The weirdest and most disturbing versions of your favorite DC Comics superheroes emerged from Dark Knights: Metal, a comic event that recently wrapped up and gave way to a number of new ongoing series. The most popular character variation is named “The Batman Who Laughs.” This Jokerized variation is usually seen with chains attached to rabid Robins.

Well regarded statue manufacturer Prime 1 Studio is bringing this unholy version of Batman to collector’s shelves in late 2019. The deluxe version of this 33-inch-tall statue is limited to just 500 units, and will set you back $1,399. The deluxe version comes with a bonus Daiman statue (which you can see in the gallery below). The standard version doesn’t come with this item, but will still hit your wallet hard with its $1,199 price point. For more info, check out Prime 1 Studio’s product listing.

 

 

Erick Boenisch has an ax to grind. He sees the constant deluge of negative feedback about NBA 2K and its perceived overreliance on microtransactions in game design. As the resident producer of the multiple franchise modes present in each edition of NBA 2K, this persistent narrative doesn’t sit well with him. 

“Every year when the game comes out, I read these reviews and whatnot, and it always makes me really frustrated when I read a review and it says, ‘2K only cares about microtransactions. All they do is focus all their attention on modes that make money,’” Boenisch says. “And I’m sitting here saying, ‘Man, I’ve got a 14-page blog SINGLE SPACED that 2K develops with!’ They give me people. They aren’t cheap. I’m not cheap! It takes a lot of people to develop these modes… we don’t make money on this. But it enhances the NBA 2K experience so much. I look at other games and they just don’t do it, so I feel like we don’t get a fair shake. We add all these modes like MyGM – two MyGMs now – and MyLeague to really enhance the value of the product and I wish more people would notice that.”

Some backlash over the microtransaction-heavy MyCareer mode may be justified, but Boenisch also has a point. In an era where the majority of sports games are focused on card collection and online modes largely to the neglect of the core franchise experience, NBA 2K is the series that keeps on giving. In the past few years alone, the studio has integrated team expansion/relocation, doubled down on online franchise when franchises like MLB The Show and NHL ditched theirs, and trailblazed with the first narrative-driven franchise mode experience.

NBA 2K19 continues that forward trajectory with a large suite of changes. Here are the most notable franchise mode features coming to this year’s game.

MyGM Narrative Returns

Last year’s MyGM: The Next Chapter story was goofy, and the forced trade pissed off a lot of users, but it also was unlike anything else ever offered by a franchise mode. Operating as the general manager of whatever team you chose, you had to navigate treacherous behind-the-scenes situations to keep the team competitive, position the franchise for a draft promising generational talent, fight off the unsound ideas of a meddlesome owner’s son, and deal with the prospect of relocation. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved the concept and wanted to see them give it another go. 

NBA 2K19’s MyGM: The Saga continues picks up shortly after the events of last year’s story. “Last year you had a choice between paths – you could choose to side with Bob Sanderson and the team relocates to Seattle, or you could spurn Bob and go back to your original owner and your team stays in whatever city you had chosen,” Boensich says. “This year, you’re back working for the team you were working for originally last year, and you’re in this place where the NBA is adding an expansion team. The new owner coming in, Tex Towers, he wants you to be his basketball operations director, not just a GM.”

From here, you build the franchise from scratch, which involves choosing the city, designing the jerseys/arena, hiring staff, drafting NBA players through the expansion draft, and picking your first prospects in the NBA draft. Along the way, you will interact with many people from last year’s story, including everyone’s favorite punching bag, Andrew Sanderson.

“Everyone hates him – there was nothing to like about him – but he’s back this year,” Boensich says. “He’s matured a lot and seen a lot of the errors of his ways, but at the end of the day he’s still Andrew Sanderson.”

Before you start putting your stamp on the new story, you must answer a series of six questions that let you input what choices you made in the last game. From here, the story is frontloaded – most of your decisions must be made before the start of the 2018-19 season. 

“It’s a different feel this year,” Boenisch says. “I don’t think it’s truncated in any way. It’s a lot more front-loaded. You’re going to experience a lot more sequential scenes end-on-end. You’re going to be reading for 10 minutes straight a couple times while the main storylines go through. There is gameplay as well, but when you’re building a team and you don’t even have players yet, you’re kind of limited in what you can do.”

