During the opening minutes of this year’s PSX keynote, it was announced that The Last Guardian was getting a standalone ‘experience’ for PlayStation VR. This standalone game will be out on December 12 and is free.

Last Guardian VR, as CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Shawn Layden called it, will run approximately 20 minutes. A few moments of footage displayed across the screen at the keynote showed the player looking at Trico in first-person.

You can watch the experience in action here:

For more on The Last Guardian, be sure to check out our review.

During the keynote presentation of PSX 2017, God of War director Cory Barlog had a quick discussion about the game’s progress. Despite the lack of a new trailer or gameplay footage, Barlog did break down how long play testers were taking to get through the whole game:

We are in the play testing phase. In fact, we just finished up a playtest. For the last four or five playlists we’ve been clocking in a total playtime that is somewhere in the arena of 25-35 hours.

Obviously, Barlog is talking about game that’s unpolished, so keep that in mind, but that 10 hour discrepancy is interesting. Is it just a matter of playtesters grappling with the game’s difficulty or maybe there are side quests and optional activities to complete?

Speculate away, readers, and let us know what you think in the comments.

For more God of War, you can watch the previous trailer here.

Splatoon 2’s Splatfests are always fascinating polling experiments, but they usually have one obvious choice and one terrible choice in the eye of the beholder. What happens, though, if both choices are terrible?

That’s the question posted by this month’s Splatfest, Sweaters vs. Socks – specifically, Christmas Sweaters vs. Christmas Socks. It is a journey into the very depths of your closet, finding all those things your aunt gave you that they bought at a Ross sale 11 months ago to save for Christmas.

As always, Splatfests have rewards for winning, but better rewards for the winning side, not that there is a moral winning side on this one. This is the first Splatfest since the game’s major 2.0 update that came two weeks ago, so feel free to try the new weapons and customization additions while you’re there.

What side are you taking? Let us know in the comments.

When Rainbow Six Siege launched two years ago to mixed reviews and somewhat lackluster sales, it would have been fair for Ubisoft to write the game off. However, the team at Ubisoft Montreal wasn’t content to leave it alone. Instead, the launch was just a rocky first step in what has become a remarkable evolution for the tactical online first-person shooter.

Over the past two years Ubisoft Montreal continued to release a stream of free content, patches, updates, and player-friendly features, building up trust with its ever-expanding player base and quietly making Siege into one of the most dynamic, well-balanced, and content-rich shooters on the market. 

However, the journey to this point wasn’t easy. At one point Siege wasn’t even a twinkle in Ubisoft’s eye. Back in 2011, the studio’s next entry under the Rainbow Six banner was Rainbow Six Patriots, a more traditional project that featured both a campaign and multiplayer. The game was in development for some time (Game Informer even announced it as our cover back in 2011), but Ubisoft decided to cancel the project due to one big factor: timing.

The last proper Rainbow Six game was Rainbow Six Vegas 2, which launched back in 2008, so the franchise wasn’t exactly fresh in the minds of players. With a new console generation just on the horizon, Ubisoft decided that creating a new entry in the franchise at the tail end of a console generation wasn’t the right move. 

“That’s the moment that management and Ubisoft decided that it was best to aim for the next generation of consoles at the time,” says Alexandre Remy, brand director for Siege.


An early look at Patriots

Remy was a part of the Patriots team back in 2013 and has been with Siege from inception until now. As the Patriots team dissolved, he migrated to a new core team of about 25 people whose job was to design a Rainbow Six game for the next generation of consoles. 

It just so happened that most members of the new Rainbow Six team had multiplayer games embedded in their DNA. They were huge fans of competitive shooters, but also MOBAs like DOTA 2, something that would become much more relevant in Siege’s design. 

