Game News Roundup: July/Early August 2020

Welcome back to your monthly report of game news compiled into one convenient place, so you don’t have to worry about those pesky cracks that some info tends to fall through at more major publications!

Thanks and credit for the banner image goes to the Avocado’s one and only Space Robot!

Before I begin the chronological report, here’s a series of updates from throughout the summer that I had gleaned from my periodic checks of the Australian games ratings board website:

The Dark Pictures: Little Hope, Total War Saga: Troy, Little Nightmares 2, Mortal Shell, Crash Bandicoot 4, Brenda Romero’s Empire of Sin, Harmonix’s Fuser, the XIII remake, Age of Empires 3: Definition Edition, Battletoads 2020, Square Enix’s shooter Outriders, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon‘s Western localization are all on track for their Fall 2020 or now specific release dates, as many of these postings led directly into release date announcements within days or weeks. Most amusingly for me, because of this I was able to tell my dear friend Ben about Battletoads coming soon THE NIGHT BEFORE the July 31st premiere of its release date trailer. Ratings board postings have also provided alerts on upcoming physical releases, such as the since announced Cadence of Hyrule and Untitled Goose Game, or the announced but not dated PS4 release of Manifold Garden.

On July 1st, Crysis Remastered released its second trailer, announcing a July 23rd release, after leaking earlier the same week. The leaked trailer was received with notable dissatisfaction at the visual quality of the updated graphics, soon resulting in all but the Switch version of the game being delayed past that initial July date for further tweaking.

On July 2nd, pre-orders for NBA 2K21 opened on the official website, revealing that the standard edition next-gen releases of the game for PS5 and Xbox Series X will cost $70 US, sparking discussion and concern over whether this signifies the first overall raise of MSRP since the start of the seventh console generation. NBA2K21 also entirely avoids the previously discussed free next-gen upgrades many third-parties, most newly Bethesda, have committed to for this holiday season. The basketball game instead requires purchase of the $100 Mamba Forever edition (styled in tribute to the late Kobe Bryant) to gain “dual-access” to both the X1 and XSX or PS4 and PS5 forms of it.

On July 8th, Limited Run Games held a video presentation as they’ve had under the E3 banner for the previous few years. Please keep in mind that all release dates/windows provided by LRG are when orders for these games go up, as the production quantity of these physical copies is determined by that initial order window, so there will typically be roughly 3-4 months between those and the actual release.

A full list of titles will be featured under footnote below, but here are some highlights: the first two Shantae games, the 2002 original and DSiWare sequel Risky’s Revenge, are rereleasing physically on Switch this Fall, alongside a new Game Boy Color cartridge reprinting for the former; simultaneous physical releases of Super Meat Boy and the upcoming Super Meat Boy Forever for Switch and PS4 timed around the overall release of the latter; other upcoming or then-upcoming indie releases such as Curse of the Moon 2, Carrion (orders open now, closes August 23rd), Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, and Demon Turf; Castlevania Anniversary Collection for Switch and PS4 in Fall 2020; “more River City Girls action is on the way, further info forthcoming”, and the Monkey Island Collection Box for PC, featuring Secret, 2, and Curse, plus the former two’s special editions, with orders opening this October.

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July 9th:

After occasional previews throughout late 2019 and early 2020, Geoff Keighley’s “Final Hours of Half Life Alyx” project released exclusively through Steam on this date, following in the footsteps of Keighley’s previous Final Hours features from early in his career. A “25,000 word interactive storybook”, according to its Steam page, it recounts not only the production of the new VR title itself, but the numerous canceled attempts at follow-up releases in the Half-Life series and other Valve projects, much of which had never been officially or publicly discussed prior. These include an open world Left 4 Dead 3 set in Morocco, several VR projects alongside a previous model of VR headset that was deemed too expensive to release, an RPG project that at one point was part of the DOTA universe, and most notably the mainline Half-Life project internally known as Half-Life 3, which emphasized dynamic procedural world generation. This is all reported as discussed in the Giant Bombcast several weeks ago and by Joe Skrebels at IGN when the Final Hours project first released. You’ll hear me discuss this briefly in the currently upcoming Gamescast #67 as I was the only person to be aware of this bizarrely under the radar story.

