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PRESS START - Is The Force Strong for Respawn's Jedi Sequel?

Welcome to PRESS START, a brand spanking new weekly video game newsletter from me, probablyoliver! Each week, we'll be taking a deep dive into a different topic, talking about the current video game news, taking a look at what's coming up on the gaming calendar and answering a question from you, the reader. This week, in our premiere issue, we'll be naval gazing on whether 2022 was the best year in video game history, mourning what definitely, absolutely, is most certainly, the last delay of Skull and Bones, and preparing ourselves for three heavy-hitting RPGs coming to storefronts this week. But first, let's take a look at Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and talk about how Respawn could very well be about to release the Game of the Year of 2023...


We're a little over two months until the release of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Respawn's hotly anticipated follow up to 2019's surprisingly brilliant Dark Souls-inspired Lightsaber'em-up, Jedi: Fallen Order, and I for one have an unprecedented level of hype for what I truly believe could be one of the best video games of the year.

It's fair to say that Star Wars has had a complicated relationship with the video games medium over the last thirty years (and let's be honest, a complicated relationship with books, TV and film too, but let's leave that topic well alone), especially in the wake of what turned out to be a questionable and tumultuous ten year licensing deal made with bedraggled publishing giant EA in 2013. Star Wars fans have been right to be a little distrusting of any new video game announcement in recent years. After all, we've not only seen unmitigated PR disasters like 2018's infamous 'sense of pride and accomplishment' Battlefront 2 debacle (which remains Reddit's most down-voted comment with a whopping minus 660,000 score!), but also high-profile cancellations of sought-after prestige titles like Star Wars 1313 and Amy Hennig and Visceral's 'Project Ragtag'. Overall, it's been a rough time for Star Wars video game fans.

With that said, it was all the more surprising when Respawn's Fallen Order not only saw the light of day, but actually turned out to be pretty good in the process. It was janky, unstable and packed to the brim with some incredibly funny bugs and glitches (and some not-so-funny-hard-crashes), but it also presented one of the best Star Wars stories ever told. A deeply personal saga of self-discovery in the face of immeasurable loss and post-traumatic stress disorder which earned it's healthy doses of fanservice with it's Uncharted-like level traversal and hard-as-nails Souls-like combat. This was, for the first time in a long time, a Star Wars game that fans could rally behind, and after six years of fumbling the bag, EA finally had a Star Wars hit on its hands.

The last hour of Fallen Order is quite possibly my single favourite sequence in Star Wars history - a desperate dash through an underwater base featuring one of the greatest cameos in video games, and an epic final boss fight with a phenomenally well-crafted villain. For a game that was seemingly rushed through the gate at the behest of its publisher and one that felt almost unplayable at times, it somehow landed the plane, offering a hair-raising finale that made its impossible-to-read map design and wonky physics worthwhile.

With it's upcoming sequel, Respawn has an opportunity to release something truly special, and should Jedi: Survivor find a way to iron out the technical creases of its predecessor, Cal Kestis' continued journey on his way to Jedi masterhood could truly be one for the ages. The Force is with Respawn on this one, and I'll be first in line to play when it releases on PC, PS5 and Xbox consoles on March 17th.


Whilst many are still shaking the cobwebs off from the holiday period, Xbox and Bethesda are diving straight into 2023 with the upcoming Developer_Direct (no word on if the underscore is silent, we're choosing to assume it's not) taking place on Wednesday, January 25th and set to give updates across many of Xbox's first-party studios, including Mojang, Arkane Austin and Turn 10 Studios. It's been a bit of a rocky start to this generation for Xbox, with the Microsoft-owned platform banking on the promise of its excellent GamePass service rather than the release of actual first-party games. Now, with the power of Bethesda behind them and an ambitious slate of games ready to release, this could very much be Xbox's year. What's more, Xbox Germany seemed to (perhaps accidentally) suggest that this conference will feature release dates for heavy-hitters Forza Motorsport and Redfall, further cementing that 2023 could finally be the year that Xbox delivers.

This week also saw the announcement of the nominations of this year's D.I.C.E. Awards, and unsurprisingly, God of War Ragnarök, Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West lead the way with the most nominations. However, D.I.C.E. always makes for an interesting awards show, as its panel is made up of developers, publishers and programmers rather than the standard affair of gaming journalists and influencers. This has resulted in some pretty out-of-left-field victories over the years, with LittleBigPlanet in 2013 and Untitled Goose Game in 2019 winning Game of the Year over the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3 and Death Stranding. Could we see Vampire Survivors do the same this year? We'll find out on February 24th.

There's few phrases as horrifying as 'video game adaptation' (more on that next week!), but by the sounds of things, HBO's high budget adaptation of The Last Of Us seems to have got things just right, as reviews for the upcoming nine-episode series have called it the 'best video game adaptation of all time'. With the creative forces behind 2019's incredible Chernobyl behind it, and with The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal and Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey starring, this absolutely seems to be an adaptation like no other. I'm not sure how emotionally prepared I am for it, especially knowing how things pan out, but this could very well be a new benchmark for how video games can adapt and change for other mediums. Next week, after watching the first episode, I'll be talking in depth about gaming's troubled history with adaptations and whether or not The Last Of Us is as good as the critics are saying it is, so for now, maybe let me know your favourite or least favourite video game adaptations in the comments below.

