Report: Harry Potter RPG Scheduled For Late-2021 Next-Gen Release

Bloomberg is confirming the earlier report of an open-world Harry Potter RPG by Warner Bros. studio Avalanche Software (Disney Infinity), adding that the game will appear on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X in late 2021.

The information is based on conversations with two people working on the project, and Bloomberg's article in general gives an overview of the game's development, stating that the early video footage was real even if some information since its leak has not been.

COVID-19, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling's transphobic comments, and the possible sale of Avalanche parent company Warner Bros. have affected the title's development, even though it remains on track to release next year.

The RPG was supposed to be announced at E3 in June, but will now make its debut after Batman goes first in August at DC's Fandome event.

[Source: Bloomberg]

A Storm Is Coming With Ghost of Tsushima’s New Trailer

Are you ready to follow the wind from place to place? Follow animals, discover shrines, and defeat enemies as both a samurai and a ninja in Ghost of Tsushima when it lands on July 17. You can check out more of what we know about Ghost of Tsushima here.

In celebration of its impending release, PlayStation has unveiled a short but snazzy trailer showcasing a brief taste of Jin's journey. Take a look for yourself below - are you planning on becoming a ghost next month?

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Sony Celebrates PS Plus Anniversary With 3 Titles

July's PlayStation Plus free PS4 titles for members gets an and one to celebrate the service's 10-year anniversary. Rise of The Tomb Raider, NBA 2K20, and Erica are available from July 7 to August 3.

Sony is also releasing a free PS4 theme later this week to celebrate the event, as well as holding a free multiplayer weekend starting July 4 (12:01 AM) to July 5 (11:59 PM) local time.

[Source: Official PlayStation Blog]

Bring Cyberpunk To Your Tabletop

Cyberpunk 2077 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting video game releases of the year, but it’s certainly not a game or setting that arose fully formed in 2020. Rather, the video game is the digital evolution of a franchise that has existed for decades, which itself arose around a movement in speculative fiction that came to popularity through the often psychedelic and convention-challenging new wave sci-fi fiction of the 1960s, including the seminal short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick.

Subsequently, multiple mediums saw an explosion of exploration in the cyberpunk. The Judge Dredd comic (1977), the film Bladerunner (1982) (based on Dick’s previously mentioned story), manga like Akira (1982), and the novel Neuromancer (1984) were just some of the foundational fictions within the genre.

Inspired in part by some of those projects, designer Mike Pondsmith brought life to the first edition of the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG in 1988, opening up a dark and dystopian future world for exploration, where the characters had deeply personal motives but broad agency to act in a tech-infused street-level setting. In the years since, the game has seen multiple revisions, and dozens of books and supplements.

Importantly, those books have helped to craft an ongoing narrative, which pushes the fiction forward through different time periods and moments. Pondsmith’s R. Talsorian Games has been hard at work on a new edition, which among other things bridges the fiction from earlier editions, and connects to the new video game. More importantly, Cyberpunk Red is shaping up to be a ton of fun, and you can already dip your toes in with an introductory set.

The full Cyberpunk Red core rulebook is set to release later this year, but if you’re itching to dig into the life of a cyberpunk, then it’s easy to recommend the game’s Jumpstart Kit. As the name implies, this boxed set is an introduction to players and GMs who want to get started, but also a robust collection of ideas, characters, and setting information to offer a head-start to a whole role-playing campaign.

The Jumpstart Kit gives you a broad range of materials to get started

Even as it moves through different time periods, Cyberpunk is all about the collision of high-tech juxtaposed against radical social change and collapse. In the new edition of the TRPG, players drop into the world of 2045, after a devastating corporate war has shattered existing societal conventions and dismantled interconnected net culture. A red hue hangs in the skies from the remnants of nukes and orbital lasers. People are divided, the streets are deadly, and it’s all you can do to survive.

Within that framework, you play a tech-savvy operative, straining against the system, using slick gear, the threat of overwhelming weaponry, and street smarts to live on the edge. The game ably supports a fun array of roles, from assassin and ex-soldier Solos, to Netrunners that hack into systems with ease – the final core rulebook includes nine distinct styles of character, six of which you can try out in the Jumpstart kit. And to get you going quickly, those character roles are represented by six pre-generated characters, each with compelling backstories and dynamics that players can use to get into the right frame of mind.

Even with all the cyborg implants and capability to jack your consciousness into computers, Cyberpunk Red also puts an equal focus on style. Setting itself apart from a number of other role-playing systems, the game system puts a high value on the way you present your character. A dedicated core statistic is called “Cool,” measuring your ability to impress when you walk into a room. A character’s reputation has real in-game effects, like a facedown, where some duels can be decided by each individual sizing the other up, until one of you either backs down or fights at an enormous disadvantage. Fashion is important; sure, players need to know how to roll to attack with their cyberarm knife, but they’d best also know what they’re wearing and how they’re catching everyone’s eye when they walk into the club. In a game of Cyberpunk Red, style is substance in a very real way.

Of course, the Jumpstart Kit also provides plenty of fodder for getting into the action. A smartly written rulebook offers up a concise summation of how to test skills, engage in fast-and-dirty throwdown combat, and even details netrunning for characters ready to leave the real world behind. A dedicated  world book does a great job of laying out the fiction, and offers both an established adventure and additional hooks for more experienced GMs to shape. Standees and grid maps serve as initial battlefields. And included themed dice mean you don’t need a separate purchase before you can head out onto the streets for the first time.

The introductory set doesn't have everything. The rules on combat are adequate to early sessions, but may lack the depth some players will eventually want, and which are undoubtedly on the way in the final corebook. Likewise, even with the beautifully crafted and in-fiction world book, players and GMs alike will still have a lot of questions about the nature of this universe, the individuals that inhabit it, and your options to explore. But as a starter set, the Jumpstart Kit excels at giving gaming groups something to explore together. In particular, it empowers players to shape the narrative and exercise agency in both the fiction playing out, and the game session at the table. 

With the Jumpstart Kit, returning veterans have a chance to see how R. Talsorian Games is adapting the long-running game to a new era, both in-game and in the real world. But the real gift here is to new players, who may be especially eager to experience the world of Cyberpunk for themselves. Either way, the smartly explained mechanics and richly realized setting promise a delightful departure from more familiar role-playing games. If you’re ready for that harder edged, survival-focused, stylish tone, this might be the role-playing game for you. And if you’re just antsy to experience the Cybeprunk world ahead of 2077’s release in November, this is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet.

No matter what your tabletop game goals are, we’ve got a wealth of recommendations to explore over in our Top of the Table hub, including more role-playing games like Cyberpunk Red, as well as detailed looks at a range of board, card, and miniature games. If you’re looking for the next game to bring to your table, feel free to explore those options. Or if you want a personalized recommendation, I’m always just an email away to offer suggestions on something to bring out on your next game night.  

Fixes Coming For The Outer Worlds On Switch

When The Outer Worlds released last year on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, it won acclaim from critics and consumers alike for its choice-driven gameplay and clever writing. However, when the RPG came to Switch, players on Nintendo's console didn't get to see the game at its best; the performance can be pretty rough

To address concerns with the Switch version, publisher Private Division has announced that Virtuos (the team behind the Switch version) is working on ways to improve the experience, and that a patch is in the works.

https://twitter.com/PrivateDivision/status/1276213684310650880

Though we don't know exactly when the fixes will be available, it's good to know that Switch owners will soon get a clearer picture of what makes The Outer Worlds so good.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Trailer Offers Good Overview

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Square Enix's four-player co-op action/RPG, which originally launched on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2004, is coming to the PlayStation 4, Switch, iOS, and Android, and you'll be able to play with friends online. 

The original release required multiple Gameboy Advance consoles and link cables to experiment with co-op, so this is a potentially good chance to go back and play this oddball RPG if you missed it the first time. 

Square Enix is even offering a free version of the game that lets players access three dungeons, but those who play with a friend who owns the full game can access up to 13 dungeons.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition hits on August 27 on all platforms, but Square warns that the release of the mobile versions might get pushed back ... or maybe that was a threat. Be careful out there. 

Disco Elysium TV Show In The Works

Variety reports that detective RPG Disco Elysium is being adapted into a TV series. It's still very early in the development process, so no writers or actors have been attached to the project.

Although no talent is officially working on the show yet, Helen Hindpere, lead writer for the game from developer ZA/UM said, "We’re so gratified at the response Disco Elysium has received, and very happy to be teaming with dj2 to expand the franchise for other media and new audiences."

Production company dj2 Entertainment is also working on a live-action adaptation of Sleeping Dogs, and CEO and founder Dmitri M. Johnson was co-producer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

[Source: Variety]

Replay — Resident Evil 6

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Resident Evil is one of gaming's seminal franchises that's seen numerous variations over its 24-year history. Resident Evil 6 proved to be a catalyst for that change in that it not only marked the peak of the action-centric gameplay that long-time fans lamented but also pushed Capcom back to its horror roots with the following entry in the series. 

