Shawn Layden States Fans Will “Likely See Us Start To Make More Noise In The New Term” When Speaking On PlayStation Multiplayer

Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studio CEO Shawn Layden has been reemerging from Sony’s overall silent end of 2018 by speaking more to multiple news outlets. With much of Sony’s road map of 2019 for the PlayStation 4 being relatively unknown outside of the upcoming Days Gone from Bend Studios in April, one area Layden mentions fans should expect to see a higher emphasis on is multiplayer.

Speaking Business Insider, the long term Sony gaming staple touched on a multitude of topics, such as the staggering units sales that the PlayStation 4 has accumulated, which currently has surpassed 91 million lifetime units sold. While the positives for the gaming company rolled, the PlayStation guru was given a somewhat devil’s advocate approach: for all of the success this past year (and the overall console generation), what is something that PlayStation has whiffed on? “For all of the advances we’ve made, and the high bar we’ve focused on in storytelling” Layden began. “I mean, I dare anybody to experience something like The Last of Us and not feel emotional about it; and with God of War, that story of a father and son; and Horizon: Zero Dawn, and the power of Aloy, the protagonist. All of these things, I believe we’ve done quite well. I’m very happy with the Spider-Man game that went out last year. And looking forward, Days Gone is coming in a couple months. That’s not only compelling and gripping, but it will emotionally try you very hard. I think all those things we do really well. What we don’t do so much in is multiplayer.”

Admittedly, while PlayStation has been the go-to home console for many gamer’s needs this generation, they have seen a distinct drop in first party multiplayer based games. Many Sony owned franchises such as Killzone and Twisted Metal that rely heavily on multiplayer aspects, have laid dormant for year; with the former of the two last releasing in 2013, with Killzone: Shadow Fall on PS4. While they haven’t necessarily been hurting because of it, due to the immaculate resume of their single player, first party experiences, it is something that Layden has noticed and looks to address moving forward.

When asked for clarification on if he meant local or online multiplayer, Layden specified his intentions on online multiplayer. “Couch co-op — I mean that’s a whole category I think the industry needs to look back at. We have that with sports titles, and some racing titles, but not with much else. And I think that speaks to the power of the internet on the one hand, but otherwise we might wanna revisit that to get more family engagement in the gaming experience. But, no, I was referencing more with the things like GTA 5 Online, or you look at Call of Duty, or Fortnite, or any of those experiences. Worldwide Studios, like I say, we’ve been going really heavy into story-driven gaming. The power of the narrative. Big, spectacular experiences. But not a whole lot in the multiplayer side of things, I think. That’s an area where you will likely see us start to make more noise in the new term.”

With confirmation of Sony’s departure from this years upcoming E3 event later last year, both media and consumers remain optimistic of the Japanese tech giant’s 2019 year, but the mystery surrounding its releases does make some cautious. Layden has gone on record via a tweet stating “see you in the new year” when pressed about the upcoming year, but many releases outside of April’s Days Gone still don’t have dates attached, including The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, and Ghosts of Tsushima. Hopefully by Layden’s recent media presence it means that more information on PlayStation’s 2019 isn’t that far in the distance.

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Shawn Layden on ‘Fewer, But Bigger’ Sony First Party Games, Acquiring Studios, and More

The eighth generation of video game consoles have been nothing short of a grand slam for Sony and the PlayStation 4, selling over 91 million units in its lifespan so far. With the newest generation of consoles looming on the ever closing horizon, many have found it interesting to see that the Japanese tech giant has decided to take the year off from attending E3 2019, the biggest gaming expo and press event of the year, leading speculation to run wild on what Sony could have up their sleeve. At the helm of the company’s gaming endeavors, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, has remained overall silent outside of his ‘see you in the new year’ tweet late last year. Now, the Sony executive is starting to reemerge in the public, ahead of his upcoming keynote speaking role at tomorrow’s DICE Awards.

