Ten After Ten: 5/10/19-5/19/19

Four Game/Movie Releases

A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence follows a sister and her little brother as they try to survive in medieval France, fighting against plague rats and the Inquisition. In a video game landscape where the few singleplayer games are open-world, having a narrative-driven linear game is a nice change of pace. I have been following this game since E3 2017, and I am glad that the game seems to be paying off with its gripping tale, interesting setting, and rat mechanics. Hopefully I can play this game before the end of the year, because I think this could be a contender for my top ten games of the year.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Over the past few years, I have come to love the John Wick series for its excellent choreography, cinematography, and world building. I didn’t get the chance to see the first two films in theater, so I made sure this time by going on the day of its release. Long story short, this is a John Wick film in all of its glory. The fight scenes are better (and more brutal) than ever, the world building only gets even crazier, the strange humor gets even more refined, and the colors are more neon. The one disappointment I had with the film is that it doesn’t end up being the third film to nicely wrap up a trilogy, instead feeling like a film built for a sequel. Still, I had a blast with the movie, and any fan of the Baba Yaga will find even more fun here.

Rage 2

Rage 2 is the followup to, get this, Rage, and it’s about the last Ranger fighting against a military power known as the Authority. When I heard this game was being developed by Id and Avalanche, I pretty much knew right away how this game would turn out. Lo and behold, I was right, because hearing that the shooting is excellent while the world is reminiscent of Far Cry’s checkbox design came as no surprise to me. Still, I enjoy playing these type of open-world games, and I do enjoy its post-apocalyptic anarchy vibe. I can’t say I’m surprised it didn’t knock the socks off of people, but I still think Rage 2 is a fun time.

Snakeybus

Ending this list is a little game called Snakeybus, which takes the idea of the classic Snake game and re-imagines the snake as a bus picking up passengers. This game came out of nowhere, but it looks like a blast in the dumbest, silliest ways. Trying to drive around with a mile-long bus and seeing the other half of your bus in a giant arch because you jumped earlier looks so dumb, but a lot of fun at the same time. Plus, one of the bus options is a cluster truck from Clustertrucks, which that alone sells me on this game. This is a very one-note game, but one I want to play because of its gameplay.

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Three News Stories

Starbreeze Studio on the Brink

According to a recent financial report, Starbreeze studios, known for Payday 2 and Overkill’s The Walking Dead, are not doing so well. If no new funds are found, the studio is expected to close shop by mid-2019. While Starbreeze’s decline can be seen as a result of lower sales, there are a few recent notable events that started the downfall of the company. One major event event involves the “negative accounting effect of the sale of System Shock 3,” which eventually led the studio to sell the publishing rights back to the developers. Another event is the failure of Overkill’s The Walking Dead, which both saw poor sales and a termination of contract between Starbreeze and Skybound.

Not too long after the financial report, Rockstar Games picked up Dhurva Interactive from Starbreeze. Dhurva Interactive is an art studio in India that has worked on titles such as Payday 2, Halo, and more. Rockstar is buying Starbreeze’s shares of the company, and Dhurva is expected to continue work on their current projects as well as help out with Rockstar’s projects.

The situation at Starbreeze isn’t looking good, which is a shame considering I am a fan of their games. It’s never fun when a studio shuts down and people lose their jobs, so at least it’s good that they are being public about this instead of holding this information in until the very end. Let’s hope the tides change in their favor.

Sony and Microsoft Partnership

Microsoft and Sony have decided to work together on a couple of different projects. These projects include the development of cloud solutions for Microsoft Azure and how Azure can be used for Sony’s streaming services, developing new image sensors and combining them with Azure, combining Sony products with Microsoft’s AI platform, and other things way over my head.

The partnership is a pretty big deal, showing another milestone in the unification of video game companies. Whether or not these changes will affect their boxes in any major way, however, is yet to be seen. This partnership can also lead to other partnership down the line, and what that partnership could entail may be interesting.

Netflix at E3, Activision Skipping

E3 is inching closer, though the state of E3 seems to be up in the air. In a surprise twist, Netflix announced that they will have a booth at E3. Through a Twitter thread between NX on Netflix, a Twitter account focusing on sci-fi content, and the E3 Twitter account, the two went back and fourth talking about a Netflix panel (in a totally non-scripted way). If the tweets are to be believed, the panel will be called "Bringing Your Favorite Shows to Life: Developing Netflix Originals into Video Games," and the only thing confirmed at the panel is their upcoming Stranger Things game, though they say more will come. My guess is there will be something on the upcoming Peaky Blinders game, but that isn’t confirmed. One thing is for sure though: the panel is going to be interesting.

In other E3 news, Activision is not having a floor presence at E3. The company is sticking to private meetings instead, with a representative stating “While we won't have a traditional space on the show floor, we look forward to participating at E3 across a number of activities.” EA, on the other hand, is partnering up with E3, though what means isn’t entirely known.

E3 is changing as we know it, and whether or not it survives this change is yet to be seen.

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Two Blogs

The first blog, on the 14th, is the beginning of a new franchise ranking. I am taking on the Yakuza series, starting with Yakuza Zero. The first game in a ranking is important, as for it sets the precedent for the rest of the series. The precedent this game sets up is incredible. The story is long and convoluted, feeling more like a TV show than a long movie. The combat is a lot of fun, and mastering each move to dish out maximum brutality is fun to learn. The world and the things you can do in it are small yet compact and detailed like few other games I have played. Yet despite all of that, this game feels more down-to-Earth in its tone compared to other games. This game is obviously at the number one spot because, well, it’s the only game on the rank so far, but I predict it is going to stay up top for a good amount of time.

My Thoughts on Pandemic Express

The second blog is on the multiplayer shooter Pandemic Express. The game is about either being human and trying to reach the station on a train, or being a zombie and trying to turn other humans. It’s a simple premise, but one that works very well. Playing both sides is a blast, and dying in this game doesn’t mean losing. On top of that, the traversal mechanics are a lot of fun to master, and I am in love with its unique art style. The game still has a ways to go in terms of its bug fixing, features, and balancing, but what is there is already a blast.

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One Game I am Playing

Shakedown Hawaii

Thanks to the fine folks at Vblank Entertainment, I have been playing Shakedown Hawaii. A successor to Retro City Rampage, Shakedown Hawaii is a top-down open-world action game about an old CEO who is building his business empire back up after it decayed. Long story short, this is essentially a retro top-down Grand Theft Auto with an emphasis on business. I have actually 100% completed the game, so my time with the game is over as of this writing, but the time I had with the game was a blast. The top-down action and large variety of weapons are fun to use, the humor (which is usually more miss than hit with me in video games) is actually pretty spot-on and made me laugh quite a bit, and the business meta-game (which actually allows me to buy every single building on the map), is a fun little way to make a lot of cash without it being too intrusive. Towards the end, the game started to peter out, with missions getting more repetitive and my business making a stupid amount of money but without anything to spend the money on. Still, my time with the game is solid, and I can’t wait to try out Retro City Rampage in the near future. Expect a full review of the game soon.