Microsoft has announced an on-rails Halo arcade game titled Halo: Fireteam Raven.

If you have been to an arcade, or more likely an arcade machine graveyard in a movie theater, you might have noticed that a lot of arcade machines are big cabinets with two guns for players to essentially play lightgun games with licensed properties. Most of those are made by Raw Thrills, which was itself founded by Eugene Jarvis, and Halo: Fireteam Raven is much in the same vein, but with four players. The game is also being aided in developed by Play Mechanix and 343.

The arcade game tells the story of an ODST squad during the story of Combat Evolved. While it doesn’t appear to be limited to Dave & Busters, Microsoft announced the game as first arriving at the arcade/eatery. 

[Source: Microsoft]

 

Our Take
This seems like a fun little thing to try out, but I’ve never noticed much difference between any of these games. Does anyone have favorites or ones they think do new or interesting things? Let us know below in the comments.

Brave Neptunia, one of the spinoff Neptunia games, is coming to the west as Super Neptunia RPG this Fall.

The full title, Brave Neptune: World & Universe! Pay Attention!! Ultimate RPG Declaration!, is being thankfully shortened for the western release. The title seems to be intentionally trying to resemble 32-bit RPGs, emulating the look of sprites over pre-rendered backgrounds, even though everything is in 3D.

The strangest thing is that the game is being made in Quebec, but is made primarily for a Japanese audience. The final game will have Japanese and English voice acting, with English and French subtitles. Super Neptunia RPG is coming to PlayStation 4 and Switch this Fall.

 

Our Take
I’ve never played any of these games for more than an hour, but this one seems more RPG-like, so maybe it will be more appealing for me.

video podcast

Welcome back to The Game Informer Show! On today’s episode, we talk about the fun and frustrations to be had in State of Decay 2 from Undead Labs with Jeff Cork, Jeff Marchiafava, and Andrew Reiner. Then Javy Gwaltney and Leo Vader join the crew to talk about the survival game The Forest that was finally released and the reveal of Rage 2 from Bethesda. Then we keep on going with Matt Kato, Suriel Vazquez, and Kyle Hilliard talking about Descenders and Laser League. After some great community emails, we’re joined by Sony Santa Monica’s Matt Sophos and Richard Gaubert to talk about writing the new God of War. If you’re worried about spoilers, don’t worry – we give a clear warning before we start diving into them.

You can watch the video below, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Play, or listen to episode 399 on SoundCloud. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show!

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Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show’s intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below…

1:50 – State of Decay 2
21:50 – The Forest
36:10 – Rage 2
44:00 – Descenders
49:45 – Laser League
55:00 – Community emails
1:38:20 – Writing God of War interview with Matt Sophos and Richard Gaubert
2:12:50 – God of War spoilers begin

When making a sequel, most studios make it a priority to build on the strengths of the original while patching up weaknesses. State of Decay 2 gets the first part right. Five years after the first game clawed its way to cult-favorite status, Undead Labs has released a follow-up that offers incremental improvements over its predecessor – and co-op – but the sense that this game isn’t ready for wide release is as tough to shake as a feral zombie.

At the beginning, your small group of survivors is homeless, and their truck is out of gas. Fortunately, safety is within walking distance. Setting up a new base of operations is simple, after you’ve cleared your dilapidated starter home of zombies. The tricky part comes with making sure that the fledgling community is safe and happy. Regardless of which of the three maps you choose to start in, you begin your journey in a small split-level. Its size requires a number of tough trade-offs. Should you build an infirmary to nurse your characters back to health when they’re inevitably injured in the field? Or would that space be better used by building a watchtower to provide additional security? There aren’t many wrong answers, and I enjoyed trying to make the most from those limited resources.

There may not be many wrong answers, but some are less wrong than others. Players who forego an infirmary are in for a rude awakening, thanks to the introduction of a new strain of zombie. These variants are infected with something called the blood plague, and they’re more than happy to share. If you get munched on too many times by these tougher foes, your characters run the risk of getting infected as well. Dally too long on administering a cure, and you have to say goodbye to the infected character – either through exile or euthanasia. Getting a cure is easier said than done, particularly during the early stages of the game. Some infected zombies drop plague samples, which can be used in your medical station to create vials of curative.

