The Outer Worlds has a unique visual style that merges classic sci-fi inspirations with the team’s own vision. As players pursue their space adventures, they are treated to a variety of people, places, and creatures that evoke pulpy serials, comic books, Westerns, and more. This look and feel is an integral part of the experience, and we talked to The Outer Worlds’ art lead Daniel Alpert and co-director Leonard Boyarsky about the art team’s goals and process when creating the game’s stylish appearance.

Art created for the cover of Game Informer issue 311

Alpert: We really wanted to capture what it was like to be on a frontier planet. That’s what it is: Going out to the outer reaches of space, colonizing new lands, and when you get there, it’s all wilderness. Just like it would be back in the Wild West times. But we also wanted to not just invoke that frontier landscape, but also make sure we get some of that science-fiction vibe. That’s why we wanted to hit it with the cryosuit, which is a huge juxtaposition. You take out the cryosuit, you take out the fancy city, it just looks likes a frontier landscape. You add those elements in, it becomes otherworldly.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

Loading screens that reflect different player actions

Alpert: These are some of my favorite pieces in the game. As you play through, you affect story events. You get these loading screens that are like newspaper-printed images of things the player has done. In a single playthrough, you can’t get all the newspaper images.

Boyarsky: We knew we wanted to do something where you were seeing images or propaganda based on what you had done, but it came together when we decided that it was told from the Board’s [the corporate ruling body in The Outer Worlds] point of view. These are from Board-operated newspapers and periodicals. If you’re doing stuff the Board approves of, you’re a hero. If you’re doing anti-Board stuff, it’s an “evil, mysterious stranger plotting against us” kind of thing.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

Uniforms for different factions and companies

Alpert: This [first image] is one of our outfits. It’s a tactical officer for the corporate military. It has a lot of heavy, industrial feeling. It’s got the pipes, the controllers. But when you step back, you can see a lot of influences that we pull from that robber-baron time. When you examine a lot of our armors, you’ll see those motifs go on and on.

Boyarsky: Without being too over-the-top obvious or too anachronistic, we really wanted these to feel like they were soldered out of big industrial metal pieces. We wanted the game to have a distinct look and be recognizable stylistically.

Alpert: Every corporation will have a very recognizable color scheme, and you can pick them out in a crowd. You see those same colors throughout the game. Like, you go into a Spacer’s Choice town, and you know it’s a Spacer’s Choice town. You go into an Auntie Cleo town, and you know it’s an Auntie Cleo town.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

Movie posters for films made in Byzantium

Alpert: We have these two planets – one is Terra, one is Monarch – and the people of Terra don’t like the people of Monarch. They’re making propaganda films to sell to the people why it’s bad there. We even have, in Byzantium, a film studio where they’re filming some of this stuff, alluding to the fact that they’re constantly churning out propaganda.

[Titus Andronicus] has some of the goriest Shakespearean stuff ever. There’s a lot of vile stuff in there; if people actually know the story and want to take a deeper dive into this image, they can figure out some of the things we put in there.

This piece captures the fusion of sci-fi and Wild-West aesthetics

Boyarsky: Dieselpunk is very 1930s, and I was like “That’s unfortunate, because that almost feels like what we want.” I just threw out “Dieselpunk Deadwood,” and then we were like, “That’s what we have to somehow encapsulate.” … This is where we, as far as the environment goes, really hit where we wanted to go with the project.

Alpert: I think it was this piece that, once the team starting seeing it, it clicked for a lot of people.

 

For more on The Outer Worlds, click on the banner below for more exclusive features during our month of coverage.

On February 27, Ghost Recon Wildlands players will be privy to the game’s final Special Operations update, “Special Ops 4.” This new content drop will deviate from the crossover-centric events of older expansions.

While the larger features of Special Ops 4 have not been revealed, smaller tweaks were announced: the time of day will be changeable during the single-player campaign, voice-lines have been restructured to be in prestige crates rather than battle crates, and “Ghost Wars,” the PVP mode, will receive custom browsers. New outfits will be available for PVP and PVE players as well as “Year 2 Pass” holders. 