July 10th: Announced the afternoon before, a Nintendo Treehouse Live premiered featuring roughly 30 minutes of gameplay from Paper Mario: The Origami King, and then the announcement trailer and gameplay of Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia, an RPG from Wayforward launching exclusively on Switch this November and licensed from one of those Yu-Gi-Oh!-alikes I watched as a tween.

That same day, Amazon delayed its upcoming MMO New World for the second time this year, pushed from August to Spring 2021. New World in its current form was shown off at the 2019 VGAs, having gone through a significant revamping after its original unveiling led to concerns about technical problems and colonialist undertones in the game. This came on the heels of Amazon’s first game Crucible reverting back to a closed beta after a massively unsuccessful launch earlier this year.

The Quantum Leap device that made multiple appearances during this year’s Devolver Direct.

Devolver Digital Direct on July 11th:

The conflict between Nina Struthers and her new archrival reached its climax, many cameos were made including both Shuhei Yoshida and Phil Spencer, Geoff Keighley, Bennet Foddy, SonicFox, an actor portraying “your uncle from Nintendo”, and Suda51 very briefly, and the credits posited this as only the end of the “DD Cinematic Universe’s Phase 1”.

Shadow Warrior 3 was presented with a 2021 release, Carrion* and Fall Guys‘ respective release dates were both announced, July 23rd for the former and August 4th for the latter, Olija was revealed as Coming Soon later this year for both Steam and Switch, Serious Sam 4 made a brief appearance, and as the culmination of the presentation’s commentary on modern marketing “hype” culture, Devolver closed with Devolverland Expo, Available Now for free on Steam, a first-person action game and “marketing simulator” wherein the player infiltrates a canceled E3-style conference to claim the marketing materials of new games for themselves, ending with teases for three actual mystery upcoming games. The trailer also featured hidden Steam keys for Carrion which quickly went used.

*A review of Carrion on The Avocado from yours truly is forthcoming!

July 12th – Ubisoft Forward:

After opening with a slickly edited Watch Dogs: Legion cinematic trailer featuring an incredibly tone-deaf usage of Martin Niemoller’s famous poem about the Holocaust, Clint Hocking came in explaining both this and a second, more gameplay focused trailer, which ended with its new October 29th 2020 release date. Next, Brawlhalla was revealed to be launching crossplay and its mobile version simultaneously on August 6th, while the bizarre Tom Clancy crossover mobile game Elite Squad from last E3 was simply updated as Coming Soon. Then, the full reveal for Ubisoft’s cyberspace battle royale Hyperscape after teasing it earlier this summer. Emphasizing its gritty narrative and setting, this trailer announced the launch of the game’s free Battle Pass and its on open beta for that same day, July 12th. Phil Spencer appeared for the second of many times in this article to explicitly confirm that Ubisoft is supporting the new Xbox’s Smart Delivery initiative/service “across the board”, thus presumably including other near-future titles that have yet to receive news updates like Rainbow Six: Quarantine and the project formerly known as Gods and Monsters, and citing Watch Dogs specifically alongside the previously confirmed Assassins’ Creed and the soon-to-be confirmed Far Cry 6. Ubisoft also confirmed that all of these free next-gen upgrades will be matched on PS5, although it’s yet to be clarified whether Microsoft’s advertised playthrough progression transfer between consoles is included in that.

This led into the final set of presentations, with developer commentary over roughly five minutes of intercut gameplay footage from AC Valhalla, and announcing that the game is releasing on November 17th, which leaked in the week leading up to the show alongside significant gameplay footage from Valhalla and most major information about the show’s final game, Far Cry 6. The game’s credit sequence and a cinematic of Giancarlo Esposito’s dictatorial character with his son, who is popularly speculated to be Vaas from FC3, were shown alongside the game’s February 18th 2021 release date. As he said goodbye for the day, company CEO and close associate of many of the company’s recently outed and disgraced abusive leaders Yves Guillemot announced another Forward presentation for later this year, which has since been set for September.

Alongside their progress updates for Bayonetta 3 in the past year, on July 13th Platinum Games provided one for Babylon’s Fall, stating that the game was intended to have more revealed this summer and that they “look forward to showcasing much more” on the game “as soon as we can.”

