Developer Sumo Digital landed a hit with its 2012 kart-racing game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Now, the developer is partnering with Sonic Team, stripping away the non-Sonic characters, and adding a new layer of team-based strategy for Team Sonic Racing.

In this new kart-racing title from Sega, the developers are focusing entirely on the Sonic universe, which means no Aiai or Ryo Hazuki this time around (sorry, fellow Shenmue fans). Instead, players get a roster of 15 Sonic characters. In the build I played, I could choose between Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Shadow, Rouge, and E-123 Omega. Each character fits into one of three classes: speed, technique, or power. Once you choose a character, you’re placed in a team of three based on the character’s alliances; Sonic was always placed with Tails and Knuckles, while Rouge raced alongside Shadow and Omega.

When the race begins, it plays out much like a standard kart racer. Characters drift around corners, acquire consumable items, and avoid zany obstacles in the push to be first. In addition to the tried-and-true formula, players can help their teammates; you can gift items, request items, and slingshot around teammates by following their path. The game will also include a solo mode that removes the team-based mechanics, but outside of an occasional pure kart-racing foray, I don’t foresee myself playing that mode much.

At the end of the race, it assigns points for your team based on where each member finished. This means you must help your team in order to actually win. In one of my races, my team finished third, fourth, and fifth, but because we were the most consistent team, we came in first in the race. In another race, I finished first, but my teammates were in the middle of the pack, so we came in second overall. I like that twist of having to keep an eye on your standing in the race, as well as your teammates.

 

When the game ships, it will feature stages that are both brand new to the Sonic universe, as well as familiar levels. While the developers wouldn’t spill any additional details, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka tells me that some stages will feature recognizable songs from Sonic’s past, and that Jun Senoue is composing the game. In addition, Senoue’s fan-favorite band, Crush 40, performs the main theme.

Team Sonic Racing may not have the fancy transformations or characters outside of the Sonic universe, but it makes up for it with thoughtful team-based mechanics that add new twists to the formula. Sonic Team Racing is set to launch this winter on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

In this excerpt from The Game Informer Show podcast,  Oculus’ VP of content Jason Rubin talks about his long history with E3 and what stands out as his favorite memory of all time. He’s joined by the CEO of Jackbox Games Mike Builder and VP of creative Allard Laban and Twisted Pixel’s CEO Bill Muehl and creative director Josh Bear. You can watch the full episode of this video podcast by clicking here or check out every E3 episode of the podcast by subscribing to the audio version.

Telltale games is attempting to stand back up after a rocky year. After laying off a quarter of the entire company and promising to focus more on quality than quantity, the developer is trying to put games back as its focus with The Walking Dead’s final season coming up and an announcement of a Stranger Things game. The company’s past isn’t entirely in the rear view mirror, however, as former CEO Kevin Bruner has filed suit for damages.

Bruner, who was co-founder of Telltale in 2004 and who served as CEO from 2015 to 2017, filed suit against Telltale on the basis that the company owed him informational support as he prepared to sell his holdings in common and preferred stock. Bruner claims that, after his ousting as CEO, the board went dark and didn’t give him the information he needed to maximize his sale.

In response, Telltale told The Verge, which has previously reported on a toxic work culture at the company, that the studio “is now working to turn around the decline that it experienced under Plaintiff’s stewardship.”

[Source: Marin Independent Journal]

 

Our Take
Legal matters are difficult to parse, but it does seem like Telltale is looking to fight this suit. The initial suit has a number of redacted lines, so it is unlikely we’ll find out much more until a verdict is handed down.

Just as E3 was kicking into gear, Sony and From Software announced they were collaborating on a new VR title. Déraciné puts players in control of a faerie detached from space and time, meaning that you’re invisible and navigating the world when human time stands still.

I had a chance to try Déraciné and it is undoubtedly a different style than what we’ve seen from From Software before. Full of exploration-based puzzles, Déraciné is all about examining clues and being aware of your surroundings as you find different ways to convince the children of an orphanage that you exist.

You can do this in myriad ways; I convinced one child by restoring the life into a wilted flower she was holding, while I made a believer of a boy by slipping a bitter ingredient into the stew he was eating. After playing a demo, I sat down with From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki to learn more about Déraciné.

