We never like seeing games get delayed, but Until Dawn illustrates why more time in the development cooker can make a world of difference. Originally designed as a first-person horror game for PlayStation 3’s Move controllers, British developer Supermassive Games realized the game was more enjoyable when played from the third-person perspective, and also found out people didn’t want to buy a strange controller to play a game. Sony granted the team more development time to change the vision, which just happened to occur during a console transition, meaning the game needed to move to PlayStation 4.
When Until Dawn was first shown at Gamescom in 2012, I didn’t think much of it, and questioned the decision to make games exclusively for Move. Years went by and Until Dawn became a distant memory, until it resurfaced on PlayStation 4 in a video that blew me away. I didn’t know it was the same game. It was moody, legitimately scary, and I got a huge kick out of seeing the cheerleader from the Heroes TV show in a starring role. That would be Hayden Panettiere. In that trailer, Supermassive nailed the teen slasher flick vibe, and I was all in.
When the game finally released on August 25, 2015, after beginning development in 2010, I played all the way through it in one sitting, and immediately called it the sleeper hit of the year. No one was talking about it, yet it probably should have been in discussion for Game of the Year. Nothing was going to touch The Witcher III: Wild Hunt that year, but I thought it was brilliant. On my Top 10 list for the year, I listed Until Dawn as my number five pick, behind The Witcher III (at number one), Batman: Arkham Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Bloodborne. That was a hell of a year for games.
So what did Until Dawn get right other than the slasher-flick setting? Meaningful player choice, do-or-die consequences, acting, scripting, and twists and turns you won’t see coming. It also makes you realize that, under pressure, you too do the absurd things you see characters in slasher flicks do. We yell at them on the screen for getting themselves killed, and yet, making the wrong choice here, which is sometimes obvious, puts you in those same shoes.
I don’t want to give away what happens in Until Dawn, as everyone just needs to experience it for themselves, but it goes places, to wonderful and scary places. In my first playthrough, only three of the teens survived. I played it again to save them all. Your choices matter that much.
The game features the writing talents of Larry Fessenden & Graham Reznick, and stars Panettiere as Samantha Giddings, Peter Stormare as Dr. Hill, and Rami Malek as Joshua Washington, among others. Yes, that Rami Malek.
So why bring up Until Dawn now? Supermassive’s spiritual successor, The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan, releases on August 30. It’s not only one of my most anticipated games of the month, but the year, right behind Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Play Until Dawn, and I bet you’ll be counting the days until Man of Medan hits. Supermassive created one of the most unique and enjoyable horror games to date, and I hope they can do it again next week.
Following a dispute with Activision over Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 royalties, Infinity Ward co-founders and figureheads Vince Zampella and Jason West were unceremoniously removed from the studio. The two went on to form Respawn Entertainment and created the Titanfall series. Several key members of the Infinity Ward team that worked on games like Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 followed Zampella and West to Respawn, leaving a vastly different team to work on Modern Warfare 3 and subsequent titles.
However, over the last couple of years, an interesting trend has emerged: Several of those departing members are back at Infinity Ward. It began with former art lead Joel Emslie, who served as art lead on Titanfall and Titanfall 2, and continued with former designer Geoff Smith, lead animator Mark Grigsby, and a few others.
Emslie’s motivation was driven by his love for Counter-Strike, which made him want to come back to more grounded combat. “I remember a point in time when I was just getting exhausted by all the wall-running and jetpacks and the palette and that stuff,” Emslie says. “The industry’s kind of moved that way; there’s a lot of that going on. I guess for me, I saw Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, and I started having these thoughts in my head. I really missed that. I missed that setting, I missed that genre, I missed that type of gameplay, that immersive environment, because it looks real to me. I missed that.”
At this same time, serendipitously, Infinity Ward studio director Dave Stohl reconnected with Emslie at a work function. Stohl told Emslie that if he ever wanted to come back to Infinity Ward, the team had a spot waiting for him. This got Emslie’s wheels turning. “Basically, I told him, ‘What if I finish out my current project and do my job to the best of my ability, and then we’ll talk?’” Emslie recalls. “Once I got to that point in time, I guess it was like Christmas vacation 2016, I looked at Remastered and I looked at Infinite Warfare and I was like, ‘Man, the production value of this game… there’s so much potential and this new engine [for Modern Warfare 2019] was five years in development. Parts of that engine were alive and well in Infinite Warfare, and you could see it.”
Though he hadn’t heard any rumors or spoken to any Infinity Ward employees, Emslie had a weird feeling that the studio was planning on revisiting Modern Warfare. “I said, ‘If you’re thinking of doing a new Modern Warfare game, I’m really interested,’” he says. “I wasn’t NDA’d so he was kind of hesitant, but he said, ‘Yeah, we’re thinking about it.’ And I went, ‘I’m really serious now. I’d love to be a part of that.’ Modern Warfare was, no doubt, some of the best development years of my life.”
Emslie made the call to pack his bags and leave Respawn Entertainment to return to Infinity Ward. But it wasn’t going to be as easy as a simple farewell. Emslie had worked with the team at Respawn for around seven years – even longer for the ones who defected from Infinity Ward alongside him – so saying goodbye was a hard process.
“I made sure to go and say goodbye to every single person in the studio the day that I left,” Emslie says. “I did a quick exit because I didn’t want to linger around. It was like breaking up with 60-plus people. Yeah, there were hurt feelings. There were people who were really shocked and surprised. I feel like I gave it a really good go. I never held back. I was there for seven years almost and I always went for it as hard as I possibly could. I could see the trajectory that they were on and I wanted to try something new. That was surprising to some people, and there was a period of people not completely understanding my reasoning, and then not talking.”
Infinity Ward’s Joel Emslie, Jacob Minkoff, Mark Grigsby, Geoff Smith, and Taylor Kurosaki
Soon, others followed, and the rest of the studio began to notice a trend. While the preexisting team was excited to see some of these familiar faces reenter the mix, co-studio head Patrick Kelly recalls some mixed emotions.
