The Gaming Headlines, Feb 20-27, 2023 – WGB, Home of AWESOME Reviews
A week has passed so it’s time to discuss some of the gaming headlines from the past 7 days. The news has been a little bit quiet this week so there’s nothing industry-shaking to talk about, but there have been four stories I wanted to tackle.
Before that, I wanted to quickly talk about what I’ve been playing. Hogwarts Legacy continues to consume a good chunk of my life, but I’ve stepped back from that a little because I have two games in for review: Company of Heroes 3 and Pharoah: A New Era. Both are scratching that itch I have for RTS gameplay, and both are intent on reminding me that I have the strategic thinking skills of a Labrador.
Company of Heroes 3 feels very familiar in its gameplay despite the length of time since the last game. Flanking machine guns, smashing through walls with tanks, unleashing artillery and barely holding on to territory feels awesome. But as much as I love the core gameplay, the biggest addition to the game is a new turn-based strategic map and it’s a little disappointing. It builds off of the Ardennes expansion for Company of Heroes 2 and on paper should be an awesome addition, bringing a bigger strategic layer to the tactical real-time battles. So far, though, it’s clunky and not explained very well.
As for Pharoah: A New Era, it’s really awesome to see a classic making a comeback. I played Pharoah a lot when I was a kid, and I’ve been looking forward to getting back into it. I’ve not spent much time with it yet, though, so I can’t comment much on the changes that have been made to the gameplay. What I can say is the UI isn’t great. That seems to be a pattern these days.
I’m also looking forward to firing up Atomic Heart at some point thanks to Game Pass. I’ve heard a lot of wildly differing things about the game, and prior to its launch, I was pretty interested. I just have not had the time to get to it yet.
EA Polls Fans On Dead Space 2 & 3
Game developer Dillon Rogers, the maker of Gloomwood, posted up a screenshot on Twitter of a survey that EA sent out, asking, “How interested would you be in a similar remake of Dead Space 2?” and the exact same question for Dead Space 3.
It’s hardly a surprise. The remake of Dead Space was a critical hit, currently sitting at a “Mighty” rating on Open Critic. And it seems to be doing well commercially, too, hitting 2nd on the US monthly software chart after just 2 days of sale. Not too shabby, eh?
Dead Space 2 was generally considered a worthy sequel to the original, giving main character Isaac a voice for the first time (something which the remake of the first games also does,) adding in some bigger set pieces and keeping up the creeping dread. Dead Space 3, though, is typically seen as the worst of the three. Despite the second game doing well, EA said, “you need to get to audience sizes of around five million to really continue to invest in an IP like Dead Space” which resulted in the third game attempting to appeal to a broader audience. The horror was toned down and there was a heavy emphasis on co-op. Instead of tense encounters with one or two enemies, the game threw dozens of Necromorphs at players who were able to gun them down. Space horror was out, and space adventure was in.
The question becomes whether EA and Motive will attempt to redesign Dead Space 3 in order to bring it more in line with the first two games. Indeed, can they even do that without fundamentally changing what Dead Space 3 is? Or, as a remake, should they smooth out the rough edges but maintain the original vision of the game?
Regardless, it looks like we’ll have a complete trilogy of remakes in the next few years.
Warner Bros. Accidentally Announces Mortal Kombat 12 And Confirms Hogwarts Legacy Has Sold A Bunch
Warner Bros. Discovery published its financial results for the ninth months leading up to December of 2022, and provided a glimpse at how well Hogwarts Legacy is doing in the process. Despite many calls to boycott the game, they revealed that Hogwarts Legacy has already sold over 12 million copies, generating £850 million in sales. Hogwarts Legacy was only released on February 10th, so those are incredibly impressive numbers that will only rise, especially because the last-gen versions haven’t even been released yet. According to Warner Bros. these numbers make Hogwarts Legacy their biggest videogame launch ever.
The company did reveal more financial information but it’s a little hard to determine exactly how well its videogame business is doing. They reported $11 billion in total revenue for the first 9 months of the fiscal year. Videogames fall within the Content segment which was responsible for $3.6 billion, but so does home entertainment, TV licensing and so on.
During the call, CEO David Zaslav let slip an interesting little detail when he referred to Mortal Kombat 12. If you haven’t been keeping up, Mortal Kombat 12 hasn’t actually been officially announced, and while most of us assumed it was coming owing to the success of Mortal Kombat 11 it was a little surprising to see it so casually tossed into the conversation. Even more surprising was that it’s supposed to be coming this year, specifically mentioned alongside other 2023 release Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. I’d imagine Ed Boon is going to be a little annoyed at having the surprise ruined. I Expect a trailer to be released within the next week or two.
