#125: Call John Connor, Sony’s Skynet!

TODAY: Win some Half-Life, lose some Half-Life — Ever wanted to be chased by more than one xenomorph in Alien: Isolation? — Yu Suzuki is not even half-done with Shenmue yet

Top Story

Sony AI will “fill the world with emotion”, hopefully not Terminators

Sony has announced a new organization – Sony AI – set up to “advance fundamental research and development of artificial intelligence”. With a bit of luck, that won’t result in a future PlayStation gaining sentience and going all Skynet.

Sony AI will have offices in Japan, Europe and the United States and Sony’s goal is to “unleash human imagination and creativity with AI”. There’s always something vaguely sinister about seeing the word ‘unleash’ in this context, but fingers crossed. The organization will combine the efforts of Sony’s research and technical department, and draw especially heavily on Imaging & Sensing Solutions, robotics and – of course – videogames.

There is no fate but what we make for ourselves

Sony plans to create “multiple world-class flagship projects” to drive the research and development of AI in physical and virtual spaces. There will be at least one game among these projects, as well as two other imaging & sensing projects and … apparently also gastronomy. Let’s hope the AI doesn’t get a taste for human flesh.

The press release says “the adoption of new AI technologies developed through these flagship projects will be critical to further enhancing the value of Sony’s gaming and sensor businesses in coming years” and the obvious question is whether this has anything to do with PlayStation 5, or if we will have to wait for the inevitable PlayStation 6 to usher in the singularity. Better behave nicely when you play online, since you never know when a future AI overlord might be watching.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which platform was the first Aliens vs Predator launched on?

  • Atari Jaguar
  • Arcade
  • PC
  • SNES

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Ex-Dishonored developers’ new game will be revealed at The Game Awards

Arkane Studios has built a strong reputation for immersive first-person games with the Dishonored series and the Prey reboot, and now co-founder Raphael Colantonio and executive producer Julien Roby has left to start a new studio called WolfEye. Their first game will be revealed at the Game Awards next month, and will apparently carry on the traditions established at Arkane with “rich simulated worlds that respond to actions and decisions in ways that are unique to each playthrough”.

Daily Fact

Dishonored developer Arkane Studios nearly made a Half-Life game

Valve is supposed to reveal their surprise Half-Life game today, but did you know that Arkane Studios was commissioned to make a Half-Life episode? It was named Episode Four: Return To Ravenholm, and would have made Arkane the third studio to work on the series, after Valve and Gearbox.

Return to Ravenholm was in development at Arkane between 2006 and 2008, and featured a new protagonist exploring the zombie-infested town from Half-Life 2. However, Valve apparently decided that the whole zombie thing was a bit old-hat – and then went on to release two straight-up zombie games right afterwards.

Okay, there might have been other factors too: Valve and Arkane both knew that Return to Ravenholm would have to be set before the end of Episode Two, and they were both concerned that this would constrain Arkane’s freedom to tell a good story. And thus, another Half-Life was snatched from us.

Daily News

Alien: Isolation is coming to Switch in December, and modders make it scarier

Alien: Isolation is pretty much the best Alien game out there – sure, the there are some decent Aliens vs Predator games, but that’s more of a crossover and Isolation is truly in a class of its own. Just you, a xenomorph and an abandoned space station all to yourselves.

It’s a masterclass in nerve-wrackingly tense survival horror, and now Sega has announced that it’s coming to Switch on December 5th. The Switch version will include all the DLC, including the missions that recreate the first Alien movie and put you in Ellen Ripley’s shoes. The game will weigh in at around 18GB, so better start clearing space on that SD card.

They mostly come at night. Mostly

And that’s not the only news about Alien: Isolation! PC players may soon be able to add even more tension and despair to the game with the Aliens: Isolation mod, which – as the name suggests – adds more than one xenomorph to the fray. Sound scary? Just wait until you see it in action.

The game was tough enough when you had one xenomorph to hide from, but when there’s a dozen chasing you, well, the moment one of them spots you it’s game over, man, game over! Still no word on when the mod will be available, unfortunately.

Borderlands 3’s first expansion is coming December, and it’s a heist

Borderlands 3 has been out for a couple of months now, and while there have been some updates such as the Halloween-themed Bloody Harvest event, you’re probably hankering for a nice, chunky story-based DLC. Well, good news! The game’s first campaign expansion has been revealed, and will be out for all versions of the game on December 19th.