Good news for those who would rather skip the story altogether: You can. Instead of playing through The Saga Continues, you can fire up a traditional MyGM experience if you desire.

Player Mentorships

This is one of the new additions I’m most excited about. When you bring young players into your organization this year, you can assign them a player mentor to help customize how they develop via the badge system. For instance, LeBron James could take Brandon Ingram under his wing this year for the Lakers. As the GM, you can pick three of LeBron’s badges you want to impart to his mentee. 

“Generally speaking you can only go up a level in badges for each year, so if you’re nothing you can go to bronze, and if you’re bronze you can go to silver,” Boenisch says. “If you’re silver, it may take a bit longer to go to gold.”

This new feature already has me thinking differently about those last three roster spots on my team. I’ll probably be signing savvy veterans to these bench roles just to have them around to help improve my most promising rookies. Boenisch also says players who serve mentor roles are more likely to transition into coaching when they retire as well.

MyLeague Online Gets Live Draft/Free Agency Events

Last year’s fantasy sports-inspired “keeper” format for offseason moves in MyLeague didn’t sit well with many, so Visual Concepts has ditched the concept altogether in favor of live events for each major beat of the NBA offseason. 

The shorthand way to think of this approach is if you could do it offline, you can do it online this year outside of one concept – player training. This expanded approach to online leagues includes team relocation, league expansion, financials/contracts, a real-time free agency period, real-time staff signing, real-time NBA draft, and even real-time league meetings to vote on new rule proposals.

Admins can control the pacing of each of these events by adjusting the timer for each sequence. Users can keep track of all their notifications and deadlines with a handy new League Members panel. 

All of the league transactions during these periods are archived, so you can go back and look at past drafts or free agency periods to see how aggressive rival GMs may have been and use this information in your planning.

The Deepest Tuning Slider Set Ever Seen In Sports Games

Boenisch says it’s hard to please everyone when it comes to CPU logic for team building. While some might feel the trade mechanic is too forgiving, others feel it’s too stubborn. Given the impossibility of making everyone happy, Visual Concepts decided to give everyone the keys to the logic system with a new suite of tuning sliders. 

“The reason we did it is obvious,” Boenisch says. “Our fans are super rapid about the NBA and they all want it to work a different way. There’s no question on why it was done.”

This in-depth toolset lets you tweak everything from how teams value players or draft picks to player contract demands and player progression. If you don’t have time to adjust these settings but want a different type of experience, you’re in luck. Hardcore tweakers can upload their settings for sharing, and Visual Concepts has also created easy, medium, and hard settings for MyGM mode using these tuners. 

You can dig even further into the options available here in the NBA 2K19 Franchise mode blog.

Historical Draft Classes

The Import Draft Class feature has some interesting new additions this year thanks to historical draft classes. For NBA 2K19, Visual Concepts has recreated every draft class from 1976-2017, plus some of the most notable classes from the ‘60s and early ‘70s. 

“We have rights to a pretty vast majority of players,” Boenisch says. “As you come toward the present, we have rights to more players. But there are some years we omitted where we didn’t have the rights to the good players, or there just weren’t any good players in it to justify the effort.”

You can import these classes at the start of any NBA season. Boenisch says he’s had fun using these to inject his league with standouts like Oscar Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Gervin, Michael Jordan, and other NBA legends. 

Improved Player Creation

Last year, Visual Concepts got nailed for its weak player creation tools in NBA 2K18. They are fixing that this year with a new toolset that includes facial sculpting, 50 facial hair options, and fully customizable hairstyles that let you adjust the length, shave patterns, and fades. 

This should give creators far greater control to make their own custom draft classes, create missing players from historical draft classes, and bring longtime absentees like Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller into the fold for all-time teams. 

A new player DNA feature also lets you import player likenesses or attributes, which could be handy if you want to make a LeBron James Jr. for a future draft class. These templates can be shared with other people as well. 

