The Last of Us - Ellie

Stakes, justice and “awesome ideas” teased for The Last of Us: Part II

When the sequel to one of your most recent projects scores itself a dedicated panel at the PlayStation Experience (PSX), it’s a surefire sign that you’ve done something right as a developer.

Just look at Naughty Dog, whose 2013 third-person horror epic The Last of Us earned itself such massive applause from critics and mass audiences alike that its follow-up’s much-anticipated status and resultant PSX presentation come as no surprise.

Here’s what we learned from writer-director Neil Druckmann and co-writer Halley Gross as they teased what terrors and thrills await us in The Last of Us: Part II

Takeaways:

  • Much of Part II‘s top-secret narrative takes place in the city of Seattle, where the increasingly world-wearied Joel and Ellie will pursue some form of justice (probably against the Fireflies, if the sequel’s haunting teaser trail was any indication), only to find the lines of morality becoming evermore blurred en route.
  • Druckmann warns that “no-one is safe” in the franchise’s plague-ridden, undead-infested world, so even Joel and Ellie – undoubtedly one of gaming’s most beloved modern pairings – mightn’t make it to Part II‘s credits alive, regardless of how much trauma they’ve endured up to this point.
  • Indeed, one of Druckmann and Gross’ key goals here involved raising the personal and physical stakes for their already battered protagonists, in a similar vein to how Uncharted 4 took Nathan Drake to his very limits, but – according to IGN – with even less in the way of that series finale’s lighthearted hi-jinks. Don’t go in hoping for Joel and Ellie to masquerade as Italian waiters, in other words.
  • That’s not to say we can’t expect any glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel, however. Despite their storyline’s undoubtedly grim tone, the writers were equally adamant at Part II‘s PSX panel that players would find “hope” and “lighthearted moments” peppered throughout the script alongside its more harrowing sequences.
  • Speaking of harrowing experiences, apparently nailing down the plot’s second act proved tougher than expected for Druckmann and Gross alike, with the former worrying about a “big giant middle part” – his words, not ours – until the latter suggested some “awesome ideas” to keep players invested throughout.

Much as hearing all these intriguing comments surrounding Part II doesn’t make the undefined wait time any easier, Druckmann did also reveal that “50-60%” of the sequel’s levels have been completed as of this weekend and that we can expect more footage – presumably in the form of a full gameplay demo this time – at E3 2018 next June.

Until then, be sure to let us know your predictions for Part II in the comments section and watch voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson’s stirring rendition of the teaser trail’s haunting melody, “Wayfaring Stranger”, at the PSX panel below.

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Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus PS4 gameplay showcases foliage and foes

Barring Soul Calibur VI‘s full-fledged reveal trailer, our latest look at Detroit: Become Human and smatterings of new details on projects like God of War and The Last of Us: Part II, it’s safe to say that this year’s PlayStation Experience (PSX) event hasn’t exactly been one for the history books.

All the same, Bluepoint Games have ensured that Shadow of the Colossus‘ raptorous fanbase isn’t coming away from the weekend empty-handed; enter a full gameplay demo showcasing the technical updates which the studio’s most beloved production to date has undergone since 2005 in preparation for its PS4 revival…

Takeaways:

  • Speaking to Bluepoint’s president Marco Thrush and technical director Peter Dalton, PlayStation Blog’s Justin Massongill joins the rest of us in watching in awe as Colossus‘ steeled warrior protagonist Wander explores the mysterious “forbidden land” atop his trusted steed, Agro.
  • Thrush and Dalton are justifiably keen to point out the upcoming PS4 remake’s myriad aesthetic upgrades, from a wind particle system sweeping leaves realistically across their mysterious setting’s barren forest landscape, to water simulation effects evoking an eerily similar sense of the uncanny.
  • Naturally Wander can’t spend all his time, well, wandering. Quite to the contrary, only a few minutes of the video pass by before he’s brought face-to-pincer with a centipede-like Colossus boss whom he’ll need to employ a combination of covert archery and savage sword strikes in order to thwart.
  • If tales of the original’s convoluted control scheme threaten to deter you from attempting to scale such a beast, however, then fret not. Alongside Classic Mode, which retains the 2005 PS2 action RPG’s control layout for veterans, Dalton promises a revised scheme built to minimise potential grief for “new players”.