“I think people were very excited, I think they were a little anxious,” Kelly says. “They weren’t sure what that would mean in terms of culture and whatnot of the studio. A little nervous because, for all of us around the franchise, when we’ve made these games, you end up naturally comparing so much of what gets done critically against some of the work these guys did.”
“We had some friction in the beginning,” Emslie adds. “We had to find our way, but I think it worked out because everybody… there’s a thing in life where you either choose to be a dick or don’t be a dick. It can happen in traffic or it can happen at work with people you work with. Don’t be a dick.”
With a palpable mix of excitement and anxiety in the studio, Emslie wanted to unlock the team’s full potential. Shortly after his return, he went around the entire studio and got to his Infinity Ward team members. Emslie credits Kelly for enabling the team to be optimized and become a higher-performing studio. “I found people from all walks of life doing different things and doing, all in their own way, cutting-edge things,” he says. “What we’re looking is the studio is really working at a level I’ve never seen before, because we unlocked this potential that was here.”
Emslie was happy in his new role back at Infinity Ward, but he wasn’t about to try and lure others away from Respawn. “It had to be just like it was when we left: It really had to be your own decision,” he says. “That’s important because I would never want to go someplace, then tell a bunch of my friends and sell them on an idea, then have them show up and it not work out. In that respect, you have to let people make their own decision. I was the first to come over here, and I basically think that piqued people’s interest.”
With their interests piqued by Emslie’s leap, Grigsby and Smith began thinking about making a move of their own. As Smith began weighing his options, he had to think a lot about what this would mean for him and his family. “It’s a hard thing to do, but when you have that passion for a project you know you could sink your next three years into. When the passion hits you, you have to go with it, I think,” he explains. “The reason I ended up coming back, my dad was in the Marines for 30 years, so modern military things hold a pretty dear spot. We left with more stories to tell and more things we want to do.”
Emslie, Grigsby, and Smith left Respawn to come back to Infinity Ward, but they hold no animosity toward the Titanfall developer, with Emslie even going out of his way to say that Apex Legends, the first major project from the studio following his departure, was “brilliant.”
“The only animosity I have is that my product has to be better than yours!” Grigsby says laughing. “Competition. That’s it. Friendly competition.”
While these three former Respawn developers were interested in returning to Infinity Ward for their own reasons, they all knew it was the right call following a meeting with Kelly. “He has a kindred spirit to what we all are passionate about, which is being number one,” Grigsby says. “It was a passion thing that it’s all similar to us.”
Similarly, Kelly was impressed by the enthusiasm and intensity Emslie, Grigsby, and Smith brought to the initial conversations. “They were so bold about what their aspirations were, which was another way of them saying, ‘This better not be some formulaic thing in any way,’” Kelly says.
Kelly also loves how the returning team members were so unafraid to show that passion and quickly introduced new ideas and approaches to creating a Call of Duty game. “I think it’s very easy, especially with something as successful as Call of Duty has been historically, to find yourself in a rut where you’re all doing these things because these things have worked,” he says. “These guys come back in and they’ve got so much energy. They had all of these ideas and thoughts and energy and, obviously, credibility.”
As Infinity Ward began work on this year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it felt like a convergence of talent the likes of which the studio had never seen. In addition to Emslie, Grigsby, Smith, and the other Respawn developers, Naughty Dog alumni Jacob Minkoff and Taylor Kurosaki joined the team prior to Infinite Warfare. To top it all off, the studio brought Zied Rieke, a pivotal member of the team for every Call of Duty up to Modern Warfare 2, back as gameplay director.
Coincidentally, Rieke had done stints at Respawn Entertainment and Naughty Dog, giving him a culminative perspective for all these developers coming to the studio. He had worked on Uncharted 4 with Minkoff and Kurosaki, and when they left, they urged Rieke to come back to Infinity Ward and work with them there. “He was a tough guy to pry back over here, but he’s like the CODfather, so you have to have him on the project,” Kurosaki says.
Now, with a team that combines old with new, the studio is focused on finishing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, something that, on its own, energizes the team.
“I think that maybe deep down, wherever these people started and where they came from, what drove them to come to the studio was the Modern Warfare series,” Smith says. “They haven’t had the opportunity to work on that. And I feel like when we started working on this, slowly but surely, everybody started kind of coalescing into, ‘Holy crap. We’re making a Modern Warfare game!’ You could just see the smiles in the hallways, and we’d have these milestones and these little victories and it’s starting to get there and it’s building and building, and people would just walk down the hall with a bit bigger smile and people were putting in some extra hours. I think all the talent they needed was here. Maybe we pushed them in one direction or another, but I think it’s the Modern Warfare title that brought everybody together.”
It’s clear the pieces are in place, but how they fit together will ultimately determine the success or failure of this merging of talent. We’ll see how well this newly energized team truly comes together when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches on October 25.
To learn more about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, click on the banner below and check out our full month of coverage.
The Pokémon World Champions are upon us! The event hosts several competitive events (for the Pokémon Trading Card Game, Ultra Sun & Moon, Pokkén, and Pokémon Go), but it’s also a fairly large convention of its own, where fans of Pokémon can meet up, play a few games, lounge around, or visit the Pokémon Center shop, which has items exclusive to Worlds.
We’ve walked the show floor and various other areas and managed to (Pokémon) Snap a few photos of the event!
First off, the show floor. It’s massive! Not only is there a convention hall filled with all sorts of demos, player halls, and more, but the adjacent areas are also decked out with some familiar characters.
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While we were running around the hotel snapping photos, we also caught up with Victoria, a young Alolan Vulpix cosplayer!
The show floor also has a small gift shop where you can buy lots of Poké-themed items.