Join Andrew Reiner, Ben Reeves, and me as we delve back into the bombastic terror of Resident Evil 6 and examine how it's aged now that the series has gone back to its horror origins.

We'll be going live at 2 p.m. CT, so be sure to come end your week the right way and hang out with us in the chat. If you can't get enough of our live shows, remember to subscribe on YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Twitter, and Facebook to get notified when we go live each week!

The Last Of Us Part II’s Sales Are Already Over 4 Million Copies

In sales data revealed on PlayStation Blog, Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II is now the fastest-selling fist-party PlayStation 4 game to date, selling more than four million copies as of June 21. The game officially released on June 19, so this impressive number is accounting for roughly just three days of sales.

Most game sales data is not made public, so we have no clear idea of how these numbers stack up against other games released in 2020, but as of 2018, The Last of Us sold over 17 million copies. Needless to say, it's one of Sony's biggest first-party franchises, and yet another hit for Naughty Dog, the studio behind the Uncharted, Jak & Daxter, and Crash Bandicoot series.

Game Informer's editor-in-chief Andy McNamara gave The Last of Us Part II a review rating of 10 out of 10, calling it "the best narrative game I have played."

The Most Exciting Part Of Next-Gen Is The Unknown

The fog around next-gen hardware is lifting, and gamers are finally starting to get a clearer look at what to expect from Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles. Recent presentations for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X provided a sneak peek at the games that will shape the industry in the coming years, along with some of the technology that makes them possible. But even as more information is released, the answer to one key question remains vague: What defines a “next-gen” game?

This isn’t about the physical hardware you use to play them. People want to know about the new horizons being opened up; they want to know about the things that are not possible today, but will be possible soon. We’ve heard about ray tracing, solid-state drives, triangles, reduced load times, and more – but how do those translate to gameplay? How do they change how you interact with worlds and characters? How do they help create more than bigger, faster, prettier versions of familiar templates?

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These aren’t new questions. They are the same ones we have asked with every transition to a new generation for the last 20 years. And just like previous transitions, it’s probably too early to expect definitive answers. This could be framed as a failure by Sony and Microsoft to fully “sell” the potential of next-gen gaming, but I don’t see it that way. In fact, gradually discovering the answers to these questions is my favorite part of moving from one generation to the next.

I’m not a game developer, but I know it takes time, iteration, and expertise to figure out how to make the most out of new hardware. Though we have received plenty of good, exclusive games in new console launch windows, truly groundbreaking ones are rare. As we wait for PS5 and Xbox Series X, it would be premature to point to one specific feature, capability, or specification that defines the next-gen gaming experience. Instead, the delight comes from seeing this vision solidify thanks to the efforts of many studios making games that push boundaries in different ways.

I’m surprised by the games in the current generation I think, in retrospect, exemplify experiences that weren’t possible before. I think of Dreams, which not only provides a wonderful creation toolset, but also facilitates creativity and community among players. I think of No Man’s Sky, which was ambitious in concept but really found its success thanks to Hello Games’ commitment to continual improvement through new content and updates. I think of Red Dead Redemption 2, which I initially thought would just be “bigger, faster, prettier” than the original, but instead brought the Old West to life through its magnetic characters and intricately detailed world.

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My point is: All of these games looked interesting to me before release, but I had no idea how they would change my perspective and raise my expectations. I couldn’t have known, prior to the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, these games would possess qualities that would help define my perception of this generation’s biggest steps forward. And even if I could have known, I don’t know that I would have wanted to. I love being surprised and amazed. I love the moment of awe when I realize that I’m playing something special.

That’s why I’m not bothered by the “What does next-gen mean?” question. We just don’t know yet, and that’s okay. But I am excited to figure it out over the coming years. In the meantime, I am happily anticipating my time with cross-generation games on new hardware; even if they don’t represent what new consoles can exclusively provide, I know that I want to play games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at their best. Beyond that, I embrace the uncertainty of the future. I look forward to being shown things I didn’t even know I wanted to see.

This Week At Bungie – 6/25/2020

Remember Biomutant? Check Out A Lengthy New Trailer

Remember Biomutant? We've been waiting for some word on the curious open-world, martial-arts mutant mayhem. Recode your DNA as you brawl, combine weaponry, and gear up with both melee and ranged options.

We haven't seen much from Biomutant in a while, but today THQ Nordic has unleashed a new trailer. Sure, new trailers hit all the time, right?

But today's trailer is 9 minutes long and features mechs, bosses, weapons, all kinds of wild stuff. You can watch it below! Biomutant is slated to arrive on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Anime Cyberpunk: Edgerunners Headed To Netflix

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Today brought a wealth of new information on Cyberpunk 2077, but it also emerged as an opportunity for the franchise to open some other doors, chiefly the news of a new anime called Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

The 10-episode standalone series is headed to Netflix in 2022, and an announcement video revealed that the game will exist in the same universe as the game while featuring its own characters and storylines. The studio handling the anime is the acclaimed Studio Trigger. Animation fans may know their work on releases like Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia.

We don’t have a lot of detail on the project yet, but it’s exciting to know that the anime already has a distribution plan in place through Netflix when it releases here in the States.

Check out the announcement video for the project below. For more on Cyberpunk 2077, check out our hands-on impressions, our five biggest takeaways, and our podcast exploring our time with the game.

See EDF: World Brothers’ Blocky Bugs In Action

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A few days ago, D3 Publisher revealed that two new entries in the Earth Defense Force series were on the way. One of them, World Brothers, features a striking visual departure from past entries in the series, with blocky heroes battling equally blocky bugs. Screenshots alone don't do it justice. Fortunately, we've got a trailer showing the game in all its voxel glory.

In addition to fighting the usual ants, spiders, and other pests that fans are accustomed to, players will have another potential hazard to contend with: the edge of the world. It looks like this planet's cube-shaped surface means that it's quite possible to walk right off the edge and into oblivion. Fortunately, at least some members of the EDF have jetpacks.

Stick around for the end, and you'll get a quick (and do we mean quick) look at Earth Defense Force 6, a more traditional entry in the franchise that was also announced along with World Brothers. That title is due this year, and EDF 6 is coming in 2021. No word yet as to whether they'll be heading over to our shores. 

Our Five Biggest Takeaways From Our Four Hours With Cyberpunk 2077

Publisher: CD Projekt
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Release: (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC), TBA (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X)
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Sci-fi action/RPG Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most anticipated games to hit this year, and for good reason. CD Projekt Red has earned a reputation for crafting fantastic story-driven experiences chock full of difficult choices and unpredictable consequences. Cyberpunk 2077 marks a new opportunity for CD Projekt Red to improve and meld these even further with the gameplay.

We went hands-on with the game for four hours to see how it was shaping up and walked away astounded by the ambitious scope and vast gameplay flexibility. While we ended our time feeling like we barely scratched the surface of this massive endeavor, we did get a sense of what to expect. Here are our biggest takeaways from our hands-on demo, which allowed us to experience the prologue, see life paths for player character V, play through a story mission, and check out some of the activities in the world.

Night City Is Gargantuan, With No Shortage Of Things To Do 

CD Projekt Red really stepped up the scope and map size with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Cyberpunk 2077 looks to top that in many ways. This is a much different backdrop than Geralt’s fantasy world, but it still captures a similar sense of danger and unpredictability. Night City is a fast-paced, technology-obsessed place that embraces excess. People modify and augment their bodies on a whim, enter virtual mindscapes to chase fleeting thrills, and contend with corrupt Megacorps running the show. During your time in the metropolis, you visit six vast and disparate districts in Night City, from the poverty-stricken Watson to the Las-Vegas-and-Kabukicho-inspired Westbrook, and there is never a shortage of things to do.

In addition to the main story quest, CD Projekt offers its own signature side quests that do everything from diving more into the main characters’ back stories to offering insight into the different gangs and corporations at play. Dynamic events also constantly pop up, whether it’s a crime taking place or gang-on-gang violence. You decide if you want to get involved and reap the rewards. V can also participate in fun activities, like car races, fistfights, and the shooting range. But perhaps the most lucrative venture is to take on gigs. Every area has a fixer who will send V jobs, and these are your main source of income. These tasks can be anything from eliminating a target to sabotaging a server. You can also take on bounties or unearth clues that point to secret stashes. 

Remember how in The Witcher 3 the map became littered with points of interest, and it felt like a massive undertaking to do everything each area had to offer? Night City produces a similar feeling of endless opportunities, but it also is much faster-paced and flashy, creating a feeling of sensory overload as you walk through it. The world is fascinating, as it is a portal into a gritty future where our dependence on technology has taken an ugly and excessive turn. 