Final Fantasy XVI isn't coming to PC and you if you want to play it, you should just buy a PS5 says game producer Naoki Yoshida, except for the fact that is definitely is coming to PC, because they've already told us it is. That's right, every piece of marketing for Square Enix's upcoming next instalment in the storied franchise has confirmed that the game is a PS5 exclusive for just six months, and that each build shown has been running on a PC emulating PS5 hardware. Between this and Yoshida's troubling response to legitimate criticism that the game doesn't appear to feature any characters of colour makes me think that maybe Yoshida should leave the marketing beats for the marketing department.

Avast, me hearties, we won't be setting sail on the seven seas this year, because Ubisoft has done the unthinkable and delayed Skull and Bones, confirming it to now be expected to release 'early' in the 2023-2024 fiscal window. It's is a game which was initially revealed in 2017, and has been in active development since 2013. This marks a whopping seven public delays for a game that was originally set to be a spin-off of Ubisoft's 2013 pirate'em-up Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Since then, by my count, there's been no less than fifteen Assassin's Creed games released across all platforms. What's most surprising is that Ubisoft remain committed to releasing their pirate adventure, especially knowing they've since cancelled multiple games behind the scenes.


It's a big week ahead for JRPG fans of all flavours as two legacy titles finally come to modern-day consoles, and a prestige franchise releases its ambitious next instalment.

Firstly, after being trapped on their portable PlayStation prisons for so long (never forget, Vita means life), Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden finally see the light of day on January 19th when they finally come to PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation consoles in what will undoubtedly breath new life into both classic JRPGs. I've personally only recently been converted into a Persona fan, having poured 130+ hours into the phenomenal Persona 5 Royal this time last year and I can't wait to dive into both of these legacy titles.

Fire Emblem fans also have reason to celebrate this week as a brand new instalment, Fire Emblem Engage, releases exclusively for Switch on January 20th. My only experience with the Fire Emblem saga so far has been using its multiple sword wielding anime protagonists in brilliant Nintendo'em-up Super Smash Bros, so I'd be interested to know how people are feeling about this new game, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether it's worth jumping into in the comments below.


It's issue one for PRESS START, so this week's mailbox question comes from yours truly. If you want you to get involved and ask a question for future editions, you can leave a comment below, but for this week, I'll answer the question that's on everyone's lips at the start of each year; how good was last year, and was 2022 the best year in video game history?

Whilst the video game news cycle in 2022 was dominated by Xbox's eye-watering $69billion acquisition of Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard (as well as the seemingly endless opposition towards it), the video game release calendar seemed, at times, a little barren. At the start of the year, what was poised to become one of the most anticipated (and expensive) years in video game history soon became the year of delays, as the likes of Bethesda's ambitious new IP Starfield, Breath of the Wild sequel Tears of the Kingdom and Rocksteady's Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League slipped through the cracks into 2023. In a post-covid, post-Cyberpunk world, developers across the gamut were hesitant to pull the trigger on their projects too early, instead taking the difficult decision to allow their games to gestate a little longer. It was Miyamota's oft-maligned 'Bad game bad, delayed game good' prophecy come to pass.

However, though 2022 didn't deliver in quantity, it most certainly delivered in quality as both FromSoftware's Elden Ring and Sony Santa Monica's God of War Ragnarök released to critical and public acclaim, quickly becoming two of the highest rated games in OpenCritic history, currently sitting at 4th and 14th on the aggregator's all-time list. I would even go as far as to say that these two games are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best games of their respective genres and a ringing endorsement of what video games have come to represent over the last few generations. Neither game presents much in the way of innovation, neither game reinvents the wheel, but both have proven iteration allows video games to side-step the 'sequelitus' that often plagues other forms of media, instead using improvements in hardware to offer bigger and better worlds that simply weren't possible a generation or two ago.

I would be hard-pressed to call 2022 the best year in video game history, even if it gave us two of the best video games of all time, because to me, each year in video games presents something new which couldn't be done before, and that's the beauty of this medium I love so much. Elden Ring and Ragnarök were always going to be fantastic, and in five years time, we'll all be singing the praises of whatever comes next from their respective developers, such is the calibre of their talent. It's a cop-out answer, but I truly believe that in some way or another, every year for the last twenty years has somehow been the best year in video game history, because every year has given us something new, something exciting, and something that was impossible the year before that.

Going forward, 2023 is already looking to be stacked to the gills with not only those aforementioned games pushed back from last year, but also the likes of Insomniac's PlayStation exclusive Spider-Man 2, not one but potentially two Final Fantasy releases, and the long-awaited Hollow Knight sequel. Once again, these games aren't going to reinvent the wheel, but they're all going to deliver us something new, something special and something that wasn't possible before. I can't wait to sit here a year from now and talk about how 2023 was the best year in video game history, just like every other year before it.

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Awesome work Mr Ollie I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the Last Of Us cos it is one of those things that could go either way. Interested to see how faithful it remains.

I have had Fallen Order on my backlog for ages, is it really quite Soulsborne-esque? I was under the impression it was a star wars flavoured Uncharted. I finished Elden Ring but playing Ragnarok immediately after made me realise I don't actually really enjoy the Souls type of combat. I might be way off the mark but I found it massively shallow compared to GoW. But I trust your opinion!

For the first time in ages I think I've only got one upcoming game I am aware of really wanting, Spiderman 2.

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53 minutes ago, Kaney said:

Awesome work Mr Ollie I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the Last Of Us cos it is one of those things that could go either way. Interested to see how faithful it remains.

