Shacknews - Cassidee Moser

Mere years ago, video games’ favorite color was brown. It covered character’s clothes and the Earth’s terrain. Varied earth tones of green, blue, and grey mixed with brown to color the sky, the air, the water, and the buildings, like some dystopic version of Eiffel 65’s 1999 hit “Blue”.

In order for a first-person shooter to be taken seriously by the “hardcore crowd,” it had to combine this brown obsession with the military. Call of Duty reigned supreme, and every other shooter attempted to ape some part of it in order to capture even a fraction of its audience.

This meant that many of the triple-A blockbuster FPS games included huge set pieces, a massive arsenal of modern weaponry, and all manner of gruff soldiers screaming in the player’s face as they ran to every new mission. All in a veil of many different mixtures of brown.

Several years later, things have taken a turn. We’re no longer obsessed with making sure every game is essentially a military action movie filled with generous, building collapse set pieces or squads of hardened marines discussing life in between firefights. Now, we’re seeing a renaissance take place, a redefinition of what a modern-day First Person Shooter is and what it looks like. It’s a big departure from the industry’s decade-long standard, and we’re better off for it.

“Ten-HUT!”

Call of Duty has long ruled the console first-person shooter, and rightfully so. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare redefined the franchise, bringing it to the modern day and retooling its mechanics to make it the first-person industry standard. What’s more, it managed to establish a dedicated multiplayer base that remains massive today. Of course, games like Counter Strike had been doing something similar before that, but Call of Duty brought the military shooter to the masses and has continued to do so for years.

So, it’s not shocking that at this time, nearly every new FPS had some aspect of brown, the military, and characters wearing any variation of fatigues. The market speaks, and it had spoken largely in favor for more games of this type.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this. Many military first-person shooters have had fun, interesting single-player campaigns and gracious multiplayer support. The problem is with the repetition and its diminishing returns. The more everyone focused on making sure their games were a playable army recruiter pamphlet, the less we toyed with where the FPS could go in a mass-market context.

Why So Serious?

This year marks a surprising inverse of the trend. Rather than military shooters outnumbering practically anything else, we see many high-profile studios releasing much more colorful, lighter-hearted games, many of which focus heavily on team-based multiplayer. This year, it seems the military fatigue has officially set in, and people are leaning more toward fantastical premises than bleak, gritty shooters.

Look at the Pretty Colors

Brown isn’t our collective favorite color anymore. Now, we’ve ventured outside of the over-used and tired earth tones and are instead turning toward the rest of the color wheel. Games like Battleborn and Overwatch don’t shy away from it, applying a generous use of any and all colors to decorate their worlds and hero characters. Shadow Warrior 2 utilizes multiple settings and scenery to make for a more visually diverse shooter. Even the RPG/shooter hybrid Fallout 4 ditched its pallor gray/brown tones in Fallout 3 in favor of a much more bright and color-filled world.

It’s refreshing to see. Especially considering the tech we have at our disposal, there’s no reason why games should limit themselves to being the drab imaginings produced by the unused section of the crayon box.

You Got Your Moba in my Shooter

Many of the new games from high-profile studios combine elements of a variety of game types, leading to new opportunities and ideas. Battleborn is a less complex take on a Moba with shooter elements, and Paladins: Champions of the Realm is made by the same studio behind the God-driven Moba Smite. They both use variations on selectable heroes with different strengths and advantages, much like players might in a Moba.

Others are borrowing from the pages of classic games, adding in team-focused multiplayer featuring different characters and carefully crafted arena combat. Blizzard’s Overwatch borrows ideas from team-based games like Team Fortress 2 with its multiple objectives and tactical character selection, while Boss Key’s Lawbreakers focuses on team-based combat with verticality built into the arenas to encourage new strategies to dominate.

It’s important to note the return of many key franchises that previously helped define the first-person shooter in the early years. These include the excellent reboot of Wolfenstein: The New Order, the less-than-perfect- but-enjoyable Shadow Warrior, and the upcoming release of an all-new reboot of Doom. They may be rehashes of old relics, but their presence and commercial success have arguably driven the FPS away from the gritty brown corner and into a more accessible, flexible area.

