Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what’s ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We’ll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
Today’s the day when the Mass Effect faithful can finally fall down a deep rabbit hole of remastered goodness. After years of fan murmurs and months of official hype, BioWare unleashes Mass Effect Legendary Edition onto modern consoles today, updating its classic sci-fi RPG trilogy with more than just an HD-fresh coat of paint.
Coming at a time when sci-fi games had only just begun to explore the idea that aliens and humans could be much more than shoot-’em-up enemies, BioWare’s original 2007 game carved out an RPG niche that went on to explode into a full-scale AAA gaming phenomenon. Though the original three-game series is a seriously big bite, we’ve already started diving into Legendary Edition’s newly-remastered trilogy, and are loving what we’re seeing so far.
But what do reviewers say? The original trilogy (sorry, Andromeda) casts its own long shadow over any efforts BioWare can make to update what most fans revere as a series whose underlying substance never needed too much massaging. But fortunately, Commander Shepard has the wind at her (or his) back as the series makes its big move onto 2021 hardware. Lots of media outlets are wisely saving their final verdicts until they’ve played through Legendary Edition’s sprawling three-game cycle, but as of this writing, the Xbox One version of the collection currently enjoys a 91 aggregate review score — based on a small handful of 7 reviews — at Metacritic. The PlayStation version doesn’t yet have enough reviews to go on, but the PC version isn’t too far behind its Xbox cousin, sitting at an 86 score based on five reviews.
All those numbers are likely to change once the big gaming outlets have finally had a chance to weigh in, but the early consensus seems to be that BioWare has done a deft job of nudging the games’ art style toward present-day gaming sensibilities, while (mostly) leaving alone all the major stuff that would thrust the trilogy into remake territory. Reviewers generally think the updated graphics (and subtle artistic retouchings) shine brightest when playing through the first game, which makes sense considering its relative age.
The one criticism that appears to pop up in more than one gaming outlet’s early playthrough is the strange quality the HD treatment lends to old-school character animations and facial expressions — a caveat that IGN and other reviews sites say probably won’t detract from the overall opportunity to see BioWare’s colorfully stylized Milky Way in, well, a whole new way.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition releases today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and is playable via backward-compatible functionality on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
DualSense gets colorful
Midnight Black and Cosmic Red…is the PlayStation 5 far behind? Sony sent fans into an online speculation frenzy this week by revealing a pair of strikingly nice new colors for the DualSense controller, leading many to wonder whether the new black and red colors setups are a preview of what’s to come for the PS5 itself.
PlayStation history suggests otherwise (the DualShock came in a rainbow of official Sony colors that never made the jump over to their PS4 console counterpart), but the DualSense reveal achieved the requisite measure of buzz for the PS5 — which, despite remaining notoriously hard to get, is still selling like there’s no tomorrow. Whether these colors are PS5-bound or not, they definitely look at home on the DualSense:
Sony went all in on the hype for the new shades, devoting an entire blog post to the expanding DualSense color family to explain the black-and-red rationale: “Midnight Black features two subtly different shades of black with light grey detailing to reflect how we view space through the night sky, and Cosmic Red offers a striking black and red design inspired by the unique vivid shades of red found throughout the cosmos.”
Fair enough — but we’re plenty content with “it looks cool.” In keeping with the original DualSense’s mono-color treatment for the face buttons, the new color pairs carry over to the shape buttons here, too. Sorry, old-school PlayStation purists: your square, circle, triangle, and X buttons will still bear the same predominating color of the controller itself in the DualSense’s sleek and minimal new color setup.
Sony hasn’t explicitly said so, but it sounds as though more colors could be on the way. “[T]his marks the first release of new colors for the DualSense controller,” the blog post states, suggesting, of course, that it may not be the last. To lend some substance to all the superficial (but admittedly awesome) color hype, Sony also dropped a separate blog post that lets game developers dive into all the ways they’re incorporating the DualSense’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback features into upcoming games. Check that out here, and watch for the new DualSense colors to show up “at participating retailers globally starting next month.”
E3 sets the virtual stage
Wondering how to virtually attend E3 this year? There’s an app for that…or at least there will be. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) revealed this week its plans for the return of the annual gaming showcase that, until recently, marked the high point for OMG-level announcements and big game reveals to set the tone for what fans can expect in the year to come.
The showcase was canceled due to COVID-19 last year, and has soldiered on without Sony (who again won’t be bringing a stage presence this year) — but organizers appear determined to get fans back in the game for next month’s virtual event, which is set to run from June 12-15. Major studios and console makers including Nintendo, Xbox, SEGA, Square Enix, Capcom, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Bandai Namco, Warner Bros. Games, and more will stream their stage presentations across YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook; while hosts Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, Greg Miller, and Jacki Jing will anchor the four-day online event.
To keep fans engaged (and simply make it easier to keep track of all the digital happenings from one convenient command center), ESA is setting up an online portal and crafting an E3 app that will serve in tandem as fan-customizable hubs to navigate all the press conferences, panels, game showcases and more.