The Customization Is Deep And Satisfying

If you thought The Witcher 3 didn’t provide enough options for how to build Geralt to suit your playstyle, Cyberpunk 2077 should please you. CD Projekt Red has created a fluid class system, and just opening up the skill trees and seeing all their branching paths is a remarkable sight. The impressive amount of freedom means there’s plenty to tinker with. It may seem overwhelming, but once you grasp the basics, upgrading your character becomes an exciting venture, as it always feels like a new powerful ability is in reach that will help you tailor the experience to your playstyle. 

On the most basic level, as you gain experience, you unlock attribute points and perks. The five core attributes are body (raw physical power, increasing health and stamina), intelligence (memory and intellect, improves hacking abilities), reflexes (coordination and speed, enhancing critical chance and evasiveness), technical (tech aptitude, providing armor bonuses and the additional chance of harvesting craftable loot), and cool (self-control and willpower, improves stealth and speed at which NPCs notice you). 

You invest points in improving the main attributes, but each one also has its own corresponding branching perk tree for unlocking new skills. For instance, in the intelligence attribute path, you can choose to focus on hacking, and from there you can invest in device or target hacking. You can mix and match between the two. Device skills improve your prowess with hacking things such as security systems or turning turrets friendly, while target skills disrupt enemy cyberware, like calling an enemy to another to get them in the same vicinity and making a grenade detonate. You also level up skills the more you use them, which can then open up rewards, such as increasing your memory regen – your resource for hacking – outside of combat. 
 
You are also never locked into one class or playstyle, so you can create cool combinations, such as a katana-wielding cyber ninja who also hacks their way through life. I experimented with the fluid class system, beginning my playthrough focusing on hacking and improving my intelligence stat to support it. However, I became very fond of the shotgun as my backup to when my stealthy approach didn’t work. This meant investing in my body attribute so I can handle the close-up combat required to use it. Just keep in mind your main attributes do factor into how far you can level up a specific skill. For example, the hacking ability is limited by the intelligence stat, meaning if my intelligence stat is at three, I can’t increase my hacking beyond level three. 

Beyond the core statistics, you also have cyberware you can install on your character, which also opens up fun new abilities and perks. Cyberware is a way to improve your body and give it superhuman abilities that can either be passive, active, or triggered. You can upgrade various body parts, from your arms and legs to your nervous and cardiovascular systems. All you need to do is visit a ripperdoc, who can do everything from putting a monowire (a whip-like narrow fiber optic wire that slices through enemies at lightning speed) into your arms, to installing a blood pump in your cardiovascular to improve healing. All cyberware has different tiers: legendary, epic, rare, uncommon, and common. The higher the tier, though, the more slots it will require to install. 

Still want more? All your gear can also have upgrades installed, such as adding silencers to guns so your bullets don’t alert the entire room. For armor, upgrades mostly add stat increases, like upping your chance for a critical hit or getting some extra padding for your armor’s effectiveness. All of these areas allow you to constantly tweak your character to something better, and most importantly, to one that best suits how you want to play. 

The Life Paths Provide Interesting Ways To Define V

Role-playing as V is one of the most exciting parts of Cyberpunk 2077. You ultimately get to decide who they will be, and this goes far beyond customizing their physical appearance (although, those features are extensive and impressive!). One of the interesting ways CD Projekt Red is approaching this is through life paths. When you create your character, you get to choose between three: Nomad, Corpo, or Street Kid, and each adds a different flavor to V. Similar to Dragon Age: Origins, Cyberpunk 2077’s prologue plays out differently depending on which path you pick, setting you off on your journey and teaming up with your partner Jackie in different ways and for different reasons. Throughout the game, certain dialogue options are available based on the life path you select, giving more context on situations as it pertains to that perspective. 

The Game Informer staff tested out all three, and came out with very different versions of V. The Street Kid means you’ve grown up living a tougher life, where you’ve had to work for everything, but it’s also taught you how to navigate tough situations with your street smarts. The Corpo has you living a more privileged life; you’re starting at the top and confident to boot, but staying there is a battle in and of itself. Then there’s the Nomad path, which has a Mad Max vibe to it and sends you to the Badlands, where you take on the role of an experienced smuggler who's a lone wolf in a place where many team up in packs to survive. You never forget your roots, and this certainly can color how you approach situations and role-play V in this world. We don’t know how far-reaching or the number of additional choices that appear based on the initial life-path choice, but it does set a good starting foundation for V’s story. 

Braindances Are A Cool Gameplay Hook

Remember Geralt’s Witcher sense? V has their own cool way to examine people and places for additional information and clues. As Night City’s main entertainment attraction, braindances allow you to dive into the memories of others, experiencing them as if you were the person living through it. You watch them like playing back a recording, and V has the ability to edit this footage. You can rewind, fast forward, and zoom in and out on particular objects for more information.

There are also layers to editing, such as focusing on audio to hear faraway conversations or shifting to the thermal observation layer to detect if an item’s in the freezer. We used this during our playthrough to detect hidden items and get more context on what exactly transpired. For instance, in one case, a guy set up his own man to get the reward all to himself. Scrubbing through footage can take time and dedication, and we aren’t sure how often the tool is used in the game, but it does provide a cool twist on V’s powers.   

The Replayability Is High

Because there is so much freedom in various aspects of the journey, Cyberpunk 2077 is teeming with replayability options. Missions can be approached from multiple ways, whether it’s going guns blazing or stealthily avoiding chaos. There are also branching paths based on dialogue choices and plenty of subplots to discover. For instance, in one of our story missions, you could choose whether to free a man from prison or not, determining if he would show up later in the story. 

Power struggles between corporations and gangs are everywhere, and your decisions could determine who comes out on top. From what we saw, it appears that situations will play out differently in terms of story events and gameplay sequences. Even in the prologue, we all had vastly different experiences, whether it was if we encountered a particular boss, character, or even gameplay area. This doesn’t even account for all the different dynamic events that can appear in the world. We can’t wait to see how far-reaching some of these decisions and consequences go, but if The Witcher 3 is anything to go by, it should be pretty substantial.

Cyberpunk 2077 launches on November 19 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A PS5 and Xbox Series X version is also set to release, but no official date has been revealed.

For a more detailed account of the events of our demo, check out Matt Miller’s deep dive. Also, be sure to check out this week's podcast where we discuss and breakdown our hands-on experiences.

GI Show — Our Extensive Impressions of Cyberpunk 2077

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On this week's episode of The Game Informer Show, we take our closest look yet at Cyberpunk 2077 and discuss what we thought of our time actually playing CD Projekt Red's long-awaited RPG. Later, we give our impressions of what we saw from both Pokémon Unite and Marvel's Avengers and wrap it all up with another round of community emails. So please join me, Kim Wallace, Matt Miller, Dan "The Jacket" Tack, Brian Shea, and Alex Stadnik for another wild and entertaining episode! 

We continue to do this show from our homes as we hunker down in quarantine, so please forgive us for any audio or video hiccups as we deliver content outside the studio.

Thanks for listening! Please make sure to leave feedback below, share the episode if you enjoyed it, and follow me @therealandymc to let me know what you think. 

You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Playlisten on SoundCloudstream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 at the bottom of the page. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show.

Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show's intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below.

Cyberpunk 2077: 5:45
Pokémon Unite: 1:26:34
Marvel's Avengers: 1:33:49
Community Emails: 1:59:37

Diving Deep Into The First Hours Of Cyberpunk 2077

Publisher: CD Projekt
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Release: (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC), TBA (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X)
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Few games of recent years have garnered the broad and unrestrained sense of anticipation enjoyed by Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red, the same team that brought us The Witcher series, has earned a well-deserved reputation for sophisticated storytelling, strong world-building, and mature themes, all set within a strong framework for gameplay. Likewise, the Cyberpunk setting is richly crafted from a tabletop RPG that has been growing for decades, and its themes of rebellion and pushing back against government and commercial authority seem especially timely for many potential players. There’s also just the reality that, over years of seeing it teased, Cyberpunk 2077 simply looks enthralling. Set within a bleak dystopian future city, the game’s mix of role-playing narrative loops and first-person combat and exploration seems novel and exciting.

Until now, even with the bubbling enthusiasm that surrounds the title, it’s been challenging to understand a full picture, or get a perspective on the gameplay from outside the studio’s official channels. That has now changed, as three of our editors had a chance to finally play the pre-release game, trying out different avenues and opportunities over the course of four hours of playtime for each of us. As it turns out, that’s hardly enough to even scratch the surface of what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer – but it sure gives us our best sense yet of what players can expect.

In this article, we walk through the hours we spent exploring the world, step by step. If you'd prefer to just get a broad scope understanding of what was most striking about the game, check out our five biggest takeaways from playing Cyberpunk 2077. If you're more into listening to our impressions, click over to this week's Game Informer Show to hear us talk about our experiences in the game.