What’s the Future?

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is the latest in a long, long lineup of Call of Duty games set to release later this year, and it appears to be preparing to take the series to a new frontier – the final frontier, I’d even say.

Call of Duty in space seems goofy, but I’m encouraged by the move. It suggests publishers and developers have noticed the trend of moving away from drab shooters of old and gives them new room to breathe and take this new installment where no man (or woman) has gone before, even if that is into the very place so many joke about sequels going after a long chain of iteration.  Whether or not it works remains to be seen, but it’s a new move toward new ideas.

Our favorite color may have once been brown. But, like a child whose opinions on color becomes more complex with age, we’re growing more interested in what other things the FPS can do. Today, our shooters run the gamut from ‘90s reboot to cartoony team-based shooters, and this increasing diversification is leading toward our testing the limits and perceptions of the first-person shooter, which is a good thing. After all, new challenges yield innovation, and the boundaries of an FPS have yet to be reached. 

Shacknews - David Craddock

The big news from Nintendo's latest earnings report concerned a targeted release date for its next console, codenamed NX, as well as another delay to The Legend of Zelda U, now confirmed to be in development for NX as well. But Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima also revealed that the company's Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing properties would join Pokémon on smartphones later this fall.

Those two properties couldn't be more different: Animal Crossing is a Sims-like experience that appeals to casual gamers, while Fire Emblem is a hardcore-style RPG that permanently kills characters, demanding significant investments of time and emotion. Those disparate traits are precisely why Kimishima believes Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem will succeed on smartphones and tablets.

Describing Fire Emblem as a "tough-to-beat simulation," Kimishima believes the essence of series will speak to players interested in more involved experiences. "We expect that many consumers will experience Fire Emblem for the first time on their smart device, so this application will offer a more accessible style of gameplay compared to the titles for dedicated video game systems," he said according to a transcript of the earnings report. At the same time, we still aim to provide a fully engaging experience as a role-playing simulation game."

Meanwhile, Animal Crossing offers a style of gameplay that seems tailor-made for phones: play when you can, do what you want. "The unique and lovable characters, relaxed lifestyle, and endless playability make this series popular with female and young consumers in particular."

As to gameplay specifics, details are still murky. But Kimishima assured investors that both Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem will have "more prominent" game elements than, say, Miitomo, which Nintendo situated as a social experience more than a game.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Imagine a game where you fling round objects that go careening into other objects to score points. Maybe you pictured pinball, or maybe you pictured one of Rovio Entertainment's many Angry Birds games. Ah! You pictured both! Way to multitask!

Angry Birds Action! is a pinball-style game landing on iOS and Android just in time for the release of Angry Birds the Movie, due out this month. Published by Rovio and developed by Tag Teams, the game is viewed from the top down, as one would view a pinball table, and has close ties to the theatrical release of the film based on the property.

In fact, Angry Birds Action! is based more on the movie than it is another duplication of the tried-and-true-and-profitable formula. The game stars Red, Chuck, Bomb and Terence, characters from the movie, and you guide them as they bounce around the screen.

"Along the way, players unlock exclusive additional content by going to see The Angry Birds Movie on opening weekend, and also play augmented-reality mini-games," according to a press release. Players access these extras by opening their phones in the theater... after credits roll.

Alongside AR mini-games, Rovio and Tag are testing out another modality of game/real-world integration that sounds like it could backfire in spectacular fashion. "BirdCodes at retail partners require no purchase to function - just walk in, find the BirdCode, scan and enjoy. However, take-home consumer products bearing BirdCodes really should be purchased before, you know, taking them home."

Shacknews - David Craddock

Despite continuing to sell millions of copies, the past few iterations of Call of Duty haven't posted numbers in line with earlier, vaunted entries like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and 2009's Modern Warfare 2. Activision knows millions of players would pay a pretty penny to relive those glory days—that's why you'll only be able to get Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered in premium editions of this fall's Infinite Warfare game.