Thanks in part to creative director Xavier Marquis, there was one image that the team focused on more than anything else: The titular siege. “I remember very vividly, a presentation with one very striking image and visual which is that old medieval siege,” Remy recalls. “[Marquis] basically said, ‘Hey, this is the game that we’re going to be making. The whole game is about the siege.’ Attackers, defenders, and all those mechanics and everything started from there all those years ago, with that single image pretty much summing up the gameplay equation of Siege.”

In the same presentation, Marquis presented to Remy and a handful of other team members the three ideas that would end up sustaining Siege for the next two years: tactical siege gameplay, multiplayer-first design, and a game that would be built to last.

Remy and the rest of the team were in.

“That really touched us a lot,” Remy says. “At that time, in the room, of the ten of us, a lot were playing MOBAs as well, so we had an experience as gamers and as players with those games that can last such a long time. And it’s like a good wine. The more it aged, the better it is. We’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is such a disruptive idea in the genre as well as in Ubisoft, to be honest. So we’re in 100 percent. Let’s go!’”

Mother of Invention
Once the team had settled on this central principle, they set out to create the foundation that would support Siege for years to come. The idea was ambitious and Ubisoft’s choice to design the game for a new generation of hardware only made it more so. With so many ways Siege could fall apart, how would Ubisoft Montreal pull it off?  

Despite the complaints that players and critics had about the game at launch, it was hard to deny the game’s strengths. Environmental destructibility makes each map a dynamic arena that encourages operators to adapt to their surroundings. Each operator has a tactical ability that affects the game in interesting ways, whether it’s a small shock drone that zaps opposing players or a wall charge that shoots grenades into the next room over. Plus, Siege’s incredible sound design and focus on teamwork make each match a tense battle that depends just as much on gathering intel as it does good shooting.

However, the game’s rocky launch in December 2015 was a growing pain for both Ubisoft and players. Ubisoft Montreal had never released such an intensive online experience, and players and critics alike saw only the foundation of what would become a massive platform. A slew of matchmaking and networking issues, like inconsistent connectivity and server errors, plagued Siege from the start. The lack of content didn’t help; Siege launched with 20 operators, 11 maps, three multiplayer modes, and a player vs A.I. mode called terrorist hunt – and some serious gameplay flaws like poor hit detection marred what was otherwise a good online shooter. 

Necessity really is the mother of invention, and Remy now realizes how important this turbulent time was for the team. “Looking at it now, that made us a team able to work and iterate as much as possible,” Remy says. “We had the necessity to keep the game alive, to keep the players and community happy or happier, to iterate and work really hard to make the game better and better. Launch was very rocky, but it helped us find that structure, organization, and process to improve the game.”

Despite the setbacks and pitfalls of development and launch, Ubisoft Montreal stuck with Siege. It spent the next few months not only fixing issues that were present at launch but immediately jumping into their post-launch plans. 

From the get go, the team intended for Siege to be an experience that was built to last. The games-as-service model has come under fire recently for its reliance on monetization – Siege does include lootboxes with cosmetic items only – but even before launch Ubisoft Montreal had a player-first philosophy.

“How do you build trust in the long term with your players?” Remy asks. “It’s about not segregating, not putting gameplay behind a pay wall. That was the general philosophy.” Any piece of new content in Siege, whether it’s an operator or map, is available to all players. Players can purchase season passes to get new operators early, but all players are essentially on an even playing field.

The idea was, and still is, disruptive in a genre that’s only now embracing ways to create sustainable, evolving experiences. Destiny, with its massive expansions, has always billed itself as a platform more in line with MMOs, but Siege was experimenting with free content and hero-based design philosophies pulled straight from games like DOTA 2.

The core team had a lot of discussions about their post-release roadmap. How do you keep players involved with your game over months let alone years? In the end, they settled on “seasons,” a reference that points to both consistent annual divisions and the serialized format of television. 

A season of Siege content comes every three months, bringing with it around two new operators and occasionally a new map. A free weekend, heavy discount on the game, and pro-league competition also accompany a season of content. This 360-degree content push gets existing players excited and gives newcomers an opportunity to jump in.