Building A Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk 2077 opens with some important decisions that affect the entirety of your subsequent play experience. Character creation is extremely customizable, and earns the game’s inevitable mature rating before gameplay even begins, since you’re selecting gender and secondary sexual characteristics right away. In keeping with the cyberpunk aesthetic of people who have modified and changed the bodies they’re born with into their preferred nature, the game is quite fluid with what features you apply, and the male or female voice actor can be applied to any character, no matter what other changes you choose to make.

Beyond cosmetic customization, players also select starting attributes – each attribute opens up multiple perk upgrade trees. Body affects health, stamina, and overall power. Intelligence deals with memory and hacking abilities. Reflexes determines things like speed, critical chance, and evasion. Technical Ability connects to things like armor bonuses, control of technical interactions, and even the possibility of harvesting craftable loot when you come across it. Finally, the Cool attribute governs willpower and several features related to stealth. At character creation, you’re able to tweak these attributes with a few bonus skill points – I gave my V higher Body and Cool, with an eye toward a stealth-focused mercenary who occasionally gets into melee throwdowns – but the choice is up to you.

In the build I played, I received new attribute points and perk points when I leveled up, and when I acquired enough street cred (gained by getting a reputation for my actions). Once acquired, these points can be spread out as you like, improving a particular stat, with a separate pool of points going into upgrades presented on the perk trees governed by that stat. For me, my early points focused on successful infiltration. I took “Hidden Dragon” (in the Stealth perk tree, governed by my Cool attribute) which opened up aerial takedowns, and later on I snagged the “Embrace the Shadows” perk, which offered improved health regeneration while sneaking. For players curious about how “RPG-ish” this game is with its progression loop, these perk trees completely set my mind at ease. There are dozens of perks and customization options available here, and many of them offer significant and playstyle-altering changes to your character.

The next important choice before the game begins is your lifepath. These three foundational backgrounds determine the course of the beginning of the game, and also establish important options for dialogue, mission options, and flavor for the rest of the game. Because these lifepaths are so different – including entirely distinct opening missions – I won’t be surprised at launch to hear stories of players who have tried out all three before settling on the lifepath they prefer for a full playthrough. For me, the nomad was a clear winner. In this persona, the main character, V, begins life out in the Badlands surrounding Night City, and is already an experienced smuggler. One last job sends him into a new life in the city. Another Game Informer editor tackled the Corpo lifepath. In this background, V starts out in a cushy, but stressful, life in the dangerous corporate rat race, and having the wrong allies results in her being brought low and back to the streets. A third editor explored the Street Kid lifepath, where V is already an experienced hand living on the scraps of Night City, eking out hard-earned survival.

First Steps Into A Larger World

In an interesting twist, each of the three lifepaths offers a way to meet a character named Jackie Welles. Like V, your selection of lifepaths also determines Jackie’s background. For instance, you meet him on the smuggling job as a Nomad, but if you’re a Corpo, then he’s been your friend and confidante for years. Regardless of his origin, Jackie’s personality is relatively consistent across the three backgrounds. He’s a tough guy with charm and loyalty who can hold his own in a fight, and no matter which way you meet him, the story jumps forward to some time later, when a firm partnership has formed, as the two of you work together to survive on the streets of Night City.

Your lifepath intros can vary in length, but we were all generally through those crafted and individualized intros in around a half hour, at which point the story opens on a prologue mission that is the same, no matter your background. This mission, which has been seen in previous hands-off sessions of Cyberpunk 2077, shows V working together with Jackie and T-Bug – a remote netrunner on your team – to complete a job in which you must infiltrate a hideout and save a wealthy woman who has been kidnapped.

Before the action really gets going, this early gameplay stretch also houses a tutorial, accomplished in-game through a virtual program that you plug into your head port. Here, you get the basics of combat and infiltration. All of these features match expectations you might have for a first-person open-world experience. Of note, melee weapons use a timing and observation approach, where you balance quick light attacks and heavy attacks to break opponents’ blocks, as well as quick taps of your own block button to open up big-damage counters. Another important feature that is available right from the start is the option to hack both enemy augments and environmental features.

With the tutorial complete, the subsequent mission gives me the first sense of stealth and open combat, as V moves through a building and takes down the kidnappers. In this regard, mechanics are quite familiar to anyone who has played a first-person game of this style. Most encounters allow for a range of approaches, from sneaking up behind foes to choke them out (using either lethal or non-lethal attacks) or going in, guns blazing. In these early battles, shooting exchanges reward taking cover and staying mobile. Enemies use smart tactics to flank and move in on my position. In keeping with its RPG heritage, damage numbers pop on enemies to give you a sense of relative power between selected weapons, and the use of individual weapon types upgrades my skill with that style of attack. Once my enemies were dead or unconscious, I was able to loot their bodies – clear color-coding of the rarity of their loot let me know what items were worth snagging.

After dropping the bad guys, I found my target in an ice-cooled tub, barely alive. Because of her affluent status, she had “platinum trauma team” status, effectively adding up to a heavily armed EMT team that flies in to pull you from the brink of death. After dealing with the blocking tech that kept her trauma team from reaching her, they were able to pick her up and whisk her away. Mission success.

Broadening Options

At this point, the game begins to open up in some meaningful ways. After completing the job, I return to my pad in a large apartment complex, and settle in to sleep. The next morning, I’m free to begin exploring Night City. Walking out of my apartment and into streets of Night City, I’m immediately reminded of my first time, in real life, visiting Tokyo’s Shibuya district, with its brightly lit signage and masses of people crossing the streets, with small shops and restaurants clustered at ground level. Here in the fictional metropolis of Night City, the effect is even more exaggerated, with dozens of animated ad billboards, hundreds of people, and towering skyscrapers competing for attention. Jackie meets me at a street-food stand, and we talk about an upcoming job as he eats. For the rest of my time playing, I’ll be splitting my attention between the non-linear mission he pitches me on (part of the game’s main story), and more freeform wandering as I get to know a bit about Night City and my opportunities there.

Before I get too lost in the urban jungle, I have the opportunity to go visit the ripperdoc, and get some new cyberware. Ripperdocs are underground service providers, capable of installing new body augmentations on the fly when you arrive at their dingy offices. They quickly anesthetize the affected area, and use mostly automated tools to dramatically reformat your body. Players can install SynLungs in the cardiovascular slot, for improved stamina regeneration. Or snag microrotors in your nervous system slot, improving movement speed and precision. These augmentations come in tiers of quality, and also fall into one of three distinct categories – active, passive, and triggered. Unlike in some futuristic games, in which the application of technology becomes an existential question of whether you’re still human, Cyberpunk 2077 presumes a certain level of acceptance of tech. Moving forward through the game without cyberware seems, on the surface during my playthrough, to be basically impossible.

“The Pickup” mission turns out to be a multi-layered and multi-part adventure in its own right. We meet up with a legendary fixer named Dex, who drives me around town in his fancy car while laying out the job. He’s setting up a major heist that will no doubt figure prominently in the later story of the game, and in connection to that job, he wants us to hijack a fancy military droid spider-bot, recently stolen by a gang called Maelstrom from a big military supply megacorp called Militech. From here, there are a wealth of options regarding how to proceed.

In connection with the long-term plans for the heist, I choose to start with a chance to speak with the client, Evelyn Parker, visiting her at Lizzie’s Bar. The bar is neon-lit and has the look of a sex club, but in the world of Cyberpunk 2077, that designation means something different than it does today. Much of sex work in this future unfolds through the use of something called braindance technology, a sort of fully immersive virtual experience that lets you experience the memories and emotions of another. Clubs like Lizzie’s cater to a clientele interesting in living out their fantasies in these virtual formats, but the braindance format has much broader applications. Check out the sidebar to see how.

Evelyn Parker fulfills the role of the beautiful, but mysterious, woman in a detective noir story, and her motivations for the heist plans remain shrouded. However, to help us plan, she’s recorded her own braindance of an intimate visit to the Arasaka executive we’ll be stealing from. By meeting with Evelyn, and diving into her own braindance memory, we get some important info for later in the potential heist. But before we can deal with that bigger problem, we must complete the initial job, and get that spider-bot. 

As part of the larger mission, I can optionally meet with a Militech exec named Meredith Stout, from whom I glean that the theft is part of an internal power struggle at the company. She wants me to pay for the bot with a credchip implanted with a virus (a fact I only learn if my tech skills are up to snuff). If I chose to meet up with her, Stout’s agents follow me to the meet-up at a nearby factory. Meeting up with Royce, the Maelstrom gang boss, provides a wealth of avenues, which our different playthroughs made clear. I can pay for the bot with my own money, without using the virus-infused credchip – a pacifist, but pricey, proposition. I can warn Royce about the setup, but then Militech attacks. I can simply blow Royce away, angering his gang, but avoiding a later boss fight against Royce. Or, if I give Royce the credchip, an explosive battle ensues between the company and gang forces, and I can either shoot it out, or take a stealthy approach to escape. Taken together, the mission ably presents the range of choices players might expect to find in a Cyberpunk 2077 mission, and the way each decision is likely to have long-term consequences, both with organizations in the world, and individuals.