In an interview with CNet, the long time Sony staple touched on a number of topics, including the company’s current mindset on how they go about producing first party titles with current trends in mind. “I think we’ve done a lot over the last three or four years to get us to a place right now where we’re building fewer games per year than ever before, but we’re spending more time, more energy, certainly more money, on making them” Layden touched on. “So we’re striking on all the beats that we want to, and we’re getting both critical and commercial acclaim. Let’s see now what we might add to our arsenal. I’ve looked at some opportunities in the past, it’s an opportunity to look for the ones that are the best cultural fit.”

Naturally, his answer led to a follow up surrounding the company’s decision process in terms of acquiring studios. “We’re always exploring opportunities” Layden continued. “If we found a partner or a team or a game that we felt was particularly meaningful and interesting in a service area, we will look to bring that in. We’re always open to that kind of experience. We try to make it really easy for our teams to focus on what our vision is for the future. And we have simplified it to ‘first, best or must.’ If your title is going to be “first” and creating a genre, or “first” and creating a new game activity, let’s look at that. If you’re going to make an action adventure game, It better be “best” in class. And we have the third category called “must,” which is we must support the platform, we must be present when new technology comes out.” First party studios and an emphasis on exclusive titles has always been a sticking point for the now fourth generation gaming hardware company, but competitors have began to take notice of their secret formula. Currently, Microsoft now owns fourteen game studios, with seven of them being added in the past year.

Layden also emphasized that Sony still is putting accessibility in mind first and foremost when delving into a eventual streaming-based future of gaming. While he confirms that PlayStation does have a great ecosystem set in place for those who are interested in streaming with PlayStation Now, Layden promises that the company still views their perspective as “we can leave no gamer behind”. When the PlayStation 4 was first in development, talks of a web based system were plentiful, but the company wanted to keep the system accessible to everyone possible, using the example of military members using the hardware. Many wouldn’t have access to internet when on deployment (or internet that was stable enough to download/stream info consistently), so disc based hardware was important.

While Layden remained tight lipped on the rumors surrounding the inevitable PlayStation 5, it is a good sign to see the company begin to emerge as the new year is in full force. With upcoming first party blockbusters such as The Last of Us Part II, Ghosts of Tsushima, and Death Stranding still possible to all release this year on current generational hardware, along with the upcoming Day’s Gone, Sony fans should buckle their seat belts; the rollercoaster may be just about to start.

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Apex Legends Revealed, Free to Play Battle Royale Now Available On PS4, Xbox One, and PC

Respawn Entertainment, the makers of Titanfall, have announced a new free to play battle royale game in the futuristic FPS franchise called Apex Legends.

Meshing the hero shooter style found in games such as Overwatch with the battle royale genre, Apex Legends will adopt the free to play method, bring the unique take on the widely popular genre.

Rumors began hitting the forums and messages boards late last week, with Kotaku’s Jason Schreier breaking news that the game’s initial reveal would be take place later that weekend, with a possible soft launch on Monday, February 4th. Last night, many content creators and streamers took to social media to confirm the existence of the game, along with Respawn themselves, promoting their reveal stream today.

While a mainline Titanfall sequel was confirmed to be in development by Respawn, it is unknown if that project had morphed into Apex Legends or if the original project is still in the works. Respawn, who EA purchased in December 2017, is also scheduled to release an upcoming Star Wars game later this year, titled Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Apex Legends is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (Origin). For more information, tune into Respawn Entertainment’s deep-dive stream on the game starting at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST.

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Sony Patents New Backwards Compatibility System, Could Include Full Lineage of PlayStation Consoles

Sony Japan has just registered a new patent centered around backwards compatibility that could allow their next generation hardware to have retro-compatibility on all of Sony’s previous home console. While there is no direct confirmation that the patent is specifically for the inevitable PlayStation 5, the timing seems to all but fit the forecast of 2020 that many analysts and insiders have predicted.