In the meantime, check out our early gameplay impressions of Ubisoft’s latest title: The Division 2.

Sony and the PlayStation haven’t dove into early access as much as the PC or even Xbox One, but upcoming free-form creator Dreams (from Media Molecule) is jumping into the space, letting players try out a limited pre-release version of the game this spring for $29.99 before the full release later in 2019.

The early access edition isn’t the full version of the title (Sony confirms there is no Story mode, for example), but it contains tutorials to help you get started as well as content from Media Molecule to play and edit. The developer says it is adding more features, levels, tutorials, and assets before release, and if you’ve made something in the beta from last year, you can pick up with it where you left off. Users can also stream and share creations during the period.

Media Molecule says this early access version of Dreams is a “strictly limited release,” but it’s unknown exactly to what extent. So, if you’re interested, it’s best not to hesitate when it comes out this spring.

For more on the game, be sure to check out the stories we put together for our November 2018 cover story on the ambitious title. Also check out some of the outstanding creations from the game’s closed beta late last year.

[Source: Official PlayStation Blog]

Electronic Arts and BioWare have revealed everything that will be changing in the game by the time Anthem is available to all players this Friday, February 22. An earlier list circulated online, but the final version offers a comprehensive picture of what’s being changed.

Some seemingly minor changes highlighted in the patch notes do not at first glance feel like dramatic adjustments, but the wide range of issues being addressed are likely to have a significant effect on the play experience. You can read the full patch notes to see just how extensive these changes are.

One of the most notable changes involves how treasure chests count toward the tomb trials, a critical-path mission in the middle of the game that has halted forward momentum for many players (enough that we wrote a whole guide on the subject). One of the objectives for that mission demands players open 15 treasure chests, but players were only getting credit for chests they personally opened. On February 22, that will change so that all squad members get credit for an opened chest.

Promised decreased load times, cutscene camera fixes, and a decreased number of game crashes have the potential to improve the overall quality of life for many players. Other fixes (like snipers no longer being able to shoot through Storm Javelin storm shields) are likely to be a big deal for the subsection of players who regularly use a particular class. Several gear pieces (especially for the Interceptor) were not showing the primer and detonator icons that help a player plan their character build, and that issue is also being resolved. For Colossus players, the change to allow player revives while still using the shield will be a big help.

Over 100 individual items are specifically called out in the patch notes, so the above are only examples. We’ve yet to play this tweaked version, but the improvements mentioned do speak to a number of problem situations our editors have encountered.

If you’re still waiting to give Anthem a try on worldwide launch day this Friday, you can learn more about the game’s fiction in our look at the world of Anthem

 

Our Take
Many PC players who paid for Origin’s Premier service have registered frustration that so many of these issues affected their first week of play, and some reviewers have already posted their final impressions of Anthem based on that version (which was provided by EA as a reviewable product). Game Informer has held off on a final review in the name of more fully experiencing the game, but our editors (myself included) who have played have found that several of the issues addressed by the patch have negatively influenced our enjoyment of the game.  

On one side, it’s great to see BioWare moving quickly to address problems, and communicating improvements clearly to players. On the other hand, several of the issues being fixed have left a bad taste in the mouth of early players, and those problems have contributed to some negative sentiment toward the game during the days around launch.

Xbox Game Pass continues to grow its library with some strong offerings over the next few days, featuring some games you should make time for if you haven’t already.

Alien: IsolationThe Walking Dead: Season 2, Batman: Return To Arkham (which includes both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City), Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, and Headlander will all arrive on the service by the end of the month, Microsoft has announced. Those first two titles will arrive on the service February 28, while the rest will arrive tomorrow, February 21.

If you’re interested in seeing what else Game Pass has to offer (including all first-party Xbox One titles like Crackdown 3), check out the full list here.

Industry analysts and sales trackers NPD have published their findings for U.S. video game sales in the month of January, with Nintendo giving both the hardware and software categories a boost.

