new machine itself, as well as the ongoing demand for stay-at-home fun that the lingering coronavirus pandemic continues to foster. With that kind of ramping up in output before the year’s end, Bloomberg’s unnamed sources said there still may be early snags in the logistics of getting all those sleek white consoles onto store shelves in time for the holidays — but it’s a sure sign that more people than ever before will be planting their fan flags early, when the first wave of next-gen games lands this fall.
On the Xbox side of things, Microsoft is gearing up for the debut of the Xbox Series X not with a focus on the new console, but on the games themselves. Tweeting out a teaser for what to expect from next week’s Xbox Games Showcase, Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg said it’s all about the software:
The only game Microsoft specifically teased by name for the event is Halo Infinite, which is set to get its first-ever reveal of campaign gameplay. But Microsoft says there’s plenty more in store, including “world premieres and updated looks at some of the games we’ve already revealed.” It all kicks off at 12 p.m. ET on July 23, with the Xbox Games Showcase set to stream on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch.
With one eye already on the Xbox Series X, Microsoft is also reportedly scaling back production of all but one machine in its current-gen console lineup. Via IGN, the company is halting production of both the high-end Xbox One X and the Xbox One S digital edition, leaving only the standard Xbox One S as the lone current-gen Microsoft console that’ll tide new buyers over until the Series X arrives later this year. The Xbox One S remains a do-it-all console that, unlike the digital edition, doesn’t sacrifice a disc drive — so if you’re a late adopter, chances are you’ll still be able to get your hands on the definitive Xbox One model with no worries about beating the rush.
Stadia stakes its claim
Google continues to seek firm footing for its platform-agnostic Stadia concept, and this week’s reveal that at least five Stadia-exclusive games are on the way may be the next big step in carving out a larger niche for the cloud-based gaming service.
During this week’s digital Stadia Connect showcase, Google revealed Outcasters, a Stadia-only game coming this fall from developer Splash Damage (Gears Tactics), as well as the Stadia-exclusive Orcs Must Die! 3 from Robot Entertainment, which is playable now.
In addition, three more Stadia exclusives are in the works, though Google only revealed the developers who’re making them (Supermassive Games, Uppercut Games, and Harmonix), with no early word on what the new titles will look like. But Stadia also continues to collect a growing library of third-party titles, 20 more of which were revealed this week.
The highlights from that list include all three Hitman games available on other platforms, as well as Dead by Daylight, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Outriders, and 2D platformer One Hand Clapping — the only title in the group that’s ready to stream right now. Looking farther ahead, Stadia is also set to host some pretty major cross-platform games releasing later this year, including Marvel’s Avengers, Cyberpunk 2077, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The best of the rest
Mario slims down — Ghost of Tsushima isn’t the only big game cutting through the clutter this week: Paper Mario: The Origami King, a reimagined revival of Mario’s slimmed-down days from the Nintendo 64, slices onto the Nintendo Switch today.
Reviewers are digging Mario’s return to his skinny ways, collectively awarding The Origami King an aggregate review score of 81, so far, at Metacritic. The setup puts Mario and new sidekick Olivia on the trail of Princess Peach, who’s entrapped within her own transformed castle thanks to an ill-tempered meanie — this time in the shape of King Olly, Olivia’s older brother, and the schemer of a paper-thin plan to “refold the world.”
While sticking close to its role-playing roots, The Origami King takes things open-world on the Switch, with Mario and Olivia venturing to the kind of diverse places that fans have long come to expect from the mustachioed one’s mainline platforming adventures. From deserts and water worlds to a vacant amusement park, our hero tracks down the princess while bopping his way through turn-based battles that, according to the critics, may look plenty cute — but definitely aren’t lacking in difficulty.
Even with the RPG focus, Mario can still jump like a champ, and can even equip some familiar tools from his ever-versatile plumber’s belt. This one’s really a no-brainer: Whether you’re nostalgic for the 2001 original or completely fresh to the whole concept of Mario on a 2-dimensional diet, Paper Mario: The Origami King feels like the kind of breezy blast that Switch owners will definitely want to welcome into the fold.