I have had Fallen Order on my backlog for ages, is it really quite Soulsborne-esque? I was under the impression it was a star wars flavoured Uncharted. I finished Elden Ring but playing Ragnarok immediately after made me realise I don't actually really enjoy the Souls type of combat. I might be way off the mark but I found it massively shallow compared to GoW. But I trust your opinion!

For the first time in ages I think I've only got one upcoming game I am aware of really wanting, Spiderman 2.

Fallen Order very much wears its influences on its sleeve. It's very reminiscent of the Uncharted games with some big set pieces, a lot of running, jumping and climbing and a handful of puzzle-based tombs. It's also a bit MetroidVania-y, in that you'll gradually unlock new powers (force push/pull, double jump, etc) that let you reach previous areas you couldn't reach before. But in it's combat it's very similar to Sekiro, the lightsaber combat is all about parrying at the right time and breaking opponents defences, and so it does become a little Souls-lite.

I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you're running it on a PS5, otherwise it doesn't perform particularly well. It's a 7/10 that I love like a 10/10, because the foundation it lays is something truly special. I really think this new one could be an Assassin's Creed 2 moment, because they have every opportunity to make every aspect of an already very good game better.

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PRESS START - The Last Of Us Didn't Break The Video Game Adaptation Curse, Because There Never Was One


Welcome to the difficult second album for PRESS START, the weekly video game newsletter from me, probablyoliver. This week, we discuss the 'curse' of video game adaptations in the light of HBO's The Last Of Us, and how actually, maybe video games were to blame all along. Also this week, we ask what's better, God of War Ragnarök or Elden Ring, Square Enix releases its latest Dragon'em-up and Beyond Good & Evil 2 is still coming...honest.


This post contains spoilers for The Last Of Us, both the first episode of the new HBO show and the game itself. It also contains spoilers for the seminal 2005 movie adaptation of DOOM starring The Rock. You have been warned.

I cried during the premiere episode of HBO's The Last Of Us, not because of what happened, but rather because I knew it was coming. The opening thirty minutes of Craig Mazin's incredibly faithful adaptation of Naughty Dog's magnum opus plays out almost exactly the same as its 2013 source material, with down-trodden dad Joel (Pedro Pascal) going about his business as daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) plans his birthday surprise. For the uninitiated, it's a touching, if a little trope-y sequence that gives a decent overview of what kind of man Joel is. But for those of us who know how this prologue ends, it's beyond heart-wrenching. The final moments of the prologue, as Joel is left clinging on to his baby girl as she dies in his arms, is arguably the most affecting scene in video game history, and here it's brought to life superbly in stunning HD.

HBO's The Last Of Us is, quite simply, brilliant, and already there's an argument to be made for it being the best video game adaptation to date. The moments lifted straight from the game are beautifully recreated, and it's bolstered by phenomenal supplemental material not featured in the game. Such as the scene where Tess (Anna Torv) is accosted by twitchy scumbag gun-runner Robert (Brendan Fletcher) and his goons, Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and the Fireflies coming to the realisation of just how precious and important Ellie (Bella Ramsey) really is and a frankly chilling cold open in which a scientist (John Hannah) discusses the very real possibility of a fungal apocalypse on the set of a 1960s talk show. All of these moments add some impeccable layers to an already brilliant narrative, and it's where the prestige TV medium shines. We're no longer forced to remain behind the shoulder of Joel throughout the journey, we can branch off, visit other characters, see different perspectives, and it helps to make this world feel very real, very possible, and very, very frightening.

If The Last Of Us continues on its current trajectory of combining like-for-like moments from the game, along with new snapshots from the perspectives of its deep well of excellent characters, then this could become something very special indeed. I'm excited to visit Bill's Town, not only for the excellent casting of Bill himself (Nick Offerman) but also to see how they adapt his relationship with Frank, who we only see hanging from a self-made noose at the end of Bill's story in game. Or we could spend some time with the hunters in Pittsburgh, both before and during their attack on Joel and Ellie and the resulting escape alongside Sam and Henry. Or maybe, just maybe (and I'm not getting my hopes up here), we'll finally meet Ish, the former fisherman turned safehouse community leader whose story in game is told purely through collectable notes. I'll admit that when it was first announced, I was incredibly sceptical of how a show like this would work, but after watching the first episode, I can't wait for the excruciating pain and anguish the next nine weeks are set to put me, and so many of us through.

So there we have it. HBO's The Last Of Us is good, Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have saved us, and finally, the curse of video game adaptations has been lifted. But let's be honest with ourselves now, was there ever even really a curse? Or was it just that video games were never really worth adapting in the first place?

Firstly, to suggest that such a curse exists is laughable, because for the most part, video game adaptations have only ever been as good as their source material. It's not to say that the games themselves are bad, but when Hollywood decided to turn classic 90s shooter DOOM into a feature length movie in 2005, they should've known that the joy of DOOM wasn't from its rich story, characters or lore. It came from the fact that it's really a lot of fun to shoot demons in the face. Removing that player agency and instead forcing people to sit on their hands whilst a super-powered Karl Urban launches The Rock into Mars is a lot less fun than the game itself. The same goes for so many adaptations; the Uncharted games were incredible because they allowed their players to live through the pulp fiction fantasy they'd collectively had since first watching Raiders Of The Lost Ark and the film suffered because that agency was gone.