The patent, which was published on January 31st, 2019, shows an intricate system that could be applied to future hardware (more than likely the unannounced PlayStation 5), allowing the system’s processor to ‘interpret’ the CPU of previous compatible systems. As pointed out by Spanish site HobbyConsolas, Mark Cerny, designer of the PlayStation 4’s structure, developed the patent which has been filed under #2019-503013.

The primary focus of the patent is to perfectly execute previous hardware’s games and software on future hardware, helping to eliminate bugs and errors that could permanently damage said games or hardware. For example, given the processing power of newer and future consoles, data could accidentally overwritten and compromised on the older software and emulated hardware, and in turn could damage the current hardware as well.

This patent comes on the heels of a rumor that many of Sony’s first party studios have began focusing on projects for their next generation of consoles, which seems to point that the popular line of home console will be seeing a new iteration in the very near future.

For updates on Sony’s unannounced next generation console, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and keep it locked in at Bonus Accessory.

 

Blizzard Announces New Overwatch Map, Paris

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that their hit hero shooter Overwatch will be receiving a new map soon that is set in Paris, France, and it is currently live on the game’s Public Test Region for PC players.

Announced through the game’s newest set of patch notes along with a tweet from Overwatch‘s official Twitter account, the new map themed around the famous European city is an Assault map, which pits teams against each other by capturing and defending a pair of points throughout the map. ‘Begin your journey at the Cabaret Luna, where the velvety alto voice of preeminent diva Luna charms movie stars, revolutionaries, locals, and tourists alike” described Tom Powers, Community Manage of Overwatch within the patch notes. “After the encore, step outside to see the sights and seize victory. Artisanal shops line the streets as you approach the first point, so duck in to sample a macaron or escape enemy fire. Battle through alleys and corridors before clashing with your foes on the banks of the Seine. Once you establish dominance over your adversaries, make your way to Maison Marat and deliver the coup-de-grâce.”

Paris will be the first map to hit Overwatch since the addition of Busan in September 2018, along with the first Assault map since June 2017’s Horizon Lunar Colony.

While Blizzard has not released a specific date on which the map will go live from PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One players, normally the test period lasts a few weeks before integrating them into the game’s main map rotation. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the map go live by the end of February (if not earlier).

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Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review – The Nightmare You’ve Always Dreamed Of

The long-running Resident Evil series has become one of gaming’s most iconic IPs over its 20-plus year history, with titles first appearing on the original Sony PlayStation in 1996. For decades, Capcom’s zombie-filled survival horror franchise has continued to iterate and change the formula continuously to adapt to the current climate and trends in modern games. While they have found success in their newest mainline entry, 2017’s Resident Evil 7, fans continuously have shown interest in bring the classic style of survival horror found in its earlier entries back to the series, and luckily their voices were heard. Resident Evil 2, one of the series’ most popular entries, received the full remake treatment and the results couldn’t have been better (well, baring a few personal complaints). The inclusion of modern controls and perspective, along with the intense immersion level from the combination of the RE Engine and superb visuals, make this re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 one that has set the bar high for the process of remaking games.

Building Resident Evil 2 within the modern RE Engine may be one of the biggest payoffs that Capcom hit during the development of the game. Focusing on shadows and “wetness”, the RE Engine helps realize the immersion levels that Capcom wanted to hit. Many horror games rely heavily on atmospheric elements to help build suspense within their title, but no one has seem to truly do it better than Capcom’s teams working on the current crop of Resident Evil games. Specifically in Resident Evil 2, the reliance on the survival aspects of the game are monumental. Items and ammunition are limited, and many times players will find themselves facing a flight or fight situation that sometimes leads to avoiding the conflict to be the best approach.