The Avengers, Nomura-style — What do you get when the design mind behind Kingdom Hearts and some of Final Fantasy’s most iconic characters decides to put his own twist on Spider-Man and Tony Stark? Square Enix gaming guru Tetsuya Nomura has the answer, in the form of a trio of amazing-looking new collectible figures that reimagine Spidey, Iron Man, and Captain America in a whole new way.
Look out — Spidey’s got eight arms to grab ya:
The new line, part of Square Enix’s hype train for the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers, equips each of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with his own unique set of accessories as well as a display stand, “enabling a wide variety of different iconic poses from jumping, flying or swinging into action,” according to Square Enix’s press release.
We don’t know if more characters from the game are due for their own Nomura makeovers, but each of the three Avengers pictured above is already up for pre-order as the inaugural class of the Marvel Universe Variant Bring Arts series, available through Square Enix’s online store.
As for Marvel’s Avengers itself, a PS4 beta play period is set to kick off on Aug. 7 for anyone who’s pre-ordered the game, with Xbox One and PC pre-order players getting in on the action a week later. From there, it’s just a few more weeks until the team assembles for the Avengers’ Sept. 4 date with PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC.
The Green Knight goes a-gaming — Besides the Avengers, another big-screen project is also getting the gaming crossover treatment. The Green Knight, A24’s upcoming spin on the medieval legend of the Knights of the Round Table, is heading to the tabletop in the form of a board game from game designer Timm Woods, in collaboration with The Green Knight film writer/director David Lowery.
“An epic reimagining” of the classic Arthurian story, “what begins as a game will become an odyssey into the unknown to prove thy worth in the eyes of the Kingdom,” A24 teases with a flourish in its press release. “From the hallowed halls of Camelot to the mysterious wilds of the fabled Green Chapel, embark on a mythical journey in search of the Green Knight. With Honor at stake, will you rise to meet the challenge?”
The starter set comes with all the essentials: a Game Master’s guide including the rules of play, a map of the realm, 5 character sheets, a 20-sided die, and “Official Encounters and A24 Bonus Quests.” Pick from one of five character types (Knight, Noble, Hunter, Sorcerer, or Bard) and get ready to encounter a forest full of dangers, including “deranged highwaymen, ghostly damsels, mystical creatures,” and more.
Pre-orders for the $35 set are live now at the A24 online shop, with the movie — starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Joel Edgerton — currently awaiting a new release date, following its bump from an originally planned (and coronavirus-delayed) premiere date of May 29.
– It was bound to happen: With Aquaman already in the water as the splashy new chapter in Fortnite’s Season 3 rolls along, Arthur Curry’s deep-sea nemesis was sure to show up sooner or later. Epic Games revealed this week that Black Manta has been sighted in-game, revealing the red-eyed one’s arrival in a new trailer that shows how you’ll look taking the field suited up in the sinister skin of the bad guy:
Black Manta’s outfit is available now in the Item Shop, along with his signature Manta Blades dual pickaxe. Soak up all the details over at Fortnite’s Aquaman Challenges (Week 5) landing page.
– The newest update for No Man’s Sky is here to freak out your spacefaring adventures with Desolation, a horror-tinged expansion that flings you across the universe to “scavenge and survive in the haunted wreckage of derelict freighters,” some of which have even “been infested with a sinister alien presence,” according to Hello Games. A free-add-on for anyone who already owns the full game, Desolation is available now for No Man’s Sky on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
– Babylon’s Fall, the collaboration first announced at E3 2018 as an action game from NieR: Automata co-developer PlatinumGames and publishing partner Square Enix, has stayed mostly quiet in the two years since its big reveal. But this week the team sent out an update that assured fans the game’s still on the way — though it’s still as shrouded in mystery as ever.
“While we hoped to reveal more about the game this summer, we can share that development on Babylon’s Fall is continuing to progress well,” the developers wrote, adding that they’re currently working on the game remotely. While that leaves fans with no release date, the game’s Twitter feed is here to catch you up with tons of earlier video snippets that show off Platinum’s kinetic gift for close-combat action.