For the most part, video games work because of that player agency, it's why we love the silent protagonist so much, in Half Life, we don't just watch Gordon Freeman quietly going about his business in the wake of an alien invasion, instead we become Gordon Freeman, and we live vicariously through his perspective, and experience everything first hand. If Hollywood was ever to get its hands on such a property, there's no way it could work without mangling the source material until nothing familiar remains, and we already have more than enough decent alien invasion films to see us through without besmirching such a classic.

It's also not fair to say that video game adaptations haven't, at times, been very, very good, it's just that the best ones all tend to work as companion pieces to their source material rather than frame-for-frame retellings. In recent years, Netflix have released three of the best supplementary video game adaptations in Castlevania, Arcane and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and all of them work because rather than trying to adapt their respective source materials into a new medium, they instead tell stories alongside their games, allowing existing fans to get deeper into the lore and giving new viewers a reason to play the game as well. It's the same reason 2019's Detective Pikachu worked so well. It didn't get bogged down in recreating the games (which would have been excruciating) and instead told a supplementary story filled to the brim with fanservice, references and a deep love for its source material.

Overall, I'm of the mind that with few exceptions, games should just be left as games, because it's the player agency, the choices and the journey that makes them so special. Adaptations work when they're made to go alongside the original rather than replacing or retelling them, in which case, they generally turn out pretty bad. The Last Of Us working as well as it does is a stars-aligning moment, but it's not lifting any curse, because there was never a curse to begin with.


Maybe I've been blinded by hype and the writing's been on the wall the whole time, but it seems as though Rocksteady's upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is a dreaded live service game more akin to Crystal Dynamics' The Avengers than their typical Arkham affair. That's according to a leaked screenshot from a since-deleted 4Chan post that shows no less than five different currency types and the usual host of by-the-numbers levelling systems. If true, it's a shame, as I was really starting to get excited for the game itself, especially in the wake of the trailer shown at last months Game Awards confirming it to be Kevin Conroy's final performance under Batman's infamous cowl.

Last week came the news that Ubisoft were once again delaying their long-gestating pirate adventure Skull and Bones, and this week they're doubling down on the fact that Beyond Good & Evil 2 still very much exists and is still very much in active development, at least according to Eurogamer. Despite cancelling seven unannounced projects over the last year, Ubisoft still seem committed to developing a game which recently overtook Duke Nukem Forever as the game with the single longest development period in history. That's right, whilst 2011's Duke Nukem Forever took a measly 5,156 days to release from its initial 1997 announcement, Beyond Good & Evil 2 was first revealed in May 2008, a whopping 5,350 days ago. Whatever's going on with Ubisoft as of late is certainly concerning, and whether we'll ever see this cult classic sequel remains to be seen, but for now let's just enjoy the fact that it is still, definitely, without question, absolutely on its way. Honest.

The annual Awesome Games Done Quick speed-running event took place last week, hosting over 150 speed-runs from across the globe, and it's now been confirmed that the event raised a whopping $2,642,493 for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. AGDQ is always a highlight of the gaming calendar, showcasing some incredibly talented gamers tackling some insanely intricate speed-runs, and this year's was no different, with the highlight of the week-long event coming when Super Mario Galaxy 2 runner @NotImJhay not only won a four-person race in the Nintendo Wii classic, but also set a new World Record in the process.

RIP Stadia, we hardly knew ye. That's right, this week Stadia has officially shut down its servers, never to return. Google's cloud-based video game streaming service was once heralded as the future of video games, offering players a chance to pick-up-and-play from wherever in the world they were, but a poor reception at launch and a lack of games on the service meant the writing was on the wall from early on. Cloud-gaming may still have a bright future ahead of it, with the likes of Xbox and Amazon doubling-down on their own offerings, but for now, let's just take a moment of silence for another failed Google endeavour.


It's another big week of releases coming up as the debut game from ex-Final Fantasy XV developers finally comes to PS5 and PC, one of the scariest games of all time gets the full remake treatment and PlayStation brings its eye-wateringly expensive premium controller to market.

First announced at Sony's PlayStation 5 Showcase back in June 2020, Luminous Production's debut title Forspoken has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past two-and-a-half years. But now, after two major delays, a luke-warm demo and the announcement of some pretty hefty PC requirements, Square Enix's latest Dragon'em-up is finally releasing next Tuesday, January 24th for PS5 and PC. It follows the story of a young woman transported from modern day New York to the dragon-infested fantasy world of Athia along with her, uh, sentient talking bracelet (?). Time will tell whether Forspoken has what it takes to get over its rocky development, but at least it looks like it'll be absolutely gorgeous.

After a somewhat tepid response both critically and commercially to Striking Distance Studios' debut game The Callisto Protocol last month, EA will be looking to swoop in and save the day with their big budget remake of 2008's terrifying Dead Space. Since it was announced, I've always found it somewhat strange that Dead Space is getting the remake treatment, especially considering the original still not only holds up, but also remains absolutely spine-chilling. Still, the thought of slicing up necromorphs in stunning 4K is pretty tantalizing, and I can't wait to get back on board the Ishimura when Dead Space Remake releases for PS5, PC and the Xbox family of consoles on January 27th.

Also next week, PlayStation look to finally join Xbox in the premium controller game as they release the DualSense Edge, an upgraded controller complete with back-paddles, adjustable triggers and the ability to have up to thirty pre-set remappable control schemes. The only drawback, it costs a whopping £209.99 ($199.99)! I'd love to say I'll be giving a hands-on impression of this new controller when it launches on January 26th, but that price point's just a little too rich for my blood.


