Please Stand By: Fallout 4 Unveiled

Fallout 4Strap on your power suits. Bethesda decided to drop an early bomb leading up to their first E3 press conference by officially pulling Fallout 4 out of the vault.

Too many references in that lede? Fallout 4 is expected to launch on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Windows PC.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Boston, Fallout 4 is the first title in the long running RPG franchise sine 2008’s Fallout 3 spin-off, Fallout: New Vegas. Bethesda successfully married the themes and aesthetics of the old turn based, grid combat games of the late ’90s into a sprawling open world exploration¬†game that mashes the mechanics of its RPG roots with modern shooter and adventure game elements.

It has been easily Bethesda’s biggest question mark following Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas’ universal success. While only a little of information was delivered in the initial trailer, we do know one thing.

War. War never changes.

Rumor Alert: Microsoft in Talks to Acquire Silent Hills from Konami

Silent HillsRumor has it that Microsoft is in talks with Konami to purchase the cancelled Silent Hills game off of the restructuring publisher. The anonymous industry source comes by way of Rooster Teeth’s The Know program, with reporting done by the Funhaus team.

Lawrence Sonntag, the team’s resident reporter/podcast host, declined to reveal the source’s identity, but cited its past reliability in allowing their team (then Inside Gaming) to report on Microsoft’s plans to sell an Xbox One without the Kinect. The rumor turned out to be true, despite Microsoft trumpeting the Xbox One + Kinect marriage in the months leading up to the release.

As for Silent Hills, Microsoft is hoping to get a deal finalized before E3 so that they can trot it out during their press conference. Microsoft is hungry for exclusives, and rightly so. It is the one area that Microsoft currently has the leg up on against Sony and gaining a storied franchise, especially one with as much drama and clout as Silent Hills, would be a significant gain for the Xbox One. Say what you will about The Master Chief Collection, but the Xbox One’s exclusives have been consistently better and more numerous than Sony’s, which have been marred by mediocrity (The Order: 1886), broken gameplay (Driveclub) and lengthy delays (Uncharted 4).

Even better news is that Silent Hills is rumored to be about 80% complete and would put Microsoft on track to push the game out early in 2016 with a potential March target.

Even further complexing this twisted drama is that the removal of P.T. from the PlayStation store was done as a move of good faith for Konami to Microsoft. By removing the most talked about demo in recent memory from their direct competitor, Microsoft is putting themselves to truly benefit from the acquisition of Silent Hills.

Beyond the rumor, there is no word on how production of Silent Hills will progress moving forward. Whether or not either Guillermo del Toro or Hideo Kojima will be brought on or whether Microsoft will be taking the entire franchise from Konami or just the Silent Hills game. The deal is rumored to be in the billions so odds are that the deal would be for Microsoft to take the entire franchise which is ironic considering the game’s birth on the Sony PlayStation.

If Microsoft does acquire the game from Konami, it will be interesting to see if they are able to convince Kojima to partner up with them for the game’s completion. He is, after all, rumored to be out of a job at the end of the year. It might be a little tight, but he could conceivably be allowed to work as a private contractor if his status at Konami has indeed been changed. Even without Kojima involved, gaining Silent Hills or even the entire franchise would benefit Microsoft significantly. Microsoft is positioning themselves from a software angle to be able to combat Sony’s stronger hardware. It was a strategy that ultimately worked for Sony with the PlayStation 3 lagging behind the Xbox 360.

Need for Speed, Don’t Call it a Comeback (Reboot)

Need for SpeedElectronic Arts is calling their next entry into their iconic Need for Speed series a reboot, echoing buzzwords and happy memories of the many highpoints that the racing series has provided over the past 20 years. Announced with their signature “in-game engine” teaser trailer, a Porsche and a Mustang are sliding around a city’s late night streets as police cruisers scream after them in tow.

Whatever Electronic Arts is up to, their marketing team needs to stop using lowest common denominator terms. It is insulting.

