#122: Valve Could Reveal Half-Life VR at The Game Awards

TODAY: The numbers are in: Pokémon is bigger than Star Wars — Modders have already started expanding the Sword & Shield Pokédex — Patent filing reveals more about Sony’s new DualShock controller

Top Story

Valve could reveal ‘Half-Life: Alyx’ at The Game Awards

All eyes on Valve now, because the Half-Life rumour mill is a-grinding once more! Valve is apparently going to show off an all-new Half-Life game at The Game Awards on December 12th.

But don’t get too excited: The new Half-Life is supposedly a VR game and not a typical Half-Life game.

Half-Life 3rd dimension – oh, so close

According to this leaked transcript, Half-Life: Alyx is scheduled for March 2020, and is designed exclusively for VR. There’s no indication of what kind of time it will be, except that there are zombies and shooting.

“You can see their whole body – Respond to the situation. You know, panicking, dropping clips on the ground as they fumble their weapons ’cause a zombie’s in front of them, all these things, they’re just – it’s been really fun watching playtests.”

We’ll find out if any of this is true during Game Awards on December 12th.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which one of these characters has NOT been playable in a Half-Life game?

  • Barney Calhoun
  • Adrian Shephard
  • Eli Vance
  • Colette Green

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

News Bits

Pokémon Sword & Shield sandwich Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in charts

Unsurprisingly, Pokémon Sword & Shield are selling like hotcakes in Europe. If you ever wondered whether Pokémon or Star Wars is more popular, we got a solid data point for you right here: Pokémon Sword took the top spot in the sales chart for the week ending November 16th, followed by Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in second place and Pokémon Shield in third. Whatever force power EA decides to use to win the top spot, it better the super-effective.

Google Stadia launch line-up grows

Google Stadia’s launch line-up didn’t exactly set the world on fire, so the company formerly priding itself on not being evil decided to make another ten games available at launch. That means 22 games will be available to buy at launch. So just to clarify: That’s 21 games that are already on sale on a bunch of other stores where you don’t need to pay for a subscription in addition to the price of the games, plus one exclusive. Good luck, Google!

Daily Fact

What’s up with the big Dracula fight in Castlevania NES?

The second Castlevania game was actually named Dracula 2 in Japan, subtitled The Seal of the Curse, and was launched for the Famicom Disk System in 1987. The name was changed to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for its Western release, a name decided by creator Hitoshi Akamatsu.

The goal of the original Castlevania game on NES is to defeat Dracula, but there’s quite a lot of weird stuff going on in that battle. For instance, you only gain 1 measly point for defeating the granddaddy of all vampires. Akamatsu has admitted that he made a mistake, and that the player was supposed to be awarded 10,000 points.

Next up, Dracula’s head flying off is supposed to foreshadow his resurrection – but that isn’t actually Dracula you’re fighting at the very end! It is instead “a monster borne from the curse of man.” Duh. Any real Castlevania fan would know that Dracula can’t exist in a peaceful age. Maybe it would have been more obvious if Konami had hired Sir Patrick Stewart to lay it all out clearly right away instead of waiting until 2010?

Daily News

Missing Pokémon modded into Pokémon Sword and Shield

Since Game Freak didn’t want to add the entire Pokédex to Pokémon Sword & Shield, the modding community stepped in. Someone has already imported the Omastar model from Let’s Go into Sword & Shield, and it seems to have worked pretty seamlessly: Even the animations are playing.

Sword & Shield is the first game in the long-running series to feature a trimmed-down Pokédex, and Game Freak has said they intend to continue with a smaller Pokédex in future titles.

Gotta Mod ‘Em All

This angered some fans, but the real backlash began when the angry internet mob decided Game Freak had lied about why they had trimmed the Pokédex. Game Freak originally stated that remaking every Pokémon from scratch to suit Sword & Shield’s increased visual quality was just too big a job. Intrepid data miners have since compared various models from the game to earlier entries, and found that they are … pretty much the same.

Game Freak has stuck to their guns, and have no plans to add any of the missing Pokémon to Sword & Shield. Nitpicky tech site Digital Foundry suggests that the claims of asset reuse has some merit, but that Game Freak would have to invest considerable amounts of work in textures and materials to adapt the existing Pokémon to Sword & Shield’s new engine. In any case, it looks like the only way to get a full Pokédex is to wait for modders to hack in data from older games.

Patent reveals possible next-gen DualShock for PlayStation 5

Sony appears to have filed a patent for a new DualShock design. Could it be yet another DualShock 4 revision, or the new controller for PlayStation 5?