This week's mail box question comes to us from @_Reecieboy over on Twitter. If you have a question you want answering, feel free to comment below, send me a DM or join the probablyoliver Discord server.

"Elden ring vs God Of War Ragnarök? What is the best game of all time? Can it even be measured or just personal preference?"

Firstly, everything always comes down to personal preference for these types of things. There's objectively good games (shout-out Tetris) and objectively bad games (shout-out Tetris Worlds) but there's never going to be an objectively 'best' game (except maybe Tetris Effect).

With that in mind, I do think Elden Ring and God Of War Ragnarök are two of the best video games ever to see the light of day, and it's a fun topic of debate as to which of the two is the 'better' game. Both offer incredible combat against behemothic bosses, a tightly-woven narrative steeped in deep history and lore, and both games reward exploration across their vast and brilliantly realised worlds. I'd fully recommend anyone with even a tertiary interest in gaming at least try both of them, as both offer an incredible experience from start to finish, and both of worthy of the immense praise they've received since their respective launches.

For me, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more I struggle to decide which of the two I would choose as my own personal best. It would be too easy to say Elden Ring, because whilst I do believe it to be perhaps my favourite video game of all time, Ragnarök offered not only a fantastic gameplay experience, it also transcended the medium with a story far above and beyond what video games typically represent. Ragnarök's story would be lauded in any medium, and should be witnessed by just about anyone who's ever struggled with their own sense of being. The story of the strained relationship between Kratos and Atreus is as heart-wrenching, well realised and fleshed out as any Oscar-winning film.

Then there's Elden Ring, a game which whilst nowhere near as accessible as God Of War, somehow manages to seep into your bloodstream, grabbing you from the offset with its unmatched world design, horrifying enemies and the single greatest opening theme in video game history (that one is objective and I'll take no further questions on the matter). Last year I put over 200 hours into Elden Ring, and recently I started it all over again, and after I've put another 200 hours in, I'll probably do it once more just for fun. Elden Ring never moved me to tears like Ragnarök did, but also I don't know that I'll ever revisit God Of War's Nine Realms again. I'll keep booking journeys through the Lands Between until the end of time.

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PRESS START: Xbox's Problem Isn't Just a Lack of Video Games, It's a Lack of Identity


Welcome to PRESS START, probablyoliver's weekly video game newsletter that always, without remorse or hesitation, picks Oddjob. This week, we take a look at Xbox's Developer_Direct and ponder Xbox's current identity crisis. Also this week, Square Enix finally pulls the plug on the biggest mis-step in gaming history, CD Projekt Red look to double-down with an incredibly expensive expansion, and I do the unthinkable by recommending a game where you romance anime waifu's in the only good visual novel ever made.


It's been an interesting week for Xbox. In fact, it's been an interesting few years for them. From high profile cancellations, an industry-defining change to subscription-model gaming, and not one but two of the biggest acquisitions in video game history, it's safe to say that grabbing headlines hasn't been an issue for Microsoft's black and green behemoth over the last few years. This week was no different, as Xbox presented its premiere episode of Developer_Direct on Wednesday, highlighting a handful of their upcoming slate of first-party games including Minecraft Legends, Forza Motorsport and Redfall. It was, especially for a first edition, a pretty good showcase, with 45 minutes of gameplay, developer interviews, and perhaps most importantly for Xbox in 2023, release dates.

However, Microsoft also made much less positive headlines this week after laying off an eye-watering 10,000 members of staff, a move which heavily impacted its gaming divisions, with studios ZeniMax, The Coalition, 343 Industries and Bethesda Game Studios being hit the hardest. In the wake of a tumultuous and seemingly never-ending acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and at a time where Microsoft are struggling to keep up with Sony and Nintendo's impressive first-party release schedule, these mass layoffs could potentially add yet more bumps in what's already been a rocky road for Xbox's current gen offerings.

This is not to say that Xbox are doomed, and there are plenty of genuinely interesting innovations and offers the black and green brand have at hand that are worthy of celebration. Their Game Pass model, with users paying a monthly subscription fee to access an impressive library of games across console, PC and mobile, is truly incredible, and is leagues ahead of the copycat services on offer from Nintendo and PlayStation. Xbox is also arguably the most accessible of the three major consoles currently on the market, with strong PC and mobile integration, and also the fact they offer players a choice between the ultra-powerful (and equally pricey) monolithic Series X or the more compact (and cheaper) Series S. It's a business strategy that gives players a wide array of choices in what is typically a very binary space, and it makes Xbox the most consumer friendly of the three main console brands on market today.

Unfortunately for Xbox, ground-breaking game delivery and a great deal of accessibility can only get you so far. For the past two generations, Xbox seemed to have struggled with its first-party output, and after a handful of missteps with their biggest franchises, Xbox seem to have lost their identity. In its 360 heyday, Xbox fired on all cylinders with a handful of tried and tested, heavy-hitting franchises that were guaranteed to put them in the good graces of gamers with every release. Franchises like Halo and Gears Of War, whilst hardly revolutionary in their own right, at least offered peak water-cooler moments with some impeccable, blockbuster set-pieces and an emphasis on multiplayer which didn't hamper the stories being told but rather bolstered them. In a generation where Sony fumbled the bag with the PlayStation 3, Xbox triumphed, offering multiple first-party hits from a wide range of genres, as well as securing the marketing rights for a whole host of third-party powerhouses like Call of Duty, The Elder Scrolls and FIFA.