As with many of the AAA titles teased at PSX this weekend, we’re still no closer to learning a precise release date for Shadow of the Colossus‘ PS4 edition, but with Massongill remarking upon how quickly development has proceeded since E3 2017, don’t expect to wait too much longer before the truth comes to light.

Let us know your thoughts on Bluepoint’s latest Colossus showcase in the comments section below.

Two raving heads trump one – Mario + Rabbids adds co-op with premium DLC

As with their widely praised fantasy RPG The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild earlier this year, Nintendo isn’t skimping on post-launch content for their similarly acclaimed – and surprisingly complex – puzzle platformer, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

Players who Koopa-shelled out $20 for the universe-colliding adventure’s season pass last month will doubtless have wondered since what they’re getting for this princely sum of hard-earned cash; well, they’ve now got their (first) answer…

Takeaways:

  • Cue the Ultra Challenge Pack, a DLC pack out now which features five original maps to wage Raving Rabbid-induced war upon in an array of co-op challenges.
  • The missions awaiting players and pals are sure to be just as eclectic as Mario + Rabbids’ explosively whimsical main campaign, with the line-up of adversaries for the eponymous plumber and crazed animals to outwit including Chain Chomps, Tornados, Boos and Pyroclasts.
  • For those seeking an even greater trial than these initial tag-team offerings, though, eight Ultra Hard challenges will additionally crop up as part of the secret chapter hidden within each of the Switch exclusive’s diverse world hubs.
  • As Season Pass owners would expect, all of this won’t set them back a penny, although those who’ve yet to pick up said Pass can still access the pack for $7 too.

One can hardly blame Nintendo for wanting to push this ambitious expansion out of the gate sooner rather than later, since their main mascot’s other highly anticipated epic, Super Mario Odyssey, will no doubt come to dominate the headlines come its release at month’s end.

Hopefully, the DLC won’t find itself too lost amidst the marketing maelstrom, since titles championing co-op play in a market laden with 20v20 competitive multiplayer modes should be truly welcome, especially to old-school gamers who spent half their childhoods blasting through Halo’s legendary modes with mates. (Not that we’d know, obviously.)

Stay tuned to D-pad Joy for all the latest news on Mario + Rabbids’ upcoming DLC, Ultra or otherwise.

Gather collectibles, unlock exclusive TV clips? Stranger Things have happened

Once upon a time, movie and TV studios simply hired F-grade developers to produce licensed video game adaptations of their latest IPs in the cheapest, swiftest manner possible. The end result? Nine times out of ten came a mediocre platformer bearing little-to-no resemblance to its source material and retaining virtually none of its merits.

But that era mercifully appears to have neared its end, both thanks to TT Games cornering the market on quality film tie-ins via its LEGO entries and the emergence of viral, often adorably retro companion games like the tense sewer-bound side-scroller released alongside horror flick IT last month.

Since TT are too hard at work on LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 right now to contemplate other projects, a certain beloved Netflix show has received the latter treatment…

Takeaways:

  • Enter Stranger Things: The Game, an unexpected mobile tie-in to the hit pulp sci-fi show which arrived on the iOs and Google app stores this week, costing only the time necessary to hit download.
  • Should they spare that precious installation time to download this quirky 2D puzzler, players can look forward to travelling through familiar locales like Hawkins, Mirkwood Forest and the ever-deadly Upside-Down in the roles of the show’s core heroes.
  • What’s more, like its source material, The Game pays homage to the 1980s via its quaint 16-bit-esque style, its Normal and tough-as-nails Classic difficulty modes and its abundance of retro collectibles such as VHS tapes, Eggos and Gnomes.
  • There’s ample incentive to hunt down those hidden artefacts of a bygone age too, since doing so will unlock exclusive footage from the TV show’s soon-to-debut second season and “secret characters” to boot.