Let’s be honest.

Need for Speed does not deserve the term “reboot”. It is a series that’s sole purpose has been racing and that style of racing has changed from title to title. Sure the early Need for Speed games were just about racing exotics through the country hills, NFS3: Hot Pursuit added police chases. Then it got crazy with Underground’s popularity, which led to Most Wanted and the proliferation of the incredibly campy (but slightly endearing) FMV cutscenes. But what did NFS ProStreet, Carbon, Shift or Rivals have to do with any of this formula?

Need for SpeedNeed for Speed does not have a formula beyond fast cars, loose arcade style physics with the modern focus of police pursuits that has been a recurring feature for over 15 years.

So to call it a reboot is incorrect. Nothing has changed about Need for Speed. EA has gotten progressively more impatient with the development studios that have done great things (and mediocre things) for the franchise. Black Box brought on the popularity of Underground but met their end after ProStreet, Undercover and The Run were underwhelming. Criterion Games, one of the best arcade racing development studios of all time, flamed out after two games. Both Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted were critical darlings, but had trouble latching on to audiences in the way that past games had. Criterion ended up handing Need for Speed off to Ghost games, which made the decent but hardly attention grabbing Rivals.

I speak from an angle of adoration for the Need for Speed franchise. I want it to do good things, which is why I stuck by it over the years. It will likely never be the best racing game on the market, but it has managed to carve out a particular following with a great combination of mechanics and loose arcade-style freedom. I trumpeted praise for 2012’s Most Wanted, despite its slightly hollow core. I played through the entirety of The Run and concluded that the best moments of the game were contained in the demo. I adored Porsche Unleashed’s 4 point physics model that was unheard of in the franchise. I modded High Stakes, became obsessed with Underground and think Shift is the most underrated title in the franchise. But Electronic Arts can not lie to us.

Need for SpeedThe phrase that stands out in Electronic Arts’ announcement is “deep customization, authentic urban car culture, a nocturnal open world, and an immersive narrative that pulls you through the game.” They can tout a reboot as much as they want. But at the end of the day, they’re going back to a game that ended up making their biggest successes. This is Underground. This is Most Wanted. This is Rivals. This is Hot Pursuit. This is every Need for Speed game that they’ve ever made, put into one product. They are desperately fighting for recognition. Maybe they should bring back Black Box.

But unless it has FMV cutscenes. It’s not a reboot.

Lego Dimensions Goes Back…with Christopher Lloyd

Lego DimensionsWarner Brothers Interactive released a new Lego Dimensions trailer that featured veteran actor Christopher Lloyd in a throwback to his famed Back to the Future character, Doc Brown. Shot in a similar manner as the game’s debut trailer that featured actor/comedian Joel McHale, Lloyd jumps right back into arguably his most famed role.

While a nice little sight for fans of the Back to the Future franchise, I’m not quite sure what Warner Brothers is trying to achieve with Lego Dimensions. The Lego games have been an absolute success for them over the years but their entry into the Toys to Life fracas feels a little bit like throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks. They’ve already confirmed that Back to the Future will be touted along with The Lord of the Rings, DC Comics and The Lego Movie but throw in additional playsets and Lego Dimensions is beginning to sound like outright insanity. Additional playsets and figures continue to be leaked/announced after last month’s debut, including Jurassic World, Scooby Doo, The Wizard of Oz, The Simpsons, Doctor Who and Portal.

I am absolutely intrigued by the idea of so many different worlds being smashed together, but it remains to be seen if Traveller’s Tales can build a world that will do justice to the source material.

It’s Time to Let Go of Konami

KonamiKonami, as we knew it, is done.

The sooner that fact is understood, the sooner the healing process can begin.

I know it’s going to be tough, but together we can bear through this. Konami was amazing. They were at the center of some of gaming’s iconic franchises over the course of 20 years. Not only did they bring Metal Gear and Silent Hill into the conversation of modern gaming’s best but they also put out the classics Frogger, Castlevania and Contra.

