Marvel's Avengers will finally be here at the beginning of next month. The game will follow the core group of the your favorite Avengers, with more to follow, including Spider-Man if you're in the PlayStation ecosystem. Like all comic stories, you need a good villain, and today we get a look at this games big bad in the form of A.I.M.
Advanced Idea Mechanics, aka A.I.M., are a group that rises to prominence after the A-Day disaster and superheroes are outlawed with the intent of creating an alternative. In the trailer below, Director Shaun Escayg and others talk about in length about the group and how they oppose the Avengers, and the thought process in designing them for the game. If you are familiar with the comics, you know the organization isn't what it seems, as well as who leads it.
Marvel's Avengers will release September 4th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia, with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X ports coming later. We've got a few things that'll be helpful to know about the game before you get it, and you can read that through here.
Last year's Borderlands 3 came out after a very long hiatus for the franchise, but it ultimately seemed to pay off as the game has been a major success. Since its initial release the game has enjoyed a very healthy DLC schedule, with the last one being Bounty of Blood. A fourth is also coming, which we got a tease for today, and it seems it's bringing the crazy.
A very brief teaser was posted for the upcoming 4th DLC campaign. There's little here, but what is is pretty crazy, in the most literal sense, as it shows Krieg, the playable Psycho from Borderlands 2, in a meditative pose in a state of mind that seems anything but calming. The full reveal won't be until next week, but it's quite the little tease.
Borderlands 3 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia. The full reveal for the next DLC campaign is set for August 25th.
Next week, it's time to go back into the wasteland with InExile's third entry in the RPG series, Wasteland 3. The game seeks to scratch a certain kind of itch for old school fans who are looking for tactical and choice-based gameplay that has long term effect. The game is promising to be a much grander and more epic one in scale than many expect, and you know, you won't have to go it alone.
The game will feature co-op, and today the developer has decided to highlight that aspect. You can work with a player to develop strategies for combat, how to navigate the many deadly factions and cults you'll face, as well as decide (aka fight over) how to divy up loot. Check it out below.
Wasteland 3 will release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on August 28th. The game will also be available day and date on both the Xbox One and PC Xbox Game Pass service.
Earlier this year, we got a revival of Trials of Mana via a HD remake that saw the title redone in a new style very similar and familiar to the original game. The franchise has been one of Square Enix's many dominant Japanese RPG series. With this and a recent collection, it seems to be making a comeback. The publisher seems impressed with the numbers so far.
During an Investor Q&A with Yosuke Matsuda, President of Square Enix, he confirmed that the game had not only sold well, but had "signficiantly" exceeded the company's expectations. Unfortunately, no numbers were given to show what those expectations were, but it seems the company is pleased. Matsuda also mentioned it looked to be part of a trend of their digital catalog titles experiencing growth, meaning that we can hopefully see more titles like this in the future.
Trials of Mana is available now on PlayStation 4, Switch and PC.
Ever since launching at the tail end of 2018, the Epic Games Store has been controversial. Since the beginning, Epic Games sought timed exclusivity deals instead of store improvements to get its customers, which has bothered many a PC player who aren't fond of the practice. The latest one was next year's Hitman 3 a deal that was announced earlier today. How you feel about it is up to you, of course, but in the meantime you can get caught up on Agent 47's adventures for free, alongside some cyberpunk, next week.
As seen on the Epic Games Store today during its weekly refresh, next week's games will include 2016's Hitman. The reboot of the series is where this current trilogy, that will end with Hitman 3, began. Beside that will be Shadowrun Collection, which is a bundle of three different games: Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director's Cut, Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition. They are three RPG titles in a fantasy cyberpunk setting with old school RPG gameplay and branching narrative storylines.
This week's free titles are Enter the Gungeon and God's Trigger, which will be free until August 27th. On that day, Hitman and Shadowrun Collection will go live and will be available for free until September 3rd.
The UFC franchise has been something of an oddity among EA's sports games. While most of their titles see annual releases, EA Sports UFC 4 is the first release in over two years, and with that kind of time comes heightened expectations. Did the developers put their extra time to good use, or is UFC 4 more of the same? The answer is a little bit of both, but UFC 4 still manages to offer a good time.
The core of any UFC game is obviously the fighting system, and it's here that UFC 4 shines. The game doesn't shake up its formula too much, instead opting for incremental changes and measured improvements. It doesn't seem like much at first, but there are some welcome changes here. The fighting feels fast and fluid. Punches and kicks connect well, and carry a hefty weight to them. Combos are simple to learn, and the system is flexible enough to reward experimentation. The game also does a good job of easing players into the fighting mechanics. It does so through the career mode, which is started immediately when you first open the game. The early stages of the career mode take your character through a brief run in amateur fighting. It's here that you're taught the mechanics of the fighting system through a series of small fights and training sessions.