As with IT: The Sewer‘s limited replay value, we can’t guarantee that this latest endeavour to subvert the scorned norms of licensed film-video game adaptations will ease the wait until Stranger Things returns on October 27th, yet it’d be downright churlish to malign Netflix putting in the extra effort to tide fans over, especially if it’s a sure sign that we’ll never have to play another Thor: God of Thunder-rivalling atrocity again.

Be sure to let us know your thoughts on Stranger Things: The Game and the evolving state of film- / TV-inspired AAA productions in the comments section below.

The Brotherhood is baptised by fire in new Assassin’s Creed: Origins trailer

As if this month wasn’t already fraught enough with AAA gaming experiences between Star Wars: Battlefront II‘s multiplayer beta, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, Forza Motorsport 7, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Super Mario Odyssey, Ubisoft has kindly reminded us that another mammoth title lies in wait: Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

The half-helpful, half-infuriating heads-up comes in the form of a new cinematic trailer, “Birth of the Brotherhood”, which both recaps the core tenants of the action RPG franchise’s first Ancient Egyptian outing and teases major set-pieces ahead for players preparing to sink their teeth into its epoch-spanning main campaign…

Takeaways:

  • While just about anyone who’s followed Origins‘ marketing campaign to date will doubtless know as much, we open with steeled protagonist Bayek re-affirming his role as a Medjay, bound to protect Egypt and its supposed “true pharoah” against oncoming threats.
  • Said threats look set to hit the dying Ancient nation with fierce rapidity too, as we’re soon privy to shots of fiery chaos besieging its otherwise gorgeous sand-soaked landscape. Worse still are the hints of all-out war for Bayek to brave, the final scenes seemingly depicting entire legions of Egyptian soldiers marching into battle (for reasons as yet unknown).
  • As if this harrowing vision of a country “on the brink of collapse” wasn’t enough to give the first ever Assassin cause for concern, glimpses of cloaked figures discussing surely unlawful machinations in a shady cavern could well indicate the debut of the Templar Order here to boot.
  • Luckily, though, at least we now know for certain Bayek won’t end up alone on his perilous odyssey to save the world of pharaohs and pyramids, since he’ll apparently conceive the Order as a means to fulfil the Medjays’ untapped potential if his spirited voiceover is any indication.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged by this point that Ubisoft’s marketing team have honed the art of Creed-promoting cinematic trailers to near-perfection, especially after a decade in the business, but whether the final product proves as well-rounded isn’t quite such a known quantity.

For every Game of the Year-nominated masterpiece like Brotherhood or Black Flag which the franchise has produced since its 2007 inception, there’s been a stopgap cash-in like Revelations or Unity forcing fans to question their love for the globe-trotting, time-travelling saga anew, only for the following year’s edition to often restore the faith.

Origins‘ fate lies with the gods – otherwise known as critics – and their worshippers – otherwise known as Creed fans – at this stage, but whatever happens, keep it D-pad Joy for all the news and views on Bayek’s whirlwind adventure in the run-up to its October 27th debut on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

New Star Wars: Battlefront II trailer reveals maps, modes and Maul (oh my!)

Between director departures, the return of animated TV series Rebels and teases of a new trailer for December blockbuster The Last Jedi, fans of a galaxy far, far away can barely move for major news-bytes right now.

Not content to become lost amidst the maelstrom, however, EA is only adding to the pile with an info-packed new Battlefront II trailer, revealing many of the key details on the sequel to 2015’s divisive multiplayer FPS which sceptics and optimists alike have been waiting for since Day 1.