The Freedom To Explore

Beyond this involved mission, I spend the bulk of my time wandering the streets, both on foot and in my car. I’m driving a vehicle called a Quadra Turbo-R, an American-made muscle car – one of several distinct vehicle brands that I see scattered around the city. Driving may be accomplished in both first-person perspective or from one of a couple of third-person angles. The crowded streets of Night City make for a challenging space to navigate, and it takes some effort to not bump into poles and to make tight corners. In addition, the urban landscape is especially vertical, so I get lost a few times as I go in one direction, only to discover I need to be on a totally different level of the city to reach my destination. In addition to driving, there appears to be a fast-travel system that unlocks around the city, but I don’t use it much as I try to get the lay of the land.

My explorations of the city yield no shortage of fun opportunities. At one point, I find a weapons store, and purchase a katana in pursuit of my stealth melee powerhouse build. I encounter a fighting ring, and open up a new questline in which I can box my way through an increasingly challenging series of fighters. Out on the street, I stumble into more than a few gang hideouts, and at my low level, I die more than a few times to overzealous thugs, and am forced to reload to a recent checkpoint. In one amusing exchange, I encounter a guy who needs me to rush him to a ripperdoc, because some implant in his genitals have malfunctioned, and he’s in overwhelming pain. It’s one of more than a few moments that recall the irreverent tone of game franchises like Grand Theft Auto – but simply told with a futuristic spin.

In another more involved sequence, I infiltrate a hideout and take down a bunch of heavily armed enemies. I manage the feat of not raising the alarm, so by the end, I’m free to make a leisurely exploration of their hide-out, before stealing their van and driving off. Unfortunately, as I drive away, I accidentally bump the van into a civilian on the sidewalk. While my silent infiltration didn’t raise any alarms, this vehicular mishap results in a police bounty being put out on me. In order to lose the police bounty, I have to hightail it out of there, and find a way to keep a low profile for a time.

Cyberpunk 2077 recently pushed out its release date by a couple of months, and will now launch on November 19. While the version of the game we played already showed great promise, there’s no doubt that the team is using these extra months to polish moment-to-moment gameplay and knock out remaining bugs. With only one afternoon in a game that will no doubt offer dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of potential playtime, it was challenging to get a complete picture of progression, gameplay flow, and the feel of gunplay and combat as new perks and weapons unlock. Nonetheless, I came out of my demo time blown away by the scope of what CD Projekt Red is attempting with the game, and similarly impressed by the depth of its RPG systems. This is a rich and nuanced game well worth the long wait we’ve had to play it. If you’ve been wondering if the game can really be as big and complex as early looks have implied, our time playing made it abundantly clear that the game really is an especially ambitious and massive game – now it’s just a matter of seeing how the final version comes together.

Tales Of Arise Delayed Out Of 2020

Tales of Arise made a big splash with its announcement at last year's E3, but we haven't heard much about the project since. Today, Bandai Namco gave an update via its social channels, letting fans know that the project is delayed out of 2020 due to "its ambitious nature" and "to create the best experience possible."

"The goal for Tales of Arise is to provide a familiar but innovative gameplay experience to fans of the series, while pushing the technical envelope to deliver a high level of graphical quality to impress both long-time players and those who have never played a Tales Of game," wrote producer Yusuke Tomizawa in a blog post. "We will need more time to achieve the quality and provide the gorgeous experience we envision for our players."

As the next entry in the long-running Tales franchise, Arise has big shoes to fill as it's acting as a new beginning, so it's understandable that Bandai Namco wants to approach it with the time and care it needs. 

Tales of Arise is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC. No new release window was provided. 

Animal Crossing’s Free Summer Fun

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Summer is here, and maybe you've been going to the beach in real-life. Or maybe not. Either way, Animal Crossing: New Horizon's free summer update (coming on July 3) is bringing the seasonal fun to the Switch.

The update features swimming, diving, mermaid furniture, additions for the museum, and more. 

July's update is just the beginning, as Nintendo says another free entry is coming in early August.

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Watch Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City Wire With Game Informer

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Though Cyberpunk 2077 may not be coming as soon as we want it to be, that hasn't stopped CD Projekt Red's ambitious RPG from being one of the most anticipated games of this generation. But after a long wait for any sort of new gameplay, the Polish developer is finally treating fans to another deep dive into the game with today's Night City Wire.

Join Ben Reeves, Joe Juba, and me as we watch along and react to all the new footage live with the Game Informer community!

We went live earlier but you can catch the full stream archive above! And remember to subscribe on YouTubeTwitchMixerTwitter, and Facebook to get notified when we go live.

Dr. Mario World Reintroduces Everyone To Baby Wario

Dr. Mario World

While Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, and even Baby Rosalina have appeared recently in games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Mario Kart World Tour, Baby Wario has been left in the dust since his sole appearance in 2006's Yoshi's Island DS. Now, the developers behind Dr. Mario World have announced that Baby Wario is back in the spotlight in the form of Dr. Baby Wario to kick off Season 3 of the mobile puzzle game.

Season 3 of Dr. Mario World will let players advance to tier 9 at 3,600 battle points, at which point Whomp King will appear in battle boxes. In addition, new stages will be added. Despite this, the main attraction is obviously Dr. Baby Wario ... he's an attraction and not a deterrent, right? I can't tell.

Regardless of if you think Baby Wario is adorable or an abomination, Season 3 of Dr. Mario World begins on June 26. For more on the game, check out our review.

[Source: Dr. Mario World on Twitter]

The Top 10 Games On PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 got off to an early lead this generation, and a steady stream of exceptional first-party exclusives, complemented by robust third-party support, has kept it that way. Whether you just picked up a PS4 or have owned one since launch, we’re rounding up the best experiences you don’t want to miss in this continually updated feature.

Please note that while the list below contains 10 entries, we aren’t actually ranking them. If a game has made it this far (and managed to stay here), it’s a must-play, period. As such, we’ll be listing entries in reverse chronological order. Also, you’ll find a rundown of previous entries at the bottom of the list. While those titles have gotten bumped over time, they are still all great games in their own right and worth exploring if you’re already caught up on the latest hits.

Here are Game Informer’s picks for the top 10 games on the PlayStation 4.

The Last of Us Part II

Release: June 19, 2020

The Last of Us was a defining title of the last generation, and Naughty Dog’s sequel continues to push boundaries and set new standards for storytelling. The Last of Us Part II is a revenge tale on its surface, but its deeper themes revolve around love, empathy, and perspective – all reinforced by tense gameplay and phenomenal performances from the cast. As the story of Ellie and Joel unfolds, players move through an intricately detailed world and survive harrowing situations that impart a tangible sense of helplessness and desperation. You may not agree with all of your character’s brutal choices, but even through the gunplay and violence, the journey ultimately is more about challenging your heart than your reflexes.

Click here for our review.

Persona 5 Royal

Release: March 31, 2020

The original release of Persona 5 had enough depth, strategy, and story to keep players busy for 100+ hours. This expanded version of the stylish, turn-based RPG takes all that even further. Everything that made the first iteration great remains, but Persona 5 Royal also adds new characters, story threads, and mechanics to make the experience even more robust. Whether you’re acquiring and fusing new Personas, bonding with your fellow classmates, or just enjoying a night out in Tokyo, Persona 5 Royal sucks you into its world and keeps you entertained for the long haul.

Click here for our review.

Red Dead Redemption II

Release: October 26, 2018

We waited years for another rodeo in Rockstar’s open-world western series, but the results were worth it. Simply put, Red Dead Redemption II delivers the most immersive and meticulously detailed world the video game industry has seen yet. While not technically a role-playing game, Red Dead Redemption II's level of freedom and player agency allows you to completely lose yourself in the life of a frontiersman, whether you spend your days robbing trains and stagecoaches, or hunting and fishing on the outskirts of society. Arthur Morgan, along with Red Dead’s vast array of supporting characters, is brought to life by stellar performances and the unprecedented interactivity you have with them – from greeting strangers in the road and goading poker players into fights, to bonding over a campfire with your fellow outlaws. It’s not hyperbole to say Red Dead Redemption II is a generation-defining game that you shouldn’t miss.   

Click here for our review.

Spider-Man

Release: September 7, 2018

Just months after Kratos axed his way to accolades, Sony had another exclusive hit on its hands. Spidey’s latest adventure sets a new high bar for open-world superheroes, thanks to a gorgeous recreation of NYC and fast and fluid combat. Insomniac did right by longtime comic book fans by including tons of nods to Spider-Man’s history, while also weaving its own compelling story and interesting takes on familiar characters. While some of the side activities became a bit repetitive, Spider-Man delivered dozens of hours of high-flying, web-slinging action that we won’t forget anytime soon.    