In the six months after launch, the team released two seasons of content, 17 title updates, and a host of smaller tweaks and patches. Siege was evolving, and gamers were taking notice. “The shift really was between Season 2 and Season 3,” Remy says. “We started for the first time at the launch of Season 3 and the end of Year 1 to see an increase of player activity. Before it was almost a steady line, and then all of a sudden, we had a boost of activity, a very major boost. That’s the moment we felt that the game can actually live for a very, very, very long time.”

Players were realizing that Siege was here to stay and that Ubisoft Montreal was willing to dedicate the time and effort to making Siege a top-notch shooter. Establishing trust takes time, but at almost every turn Ubisoft Montreal proved it had its players in mind. BattleEye, the anti-cheater program that launched in August 2016, made for a safer experience, removing almost 95 percent of cheaters from Siege. Operation Health, which began this past June, was a massive quality of life effort to fix the game’s ongoing gameplay and networking issues.

These fixes have paid off in a big way for Ubisoft. Over the past two years, Siege has quietly become one of the best-selling shooters on the market. It recently cracked the 25 million player mark two years after its release, an incredible feat considering that most player counts for online games usually trend downwards after launch. Back in August, Ubisoft announced that Siege had 2.3 million players a day. The game has re-appeared as a regular entry in the NPD sales charts this year. It may be two years old, but Siege shows no signs of slowing down. And neither does Ubisoft Montreal.

Growing Up
If there’s one thing that defines Ubisoft Montreal’s approach to Siege post-launch, it’s evolution. Siege requires players to constantly adapt their strategies and approaches to situations. The environment can change dramatically, and an ever-expanding roster of characters means there’s a counter to every strategy. Never content to rest on its laurels, Ubisoft Montreal embraces the same idea in its post-release strategy.

“Oftentimes [designers are] looking at the state of the meta and saying, ‘Okay, what if now we disrupt intentionally the meta to change it or make it evolve,’” Remy says. “With a live game, that’s something we’ve been very adamant about. You don’t want your game and your community to stop changing and evolving. You don’t want them to stall. You need to grow, change, evolve.”

The design team is “data driven” and “community informed,” according to Remy. Designers analyze all kinds of data related to the meta game – the strategies and operators that work well, the most common locations of engagement, where players die the most – and adapt the game accordingly. But they also use that data to push players in new directions. 

White Noise, the recently released eighth season of content, proves that Ubisoft Montreal is embracing disruption and evolution in new and exciting ways. Two of the three new operators, Vigil and Dokkaebi, completely change the rules of observation and intel gathering. Vigil can manipulate camera feeds to become invisible for a short period of time, while Dokkaebi can hack enemy operators’ cell phones, making them emit audio cues until enemy operators take the time to turn them off. Players have to adapt or die to these changes. Siege’s constant evolution can push people out of their comfort zone, but the players are now more willing to embrace change.


Dokkaebi is all about interference

“I’m so surprised by the flexibility of our community and players,” Remy says. “How much they accept change. How much they’re willing to change their playstyle, change their habits, change the team composition, change all of this. And I think now it’s really becoming an excitement for them, while likely before they were a bit more conservative.”

But that’s only one side of the equation. The team’s intention is to make Siege an experience that evolves over time with its players, a unique symbiosis between the two. That means that adaptation and evolution have to happen not only with players but with Ubisoft designers.

“The game is not that rich in terms of content when you think about it, but it’s extremely rich and deep in terms of the different interactions between all of the systems,” Remy says. “And that puts so much creativity and freedom in the hands of the players, so there’s no way we can guess how our map or operator is actually going to be used. We have our feelings and usually it follows what we believe it’s going to be, but we are always extremely surprised.”

With any online game there’s a give-and-take between players and developers. Designers put new features in the game and players inevitably experiment and push the boundaries of those features. Siege is unique in that the give-and-take is part of the game’s appeal. 