You can read what Miyazaki thinks of virtual reality below, and learn the intriguing reason for why he wanted to make this game. For more impressions on Déraciné, check out the round-up of our favorite VR games of E3 2018.

What was the original inspiration behind Déraciné?

When VR technology was introduced, I had the opportunity to try out a bunch of demos and games. The strongest takeaway was that, even though I knew it in my head, once I was able to try a few games, I was able to feel that sense of existence and presence. Once you’re in the world, you’re able to feel like you’re transported and able to interact with whatever is in that world. I was very impressed and blown away from it. At the same time, because of now being transported to that space and feeling as if you are there, say for example there was a character that was facing me and talking to me, but I could tell that character isn’t really looking at me. It already told me there was a little bit of a sense of there was a challenge we still needed to overcome. In order to make that into more of an illusion that you are there and you have this sense of existence in that world, we got thinking about how can we wrap that into a world and sort of a theme where you do feel like you’re in the world, but in a way that is going to be a lot more natural. That’s where it all really started for us.

Your team obviously has a strong development history with console and PC games, but how does that change with developing a virtual reality title?

This could be a pretty straightforward, obvious answer, but the highest peak of challenge we were met with jumping into VR is with game design and how we think of it. Maybe we chose a genre that’s not as straightforward or direct in terms of bringing it over to VR; an adventure game is probably a bit more intricate in terms of how you feel as if you are there, so we already put a challenge on ourselves by going into that genre. I learned that it’s a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be. It’s something that we as a studio have never experienced before: that big of a leap in challenging ourselves.

How did you overcome those challenges? Did you iterate within your team, or did you consult with external studios and teams that have experience in VR?

I can say that this was a very closed project, meaning everything was done internally. We didn’t really consult with anyone outside of our team, but obviously we had a huge consulting team that we can go to at any time on the Sony side and that was a huge help. If I may say this… even within a lot of the VR games that are being developed or have been released, this one takes on a very unique spin where that sense of existence and that presence is there, but you as a character, you’re actually taking your actions while the time is standing still. There are all these intricacies that we were trying to work into the game design and mechanics, that it was almost like even within VR games being developed, it was taking on its own little niche almost, so even among all the problems that we faced, we really tried to assess and resolve internally. In that sense, it almost felt like we were a lonely team, not consulting within the outside world. [Laughs]

What was the idea behind the setting of the game?

Everyone has hobbies or things that they want to work on along the way in whatever their career is. There are all these hidden “drawers” of like “This is what I want to work on next.” There’s been a drawer I haven’t been able to utilize: The subject is that I’ve been a longtime fan of Japanese girls’ manga from back in the days, not just recent stuff… from way, way, way, way back. But I never got to make a game out of it. I even once thought of going into that as a career, but here I am making different kinds of games. I was like, “This drawer is never going to get opened. I’m never going to have an opportunity to work on anything remotely close to that.” But when it came to this idea of new technology, new format, and working on something that’s on a smaller scale of production and coming up with fresh, new ideas, it was more of a, “If I don’t do it now, when am I going to have another chance to challenge myself to maybe bring out that secret, hidden drawer that I’ve been wanting to work on. It was only just an opportunity and timing thing that I was able to say that now is the chance for me to work on it. It’s kind of a long time coming for me, and obviously a lot of people in Japan who are fans of manga can relate to this and think it’s a great game in VR rooted in that. Hopefully a lot of people will relate to that.

I’m sure you’re aware, but manga has become more popular even in the United States, so it might be the right timing for not just you to make this, but for an audience to enjoy it.

I hope that a lot of people in the West would start to understand or at least see the appeal to girls’ manga! [Laughs]

What brought about the concept of playing as an invisible faerie displaced from time, trying to prove its existence to children in an orphanage, and how did you go about developing gameplay mechanics around that idea?

I really focused on that sense of existence, but there’s also a sense of nonexistence because you’re this player-character that’s this invisible, unseen faerie. I wanted to try to create a world where a sense of existence and nonexistence balanced in a way that it actually made sense. Basically, the character of an unseen faerie and the fact that you are interacting when the time is standing still are sort of tools to allow for that to live and stand on its own in this world.