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These new zombies add a welcome wrinkle to world exploration, which is largely the same as before. On its surface, the focus on supply runs and fetch quests might seem overly repetitive. Thankfully, Undead Labs has created a systemic world that’s deadly and reactive enough to remain interesting. Most of my sessions included at least a few “hell yeah!” escapes, where I was barely able to limp back to camp or pull my smoking car into the lot with a horde in hot pursuit. The thrill is certainly magnified by the game’s permadeath elements, where a favorite hero can easily die if they’re fatigued, injured, or a victim of poor planning. New randomly generated characters are always available to fill up those empty beds, but it doesn’t make the loss of a favorite character sting any less – not necessarily for their personalities, but the time and effort spent leveling them up.

You can take an A.I. companion along with you, but if you’re clamoring for companionship you’re better served bringing an actual friend (or three). One player is the host, and the others can lend a hand in battle and in keeping the host’s supply full. It’s fine, but it seems at odds with the overall emphasis on being a permanent part of a community; you’re definitely a guest in someone else’s world. Playing with friends makes some of the tougher tasks, such as destroying nest-like plague hearts, fairly trivial. Supply runs are also faster and more lucrative, since the A.I. refuses to pitch in when it’s time to loot. I loved the idea of having my friends come along for the ride, but Undead Labs clearly struggled with the co-op implementation in some frustrating ways.

I ran into a steady drip of bugs and glitches during my solo experience. Some were funny, like watching zombies fall into the world while driving quickly on the roads (roads that, State of Decay veterans should know, now aren’t frequently littered with impassible blockades). Animations unfurl in goofy and unexpected ways. Others were less hilarious, like when items vanished or companions teleported back to base without any provocation. Those issues are magnified in co-op. Characters skitter around each other, barely able to keep up with their friends. Flashlights are basically broken. Cars disappear or warp onto their sides before bursting into flame. Zombies materialize within arm’s reach, and start chowing down on your character before you have time to react. I won’t recite the litany of problems; you’ll see plenty if you spend a few minutes playing the game.

Individually, these issues sound silly, and some players might relish in its masochistic “so bad it’s good” delights. I can’t do that. This is a game where you can realistically lose a character you’ve spent hours honing through no fault of your own. I appreciate the tension that permadeath brings, and how it leads to an investment in the characters that I wouldn’t otherwise have. But State of Decay 2 doesn’t play fair. It’s unpolished and sloppy, and you’re at risk of losing progress, failing missions, and having to say goodbye to one of your heroes because the game was pushed out of the nest too early. The fact that this was the main complaint players had with the first game and its subsequent remaster makes it all the more inexcusable.

That’s a shame, because State of Decay 2 has so much to love. If you manage to level a character high enough, you can promote them to a leadership role. Depending on their dominant trait, your group can focus on trade, construction, maintaining order, and acquiring power through force. It’s a simple, but effective way to tailor your group’s goals beyond mere survival. The narrative is a bare-bones affair, which makes it easy for your imagination to fill in the gaps, and it works well. See it through to its conclusion, and you can bring a trio of survivors along to build an all-new community, with unlockable end-game perks that let you save precious time in subsequent attempts. After seeing my first group’s story to the end, I wanted to see what came next for my survivors, who worked to bring peace and cooperation to the land. But I’m not going to, or at least not any time soon. It’s not worth the aggravation in its current state. 

After an experimental process on the Xbox One PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds test server, the desert map Miramar will arrive in the game for everyone.

The new episode of Inside Xbox revealed the date of the map’s launch, so fans who have been waiting for Erangel will only need to wait another week or so. The second map is defined by its lack of cover, so players have to struggle harder to find somewhere safe to check out and not be out in the open.

Miramar launched on PC on December. A third map, Sanhok, is in development on PC and should eventually come to Xbox One.