Of course, if you want the really cool stuff, you’ll have to head to the Pokémon Center store, which has a number of World-exclusive items, themed around the Washington, D.C. area and a general archaeological theme.
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There’s tons more to buy in the store, even outside the exclusive items.
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So there you go! Although Worlds is a much bigger event than these photos can really convey, this should give you a good idea of what the show is like. It’s a good time.
Over 100 million PlayStation 4 consoles have found their way into consumers’ homes, but there are a handful that stand out from the rest. Whether to promote a game, deal, or even fast food, there have been some beautiful and bizarre variations of the sleek black box.
Release date: July 28, 2014
Final auction price: $4,105
Created as an incentive for a charity auction, the cutely dubbed “GayStation” features a colorful rainbow design on the console, with a retro-style heart in the middle. Benefitting the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights, the console sold for 28,300 Swedish kroner (about $4,105). That’s a lot to pay for a console, but as it went to charity, the sole owner of the GayStation has a lot to be proud of.
20th Anniversary Edition
Release date: December 3, 2014
eBay historical low/high: $910.84 (only sale)
To celebrate 20 years since the launch of the original PlayStation in 1994, Sony produced 12,300 retro-styled PlayStation 4 consoles to commemorate the milestone. They unsurprisingly sold out fast, making the console highly sought after – and expensive – to this day. The console itself features a gray finish reminiscent of the original PlayStation’s style, as well as an aluminum plate with its unique number out of 12,300. Also included are a similarly retro-styled DualShock 4, and a ‘90s styled PlayStation Camera.
Metal Gear Solid V Special Edition PS4
Release date: September 1, 2015
eBay historical low: $193.25
eBay historical high: $336.03
Released alongside Hideo Kojima’s grand finale for the franchise, the special edition console features a sleek red finish to match the color of Snake’s bionic arm, and a gray-tinted DualShock 4 to match his gun. Aside from tiny logos for the Diamond Dogs, Snake’s private military company, the console and controller are mostly unmarked, which is a breath of fresh air when compared to other limited edition consoles. It unfortunately only released in Asia and Europe, making it harder to track down for American audiences.
Taco Bell – Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4
Release date: September 24, 2015
eBay historical low: $200.00
eBay historical high: $599.99
As part of a promotional event, Taco Bell gave away one golden PS4 roughly every 10 minutes for 10 days. In order to enter, participants had to purchase one of Taco Bell’s signature Big Boxes, in which they would find a redeemable code to enter the raffle. These consoles had a golden top that actually lacked any Taco Bell branding, as well as Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, a golden DualShock 4, and a golden card detailing the console’s number out of the 6,500 made. While this console is undeniably fancy, it still isn’t as fancy as former Game Informer editor Dan Ryckert’s real wedding at Taco Bell.
Hitman PlayStation 4 Console – Agent 47 Briefcase
Release date: June 30, 2016
Only one manufactured, given away in raffle
Designed as a replica of Hitman protagonist Agent 47’s briefcase, it’s not clear that this is even a console until further inspection. While most other limited edition consoles act as paint jobs, this one-of-a-kind console goes above and beyond with its unconventional form and attention to detail. You’d likely have to become a hitman yourself to get your hands on this console, as only one exists, and it’s in the hands of a very lucky winner of a raffle Square Enix put on back in 2016.
God of War PS4 Pro Bundle
Release date: April 20, 2018
eBay’s historical low: $299.99
eBay’s historical high: $799.99
Released alongside the critically acclaimed God of War, this limited edition console has a “Leviathan Gray” color, decorated with the game’s Norse runes and the design of Kratos’ Axe. The DualShock 4 features the same coloring, with the God of War logo shown proudly across the touchpad. As with most limited editions, it’s sold out, and you’ll have to pay a pretty penny to get your hands on it now. It wouldn’t be “limited” otherwise!
500 Million PS4 Pro
Release date: August 24, 2018
eBay historical low: $218.43
eBay historical high: $2,000.00
To celebrate having sold a total of 500 million PlayStation devices, Sony had yet another limited edition console, but this one was even more limited than the 20th Anniversary Edition. This is the only PlayStation 4 edition to have a translucent shell, meaning you can see the components inside the console without taking it apart. This translucency also applied to the included DualShock 4, and the Gold Wireless Headset that was available for purchase separately. This console again sold out rapidly when it launched, and is incredibly difficult to find today for any reasonable price. We actually got our hands on one and did a photoshoot of the console, which you can see here.
Spider-Man PS4 Pro Bundle
Release date: September 7, 2018
eBay historical low: $222.91
eBay historical high: $785.07
Like most limited editions, Spider-Man’s limited edition console launched alongside the game it accompanied. It features a bold red color, with the White Spider symbol upon its surface. Matching this theme, the included DualShock 4 is similarly drenched in red, with all of its buttons in white, as well as its dual analog sticks. The bright coloration might look a bit garish to some, but it’s certainly a loud way to profess one’s love for the webslinger and his newest video game venture. As it was a limited edition console, you’ll have to dig a bit deeper into your wallet to get one today, but it’s recent enough that it’s not prohibitively expensive.
Kingdom Hearts III PS4 Pro Bundle
Release date: January 25, 2019
eBay historical low: $325.00
eBay historical high: $900.00
One of the most recent limited editions the PlayStation 4 has received, the Kingdom Hearts III PS4 Pro launched alongside the game, and it’s fit for a king. The console’s surface is lined with highly detailed decorations from Kingdom Hearts, as is the controller that comes with the game. As the console was a GameStop exclusive in the west and sold out fast, the only way to get your hands on one now is through third parties such as Amazon or eBay, or to import one from Japan.