JANUARY 2019 TOP 20 GAMES (Physical and Digital Ranked On Dollar Sales)

1. Kingdom Hearts III
2. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
3. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe*
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII^
5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
6. Red Dead Redemption II
7. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
8. NBA 2K19
9. Mario Kart 8*
10. Grand Theft Auto V
11. Madden NFL 19^
12. Tales of Vesperia
13. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
14. Battlefield V^
15. Super Mario Party*
16. Minecraft (includes sales on both PlayStation and Xbox platforms)
17. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
18. Spider-Man
19. FIFA 19^
20. Super Mario Odyssey

Assorted facts based on NPD’s numbers for the month that was:

  • According to NPD analyst Mat Piscatella, hardware, software, accessory, and game card spending for the month dropped 19 percent when compared to last year’s January, coming in at $893 million. Nevertheless, January 2019 was the second-highest January since 2013.
  • Hardware was down 28 percent from the previous year, even though historically it was a good January. The Switch was the month’s best-selling hardware in terms of units and dollars, and the only system with year-on-year growth.
  • January’s best-sellers list on PS4 and Xbox One individually were basically the same (Kingdom Hearts III was number one for PS4 and number two on Xbox One, where Resident Evil 2 took the top spot and KH III was number two). Microsoft first-party title Sea Of Thieves came in at six for Xbox One, while Sony exclusive Spider-Man charted at seven on the PS4 rankings.
  • Similar to hardware, software also declined (18 percent) compared to last year’s January, with Nintendo doing the heavy lifting. Software sales on the Switch showed double-digit growth while the other platforms declined.
  • Dollar sales of Kingdom Hearts III during the month launch period was 2.5-times greater than Kingdom Hearts II.
  • Ace Combat 7 enjoyed its best-ever launch month, which was 80 percent higher than Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.

* (Digital sales not included)
^ (PC sales not included)

Black Ops 4 Now Has Loot Boxes

In the four months since its release, Black Ops 4 has undergone a number of changes, particularly with regards to its battle royale mode, Blackout. Yesterday’s seasonal content update brought something new besides the flurry of content: loot boxes.

Called Reserve Crates, each Black Ops 4’s brand of loot boxes is similar to others in that it contains cosmetic items like weapon skins. You can buy crates for 200 COD points (in-game currency bought with cash) or earn one for every two hours of play in multiplayer or Blackout. Eurogamer is also reporting that players can earn weapons that give the players small experience boosts per kill.

For more on Black Ops 4, check out our review.

Looking to add some spooky atmospheric music to your household playlist? Capcom announced today that it was teaming up with Laced Records, the company behind the vinyl soundtracks for DOOM, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, and Hotline Miami, for special edition vinyls of both the original soundtracks for Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2.

Each vinyl contains the entire tracklist from its respective game. You can get a look at the sets below:

Laced Records says the soundtracks will ship in May. Each one is priced $35.

For more on Resident Evil, check out our review of the recently released remake for 2.

Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Yuke’s
Release: April 11, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4

It’s not a bold statement to say that the Earth Defense Force isn’t for everyone. For those of us who love the series, it’s been a reliably fun way to blow off steam at the end of the day while mindlessly grinding levels and cracking open thousands of giant bugs and robots. As for everyone else, it’s easy to see why they’ve never gotten hooked. It’s admittedly clunky, with low production values and an overall aura that might get you thinking, “Are they doing all of this on purpose?” 

Last year’s EDF 5 made some strides toward addressing some of those criticisms, but plenty of its legacy issues stayed along for the ride. Now, a few months later, EDF: Iron Rain is getting close to its simultaneous worldwide release. The spinoff has been designed with Western audiences in mind, but it has plenty for longtime fans to appreciate as well. Here are some of the highlights, based on our extensive hands-on time with the game as well as conversations with series producer Nobuyuki Okajima.

1. A Different Dev Team

Sandlot created the series, and it’s the studio behind the vast majority of its releases. Iron Rain is being developed by Yuke’s, which is perhaps best known in the West for its 2K WWE games. Okajima says it wasn’t just a logistical decision. “With EDF: Iron Rain, we just wanted to come up with a different outline, and different supplemental elements around that core game design. We wanted to take it to the next level for overseas fans.” Yuke’s definitely has its own take on the series, and it wasn’t afraid to try out new things, either, as I’ll be getting into in a bit. Okajima made it clear during our conversation that this appeal to new audiences shouldn’t worry fans who like what Sandlot has been doing. “I think for the future, there will be two types of EDF games: One like this, and one like the traditional games.”