 

Our Take
This is a fairly fast turnaround, all things considered. It seems like the Xbox One team is eager to catch up and then work in parallel with the PC team.

It’s been a long, weird road for IO Interactive with their episodic Hitman game, culminating in what appears to be the final release.

The game was developed when IO Interactive, brought under the Square Enix umbrella when the Japanese publisher purchased Eidos Interactive, had plans for an episodic Hitman title. The idea was that the team could be reactive to feedback and allow players to truly master an area before moving on. Soon after the first season ended, Square Enix divested from IO Interactive and the studio was cut loose with ownership of its IPs.

This leads to this week’s release of Hitman: Definitive Edition, now published by Warner Bros., which brings together the entirety of the work IO Interactive did under Square Enix, then did independently, with some new costumes and extra bonus missions. This makes the Definitive Edition disc fascinating in that it contains work from two different publishers and transitional work from the developers.

In IO’s financial report, the developer reported a desire to get a season two of the game, but given the complicated history of the game, it is unknown if or when that will come.

During Ubisoft’s financial call today, the French publisher teased information about the rest of its year for major games.

With the news that their pirate combat game Skull & Bones is getting delayed to next year, Ubisoft explained that they still expect to release three more major AAA titles this year even without Skull & Bones. Two of the titles are already known, The Crew 2 to be released next month and The Division 2 which will be unveiled at E3 and released this Fall.

The third game, Ubisoft explained, is going to be revealed at E3 and be a major part of Ubisoft’s release schedule this financial year. The Wal-Mart Canada leak, which the retailer has claimed was based purely on speculation, suggested that an Assassin’s Creed title is on the way, but there have also been rumors of a new Watch Dogs in development. What do you think Ubisoft has in store this year? Let us know below in the comments.

 

Our Take
I feel like the retailer leak was more or less proven by Rage 2 getting announced later, as it is extremely unlikely anyone was speculating about that. Ubisoft might be back to a yearly cycle for Assassin’s Creed.

Earlier this week, we took a look at how Sony Bend is attempting to craft a different kind of open-world game with Days Gone, eschewing the activity-filled sandbox formula for a more focused and cohesive experience. But that doesn’t mean players won’t have plenty to keep them busy as they navigate the freaker-infested high-desert region of Oregon. Sony Bend is working hard to create compelling and rewarding gameplay loops that provide numerous forms of progression for Deacon. We got firsthand experience with several of these gameplay loops, which we detail below along with more hands-on impressions.

1. NERO Checkpoints
The National Emergency Response Organization was Oregon’s best hope against Days Gone’s society-ending “freaker” infection, but NERO didn’t fare much better than everyone else. During his travels, Deacon will come across numerous abandoned NERO checkpoints, which the FEMA-esque organization used to check, treat, and sometimes quarantine infected citizens. These makeshift clinics contain precious loot – if Deacon can find a way inside the locked labs. “Each [checkpoint] has something for the player to obtain, and each one is locked down and needs power in different ways,” says lead open-world designer Eric Jensen. “So players will find a challenge and a little puzzle element with each of those.”

We investigated the earliest and simplest NERO checkpoint during our hands-on demo, but it still wasn’t without its complications. Getting the lab’s doors to unlock first required finding a gas can to fuel up the station’s generator. Once we flipped the switch, however, a recorded message started blaring over the checkpoint’s loudspeakers, drawing the attention of nearby freakers. You can disable the speakers before you turn on the electricity, but don’t expect the game to point that out to you. “There’s a contingent of hand-holders who are like, ‘No, let me go into survival-vision mode and see the speakers up there and have hint text that comes up and says, “Before you turn the power on, be sure to turn those speakers off.”‘ To me, that ruins immersion,” says creative director John Garvin. “We don’t want to telegraph everything to the player. We want them to figure stuff out, and not be too punishing if they don’t.”

Once you get the doors open (and clear out any invading freakers if you make a mess of things), you’ll find a bounty of crafting supplies inside, plus an injection syringe that allows Deacon upgrade either his health, stamina, or the duration of his focus ability. Completed NERO checkpoints also act as fast-travel destinations and respawn locations, and let you access your universal weapons stash, making them well worth the detour if you spot one during your travels.