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Days of Play Editions
Release dates: Summer 2017-2019
2017 eBay historical low/ high: $120.00/ $629.00
2018 eBay historical low/ high: $180.50/ $625.00
2019 eBay historical low/ high: $119.00/ $419.90
Usually, limited editions of consoles are as expensive as standard editions, if not more. For the annual Days of Play events, however, they’re actually cheaper! Since 2017, Sony’s used the summer heat and excitement of E3 to draw in new buyers, bumping the PS4 Slim price from $300 to $250, and having tons of deals on triple-A games as well. To put the icing on the cake, however, each Days of Play PS4 Slim has a new design, and they’ve been pretty nifty each year. In 2017, it was an elegant golden look; in 2018, they had a deep blue console with the golden PlayStation icons decorating the console’s surface and the controller’s touchpad; in 2019, Sony went a bit more subtle, with a steel look to the console and controller that made them look a little more professional than usual. If you didn’t pick one up during the Days of Play event, you missed your chance, as they’ve all increased in value. You could sell one for a profit, but they all look pretty nice in a living room.
For more on all things PlayStation, check out our roundup of every limited edition PS4 to see those that didn’t make it onto this list!
I’ve played a handful of great games over the last few months, but 2019 hasn’t felt like a big year for the medium yet. In fact, it’s been somewhat disappointing. Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled over the last few years with juggernauts like Overwatch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and God of War, but 2019 hasn’t had that one game that truly stands out from the pack. Apex Legends is damn good. I’m also having a blast with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Kingdom Hearts III, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Devil May Cry 5, and Resident Evil 2 also deserve nods for living up to the hype. That said, I don’t know which one of these games I would label as my Game of the Year. One doesn’t jump out from the pack.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the year, I’m hoping Death Stranding becomes another Hideo Kojima classic, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is everything I want it to be as a Star Wars dork, and The Outer Worlds is more Fallout than Fallout 76 was. One of those games could define the year. Let’s not forget about the sequels either. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare looks awesome, as does Borderlands 3. I also can’t wait to get my hands on Pokémon Sword and Shield and Doom Eternal.
Those are the games that I’ve circled on my calendar as “must plays,” but I’ve also marked two days in August for five games. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m fascinated by five games releasing later this month. Here they are in order of release:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Remedy Entertainment probably wanted Alan Wake and Quantum Break to become gargantuan hits that led to numerous sequels for each, but I love seeing this developer take chances with new ideas, especially since we usually get something we’ve never seen before. Control follows suit and puts the laws of reality on notice. Players are taken into the world of the paranormal, and see just how a government covers up and handles forces that can shatter reality. This journey unfolds within the Bureau of Control, a government skyscraper with an interior that is magnitudes larger than its exterior. How does that work? We’ll have to play the game to find out. Remedy says Control is nonlinear in design, and uses ideas similar to Metroid to open up new paths in previously visited areas. And what kind of firepower do you have in this puzzling world? How about supernatural abilities to fight the supernatural threats. They include levitation, telekinesis, and mind control. Sounding equally as delightful as it is twisted, Control is the game I am looking forward to playing most of this month.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Knowing that one false move could either lead to my ape falling out of a tree and breaking a bone or stepping into a swamp where he gets eaten by a snake is terrifying … and also exhilarating. These slight missteps could spell disaster for your ape clan. Taking risks could also reap benefits that extend lifelines, improve intelligence, and more. The goal of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is to survive and evolve. If everyone in the clan dies, it’s game over. If you do well, your clan will become stronger, smarter, and will be better suited to explore the sprawling open world. I’m absolutely fascinated by these concepts, and have been waiting to see what director Patrice Désilets did after his run on Assassin’s Creed. On that note, the apes bound through trees similarly to assassins scaling buildings. Now that bad news: Ancestors is only launching on PC in August, but if the game turns out well, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players don’t have to wait long, as it’s slated for release on console in December.
Platinum Games has been hit or miss as of late, but I’m getting a strong Nier: Automata vibe from Astral Chain, a Switch exclusive that is designed by Takahisa Taura, a game designer for Automata. To make it more exciting, Hideki Kamiya, the creator of Bayonetta, is also overseeing the direction of this project, which appropriately features what Platinum calls “stylish combos.” The unique hook of this experience is the player controls both their character and a weapon that acts like a second character (called a Legion) at the same time. Depending on what Legion you have, you can swing it around like a sword, ride on it, shoot it like a gun – the ideas and variety on display for this battlefield duet looks impressive and fun. To top it off, it takes place in a futuristic megacity yet is also supposedly post apocalyptic. I’m in.
Xbox One, PC
When Blair Witch debuted during Microsoft’s E3 press conference a couple of months ago, no one knew what they were looking at until the logo appeared at the end of the trailer. I thought it might be Resident Evil VIII or a new Silent Hill. I didn’t think for a second that it would be another Blair Witch game, and it looks creepy as all get-out. This journey unfolds through a forest that distorts both in time and space, and also focuses on a character who is losing his mind. Okay, so maybe it sounds like a stress-inducing nightmare, but I just gotta see how this one turns out. The more horror games the better.
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I can confidently say Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn is one of the best horror games of this generation. I can also say it’s one of the best choice-driven games ever made. That’s right. Most player decisions are handled in meaningful ways. I’m hoping The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan is just as good. The gameplay design is similar, it takes place on a ghost ship, and is all about choice. What more do you want?
PES 2020 comes out on September 10 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), but its demo already gives us a glimpse of what we may see in the game’s final iteration. Although Konami has promised that some changes are on the way, such as to fouls (see below for more), the demo could advertise that a solid year of gameplay is in store. Here’s what the demo does well and what I hope it means come release time.
The demo showcases more player contact expressed through jostling animations, providing players a way to slow down and pester attackers until numbers arrive or to prevent clean passes and shots. You can even tactically foul players in some situations.
Related to this are the number of fouls the refs call. I like that more calls are being made than in previous years, since they are called on you when you’re trying to make standing tackles from behind or slightly to the side of the dribbler. This is as it should be since these are risky areas. I’ve also noticed in the demo that even defensively engaging opponents from the front can cause fouls if you are rash and don’t time it right. Konami says that it believes the refs in the demo call fouls too excessively, so I hope they balance the final game correctly.