Once we were able to define that this was the world we were going to create, but using these tools or creative tropes to make that definition a very solid, believable definition, once we put that in place, we were like, “Okay, how do we have you interact or start to discover the world of the children, their conversations, and their lives?” So initially you’re kind of far removed on opposite ends, but the more you do interact and discover, the more you find that closeness and the more you discover the relationship building with the children. It’s really finding the ways of interaction and finding that balance of how far we can go, how far you can go, and how far we can take you, so that you start to build this bond and relationship with the children.

I’m assuming virtual reality helps in untold ways in allowing you to establish that relationship and that bond with the children.

You’re absolutely correct and I’m glad that you see it in that way. We believe that this is something we can deliver and execute now not only in the VR format, but the technology level and scale that we are in with the VR world… there’s only so many sort of experiments that you can do when you’re at this level. What I’m trying to say is the more advanced it gets, some experiments or ideas or executions might not work as well. Even though technology may advance, the ideas may not be executed the way we are imagining. So, not only is it the format that I wanted to challenge, but it’s only because in the VR timeline today and what we are capable to allowing today is allowing me to try and fit this concept into a way that works well now.

You mentioned you have all these drawers that you want to explore, this current one being Japanese girls’ manga. Are there any other drawers that you’d like to explore?

[Laughs] Of course I do! There are a few that I can never open! [Laughs] That’s not the last drawer that I’m challenging myself with; there are a few more that may never see the light of day. In all fairness and realness, I would say that this game that we’re working on right now, from head-on, straight-on, it’s a very quirky, unique title where not too many companies or people will think it’s a solid game to put out in this day and age. It’s not a game trying to reinvent a genre, or it doesn’t scream, “Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen this before” from graphical levels standpoint. It’s very quirky. It’s very unique. It’s not trying to be the next big modern game, but there’s a characteristic of who From Software as a developer is. We don’t always put out games like the ones we’re known for in recent years, and we like to have these unexpected surprises once in a while. If this title can be looked at and welcomed in that way, it would make our team very happy.

In a lot of From Software games, you don’t always have a lot of cuddly animals, but I did find both a dog and a cat in my demo of Déraciné.

Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] Dogs and cats… if you’re talking other From Software games, you’re probably talking about getting bitten! [Laughs] We’re kind of doing the opposite in this game!

Each E3 brings tons of exciting surprise announcements, many of which leave us eagerly anticipating games that won’t be in our hands for months. But at this E3, several games (and ports) were announced that you can play right now. Here’s a list of them:

Fallout Shelter on PS4, Switch
Fallout Shelter, the free-to-play game based on the Fallout franchise in which you build and manage your own fallout shelter, is now available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Since first launching on mobile devices during E3 2015, the game has been played by more than 120 million players on Xbox One, PC, iOS, and Android.

Skyrim: Very Special Edition
After Skyrim VR and Skyrim for Nintendo Switch announced at E3 2017 (ports of a 6 year-old game at the time), fans wondered just how many times Bethesda could re-release the 2011 RPG. This year, Bethesda decided to poke fun of itself, enlisting the help of Keegan-Michael Key to create a trailer for an audio-only version of the game called Skyrim: Very Special Edition. Bethesda decided to take the joke further than the trailer, however, and actually released the Very Special Edition for free on Amazon Alexa.

Even if they did steal the joke from us, we still think it’s pretty funny.

Unravel Two
EA announced and released a sequel to 2016’s Unravel during its press conference. For the sequel, you (or you and a friend) control two adorable Yarnys instead of just one. To learn more about Yarny and his new friend, check out our Unravel Two New Gameplay Today or our review of the original Unravel.

New Octopath Traveler Demo
A new demo for Octopath Traveler, Square Enix’s upcoming JRPG, is now free to download on the Nintendo eShop, and your data from the demo can be transferred to the full game when it releases next month. If you want to learn more about the game, check out Brian Shea’s extensive feature.