So why would a company as rich a history as Konami seem to be having a fire sale?

Living through the successes of their past does not guarantee success in the future. Especially in the Video Games industry that has seen Atari go out of business just to be resurrected for the name alone, Sega unceremoniously bullied out of the console space and THQ implode around themselves, despite being on the verge of becoming a true AAA publisher.

Metal Gear Rising: RevengeanceAsk yourself this, are you really surprised that this happened?

In recent years, Konami’s only games that performed well enough to turn a noticeable profit have been entries into their Winning 11/Pro Evolution Soccer series and Metal Gear. But none of the entries were chart burners. Metal Gear Rising: Revengence, the last full Metal Gear game, brought in an external developer (albeit a stellar one in Platinum) and only managed to draw 1.7 million copies in global sales across both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In contrast, the last true Metal Gear Solid title, MGS4, sold nearly 6 million copies worldwide.

The brutal truth of Konami’s involvement in games development is that the sales numbers are no longer worth the massive investment it takes to properly develop games for home consoles. Letting classic franchises like Castlevania, Contra and even Hudson’s Bomberman are byproducts of Konami’s prolonged exit from the home console space.

It seems that the only thread holding everything together was Metal Gear and Hideo Kojima. Kojima has long been a proponent of innovation, artful direction and games as a medium to rival film and television entertainment. Behind Kojima Metal Gear became the mammoth property that Konami held dear and was responsible for spearheading the ambitious Silent Hills project as well as a major factor in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainBut let’s be honest. Metal Gear has become a whale in the boardroom. Producing a multi-million dollar entertainment game only increased in size as Kojima ballooned the project out to include luxury features like casting Keifer Sutherland, building their own game engine and creating the multi-SKU nightmare that was Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain. Combined with insane publicity stunts with the infamous Joakim Mogren stunt, Kojima, while brilliant, had become a liability.

The only reason why we are really noticing that Konami is unceremoniously leaving traditional gaming development is because of the ill-timed confluence of events. Kojima and Konami falling out. Metal Gear Solid V’s rocky development period. Silent Hills cancelled. Delisting themselves from the New York Stock Exchange. Konami no longer cares about developing games to create worlds and tell stories. They are a company, who happens to have made a few successful games. They also have health clubs. They also make pachinko machines. They also make slot machines.

So when Konami CEO Hideki Hayakawa said, “Gaming has spread to a number of platforms, but at the end of the day, the platform that is always closest to us, is mobile. Mobile is where the future of gaming lies,” I am disappointed but I am not surprised.

KonamiOr when the state of Nevada approves a bill that allows for gambling games of skill to be including in casinos, a move spearheaded by Konami’s gambling division president Thomas Jingoli, I am not surprised. Odds are the only chance we have at seeing a new game of Frogger is on a skill based slot machine in Vegas.

And that is depressing.

But you know what, it’s okay. I am glad that Kojima is leaving Konami. He is better than what Konami is now. It is a shame that Metal Gear will not leave Konami with Kojima. After all, it was poor production and direction that kept pulling Kojima back into the Metal Gear projects.

However Metal Gear Solid V performs this Fall, I’m sure it will make a ton of money for Konami. Let them relish in it. Let them lie through their teeth about it. Forget about the Konami you loved. Because that Konami will be long gone after this year.

This Doom Teaser is Shorter Than This Headline

While technically a teaser trailer, Bethesda gave an (extremely) brief glimpse of the upcoming Doom game which will be presumably shown at their E3 press conference. Doom is actually the fourth game in the Doom franchise but Bethesda and Id Software decided to drop the numeration and focus on creating a visceral game, akin to the tone and speed of the original 3D corridor shooter.

Here’s what I expect. It will be pretty because Id makes incredible looking games. There will be some demons. Hopefully it will be a hip fire shooter with no iron sights, because lets be honest, That’s what Doom is.