One thing related to fouls I would like to see is more of them called on the opponents, since it seems like the A.I. still gets away with bloody murder at times.
I’ve never been very good at headers in the game, but I like their timing in the demo. I think the window to execute them isn’t as early or is possibly more forgiving than last year. This includes being on defense, where clearances are of the upmost importance.
DEFENSIVE POSITIVES & NEGATIVES
Your A.I. teammates are very helpful in throwing their bodies, feet, and even faces at shots which is great. The one speculative concern I have with this for the final game is that I hope my teammates are smart enough and defensively organized enough to clear the resulting rebounds. I say this because there are times in the demo, like in PES 2019, that defenders are unaware of what’s going on or switch off. Having said that, and ending on a positive note, I’ve seen plenty of times in the demo where your teammates get in good defensive positions and harass dribblers without being directly commanded to.
Dependable online play has consistently been a problem for the series, whether it’s lag or simply getting matched with an opponent with a good connection. While the demo environment doesn’t match the final release, one thing I really liked in the demo was the ability to see your opponent’s connection before deciding to accept or decline. This won’t stop lag cheaters who purposely overload their connection to produce automatic drops when they are losing, but at least it gives you a heads up before your jump in.
GAME FLOW & SPECIAL MOVES
The default speed for the game feels slower than last year, which I don’t have a problem with. This highlights one-on-one matchups, which themselves are helped by a new finesse dribbling technique performed by letting go of the left analog stick and just using the right analog. This is advertised as a new feature, but it’s basically a refresh of the old R2 close control. Either way it’s a useful and easy-to-perform way to buy yourself some time by dragging the ball back or shifting from one foot to the other to keep opponents at bay without having to go into a multi-input, full-blown special move.
THE A.I. IN ATTACK
PES 2019 was notorious for the way the A.I. patterned its attack. This had to be addressed in a post-release patch, and it’s nice to see the demo carriers forward that progress. Long balls into the channels, lay-offs and cuts inside at the top of the box, and drags along the end line, are all different ways the A.I. attacks.
The larger question for PES 2020 proper is the matter of overall A.I. scripting – something that fans complained about in 2019. How overpowered will teams feel when behind and/or nerfed when ahead? It’s a big issue that the game has to sort out, whether it’s overt or a more subtle balancing issue that gives players that sensation.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is already showing promise with its multiplayer. However, for many, the single-player campaign is an important part of the equation. After Treyarch opted to not include a full story mode with Black Ops 4 last year, Infinity Ward is bringing it back in a big way. While at Infinity Ward for this month’s cover story, we got the lowdown on what players can expect from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s ambitious campaign.
When Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare launched in 2007, it told a contemporary story about two sides fighting a more traditional war. However, in 2019, warfare is different. In the world of insurgents, terrorists, and freedom fighters, sides aren’t as clearly defined as they’re depicted in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. With that in mind, the campaign team at Infinity Ward, led by a group of Naughty Dog alumni, set out to create something unique, intense, and unprecedented in the first-person shooter space.
The studio says that the definition of “modern warfare” has changed, and with that, the team’s approach to creating a Modern Warfare game also has to change. “Thematically, in this world, enemies don’t necessarily wear uniforms,” campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff says. “The world is not as clear. War is much more messy these days. We’re representing that mechanically.”
During the campaign, you must identify threats as you move through the mission. In one of the two missions we saw, a squad is methodically working through a townhouse serving as a terrorist safehouse. The player is in control of Sergeant Kyle Garrick, who believes the rules of war need to adapt in order to fight an enemy that doesn’t play fair. Garrick wants to cross the line in his fight against the enemy, and he seeks out Captain John Price in hopes he’ll see things his way. In the Townhouse mission, Infinity Ward shows what that means.
The team of soldiers breach the townhouse at different points – the front door, a second-story window, the basement – and immediately begin securing or neutralizing every inhabitant. Kyle enters the kitchen as his squadmate subdues a woman who obliviously wandered in. A quick walk down the hallway reveals a meeting room with a few members talking loudly. Kyle equips night-vision goggles and shoots out the light, and the team picks them off one by one. You can approach scenarios like this one differently; if you don’t shoot out the lights before engaging, the enemies have a better chance of seeing you coming. The squad continues up the stairs, encountering different scenarios along the way. One room has a woman who runs to grab a crying baby, while another has a man take a woman as a human shield. Kyle neutralizes the hostage-taker, only for the woman to grab a gun and come at the squad.
“If you shoot the guy as we did in that demo, she goes and grabs a gun,” Minkoff says. “We train the player early on that you really need to be identifying threats. And this all came from us talking to our military consultants. They don’t talk about civilians and non-combatants; there are unknowns and threats.”
Situations like that require players to identify hostile actions and hostile intents. Warfare isn’t always black and white, and likewise, threats can also be more ambiguous in games. “Hostile action is a really simple thing,” studio narrative director Taylor Kurosaki says. “It’s like, ‘Someone’s shooting at me.’ Hostile intent is a whole other ballgame. Those are the metrics they have to deal with and navigate.”
As the team continues up the stairs, some more obvious threats present themselves: one room has a man grab a gun and hide under the bed to ambush you – nothing a few shots through the mattress can’t handle. As the team approaches the attic, a shotgun blast erupts through the door, downing one of your squadmates. Every single surface features appropriate penetrative properties, meaning that drywall and wooden doors are easier to shoot through than metal doors and concrete. Similarly, a 9mm pistol will have trouble shooting through plate armor.