The cracks started to show around the reveal of Microsoft's next console, the Xbox One, with a misjudged attempt to push players into a 'digital only' existence that would allow users to play their games anywhere they went, so long as they remained online at all times. In a vacuum, it sounded idyllic, but anyone without a half-decent internet connection or anyone with imposed caps on their data usage would be left in the dust. It was a disastrous reveal, and after avoiding the issue for months, Microsoft finally caved to the pressure and reneged on almost everything they'd envisioned. It would be unfair to suggest that the nail was already in the coffin at that point, but Microsoft didn't help themselves by spending much of the Xbox One's life-cycle mishandling their cornerstone properties, losing out on marketing deals and spending their E3 presentations focusing on gimmicks and, uh, military-grade augmented reality tech?

Since then, Xbox have been attempting to claw back some measure of momentum, and though there's a diehard fanbase who are insistent that everything is currently fine and good things are on their way, it's undoubtedly concerning that Microsoft failed to release a single fully-fledged AAA-game on their home consoles in 2022. That, combined with lacklustre and poorly performing recent entries in their once landmark franchises Halo and Gears Of War, as well as many of their upcoming slate of first party games being met with tempered expectations, makes me concerned that Xbox's current problem isn't just a lack of games, but a lack of identity altogether.

For evidence of this apparent identity crisis, I'd say to look no further than Wednesday's Developer_Direct. As I mentioned previously, it was a decent showcase, and there are certainly things worth getting excited for on the horizon, but I can't see that any of the five games shown could become synonymous with Xbox's identity or break through into the ever-important Game of the Year conversation.

First there was the niche, hobbyist games Forza Motorsport and The Elder Scrolls Online, both of which look absolutely fantastic and will undoubtedly rake in nominations for their respective genre-specific awards come the end of the year, but short of being revolutionary, neither stand a change of permeating into the zeitgeist. Then there was Minecraft Legends, an online, multiplayer, action-strategy hybrid. Again, it will definitely find its audience, but just like Forza and ESO, there's little chance of it hitting the mainstream. Next on the docket came Hi-Fi Rush from Tango Gameworks, an ultra-vibrant and intensely colourful rhythm action game, and easily the most surprising of the five games on show. Directed and produced by horror aficionado's John Johanas and Shinji Mikami in a stark contrast to their usual brand of survival spook'em-ups (both previously worked on Tango's horrifying The Evil Within franchise), it's a fast-paced and charming sprint that I'd recommend to near-enough anyone, but again, it's a game that simply won't find an audience outside of those already on Xbox's platform.

Finally, there was the main event of the evening, the upcoming vampire shooter Redfall, and the first game developed exclusively by Arkane's Austin studio since 2017's brilliant but oft-forgotten space horror Prey. For me, it's a game I've been cautiously optimistic for ever since its initial reveal in 2021, but the more I see of it, the more concerned I become. Not only does there appear to be a heavy-handed emphasis on multiplayer, but it seems too big for its own good, almost as if its being designed by committee in an attempt to tick as many boxes as possible rather than offering the kind of bespoke experience that Arkane are famously brilliant at. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope it's every bit as brilliant as its initial reveal suggested it could be, but with Xbox's track record of late, I'm becoming more and more concerned that it could collapse under its own weight in the same way that Halo Infinite did back in 2021.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I'd tell you Xbox was all about squadding up with your pals to take down hoards of aliens, Nazis or zombies in Halo or Call Of Duty. It was about championing innovative indie arcade classics like Braid, Limbo or Fez, and it was about exploring massive worlds in role-playing classics like Knights Of The Old Republic or Skyrim. Maybe it's just the nostalgia talking, but I can't see that any of that still exists to the same level it did on Microsoft's platform, and I can't see how any of Xbox's upcoming slate of games can look to fix that.

Xbox are deserving of a win right now, their Game Pass model is truly impressive, their accessibility suite is next to none, and there's a handful of games in the pipeline that could genuinely be brilliant, but they can't afford to make anymore mistakes. PlayStation have put out enough God Of War's and Spider-Men in the last few years to occasionally take the hit on a poorly received game like Forspoken or The Order 1886. Same with Nintendo, because for every Arms, there's a Splatoon, but Xbox have lost that luxury in the last few years, and if they don't fire on all cylinders and deliver a few bona fide 10/10s over the next year or two, they may risk losing their identity altogether.


This week, it was announced that the plug was finally being pulled on its live-service Marvel's Avengers game, with the final nail being hammered in when it's removed from digital storefronts on September 30th of this year. When it was first announced back in January 2017, at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was raking in literal billions at the box office, it seemed impossible to fail. Yet here we are six years later, lamenting a game which flopped both critically and commercially, and was even deemed a 'disappointment' by developer Square Enix.

After a launch so bad it forced Sony to remove the game entirely from its digital storefront, things finally start to be looking up for Cyberpunk 2077. Not only was CD Projekt Red's first person RPG recently awarded with the 'Labour of Love' award at the recent Steam awards, but now a Reddit post from community director Marcin Morton has confirmed that the upcoming 'Phantom Liberty' DLC is the biggest and most expensive DLC the team have ever made. Considering this would include The Witcher 3's epic Blood And Wine expansion, that's no small feat, and we could finally be on the precipice of Cyberpunk 2077 finally getting its flowers.