2. Ambush Camps
By far the most familiar of Days Gone’s gameplay loops, ambush camps are home to the game’s non-infected human enemies, and require Deacon to take out all of its inhabitants in order to neutralize the location. While this is well-worn territory for open-world games, don’t expect to last long if you go in guns blazing; Days Gone’s gunplay is far deadlier than series like Far Cry, and Deacon can’t automatically heal by slinking off and crouching in a bush for 30 seconds. Because of this you’ll want to take your time preparing for an encounter, setting up traps and using your binoculars to mark enemies. 

Unlike other open-world games, you won’t have to worry about your enemies calling in reinforcements if they’re alerted to your presence – the marauders aren’t organized enough to have spare soldiers waiting in the wings. What you WILL have to worry about, however, are freakers dropping by unexpectedly. “Sustained gunfire in a compact period of time is the formula that tells everybody in the world – humans and animals and freakers – that there’s some chaos over there,” says game director Jeff Ross. “This could be a lot of food that at the very least could be lying around, and they can go get it. So you want to make sure that you’re not around when they arrive.” That said, freakers don’t have much in the way of a refined palate; bad guys are just as tasty to them as do-gooders, so drawing a freaker pack into an ambush camp can sometimes work to your advantage.

Like NERO checkpoints, completing an ambush camp opens it up as a fast-travel location and offers more supplies to scavenge. You’ll also find underground bunkers in the camps containing maps that will remove the fog of war from your world map. Taking down ambush camps also makes the world a little safer for Deacon to travel through. “Ambush camps are filled with murderous thieves and marauders, and these guys are actually the ones executing these ambushes throughout the world,” Jensen says. “If you want to lower the frequency of getting knocked off your bike from a clothesline or getting sniped at by somebody, then you’re going to have to take out these ambush camps.”

3. Freaker Nests
Freakers are an ever-present threat in Days Gone, but some areas in the sprawling open world are more densely populated than others. A red overlay on the map indicates that the surrounding area is suffering from an infestation, and in order to clear it out you’ll need to locate and burn a variable number of freaker nests. These nests are typically located inside buildings and other dark places, offering freakers a reprieve from the afternoon sun – and an opportunity for Deacon to get to work. “The freakers tend to stay indoors and hibernate during the day, and when this happens you can attack their nests,” Jensen says. “They will come out of their nests if you make too much noise; they’re going to react to what the player is doing in the area.”

Tackling an infestation proved to be the most difficult portion of my hands-on demo; the area I was in required me to track down and burn six nests, but even as I approached the first one, the drip-feed of freakers I was attracting steadily increased with each successive gunshot. By the time I made it into the first building and started torching the nests, any semblance of stealth was out the window. Instead, I was frantically sprinting from one location to the next with an unceasing parade of freakers snapping at my heels, improvising with whatever melee weapons I could find in the environment and using explosive barrels to my advantage. After a few failed attempts, I realized that I simply wasn’t prepared for such a big undertaking – I had neither the items nor the skills after an hour of play to tackle the challenge at hand, and the world won’t simply acquiesce if you’re having a hard time. The smart play would be to regroup, gather more supplies, and come back when I was better prepared.

As with Days Gone’s other gameplay loops, dealing with these hotspots is worth the effort; infestations prevent you from fast-traveling through the affected area, even if you’ve unlocked your final destination as a viable travel point. Clearing out the nests also decreases the local freaker population, making it a little easier for Deacon to scavenge nearby areas for supplies. 