New operators allow new strategies and play styles to evolve in the community, which leads to new ideas and strategies for the designers. Siege has created an intimate bond between a developer and millions of players and in the process, serves as a wonderful example of how a games-as-service model can work.

Moving forward, Ubisoft Montreal has set an ambitious goal for itself: the team aims to reach 100 operators. For a game as finely balanced as Siege, this presents obvious challenges, but the design team wants 50 operators on both offense and defense to make Siege a strategic mind game as much as a skill-based shooter. 

Remy only sees Siege evolving in more interesting ways. The team is more willing to take risks now with the past two years of post-launch experience behind them. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride, but with Year 3 just around the corner, the future of Siege looks as exciting as ever.

“The first two years, us as developers and the game as well, we were a little bit in our infancy,” Remy admits. “I think Year 3 and moving forward we are reaching the status of an adult, getting more mature. I think Year 3 is going to be the year that marks maturity.”

Go here for our original review of Rainbow Six Siege.

Let’s face it, folks: 2017 has been a rough year. From politics to world events to entertainment news, watching 2017 unfold has been a bit like watching Game of Thrones – only every episode is The Red Wedding, and the scene has been going on for 12 months instead of a few gut-wrenching minutes. The worse things get, the more thankful I am for video games, which offer the occasional and much-needed respite from reality.

That’s not to say that video games can’t or shouldn’t address important real-life issues, like warmental health, and which alien you would sex up if you were captain of the U.S.S. HornballIt’s just that every now and then it’s nice to set aside the grueling choices of post-apocalyptic worlds and play something that is unabashedly fun.

Many gamers have pointed to Super Mario Odyssey as the elephant-sized suppository of joy that 2017 needed, including G.I.’s own Matt Miller, who recently made the case for naming it game of the year. After struggling to enjoy Zelda for the past few weeks, Odyssey’s light-hearted romp sounded like just the ticket, so I triple-jumped right in while doing my best “Wahooooo!”

What greeted me in Odyssey, however, frankly shocked me. Sure, the mustachioed plumber appears as pudgy charming and oblivious carefree as ever, but beneath the saccharine-sweet visuals lies the most brazenly political game of 2017 – if not ever! I’m not sure why most video game journalists have glossed over Odyssey’s outrageous political agenda (I’m guessing it’s a conspiracy), but just like the series’ previous hidden messages, I’m devoted to exposing the truth to my beloved readers. As such, I personally authorized and performed an all-encompassing investigation into the many political messages that bombard players in Super Mario Odyssey. Here are my findings.

POLITICAL AGENDA #1: CLIMATE CHANGE
Mario travels to a bunch of wacky mash-up worlds in Odyssey, but one of the first lands he visits beats players over the head with its ham-fisted political message. What message, you ask? I’ll tell you right now! Tostarena is clearly designed to terrify players with its grim outlook on the ramifications of climate change. Think about it: A desert plagued by pillars of ice; a local population thrust into turmoil; a frozen-treat vendor forced out of business – we get it, Nintendo, you have an agenda! The only Inconvenient Truth here is that Nintendo has sacrificed fun gameplay to take a political stand. Sad!

POLITICAL AGENDA #2: FRACKING
Unfortunately, the political soapboxing in Odyssey’s Desert Kingdom doesn’t stop there. While not as blatant as its hot take on climate change, the in-game brochure for Tostarena contains a pointed argument against fracking, warning that “extensive hollowing underground” in the area has led to dangerous pockets of quicksand. Nintendo’s goal here is shamefully apparent: Every time a player sinks to their doom, they will be slowly and subconsciously turned against the fracking industry. It’s downright diabolical!

POLITICAL AGENDA #3: ENERGY
Despite the game’s stance on climate change, Mario is still clearly pushing fossil fuels when it comes to energy consumption, which I can only assume is for his own personal gain. The evidence? Not only is the second world Mario visits called Fossil FALLS (hello again, subliminal messaging), but Mario frequently transforms into a bolt of lightning to zap around electrical grids – and there’s not a solar panel in sight. If that’s not conclusive enough for you, Mario spends the entire game mining precious Power Moons to fuel his ship. That’s way worse than fossil fuels! Obviously the fat-cat energy lobbyists of Mushroom Kingdom have Mario in their pocket, and he’s more than happy to shove renewable energy to the wayside in order to make them happy.