In an interview with BuzzFeed this week, Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann has claimed that the developers have officially "moved on" from the Uncharted series, and could potentially do the same with The Last Of Us if it doesn't have a compelling enough story for part three. This comes in the same week that HBO's adaptation of The Last Of Us saw the biggest episode 1 to 2 viewership jump in history, with a whopping 5.7 million viewers tuning in on Sunday night to see the second chapter in Joel and Ellie's story of survival. Whatever's next for Naughty Dog will undoubtedly have a high bar, but with their track record of incredible narrative adventures, I have no doubt it'll be a stunning success.

Finally this week, Rick And Morty creator and alleged domestic abuser Justin Roiland has officially resigned from Squanch Games, the studio he co-created back in 2016. Last month, Squanch Games released High On Life, their epic space shooter which would have been more bearable if not for Roiland's incredibly annoying voice work. In their statement, Squanch Games promised to "keep developing games we know our fans will love while continuing to support and improve High On Life".


Season: A Letter To The Future releases on Tuesday, January 31st on both PC and PS5, and early reviews suggest it's another win for indie games, promising "stunning visuals, subtle score, [and] compelling characters". The development of this indie darling was marred in controversy after reports of abuse allegations back in 2021, however an independent audit into the studio "did not find the presence of systemic sexual or psychological harassment". It's still worth noting however, and I recommend everyone does their research before jumping into any such game.

The long-awaited re-release of classic 1997 multiplayer favourite Goldeneye 007 releases today, January 27th on Nintendo Switch and Xbox for anyone looking for a heavy dose of nostalgia and terrible shooting mechanics. I was absolutely besotted with the original back in the late 90s, and I personally can't wait to dive back in, even if just to remind myself of how far we've come.


On occasion for PRESS START, I'll be digging deep into my never-ending backlog to play something I totally missed when it first came out. This week, we take a look at Doki-Doki Literature Club.

Now, I'll start by saying that I have zero interest in visual novels, anime, or virtual dating sims of any kind. In fact, I typically find the genre somewhat uncomfortable. I could spend this entire section delving into why, but instead I'll just say any game that has to come with a pre-roll disclaimer stating that all the girls depicted in the game are over the age of 18 is a little icky by my standards. But hey, this isn't the time or the section for that discourse.

I'll follow that up by saying I've been aware of this game for a few years, and I understand how highly regarded it is. However, it's a game I've ignored regardless of its high praise as, again, it's not a genre I have even a tertiary interest in. Still, the sheer amount of recommendations I'd had to play the game finally got to me, and after being told (numerous times) that it was a subversion of the visual novel genre, I finally caved and picked it up on PlayStation last week.

Since then, I've played through it (twice), and I can safely say that it's not only one of the most brilliantly written video games ever made, but there are certain moments that will henceforth live in my mind rent-free in the same way the opening of The Last Of Us or the ending of Final Fantasy VII's disc one do.

I won't spoil anything, because I really believe it needs to be seen to be believed, and I'm genuinely jealous of anyone who's yet to have experienced it or had the game spoiled for them. All I will say is that the first hour plays out exactly the same as I imagine any straight-played visual novel does, you're presented with four giggling girls who are quick to fawn over your wit and charm, and through a series of text-prompt decisions, you must choose the object of your affections. Then, out of nowhere, it changes, and what comes next is truly stunning.

It's not converted me to the genre by any means, and though I can appreciate other subversions like Hatoful Boyfriend or Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator, I'll happily live the rest of my life in the knowledge that no game of its type could ever come close to the psychological warfare I experienced at the hands of Moniker and the rest of the literature club.

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Interesting to read about the Xbox situation, it hasn't really occurred to me but I haven't actually switched on my Series S in months. I don't have that big of a backlog tbf but I can't remember the last time I looked forward to an Xbox game release. Game pass is excellent and the fact they add top tier games so quickly is awesome but still...I've had Fallen Order downloaded for ages and haven't bothered with it but I saw its one of the playstation plus games this month and downloaded it for the PS5 before remembering. It's definitely a weird time right now.

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1 hour ago, Kaney said:

Interesting to read about the Xbox situation, it hasn't really occurred to me but I haven't actually switched on my Series S in months. I don't have that big of a backlog tbf but I can't remember the last time I looked forward to an Xbox game release. Game pass is excellent and the fact they add top tier games so quickly is awesome but still...I've had Fallen Order downloaded for ages and haven't bothered with it but I saw its one of the playstation plus games this month and downloaded it for the PS5 before remembering. It's definitely a weird time right now.

Honestly, I actually think Xbox are in a fairly enviable position, but only if they manage to hit on all cylinders over the next year or two. I didn't really touch on Starfield at all this week, because I'm saving it for down the line when more details come out, but if it's every bit as good as it could be, I think it could totally shift the conversation as to who "wins" this generation. If it's a 10/10, and it's free to play on Game Pass, then Xbox will be almost untouchable.

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I think the perception of Xbox is influenced somewhat by the fact that they don't have full console exclusives now, with every first-party game coming to PC as well. Getting people into the so-called "Xbox ecosystem" is more of a priority than shifting huge numbers of consoles.