Fortnite on Switch
You can play the world’s hottest game on your Switch – for free – right now. Fortnite also bypasses the Switch’s usual cumbersome voice chat setup requirements, instead allowing you to just plug a headset directly into the Switch and chat away.

Hollow Knight on Switch
Hollow Knight, a cute mashup of Dark Souls and Metroid, is now available on Switch. The Switch version includes all of the game’s DLC. For no additional cost, players can also get the upcoming Gods & Glory expansion when it releases.

Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion
Splatoon 2’s expansion, out now, lets you play as an Octoling in more than 80 new single-player missions. It also includes new challenge missions, gear, and the ability to play as an Octoling in multiplayer once you’ve beaten the expansion’s campaign. Nintendo is also releasing Amiibos modeled after the Octolings later this year.

Honorable Mentions

Though not available right now, these three games and expansions will be available very soon, as they all release in less than two weeks on June 26.

Nier: Automata: Become As Gods Edition on Xbox One
During its press conference, Microsoft announced that Platinum Games’ Nier: Automata is coming to Xbox One on June 26. The Xbox One version is subtitled “Become As Gods” and comes with all of the game’s DLC. The strange and stylish action game was previously only playable on PS4 and PC. For our review of the PS4 version, head here.

Life Is Strange: The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit
The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit takes the Life Is Strange series to the world of a young boy who imagines himself to have super powers and appears to be coping with the loss of his mother. It’s not a full Life Is Strange sequel – as Jeff Cork put it, “think of it as the Ground Zeroes to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” – but it will be available for free starting June 26.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Donkey Kong Adventure DLC
The first member of the D.K. crew is coming to Nintendo and Ubisoft’s XCOM-like strategy game Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and he’s bringing his own world, abilities, and Rabbid Cranky Kong with him. For more info on the DLC, which arrives June 26, check out our preview or this episode of New Gameplay Today.

For more of Game Informer’s E3 coverage, head to our E3 2018 hub. There’s a ton of great stuff there, including our Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay impressions, 84 things we learned about the new Super Smash Bros., and our Anthem cover story

Jurassic World Evolution launched this week, letting players try their hands at becoming the managing director at a thriving dino-filled park. Or, depending on how you play, a dangerous nightmare center where visitors are imperiled by prehistoric monsters. During E3, I met with Frontier Developments to learn about what’s ahead for the game – and it’s coming sooner than you may expect.

On June 22, a free gameplay update is hitting the game on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The base game shipped with 37 dinosaurs, and the deluxe edition had 42. Everyone will have some additional critters in just a few days, which can be used within the game’s existing  scenarios.

“It comes along with Fallen Kingdom, and it’s going to have six of the dinosaurs,” says Nick Rodgers, head of animation at Frontier. “We’ve got the Indoraptor, which is a new hybrid, and he’s completely mad. It’s very difficult to contain, and it has a completely unique animation set from the other dinosaurs. It’ll be a really interesting one when it comes out. And he’s a he; the rest of them are female.”

Here’s the complete roster of new dinosaurs that are coming to the game with the June 22 update:

“They’re all really cool, as well,” Rodgers says. “Baryonyx is one of my favorite dinosaurs anyway, they’re just awesome ones to have around.” 

The DLC got a bit of help from, of all things, professional soccer.  “We’ve had the benefit of getting the film early in the UK,” says Rich Newbold, the game’s executive producer. “It came out the sixth of June, but you guys don’t get it until the 22nd. In Europe they put it out before the World Cup, because it’s more of a focus than it is for you guys.”

“We started animating some of the dinosaurs before we saw the film, so it was like, ‘What if we go in there and it’s completely different from how we imagined it?’ Rodgers says. “Luckily, Universal were really cool and they arranged for us to see some early footage – particularly of the Indoraptor  because we had no idea what that thing looked like, and we particularly had no idea how it moved. It has a really creepy way of moving. It’s on all fours like a huge raptor dragon. It has huge, long claws that it pulls itself along with, and it kind of twitches. It’s like it’s not quite right, it’s not quite made properly. It’s one we had to start completely from scratch. We really enjoyed it because it moves in such a mad way, it really gave us a chance to push the boat a little bit on the animation.”