Click here for our review.

Top 10 PS4 Games

God of War

Release: April 20, 2018

The video game industry has come a long way since God of War’s deity-beheading, vase-bumping antics, but thankfully so has Kratos. Santa Monica Studio’s reinvention of the series makes daring changes to virtually every aspect of God of War, from the new camera perspective to the more deliberate and tactical combat. The biggest change, however, lies with Kratos himself and his new role as father and guardian to Atreus. The duo’s relationship casts God of War in a whole different light and allows Santa Monica Studio to weave a mature and thoughtful story that stands among the best this generation has to offer. Thanks to Kratos’ continued penchant for slaughtering any creature that stands in his way, the new God of War still offers plenty of excitement as well, along with the most visually arresting battles to date.

Click here for our review.

Top 10 PS4 Games

Horizon Zero Dawn

Release: February 28, 2017

Guerilla Games has been supplying Sony with solid shooters since the PS2 days, but the developer’s decision to ditch Killzone for an open-world robot apocalypse changed everything. Horizon Zero Dawn has proven to be one of the best new IPs of this generation, introducing players to an exciting fusion of futuristic technology and prehistoric warfare. The intense combat, intelligently designed robot enemies, and gorgeous open-world vistas are just a few of the reasons pick up Horizon, while the multilayered mysteries at the heart of Aloy’s journey make it hard to put down.

Click here for our review.

Top 10 PS4 Games

Overwatch

Release: May 24, 2016

Blizzard’s hero-based competitive shooter has been out for years, and yet it remains one of the most frequently played games by the G.I. staff. Part of Overwatch’s longevity can be attributed to its pitch-perfect gunplay, deep roster of characters, and infinitely replayable Assault, Control, and Escort modes. However, what really keeps us coming back are all the improvements and additions Blizzard continues to offer, from countless balance tweaks to the host of new heroes and maps that have been added over the years, to the surprising and creative timed events. Not everyone on staff loves Overwatch’s implementation of lootboxes, but that doesn’t stop us from jumping back into the grind every time new costumes are introduced, and the additional revenue stream has kept Overwatch’s cornucopia of content updates free for all users. As long as Blizzard keeps updating Overwatch, we’ll keep playing it, making it an easy recommendation for competitive shooter fans.

Click here for our review.

Top 10 PS4 Games

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Release: May 10, 2016

Nathan Drake has served the PlayStation brand well over the years, and his final adventure proves to be his best. Not only does Uncharted 4 feature the biggest environments and most bombastic set-piece moments of the series, but it also offers the most mature and nuanced storytelling, delving into Nathan’s childhood and relationship with his estranged brother Sam. As riveting as Uncharted 4’s crumbling clocktower and motorcycle chase sequences are, the quiet character moments with Elena steal the show, and build to a touching finale worthy of one of Sony’s biggest franchises.

Click here for our review.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Release: May 19, 2015

The Witcher 3 still remains the shining example of what we hope is the future of open-world RPGs: a massive, fully realized world to explore, expertly crafted and multidimensional characters, and intriguing choices that ripple throughout the dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay. The hefty Blood and Wine expansion spoiled us with even more fantastic content, but even years after release we look back fondly on our adventures with Geralt. If you’re looking for the best the RPG genre has to offer, The Witcher 3 delivers.

Click here for our review.

Top 10 PS4 Games

Bloodborne

Release: March 23, 2015

Nowadays there’s no shortage of games inspired by From Software’s notoriously difficult Dark Souls series, but the developer’s own Sony-exclusive spinoff remains our favorite of the bunch. Bloodborne’s livelier action and Lovecraftian horror combine to create a captivating and dread-inducing world to explore. True to its roots, Bloodborne’s combat remains as unforgiving and supremely satisfying as ever, requiring you to master the intricacies of your loadout and your enemies' patterns if you hope to survive. Bloodborne’s high degree of difficulty may not be for everyone, but if you are ready to “git gud,” this is the place to start.

Click here for our review.

The games bumped off of the list in recent updates are: Monster Hunter WorldGrand Theft Auto V, Diablo IIIDishonored 2, The Last of Us Remastered, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, DestinyDragon Age: InquisitionThe WitnessFallout 4Axiom VergeBatman: Arkham Knight, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. They’re all still great games, so give them a try, too!

See The Three New Marvel’s Avengers Trailers From Today’s War Table Presentation

Marvel's Avengers

During today's War Table presentation, Crystal Dynamics released three new trailers for its upcoming Marvel's Avengers. While we already delivered a super in-depth preview of the game today, sometimes you want to see the action for yourself.

The trailers focus on three different parts of the upcoming game: story, single-player gameplay, and cooperative action. Check out the three new trailers below.

Click here to watch embedded media

Click here to watch embedded media

Click here to watch embedded media

Marvel's Avengers is set to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia on September 4, and will be a launch title for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, with the ability to upgrade to next-gen software for free. For more, be sure to check out our in-depth preview and interview with Crystal Dynamics here.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Creative Director Steps Down

Note: This story has been updated to include additional context.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail is stepping down from his role with the game to deal with "personal issues."

In response to the situation, Ubisoft has provided a statement that reads: "Ashraf Ismail is stepping down from the project to take a leave of absence. The development team is committed to delivering a great game in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla."

The announcement comes on the heels of information that came to light this weekend, regarding an alleged sexual relationship between Ismail and a woman who didn't know he was married.

The revelation surfaces as Ubisoft is already dealing with another separate controversy surrounding the sexual conduct of its employees.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is currently scheduled to release for current- and next-gen systems, as well as PC and Stadia, by the end of the year. 

[Source: Ashraf Ismail]

New Marvel’s Avengers Footage Features A Daily Bugle Reporter

During today's Marvel's Avengers War Table presentation, we got an extensive look at gameplay for Crystal Dynamics' upcoming superhero game. While the action was plentiful and the details went deep (you can read the entire recap of the video, plus our interview with the team here), one subtle detail caught our eye.

In the opening cutscene of Thor's "Once An Avenger..." Hero mission, a reporter is broadcasting beneath the Avengers' helicarrier while a battle rages on. Upon further examination, the microphone flag features the logo of none other than The Daily Bugle, the publication that Peter Parker works/worked for. Could this potentially be a tease that the webslinger himself could be recruited by Ms. Marvel to help Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Hulk in the future?

While this could simply serve as a meaningless nod to the greater Marvel universe, in our new interview with Crystal Dynamics, studio head Scot Amos says the team is adding teases in the launch-day content to hint at potential future heroes, villains, and story arcs. "Some of the hooks we cast into the water on day one, you’re like, 'Oh, that’s kind of cool. AIM has this undersea base. It’s doing some cool technology. I wonder if that ever goes somewhere.' Then later, we pay that off with, 'Oh my gosh! That tied to this, and now this other character showed up!'" he says. "Those types of arcs are things we’re starting at the core level and then adding these heroes, regions, and villains at no additional cost. That world keeps expanding and you’re constantly on that buy-the-ticket-take-the-ride-with-us journey from the beginning through the expansions that we’re going to have."

For more on Marvel's Avengers, check out our in-depth preview here or learn more about the advantages the PlayStation 5 version has over the PlayStation 4 version here.

Marvel’s Avengers Preview – Reassembling In Hopes Of Greatness

Marvel's Avengers

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal
Release: (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), 2020 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X)
Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Coming off the climactic conclusion to the Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame a month prior, Marvel’s most iconic heroes had a full head of steam going into E3 2019. However, its reveal drew a broad range of criticisms based on everything from how the game ran to the way the characters looked. As a result, the hype train slammed on the brakes as widespread concern grew about the state of the game.

A few months later, at Gamescom 2019, I played through the opening mission of the game, and while I enjoyed most of the experience, it wasn’t the game that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes deserved. Then, much like the Avengers themselves do in the opening of their game, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix went dark. The studio delayed the game from spring to fall in order to address player feedback, with its big reemergence happening today. The result was an Avengers game that look renewed from the version that was widely criticized in 2019. I spoke to the developers to not only learn more about how the team is creating a unique Avengers story, the various systems in place, and what players can expect from the game following launch, but how the delay helped the studio fine tune the experience.

Marvel's Avengers

Picking Up The Pieces

The opening mission that Crystal Dynamics showed off last year took place during A-Day, a celebratory festival in San Francisco honoring the Avengers and the opening of their west-coast headquarters. Unfortunately, this event erupts into violence as a mysterious foe led by the deadly mercenary Taskmaster attacks the Golden Gate Bridge. In this section, the player gets to experience brief sequences as each of the marquee heroes: Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow. While the Avengers do their best to take down this force, it’s not good enough, as the bridge attack turns out to be a distraction while the enemy targets the Avengers’ helicarrier. The hovering leviathan, which is powered by a Terrigen crystal, is destroyed, killing Captain America and raining Terrigen Mist onto the city, granting uncontrolled powers to countless civilians.

