Nick Diamon

How about that giant snake in Assassin’s Creed Origins?

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Thanks to the E3 blowout of gameplay, we know that Bayek, the hero of Assassin’s Creed Origins, can climb just about anywhere thanks to the game’s new animation system, and that his combat maneuvers aren’t locked into rigid sequences because the producers have moved to a hitbox-based engagement system. Bayek’s unlimited inventory allows him to hoover up all the loot in Egypt, and his gear quality and level will determine how he fares against enemies. He has an eagle friend that helps him spot bad guys. There’s a giant snake. Bayek can drive chariots, ride camels and horses, as well as pilot boats.

Hold up a second. What’s that about a giant snake? As much as the Assassin’s Creed games have stretched credulity, the lore has always been grounded in a semblance of reality. Even when you were trading blows with a superpowered pope or listening to time-traveling ghosts from a progenitor race, there was a strict line between the science fiction elements and the historical tourism. This serpent monster would seem to cross that line. Ashraf Ismail, lead on Assassin’s Creed Origins, spoke to Eurogamer and pointedly did not explain the giant snake in the room.

What I will say about that is, because I know there are fans asking if we are going fantasy, is that we wanted to play with the mysticisms, the religion, the animal-headed gods… This was one credible, authentic way of imagining, from a mainstream perspective, what you might expect about Ancient Egypt.

Taking a cue from Ubisoft’s Far Cry games, it might be a dream sequence or a drug-induced vision. Perhaps it’s an illusory false god created by a power-mad priest? Whatever explanation accounts for the giant snake, we won’t know until October 27th when the game launches.

The necromancers are rising in Diablo III

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The Rise of the Necromancer pack is coming for Diablo III in just a few days. The $14.99 DLC adds the necromancer character class, two more character slots, and some cosmetic bits for players to fawn over. The necromancer is built around generating and directing mobs of undead minions. Also, they make corpses explode. The pack will arrive alongside the free 2.6.0 update which features Challenge Rifts, a weekly community throw-down based on selected character builds.

The Rise of the Necromancer will be available for PC, PlayStation 45, and Xbox One on June 27th. You must have either Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, or the Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition to add the necromancer pack to your game. Alternately, a Diablo III: Eternal Collection bundle with all Diablo III expansions and DLC will be available as well.

If we could only whistle to find Joy-Cons in Nintendo Switch’s latest update

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Have you lost a Joy-Con to the inky depths of the couch cushions? Left one in the bathroom, perched on the magazine stand? Maybe you just want to slip one into a friend’s backpack and remotely cause it to buzz like an errant sex toy? The latest system update for the Nintendo Switch has something to help you find misplaced controllers. Buried in the patch notes is this cool feature: “Find paired controllers within communication range by activating the vibration feature.” From the home menu, go to Controllers then select Find Controllers. As long as you have the Joy-Con’s vibrate setting on and it has sufficient battery power, the little guy will fire right up. Sounds like it’s time to start hiding Joy-Cons around the house!

Pokemon Go is all set to make a big comeback with your friends

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The last time you walked around in a park to capture Pokemon on your phone was probably a long time ago. If you’re like most of the estimated 28 million people that started playing Pokemon Go at launch in July, you stopped playing sometime in November or December of last year. You got busy during the holiday season and the novelty factor of finger-swiping pokeballs at bouncing Pidgeys wore off at that point. Niantic has periodically held special themed events like the Easter “Eggstravaganza” that increased the drop rate for eggs, but the trickle of updates hasn’t really offered anything to entice anyone but hardcore current players.

Pokemon Go’s upcoming summer update is going to add true cooperative play. Raid Battles are time-limited boss battles that can pop up at gyms. When one appears, up to a dozen players can cooperatively attack the monster to take it down. If they succeed, everyone in the group gets a chance to capture that monster along with being rewarded with some high-level loot. Participating in these cooperative events will require Raid Passes, which everyone can get once per day from gyms. Players will even be allowed to generate private lobby codes so they can fight with their buddies instead of random folks. Niantic says the raids are designed to bring back that feeling of discovery and cooperation that everyone had in the first weeks of the game.

Although there’s no set date for the public release of the update, high-level community members are testing it already.

You can watch Neill Blomkamp’s new work for free, but it’s in Steam early access

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Neill Blomkamp’s new short film is Rakka. You can watch it on YouTube, or on Steam for free right now. On Steam, you may notice a curious offer for optional DLC from Oats Studio. The Volume 1 Assets pack includes a 5.1 audio sound mix, a script, 3D models, and concept art for the film. The studio plans to release dallies, sound files, and visual effects documentation to purchasers at a later date.