The List Goes On And On

The features highlighted above are just the tip of the iceberg for new franchise mode toys. The full list includes a lot more interesting concepts including:

  • New NBA Draft presentation that offers more expert analysis on each pick.
  • The new All-Star Game format lets you name the team captains and pick the teams in MyLeague. 
  • The All-Star Weekend now includes a Rising Stars young talent showcase game that pits Team USA against Team World.
  • The new Summer League format adopted by the NBA this year. 
  • An Injury History menu displays the injury history for every player in the league. This will be useful for spotting injury prone risks in free agency and trades.
  • Traded player exceptions are in the game this year, so when you move more salary than you get in return in a trade, you can spend that difference at any point in the next 12 months.
  • A Draft Pick Tracking menu lets you see all your picks for the next five years in one place, outlining how the picks were acquired and listing any exceptions they may have.
  • New rule change proposals including a Draft Lottery tournament that makes each team that didn’t make the playoffs compete for the rights to the #1 overall pick and another that eliminates conference delineation from the playoff equation and simply seeds teams with the best records from 1 to 16.
  • Updated Draft Lottery odds to align with the NBA’s new approach starting in 2019 that gives the three teams with the worst records the same odds to draw the number one pick.
  • User controllable season awards that allow you to decide which players earned these accolades.

To read more about these features, head to the NBA 2K19 Franchise Mode blog.

The Life is Strange series is known for its deep and emotional stories. Bubbling underneath these personal tales is a hint of superheroes. New teaser footage for Life is Strange 2 hints at the idea of powers playing a large role.

The trailer doesn’t last long, and is a bit confusing at first, but shows what appears to be a murder delivered in spectacular fashion. We see officer Matthews call in a 10-10, which is police code for a fight in progress. What happens next is…well…I won’t spoil that for you. Watch the video. It’s well worth your time.

Life is Strange 2 will unfold across a five-episode series. The first chapter launches on September 27 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. If you don’t want to wait that long, you should play the offshoot story, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Not only is it free, it’s damn good.

 

Bioware has announced in a blog post today that the critically acclaimed studio will be holding a panel at PAX West to talk about Anthem and help answer the fan’s questions. Particularly, Bioware wants to address concerns about story within the game and how it fits Bioware’s reputation.

“We talked briefly at EA PLAY about how the solution is called ‘Our World, My Story’,” Bioware GM Casey Hudson wrote in a blog post today. “In the dynamic open world, everything is experienced in real-time by all Anthem players – day/night, weather, and world-scale events that shape the ongoing narrative of the setting.  This is ‘our world,’ which we share as a player community.  Then when you return to Fort Tarsis, that’s actually a single-player experience, and it’s where you spend time developing relationships, making choices, and seeing consequences.  That’s the ‘my story’ part. 
 
“But even with that description I know there are many more questions about how it will work,” Hudson continued. “To really go deep on this subject, we’ll be doing a panel at PAX where we’ll talk about ‘our world, my story, and other big questions you’ve had about Anthem.”

Perhaps most telling, however, is what Hudson writes when talking about Bioware’s other projects.

“And yes – we hear loud and clear the interest in BioWare doing more Dragon Age and Mass Effect, so rest assured that we have some teams hidden away working on some secret stuff that I think you’ll really like – we’re just not ready to talk about any of it for a little while…” Hudson says.

PAX West will be held August 31 through September 3 in Seattle. Anthem will be released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 22.

[Source: Bioware Blog]

 

Anthem is clearly Bioware’s first priority, so it’s unlikely we’ll hear anything about Mass Effect or Dragon Age anytime before that game releases. Still, it’s interesting that Hudson is so candidly talking about what’s next, perhaps in hopes that it will act as a salve for Bioware fans eager for their more authored stories.

Last night Nintendo announced that Super Mario Odyssey was receiving another costume. The company made the announcement via a tweet.

You can see the costume for yourself right here:

For more on Super Mario Odyssey, be sure to check out our review.

I recently had the chance to play four hours of Spider-Man. This extensive play session gave me a better understanding of how this superhero experience is stitched together, as well as how it balances the duality of Peter Parker and his masked alter ego. I have dozens of details to share regarding the open world, combat, and missions, but my time with the game can be distilled into one short message: Be excited. Be very excited.