4. Jobs
Deacon will come across several friendly encampments during his travels, but “friendly” is a relative term – while the inhabitants won’t shoot him on sight, Deacon will have to do some hired work if he wants to enjoy the full benefits of their community. Encampments offer several types of jobs that are grounded in the day-to-day struggle to survive, such as hunting deer for meat to feed the local population or completing a variety of bounties to shore up their protection. “There are bounty chases that involve the bike, where you’re trying to get somebody who also rides and you have to go after them,” Jensen says. “Then we have survivor rescues, which are guys who were abducted from a camp and you have to go back out and rescue them.” Sony Bend showed off one such survivor rescue during E3 2017, where Deacon worked to save an NPC named Manny from an enemy encampment, culminating in the surprise arrival of a freaker bear. As it turns out, Manny plays a vital role in the first friendly encampment you encounter: He’s the camp’s mechanic, and can supply Deacon with a variety of invaluable bike upgrades if you can get him back in one piece.

Deacon can also collect freaker ears during his travels, which act as a universal currency at friendly encampments – proof that he’s making the world a safer place. But Deacon isn’t just doing these jobs out of the kindness of his own heart. “All of [the jobs] play into the economy of the encampment, and you’re rewarded for doing all of those things,” Jensen says. The more effort you put in, the more an encampment will trust you with their weapons and supplies, as well as discounts. Just don’t expect your sterling reputation to ring across the whole of Oregon – the next encampment you come across won’t care much about what you did to help out another group of starving survivors.

5. Hordes
Sony Bend’s piece de resistance of game design, freaker hordes are what set Days Gone apart from all the other zombie games we’ve played. These massive roaming hordes make infestations look like child’s play, and you never know when you might stumble across one. “Hordes are all over the place,” Jensen says. “They have migration behavior… There’s kind of a puzzle element to any encounter in the game, you have to be aware that a horde might be passing through at any given time. They have to eat and drink like anybody else, so they move to locations where that’s available.”

Sony Bend debuted Days Gone at E3 2016 with a live demo of a horde encounter, but the impressive early footage didn’t convey your ultimate goal. Deacon isn’t simply trying to escape or survive the horde for a set amount of time – he’s actually trying to kill every last freaker in group. Like my attempt at clearing out an infestation (but 10 times more so), trying to take down a horde puts Deacon in constant danger and requires on-the-fly tactics to stay one step ahead of the pack. You’ll have to improvise routes and use any environmental traps at your disposal, plus the stockpile of ammo and explosives you (hopefully) brought with you for the encounter.

Horde battles are considered late-game encounters, and are as exciting as they are challenging; our attempt to take down what game director Jeff Ross described as a “baby horde” of “just” 300 freakers took several tries, even with a geared-up Deacon. 

***

While we got a good look at some of Days Gone’s main gameplay loops, players can expect plenty of other surprises along the way. “There’s a lot of stuff in the open world,” Jensen says. “There’s a lot of content. We have roughly 1,200 dynamic events that can occur throughout the regions.” From roadside ambushes to massive freaker hordes, Sony Bend is pulling out all the stops to make Days Gone its biggest and most ambitious game yet. 

For much more on Days Gone, check out our month of bonus coverage by clicking the banner below.

Call
of Duty: Black Ops 4 releases October 12, and will not feature a traditional
single-player campaign. However, players will be able to engage with some other
modes that have traditionally been limited to multiplayer as solo players, as
well as embrace a story that takes place between Black Ops 2 and 3 via
single-player missions that focus on multiplayer specialist training. At a Call
of Duty community event in Los Angeles today, many aspects of Call of Duty:
Black Ops 4 have been unveiled.


Multiplayer Tweaks

Black Ops 4 features grounded
combat, “boots on the ground” for those familiar with the franchise.
This means (with some exceptions due to special abilities on the
“specialists” or classes) that there won’t be any boosting around or
wall running. Instead, weapons get some additional time in the spotlight – each
weapon will have unique attachments (instead of broad attachments for a family
of guns), including an operator mod. Operator mods add a good deal of
differentiation to a weapon. For example, one operator mod might enable
suppressing fire that could inhibit enemy vision as the gun lays down a salvo.