July 14th – Stadia Connect: Here are some of the more notable headlines from a presentation that seemed unsatisfactory even for ongoing subscribers to the service: Orcs Must Die! 3 launching Available Now on this date and for free with Stadia Pro, the two current Hitman reboot games coming to Stadia in September ahead of III coming alongside its overall launch, Harmonix, Until Dawn‘s Supermassive Games, and Uppercut Games as the newest studios announcing partnerships with Google but without anything to show yet, and in the meantime an indie platformer entitled One Hand Clapping was launched in early access, and Splash Damage (of Brink and Quake Wars) showcased their Stadia exclusive Outcasters, an eight player action game in a ‘vinyl/funko pop’ art style which is releasing in Fall 2020 and is not Blankos: Block Party, which was covered heavily in June PC-focused shows as I discussed in my previous article. In terms of actual changes to the service, the Chromecast/subscription bundle got a price reduction to $100, and the presentation heavily emphasized the new “Click to Play” feature, where the premium tier’s free games can be accessed immediately from watching somebody play it online, so you can “play with your favorite streamer!”

July 17th: Geoff Keighley did an extended Summer Game Fest exclusive stream of his hands-on experience with the PS5’s DualSense controller and the console pack-in Astro’s Playroom, demonstrating the controller’s features for those that want to see them in action.

July 20th – Nintendo Direct Mini Partner’s Showcase:

The first in a series of third party focused Directs was surprisingly announced at midnight Eastern US time before the first Showcase’s upload that morning. It featured a series of new Cadence of Hyrule DLC packs with five new playable characters, which will release throughout the Fall leading up to their compilation in the October physical release, alongside trailers for multiplayer shooter Rogue Company‘s early access launch on the platform and arcade fighter WWE 2K Battlegrounds, and closed out with two announcements from Atlus, the reveal of Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster on Switch (and PS4) releasing October 29th 2020 in Japan and Spring 2021 in the West, and the first trailer for Shin Megami Tensei V in multiple years, announcing it as coming in 2021 as Atlus’ first worldwide simul-release.

Keighley’s Summer Game Fest had an extended indie event known as the Day of the Devs that same day as the Nintendo Direct Mini, and while it was too big to cover in detail on my deadline, I would recommend checking it out if you have the time.

July 23rd – Xbox Games Showcase

All games discussed here will be coming to PC at the same time as their Xbox launches; whether they’re releasing for both Xbox One and all new console models or just the latter will be clarified where possible.

The ‘pre-show’ for Xbox’s event showcased Exomecha and Echo Generation (a card-game adventure) coming in 2021, a full gameplay trailer for Hello Neighbor 2, a port of the specially built for Switch Dragon Quest 11 S enhanced edition coming to Xbox Game Pass day one, as well as PS4 and PC, on December 4th 2020, an ID@Xbox montage focused on indie games coming first to Xbox and optimized for Series X, listed in full below, and perhaps most excitingly, the 3D platformer set in a world of musical theatre Balan Wonderworld coming in Spring 2021 from Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, two of the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog, and their new Balan Studio within Square Enix. Balan will release for Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox One and Series X, with confirmed Smart Delivery support providing both Xbox versions simultaneously. From there, the main show began with an extended look at Halo Infinite, starting with a cinematic continuation from the E3 2019 cinematic trailer, and going into extended full gameplay. The rumored grappling hook and seamless sandbox design across sections of the Halo station were both shown off, the latter occurring in occasional stretches during the large campaign, and they discussed how the game will function as a live service with regular narrative expansions a la Destiny. 

ID@Xbox: 2

Along with another brief appearance from Phil Spencer, the show moved right along, first revealing State of Decay 3 and Forza Motorsport 8 for Series X, and providing a second look at Everwild (also only confirmed for Series X) from Rare with more defined, cel-shaded visuals of its environments and wildlife alongside some explanation of that world and magical interaction with those creatures. However, the game is still in early development as had been said last year, and they are, by their own word, “still experimenting with ideas” for the gameplay right now. Next was a new trailer for Dontnod’s Tell Me Why, announcing its first chapter’s August 27th release alongside posting an online FAQ addressing a variety of representational concerns with the trans man lead character. Moon Studios quickly dropped in to assure that the Series X optimized edition of Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be available by the end of 2020. Obsidian had three trailers: the first of The Outer Worlds’ two main narrative and planetary expansions, Peril on Gorgon, coming to the game’s non-Switch platforms September 9th, Grounded‘s early access release on July 28th, and finally the cinematic announcement trailer of Avowed, a first person fantasy action RPG set in the world of Pillars of Eternity and the game which Microsoft bought Obsidian for, by their own words. Avowed, like most of the presentation’s games, is only confirmed for PC and Series X, after being temporarily listed for Xbox One on the website, this all putting into question the value of claims that first-party development will support Xbox One across the board for the first year or two of Series X and will continue to a meaningful but not complete extent afterwards.