The news comes directly from Activision, which posted an FAQ to outline the changes differentiating 2007's Modern Warfare from this year's impending remaster. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is a full campaign and 10 multiplayer maps from the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare game remastered in stunning high-definition, featuring next generation textures, physically based rendering, high-dynamic range lighting and much more to bring a new generation experience to fans."

Activision went on to explicitly state that Modern Warfare Remastered would be sold in the Legacy, Legacy Pro, and Digital Deluxe versions of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which will run you $80, $100, and $120, respectively.

"You must own Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in order to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered," Activision stated simply.

Unsurprisingly, Modern Warfare Remastered, being developed by Raven and executive-produced by original developer Infinity Ward, will only be made available as a digital download, most likely by way of a code.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Mega Man fans, rejoice! Following rumors that Mighty No. 9 would slip far past its release date of Spring 2016 all the way to December, Keiji Inafune confirmed that the troubled shooter/platformer has, at long last, gone gold... although it will technically miss that Spring 2016 date.

"We have now confirmed the following release dates for Mighty No. 9: June 21st 2016 (North America & Asia) and June 24th 2016 (World Wide)," he wrote on the game's official website. The game will PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Vita and 3DS versions will follow at later dates.

Inafune turned appropriately contrite and apologized to both Kickstarter backers and other fans around the globe for No. 9's litany of postponements. "We understand that as a result of the various delays we have disappointed and let down our fans, but we are happy to finally be able to deliver the game to everyone who brought us this far."

Talk turned to speculation regarding how long it might take skilled players to clear Mighty No. 9 on Normal difficulty, and how many players would have the courage to play on Maniac difficulty. "Make sure to let us know your feedback and thoughts on the game through our SNS channels as you play the game. Your voices are what made this game possible, and we want to continue hearing what you think so that it may influence our future endeavors."

A gold graphic of No. 9 himself served as fitting punctuation on the announcement.

Shacknews - David Craddock

The Last Guardian may release this year.

No, it's not April Fools. In an interview with French magazine Challenges.fr, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe VP Phillipe Cardon indicated that The Last Guardian and Gran Turismo Sport would be published in 2016. "This is our biggest release of the year with Gran Turismo and the return of The Last Guardian," he was quoted as saying (per PlayM). "And of course, the PlayStation VR arrives."

Of course, any mention of The Last Guardian materializing into a tangible game should be taken with a mountain of salt. Fumito Ueda's troubled adventure game has been in development since 2007 by Team Ico. Technical difficulties, platform transitions, and the departure of integral team members have plagued the game's production for nearly nine years.

Gran Turismo Sport was announced in 2015 and is being developed by Polyphony Digital. The absence of a number in its title is intentional: although technically the 13th entry in Sony's long-running series of simulation racers, GT Sport is being positioned adjacent to rather than part of the main franchise.

Shacknews - John Keefer

If you've ever been to a really good arcade, you are inundated with all kinds of sights, sounds and even smells. With the advent of VR, it is now possible to get the first two if a game developer steps up to the challenge. Oh, look, here's Digital Cybercherries with New Retro Arcade: Neon.

The company, which originally created New Retro Arcade for non-VR sets and tested it on the Rift in 2014, revealed today that it has been working on a new versions of the arcade simulator for the Vive, and it will have support for multiplayer. Apparently fans had been clamoring for it and the developer decided to oblige.

“A lot of the multiplayer functionality is still in flux as the specific capabilities we can work into New Retro Arcade: Neon bring with them a lot of interesting challenges,” company community manager Joe Henson told Forbes. “As a basis, we’re expanding the number of ‘physical’ games in the arcade and including a lot of the things you’d expect to see shoulder-to-shoulder with a room full of cabinets looking to swallow all your spare change. An air hockey table should give a rough idea of where we’re heading with that.” 