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Predictive
recoil is in – meaning, you can sit and learn exactly how a gun is going to
respond and master a weapon’s kick. Healing is NOT automatic as it is in most
other Call of Duty titles, and must be manually initiated, leaving you
vulnerable to attack as your heal ticks up. Some specialists, like the medic,
can assist with healing on the fly. Fog of war plays a role on the minimap – things
like surpressed weapons are even more valuable since they won’t break the fog,
and another specialist, the recon, can help disperse the fog for the whole
team. Another specialist can lay down invaluable cover and razor wire to thwart
enemy movement into an area. Still other specialist abilities include the
reactor core ability which lets you punish any enemies in an area, allowing you
to effectively practice area denial. All of these specialist skills look to
help competitive multiplayer CoD become more of a team effort and less of a
killfest. Don’t worry, scorestreaks are still there! Learning to play a specialist?
Single-player missions server as both tutorials and story vessels for those
looking for a bit more narrative before digging into multiplayer mayhem.


Zombies, Zombies, and more Zombies

Call
of Duty: Black Ops 4 launches with three distinctly different zombie modes. This is
a brand new zombie storyline with new characters that draws upon both real and
mythological history. Zombie modes feature a 4-player cast as is the standard,
but now there are a slew of customization options and a difficulty selection option.
Don’t want to play online? No problem, you can now play with bot pals and make
your way through the mysteries. If the default difficulty of zombie modes
turned you off in the past, you can now select a range of difficulty options to
make the undead massacre a touch more friendly. Looking to compete? Zombie
players can now use sharable codes (similar to seeds) that let them handle the
same challenge and compete for the best scores. In addition, constant updates
are scheduled to roll out to zombie mode over time, including seasonal events known
as callings.

In
one mode, we see our protagonists battling in a gladiatorial arena with melee
weapons against a swarm of zombies that seem to have been summoned by an ancient
sun-worshipping Egyptian cult. The protagonists use maces, swords, and more as a giant boss zombie
bursts into the fray. Treyarch didn’t comment on any details on this mode but
as is the standard for Treyarch zombies, it looks massively bizarre and quite
interesting.

We
get a slightly better look at another mode called the Voyage of Despair, which
takes place on the Titanic. Things go a slightly different than the historical
iceberg tragedy as a heist turns into an insane barrage of the undead on the ship
as the crew are turning into abominations. Showcased are various player abilities
that lead me to think that in this mode each character may have its own special
skills instead of just being a voice and an avatar.

The
last zombie mode is called Blood of the Dead, and we don’t really know anything
about this one yet.


Battle
Royale Time

Call
of Duty: Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode (current player support count unknown)
is Blackout. This mode features a map 1,500 times larger than your typical Call
of Duty multiplayer map alongside characters from the entire Black Ops franchise
(including zombies). Even more interesting is that this mode includes vehicles
of all kinds – ground, air, and sea. In an extremely short teaser trailer, we do see some helicopters dishing out some firepower – but it was more conceptual than anything, and we’ll likely have to wait for any footage or details for this mode.


PC
Power

Call
of Duty: Black Ops 4 is releasing on PC on Blizzard’s Battle.net platform, the
first for the series and the only game other than Destiny to currently share the
hallowed halls of Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and more. This has exciting
prospects for social support and systems, and even more exciting is that PC
players can expect uncapped framerate. Aww yeah.

Call
of Duty: Black Ops 4 may not have a traditional single-player campaign, but I’m
incredibly excited about the prospect of a CoD serving up a wealth of
multiplayer modes that have tons of depth. We’ll see what happens as we head toward
release on October 12.

Looks like fans of the high seas will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on Skull & Bones, Ubisoft’s ambitious pirate game. Today the publisher revealed that the game was going to be pushed out of a 2018 release window to the next fiscal year:

Skull and Bones will launch on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One, Xbox One X and PC during Ubisoft’s next fiscal year (from April 1st 2019 to March 31st, 2020).
 
The extra time will allow the team at Ubisoft Singapore to deliver on their ambition to create the ultimate pirate game.

Ubisoft notes that they’ll be sharing more about the game at E3 this year.

For more on Skull & Bones, check out our preview on the game here.

 

Our Take
This one kind of stings. I’ve been hankering to get back to Black Flag’s brand of fantastic naval battles and swashbuckling but if it results in a better game, I’m happy for the delay too.