Via VGC, both the portal and the app will feature virtual versions of E3’s exhibitor booths, fan hangout lounges, discussion forums, and LARP-y participant leaderboards, “[g]amified show elements that can be collected and displayed, encouraging fans to interact in as many ways as possible.” It’ll all run through a fan-made profile setup that allows all public participants to create virtual avatars and mingle, and the public-facing portion of the online portal is set to go live on June 12 — E3’s opening day.
A version of the official E3 app from years past is already available for free on mobile storefronts — but keep your eyes peeled in the weeks ahead for the updated 2021 version to make its first appearance ahead of the June 12 start date.
Tribeca dives deeper into gaming
Last week, the 2021 Tribeca Festival rolled out an honor roll of gaming entrants as part of the annual event’s inaugural round of Official Selections, “a first-of-its-kind opportunity for multiple video games in a film festival format since Rockstar Games’ L.A. Noire became the first video game ever to be honored as Official Selection at the 2011 Festival,” according to the event’s announcement.
The idea behind the Official Selections is to honor games that aspire to creative heights regardless of whether they’re among the year’s headline-stealing big-budget titles…or even whether they’ve been released yet. The list reflects that, with Ember Lab’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits (arriving Aug. 24) the highest-profile name among a field that also includes Harold Halibut, Lost in Random, NORCO, Sable, Signalis, The Big Con, and Twelve Minutes.
“The titles will be in competition for the inaugural Tribeca Games Award, which honors an unreleased game for its potential for excellence in art and storytelling through design, artistic mastery and highly immersive worlds,” Tribeca explains, with the festival itself set to unfold over two weeks in New York from June 9-20.
Peppered among the overall festivities will be a “special live outdoor performance in New York City’s The Battery, featuring Red Dead Redemption 2 Original Soundtrack producer Daniel Lanois” along with with a full band and “some very special guests” for a highlight-reel audio tour through RDR2’s iconic Americana-infused soundtrack. The Tribeca Games lineup also will include a slate of hands-on activities via the Tribeca At Home virtual hub, including a fan-facing feature that allows players to experience “digital [game] demos from emerging and established creators.”
Check out more of what’s in store for the Tribeca Games lineup at Tribeca’s event page, ahead of the festival’s June 9 kickoff.
– It may not be big in Japan, but Resident Evil Village is off to a terrifyingly hot start around the world. Even as Japanese gaming outlet Famitsu (via VGC) reported RE: Village has so far sold an underwhelming 149,884 copies at home (compared with the 231,188 copies that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard sold in 2017), Capcom revealed that it had shipped 3 million copies worldwide of Ethan Winters’ chilling misadventures through Village’s first week on sale. More than past RE games, we think Village is a complete experience — one with a fascinating game map, a killer stash of upgradeable weapons, and tons of diverse locations to explore…or at least die trying.
Hotel Transylvania is getting ghoulish on consoles this year, and just in time for Halloween. Outright Games and Sony Pictures Consumer Products have just announced Hotel Transylvania: Scary-Tale Adventures, a 3D action platformer that takes a twisted tour through the film franchise’s cheekily creepy haunts. Packing in fan-favorite characters from animated movie series, Hotel Transylvania: Scary-Tale Adventures is set to scare its way onto PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as Nintendo Switch and PC, sometime this October.
– Want to train your dragon in Minecraft? Now you can, thanks to a new DreamWorks collaboration that whisks players away to the Island of Berk. DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon went live this week as a DLC add-on available for Minecraft on pretty much every platform you can think of, from Sony to Microsoft to Nintendo to PC to mobile. Check out Mojang’s landing page for all the fire-breathing details.
– ICYMI: SEGA is eyeing its long-dormant Dreamcast gaming vault for a reintroduction to modern-day players. All the fun details are here, but the takeaway is simple: If you’re a fan of Crazy Taxi, Altered Beast, Jet Set Radio, Virtua Fighter, Streets of Rage and much more, there’s a decent chance that you’ll be seeing your nostalgic Dreamcast visions reappear for real — at least in some form — on consoles in the months and years ahead.
– After pleasing PC fans (and puzzling some console players with glitchy framerates), dystopian slasher Ghostrunner is getting a next-gen sequel. New publisher 505 Games (who takes the reins from original Ghostrunner publisher All In! Games) revealed this week that it’s planning a followup to last year’s fast-paced cyberpunk parkour fest, and that it’ll be coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. For now, that’s all we know, so keep your blade sharp as we wait for a trailer and news of a release date.
– Is this why we can’t have nice things? Pokémon trading card packs have surged in value for reasons that appear to stem in part from pandemic-related scarcity, as well as a series of super-popular special editions that made it hard to catch ‘em all at McDonald’s drive-throughs earlier this year. Welp, starting today, Target is instituting a franchise-wide ban for on-site sale of Pokémon trading packs at its U.S. stores, according to Game Informer — a decision made after one too many eager collectors allegedly chose violence to secure their cherished Charizards. The ban also reportedly applies to NBA, MLB, and NFL trading cards, though collectors will still be able to nab their packs — including Pokémon cards — via Target’s online storefront.