Earlier this year, I spent roughly a half hour getting to know Insomniac Games’ version of Spider-Man for Game Informer‘s May cover story. This limited hands-on opportunity delivered on the game’s proof-of-concept. I walked away from it with a good understanding of the vision for the open-world design, combat complexity, and storytelling ambitions. However, as much as I enjoyed webslinging through New York City’s bustling streets, I wondered if that experience would have staying power. I also questioned how much variety would be included in the missions and city activities. Insomniac’s boast of this experience being as much about Peter Parker as it is Spider-Man also needed to be seen to be believed. Read more…

I can’t tell you how many Maddens I’ve reviewed, and how many more I’ve played. But believe it or not, I still get excited for each new entry. It’s not just a corollary to the general hype of an upcoming football season, it’s an excitement specific to Madden itself. I still get charged orchestrating a back-breaking 80-yard drive and daggering my opponent, or capping a season of scouting with a coveted draft pick in Franchise mode, or sniping cards in Ultimate Team.

Madden 19 sits in an awkward position; some of the new features and additions I like but don’t love, others I’m indifferent to. Still, it makes enough changes and proves enough to avoid the “roster update” tag.

The new player progression in Franchise mode is one of the Madden 19’s calling cards, but its confusing nature only made me work harder to get the results I wanted. You still earn XP for your players, but instead of using it to buy points for the attributes of your choice (like speed or route running), you buy an approximated player archetype upgrade (such as Field General for QBs) that raises your overall rating one point and awards you randomized bonuses for the attributes pre-assigned to that archetype. I don’t mind that this system treats progression as a squishy unknown. However, I dislike its rigid offensive and defensive schemes.

The schemes you pick determine which player archetypes earn extra XP during training and have a better chance of hitting the randomization jackpot, but they can’t accommodate your designs. What if I want to employ the Run & Shoot offensive scheme, but don’t want to put points into turning my running back into a receiving back even though that’s the archetypical role determined by the scheme? Or what if I want to pump points specifically into my QB’s deep ball accuracy – a crucial attribute if he’s to be anything above mediocre? You can still spend points into related archetypes and hope randomization rolls your way, but if your players aren’t a scheme fit, then you’re not getting the most from the system.

As the coach, I want to be able to play to my players’ existing strengths and use them in ways that my opponent can’t handle. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t win five Super Bowls and become a coaching legend by picking a scheme and then forcing his players into it. He is the architect of his own greatness by using what he has in ways that win. In Madden 19, you have to work around the system to get to where you want to go, and randomization aside, I think that on average your players progress about the same as they would have last year, which makes this whole charade unnecessary.

Other than the new way to progress players, the Franchise mode is largely the same, leaving areas like free agency and scouting untouched. The one addition that can make a big difference is the ability to create custom drafts, meaning it’s only a matter of time until some intrepid gamer with time on their hands recreates the entire real-life 2019 draft class and beyond for everyone to download. Ironically, this feature gives fans what the progression system takes away: control.

 

Control has also been taken away in Longshot: Homecoming, the final story for Devin Wade and Colt Cruise. The mode has almost no choices in it, but its larger problem is that even though it’s good to catch up with Devin and Colt, the story and its new characters tread well-worn territory too familiar to be exciting. The story, as the name indicates, focuses more on Mathis, Texas than the NFL, and some of its beats even mirror FIFA’s The Journey.

Regardless, Madden still has some of that veteran magic. I particularly like this year’s passing game; reading the coverage and dropping the ball between the zones for a sideline catch is satisfying. It’s also strangely fun because incompletions are more frequent (A.I. QB stat lines are largely the same, though). QBs cause some of this with their throws, but sometimes it’s because a receiver can’t hold onto the ball after contact. You have to make sure you understand the coverages and where the soft spots in the zone are otherwise you’re asking for it. Linebackers in underneath coverage are also dangerous because they read your intentions and gobble up interceptions. Pass catching itself is aided through having more time to choose your catch type, which feeds into the kinds of receiver/defensive back interactions you see.

The other half of the offense – the running game – also has its ups and downs. The new one cut plant-and-accelerate move (for offense and defense) is good out in the open, but is hampered by running backs’ continued sluggishness around the line of scrimmage and the animations that run before you expect them to. The latter fights with ball carrier’s overall fluid movements, which continues to improve.

Regardless, Madden’s animations often merge with gameplay, representing the quintessence of football in both small details and vivid representations. The big hits, for sure, but also when cornerbacks drape on receivers and poke the ball out. It’s a well-executed block springing a run as well as a defensive lineman shoving a 300-pound man aside to get a hand on the running back.