With San Francisco reeling and the world watching in horror, the superpowered are outlawed, creating a void of security the world had become accustomed to since the establishment of the Avengers. To fill this vacuum, in steps tech giant Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), with a mission to replace the now-disbanded heroes. “They were offering a very noble solution, which is, ‘With science and technology, we can offer safety and protection,’ so a science-versus-superpowers solution was offered,” says creative director Shaun Escayg.

Marvel's Avengers

AIM promises to use science to not only protect the world, but also cure the “Inhuman” infection that spread across the now-quarantined San Francisco due to the Terrigen explosion. Unfortunately, while AIM may appear to have the best interests of the population in mind, the organization is anything but noble. The company, led by founding member George Tarleton, twists the public fear of the Inhumans into a fear of all who possess superpowers.

Pretty soon, Avengers fangirl Kamala Khan, who was at the A-Day celebration and remains steadfast in her belief in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, uncovers a conspiracy that not only is AIM experimenting on the Inhumans, but the company might have even been behind the bridge attack and subsequent helicarrier explosion. While Kamala needs the help of the remaining heroes, she is anything but powerless.

In fact, being at A-Day, she is exposed to the Terrigen Mist and undergoes an Inhuman transformation of her own that allows her to embiggen and stretch parts of her body. She takes up the name Ms. Marvel, modeled after one of her favorite heroes, Captain Marvel. Unfortunately, since she now has powers, she, along with many other San Franciscans, must go into hiding. Following this turn, she becomes a central and key component to not only the reassembly of the Avengers, but the story of the game as a whole.

Marvel's Avengers

An Ignoble AIM

While the emergence of Ms. Marvel is a positive side effect of the catastrophic events of A-Day, she isn’t the only central character affected by the Terrigen blast in San Francisco. George Tarleton was also caught in the explosion and left injured and disfigured. The aftereffects of the blast and exposure to the Terrigen cause Tarleton’s brain to grow massive. Tarleton tries to recruit Kamala, saying he can help “cure” her of the Inhuman “sickness,” but she doesn’t buy it and she escapes AIM custody to bring the conspiracy to Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, and the rest of the Avengers.

However, reuniting the Avengers is a task easier said than done. Not only are the heroes spread out and isolated, but they are often at odds with each other thanks to distrust sown by AIM and Tarleton, or MODOK as he’s come to be known. In fact, Tarleton’s transformation has made him even more brilliant than before. This combination of technological might and super-genius intellect make him a major threat to the Avengers.

While those who have only watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe films might not know who MODOK is, comic readers are well-versed in the character’s insidious nature. “We wanted a villain that was a formidable, Avenger-level threat, but more intelligent than the average villain, not just using technological might, but his ability to divide from within, his ability to propose a very provocative solution – even noble in some ways,” Escayg says. “He’s got Bruce Banner and Tony Stark at war; they can’t even see eye-to-eye because Bruce believes that Hulk is a dangerous being and maybe the Avengers are as well, and Tony shares the opposite view, like Kamala, that without them, the world would be in jeopardy. This villain in particular was smarter, mighty, could wield that might and sway public opinion even within the Avengers themselves about how they view or perceive themselves.”

Marvel's Avengers

Crystal Dynamics looked at the story it wanted to tell and realized that the malicious pessimism that AIM and MODOK operate under are perfect foils to the unfettered optimism Ms. Marvel has for the Avengers. Not only that, but they each personified the public conflict that’s unfolding in the world regarding those who are superpowered.

“It created the best conflict of the two opposing themes: Are these people really superheroes? Or are they just mostly dangerous, powerful beings? Can we use science and technology to control and harness that power? Or is it their humanity, their empathy, or their differences that truly make them the greatest protectors of Earth?” Escayg says. “It was the perfect recipe for conflict and to showcase these opposing themes.”

With a menacing and sophisticated organization led by a deranged-but-brilliant figurehead, the world needs the Avengers now more than ever. However, with the public opinion of the Avengers and distrust within the ranks of the heroes at an all-time low, Kamala Khan has her work cut out for her if she wants to get the team back together. So begins Operation Reassemble.

Marvel's Avengers

Assembling Your Own Avengers

While bringing together a team of Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel is an exciting prospect, players can make the heroes their own by utilizing a deep customization system. Each hero has skills, Heroic moves, and gear that can be customized in depth to deliver the playstyle you want. Each hero’s skills consist of four distinct categories and are upgraded through these skill trees. By using skill points earned through play, you can unlock new moves, combos, and attacks. For example, one of Thor’s melee skills is the Hammer Spin, which lets him twirl Mjolnir around his wrist, or Mjolnir Cyclone, which lets him spin to perform a fierce area-of-effect attack. Meanwhile, one of Thor’s ranged abilities is Manual Targeting, which lets you mark enemies to bounce your hammer off like a pinball.

On the Heroic moves side, each hero has three categories to fill: Assault, Ultimate, and Support. The Assault Heroic is the fastest to charge, with some moves allowing you to store multiple charges. These moves include attacks like Thor’s ground pound and Black Widow’s electrified projectile called Widow’s Bite. Support Heroics focus on helping your teammates. Warrior’s Fury is Thor’s, which calls down a special essence from the sky to grant nearby teammates temporary invulnerability. Ultimate Heroics take the longest to charge, but they can change the course of battle. For example, Thor’s God Blast calls down the power of the Bifrost from the Nine Realms to deliver a devastating attack that can pierce shields.

Thor is one of the most versatile heroes, but he’s not the only one that can be played the way you want. By configuring your heroes your way, you’re able to create different gameplay archetypes, even going as far as creating a support Iron Man or a ranged Hulk. You can even go deeper into the abilities you equip and use with a Mastery Tree, which lets you use a fine-toothed comb to configure and tweak every last piece of your heroes.

Marvel's Avengers

In addition to these skills and Heroic abilities, players can further customize their heroes using Gear, Perks, Artifacts, and more. Gear works much like it does in other games, giving stat boosts, while Gear Perks give you modifiers and buffs in specific situations. One piece of Epic Gear for Black Widow grants Perks like ranged power attacks buffing defense and heavy combos increasing stun damage. Some Gear even uses things like Pym Particles to shrink enemies, or Gamma Radiation to grant bonus damage modifiers.

“On top of all the unique powers the heroes had, we wanted to figure out what is something that none of them can do?” combat director Vince Napoli says. “We really leaned into the technological aspects of Marvel and some of the core concepts that are global to all heroes, which is the ability to use the Pym Particle technology and shrink enemies, or use Gamma Radiation to create a Gamma status effect. We also have Cosmic status effects and some other ones.”

On top of all this, the team at Crystal Dynamics has created tons of cosmetics, including emotes and outfits. I’m particularly excited to see the various uniforms and suits from across Marvel’s rich history for its most iconic characters. Some cosmetics are earned through mission completion, while others must be purchased via the in-game vendor, SHIELD’s own Chastity McBryde. Some outfits also require you to complete iconic mission chains, while others can only be purchased through the game’s online store. Players can choose from outfits like Iron Man’s Stark Tech outfit inspired by The Invincible Iron Man or Thor’s Donald Blake alias outfit from his first appearance in Journey into Mystery.

While this might sound overwhelming to people who just want to jump into a mission and mash buttons to victory, Napoli says Marvel’s Avengers is still, at its base, an action game about playing as your favorite superhero. “You always want to make that an option; all great action games have that tuning where you can get in there and really quickly pick it up and have it feel really, really satisfying with little investment,” he says. “The idea is once you’re invested in that, you’re more likely to go in and say, ‘You know what? I do kind of like smashing guys around. What’s the low barrier-to-entry to creating a better way to smash guys?’ Then, once you’re in there, we hope you take the next step, and then the next step, and the next step.”

From the cosmetic tweaks to the way you progress your skill trees, all these customizations come together to allow you to play how you want to. In our first glimpse of gameplay since Crystal Dynamics’ original A-Day reveal, we got a good look at how all of these components come together to deliver the experience you feel on the sticks.

Marvel's Avengers

Rising To Heroism

As Ms. Marvel begins looking at how to bring the team back together, she brings the proof of her conspiracies to Bruce Banner, who then travels with her to Tony Stark’s home. The two former Avengers continue butting heads over whether those with superpowers should be viewed as threats. In a later scene, we see a confrontation between Iron Man and Hulk. We don’t see how this fight ends, but before the screen cuts to black, Iron Man summons a giant fist from his Hulkbuster suit to punch the enraged Banner off him.