What’s ahead for Jurassic World: Evolution? Just like Jurassic Park itself, the answer to that question may lie in the past. 

“We don’t have anything to announce right now, but if you have a look back at what our post-launch plans were with other games you’ll get an idea of how Frontier tends to support our games,” Rodgers says. “We’re still working on Elite [Dangerous] three years after launching it. I’d be amazed if we didn’t keep launching stuff, but officially there’s nothing to announce.”

Jurassic World: Evolution is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

With Spider-Man on PlayStation 4 coming in just a short few months, both Marvel and Insomniac are gearing up to show their favorite webhead a lot more love. Marvel Comics editor Bill Rosemann has been tweeting out some of the new covers created by Insomniac’s artists adorning The Amazing Spider-Man comic.

Rosemann congratulates Dennis Chan , Darly Mandryk, Eve Ventrue, and Sing Ji for their first Marvel covers, featuring Spider-Man, Mary Jane, and more. The covers come ahead of Spidergeddon, a semi-successor to 2014’s Spider-verse arc, gathering together every universe’s Spider-Man, including the PlayStation 4 game’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man revealed by Polygon.

Spider-Man will release exclusively on the PlayStation 4 on September 7.

The Metro Exodus E3 2018 demo was based on the same content we saw back in February for the March cover story, giving the world its first chance to see the boundary-pushing graphics, unforgiving gameplay, and ambitious transition from the linear focused Metro underground to the harsh, more open Russian countryside that convinced us to put the game on the cover of Game Informer. Running at 4K on the Xbox One X console, the game’s beauty won over many. But the demo wasn’t without its share of gameplay hiccups.

The shooting felt good, and all of the game’s systems were online, but we noticed a few rough spots as well. Collision issues made moving across the countryside more burdensome than it should be, framerate drops disrupted the gameplay, and the rowboat Artyom uses to explore the Volga River region outside Moscow was tough to steer. When we brought these issues up to executive producer Jon Bloch, he said the team is keenly aware of the current build’s shortcomings and the team has more than enough time to hone the experience. 

“We’ve never shown Metro on a console this early before, and we felt like it was appropriate for showing off this content on Xbox One X in 4K – it’s already there,” Bloch says. “Yes, we have some polish to go, and yes, there’s still some performance stuff to nail, but it’s already in good shape, so trust us when we say this extra time really is focused on polish. We’re not still making the game at this point, we’re smoothing it out.”

Since the game is content complete and feature complete, the 4A Games to-do list in the lead-up to Metro Exodus’ February launch includes raising all the levels up to the quality bar the team has set, smoothing out environmental collision both on foot and in vehicles, plugging narrative gaps they noticed once they strung the levels together, and fine-tuning performance.

Given 4A Game’s strong track record, we’re inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that the game will be running smoothly by deadline. Metro Exodus is scheduled to launch alongside a surprisingly strong lineup (Anthem, Days Gone) on February 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Earlier this week, we got a chance to speak with Jump Force’s producer at Bandai Namco, Koji Nakajima through translation. One of our discussions centered around the character roster for the game and the criteria they use to decide which fighters make it in.

“There are a few things we consider,” Nakajima told us. “We want to choose characters that will be recognizable to everyone in the world, both in Japan and outside. We also consider how well-suited the character is to fighting, and whether they would be getting involved in fights in their series.”

We pointed out that Light Yagami and Ryuk from Death Note were shown at the end of the initial trailer, neither of whom were particularly interested in getting in physical fights.

Nakajima pointed out that they are there for story reasons. “Right, not everyone is suited to fighting, but might have a part in the story. The question of how all these universes came to ours will involve characters who aren’t necessarily selectable characters who are used to hitting each other.” This is probably bad news for Death Note fans that hoped Light would act as Ryuk’s Pokemon trainer in battle.

We mentioned some other names at Nakajima, like Assassination Classroom’s Korosensei or Rurouni Kenshin’s Kenshin, but Nakajima would not confirm or deny anyone. He did clarify he didn’t want to just focus on international recognizability and also surprise fans of more niche series.

You can read our preview of Jump Force from E3 right here. Jump Force releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2019.