I dislike Microsoft as a massive corporate monolith, much as I do Sony, but I think their first-party output has been very good since the Series S and X consoles launched. I've had lots of enjoyment from the following Microsoft-published games over the last couple of years:

Gears Tactics

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Age of Empires IV

Forza Motorsport 5

As Dusk Falls


That's not mentioning first-party games that were also on Playstation due to previous contractual obligations, such as Wasteland 3 and Psychonauts 2. While I haven't finished it yet, I'm also really liking Hi-Fi Rush. I love that, along with Pentiment, Microsoft-owned studios are being allowed to get a few people together and make smaller passion projects as the bigger games are being developed.

Honestly (and I know it's not a popular opinion), I played Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War (2018) for a few hours and wasn't really drawn in, so their respective sequels were never going to be on my radar. Obviously, though, they're big hitters that get a lot of attention, which is something that Xbox, perhaps unfairly, doesn't have a lot of.

I do think that this year should be the year the new consoles start justifying themselves to the masses. Sony's only major full PS5 exclusive right now is Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, with God of War: Ragnarok, Horizon: Forbidden West and Gran Turismo 7 all playable on PS4. I find it hard to count The Last of Us: Part 1 and Demon's Souls when they're both very similar remakes of games you can still buy at a much lower price. This year, there are possibly two Final Fantasy exclusives on PS5, while I think the vast majority of Microsoft's output is going to be unavailable on Xbox One. Again, that's not an issue if you already have a good gaming PC, but there are still plenty of people who will prefer the plug-and-play sofa experience of the consoles.

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I wouldn't say it's unfair that Xbox's first party output doesn't get the same attention as PlayStation, because as it stands, Sony's general output has been hugely more deserving of attention that Xbox's. It's not to say that the game you listed aren't good, I've also had a great deal of fun with the likes of Flight Sim and Forza, but there's no denying they're niche titles for a very specific audience, and I feel they get the exact level of attention they cater towards. The problem is, in the long run, Xbox needs to release at least a few games on the same calibre as some of Sony's first party output, or else they'll never get out of Sony's shadow.

I also disagree somewhat on Sony not having any 'major full PS5 exclusives'. Granted there's still a great deal coming out cross-generation (which makes sense considering not only the extended development time such games now take, but also it's only now viable to start releasing generationally exclusive games now that the pandemic and chip shortage has started to ease up), but there's still a good deal of games only available on the PS5 (or PC, but that gets messy in all different ways). Whether you like it or not, TLOU pt 1 and Demon's Souls do absolutely count towards that figure, because there absolutely is an audience for them. There's also been a fair amount of PS5 exclusive DLC from FFVII, Ghost of Tsushima and coming up, Horizon Forbidden West. There's also smaller, still AAA games like Returnal and Sackboy which are covering other bases. PS5 has had a slow start, but I don't think there's any denying that it's beating Xbox so far.



Anyway, what I'm also here for. Announcement time! Starting this Friday, PRESS START has a new home!


Ooooh! Exciting! Isn't it lovely!

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I'm not really sure about the idea that Forza and Flight Sim are niche, but Demon's Souls is a major title. Forza Horizon 5 has significantly outsold Demon's Souls, even though it's on Game Pass, and Flight Sim has sold around the same number of copies on Steam alone as Demon's Souls has altogether. More people were playing Forza Horizon 5's early access, available only to those who bought it outright, than Returnal ever sold. The Last of Us remake has enjoyed a significant boost since the show started, but it also didn't set the charts alight when it first came out.

What's "deserving of attention" will always be subjective, or at least dependent on the definition. For me, Ghost of Tsushima was more interesting than Horizon: Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok were ever going to be because it was a new IP, but the latter two games were obviously going to garner more hype because they were sequels to popular games. I suppose Microsoft's recent output has been more intriguing to me because they're putting out more new properties than Sony is. Really, I'd say that the only "new" Sony-published game that's exclusive to PS5 is Returnal, and, as said, that wasn't the big blockbuster that the likes of Uncharted et al. are.

The PS5 will inevitably sell huge numbers if Sony just keeps focusing on the same series, but my head will turn more when their studios deliver some fresh IPs. Give us a Naughty Dog RPG or a Sucker Punch tactical game. Yes, it's less safe than The Last of Us Part 3 and Ghost of Tsushima 2, but let's live on the wild side for once. Clearly, that's a memo that most game publishers could do with reading.

Anyway, that's my tuppence worth that I imagine hardly anyone will agree with.

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Season: A Letter To The Future had been on my list for a long time, and I remember them going through the sexual harassment stuff. I picked it up last night and having only played 45 minutes, it's stunning so far, like taking a slow walk on a lovely day.

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2 minutes ago, probablyoliver said:

It is live! You can see how rad my website looks and everything!


Tell me you belong in Shoreditch without telling me you belong in Shoreditch. :D

Seriously this has been a really good read and whist we don't normally have the same tastes in our gaming your views have always been well thought and well argued and I hope this takes off for you.

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Issue Four of PRESS START is LIVE NOW!

In it, I talk about how video game remakes are actually pretty good, E3's sad, slow decline, Titanfall Legends being cancelled and whether Xbox should shadow-drop more games.

Have a read, yeah?


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10 minutes ago, probablyoliver said:

Issue Four of PRESS START is LIVE NOW!

In it, I talk about how video game remakes are actually pretty good, E3's sad, slow decline, Titanfall Legends being cancelled and whether Xbox should shadow-drop more games.

Have a read, yeah?


Will I earn a trophy if I do?

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