“I just wonder if there’s a different way to have a one-on-one relationship with the audience.”

Blomkamp, the director of District 9, Chappie, and Elysium, started Oats Studio to focus on short films for himself and other filmmakers that wouldn’t get financed through the studio system. He plans to pay for it through donations and Steam DLC. His scheme sounds a lot like early access for games, in fact. Release an initial “volume” of a movie, get feedback from customers, then possibly adjust and continue. Additionally, Blomkamp expects buyers of the assets to use them for their own projects tied into the film. A bit like allowing users to create workshop mods for games, although there’s no word on if those audience collaborators will get a cut of Oats Studio’s revenue.

Just when you thought it was safe to be just an image, Xbox Avatars are coming back

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Microsoft announced a revamped Xbox Avatar program yesterday at E3 2017. The new Xbox Avatars have been redesigned with diversity and inclusiveness in mind, so for example, avatar clothing and accessories are no longer locked into gender categories. Prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs are options as well as a pregnancy “baby bump” and various other physical traits. According to the producers, the redesign is being done in Unity.

Xbox Avatars were originally launched in 2008 on the Xbox 360, but the characters dropped in popularity when the Xbox One launched which (as of now) does not feature them in any prominence. The new Avatars will launch this autumn on Windows 10, then later on Xbox One consoles, presumably with a user interface update that will give them more visibility.

Insurgency: Sandstorm will deliver the hokum Insurgency was missing

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That’s the trailer for Insurgency: Sandstorm, the sequel to Insurgency from New World Interactive. This time around, the game will have a campaign story, playable in single or cooperative modes. According to the developers, it’s a “deeply personal” tale of an “an unexpected journey” across a “war-torn landscape.”

Their objectives have aligned, and their vision of the war blurred as it touches each of them in different but converging ways.

Insurgency: Sandstorm will also have vehicles, character customization, and unlockable cosmetic items. It is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Sony says they aren’t doing cross-network play because please think of the children

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One of the big mysteries for Sony PlayStation gamers is the platform’s lack of cross-network play with Xbox. When Microsoft announced the cross-network play initiative earlier in the year, Sony only confirmed that they already had that ability since Final Fantasy 11 on the PlayStation 2 and PC. A cryptic but possibly hopeful answer to Microsoft’s invitation. Those hopes were dashed when Sony confirmed at E3 that Rocket League and Minecraft on PlayStation 4 would not be participating in the effort despite Nintendo pledging to make their versions of the games cross-network compatible. Eurogamer sat down with Sony PlayStation’s global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan and put the question directly to him.

We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft – the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it’s all ages but it’s also very young. We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.

When pressed for clarification since Nintendo, a company famously protective of their young audience, is willing to cooperate, Ryan offered, “Everybody has to take their own decisions.”

Nintendo’s E3 2017 spotlight video was – Oh, God! Metroid Prime!

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Nintendo once again declined to participate in the live stage awkwardness of E3, and instead broadcast a Spotlight video. E3 live stage presentations are a production boondoggle that Nintendo has wisely opted out of for the past few years. Safe-for-all-ages Mario and Pikachu just don’t cut it in an auditorium full of bloodthirsty gamers intent on chainsaw-shotgunning their way through hordes of zombies.

Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime and other luminaries stressed the competitive experiences on the Switch console. It will have ARMS, and Rocket League, and Splatoon 2, and Pokken Tournament DX! The Switch is portable, so take it anywhere and challenge other Switch gamers. It’s not like the Wii U, so please get out there and fight it out.

Yoshi and Kirby made appearances in their games coming to the Switch, battling it out for eponymous supremacy. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Fire Emblem Warriors competed for the “Most JRPG Dialogue” award. Ubisoft popped in to remind everyone that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle features combat of sorts. The upcoming DLC for Zelda: Breath of the Wild features a harder mode and a champions-focused prequel story. Super Mario Odyssey looks to be a platforming return to form for the plucky plumber.

Finally, we got a tease for Metroid Prime 4. More accurately, Nintendo showed off a title. A title that elicited orgasmic cries of glee from gamers.