Outside of the gorgeous visuals, the updated control and camera mechanics are the biggest improvement when comparing the original 1998 release and the 2019 release.  For clarification, Capcom’s newest Resident Evil release is not a remaster, but more of a re-imagining. Gone are archaic tank controls found in the original entries, along with the dated fixed camera, and replaced with a modern third-person, over the shoulder perspective found in many modern series in the same vein. While those original mechanics added to the immersion and fear-factor of the original release, modern visuals and presentation offer the ability to add that same level of helplessness and fear while offering fluid control over Leon or Claire. Another great inclusion and modern touch is the inventory system and map management. Keeping many traits similar to Resident Evil 7, the item management between your Hip Pockets and Item Box found throughout the dozens of Safe Rooms makes transferring and storing items a breeze. In terms of map management, players will easily be able to plan their routes throughout the multiple areas of Resident Evil 2‘s environment by seeing what areas are cleared (marked in blue) and what areas still contain a puzzle, secret, item, etc that hasn’t been completed or found (marked in red). Backtracking will still be an aspect that’s encountered throughout your time will the game, but having a modernized map system such as this one helps streamline your experience and combats many pacing issues that could stem from the backtracking.

Players are spoiled by how well immersion is handled in the overall experience of Resident Evil 2. The way enemies stagger towards and that sinking feeling when you miss that close range pistol shot, the deranged Lickers that scourer the Police Department; everything things makes you feel so helpless but in the best way possible. But the most nerve racking aspect in the game, hands down, is Mr. X (or the Tyrant). You can’t kill him. You can’t necessarily hurt him (outside of staggering him with a Magnum shot if you’re lucky). You can only run from him, and outside of the Safe Rooms littered throughout the game’s map, he will not stop chasing you. When you hear his heavy, boulder like steps marching towards you, your stomach will drop. One of my biggest fears is being chased (no idea why, but that horror element has always freaked me out), so hearing the unsettling score pick up to the rhythm of his deafening pace, calling it unsettling would be putting it lightly. He may not be as visually terrifying as the Bakers from Resident Evil 7, but man, does he make up for it the tension he produces.

While some of the original’s puzzles tropes make their way into the newest iteration, many of them were new enough that I never found myself annoyed by the back tracking throughout the labyrinthine Raccoon City Police Department. That’s not to say that some of the puzzles aren’t formulaic. In classic Resident Evil fashion, themed keys make their return, and only some can be accessed by the certain player you play, providing more of a reason to relieve the horror of that fateful night in Raccoon City. At the same time though, the elemental puzzles that are found feel unique and interesting.

Being a re-imagining of the original, I expected many of the eccentric narrative elements that the series is known for to be present, but to my surprise this feels like the most overall grounded take on a Resident Evil story yet. Yes, it’s still a zombie infested town with outlandish monster and mutants at times, but the way these creatures are designed and presented offer the feeling of “what if?”; the feeling of “if a zombie apocalypse truly took place, I could see it going this way”. 2017’s Resident Evil 7 helped lay the ground work for this approach with its first half of its story focusing on a southern cult, showing fans what the series could look like based in more realism. While it’s latter half fell a bit short and relied on more wacky elements, it still helped ease fans minds on the direction the series could be going with its favorable reception. At the end of the day, it’s still Resident Evil. You’re going to get zany mutants and dozens of undead beings chasing after you, but think of it as the Marvel Studios approach to horror; you know what’s going on isn’t possible, but if it was, realistically it could look like this.

At the same time, the biggest issue the game has can be found within its narrative, as the two story lines of Leon and Claire just don’t differ as much as I hoped they would. One of the best parts about the original was its dual plot lines going on between the two protagonists. While both still have enjoyable narratives, for as much re-imagining was put into the overall game, I expected a bit more difference between the two. Considering you explore the same area during the same time when doing the Second Run version, having certain elements such as doors unlocked by Leon during your first playthrough still be unlocked for Claire would only amplified the immersion that is already so greatly implemented throughout the game. On a side-bar related to the Second Run mode, the word is a bit confusing when trying to activate the mode and not a completely new game from scratch. Just make sure you are attentive after the credits have rolled and the game will emphasis using the ‘Second Run’ option listed on the main menu.