Next was the announcement of As Dusk Falls, an original interactive drama with a distinct graphic novel-esque art style and a story spanning 30 years in a family’s life. The game comes from former Quantic Dream members, and I haven’t settled on whether I’m focused on taking comfort that they have the initiative to not work with David Cage anymore, or being still skeptical of their writing capabilities given Quantic’s release history. Hellblade 2 appeared briefly after its first appearance at the VGA’s, discussing the location shooting for its Iceland setting and recommitting to the recent announcement of the game being built in Unreal Engine 5, which doesn’t fully release until late 2021 and thus adds this game to the pile of major releases not coming for quite a while into the new Xbox family’s lifecycle. Psychonauts 2 got another new psychedelic trailer featuring an original from Jack Black and another release delay, to 2021.

Microsoft proceeded through a quick third-party dedicated section, which only further underlines the question of why both having a “pre-show” with some of those as well, just put those here too? It started with Destiny 2 overall on Series X along with a trailer for its latest expansion, moved on through the re-reveal of the uncanceled STALKER 2 alongside Warhammer 40K Darktide, both having timed exclusive launches on Series X in 2021. Tetris Effect: Connected was revealed to be coming to Xbox Holiday 2020 with the eponymous new multiplayer support, a timed exclusive feature prior to it coming as a free patch for the game on all of its previous platforms in 2021. They gave the first reveal of The Gunk from Steamworld series creators Image and Form, a sci-fi action game about cleaning the environment coming in 2021 to both Xboxes. Bloober’s The Medium returned from the aforementioned May show with a second trailer showing off the game’s horror atmosphere and its distinct dual-reality splitscreen mechanic. It’s coming exclusively to Series X in Holiday 2020.

Finally, CrossfireX and Phantasy Star Online 2 returned from E3 2019 with a trailer for the former’s campaign mode built exclusively by Remedy for the game’s Western release, featuring a gloriously amusing sad slow cover of DMX’s X Gon Give It to Ya. For the latter, PSO2: New Genesis was revealed, the dedicated next-gen version of the game releasing on Xbox in 2021. Finally, the show pivoted back to first-party to conclude with a brief cinematic teaser revealing one of the industry’s worst kept secrets: Fable is back baby, courtesy of Forza Horizon‘s Playground Games, and it’s still got that corny irreverent humor. To finally have it confirmed is nice, but to still only know it officially exists but nothing else is tough.

July 28th: Summer Game Fest exclusively announced that Cuphead was coming to PS4 that same day, complete with a stop-motion animated trailer from the MDHR developers. This was accompanied by brief mentions of the upcoming Netflix animated series and DLC expansion, the latter of which was admitted to “probably have been announced too early”, but could be confirmed to come to all platforms at the same time when it is ready. Unfortunately for MDHR and the Keighl-meister, the PS4 launch was leaked early by multiple international PSN storefronts as they accidentally posted the game early.

August 5th: Nintendo tweeted the announcement trailer for Pikmin 3 Deluxe on Switch after the title had been reported on for multiple years, revealing an October 30th 2020 release date. This preceded Nintendo releasing its newest earnings update the next day, which I already covered in last week’s games thread, if you’d like to read about it. The only current trailer for Pikmin 3 Deluxe doesn’t emphasize the game’s new features, but they include all previous multiplayer DLC, full local co-op for the main story mode, accessibility features like aiming help and multiple new difficulty modes, and two completely new story modes depicting the adventures of the series’ earlier protagonists, Olimar and Louie, one set between the second and third games and the other being an epilogue potentially tying into the game’s cliffhanger ending and/or the long gestating Pikmin 4. 3

August 6th: Bethesda announced next-gen editions of Doom Eternal and Elder Scrolls Online, with both games supporting free upgrades for all PS4 and Xbox One owners of the games, and additionally committed to unilateral free upgrades for any other existing titles that receive next-gen versions.