Suicide Squad Will Require An Internet Connection
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League has become yet another game to require an online connection regardless of whether it is played solo or in co-op.
A newly-published QA on the official website states, “Yes, an internet connection is required to play Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League solo or via online co-op.”
I assume this is because of the drop-in/drop-out co-op. However, the obvious problem is that if the game’s servers are ever shut down the whole thing becomes unplayable unless the developers patch it to run without a connection. Even the recent Gotham Knights, also published by Warner Bros., allows for proper offline play. In fact, the much more online-focused disaster that was Marvel’s The Avengers let people play offline, letting people continue to check out the story even once the servers shut down later this year.
It was also revealed that Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League will indeed have a battle pass featuring cosmetic-only items. Of course, this information was discovered weeks back when a leaked image clearly showed a battle pass on the corner of the screen, drawing the ire of many people. It seems these days we can’t escape battle/season passes.
Rocksteady seems to have a fight on its hands because its new gameplay footage has been heavily downvoted. They showed off fifteen minutes of gameplay and most of it displayed a generic third-person shooter, each character playing mostly the same. Even King Shark was just gunning stuff down. Combined with the “deep” loot system and the battlepass, people are already wondering if this is going to be more of a live service game with a lot of grinding.
It’s a fear that I feel. We’ve seen superhero games going down this route and crashing hard. Rocksteady’s return has been highly hyped. They haven’t released a game since 2016 when they put out Batman: Arkham VR, a lengthy period of time to stay out of the public eye considering they created one of the greatest licensed games ever in the original Batman: Arkham Asylum. Needless to say, there has to be some pressure on the company to follow up with something special.
Ukraine Attempts to Stop Sales of Atomic Heart
Atomic Heart launched last week to a mixed reception. The Mundfish-developed game currently holds a “Fair” rating over on Opencritic, with the top critic average being 74. It’s also a highly controversial game as Mundfish are a Russian developer and numerous reports and articles have supposedly linked the studio in various ways to the Russian government. For example, the Russian release of the game is being handled by VK who are majority owned by the government, and one of their big investors is GEM, an investment fund founded by Gazprom and VTB Bank, both majority-owned by the Russian government.
Mundfish have its headquarters in Cyprus, and allegedly has developers from across the world working for them.
In short, the allegation is that by purchasing Atomic Heart you could be indirectly funding the Russian regime, and therefore also be funding their continued war on Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government has called for people to boycott the game, stating that they intend on writing a letter to Microsoft, Sony and Valve to ask the companies to remove the game from sale on digital platforms in Ukraine, and requesting that they consider limiting its sale in other regions.
“(…)we call for all users worldwide to avoid this game. We also want to emphasize that the game developers have not publicly condemned the Putin regime and the bloody war that Russia has unleashed against Ukraine.”
This statement is perhaps a tad unfair because as a Russian studio, it’s illegal for Mundfish to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, not to mention highly dangerous. While individuals can and have got away with voicing their condemnation of Russia’s actions, Putin’s government is much more likely to take note of a company releasing a public statement. And no matter Mundfish’ views on the subject, I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to keep themselves safe.
In the modern era, it has become practically impossible to live a guilt-free life when it comes to the products we use on a daily basis. Social media has only made the issue worse thanks to groups of people attacking others based on what they buy, play and watch. We saw that recently with Hogwarts Legacy where people were bullied and attacked for playing the game and accused of agreeing with J.K. Rowling’s views on transgender people if they so much as looked in its direction.
The point I’m making is that the choice is yours and yours alone. The only difference I see between Hogwarts Legacy and Atomic Heart is that, if true, Atomic Hearts‘ money will end up being used to quite literally kill people, whereas all Rowling did was voice an opinion that may have hurt some feelings. And whether or not you decide to buy Atomic Heart, don’t let people guilt you into feeling like you have to make grand proclamations on Twitter about where you stand.
Another good example is Tencent, also a big investor in Mundfish. As a Chinese-based company, Tencent is heavily linked to the Chinese government and its many questionable activities. Unfortunately for us gamers, Tencent has got its tendrils in dozens and dozens of publishers and developers, making it very hard to steer clear. If you want to keep your hands metaphorically clean, you also have to be willing to give up playing an awful lot of games.
It’s also worth considering that Microsoft paid Mundfish to get Atomic Heart onto Game Pass.
In short, if you want to virtue signal online, the chances are you have or are supporting a bunch of people involved in a variety of morally and ethically dubious things, so think about it first.