Capcom’s re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 should be considered the new standard-bearer for gaming remakes moving forward. Almost all aspects of the game feel fresh and new, while also scratching that nostalgic itch for the original. Outside of the small complaints with the similarities between Leon and Claire’s narratives, this the Resident Evil experience I’ve been waiting for. Classic survival horror is not dead ladies and gentleman (and neither is an inflected being in Raccoon City after a full clip of ammo…I know, not the best attempt at humor). Resident Evil as a series is in such an interesting spot after this. My hope is for the series to go the same route that Nintendo has taken our favorite plumber, by having multiple styles of games coexisting. One thing is for sure, Capcom has found the secret formula to success again with this franchise, and I can’t wait to see where it goes after how much I enjoyed Resident Evil 2. It’s only January, and we may be looking at one of the front runners for 2019’s Game of the Year.

The Accidental Attraction of Kingdom Hearts

When you tell most stories surrounding an attraction, usually they contain many of the similar tropes; one of which is the unexpectedness of the feeling. When I look back on many of my fondest gaming memories, I can see why I fell in love with those specific games. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the first time I experienced a deep narrative experience in gaming, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the first time I truly felt that the gaming medium had matched the presentation level of big budget cinema coupled with great gameplay, and the Halo series was the first time I was truly able to attach fierce competitiveness in gaming. Yet, there’s one series that somehow sticks out, that even after all these years, I can’t truly put my finger on why it has stayed so endearing to me: Kingdom Hearts.

Maybe it’s because my early years of gaming rooted me into Nintendo’s ecosystem of games. When I first received my Nintendo 64 at the age of 5 in 1998, Final Fantasy had started to become a relic of years past on Nintendo’s hardware. With the success of Final Fantasy VII (and VIII to follow in the upcoming year), the Sony PlayStation had all but cemented itself as the new home of the series, and while I did go onto own multiple PlayStation systems, the series always appeared to me as a grittier and grown up version of what The Legend of Zelda had to offer (see, the marketing campaigns for the PlayStation did work on feeble minds like mine). Seeing that cover of Final Fantasy VII, with Cloud Strife standing heroically showing off his large Buster Sword to fans, made me think “Woah, this guy is cool. I want to play as him”. Yet, I never had the chance to play Final Fantasy VII until years later, due largely because of the Teen rating (yes, my parents were those kind of parents up until I was about 10), so when the next generation of gaming rolled around, I HAD to make sure I got a PlayStation 2. “I can’t miss out on Final Fantasy” I remember thinking constantly (clearly oblivious to the fact that the series was multi-platform due to me being an unknowing 8 or 9 year old kid). Final Fantasy was always the series that was the untouchable for me. Everything I saw about it attracted me to it, but it was always on the system I didn’t have growing up or it was rated too mature for my age. That was, until I saw the trailer for Kingdom Hearts.