Sony announced a 42-minute State of Play presentation one week ago as of this publication and aired it that Thursday. Opening and closing with extended gameplay looks of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and Gearbox’s PS5 launch title and looter-slasher Godfall, it was entirely third party focused and only featured three updates on games emphasized in previous PS5 announcements, namely Bugsnax and Hitman III along with the aforementioned Gearbox title. This makes the likelihood of further PS5-focused updates during Autumn all the greater. New PSVR support was announced not only for the upcoming threequel but both previous Hitman reboot titles, while Bugsnax got its first gameplay showcase after many had expressed curiosity regarding how it would play when it was first revealed. Crash showed off a variety of playable characters and free unlockable costumes, gravity-switching, time-slowing, and phase-shifting power-ups, and a brand-new specialized Mirror Mode for every level with a different visual style and new mechanics like coloring in a blank world. I have to admit, even never having played or been interested in the series, I was pretty impressed. Bugsnax on the other hand presented a variety of exploration, trapping, investigation, and other mechanics for interacting with and harvesting the Bugsnax creatures in a first person POV while gradually rebuilding the island’s community. Also, the player character is literally a journalist chafing against the publishing industry’s issues. I’m only more excited for this game now.

Proceeding forward, Braid: Anniversary Edition4 was announced for an early 2021 simul-release across PS4, PS5, X1, XSX, Switch, and all forms of PC, featuring extensively integrated and lengthy developer commentary, all the better for him to hear his own voice, and enhanced painterly graphics. This was followed with Spelunky 2‘s first update since its delay last year, in which creator Derek Yu narrated the new trailer for his game which concluded with revealing its very near September 15th 2020 release date. He explained that major features he and his team emphasized during development, based on player feedback, included online multiplayer support, an expanded cast of characters to rescue within the caves and build a community around, as well as extensive path branching within the caves to create greater run variety. On Twitter after the presentation, Yu clarified that the game’s Steam release will be shortly after the PS4 launch, and after that they’ll be looking into further platforms.

Following from its Game Awards 2018 reveal, The Pathless from Annapurna and ABZU‘s developer Giant Squid, received a gameplay showcase of its own here emphasizing the open-world travel and archery, and most integrally, showing affection to your pet eagle as a core mechanic. It was followed by several fellow indies, the free to play “anime Breath of the WildGenshin Impact, coming first to PS4 this Fall ahead of its PC and Switch releases, Anno Mutatiunum, a cyberpunk action game that shifts between 2D and 3D Coming Soon, the aforementioned Bugsnax, and the immediately controversial, Aeon Must Die!, a visually striking beat-and-shoot-em-up supposed to come in 2021, which alongside its State of Play appearance has been hit with accusations from several recently departed employees, including chief creative officer Aleksei Nehoroshkin, towards developer Limestone, of tax evasion, extreme labor abuses such as reduced and unpaid salaries, 12 to 16 hour work days without weekends off, and hijacking control over the studio and legal ownership of the game’s IP, as well as towards the publisher Focus Home for having knowledge of these events for months without action. The publisher released the following statement.

The complete Vader Immortal VR series was revealed as coming to PSVR in all three episodes for $30 on August 25th. After much anticipation and its first expansion launched earlier this year with a three month delay between PS4 and Xbox One versions, Control’s second main narrative expansion, the Alan Wake crossover AWE, was revealed to be releasing on both platforms on August 27th in its exciting trailer featuring the eponymous author character. The stand-alone, full/non-DOTA-mod version of Drodo’s Auto Chess was announced as coming to PS4 on October 31st. The Pedestrian was announced – an indie puzzle platformer about navigating the world of everyday life’s street signs, coming to PS4 in January 2021 after its kickstarted PC launch this January, with an undated Switch release coming as well. Hood: Outlaws and Legends was announced, Sumo Digital’s new multiplayer stealth-action Robin Hood game coming in 2021 across PC, PS4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X. Sony also presented a new trailer for the further in development Pokémon competitor Temtem, announcing that its final release is coming in 2021 to PS5. Alongside this, the game’s Kickstarter confirmed that its originally announced Xbox One and PS4 versions were canceled in lieu of focusing on developing for both next-gen hardware platforms, alongside the previously announced and not canceled Switch and PC releases. A variety of options are being offered for previous crowdfunders committed to the now canceled console releases, full refunds, opting for the game on the new platform in the same console family, or transferring over to the Switch or PC editions.

Next time, Microsoft and Sony are supposed to further detail hardware, price, and release dates by the end of this month. Who will win the glorious 2020 game of chicken? We’ll see. Game News Roundup #3 will come within the first two weeks of September!

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