Madden Ultimate Team continues to capture the addictive fantasy football aspect of the sport, with a less costly upgrade system for certain cards and new ways to earn coins, packs, and items through Solo Battles (games against the A.I. using real users’ teams) and Squads Challenges with your friends in co-op against A.I. opponents. Every coin counts, and the Solo Battles payout is a great early-game way to bank coins for those who don’t want to pay real money for packs. It’s another tool in a mode that does a good job of providing different paths to assembling your team. In the long run we’ll have to see how developer EA Tiburon supports Ultimate Team around mid-season and how this year’s proliferation of chemistries shakes out to get a better appreciation of how the mode is doing.

Madden 19 doesn’t have earth-shattering features that draw me in. Some new features don’t shake out how I hoped they might, and other problems haven’t been fixed. But I’m still going to spend hours with this title for the way it captures the sport and puts me in the center of it with some fantastic gameplay moments. Like when the real life team you root for loses in the playoffs, you rue the mistakes but smile at the victories that got them there. Being a video game sports fan and a fan of real-life sports is no different. Sometimes things don’t always go the way you think they might, but if you can’t find joy in being a part of it all, then perhaps you need to find something else to invest your time into.

Sunless Sea, Failbetter games’ nautical roguelike that released on PC over three years ago in February 2015, is coming to PlayStation 4 later this year. This marks the first time the developer has been on consoles.

Sunless Sea takes place in an alternate-Victorian universe shared by some of Failbetter’s other games. Players are tasked with sailing the cryptic, abyssal depths of the Unterzee, captaining ships to chart the unchartable waters. Explore islands until you meet your untimely and inevitable death, then do it all again with a new captain with knowledge of what killed you the previous time.

You can check out the PS4 trailer below.

The game emphasizes narrative vignettes and atmosphere over all else, so don’t go expecting a top-down Sea of Thieves. The narrative hooks are some of the most interesting in the genre, which you can explore more of here as the PS4 version includes the Zubmariner expansion with it.

Sunless Sea will be available later this year on the PlayStation 4.

Star Wars: Episode IX has begun filming, a year and a half ahead of its scheduled release date. That means fans are looking for anything to make the wait seem a little shorter, even a single picture tweeted by director JJ Abrams.

Guess what? JJ Abrams tweeted a single picture from the set!

The picture is just of some camera equipment in focus with John Boyega, who plays Finn in the films, is blurry in the background. Abrams captioned the tweet mentioning the late Carrie Fisher, who is being included in Episode IX with unused footage filmed prior to her passing. Abrams reasoned that the story of the Skywalkers could not finish without including Fisher in some capacity.

Disney released the cast list for the movie last week as filming commenced. Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled for release in December 2019.

It has been just under 14 years since EA, Def Jam, and AKI Corporation got together and released Def Jam: Fight for NY, a hip-hop wrestling game that used actual artists signed with the Def Jam label as fighters in the game. The title has held kind a cult classic status since its release, but excitement has recently been swirling with Def Jam’s social media teasing a return of the wrestling game.

A few weeks ago, the Def Jam Recordings Twitter account posted a mock up of a PlayStation 4 box showing a hypothetical Def Jam game and asking fans who they would like to see in the game.

Most fans just wrote it off as an overzealous social media manager trying to raise engagement by bringing up an old game that people liked. That is, until today, when it seems like Def Jam has decided to just lean into it.

If there is an art to subtlety, it is not being applied here.

The Def Jam games were praised for their use of the AKI engine, a wrestling engine created by the AKI corporation that focused heavily on a grapple system. AKI left the realm of wrestling games and is now known as Syn Sophia, a developer who is best known for developing the Nintendo series Style Savvy. So if a new game is being developed, it likely isn’t going to resemble what it was known for a few generations ago. It also seems unlikely EA would be involved again.

Not to mention that many of the rappers under the label for previous games are now elsewhere, with DMX notably in jail for tax fraud.

Or maybe it’s nothing and the account realizes that engagement numbers for the original tweet were really high. We’ll just have to wait and see what Def Jam has up their sleeves, if anything at all.

 

My bet is this is going to be a mobile game of some sort and probably not a good one. It’s a shame, I miss the AKI wrestling engine.