"Combat is fluid, and hits feel visceral and exciting."
It's a welcome introduction. The career mode is the crux of the game, and for the most part it's a solid experience. It's no revolution, but it works well and is fun to play through. The first step is character creation. Making your character is pretty straightforward, and the creator is deep enough to mess around with. I was able to create some pretty wacky characters in it. You take this custom character through the career, where you manage your training, persona, and social media. And of course, participate in fights. The simple social media aspect allows you to respond to fans and other fighters, building friendships or rivalries based on your responses. It's simplistic, but it's a nice touch nonetheless. After you accept a challenge, you determine how close to the match your training camp starts.
Once you reach that point, you spend a set number of points for each week on training, fight promotion, research and other things. There's a reasonable amount you can do here. You can research your opponent to learn about his fighting style, make social media posts to promote your fight, or take to the gym to keep yourself fit. Ideally, you'll find a balance of all three, but hitting the gym is vital. It keeps you fit, which effects your performance in the match, and grants you points that are used to improve your skills. Like the rest of the game, the skill system is nothing that hasn't been done before, but it's done well and it works. Points can be invested in your various attributes, such as stamina, hit range and power, blocking and so on. Or they can be invested in upgrading and learning new moves, or in perks that grant you passive bonuses during matches.
Once you enter the Octagon and the fight begins, you get to the real meat of the game. UFC 4 performs pretty well here as well. Combat is fluid, and hits feel visceral and exciting. The fight mechanics are fairly straightforward, and the AI provides a decent challenge. Meanwhile, improvements to wrestling and grappling keep the flow moving pretty well. Transitions in wrestling on the ground are a lot smoother and easier to manage than in previous games. They're still far from perfect, mind you, but they're a definite step in the right direction. Clinching is easier to enter and escape, and your options for offense and defense during clinches have been improved.
"Stamina is the main resource in UFC 4's fighting system, and if you drain it too quickly, as you're apt to do in a grapple, your max stamina is reduced for the rest of the match."
Unfortunately, the game's biggest issues also come in the Octagon. The game's meta is dominated by wrestling, specifically submissions. They're far too powerful (and easy) to perform, and far too devastating to be a victim of. The rhythm of transitions and escape is clunky and hard to get down. And God help you if your opponent has a higher Wrestling stat than you do. That little statistic is seemingly the only real factor in grappling. You can do everything right to try to escape, filling up the bar to stand up, but if your opponent has a higher Wrestling stat, they will still somehow manage to knock you back down.
Escape can be nigh on impossible. And since transitions and escape attempts put a pretty significant drain on your stamina, it only takes a couple of failures to find yourself caught in an inescapable loop. And even if you do escape, you find yourself at a serious disadvantage. Stamina is the main resource in UFC 4's fighting system, and if you drain it too quickly, as you're apt to do in a grapple, your max stamina is reduced for the rest of the match. This means that even if you manage to successfully escape, you'll find yourself at a major disadvantage for the rest of the fight. It makes wrestling feel punishing, and makes Jiu Jitsu specialized fighters a nightmare to encounter. It may be a realistic depiction of how hard wrestling is, but mechanically it isn't very fun.
This also makes skills that impact wrestling, or make you more resistant to it, the most important skills by far. Thankfully, the rest of the fighting experience is a lot of fun, despite the flaws of the wrestling system. Landing a punch feels great, and the thrill of a hard-fought victory never gets old. You'll feel like a genuine badass fighter working your way through the brackets of the UFC, eventually taking your shot at the UFC title. The different play styles you can choose from mean your different characters feel distinct, opening up a decent amount of replay value as well. The rest of the game is pretty basic. There's a quick fight mode where you can pick from the game's huge, all-star roster of fighters past and present for one-off matches. And of course, there's an online mode where you can test your skills against other players.
"There's a quick fight mode where you can pick from the game's huge, all-star roster of fighters past and present for one-off matches."
UFC 4 doesn't reinvent the genre, nor does it fully resolve the franchise's long-standing issues with wrestling mechanics. But it still offers up a fun and rewarding experience, one that manages to capture the visceral excitement of the sport in an experience that is both accessible and rewarding. Solid fighting mechanics make you feel powerful, while an entertaining career mode offers solid replay value. It may not be a perfect game, but it's a lot of fun regardless. New and returning players alike can find something to enjoy here, whether you're an experienced player or new to the Octagon.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Topping off the increasingly impressive PlayStation 5 technology showcases we've seen over the past few months, Microsoft finally went ahead and launched Flight Simulator. 14 years after Flight Simulator X, we're looking at a nearly 2-generation leap and the results are, well, tremendous to say the least.