That appears to be just the beginning of Kamala’s quest to reassemble the Avengers. As Ms. Marvel continues tracking down the members of the disbanded team, the single-player story progresses, opening additional hero-specific missions. These Hero missions are cinematic, single-player campaign stages focused on a particular member of the Avengers.

One such hero-specific mission we got a look at is Thor’s “Once an Avenger…” mission. AIM is attacking the Avengers’ newly rebuilt helicarrier and the team must work together to prevent it from being destroyed once again. AIM drops several robotic walkers onto the deck of the Chimera helicarrier as Ms. Marvel watches. Iron Man swoops down and blasts one off the craft and onto the streets below. The crowd runs in horror as a Daily Bugle newscaster recounts that this is the same day that AIM promised to reveal its Adaptoid program.

The mission appears to be one of his earliest missions in the game, as Thor walks up to the scene dressed in his Donald Blake alias outfit, complete with volunteer T-shirt and jeans. He calls Mjolnir from the Captain America memorial statue as if to say he’s coming out of retirement. Thor rushes to the newscaster’s side and pushes him away as another metallic meteorite crashes down from the helicarrier right where he was standing. The god of thunder then goes from street level to the ship using a hefty swing of his hammer to help his fellow Avengers do battle.

Marvel's Avengers

The scene on the helicarrier as Thor arrives is dire; the AIM walkers are breaching the hull with their drills and the likes of Iron Man and Ms. Marvel look in danger of being overwhelmed. Thor flies up and with a proclamation of, “You should know, I’m not in the best of moods!” smashes into the deck, sending electric shockwaves to destroy a group of Adaptoid robots and walkers.

As the gameplay sequence commences, Thor wields his hammer mightily as the rest of the Avengers chime in on comms to talk about how glad they are to see him back in action. Every swing of Mjolnir looks as though it carries the weight I felt like it was missing during my initial hands-on experience last year, and every time the hammer smashes into an enemy, it rings out with a satisfying clang. Players can weave together combos using heavy and light attacks or use long presses to use signature attacks.

Thor turns his attention to one of the walkers, which not only protects itself with an electromagnetic field, but can blast projectiles, shoot flames, and take a hefty helping of damage. Once Thor gets inside the radius of the shield, he unloads on it with heavy combos using the hammer and lightning. Thor finally does the walker in by throwing his hammer into the core, grabbing it and uppercutting before calling down a barrage of lightning to finish it off.

Marvel's Avengers

Thor spots Hulk on a higher deck and joins him. Hulk doesn’t seem happy to see the Asgardian and reacts by throwing the AIM robot he just dismantled at the god of thunder, to which Thor remarks, “Just like old times.” The two then hurtle forward, blasting, smashing, and destroying encroaching mechs. Thor possesses a wide range of abilities that make him viable both from range and up close. His heavy hits make him a nightmare for the mechs that swarm him, while his hammer tosses and lightning summons let him pick apart enemies from medium range.

Thor and Hulk zero in on another walker. After they knock its health down, the two perform a Team Finisher where Thor flips the walker over, Hulk jumps on top with a chunk of the ground and smashes it, and Thor channels electricity through Mjolnir to deliver the final blow. In another team-up instance, the two collaborate with Thor slamming down into the middle of the walker, Hulk ripping its leg off and bludgeoning the walker with it. Thor and Hulk aren’t the only ones who can team up; in another gameplay sequence, I see Ms. Marvel and Hulk dismantling a robot together.

The deck continues to flood with more mechs, drones, and walkers, with Thor, Iron Man, and Hulk doing their best to keep up. MODOK announces he has one last card to play: a giant walker, which he drops right onto the middle of the ship to drill down into the engine room. Thor remarks that he can handle it himself, to which Iron Man rebuts, “You don’t have to! That’s the whole point.”

Marvel's Avengers

Thor gets knocked to a lower deck to once again join Hulk in battling some Adaptoids. He summons his Warrior’s Fury Support Heroic onto Hulk to grant the green behemoth temporarily invulnerability and let him smash to his heart’s content. Thor then redirects his attention to the giant walker, which possesses a special Stark Tech shield that Iron Man can’t penetrate with his beams. Luckily, Thor has an Ultimate ready, and he calls down the power of the Bifrost to bypass the shield, demolish the walker, and thwart MODOK’s plan.

Despite the threat being neutralized, the damage is done, and Black Widow comes over the radio to say there’s not enough power to restart the engines. Tony gives Thor his cue and the Asgardian blasts electricity into the front engines just in time to prevent the Chimera from crashing into the city below. This taste of the cinematic Hero missions made me excited to see how else Crystal Dynamics can capture the feeling of being a powerful superhero through curated missions designed with specific heroes in mind. However, with so much customization and gameplay variables on the field, Warzone might be where Marvel’s Avengers really flexes its muscles.

Marvel's Avengers

All Together Now

Learning more about each individual character through the Hero missions seems like a great way to delve into the lore of this title and the universe it exists in, but the Avengers are all about teaming up to save the day. With Warzones, you can take on missions with up to four players online, or offline alongside A.I. companions. All the customization you do with your heroes plays an even bigger role in Warzone missions, as not only are you bringing your tailor-made Avenger into the mission, but any A.I. characters you fight alongside are the versions you made using the Skills, Gear, and cosmetics.

The Hero missions are meant to advance the story, but Warzones also take place within the narrative, with the team coming together to fight AIM. As such, you continue earning experience and upgrades from completing these missions, even if they aren’t primarily designed with advancing the story in mind. You get missions from peripheral Marvel characters like Tony Stark’s A.I. Jarvis, SHIELD’s Maria Hill, or brilliant scientist Hank Pym. Once you select a mission, you jump into the Quinjet for matchmaking and hero selection.

Marvel's Avengers

Warzones take you all over the world, from remote locations to dense cities. Some Warzones are designed for team exploration and traversal, while others take place in tight corridors and buildings with a focus on combat. Each Warzone has a variety of objective-based missions and battles from which you can reap the rewards.

“There’s all these different things going on, and all of these are in different regions, so we could have built this giant, open-world game, but that wouldn’t have allowed us to have the Avengers be this global presence that can pretty much go anywhere and react to any threat,” Warzone director Phil Therien says. “Instead, we built regions that are basically small subsets of open world where we have many missions. That’s allowed us to have cities, forests, deserts, we can go underwater, we can go into orbit around the Earth. That really lets us tell the stories that we want to be telling with the Avengers.”

In addition to Warzones, you also work to repair your helicarrier and work with different resistance factions, headed up by recognizable comic characters like Dum Dum Dugan and Nick Fury. As you raise your reputation with these various factions, you gain access to new vendors, challenges, and items. You’ll want to have access to these powerful allies as new heroes, threats, and regions emerge as a part of Crystal Dynamics’ live-service roadmap.

Marvel's Avengers

The Road Forward

At launch, Marvel’s Avengers hopes to deliver an all-in-one superhero experience in line with the rich pedigree of Crystal Dynamics, but much like the comics and movies, the universe is always expanding. While you can purchase items from the in-game store, heroes, villains, and regions are planned to be added at no additional cost.

“If we look at the main campaign, that’s kind of Kamala in that perspective as the point-of-view character, reassembling your heroes, getting through the campaign, understanding AIM and MODOK, and that story, that’s just getting your team together,” studio head Scot Amos says. “Then, as we start adding more heroes and more regions, we actually will add more stories – like full stories that actually have a front and an end and like, ‘Hey, we’re introducing a new hero, and here’s an actual story arc through that particular region they may be a part of.’ That also includes new villains. We’ll actually get new villains – named villains – will start showing up. This world continually expands. It starts with AIM and it’s very much about understanding AIM and the situation with them, that will start evolving further and further as we get more content released month to month and even months past that.”

Marvel's Avengers

Much like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Crystal Dynamics is dropping subtle hints throughout the launch content to give players fuel to theorize about what’s next. “Some of the hooks we cast into the water on day one, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool. AIM has this undersea base. It’s doing some cool technology. I wonder if that ever goes somewhere.’ Then later, we pay that off with, ‘Oh my gosh! That tied to this, and now this other character showed up!’” Amos says. “Those types of arcs are things we’re starting at the core level and then adding these heroes, regions, and villains at no additional cost.”

Crystal Dynamics hopes to regularly support Marvel’s Avengers with post-launch content for years to come, but first, it needs to drive home a strong launch to establish a fan base that would necessitate such a long-term roadmap. Following the success of another modern Marvel superhero game, Insomniac’s Spider-Man in 2018, Marvel’s Avengers has a lot to live up to. However, with the improvements shown in the recent footage, as well as the understanding the studio demonstrates about what it needed to improve upon from its initial reveal, the Avengers are once again looking mighty.

Marvel's Avengers

Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC Release Date: September 4, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC), 2020 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) Purchase More Info