POLITICAL AGENDA #4: MASS SURVEILLANCE 
Mass surveillance and personal privacy have become hot-button issues in the past few years, and Mario apparently isn’t a fan of either. When he’s not using his magic hat to take direct control of sentient creatures (so much for the Bill of Rights!), he’s using it to spy on them via surveillance drones. These mobile cameras shoot way up into the sky to give Mario an unobstructed view into everyone else’s business. But hey, he’s the good guy, so I guess we should just happily hand over all of our private information to The Man, right? Nice try, Nintendo!

POLITICAL AGENDA #5: GUN CONTROL
It may technically be portrayed as bullet control, but Nintendo’s stance is still blatantly obvious: The ranged projectiles are an ever-present threat to Mario, unless he controls them, in which case everything is fine. The fact that it’s presented in an abstract way might fool you into thinking it’s harmless, but trust me: Your brain knows what’s going on.

POLITICAL AGENDA #6: GAMBLING
Oh look, another pet project for Mario: Pushing gambling on children. Today it’s a few in-game coins to win a Power Moon; tomorrow it’s your life savings at the nearest casino. How much do you want to bet Luigi is in Vegas right now setting up a Mario Bros.-branded hotel so that the two of them can reap the profits of an entire generation of tween gambling addicts? Wait, don’t bet – see, it’s already working!

POLITICAL AGENDA #7: INCOME INEQUALITY
Who better to try and sell trickle-down economics to the masses than a plumber? Nintendo once again opts for the heavy-handed approach when it comes to advocating its stance on the economy; every time Mario visits a new land, he plunders it for as much money as he can get, despite having already amassed a fortune in the thousands. That may not sound like much, but don’t forget these are gold coins we’re talking about! Sure, he may spend a few hundred coins here and there on souvenirs and hats, but the bulk of his ill-gotten gains are ferried straight out of the local economy as soon as he decides to resume his elitist, globe-trotting lifestyle – and you just know he’s got a tax shelter set up in an offshore bank in Seaside Kingdom. And yet Nintendo wants you to believe that everything is hunky-dory with this scenario: Everyone else is too happy singing and dancing to notice that they’re broke. Go figure.

POLITICAL AGENDA #8: JOBS
Mario’s schemes to line his pockets don’t end there. He also takes the side of soulless corporations when it comes to job automation. After all, why pay flesh-and-blood workers when you can replace them with robots that will do their jobs for free? Nintendo’s rosy stance on automation portrays Steam Gardens as a veritable utopia, with robots merrily wandering around and watering the land’s lush flora. All the unemployed gardeners and their now-destitute families? Nowhere to be seen. Funny how that works…

Coming Up Next: More startling examples of how Super Mario Odyssey is shoving politics down our throats…

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Bandai Namco revealed Soulcalibur VI last night by asking the question “Does your soul still burn?” They released a few details on the game today to help stoke that flame.

Soulcalibur VI will “revisit the events of the original Soulcalibur to uncover hidden truths with a diverse lineup of new and returning characters,” Bandai Namco said. This seemed pretty obvious from the game’s initial trailer, which showed a young Mitsurugi fighting against an equally young Sophitia and what appeared to be a quick montage of the story playing backward.

The game once again has the 8-way movement system that Soulcalibur is know for, as well as a new gameplay system called Reversal Edge which enables characters to clash against each other and follow-up with counterattacks based on their opponent’s actions, like a super that focuses on reading your opponent.

Soulcalibur was an arcade game that released a much-improved version on the Dreamcast in 1999. It was predated by an earlier game in the series, Soul Edge/Soul Blade, which explains how Siegfried originally came to possess the Soul Edge.