Microsoft's promotions for the games — especially an advertisement highlighting the nearly 40-year pedigree of the Flight Simulator series — are appropriate because what we're seeing here is very clearly the culmination of decades of work. It's most definitely next-generation, but a very PC-centric vision of what that entails.
Yes, technically an Xbox One S and Xbox One X version of the game is in the making — though without a clear release timeframe at present. However, this is a game that can bring the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti to its knees with sub-30 FPS framerates. In the here and now, this is the technological showcase of what's possible in the next decade of gaming.
Harnessing the power of the cloud
Microsoft has invested billions of dollars and countless man-hours into building up its Azure cloud infrastructure since 2010. Over the years, Azure's developed into a public cloud solution of choice for thousands of businesses across the world, delivering intensive applications and interfaces available anytime, anywhere. Microsoft never concealed its designs to leverage the power of Azure to boost Xbox (read Windows in this case) gaming.
However, between the maturity of Azure cloud implementations and the widespread availability of high-speed broadband, it's only in the past couple years that Azure-based cloud gaming has really become a possibility. It's no surprise that Microsoft is launching xCloud this year, too.
But, outside of pure-play game streaming, Flight Simulator is the single most impressive use of the cloud in a game that we have ever seen. Flight Simulator taps into over 2 petabytes (that's 2000 Terabytes) of satellite imagery on Bing Maps, covering every corner of the world. At present, Nimbus' 100 TB SSD (the largest storage device in existence) costs US$40,000, so it's going to be a couple decades before we can happily set aside a petabyte or two for game storage.
How does Flight Simulator solve this problem? By leveraging the cloud and addressing cloud-specific issues in a way that stays true to the game's experience. While high-quality imagery of the whole world will need that much storage, Flight Simulator takes advantage of the fact that you're flying in more or less a single direction, over real-world time intervals — it'll take you several hours to cross the Atlantic. This gives Flight Simulator plenty of time to load data for your destination in the background. Yes, this will annihilate your data cap if you play the game for extended sessions. But, considering the sheer level of detail on offer — over 35,000 airfields and every major city and settlement in the world to explore, that seems like a reasonable compromise. But what does Flight Simulator do with that 2D map data from the cloud?
This is where the magic of AI comes into the picture. Asobo Studios leveraged machine learning to convert Bing Maps imagery into 3D building models with stunning accuracy. While little details here and there are a bit off, the AI gets so much right that you don't have to try hard to suspend your belief.
Photogrammetry: photorealism delivered to scale
How does Microsoft Flight Simulator look so damn real? A big part of the answer is Asobo's extensive use of photogrammetry. This is a technique we've seen in a number of games — notably Battlefront and Battlefront II, where real-life objects are scanned in to capture real-world texture and mesh detail. With a physically-based lighting model, photogrammetry assets can look stunningly lifelike. Asobo uses photogrammetry to capture the interior and exterior surfaces of all the planes in the game. Photogrammetry assets are also evidently in use with the hand-crafted airports. It's also possible that a number of photogrammetry assets were fed into the machine learning implementation, resulting in more lifelike environmental textures, even in remote parts of the map.
Volumetric cloud rendering:
We talk often about the quality of volumetric clouds in current-gen games. Titles like Assassin's Creed: Odyssey and Horizon: Zero Dawn feature accomplished cloud rendering solutions, which look great from down on the earth. However, Flight Simulator trumps them all, and it's got a good reason to. Unlike third-person open world titles, Flight Simulator, as the name suggests, has you flying. Those clouds — which in other games are thousands of feet away, are literally right in front of you. Flight Simulator's cloud rendering solution is remarkable, delivering dense, large-scale volumetric clouds that react and pass on lighting from the sun. The volumetric clouds are also tied into real-life weather forecasts: heavy storms can hit performance hard since the clouds are very computationally intensive to render.
Textures and model detail:
Flight Simulator's in-cockpit detail is par-excellence. The game's 100GB install size have evidently gone to good use. Physically based rendering, together with photogrammetry texture work results in a cockpit environment that could easily be mistaken for a photo at first glance. This high level of quality extends to model asset as well. In-game models are of a very high fidelity, with high poly counts on the plane models. We honestly have trouble seeing how this will scale down to run on the Xbox One S at an acceptable level of performance. Generated texture assets for the procedurally generated locations are also of a high quality, though you'll want to visit the handcrafted airports to see on-ground texture detail at its best.