2. A Slightly Different Tone

EDF’s B-movie vibe is integral to the series, and some of Iron Rain’s prerelease coverage has focused on a more serious, grittier tone. While it certainly does take itself more seriously, it’s by no means a “serious” game. There’s an attempt to humanize some of the members of your squad, with back-and-forth dialog that’s playful and right at home with the game’s action-movie vibe. From what I’ve played, it doesn’t veer completely into crazytown, such as the back half of EDF 5’s oddball exploration of religion and the nature of god. Perhaps that’s because the game is set several decades after the last game, and the people are now even more accustomed to fighting giant bugs and robots. One thing I liked a lot is that the soldiers refer to giant ants as, well, giant ants, instead of calling them ravagers, invaders, or any number of other terms the previous games have leaned on. I mean, they’re unmistakably giant ants.

3. It’s The Same Action, At Its Core

Backing up for a second, what is EDF? How would you describe the series to someone who hadn’t ever heard of it before? I posed that question to Okajima. “You save the world. You’re a human fighting against big creatures. The enemies are huge and numerous. You’re overwhelmed in every stage and location, but as you play through you always find a solution – and hope.” That core is completely intact in Iron Rain. Yuke’s just has its own interpretation of it, is all.

You’re still amassing a huge arsenal of weapons and finding the best ones for every situation. Grinding for better equipment is still important. Bugs still blow up in satisfying ways. It just feels slightly different, is all. For example, the giant ants don’t seem as fixated on charging at the player and biting them as they were in EDF 5. They’ll still do it, but not to the same, aggravating degree. The sprint from EDF 5 returns, along with a host of other mobility improvements across the game’s four classes. In short, it definitely feels different, but it’s not a startling change from what came before.

4. Upgrades Have Been Overhauled

OK, I may have just fibbed a little there. While the basic combat may not be a startling change over what came before, Iron Rain’s weapons loop absolutely is. In the past enemies occasionally dropped gear for players, in the form of weapons crates, armor upgrades, and health-restoring items. It was a little shocking to finish a level without seeing a single green crate. After all, getting those new weapons is one of the reasons why I keep grinding away at these games. Instead, enemies now drop energy gems. Different types drop different gems, which are then used to craft specific weapons. In other words, you’re not as beholden to the random-number generator as you may have been in the past. If you don’t use shotguns, you won’t be disappointed to learn at level completion that the crates you picked up were filled to the brim with those unwanted weapon types. Instead, you get blueprints for new weapons, and you choose whether you want to devote your resources to unlocking them. In practice, it’s a subtle but substantial shift from what came before. My biggest takeaway was that the good weapons are going to cost you, since they naturally require more of these precious gems than trash-tier items. Another appreciated tweak: There’s a 30-second countdown when you complete a mission objective, giving you a clear amount of time to scramble around the battlefield and snatch up all your loot. It beats frantically rolling around, trying to beat the victory tune and the inevitable fade to black.

5. Class Warfare

There are four classes to pick in Iron Rain, several of which are familiar to longtime fans. The Trooper is your standard jack-of-all-trades grunt, while the Jet Lifter can get around the world faster thanks to her limited flight abilities. The Heavy Striker can wield two of every weapon, giving him considerably more firepower to accommodate his plodding movements. The coolest new addition has to be the Prowl Rider. This character uses grappling hooks to propel himself across the world in what is, let’s be real here, an homage to Spider-Man. It’s great. Better still, the new class uses experimental tech to bring captured (and hopefully tamed) bugs to fight for humanity. You can equip ants, spiders, scorpions, and more to come in and wreck stuff on your behalf. You maintain control as you ride these creatures, pinning enemies down with your scorpion’s tail or squirting some kind of corrosive goo from your ant’s posterior (try not to think about it). This mix of mobility and weird science seems like a perfect solution for players who couldn’t get past how damned slow getting around on foot could be. Sure, EDF 5’s sprint helped, but it’s not nearly as quick as using a cable to whip around the world.

