Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for another Bonus Round, our weekly column offering a few thoughts on some of the week’s biggest gaming stories. I took a break last week due to getting married, and I’ve picked a hell of a week to come back. We’re right in the middle of what would usually be E3 season, with game companies lining up to offer previews of their upcoming projects. Thanks to last week’s State of Play and last night’s Summer Game Fest, the announcements are coming thick and fast nonetheless. Let’s get into it!
Summer Game Fest
The summer games season kicked off in earnest last night with the Summer Game Fest, hosted and produced by Geoff Keighley. The show was light on bombshell announcements, but this only meant that some very cool, smaller games got a bigger spotlight.
If I had to sum up the theme of the show in one sentence, it would be ‘space is scary’. There were tonnes of space horror games, with trailers for Aliens: Dark Descent, The Callisto Protocol, Fort Solis and Routine all being shown off. Games take years to develop, so this is more of an amusing coincidence than a sign that space games are ‘in’ right now. Each of them looks intriguing in their own way, though, and as someone with a soft spot for sci-fi, I’m very happy with these announcements.
Some lower-key but hotly anticipated games got release dates. 16 June in particular will be very busy, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and Neon White both set to release on that day. For my money, the coolest game on show was Midnight Fight Express, a stylish action game that looks a bit like Hotline Miami by way of John Wick, which is releasing on 23 August.
If you want to see more of mine and Joe’s thoughts on the show as they happened in real time, you can check out our live blog of the event. We had a lot of fun talking games and chatting nonsense during the show, and we’re tentatively planning on doing the same thing for the Microsoft & Bethesda showcase on Sunday. We’ll hopefully see you there!
The Last of Us remake and new multiplayer game announced
The wind was somewhat taken out of the sails of Summer Game Fest’s closing game, The Last Of Us Part I for PS5, by leaks just hours ahead of the event. Hilariously, Sony themselves were to blame; the game’s pre-order page went live a little too early, allowing eagle-eyed gamers to view the game’s description, cover art, and trailer. I’ve said previously that I think a remake of The Last of Us is wholly unnecessary, but I can’t deny that the new version looks very pretty indeed.
Neil Druckmann, co-president of Naughty Dog, also teased a new standalone multiplayer game set in the world of The Last of Us. The Factions mode of the original The Last of Us had a real cult following, and when Naughty Dog announced that Part II would be shipping without the mode, many speculated that it would be spun out into its own game. I don’t think anyone expected that the scope of the game would grow as large as it has done, though.
Though we only have some concept art and a few details to go on, it seems we can expect a vast experience that is ‘as big as any of [Naughty Dog’s] single-player games’, and even has a story. Sony has been open about their plans to develop a range of games as services (think Destiny or The Division); it seems likely that this The Last of Us game has metastasised into one of them.
I won’t be surprised at all if this multiplayer game ends up being included in the Extra and Premium tiers of PlayStation Plus when it launches. We’ve already seen Sony pledge to put certain new games like Stray on the service on Day 1, and if you want to ease the likely sting of cosmetic microtransactions, making the new Factions available for close to free isn’t a bad way to go about it.
Hideo Kojima’s ‘Overdose’ revealed
Death Stranding star Norman Reedus has been on a one-man mission to spoil the future surprise announcement of a sequel, but Death Stranding 2 might not be the only game that Hideo Kojima has in the works. According to a report from Try Hard Guides, Kojima Productions is developing a horror game called Overdose that stars Margaret Qualley (also a Death Stranding cast member).
As with most gaming leaks and rumours, particularly when Kojima is involved, I’d usually be inclined to take all this with a pinch of salt. However, Kojima Productions requested that the story be taken down, seemingly confirming its truth, and were rebuffed. This is a textbook example of the Streisand effect: not only has Kojima Productions failed to quash the report, but their failure to do so has become a story unto itself.
Personally, I’m down to play whatever crazy project emerges from Hideo Kojima’s brain. I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fan, and while Death Stranding was something of a love-it-or-hate-it game, I was firmly in the ‘love it’ camp. Kojima has already tried to make a horror game before with the unceremoniously cancelled Silent Hills, but it looks like he’s getting another bite at the apple with Overdose. This is definitely one to watch.
Xbox streaming app hits Samsungs TVs in June
While a dedicated Xbox streaming stick might be as much as a year away, Xbox cloud gaming is still coming to a TV near you very soon. Samsung’s 2022 line-up of TVs will be receiving a dedicated Xbox app on 30 June, allowing players to stream Xbox Game Pass titles directly to their television. What’s more, it even sounds like it works pretty well!
As I’ve talked about before, apps like these are key to Microsoft’s plan of making Xbox games available on as many screens as possible. There are plenty of people out there who, for myriad potential reasons, are simply never going to buy a dedicated games console. But as long as you have a decent internet connection and a Bluetooth controller, the Xbox app will let you instantly access hundreds of games for a relatively low monthly fee. That’s a very attractive proposition, and one that could get a lot of people to dip their toes in the Xbox waters for the first time.
Of course, most people don’t own a 2022 Samsung model TV. While this is no doubt part of a marketing push by Samsung to sell their newest, fanciest televisions, the key will be making the app available on any of their TVs from the past two or three years. Beyond that, I expect the app will eventually make its way to TVs from other manufacturers like Phillips and LG.
Maybe we’ll one day even see an Xbox app on Sony televisions. That would have seemed unthinkable until recently, but these are strange times for the gaming industry, and I don’t think anything is off the table.