LOD and pop-in:
After Epic's Lumen in the Land of Nanite demo, a lot's been made of the power of next-gen SSD storage to eliminate pop-in and distracting LODs in-game. Flight Simulator appears to be doing something similar, but without leveraging exotic storage solutions. We're looking at a brute force approach here that hammers high-end GPUs to deliver high quality vistas that quite literally extend for miles in every direction. Effective LOD scaling is arguably easier with Flight Simulator considering that, on average, the camera's very distant from most assets relative to other game times. Regardless, the remarkable draw distances and the smoothly managed pop-in do wonders for maintaining a sense of immersion throughout a flight.
Is Flight Simulator really next gen?
Looking at Flight Simulator screenshots, it's possible to answer this question in two ways: on the one hand, the quality of eighth-gen visuals has improved a lot. If you were to put Flight Simulator's visuals up against an arguably far more limited top-tier AAA title, you'd see that plenty of modern games feature high poly vehicle models, photogrammetry, and state-of-the-art lighting and volumetrics. Flight Simulator's ace in the hole, though, is it's ability to deliver next-gen AAA quality visuals at an unprecedented scale. In many ways, it's delivering moment-to-moment visuals, at a never seen before scale. In short, Microsoft Flight Simulator is already in next-gen mode before next-gen begins.
Bluepoint Games' Demon's Souls, a remake of the beloved FromSoftware classic, was recently rated for the PS5 in South Korea and Japan. This could indicate a release soon but given that the PS5 is out this holiday season, will it join the console's launch line-up? According to Kinda Funny co-host Imran Khan, also formerly a senior editor at Game Informer, it's possible.
Replying to a Twitter user about it being a launch title, especially with the recent rating, Khan said, "I'd doubt it if only for COVID reasons but I don't think it's off the table." Interestingly, he added that, "As far as I know, they had always been targeting launch/launch window." Plans could change, especially given everything that's happened this year, but there could be a chance.
Neither Sony nor Bluepoint Games offered any kind of release window with the remake's reveal. However, the launch rumors are interesting when you consider recent comments by Eric Lempel, Sony Interactive Entertainment SVP and head of global marketing. He told GamesIndustry.biz that the PS5 launch window line-up is "best line-up that we've ever seen in the history of PlayStation." Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Astro's Playroom, Godfall and Bugsnax make for a pretty strong line-up but Demon's Souls would truly complete it.
We'll have to wait for more details in the coming months. In the meantime, head here to out how Bluepoint Games is using the PS5's DualSense controller to make the combat feel "grittier, darker, and deadlier."
I'd doubt it if only for COVID reasons but I don't think it's off the table. As far as I know, they had always been targeting launch/launch window.
— Imran Khan (@imranzomg) August 20, 2020
After months of rumors and leaks, not to mention an ARG, Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War was finally confirmed. Activision is teasing a full reveal inside Call of Duty: Warzone on August 26th. In the meantime, the teases continue with the latest being official artwork for the game.
There's not much to glean here, aside from the obvious conflict between the United States and Soviet Union. The presence of two characters seems to indicate two playable sides to the story. Call of Duty titles have been offering multiple playable characters since its inception so we'll see how this shakes out in the grand scheme of things.
Platforms for Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War have yet to be revealed, though PS5 and Xbox Series X versions seem a given. Treyarch and Raven Software are developing and Activision has hyped the latest release as being "very different" and "more engaging" than its previous games. As always, stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.
— Treyarch Studios (@Treyarch) August 20, 2020
Recently, developers for Deathloop, GhostWire: Tokyo and Demon's Souls have revealed how the PS5 DualSense controller impacts the experience in their upcoming titles. Guerrilla Games and Insomniac also chimed in on the same PlayStation Blog, discussing how the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback play into Horizon Forbidden West and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Let's start with Horizon Forbidden West game director Mathijs de Jonge.
He stated that the sequel features new weapons "designed to feel unique and play a specific role in combat with machines and human opponents." With the DualSense's adaptive triggers, weapons "feel even more unique and satisfying to use." As for Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, creative director Brian Horton said that the precision of haptic feedback allowed allowed for "all sorts of new things."
"In Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, we'll be hinting to players which direction attacks are coming from by providing haptic feedback from the appropriate direction on the DualSense wireless controller. What does it feel like to use Miles's stealth ability? How does a Venom Blast feel? Because of the high resolution of DualSense wireless controller's haptics system, we can really push the dimensionality of the feedback," said Horton.
"For instance, as you hold down Square to do a Venom Punch, you feel Spider-Man's bio-electricity crackle across from the left side of the controller, culminating in the right side on impact." It really gives new meaning to the phrase "feel like Spider-Man" because, well, you're actually going to feel a lot of Miles' actions.
It'll be a while before we can play around with the DualSense functions in Horizon Forbidden West – it's currently slated to release in 2021. However, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is out this holiday season, launching alongside the PlayStation 5. Stay tuned for more details on both in the coming months.