The new controller features larger triggers, smaller sticks and USB-C port and seems to get rid of the light bar. There are also apparently some fundamental changes under the hood.

DualShock is the true ‘face’ of PlayStation

The PlayStation 5 controller is supposed to feature adaptive triggers, which allow developers to change the triggers’ resistance. For instance, the adaptive trigger could be used to suggest the tautening of a bow’s string as it is pulled back, with the button becoming harder and harder to press down.

The new controller also features programmable voice coil actuators in the grips, which provide new levels of haptic feedback as reported in Wired’s PlayStation 5 reveal earlier this year. Developers can use the new haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and the controller’s improved speaker to create much more nuanced feedback than the old vibration motors allowed.

PlayStation 5 is expected to launch in late 2020.

Game Spotlight

Jedi: Fallen Order offers a new hope

(Respawn/EA – PC/PS4/Xbox One)

Every generation has its own myths and legends – or at least a decent single-player Star Wars game. While DICE has managed to turn Star Wars Battlefront II into a decent game, it’s still no Jedi Knight, Rogue Leader or even Force Unleashed. Fortunately, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – from Titanfall and Apex Legends developer Respawn Studios – is finally here, and looks like exactly the kind of adventure we have been waiting for.

Fallen Order stars red-headed Jedi Cal Kestis, who’s in hiding after the events in Revenge of the Sith made the galaxy a less hospitable place for young Jedi. Unfortunately for him – and fortunately for us – he is forced back into the battle against the empire by ex-Jedi Ceres, who wants him to restore the Jedi order.

Turn to the Dark Souls

The story is best left unspoiled, since it’s fun and well-told featuring a mix of new and old characters. Sure, the ruggedly handsome white dude lead doesn’t look terribly exciting, but his buddies Ceres and Greez are fantastic, and so is his droid companion BD-1. They all add a touch of humour to an otherwise dark tale – and yes, things do get rather dark.

Dark Souls-dark, actually! The combat appears heavily inspired by From’s gothic masocore games, while the platforming is reminiscent of Uncharted and Prince of Persia, all tied together with Metroid Prime-style exploration. The lightsaber combat – featuring force powers, of course – is not as tough as your typical Souls-like, but it’s still definitely challenging. Another design cue borrowed from the Souls series is the way you continually unlock shortcuts that tie together different parts of the game map and makes up for the lack of fast travel.

There are alternatives to fighting… maybe

The highlights of the game are the exciting set-pieces, which include face-offs against AT-ST walkers, climbing onto and boarding huge AT-AT walkers and surprise boss battles. There’s always something happening, and even if you find time to let your mind wander, an inattentive Jedi is as good as a dead Jedi.

All in all, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order stands out as one of the best Star Wars games made. It also feels like a proper part of the Star Wars canon: It’s not just a tie-in or some kind of side-story, it’s part of the saga.

While there are times when you get killed by a giant space frog again and again, you will also casually backflip over a storm trooper, cut him in half, then deflect a blaster bolt back at another before finally force-pushing their whimpering commander off a cliff (no Wilhelm scream, though). That’s what makes Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order one of the coolest games of the year.

News Bits

Eagle-eyed fans spot mouse cursor in Pokémon Sword & Shield’s end credits

It’s not exactly the end of the world, but still funny: Sharp-sighted gamers have spotted a mouse cursor briefly intruding in Pokémon Sword & Shield’s end credit sequence: It quickly whizzes across the back of a drum-playing Pokémon.

Square Enix will talk more of Babylon’s Fall by end of the year

Square Enix promises more information about PlatinumGames’ latest project Babylon’s Fall later this year. Currently in development for PC and PlayStation 4, it’s … a game about Babylon. And maybe its fall? Something like that anyway! It was announced at E3 last year, but there’s not much information about it except that it was originally intended to launch this year.

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Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

Which one of these characters has NOT been playable in a Half-Life game?

Answer: Eli Vance!

In only a few weeks we might see a brand new Half-Life VR game starring Alyx Vance, which is a good time to remind you that it’s not the first time you play as someone other than Gordon Freeman. In fact, the series have featured four other protagonists! Five, if you count Chell from the Portal series.

Adrian Shephard is the hapless soldier who helps turn back a second alien invasion in Opposing Force. Barney Calhoun is the security guard starring in Blue Shift, who also appeared in Half-Life 2. Colette Gren and Gina Cross were both Black Mesa scientists, and the stars of the PlayStation 2-exclusive co-op campaign Half-Life: Decay. Alyx’s father, the scientist Eli Vance – also from Black Mesa – is one of the stars of the Half-Life series, but he’s never been playable. Maybe he’ll follow in his daughter’s footsteps eventually?

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