6. All For One And One For All

A frustrating aspect of EDF has been that once you started playing as one class, switching to another could be painful. EDF 5 addressed the most painful aspects by allowing you to acquire weapons for classes you weren’t playing as and upgrading their armor, so you weren’t starting completely fresh if you decided to try a new class midway though the campaign. Iron Rain is overhauling weapons and support equipment entirely. Now, every class can use every unlocked weapon. If you want your Trooper to be able to bring automated turrets into battle and call down airstrikes, more power to you. Each class has an encumbrance to consider, so they may not be able to pack as much in their virtual suitcases, but players will at least be able to design their own loadouts with much greater flexibility. As someone who likes to let automated turrets do much of the work but doesn’t like EDF’s support classes, as a whole, this is an absolute godsend.

7. Big Ol’ Monsters

EDF’s campaigns have typically built up to an encounter (or two or three) with a massive kaiju-style boss. That’s definitely the case with Iron Rain. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the big bad in Yuke’s game is absolutely massive, and it looks like something that would be right at home in a Monster Hunter game – even if it could trample most of that series’ menagerie. As impressive as the first encounter was, Okajima says it wasn’t even its final form. Ultimately, it gets nearly 1,000 feet tall. Perhaps it might be wise to start saving those weapon gems for something big…

8. New Locations

Okajima says he wanted to change the venue with Iron Rain, so they did. Instead of taking place in Japan, much of Iron Rain’s combat is set across the western United States, including battles in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The environments are more detailed and varied than what we’ve seen in the past, with plenty of elevations and varied terrain. San Francisco’s hills make explosives a risky proposition, particularly if you use missiles that need space to ascend. And while the worlds aren’t exactly brimming with ambient life, there are some fun little touches. If you bonk into a cable car in San Francisco, for instance, its brakes fail and you can watch it barrel down the hill – eventually plowing into a gas station and exploding. Don’t ask why the route ends at the gas pumps. It’s EDF.

9. Character Customization 

The series has dabbled with character customization, but it’s largely been relegated to picking main and alternate armor colors. Iron Rain has a full suite of options, including faces and hair, eye color, and more. It’s no surprise, considering Yuke’s WWE pedigree, where character customization is an integral part of the package. You can enter the fray in fearsome suits of armor or a swimsuit, if you’re into that kind of stuff. It’s a small detail, but worth noting: You can earn special decorative emblems by completing combat challenges or finding hidden items in the world. It’s a great way to show off your achievements if you decide to dabble in the game’s online multiplayer. 

10. A Robot Can Pick Up Your Bus

During my demo, I was driving a bus around like a jackass and then a robot picked up the bus and crushed it like an empty beer can. That’s probably all you need to know about EDF: Iron Rain.

EDF: Iron Rain is coming to PlayStation 4  on April 11.

Google has long been rumored to want to dip its toes into the gaming industry at a level beyond their somewhat disconnected Android platform. Now it seems like the company is finally ready to reveal those plans to the world at large, sending out a fairly detail-free invite to an announcement on March 19.

The Google announcement is taking place in San Francisco during the beginning of the Game Developer’s Conference, a gathering of game developers from around the world. It is expected that Google will announce their own gaming platform at the event, likely leveraging the Google Stream service that went into, and left, beta in the months since announcement in October. What form this platform will take – whether including a physical box or being entirely digital – is still an open question.

The giant software company, which once held a long-standing “Don’t be evil” guideline that it no longer uses as the company’s golden rule, has been gearing up for a gaming launch for quite some time. In 2018, former Xbox and PlayStation executive Phil Harrison joined the company to head up a then-unknown initiative. Soon after, it was reported that Google was prototyping hardware codenamed Yeti for release, but it wasn’t clear if the hardware would ever come out. Google even picked up one of the key engineers behind PlayStation VR, as well.

The invitation promises “All will be revealed at the Google keynote.” Only a few weeks until we can find out how true that is.