– Speaking of NieR, Square Enix is getting set to release NieR Re[in]carnation, a new NieR mobile game as part of the year-long commemoration of the wildly unique RPG franchise’s 10th anniversary. Though it’s made for smart devices, the trailer footage looks more or less as good as any game from the PS3 / Xbox 360 generation.
Announced around the same time that NieR mastermind Yoko Taro revealed the original 2010 game that started it all would be getting a complete remake, watch for NieR Re[in]carnation to hit iOS and Android devices sometime after its closed beta period, which kicks off July 29, comes to an end.
– Heads up: it’s Hideo Kojima on a bike! To commemorate the recent PC release of Death Stranding, the Cyberpunk 2077 team extended its congratulations to the Metal Gear mastermind this week with a cool two-wheeled tribute that makes us ponder: Is this a tease for a Kojima cameo in CD Projekt RED’s upcoming game? The developer hasn’t indicated if Kojima could show up somewhere in the neon streets of Night City — but at least it’s clear they’re big fans.
– Hearthstone has announced its next expansion as Scholomance Academy, taking players back to a slice of World of Warcraft lore that dabbles in the darkest of magical arts. Watch for the update to land in early August.
– Bethesda is taking QuakeCon online-only, with this year’s event — the 25th anniversary of the long-running celebration of all things Quake, Doom, and Bethesda-related — set for a three-day digital fest that begins on Aug. 7. Check out Bethesda’s landing page for details on how its first-ever remote QuakeCon aims to bring fans together, even from afar.
– Looking for a deal (or three)? In the wake of last week’s Ubisoft Forward showcase, the publisher is running a huge online games sale that discounts bundles as well as individual games from the Assassin’s Creed franchise, along with similar deals for franchises like Far Cry, Ghost Recon, Rayman, The Division, and much more. In addition to being ready to roll at Ubisoft’s online storefront, the sale is also available for console-compatible games via the Nintendo eShop and the Xbox Store. It all comes to an end on July 20, so hop on board to save an additional 20 percent off the already-discounted price by entering UBIFORWARD and following the prompts.
– J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Games is bringing some seriously seasoned talent on board, recruiting former Valve executive Anna Sweet as the studio’s new CEO. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s a move aimed at expanding Bad Robot’s gaming ambitions, which definitely has our interest piqued while we wait for word on what’s in store under the budding games umbrella from the do-it-all mind behind Lost and The Rise of Skywalker.
– Amazon reined in its launch of Crucible earlier this summer following a less-than-stellar release, and now it’s delayed the upcoming New World MMO in response to player and testing feedback. Watch for New World to arrive sometime in the spring of next year.
– Toss a coin to your tech guy: It’s possible that Henry Cavill actually does possess the stamina of Superman and the discipline of Geralt. We’re not sure there’s any other way to explain the new Instagram video he just shared, walking fans through a time-lapsed (and, from the look of it, excruciatingly tedious) build of his very own homemade PC gaming rig.
Set to the soulful tunes of Barry White and spanning a marathon tabletop tinkering session that sees the sun go down and rise again before it’s time to hit the power switch, Cavill’s DIY PC doctoring post came with its own warning label: “This kind of material isn’t for everyone….viewer discretion is advised. You may see a lot of parts that you haven’t seen before.”
In the end, Cavill does emerge triumphant, firing up the geeky bling after hours and hours of blood, sweat, and Barry. If there’s a lesson here, it’s that Cavill isn’t gonna let social distancing at home give him a case of idle hands. Whether it’s painting Warhammer miniatures or constructing a PC from a pile of parts, The Witcher star just keeps on leading by example when it comes to finding ways to turn gaming into a productive pastime at home. To be honest, we kinda feel seen … especially with Ghost of Tsushima beckoning us to while away the entire upcoming weekend slashing and sneaking — all while our listless bodies just sink deeper and deeper into the sofa.