The squad finally reaches the attic. Price remarks that the primary target is in there and that Kyle should try and take her alive if possible. Kyle peeks in to spot a woman standing in the shadowy loft. Kyle downs her with a shot to the lower body, but she lunges for something on the table. Kyle takes one shot to her head, killing her. So much for taking her alive. However, as Price and Kyle approach the table, they see what she was reaching for: a detonator. Minkoff and Kurosaki tell me that if she grabbed the detonator in time, it would blow up the townhouse, killing the squad and giving the player a game-over screen. Price tells Kyle he made the right call.
Players need to make tough calls like that on the fly, and while dying obviously leads to a critical mission failure, it’s not the only way. “The game sort of has its own version of, ‘You just got court marshaled and arrested,’” Kurosaki says.
“If you cause too much collateral damage, which is the official term for killing people who should not have been killed, the game will fail you,” Minkoff adds. “We have pretty complex heuristics where we’re basically trying to determine, are you, the player, acting like a proper soldier? Or are you kind of being a psychopath and not playing by the rules?”
Despite this emphasis of wanting players to identify threats, Modern Warfare’s campaign will not rely on random elements to keep you guessing or branching narratives based on your choices for the sake of replayability. “We want you to have the highest quality cinematic experience we can possibly create; that’s what we did at Naughty Dog, that’s what we do here,” Minkoff says. “By necessity, branching and randomization diminish narrative quality. And there’s a place for that in video games; I’m a huge fan of big, open-world games that have lots of randomization. But no one has ever said that those games have great stories. We’re in the business of making the best possible cinematic story experience. That’s why it’s linear.”
While you play as Kyle Garrick for loosely half of the campaign, players can expect a different experience for the rest of the game. In this portion, you play as a CIA operative known simply as “Alex.” Alex is stationed in the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Urzekstan to enable and collaborate with local rebels. One local rebel Alex is working with is Farah.
Farah was born into violence. The second gameplay sequence I see is a flashback that begins with you playing as a young Farah being pulled from the rubble of a house that was hit with an explosive. Her mother’s lifeless body is crumpled beside her, but a group of rescuers is able to remove the debris and reach the little girl. The remainder of the sequence involves sneaking through the town with her father in order to get home to her brother Hadir, using a screwdriver to take down a massive Russian soldier who broke into the house and killed her father in front of her, dodging pockets of gas, and trying to escape the town unnoticed.
This sequence gives a painful look at the life Farah has led, giving more meaning to how she acts in the modern-day missions. Unlike Kyle Garrick, who wants to destroy the enemy by any means necessary, Farah has a strong grasp of right and wrong, and refuses to cross the line and sacrifice her humanity to win the battle.
Farah is fighting a war on two fronts: the Russian forces occupying her country, as well as those who would do terrible things to regain control of their home. “Her magnetic true north is that she’s going to fight in a way that doesn’t diminish her own humanity,” Kurosaki says. “If that means, ‘I lose because I’m not willing to resort to whatever tactics are necessary, then so be it, I lose. Because if I reduce my own sense of humanity in order to win, then there’s nothing left to fight for.’ That’s a big driver of what defines her.”
With those two characters’ opposing dynamics at play in the story, along with bold presentations of difficult situations inspired by real-world events, one of Infinity Ward’s main goals is to make players feel empathy. “The old games definitely made you feel a certain sense of empathy, but in a very detached way,” Minkoff says. “What we bring to the mix is a much more developed sense of character. I want you to empathize with every one of these characters with all their perspectives, and say, ‘I understand why you did that, but I don’t agree with it.’ I want you to understand the complexity of modern war, and empathize with the reasons why different people have different perspectives. Understanding different people’s narratives is super, super important.”
Kurosaki understands that not everyone who plays a Call of Duty story is there for those kinds of messages, but he hopes that even those who just want to shoot through a fun popcorn-movie-style campaign will still take something away. “Shining a light on this other half of modern warfare that maybe is not as covered in the news, is also one of our goals,” he says. “With a platform as big as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, for someone who doesn’t read very deeply into the news of the world, to shine a light on a character like Farah who is very much based on people that are in the real world today, and empathize with and understand that war isn’t just something that happens ‘over there.'”
The story of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare looks to be dark and complex, giving players a lot to think about during and long after their playthrough. According to art director Joel Emslie, the campaign’s ending could have gone horribly wrong if not for the careful handling of the development team. “I watched the end of it… I highly suggest if you get to play the game, you play it all the way through single-player,” he says. “The end of the game is so f—ing awesome, and it’s just great storytelling. It has such a great payoff.”
With so many touchy subjects and emotionally heavy moments promised throughout the campaign of Modern Warfare, it’ll be interesting to see how the player base reacts when the game launches on October 25.
Click on the banner below to reach our hub for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. We’ll be adding content all month examining how Infinity Ward is breathing new life into the longstanding series, with articles, interviews, videos, and more.
With Game Informer’s new cover story on Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, we want to revive our GI Game Club format and go back for a thorough look at 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
On the August 15th episode of The Game Informer Show podcast, we’ll be playing though and discussing the entire campaign for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. We want the community to play the game along with us and send in your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org to help fuel the conversation! We’re looking for specific points and thoughts, including…
– What’s your favorite moment in the game?
– What is a specific detail you noticed in your playthrough?
– What made this game stand out among its competition in 2007?
– Why is Captain Price so beloved?
– How well has the game aged?
– Which helicopter crash was the best?
We welcome any and all emails, including if you want to write in about multiplayer, we just ask that your email be focused, specific, and fun/interesting to read on the podcast. Remember, please send your emails in to email@example.com before August 14 so we have time to include it on the episode.
There are several ways to play the game at this point. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered was available in March as a free PS Plus game so you might already own it. The original game is also backwards compatible on an Xbox One, and both old and new versions are available on Steam. Hell, you’re welcome to play the Wii or DS versions and write in about those.