Takeaways:

  • Anyone concerned the studio would deliver a paucity of launch maps – as was the case with the original Battlefront – can breathe easy, since the follow-up will pack 11 arenas taken from across three eras of Star Wars history this November.
  • As well as reprising the Hoth, Endor and Jakku maps available in the 2015 game, Battlefront II is set to play host to Kamino, Kashyyyk, Theed, Death Star II, Mos Eisley, Yavin 4, Starkiller Base and Takodana, with not a Season Pass barrier in sight for any of those fan-favourite worlds.
  • The interplanetary showcase doesn’t end there, though, since those who join the Empire-enlisted Inferno Squad to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens in the solo campaign will also visit Bespin, Sullust, Pillio and Vardos en route.
  • Another lesson EA has seemingly learned from the ample criticisms directed at the first Battlefront involves its multiplayer offerings, with a diverse range of gameplay modes present this time around including Starfighter Assault, Galactic Assault, Blast, Strike and the returning Heroes vs. Villains.
  • If the latter  left you wondering precisely which scoundrels and guardians of peace and hope we’ll have the chance to command here, then fret not. Watch the trailer closely and you’ll spot many of the 14 hero characters available such as Leia, Kylo Ren, Boba Fett, Darth Maul, Yoda, Han Solo and Rey, with Captain Phasma and Finn teased as future free DLC.

There’s not long to wait until fans can play-test Battlefront II‘s various maps, modes and Phantom Menaces either, since a multiplayer beta set on Theed will showcase Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, Strike and Arcade this Friday, October 6th on all consoles.

They mightn’t have quite shot first what with Lucasfilm and Disney XD having beaten them to the punch on major announcements, but if nothing else, EA seem admirably intent on righting the wrongs of their first licensed Star Wars production here, and we can’t wait to see whether their efforts pay off next month.

Stay tuned to D-pad Joy for more coverage on Battlefront II building towards its Xbox One, PS4 and PC release on November 17th, but for now, be sure to check out the John Boyega-narrated new trailer below for more reveals than you can shake a lightsaber at (trust us, we tried)…

Never mind Avengers: Infinity War – meet Doctor Who: Infinity

They say time waits for no man, but that knowledge hasn’t stopped followers of the BBC’s longest-running drama Doctor Who from getting mighty impatient for new content.

With two months already having passed since the TV sci-fi saga’s tenth season reached its denouement, and only a single Christmas special due to air between now and the Jodie Whittaker-starring Season 11 next autumn, fans are craving other outlets through which to explore time and space.

Enter Tiny Rebel Games, who – off the back of their 2013 gem-crunching puzzle strategy effort Doctor Who: Legacy – intend to provide a worthy stop-gap gaming experience to tide starving Whovians for the next 12 months…

Takeaways:

  • Titled Doctor Who: Infinity, the UK development studio’s second ever mobile outing will – like Legacy – take the form of a RPG puzzle entry focused on the “match three gems” gameplay of its predecessor.
  • Tiny Rebel won’t say much on the core narrative driving Infinity, save for assembling a team of Doctors and companions from throughout the show’s 52-year-history to plough through “comic-book style puzzle adventures” galore.
  • Don’t expect a direct follow-up to Legacy‘s disparate story arcs exploring the various eras of Who either. Executive producer Susan Cummings says “this isn’t a sequel” so much as a “new platform for delivery of stories written by well-known Doctor Who writers”.
  • Speaking of which, expect for Infinity to debut with a Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) adventure penned by regular Who novelist and audio scribe George Mann in the form of The Dalek Invasion of Time, also featuring art by Mike Collins and an appearance by the character’s long-time frenemy Missy too.

Intrigued yet? Join the club – while we’re longing for a licensed Who video game to grace consoles soon (despite the struggles involved, which we’ve listed here), for now any new forays into the series’ vast mythology are welcome, particularly in the midst of its hefty TV hiatus.

Look for Doctor Who: Infinity to get a “soft launch” for a select band of players in Spring 2018, with a full-scale release for mobile devices and PCs on iTunes, Google Play and other digital stories following swiftly thereafter.

In the meantime, be sure to let us know your thoughts on the project’s comic-book-inspired premise in the comments below…