The DLC is called Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot, and follows the exploits of two of Borderlands’ most popular characters: Flirtatious bar owner Moxxi and Borderlands 2 villain Handsome Jack. While it’s still not clear if Jack himself will return from the dead to make an appearance, the DLC is about raiding the casino he used to run – and nab all its loot.

”I’ve got a little proposition for ya.”

You will face Hyperon security forces, crazy casino patrons as well as “never-before-seen enemies and larger-than-life bosses”. There will be loads of new, unique loot, including new Vault Hunter heads and skins, trinkets, emotes, legendaries and more. Check out the trailer to see what’s in store.

You will need to have reached at least level 13 and have gained access to the Sanctuary III spaceship to play the DLC, although the difficulty will scale to match your level, so there’s no way you can be over- or underpowered. Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot is the first of four expansions included in the Borderlands 3 Season Pass, and the rest will presumably arrive over the course of 2020.

VR Roundup

Espire 1: VR Operative finally launching this week

Espire 1: VR Operative has been delayed several times since it was revealed at E3 earlier this year, but developer Digital Lode has confirmed that it’s finally coming out on November 22nd for HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Rift and Quest as well as PlayStation VR.

The game features a number of missions you can approach in a number of different ways, whether you like to take the stealthy approach and sneak up on your foes or simply fall back on some good, old-fashioned guns-blazing head-first action. Digital Lode claims there’s no risk of motion sickness, and if you preorder the game on Steam you will receive Killing Floor: Incursion free of charge.

Action-adventure game Lonn announced, launching in 2020

Step into a dystopian cyberpunk future and assume the role of Lonn, a bounty hunter in the wrong place at the wrong time. A mysterious hacker has revealed a major corporation is on the verge of developing technology that can transfer minds into cyborg bodies, and Lonn seems to want to stop them.

Lonn is the first game from Australian studio SixSense, and the trailer should give you a good idea why people are excited about it. SixSense has not confirmed which headsets the game will support, but it’s reasonable to assume it’ll be playable on the big three: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index.

Take a tour of the Sistine Chapel!

Ever fancied a tour of the Sistine Chapel but don’t feel like going all the way to Rome to see it? No problem! Il Divino: Michaelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling in VR is now available for free on Steam. Strap on your HTC Vive, Valve Index or Oculus Rift and wander through the chapel and learn about the famous ceiling fresco, from how it was painted to how it is maintained. You can also enjoy the experience without a VR headset.

Oculus Link launches in beta

Remember the software that would enable Quest users to play Rift VR ttiles on PC? Well, there’s a beta version available for Nvidia GPU owners. Plug your Oculus Quest headset into a USB 3.0 port and launch the Oculus App to get started.

While Oculus has insisted that you need a high-speed USB cable for Oculus Link to work, Reddit users got it up and running using a simple AmazonBasics USB-A to USB-C cable. If you like your fancy cables, Oculus will launch a five-meter “premium, custom optical fiber cable” later this year.

News Bits

Yu Suzuki pledges to finish Shenmue 4

Shenmue 3 is finally out after all these years – but it’s not the end of the story just yet. In fact, we’re only halfway there! In the game’s credits, creator Yu Suzuki writes a letter to the fans and promises that he “will never give up on my own personal journey to complete its story… I sincerely hope that, together, we can continue to spin the tale of Ryo and his adventures in Shenmue 4.” Presumably his hopes and dreams depend on Shenmue 3 selling well.

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Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

Which platform was the first Aliens vs Predator launched on?

Answer: SNES!

There were games based on both the Alien and Predator franchises before, but the two unfriendly alien species first clashed on the SNES in 1993 – a year before Capcom’s classic arcade title and Rebellion’s first FPS on the Atari Jaguar.

Unfortunately the SNES version of Aliens vs Predator is pretty much the worst game in the series, which is why no-one really talks about it anymore. The game is a side-scrolling beat’em-up developed by Japanese developer Jorudan – most famous for making a public transport route navigation website – and published by Activision. There was also a Game Boy port, which is even worse. Stick to the arcade game or the original PC game instead if you want a nostalgia trip.

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