Subscribe to The Game Informer Show podcast and get ready for a fun deep dive on one of the most influential games of all time on August 15th. Check out our Game Club discussions on Spider-Man, God of War, BioShock, and more to get a better understanding of the format. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Madden 20 introduces powerful X-Factor players and Superstar abilities only available to select players. Superstar abilities are always on, meaning players with the Shutdown ability, like Jaguars corner Jalen Ramsey, always have an increased chance of disrupting receiver catches. X-Factor players, however, must activate their X-Factor by meeting specific gameplay goals. For instance, for Adam Thielen to earn his Double Me X-Factor that increases the chances of him winning an aggressive catch against single coverage, he first must catch two 20-plus yard passes. Once the X-Factor is turned on, it can be turned off, and the conditions for this are similarly prescriptive. Odell Beckham Jr. falls out of the zone and his X-Factor turns off when you don’t target him on consecutive plays.
Both X-Factors and Superstar abilities can be very useful, but some are definitely handier than others. Some aren’t even used by any players at launch, and others might be more helpful to some users depending on their play style. Conversely, if you’re playing against an opponent with these abilities, you’re going to want to know what you’re going up against.
These abilities are used throughout the game, but they can only be switched in/out in Madden Ultimate Team and QB1 Face of the Franchise. Otherwise, they’re tied to specific players in regular franchise modes – including players you draft.
To see the current list of which players have which abilities, their full descriptions, and the requisites to turn on/off the X-Factors, click into the special rotating menu (the far-left panel at the bottom of the screen) from the game’s main menu screen. Developer EA Tiburon plans to add and subtract from the list during the season, tweaking which players have what, so you’ll have to be on the lookout for that.
If you have your own thoughts on which X-Factors or Superstar abilities are valuable, list them down in the comments section below.
I’ve broken down the game’s current abilities based on a few broad categories:
These abilities combine two separate Superstar abilities, making them rare and particularly effective. My favorite is Edge Threat Elite, which helps your DE off the edge, but also affects QB throwing accuracy even if you don’t get the sack outright.
Superstar Abilities: Edge Threat Elite, Evasive, In/Out Elite, In/Post Elite, Out/Corner Elite, Pass Lead Elite, Pass Rush Elite, Pick Artist, Post/Flag Elite, Route Apprentice, Run Stopper, Tackle Supreme, Universal Coverage
Using hot routes at the line of scrimmage on offense is a great way to tailor each play and player to your liking. Some gamers use them to great effect, but if you don’t use them, then obviously these abilities won’t help you at all. The game’s Superstar Abilities revolving around hot routes apply to QBs as well as running backs, receivers, and tight ends.
Superstar Abilities: Backfield Master, Hot Route Master, Outside Apprentice, RB Apprentice, Route Apprentice, Slot Apprentice, WR Apprentice
ROUTES & CATCHES
These Superstar abilities and X-Factors naturally aid in specific routes and catch types, making them all useful. Of particular note is the X-Factor Double Me (increased chance of an Aggressive catch against single coverage) given how powerful aggressive catches are in the game. The Satellite, Backfield Mismatch, and Safety Valve abilities relate to running backs, while Playmaker applies to that user-control feature, so milage on these will vary depending on the user. I like doing slants, so Slant specialist is good to hold onto the ball while going over the middle, but Slot-O-Matic might be more generally effective since it confers different advantages to short routes from the slot.
Superstar Abilities: Backfield Mismatch, Cross Specialist, Curl Specialist, Double-Move Elite, Grab-N-Go, In Specialist, Matchup Nightmare, Playmaker, Post Specialist, Red Zone Threat, Route Technician, Safety Valve, Slant Specialist, Slot-O-Matic, Streak Specialist
X-Factors: Double Me, Max Security, RAC Em Up, Satellite
Madden 20 has a new control allowing QBs to pull down the ball, giving them full access to any ball carrier moves in the pocket. Apart from that, this year’s abilities add to your mobility in and out of the pocket, and are pretty much good across the board (see below for a list of some of the more questionable abilities). My favorite is Russell Wilson’s Blitz Radar, which highlights extra blitzers. Also, Protected and Secure Protector relate to the o-line, so you can’t ignore those either.
Superstar Abilities: Agile Extender, Anchored Extender, Escape Artist, Fastbreak, Protected, Secure Protector
X-Factors: Blitz Radar
Apart from the mobility-related abilities for QBs listed above, most of the rest are related to throwing accuracy under specific conditions (called Deadeye) and precision passing. The ones I gravitate toward are the accuracy abilities when outside the pocket like Dashing Deadeye (when throwing on the run outside the pocket) and Roaming Deadeye (when feet are set outside the pocket). I also like the Fearless X-Factor (accuracy unaffected by defensive pressure) and Sleight of Hand (improves pump fake), especially since the latter is easier to perform this year. Currently nobody has the Gunslinger ability, which speeds up the animation and ball speed for bullet passes, so this is one I’m really looking forward to using since it’s often paramount to get the ball out quickly when the receiver is between zones.
Superstar Abilities: Conductor, Dashing Deadeye, Gift Wrapped, Gunslinger, Gutsy Scrambler, Identifier, Inside Deadeye, Last Ditch, Lofting Deadeye, Long Range Deadeye, No-Look Deadeye, Pass Lead Elite, Pocket Deadeye, Pocket Lead, QB Playmaker, Red Zone Deadeye, Roaming Deadeye, Secure Protector, Set Feet Lead, Sideline Deadeye, Sleight of Hand
X-Factors: Bazooka, Fearless, Gambler, Pro Reads, Run N Gun
RUNNING WITH AUTHORITY
This year’s game has improved the feel of the running game, and these abilities help that tremendously, from powering up your stiff arm, juke, hurdle, and spin to improving the blocking inside and out. MUT head-to-head gameplay is awash with ball carrier special moves, so these abilities fit right in. That being said, the current X-Factors in this department seem limited (see Are They Worth It? below for more). If I had to go with one, I’d look for a player with Outside Zone Guru since outside runs can be big gainers, and sometimes the A.I. blocking needs help on the perimeter.