Sony’s E3 2017 press briefing was heavy on sitars, VR, and Marvel

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How do you perplex an audience of gamers? Sony began their E3 2017 show with a musical number performed by live sitar players and drummers. Then, for maximum confusion, just as the new trailer for Uncharted: the Lost Legacy started, Sony dropped their audio feed for most outlets. Is this a Lara Croft game? No! It’s a spin-off from Uncharted, now with girl power tomb raiding. Don’t fix the audio just yet, Sony! You’ve got The Frozen Wilds DLC for Horizon Zero Dawn to put on the big screen and make gamers strain to hear it.

Unfettered by the need to push any new hardware, Sony concentrated on PlayStation games. Here, a tease for the PlayStation 4 remaster of Shadow of the Colossus. There, an extended look at Detroit: Become Human‘s main character and android revolutionary, Marcus. Sandwiched in-between was another look at totally not Walking Dead Days Gone. If spandex heroes mashed up with videogame licensed characters are your thing, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has got you covered. We got a peek at Call of Duty: WW II‘s cinematic take on action warfare. Monster Hunter: World reminded all the Horizon fans what fighting dinosaurs used to be like. Destiny 2 rolled out their first big bad guy, Dominus Ghaul, who should absolutely not remind anyone of a Halo boss.

PlayStation VR got some time on the stage. Bethesda announced Skyrim VR for everyone that thought clumsy-looking VR waggling should be extended to dragon shouts and Nords. If that wasn’t your thing, you could guide a mouse through VR environments in Moss. Too cute? Try The Inpatient, a VR horror title that takes players through another ho-hum haunted sanitarium.

Sony wrapped their show with two headline games. There was an extended trailer for God of War, with Kratos teaching his son how to commune with nature and find his inner peace. Also, how to tear his enemies apart by hand. The show ended with a good chunk of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. In the clip, the fearless web-slinger hit a dozen quick-time events and aped Rocksteady’s Batman as hard as he could. The quips were solid though, so the game has that going for it.

Ubisoft’s E3 2017 show knows how to take the wind out of your sales

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This is how you get gamers to cheer. Start your E3 press show by marching Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto on stage to play with goofy gun props and laugh with Yves Guillemot over Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Is there anything more infectious than Miyamoto’s smile? Sure, the game is a weird three-way between Ubisoft’s Rabbids, Nintendo’s characters, and XCOM’s tactical turn-based combat (complete with zoom-in views for dramatic shots) but with Miyamoto chuckling along it looks like a good time.

Without Aisha Tyler hosting, this year’s Ubisoft E3 show barreled through game announcements. The Crew 2 adds boats and speed planes to the open-world racing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a mob revenge story in the campaign this time around. Assassin’s Creed: Origins continued to wow folks with its lush recreation of ancient Egypt. Remember how you wanted someone to make a full game out of the piratey goodness in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag? Ubisoft Singapore took the ship-to-ship combat straight out of that game and made Skull and Bones out of it. It’s pirates and competitive multiplayer on the open seas. South Park: The Fractured But Whole made it’s 156th E3 showing. Elijah Wood and SpectreVision made their virtual reality debut with Transference. Full-motion video and VR? It’s like Lawnmower Man with Night Trap. We got a little snippet of gameplay in Far Cry 5. Hey, your best buddy in crazyland Montana will be a dog! Starlink: Battle for Atlas excited everyone until it turned out to be a toys-to-life game for the Nintendo Switch. Steep is going to going to the Olympics, and by that I mean the game is getting an official 2018 Winter Olympics expansion.

Finally, Ubisoft aired a cinematic trailer for a sequel to The Fifth Element, no wait, it was for Beyond Good and Evil 2. Gorgeous, evocative and exciting, right up until Ubisoft used these dreaded words: “Shared online playground.”

In the next expansion for XCOM 2, the aliens will choose you

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Firaxis has announced the War of the Chosen expansion for XCOM 2. The DLC will add enemy and allied hero units, as well as new environments, daily challenges, and story additions to the campaign. The new human factions will offer players their own unique abilities and heroes to combat the alien threat, which is good because the dastardly xenos have a trio of deadly warriors that are trying to recapture the Commander. Also, there are zombie hordes, because everything is better with zombie hordes.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen launches on PC on August 29th.

Bethesda finally let the other shoe drop on paid mods at E3 2017

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Bethesda announced paid mods for Skyrim: Special Edition and Fallout 4 via the upcoming Creation Club. This is something Bethesda has been creeping towards since their ill-fated experiment with Steam and the original version of Skyrim in 2015. This time, we’ll see if they get it right. It’s the Bethesda.net mod workshop but with curated community-made DLC you buy with credits. There’s no word yet on the exchange rate between real dollars and the Creation Club funny money, but you can assume it will be controversial no matter the cost.