Remember how popular Disney Stores used to be? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it seemed as though they were in a staple in every mall across America. Clear as day, I remember going into our local mall with my mother and sister, who was around the age of three at the time, so the Disney Store was always a given stop when we’d venture to the mall. Remembering they had sections of Disney-based games, I hurried to the back where the wall of TVs were found to scope out the selection (if it had something to do with gaming, I’d always be up for it). While digging through the piles of Donald Duck: Goin’ Quackers and Extremely Goofy Skateboarding, something caught my eye; it was Cloud Strife on one of the TVs on the store display. ‘What’s he doing in the Disney Store? This must be a mixup’ I thought. Then, I saw Goofy and Donald in the background, in what looked to be a level surrounding Hercules. Eyes glued to the glass screen, I began to get lost in this complex idea of meshing the vibe and characters of Final Fantasy with so many beloved characters of my childhood from Disney. To be honest, I’m still not sure if I truly understood what I was watching. So many thoughts went through my head. Confusion? Sure. Unique? Definitely. Interested? Absolutely. Kingdom Hearts flashed across the screen. Instantly, the name was ingrained in my brain, and I began plotting on how to get the game. Christmas was too far off, so I did every chore under the sun that a 9 year old kid could think off. Doing the dishes, cleaning the house, taking the dog for a walk around the block, helping my dad cut some fire wood; anything to help stuff my piggy bank with my weekly $5 allowance. After weeks of saving (and a lucky price drop), I strolled into EB Games (yes, they were still a things in the US in 2002), and picked up the game. I’ll never forget that holographic cover. The way the shades of deep blue made the florescent heart shaped moon pop on the cover was unfathomable at the time. It still holds a special place in my heart in terms of video game covers. Popping that disc in my PS2’s disc tray for the first time was quite magical. From the first time I stepped onto Destiny Islands, I was hooked. Back when memory cards were still a thing, I remember needing to leave my PS2 running because I didn’t have one yet to save my game. This resulted in one long weekend of getting little outdoor exercise, and playing through the adventure without turning my system off over the span of three days. Surprisingly, my PS2 is still working to this day.

Maybe it was the idea of including such a known property in Disney to Final Fantasy‘s fantastical world that attracted me. Disney has never been one to shy away from the gaming industry, releasing video games with various characters of theirs dating back to 1981; yet, the company has always remained quite guarded when allowing outside entities handle their own intellectual property. With the success of the Kingdom Hearts series being so well known, it seems hard to imagine that the now storied chance meeting between series creator and Square Enix employee Tetsuya Nomura and a Disney executive in their shared office complex elevator was a major key (get it?) to making this series a reality, but it was quite different during the sixth console generation. While other developers had handled Disney IP in the past, Kingdom Hearts was the first time I truly remembered seeing Disney characters sharing the stage with other entities in gaming.

Maybe it was the way the series grew with me, as it moved into its sequels. Square Enix and Disney Interactive’s first entry in the collaborative series was very much designed to be warm and welcome, using its art direction and simplistic (comparative to later entries, that is) storyline to target a younger demographic. While I loved my time with the original entry, I saw myself leaning towards a new experiences in gaming. Halo and Xbox Live became a pillar in time spent gaming, and my Xbox began to take more precedence over my PlayStation 2. Yet, when Kingdom Hearts II was first revealed at E3 2004 I found myself intrinsically drawn back into the zany yet loving mashup. Retrospectively looking at the footage shown in 2004, much more of the game’s JRPG innards were on display, showing a much more engaging, deep, and even mature narrative this time around. Death was real. The idea of actuality was real. Themes that took a deep approach to the once simplistic storyline were largely present in the sequel; much of which I found myself attracted to as I began to grow. As the series began to transpire and grow, so did I. Sure, as the series has continued to produce side entry after side entry the more convoluted the narrative became, but it balanced the perfect balance of tropes its original entry was known for and the integrated JRPG elements.

Maybe I’ll never know exactly what draws me to Kingdom Hearts. Hell, I still find it hard to believe that Kingdom Hearts III is actually releasing today. Since the credits rolled on the second mainline entry in 2006, many fans have been waiting patiently to see the conclusion of this storyline in the overarching Kingdom Hearts universe, including myself. Since we’re delving into the past, it’s fascinating to see how often this series has been attached to larger moments in my life, to an extent. Getting through those awkward preteen years, to junior high heartbreaks, to playing through the original entries leading into my college graduation, to my fiancée preordering the game as a gift for me when I graduated from grad school in 2016; somehow this unique, and quite frankly odd, offshoot of a gaming series has somehow remained close to me. Life is a funny thing.

Cheers to everyone who, like this author, have waited almost 13 years to see the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Hopefully, the wait is worth it to you.

It’s weird how some of the best memories and moments happen accidentally.