Superstar Abilities: Arm Bar, Balance Beam, Bruiser, Bulldozer, Human Joystick, Inside Zone Guru, Juke Box, Leap Frog, Outside Zone Guru, Pin-n-Pull Guru, Spin Cycle
X-Factors: First One Free, Freight Train, Wrecking Ball
There aren’t many that fit into this category, but I think almost all of them bring something to the table, affecting play from pass breakups to defensive line moves, better tackling, hits, and interceptions. A handful of elite abilities combine multiple abilities, so you know these are valuable. Among the X-Factors, if I had to choose, it would would be Zone Hawk, which increases the rate of knockouts and INTs. Reinforcement is a close second, which helps defensive backs shed blocks and make stops closer to the line of scrimmage, but also aids in pass disruption.
Superstar Abilities: Acrobat, Edge Threat, Edge Threat Elite, Enforcer, Finesse Specialist, Lurker, Man Up, Pass Rush Elite, Pick Artist, Power Specialist, Reach Elite, Run Stopper, Secure Tackler, Strip Specialist, Tackle Supreme, Under Pressure, Unfakeable, Universal Coverage, Zoned Out
X-Factors: Fearmonger, Reinforcement, Run Stuffer, Shutdown, Unstoppable Force, Zone Hawk
GETTING INTO THE ZONE
The Clutch, Homer, and Indoor Baller Superstar abilities all get you into the zone for your X-Factors faster, making them all useful assuming you like your player’s X-Factor.
ARE THEY WORTH IT?
I wouldn’t say any Superstar ability or X-Factor is completely worthless, but some are less useful than others.
Pro Reads (X-Factor) – While it sounds great that your first open read as a QB is highlighted, in practice I found that either I already made the read before the A.I. or it simply wasn’t useful to me, like when the running back is highlighted coming out of the backfield when I’m looking to push the ball downfield instead.
Bazooka (X-Factor) – Cover star Patrick Mahomes has this, and I’m as big a fan of his as anyone, but frankly I don’t know how many situations I’m going to be in where I have to throw an 80-yard bomb. I’m not saying it’s not useful, I’d just rather have another X-Factor instead.
Conductor (Superstar) – This lets QBs make pre-play adjustments twice as fast, except audibles. Most players rarely have a problem with this in the first place.
Fast Break (Superstar) – This gives QBs faster control to execute QB-designed runs. I personally don’t call many of these in the first place.
First One Free (X-Factor) – This running back X-Factor gives you an increased chance to pull off a spin, juke, or hurdle – but only the first one. Although the X-Factor isn’t turned off unless the player is tackled for a loss, it’s arguably not even as powerful as some regular always-on Superstar abilities.
Freight Train (X-Factor) – Currently only Cam Newton has this ability, which gives him a better chance of breaking the first tackle (like First One Free). In practice, I didn’t find it super useful. Whether in the pocket or out, it usually wasn’t hard for defenses to rally enough defenders to take him down.
Last Ditch (Superstar) – An ability that lets you throw the ball when being sacked may sound like a life-saver, but you’ll mainly just be chucking incompletions anyway. If you’re outside of the pocket you can always throw it away instead.
Strip Specialist (Superstar) – This makes you immune to broken tackles when going in for the strip. This isn’t super useful since it doesn’t increase the chance of causing an actual fumble.
ONES TO WATCH
At the time of this writing, there are some X-Factors and Superstar abilities in the game that aren’t utilized by any players yet. In the future, if you see a player with one of these abilities, you should give them serious consideration because these sound valuable. Description text from EA Tiburon.
Balance Beam – Automatic stumble recovery when carrying the ball.
Bruiser – Ballcarriers with this ability have more powerful truck and stiff arm animations.
Bulldozer – Excels at the truck special move when carrying the ball.
Clutch Kicker – Kicker cannot be iced by an opponent timeout during critical field goals.
Focused Kicker – Kick-meter cursor speed is significantly slower for more precise place kicking.
Gunslinger – Faster passing animations & increased max pass speed on bullet passes.
Gutsy Scrambler – Passers with this ability won’t be adversely affected by pass rush pressure while throwing on the run.
Human Joystick – Increased agility as a ball carrier.
In Post Elite – Combines In Specialist and Post Specialist.
Long Range Deadeye – Perfect passing accuracy on all deep throws except high & low throws with the QB’s feet set.
Lurker – Ability to make jumping and 180 degree interceptions when in coverage over the middle of the field.
Out Corner Elite – Combines Out Specialist and Corner Specialist.
Playmaker – Grants receivers the ability to immediately and precisely react to playmaker requests.
QB Playmaker – Passers with this ability can elicit immediate and precise playmaker reactions from any receiver.
Run N Gun – Many passers use a combination mobility and aggressiveness to make big plays. When they enter the zone; they can’t be intercepted (by AI defenders) while throwing on the run.
Run Stuffer – Run Stuffers can singlehandedly disrupt an offense. When they enter the zone; this ability increases their win rate and block shed speed against one-on-one run blocks.
Secure Protector – When pass blocking, provides more time in the pocket when engaged by not allowing quick pass-rush blocksheds, unless defender has Edge Rush Elite.
Secure Tackler – Prevents auto-broken tackles vs. ball carriers when using the conservative or dive tackle mechanics.
Wrecking Ball – Wrecking Ball runners don’t avoid contact. They create it. When they enter the zone; this ability increases their success rate on the next three trucks or stiff arms.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order has no shortage of heroes. With over 30 characters pre-loaded and DLC on the way, Marvel fans should at least have one character they’re excited to play. That said, we’re never satisfied. Nintendo confirmed that the DLC from this point on will pull from the Marvel Knights, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Those are some pretty deep wells, so we have some ideas for characters from those groups (and others) that we would like to see join the alliance. Here’s the list of characters we’d like to see playable in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.