Soulcalibur VI is scheduled for release in 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

 

Our Take
I am pretty interested to find out what Bandai Namco’s reasoning is for rebooting the series, though a lot of the younger generation cast of Soulcalibur V ended up not resonating with fans, so that might be the major reason. With the success of Tekken 7, Bandai Namco looks to be getting back into fighting games in a big way.

The Game Awards, Geoff Keighley’s annual award show recognizing and celebrating the best games of the year, has wrapped up for 2017. If you missed the show and all its reveals, here’s a quick handy-dandy summary for you.

For the actual awards, here’s all your winners.

Trending Gamer – Dr. Disrespect (PlayerUnknown’s Battleground Streamer)
Best Score/Music – Nier Automata (PlayStation 4, PC)
Best Mobile Game  – Monument valley 2 (iOS, Android)
Best Sports/Racing Game – Forza Motorsports 7 (Xbox One, PC)
Best VR/AR Game – Reisident Evil 7: BIOHAZARD (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Best Handheld Game – Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)
Best Narrative – What Remains of Edith Finch (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Best Action Game – Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Best Art Direction – Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)

Industry Icon Award – Carol Shaw
Best RPG – Persona 5 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
Best Strategy Game – Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch)
Most Anticipated Game – The Last of Us Part II (PlayStation 4)
Best Family Game – Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
Best Debut Indie Game – Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)
Best Ongoing Game – Overwatch (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Best Esports Game – Overwa/tch (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Best Esports Player – Faker

Best Student Game – Level-Squared
Games For Impact – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PlayStation 4, PC)
Best Performance – Melina Juergens for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PlayStation 4, PC)
Best Fighting Game – Injustice 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Best Game Direction – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Best Action Adventure – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Game of the Year – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Disclaimer: As an outlet, Game Informer is a judge for The Game Awards.

In addition, The Game Awards were also home to a number of big announcements, release dates, and trailers.

A World War Z Game was revealed  
Vacation Simulator, a sequel to Job Simulator, was announced
Firewatch developers, Campo Santo, reveal a new game
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Champion’s Ballad DLC is available tonight
FROM Software teases a new title
Soul Calibur VI is coming in 2018
Fortnite getting a limited-time 50 vs. 50 Battle Royale mode
THQ Nordic reveals horror survival game Fade to Silence
Bayonetta 1 and 2 coming to Switch early next year
Bayonetta 3 coming exclusively to Switch
A Way Out releases next March, two players can play online with one copy
Death Stranding’s trailer is weird as hell
The makers of Bulletstorm bring you Witchfire
Media Molecule’s Dreams is trippy and beautiful
First footage of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ desert map
Sci-Fi shooter GTFO coming from Payday 2’s creator
Metro Exodus’ new trailer reveals its release date
Sea of Thieves launches March 20

What are you most looking forward to in the next 360 some odd days until the next Game Awards? Let us know in the comments!

At The Game Awards 2017, Bluehole had a few cool reveals for the shooter survival titan PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

The highly-anticipated desert map is scheduled to be playable several hours after the show on the PC test servers, and they served up a new trailer showing off the new weapons and challenges that the desert brings.

Check out the chaos in the trailer below, and get ready to play PUBG in a completely new arena of death!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Yes. You read that name correctly. GTFO is a cooperative horror-action game from Ulf Andersson’s studio 10 Chambers Collective. Andersson designed Payday and it looks like GTFO’s cooperative elements draw inspiration from the bank heist series. 

You can watch a trailer for the game here:

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The game will likely be released in “some shape or form” this year, according to the Andersson.

A new trailer showcased during The Game Awards for the third game in 4A Games’ post-apocalyptic series revealed scenes of destitution and ice as series protagonist Artyom explored the depths and outskirts of Moscow.

The trailer also narrowed down Metro Exodus’ release window to Fall 2018.

For more on Metro, check out our review of the Redux collection right here.