Henson said that the idea of the virtual arcade has really taken off after the original concept came about. “We had no real aims, no need to build a product in the regular sense - just a memory of standing abreast a room full of arcade machines tucked into a dingy room just shoehorned in at the side of the local bowling alley," Henson said. “A shared child-like wonder of what new games were to be had, just a coin-drop away from our fingers.”

The original game is still putting more touches on the Rift version, but Neon adds a bunch of new features and new content to not only the non-VR game, but the Vive version as well. “We think we have a control system that’ll work with the Vive motion controllers, maybe,” Henson said. “Still, we’re cognizant of the fact some people will probably want to switch over to using a controller whilst playing on one of the cabinets.” 

No release date has been revealed, but you can follow the development on the company's Facebook page.

Shacknews - John Keefer

We all love speculation, so let's give you this little bit of fodder and let your imaginations run wild. Rockstar and Take-Two have filed a two trademark applications for Judas. 

The applications, in the online games and digital materials categories, were filed last week. According to NeoGAF,  a similar trademark request was filed a week earlier in Europe. The domain Judasthegame.com has also been registered

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has already said that the company would be at E3 "in a big way," but did not go into any details. The company has a May 18 conference call with investors where something could be hinted at. In previous investor calls, Take-Two has said it had a new IP and several unannounced titles in the works. but whatever this is, it is likely the company will wait until the show - or just before - to give out any details. 

So what is it? A Last Supper simulator? A Judas Priest music maker? Maybe we'll get a teaser ...

Shacknews - John Keefer

Oculus has had a bumpy time of late with its delayed shipment to backers of its Kickstarter campaign. However, the company is undaunted, moving ahead with a launch through some retail outlets this weekend.

On its official blog, Oculus revealed that the Rift will be part of the Intel Experience at 48 Best Buys around the United States starting on May 7. It promises that later this summer, more Best Buy locations will be added. In addition, Oculus says an "extremely limited" number of Rifts will be available for purchase at Best Buy and online through Microsoft and Amazon on May 6 starting at 9 a.m. PT. Oculus is focused on filling its backlogged pre-orders, but the company wants to get some extra units out to people willing to pay for them. Of course, if you can't wait for your pre-order, Oculus will let you buy it retail and still keep the pre-order benefits, such as like the EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack and priority status for Touch pre-orders.

"Starting May 6th, if you’re interested, simply go to your order status and let us know you’ve purchased a Rift at retail, and we’ll cancel your pre-order. Your EVE: Valkyrie entitlement will appear in your order history," the site says.

As part of the in-store experience, Oculus is showing demos of Dreamdeck and The Climb. Farlands will be added in the coming weeks.

Oculus has introduced Oculus Live so people can find the store closest to them that will be doing demos. If you live in Canada or Europe, Oculus said it is working to bring demos to those areas this fall.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Oculus has had a bumpy time of late with its delayed release of sets to backser of its Kickstarter campaign. However, the company is undaunted, moving ahead with a launch through some retail outlets this weekend.

On its official blog, Oculus revealed that the Rift will be part of the Intel Experience at 48 Best Buys around the United States starting on May 7. It promises that later this summer, more Best Buy locations will be added. In addition, Oculus says an "extremely limited" number of Rifts will be available for purchase at Best Buy and online through Microsoft and Amazon on May 6 starting at 9 a.m. PT. Oculus is focused on filling its backlogged pre-orders, but the company wants to get some extra units out to people willing to pay for them. Of course, if you can't wait for your pre-order, Oculus will let you buy it retail and still keep the pre-order benefits, such as like the EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack and priority status for Touch pre-orders.

"Starting May 6th, if you’re interested, simply go to your order status and let us know you’ve purchased a Rift at retail, and we’ll cancel your pre-order. Your EVE: Valkyrie entitlement will appear in your order history," the site says.

As part of the in-store experience, Oculus is showing demos of Dreamdeck and The Climb. Farlands will be added in the coming weeks.

Oculus has introduced Oculus Live so people can find the store closest to them that will be doing demos. If you live in Canada or Europe, Oculus said it is working to bring demos to those areas this fall.

...

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