Bonus Round: Death S2randing

Happy Friday Saturday, everyone! Welcome to Bonus Round, a look at some of the week’s biggest gaming news stories. I normally publish this column on a Friday, but alas, my boiler decided to give up the ghost yesterday; inauspicious timing, given that the UK is in a cold snap right now. I had to spend the day calling every plumber in Manchester to beg them to come to my house.

I still won’t have hot water or heating until Tuesday at the earliest, but the show must go on. I’ve popped an electric heater, wrapped myself in blankets, and I’m ready to dive into some of my favourite announcements from the Game Awards on Thursday night. Let’s get into it!

Death Stranding 2 announced

Video Kojima has been dropping an increasing number of hints as to his next game, which many assumed would be a Death Stranding sequel. In fact, star Norman Reeds straight up came out and said it is. But now it’s official: Death Stranding 2 was officially announced at The Game Awards with a four minute trailer. The game will release exclusively on PlayStation 5 at an undetermined point in the future.

In true Kojima style, the Death Stranding 2 trailer is somewhat inscrutable and doesn’t give much away. What is clear is that time hasn’t been kind to Reedus’ Sam Porter Bridges. He seems to have aged far more rapidly than Léa Seydoux or even his BB companion. We also got confirmation that actors Elle Fanning and Shioli Kutsuna have joined the cast. Fanning’s addition had been rumoured for a while, and I have my theories as to who she’ll be playing. They’re somewhat spoilery, though, so I’ll keep them to myself for now in case you’ve not played the first game.

I adored the first Death Stranding; I count it among the most emotionally impactful experiences I’ve had with a video game. Still, I’m slightly surprised to see a sequel. The game sold quite well – 5 million copies – but it sharply divided opinion. It’s certainly a very unique game, and understandably not for everyone. I’m not sure how many people who bought the first one can be counted on to buy Death Stranding 2 given how polarising it was. That’s somewhat irrelevant, though; I’m just excited to experience the next story from Kojima’s bizarre brain.

Idris Elba joins Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

CD Project Red showed off a new trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 expansion Phantom Liberty, slated for 2023. It was mostly a cinematic trailer with little in the way of gameplay, but it did unveil a major new cast addition. The very last shot of the trailer revealed that Idris Elba has joined the Cyberpunk cast as US veteran Solomon Reed. According to the developers, Reed is ‘the only person players can trust to help them fulfill an impossible mission of espionage and survival.’

The reveal of Elba’s casting echoes Cyberpunk 2077‘s E3 2019 trailer, which also used its final moments to reveal that Keanu Reeves would play Johnny Silverhand. Back then, players were nothing but excited for Cyberpunk, but… well, a lot has happened since then. Despite the game’s, ahem, setbacks, the franchise has been on a redemptive journey in 2022. The next-gen release of 2077 brought many significant improvements, and Netflix’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime is hugely popular. Elba’s involvement seems to be a sign that Cyberpunk is cool again; long may it last.

Release dates galore

Several huge games that previously only had a vague 2023 release window got specific dates at the Game Awards. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the sequel to 2019’s Fallen Order, will be released on 17 March. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which will feature the late great Kevin Conroy as Batman, drops on 26 May. Street Fighter 6 will release on 2 June, followed swiftly on 6 June by Diablo IV. Later in the month, Final Fantasy 16 will release on 22 June.

2022 was a somewhat quiet year for games, with little in the way of big AAA releases. There have been plenty of fantastic smaller titles, of course, but this was the year where we really felt the impacts of Covid-19 on development schedules. 2023, on the other hand, is shaping up to be something of a bloodbath. As well as the above games, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Forspoken, Dead Space, Hogwarts Legacy, Spider-Man 2, Hollow Knight: Silksong, Hades II and many more are all set to drop in 2023.

Gamers will have some difficult choices to make next year. There’s only so much free time and money to go around, and it seems unlikely that all of these games can be smash hits. It’ll be very interesting to see which of these games break through in 2023… assuming none of them are delayed any further, that is!