The rest of Bethesda’s E3 2017 briefing was a parade of sequels and oddities. Doom VFR moves the demon ripping and tearing to virtual reality. How will Doom’s dance of death work in VR? It doesn’t. Movement seems to be changed to teleporting around. Fallout 4 VR offers the full open-world experience but with virtual fumbling and hand-waving. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a standalone serving of stealthy assassinating. Evil Within 2 showed off more inexplicable horror and things shuffling in the dark. Finally, BJ Blazkowicz returns in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

The Microsoft E3 2017 show premiered a new console and a new car

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Microsoft brought out a new Porsche for their E3 press briefing. The 2018 911 GT2 RS was silver and looked like it could go really fast. It was a “monster” according to the breathless presenters. The car was at the briefing to introduce Forza Motorsport 7, but it was obviously also a metaphor for the new Xbox One X console, formerly known as Project Scorpio. Scads of horsepower in a teeny package. And expensive. The Xbox One X will launch on November 7th for $499. I’m sure there will be holiday bundles for even more money.

Microsoft showed off 42 games in total. Some of them only got a couple of seconds of video during a buzz reel for the indie games program, but the company hammered on the fact that 22 of the games shown were exclusive to the console which is a fancy way of saying “Pay no attention to the PC you already have.”

4A Games kicked things off with a surprise announcement for Metro Exodus which puts fans back into post-apocalyptic Russia. Ubisoft showed Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which now has random loot and a Far Cry primal hawk buddy that acts like a sighting drone. If trolling and betrayal are your thing, PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds should be right up your alley. Speaking of trolling, Battlegrounds will be exclusive to Xbox. State of Decay 2‘s trailer presented a min-tale of finding a new survivor in the zombie apocalypse, saving her, letting her join your game, then ended with her ultimately leaving. Rare answered the question “How can we show Sea of Thieves with co-op plaers that do not exist in real life?” Super Lucky’s Tale looked like Conker’s Good Fur Day. Crackdown 3 rounded up the games section of the show with Terry Crews and some decidedly last-gen looking explosions.

Microsoft announced that the Backwards Compatibility Program will be extended to original Xbox games. Good news for people that have held on to their Crimson Skies or Fable disks.

Finally, BioWare ran through some canned gameplay for Anthem. Giant robots. Exosuits. Beasts. Open world co-op gameplay. Jump jets and random loot. It’s Destiny all smashed up with Horizon Zero Dawn and Titanfall. The video also took a cue from Sea of Thieves and presented co-op gaming wholly incongruous with reality.

Electronic Arts shows how much Star Wars they can fit into their E3 2017 show

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E3, now starting even earlier, kicked off with Electronic Arts’ EA Play press conference on Saturday. There was a lot of Star Wars. It’s EA, so of course there was the sports and bombast of various flavors, but droids, lightsabers, and Darths loomed large over the proceedings.

There was a taste of Madden 18‘s first-ever cinematic and playable story campaign, Longshot, which seems to take cues from the work already being done in other sports titles. We saw a glimpses of NBA Live 18‘s gameplay. EA Sports was keen to let everyone know that Cristiano Ronaldo supplied mo-cap for FIFA 18.

With the obligatory sports titles out of the way, EA demonstrated how much Need for Speed Payback could look like The Crew mashed together with The Fast and Furious movies sprinkled with a dash of Burnout spice. Battlefield 1 piped up to ask everyone not to forget about it. Josef Fares, the writer and director of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, presented a first look at his cooperative story game A Way Out. BioWare teased a snippet of Anthem, their new game. EA was so excited to let everyone know that Anthem was a “new IP” that you could almost see the disappointment of Mass Effect Andromeda peel away and float into space.

Finally, they got to the headliner of the show: Star Wars Battlefront II. With stormtroopers and fanfare EA kicked off a thirty-minute extravaganza of Lucasfilm videogaming. Their preview began with a mea culpa of sorts; by sheepishly acknowledging the criticism of Battlefront’s absent story campaign and map packs that split the community. All corrected this time around. An epic campaign story! All post-launch maps and modes for free! More charcater customization options! Remember that bit in the Star Wars prequel trilogy when there was a running gun battle on Queen Amidala’s home planet? Throw Han Solo, Yoda, Rey, and Boba Fett into it. Eschewing any sense of timeline coherency, EA and DICE have opted to let fans play with their toys like they did as kids. Why can’t Han Solo fight Separatist droids on Theed? This isn’t Star Trek! No one cares if it doesn’t make any sense!